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Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader (2023)

de Mark Bowden

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322764,258 (3.88)1
"In this unprecedented deep dive into inner-city gang life, Mark Bowden takes readers inside a Baltimore gang, offers an in-depth portrait of its notorious leader, and chronicles the 2016 FBI investigation that landed eight of its members in prison. Sandtown is one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the world; it earned Baltimore its nickname "Bodymore, Murderland," and was made notorious by David Simon's classic HBO series The Wire. Drug deals dominate street corners, and ruthless, casual violence abounds. Montana Barronette grew up in the center of it all. He was the leader of the gang "Trained to Go," or TTG, and when he was finally arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he had been labeled "Baltimore's Number One Trigger Puller." Under Tana's reign, TTG dominated Sandtown. After a string of murders are linked to TTG, each with dozens of witnesses too intimidated to testify, three detectives set out to put Tana in prison for life. For them, this was never about drugs: it was about serial murder. An acclaimed journalist who spent his youth in the white suburbs of Baltimore, Mark Bowden returns to the city with exclusive access to key FBI files and unprecedented insight into one of the city's deadliest gangs and its notorious leader. As he traces the rise and fall of TTG, Bowden uses wiretapped drug buys, police interviews, undercover videos, text messages, social media posts, trial transcripts, and his own ongoing conversations with Tana's family and community to create the most in-depth account of an inner-city gang ever written. With his signature precision and propulsive narrative, Mark Bowden positions Tana-as a boy, a gang leader, a killer, and now a prisoner-in the context of Baltimore and America, illuminating his path for what it really was: a life sentence"--… (mais)
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I suspect this book will be most interesting to people from Maryland, like myself, and the author. It centers on the west Baltimore neighborhood called "Sandtown" near Mondawmin Mall. If asked, friends and family probably never heard of Sandtown because it's not the place anyone goes, yet it's only 10 miles from my lifelong home, 3 miles from where I was born. It is one of the deadliest places in Maryland, if not the country. Out of curiosity I drove through it in the 1990s and was scared. There were few functioning cars, burned out wrecks lined the streets. Homes had no windows and litter was everywhere. Kids stopped and stared, with a surprised then menacing look. The only reason someone like me would be there would be to buy drugs. I got out feeling as though I was in another country, another world. This book concerns one such street kid who was more "successful" then the rest, he killed his way to the top, and kept killing because why not.

There is a lot of incidental detail about killings. The relationships, motivations, methods. It's not always about money or drugs, someone said the wrong thing, looked the wrong way, or even it was a mistake. It's a war zone, they know it, they call outsiders "civilians" because they are not in the "game" with the rules. Mostly it's kids trying to be "real" (gangsters). Bowden does a good job keeping it real, not romanticizing like we might see in The Wire. The main character is no tough guy, rather someone who knows how to act the part.

Street kids, like stray dogs, are a phenomenon all over the world. Every country has them. I've read a number of books on this topic and it's not pretty. However bad Baltimore is, it's nothing as bad as cities in Africa or Latin America. In the USA at least some unmentionable thing don't happen that occurs elsewhere. The degree of violence and callousness is quite serious though. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jan 16, 2024 |
Another great book by the author, Mark Bowden! As always, it is impeccably researched, and backstopped with copious footnotes. With all his research and background information, one would expect a dry, boring book. Not at all! The story moves along rapidly, much like any good fiction crime novel. Well developed characters, an intriguing plot, and many shocks and surprises along the way.
It's the story of a "small" but extremely violent street gang leader in Baltimore, Maryland. It takes place primarily during the 2010's. Montana Barronette was the leader of the gang, named "TTG", for Trained To Go. In just a short time, they became the most violent, murdering, drug dealing group in the history of Baltimore. The book chronicles his rise in "stature", his crimes, and the eventual downfall and imprisoning of the members.
Bowden also deftly weaves in the story of Baltimore's racial history, it's problems, the problems with gangs, and with law enforcement. Being from the Baltimore area, it's an area Bowden knows well.
This is a book that you will want to set aside a good chunk of time for, because it's a promise that you will not be able to put it down! It's that good! ( )
1 vote 1Randal | Feb 3, 2023 |
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"In this unprecedented deep dive into inner-city gang life, Mark Bowden takes readers inside a Baltimore gang, offers an in-depth portrait of its notorious leader, and chronicles the 2016 FBI investigation that landed eight of its members in prison. Sandtown is one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the world; it earned Baltimore its nickname "Bodymore, Murderland," and was made notorious by David Simon's classic HBO series The Wire. Drug deals dominate street corners, and ruthless, casual violence abounds. Montana Barronette grew up in the center of it all. He was the leader of the gang "Trained to Go," or TTG, and when he was finally arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he had been labeled "Baltimore's Number One Trigger Puller." Under Tana's reign, TTG dominated Sandtown. After a string of murders are linked to TTG, each with dozens of witnesses too intimidated to testify, three detectives set out to put Tana in prison for life. For them, this was never about drugs: it was about serial murder. An acclaimed journalist who spent his youth in the white suburbs of Baltimore, Mark Bowden returns to the city with exclusive access to key FBI files and unprecedented insight into one of the city's deadliest gangs and its notorious leader. As he traces the rise and fall of TTG, Bowden uses wiretapped drug buys, police interviews, undercover videos, text messages, social media posts, trial transcripts, and his own ongoing conversations with Tana's family and community to create the most in-depth account of an inner-city gang ever written. With his signature precision and propulsive narrative, Mark Bowden positions Tana-as a boy, a gang leader, a killer, and now a prisoner-in the context of Baltimore and America, illuminating his path for what it really was: a life sentence"--

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