This is the kind of book that captures your imagination and takes you to the dangerous streets where it is set. Once you start it, you don’t want to put it down until you are done with its conclusion. I read it in less than a week and really loved the story. It is about what is referred to as Trial of the Century of ‘’Newark’s most notorious gangster’’ Dutch. Teri Woods’ blend of common street slang with everyday English makes for a fast-paced, easy and interesting reading.
The fiction story begins in a New Jersey courtroom as Bernard James Jr, also known as Dutch, stands trial for multiple counts of murder. The 26 year old African-American was a dreaded drug lord and notorious criminal who controlled the streets of New Jersey and its illegal drugs trade. He faces life in prison or the death penalty.
Dutch started out as a car thief in Newark aged only fourteen after dropping out of school. He used to sweep the floor at a pizza shop belonging to an Italian named Roberto Piazzo. When an armed robber tried to rob the pizza shop, Dutch tricked the guy and shot him in the head, earning the trust of Roberto and his wife. For saving their lives and a colossal sum of money, Roberto introduced Dutch to Fat Tony, the head of an Italian mafia, who connected him to a stolen cars dealer and would later protect him and his gang from the arm of the law.
After that first murder, Dutch vowed not to look back and he never did. He called Craze, his best friend and future partner in crime, to help him dump the body in a lake. The two continued stealing cars together with several other teenagers until he was arrested when they tried to steal brand new BMWs from a port lot. The gang managed to get away with 7 Bimmers but Dutch was taken and jailed for 18 months. When he came out of jail, aged 16, young Dutch was fired up and hungrier than before. He resolved to stop the car business and get into drugs, which was riskier, murkier and bloodier but the rewards were much greater.
The author takes you to the ‘60s at a time when black people were protesting against racism, corruption and poverty. She portrays a rotten society filled with crime and immorality. Dutch’s mother was only 17 when she went out during the riots and burnt to ashes a white man’s grocery store. She later fell in love with a black soldier named Bernard James, who was on leave from the war in Vietnam. He narrated to her how he killed white soldiers in the battle field instead of killing the enemy. When his leave ended, he broke up with her and left not knowing he had impregnated her. She gave birth to a boy and named him after him.
District Attorney Antony Jacobs presents witness after witness to testify against Bernard James Jr in court. His former accomplice who is now a reverend tells the court how they planned the killing of a Nigerian drug lord and all his allies in what was infamously called the Month of Murder. He killed everybody who stood in his way. This happened after Dutch came out of jail and before they took the streets. Dutch inherited the Nigerian’s drug business and became king of the streets. His empire grew and he became rich and untouchable, until Fat Tony died.
The author keeps you in suspense about what will happen to Dutch as the trial gets into the closing statements. Just before the judge delivers his verdict, there is gunfire in the courtroom. Who? What? Why? How? The plot was very intriguing to me.
We bought this book on the street for just Ksh 100. It is the first of a trilogy and it seems the story is just beginning. I would really love to read the second and third installations. The bad news is that I don’t know where to find them now, grrrrr!! . The good news is that someone has promised to get them for me! wink