Friday, August 31, 2012

Five top books on gang crime

Gavin Knight is a journalist who has written for The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Prospect, Newsweek, New Statesman, Esquire, Monocle and many other publications. He has also appeared on CNN, ITN, BBC, Channel Four news and Sky News.

Over the two years prior to the publication of Hood Rat he was regularly embedded with frontline police units in London, Manchester and Glasgow as well as spending time with dozens of violent criminals involved in gun and gang crime.

With Toby Ash at The Browser, Knight named five top books on gang crime, including:
Lush Life
by Richard Price

Let’s take a look at your books now. We’re starting off with a novel set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which I believe was inspired by a true story. Tell us more about Lush Life.

I love this book. Richard Price is famous for his detailed research and you can see that here in his descriptions of the cops and the kids. There’s a wonderful description of one kid growing up with his abusive stepfather and reaching the age that he can start to fight back. This is something I encountered a lot when I talked to boys in the inner cities. You have an abusive father or stepfather who beats them and their mothers, and then they reach the age of about 14 and they are big enough to fight back – this is a key moment in their life.

Lush Life is about this character Eric Cash, who is out with a charismatic colleague from the restaurant they work in called Ike Marcus. Two street kids come up to them and pull a gun. Ike Marcus says to them: “Not tonight, my man”. He is then shot dead. The following police investigation is a narrative engine that allows you to deeply examine Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The book is very textured, pacey and has fantastically layered characters.

If you compare it to great New York novels like Bonfire of the Vanities, it does touch on similar themes. There are some great scenes when the lead detective finds sweatshops and apartments overcrowded with illegal immigrants. There are great metaphors in the book for the ant-hill, termite-type living that goes on in New York.
Read about the other books Knight tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue