Bobby Delgado,
Gangs, Prison, Parole & the Politics Behind Them
(Crown Oak, 2007)

Literary crime, both fiction and nonfiction, has an endless fascination. Of the many prison memoirs available, this is not the best written I've read, but it is one of the most compelling.

It is more than 450 pages long, rare for a book of this type. And it appears to be written by Bobby Delgado himself without the help of a ghostwriter.

The book is clearly unedited. There are many grammatical errors, such as using "principle" instead of "principal" and others that can slip past a computer spell check.

Yet this unfiltered style actually is an advantage. There is a rawness and directness lacking in books targeted to be bestsellers. It clearly shows how Delgado actually thinks, and there is a conversational style that is direct if not literary.

Nearly all of the book takes place in prison, where Delgado has spent most of his life. His many stays in solitary and his resistance make for compelling reading. His complaints of racism are marred by his unfortunate references to "faggots." Still, it is not difficult to believe that the state of Texas, which gave us George W. Bush, has a less than stellar prison system.

Delgado writes a great deal about his own gang, the Texas Syndicate, and how it was superior in every way to its rivals, the Mexican Mafia. It seems obvious that much of this is boasting, yet this gives a clear picture of how gang members view themselves and their groups.

At the end of the book, Delgado writes about his conversion to born-again Christianity. It seems a bit intolerant, as he dismisses Muslims as infidels. Still, it does not seem worth arguing about, since Delgado is clearly one tough guy in or out of prison.

review by
Dave Howell

4 October 2008

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