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Book Review

A born-again’s harrowing autobiography retraces his path from an emotionally impoverished childhood, through a successful criminal career and, finally, to the redemption of the confessional. Razo assures his reader that his story will be unembellished, with no false modesty or undue embarrassment, and after the first few pages, it’s clear he will keep his word. Razo begins his meditation with his earliest memories of growing up working-class in the dusty, sunny atmosphere of post-war San Diego. Despite the city’s burgeoning diversity and sense of opportunity, his veteran father’s American Indian heritage runs the family into trouble and teaches Razo some early lessons on the harsh realities of American culture. Though his family does help keep him in school for a while, his mother and father are over-extended with Razo and his five sisters. Though the emotions run hot between his mother and father—usually it seems between rage and a begrudging commitment—there is little feeling left over for the children. Razo doesn’t shirk from any topic and provides some unique insights into the awkward presexuality that develops between the members of such a large cloister of siblings, especially when there is only one male to go around. It’s a brave choice and makes good on Razo’s promise of full disclosure. Through the machinations of poverty, prison, drugs and kung fu, Razo eventually impresses a major player with his martial arts and so finds himself one of Hell’s Angels and on his way toward an illicit seven-figure salary. These years aren’t overworked with analysis, and even when some regret seeps in, it seems a bit half-hearted (he was having fun, after all). The ragged emotions of such a life, though familiar territory in fiction and nonfiction alike, are still made interesting by their sheer detail and a narrative voice that isn‘t polished enough to hide the author’s hell-bent and engaging character. Razo’s life is colorful to be sure, and he was even a successful off-roading champion for a spell, but the real interest is Razo’s unlikely negotiations of the mortal pitfalls of the drug trade amid so many murdered—and murderous—friends. Skeptical readers will conclude the author was saved more by a plea deal than by holy intervention, but it’s Razo’s story—and there is no doubting that he’s told it as he lived it.

A harrowing, willful account of a life led hard and fast.

-Kirkus Discoveries

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