A Brief History of Seven Killings
I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.
It’s the story of 7 young boys who are members of a notorious and feared London street gang. To some, they are glamorous, gun-toting “gangstas” with a bling-bling lifestyle. To others, they are a group of criminalised thugs who pose a danger to society. This may turn you on or put you off. But stay with it. Things may not be what they seem.
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What became apparent as I was writing my book was just how difficult it is for young kids to get away from a life of crime on the streets. Once a King, Always a King helped me understand the challenge – it’s not just that bad habits get absorbed into a personality from a young age, or that adults don’t help kids escape from their criminality. The social care and justice system actively collude in trapping young gang members in a cycle of violence, abuse, and poverty.
Although this is a novel it’s based on the exploits of the historical Australian gang leader Ned Kelly. I loved how the use of vernacular and absence of traditional grammar make you feel that you are being talked to by a real hardcore gang member. It pulls you into the experience of what joining and being a member of a street gang must be like and helps you understand why, when family and society fail you, the life of an outlaw offers such a buzz.
We think you will like The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, It's All Good, and Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism if you like this list.
From Joe's list on The best books that give the outlaws a say.
In the 19th century, the Bowery and the Five Points neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan were twisted warrens of saloons, brothels, opium dens, and gambling houses, home to gangs of criminals like the Plug Uglies, Bowery Boys, and Dead Rabbits. It’s a complex ecosystem but when it comes to lowlifes Herbert Asbury is an extraordinary naturalist. His book covers a bewildering number of hoodlums, scams, bawdyhouses, convictions, and murders, and the sum total makes a larger impression than any one part. (Although highlights include the depictions of the crooked Tammany Hall political leadership and a chilling account of the New York City draft riots of 1863.) When the book was originally published in 1927, the Prohibition-empowered Italian Mafia pretty much ran Lower Manhattan’s crime and the era of these legendary gangs was already a fading memory. Asbury’s tome captured an entire criminal universe that was packed into a few square blocks, now frozen in time for us to examine.
From Tom's list on The best books about documentary photography.
I’ll bookend this list with what I consider to be a sort of updated take on Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Serbian photog Boogie has published similarly solemn collections on Moscow and war-torn Belgrade. With It’s All Good, he arrived in New York’s most violent neighborhoods circa 2010 to document the hard and often tragic lives of urban youth. Gangsters pointing their guns into the lens or jabbing their veins with needles might not make the most appealing coffee table book, but the photos themselves are even more sublime than anything shot by Clark, making this book a worthy successor.
From Henry's list on The best books for readers who wish Hermione had her own series.
Like many of the Potter books, this book is sort of a puzzle box built around an object that is governed by clear rules. The main character, Molly Moon, discovers a book that teaches her to control animals and people around her with the power of hypnotism. The book drops Molly's character into a clear set of rules and then has fun watching what she does with it, in a way that reminds me a bit of Hermione’s use of that special object in Prisoner of Azkaban. It also is a fantasy about unlimited power. Seriously, what if you could make anyone anywhere do anything you wanted them to?