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I loved the movie "American Gangster". However, its success was due more to restrained intelligent acting of Denzel Washington, along with a great supporting cast (T.I., Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Russell Crowe, Cuba Gooding Jr., and the great "Dame" Ruby Dee). Here we are just stuck with the country, ignorant Frank Lucas, telling lies, covering up the truth, not revealing names, wasting my money!!!! Narrator Cary Hite reads like a 6 year-old and his "Asian" and "white" dialects are insulting and racist. Frank Lucas was disrespectful of his fellow criminals, the public, law enforcement, the women in his life and his children. Where is his beloved mother who was a big part of the movie (Ruby Dee)? Lucas just rambles on and on, dropping celebrity names, bragging about stupid stuff that no one with any sense would. He refused to name the man who allegedly sold him the heroin in Thailand, calling him "007" (really, Frank?). However, he had no trouble throwing music genius Barry Gordy and, according to Lucas, Gordy's "mistress", the incomparable Diana Ross under the bus. In this account, he claims not to know if his boss Bumpy Johnson was in the drug business, claiming "omerta" , like a Mafia wife. I'm inclined to believe what Bumpy's widow, the late Mayme Hatcher Johnson, said about Lucas in her book, "Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson". "Frank wasn't nothing but a flunky, and one that Bumpy never did really trust," says Johnson. "Bumpy would let Frank drive him around, but you'd better believe that he was never in any important meetings or anything. He would say, you can trust a thief quicker than a liar, because a thief steals money because he needs money, but a liar lies for the hell of it!" That pretty much sums up this book!
Now I will give Lucas some slack for being a sociopath. As a very young child, he witnessed his young cousin getting his head blown off by the shotgun of several KKK members for the alleged "reckless eyeballing" of a white woman. That kind of senseless violence to African-Americans and black Americans has been proven to affect the development of a criminal mind with no empathy for anyone or anything. However, as the mother of a black male, this is not a book I would allow him to read - even at age 30 - much less as an impressionable teenager. I'm not saying that every black kid has to emulate President Barack Obama but Frank Lucas is barely on the edge of the other side of the spectrum.
NOTE: I actually met Frank Lucas after being asked to a private party at a club by one of his forgettable country brothers while I was on a trip to Harlem at the time I was attending Howard University as a Theater major. He had none of the grace and dignity that Denzel gave him in the film. He was country, with a drawl so thick that I couldn't understand a word he said. He was not good-looking or well-dressed - just COUNTRY!!! This book portrays the REAL Frank Lucas - "American Wanksta"!!!! Yeah, I said it! Ehhh, what?!
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
First, I saw the movie American Gangster which was entertaining and had me interested in learning more about Lucas since as pretty much everyone knows you generally can't accept what you see in theaters as being real.
Well the first red flag in this book is when in the intro it says that this 'biography' contains composite characters. What? In a book that is supposed to the real life story?
Second, the story in many places just isn't believable at all. The horrible story about his cousin being shot by the klan is extremely moving, however it's not verifiable at all. That is troubling but doesn't mean it isn't true so I can give a pass on that. Shortly there after this dad shots a cop. Once again there is nothing verifiable about this account and apparently his dad never went to jail or did any time for this. Very odd. Later in the book Lucas threatens from cops with a gun and once again nothing happens. Again later Lucas shots at more cops and shoots up a city bus in the middle of the day in NYC, the cops know who he is yet again nothing happens. We're really stretching believability here and that's just to do with the parts of the book that talk about shooting.
Next is the sex part -- apparently every women Lucas say while he was between 13 and 17, regardless of their age and race just had to get nude as quickly as they could in front of him. Again, could this be the case? I guess. Is it likely that so many women would seduce a young teenager? No.
Next is the part where one day when gangster Bumpy Johnson entered his life, betting money on the kid to beat Icepick in a game of pool. After Lucas of course won, Bumpy basically took him under his wing, bought him stuff, took him home, told everyone that Lucas was hands off. Now if Frank was a young female teenager this would be believable, but as a young thug it just doesn't make a lot of sense in the way the story is told.
Other parts of the book are believable, mainly the later parts that are somewhat verifiable. But most of it sounds pretty ridiculous, like a gangster movie that was made to make the lead look like the coolest guy on earth.
Maybe everything Frank Lucas says is true and it all actually happened that way -- and maybe that guy in those commercials is really the most interesting person on earth. However in both cases I'm highly doubting it which is a shame since I'm sure the real story is a lot more interesting than the fiction that is most of this book.
The reader does an excellent job and the audiobook is well produced. I can't believe people actually complain because he mispronounces a few words here and there, he's just using real language and using it the way Frank probably said it. It's not an Ebonics book by any means, it's just occasional language that sounds fairly authentic to my ear and is never distracting.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful