One senses at points that Green wants to reach for novelistic flourishes, but he’s restrained by better impulses. The book reconstructs events long past and Green is bound by the available sources, mainly investigative records and interviews with members of the gang. Rather than try to compensate for the material he’s missing, he bets on plain language and diligent documentation, and allows his sources’ unfiltered remembrances to take center stage. The result is as straightforward an account of the sordid tedium of gang life as exists anywhere ... Green captures a level of detail that marks this work as exceptionally authentic ... Green is sympathetic, but does not seek to make them more intriguing than they are. In so doing, he shows... Murder may not be interesting. But it surely is important.
Green’s portraits of the good guys and the bad guys are richly layered and compelling: this is no simple cops-and-robbers story. It’s a story about an entire way of life and the way people on both sides of the law have been affected by it. A fine piece of crime nonfiction.
The best parts were the details of the lives of all involved, where they came from, their personal lives, how they interacted, where they landed. There were moments of compassion and ultimately surprises in the fates of the characters ... This is no tale, however, of triumph over adversity. The lives of the gangsters had a grinding aimlessness in a cycle of drug dealing, violence and prison. At times, I wished for a stronger narrative pull or a strand of hope to get me through the book. As hard as it was to keep moving forward, knowing the ending would be harsh, I ultimately wondered how it must have felt to live that way.