Gang Life
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Gang Life

10 of the toughest tell their stories

By Mark Totten

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For the first time, here's a no-holds-barred inside account of life for criminal gang members in cities and towns across Canada.

Mark Totten has slowly gained the confidence of gang members in many Canadian cities and small towns, and he knows enough to get the real goods from these men and women. In this book he tells the life stories -- so far -- of ten gang members drawn from across the country. Murderers, rapists, addicts, drug traffickers, victims of child abuse, abusers themselves -- these are people who many consider the worst of the worst.

But from their life stories, a more nuanced and complex picture emerges. The circumstances and events which lead children and teens into criminal life become clearer.


  • Jake, a 28-year-old former neo-Nazi skinhead gang member who beat people up "just for the fun of it," then became a drug dealer and a freelance enforcer for organized crime groups
  • Kim, a Cree woman with two addicted parents who joined her gang at 14, kept off drugs, and ran a group of prostitutes until going to jail -- at just 16
  • Dillon, a Latino-Canadian, sexually and physically abused as a young boy, a drug dealer and gang leader in high school and later head of a local chapter of a major international gang until he was "honoured" out

No one will think the same way about criminal gang members and the circumstances that lead to a life in crime after reading this compelling and revealing book.

Chapter 1: I Did Not Know Who I Was
Chapter 2: Jesus Don't Work for Anyone
Chapter 3: The Gang Mother
Chapter 4: I Won't Back Down
Chapter 5: What a Rush It Was
Chapter 6: I've Got to Throw Out the Bones Now
Chapter 7: My Shoulder Was a Bit Sore from That Rocket Thing
Chapter 8: If I Told You I'd Have to Kill You
Chapter 9: From Civil War to Gangs
Chapter 10: Terms and Conditions

"Messy, sometimes tender, always brutal, Mark Tottens stories of ten different gang-bangers all inhabit the feral streets of our inner cities. In clear and unsentimental prose he draws a line from early poverty and abuse towards addiction and violence, a line as straight and undeniable as destiny."

- Stephen Reid, author of A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden

"Hidden under the cloak of anonymity these ten criminals are able to tell their tales of their lost worlds with brutal honesty. A triumph in exploring the depths of the drug addicted and how their unrelenting struggle keeps them in a life of crime. While at times it felt as though I was reading a biographical news article, I applaud Mark Totten for being able to bring these peoples stories to life in their own words."

- Ranj Dhaliwal, author of Daaku: The Gangster's Life

"Anyone who thinks Canada does not have a serious gang-violence problem should take off their rose-coloured glasses and read Mark Totten's chilling book."

- Robert Rotenberg, author of Stranglehold

"Mark Totten has done a masterful job humanizing the lives of gangsters."

- Bob Mills, Superintendant, RCMP, Strategic Operations branch, Regina, SK

"Dr. Totten's brave new book, Gang Life, provides an extremely rare and remarkably insightful examination of the violent, troubled, and often shortened lives of individual gang members."

- Peggy Rudin, Executive Director, Prince Albert Youth Outreach Program

"An excellent resource for foster parents, social workers, teachers and many other professionals who work with youth at risk."

- Stella Bone, Executive Director, Winnipeg's West Region Child & Family Services

"This is a powerful inside look at lives about which we hear a great deal but seldom take the time to really understand. Totten does a wonderful job of giving them voice, making these individuals seem much more human, and more vulnerable, than we might want to believe."

- Michael Ungar, Network Director, Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CCYC) Network

"Although there is no shortage of books written by 'experts' on gangs, this book offers a visceral accounting about the lives of ten (former) high profile Canadian gang members. Capitalizing on his twenty-five years of related work with gangs and gang members, Totten offers a refreshing yet provocative insight not only about the 'how' of gang life but more importantly the 'why' of gang involvement."

- John Winterdyk, Professor of Justice Studies, Mount Royal University

MARK TOTTEN is a professor of criminal justice at Humber College in Toronto whose research focuses on organized crime, corrections, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, mental health, violence, and gender identity. Over the past decade, he has collaborated with groups in Ontario and Western Canada in the development and evaluation of multi-year gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 214 pages
Publication Date: 27th March 2014
ISBN: 9781459406254
Format: 9in x 6in

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 27th March 2014
ISBN: 9781459406278
Format: EPUB

BISAC Code:  SOC004000, SOC051000, TRU003000
Imprint: Lorimer


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