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Blood Trilogy


From the Aryan Brotherhood to the Mexican Cartels: Headpress announces new blood-soaked crime histories from John Lee Brook

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In 2011 Headpress released Blood In Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood, a history of the notorious white supremacist prison gang, written by John Lee Brook, a writer who had served time and got to know members of the gang personally. The resultant ‘insider’ history was shocking yet compelling, a tale of violence, meth, and sociopathic genius. The book has since fascinated readers.

Next month, Headpress publishes the latest work by Brook, Blood + Death: The Secret History of Santa Muerte and the Mexican Drug Cartels. Here Brook not only details the history of Mexico’s gruesome drug wars, but shows how the cult of Santa Muerte (or Holy Death) has influenced the culture of the cartels, and helped fuel the bloodshed that has blighted Mexico’s recent history.

Although Brook’s latest work – the second in the ‘Blood Trilogy’ – focuses on the cartels, Blood + Death’s monstrous cast is not confined to drug runners and cartel assassins. The book also features satanic priests, occult consultants to the cartels, prolific kidnappers, recreational sadists, and other assorted, real-life psychopaths, all bonded by their devotion to the so-called Skinny Lady.

It’s a unique, and, yes, very dark book, written in Brook’s distinctive, unblinking prose, and serves as a great primer on cartel history, as well as a vivid depiction of the dark faith at the centre of it, a faith where shots of tequila, packages of coke, and lots and lots of blood serve as sacraments and sacrifices to the insatiable lust of Santa Muerte. 

In order to whet everyone’s appetite for Blood + Death, Headpress is releasing a special edition of Blood In Blood Out. It is not only the first time Brook’s bestseller has received the hard back, special edition, collectible, no-ISBN treatment from Headpress, but it comes with a new, full-length epilogue, The Eclipse of the Aryan Brotherhood, which brings the terrible tale of the gang right up to date, an extra chapter exclusive to the special edition and the special edition only.

Bloody hell!

Blood + Death will be out next month in special edition, with the paperback soon afterwards. Read an excerpt now here»

Click here to get the exclusive special edition Blood In Blood Out for just £24.99.
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“Jail is simultaneously surreal and horrible”

Blood In, Blood Out is one of the darkest Headpress titles ever. An unblinking biography of Nazi US prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood, Headpress has just  released a special hardback edition (with a new chapter) to mark the upcoming release of its successor, Blood+Death, a similarly bleak and brutal look at the Mexican drug cartels.

Here we caught up with author John Lee Brook, to talk Nazis, gangs, his own prison experience… and books.

HEADPRESS: Hi, John. First of all, can you tell us about how you came to first write a book about, of all things, the Aryan Brotherhood?

JOHN LEE BROOK: Mostly it was the result of happenstance, a mistake and my own naiveté. The mistake was an egregious one; I committed a crime and was arrested. The happenstance occurred in jail: I came into contact with a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. In my naiveté, I was fascinated by gang culture of any type. Exposure to such a foreign mindset was intriguing. I had no idea such people existed. And I couldn’t understand their way of thinking.

Can we ask what you were serving time for?

I was arrested and charged with ten counts of fraud and/or embezzlement. My attorney negotiated a plea bargain for me: I would plead guilty to one count of grand theft by embezzlement and serve sixteen months in prison.

Not wanting to pry (too much), but what was prison like? How much of the experience went into the book?

Much of the book is based on personal experience. Jail is simultaneously surreal and horrible. As one of my cellmates used to say, after I expressed disbelief at events or the inmates’ actions/behavior: “It’s jail, man. Whaddaya expect?” The worst part isn’t the lack of freedom or the COs (guards). It’s the other prisoners, many of who suffer mental illness. Others are brutes, whose default response to any and all circumstances is violence. Most prisoners lack formal education and grew up in abusive environments. They go with what they know, what they think is normal. But it’s not normal.

Essentially, jail resembles Lord of the Flies. Only you’re not reading it; you’re living it.
OK, fast forward to the book itself. What was the effect of publication like?

Generally speaking, the book was well-received. Of course, there were the usual negative reviews: people who proclaimed the book was nothing more than a glorified copy and paste, or those who claimed they were personal friends of high-ranking AB members and had the straight scoop. On the other hand, there were those – skinheads – who thought the book “rocked;” they perceived the book as extolment of white power and violence. The latter totally misunderstood the thrust of the book.
A lot of people seemed to think that, in publishing a book about the Aryan Brotherhood, we were somehow identifying with their politics! Just to clear up any misunderstandings you might be confronted with – you’re not a Nazi?
LOL! No, I am not a Nazi nor a Nazi sympathizer nor a Fascist. I do not condone violence or criminal activity of any type. The book was merely an exposé, a narrative of events that took place. The purpose of the book was twofold: to describe and to condemn.
Moving on from Nazis…. Tell us about your new book, Blood+Death.

The new book is about the Mexican drug cartels and their worship of Santa Muerte, a religious belief that informs their violent criminal activity. The book is based on intensive research and interviews. And like Blood In, Blood Out, the book narrates how the cartels operate, along with how Santa Muerte influences their operations.

In 2004, Anne Applebaum wrote a wonderful book, entitled Gulag: A History. In it, the author describes the horrible conditions and politics that informed the gulag system. My book attempts to do the same. It is not meant to condone drugs, drug trafficking, violence or the religious cult known as Santa Muerte.
Who is Santa Muerte and where does this come into the book?

Many people would describe Santa Muerte as a religious cult; others would call it a religious belief. However it is described, Santa Muerte is a female saint – Holy Death. She is the personification of Death and, as a saint she grants blessing and favor to those who venerate her. She also dispenses punishment and death.

Many of the Mexican drug cartels worship her because they believe she provides protection from their enemies – other cartels and the police. But her protection has a price tag attached to it. Holy Death demands blood and death in return for her blessing. Blood must be spilled, followed by death. And Holy Death collects the dead souls. Convicted of this creed, the cartels have succumbed to gruesome violence: beheadings, mass murder, human sacrifice and acid baths.
What was distinct about writing about the cartels (as opposed to the Nazis)?

The level of violence inherent in the cartels is distinct from that of the Aryan Brotherhood. The Aryan Brotherhood is extremely violent, even brutal. But there is a rationale and method to their violence, at least from their perspective. Rationale and method are fugitive to the cartels. The cartels believe in violence for the sake of violence. Drugs and drug trafficking and money are secondary to the violence, which is what they crave. In the end, the cartels are drug traffickers because it allows them to engage in violence. Blood and death is their religion, their motivation and their way of life. They love it!

Buy the paperback»
Blood In, Blood Out: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood by John Lee Brook. True Crime. From the dead centre of the enormous American penitentiary system, the Aryan Brotherhood was the lion that somehow seized control of the city as well as the zoo, steadily coming to dominate the billion dollar Methamphetamine industry that permeates America’s urban sprawl. More about this item»
Buy the special edition»

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