BOOK REVIEW: BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood
In reading John Lee Brock’s BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood from Headpress Publications, I found it to be like so many other True Crime books, piecing together events through the use of researching news and magazine articles, court records, and key individual testimonies from those whom either still had the events embedded in their memories (or think they remembered what happened) with the author’s task to take what is told and make sure it corresponds with other testimonies and facts known to the news media and law enforcement. Suffice to say, I LOVE books that take tragic and violent events dealing with Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Criminal Enterprises, or Serial Killers and Mass Murderers and piece together a book in a narrative format that reads like a sensationalized morning talk show from the ’80s or ’90s that is going strictly for ratings. Mind you, this was before cable television was canvassed with reality television shows that covered everything from police catching crooks to bounty hunters catching crooks to shows focusing on pawn shops, toy collectors, and storage unit bidding and whose show format was as much to shock and anger as it was to entertain and reveal solid facts–if only stretching the truth a wee bit.
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT reads as I just described above except that many of the stories and accounts of the Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the AB, Alice Baker, and The Brand (latter name derived from a favorite book of white inmates, a western entitled THE BRAND, by Louis L’Amour. This last little bit of information was new to me and one of the many little fascinating aspects to Brook’s (if that is indeed the author’s real name) book. The book serves as a brief historical account to the origins of the Aryan Brotherhood, the formulation of the various gangs in prison, and key individuals that served in the higher echelons of the AB. The book is not the finest writing I have come across while reading many books, but the story moves along at a very entertaining pace and if somewhat rough around the edges–it gets the job done!
I always found the dynamics and specifics of prison to be of the utmost interest and marvel. Not one to have ever been in prison before (fingers crossed that I never will have to know what that feels like!), prisons and the inmate culture always was a bit of a curiosity for me. So many movies glorify large, muscular men with countless tattoos and ugly scars, many of which have their heads shaved for an even more menacing look walking around the concrete hell, generally kicking the living shit out anyone that dares to cross them or look at them the wrong way. The movie then has wimpy looking guards rush in and try to beat the hell out of the inmate, but the inmate just snarls and smirks because he is so damn tough that the batons wailing against his body felt like tiny raindrops falling from the sky during a brief moment of clouds gathering and dropping off their condensation. The movies, probably full of more fiction than truth, have a primary agenda and that is to entertain the viewer and authors of a book also have that very same agenda: entertain the reader, but if a book of nonfiction, also inform the reader of events supported by facts. BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT does this but not always with the greatest literary flair or panache. That is not to say that the book reads like a Freshman in High School wrote it, but that the writing style is nothing to rave about.
One of the finest aspects that Brook gets across to readers is that the criminal enterprise known as the Aryan Brotherhood is not one to be fucked with, whether inside prison or a State penitentiary or on the outside in one’s hometown. The Aryan Brotherhood is like so many other criminal organizations and their primary goal is making money and becoming powerful. The violent empire lives up to its name in Brock’s book as events are detailed through the use of court records and notes, police reports and interviews with detectives, news articles and press clippings, and individual testimonies in court and through interviews. The parts that may be foggy or embellished during interviews are backed up by events covered in newspapers and notes taken in court. Brook interviewed inmates, current and former gang members, police officers, detectives, prison guards, and affiliates to the Aryan Brotherhood. At certain times, ex-convict John Lee Brook is writing down events he himself has witnessed and/or heard about while serving time in prison. I don’t know how much information was second-hand or hearsay from other inmates just running their mouths off about things, but there are documented sources in the appendix, as well as a notes and source section showing readers where each chapter received its information from.
As far as books go about prison gangs and the Aryan Brotherhood, BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT is a swift ride into the underbelly of one of the penal system’s biggest headaches and most powerful gangs up until the massive case and indictment that the authorities built up against them and this book explains in a very simple and interesting manner for readers. The book focuses most of its pages to the profiles and history of the Aryan Brotherhood’s three biggest players: Barry Byron Mills a.k.a. The Baron, Tyler Bingham a.k.a. The Hulk, and Thomas Silverstein a.k.a. Terrible Tom. My biggest gripe with the book is that there is a lack of photos of any kind within the pages. I really wanted to see what these dudes looked like and was jumping on Google at various points throughout the book to put a face to each name. I also found myself trying to find video and audio interviews to hear these convicts voices and what they sounded like. I believe a few photos would have added to the book’s enjoyment. Mills, Bingham, and Silverstein, at the time of the writing, all were locked up in separate Super Max prisons and were scheduled to never ever be let out of their four concrete walls and experience life and freedom once again. The author does include their contact info (Mills, Bingham, and Silverstein) in case one would like to either marry them while they are in jail or try to get them to send them prison artwork, poetry, or any other personal items that are allowed outgoing that so many True Crime collector’s and buffs desperately want.
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT serves as a constant reminder that as much as crime may “pay” at various points in a criminals professional criminal career, in most cases, the end result tallies more in the individual “paying” for his or her sins and not living the life one generally sets out to live. After reading Brook’s 251 page soft-cover account of the AB, I was finding much happiness in my regular, if somewhat mundane existence as an aspiring writer and retail clerk in a record shop making next to nothing at just over the current minimum hourly wage. All hail boring, normal lives.
If one would like to purchase John Lee Brock’s BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood simply click this link and order directly from HEADPRESS!