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Bad Guys: America's Most Wanted in Their Own Words
     

Bad Guys: America's Most Wanted in Their Own Words

by Mark Baker
 

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They lie, steal, kill and destroy. Cops chase them, Hollywood glamorizes them, and shrinks try to figure them out. Now, America's bad guys tell their own stories, from their childhoods to how they chose their victims to how they survive in prison. Mark Baker, the bestselling author of Nam and Cops, has gone behind the lines to find out why today's

Overview

They lie, steal, kill and destroy. Cops chase them, Hollywood glamorizes them, and shrinks try to figure them out. Now, America's bad guys tell their own stories, from their childhoods to how they chose their victims to how they survive in prison. Mark Baker, the bestselling author of Nam and Cops, has gone behind the lines to find out why today's criminals started and why they won't stop. Their gritty, compelling tales are sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, and always bad to the bone.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 45 bad guys and 15 bad gals interviewed by Baker (Cops) are anomalous, he writes, because none of them denies guilt. They are also unusual because they claim they never became involved in violence unless it was forced on them. Most are robbers, drug dealers, pimps, smugglers, gamblers or the authors of white-collar scams. Without exception, all share "the inability to grow up," because for them "adult responsibility is unthinkable," Baker writes. Unfortunately, however, the details of most of their crimes, especially their complex financial machinations and their exploits in smuggling drugs, are exceedingly tedious, even to the dedicated true-crime buff. The only genuinely memorable passages appear in the chapter on life in prison; interviewees describe unrelieved tension, constant watchfulness and inescapable paranoia. After conducting these interviews, Baker suggests we view career criminals as neither societal vermin nor underprivileged victims. (June)
Library Journal
Baker here assembles first-person accounts of petty criminals. Giving background information, then letting the criminals speak for themselves, he details their origins, their unlawful careers, and their lives in prison. Among those included are a stick-up artist, an armed robber, a car thief, a pimp, a check kiter, a scam artist, a hustler, and a crack user. Most of the bad guys emerge as not really bad but as just human beings who took a wrong turn and ended up in a spiral of self-defeat. But there is a sameness to the tales (and to the tone of voice) that prevents one from knowing them really well and from caring for them very much. Interesting for criminology collections but marginal for general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/96.]Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Brian McCombie
Baker primes car thieves, armed robbers, pimps, and other career criminals to describe their lives of preying upon law-abiding or "straight" society. There is little self-justification present. These people freely admit to greed, laziness, and a general contempt for the laws. Some turn to crime for feelings of power; others are incapable of comprehending moral and legal restrictions. Men predominate, though a few women are drawn in, too. Many of Baker's participants come from broken homes and severe poverty, but a fair number are products of middle-class, stable families. Solutions to crime? The book doesn't give any; it may be suggestive of perhaps the two most prominently pursued in society today, though: prisons and long sentences. These interviews offer frightening commentary on the criminal underclass.
Kirkus Reviews
Career criminals telling their stories, wiseguy-style.

Baker, author of Cops (1985), here turns his attention to those on the other side of the bars. None of the interviewees is a famous con; these are run-of-the-mill junkies, thieves, and dealers who can't seem to stay out of jail. Longtime hood Murray claims "in prison, I read a book a night," though others grow increasingly violent: one brags, "I stabbed a guy the first two weeks I was in prison."The overriding theme, Baker observes, is that nearly all of them can pinpoint the single act that pushed them irrevocably into criminal life; no one whines about his fate or blames anyone but himself. Their voices can be plaintive, as when one woman describes her efforts to get her children to write to her, or when a young tough is horrified to learn the kids he beat up because they ignored him were deaf, or when one man simply pines for a "center cut pork chop." Baker doesn't pretend to have any insight into why wealthy Charlotte wrote so many bad checks or why Howard turned his back on a loving family; the author focuses on balancing the hijinks of one speaker with the absolute pathos of the next. In the end, it seems, most of these career criminals resign themselves to life in prison, where the thievery doesn't stop (one resident of "Club Fed" describes the trafficking of tennis strings) and walls don't get any bigger. "My release date is July 14, 2005," muses one inmate. "That's a Buck Rogers date."

Well-observed and at times depraved, this is a unique account of the current prison population.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684810027
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
04/23/1996
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.47(h) x 1.03(d)

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