Born fi Dead is by no means the definitive work on the topic of Jamaican criminal gangs, but as it is one of only a published few, one is obliged to read it if at all interested in the subject. The American author, a Harvard graduate and self-styled 'street ethnographer,' carried out 10 years of intensive research for the book- some two years of which she undertook in Jamaica. It charts the rise, rise and fall (more of a stumble) of the notorious Jamaican gangsters - dubbed 'Posses' in the US and 'Yardies' in the UK. Laurie Gunst eloquently illuminates the hostile backdrop that spawns the gunmen, depicting their path from political conception to subsequent redundancy to their flight to America, where crack and easy access to more guns were conveniently waiting in the early eighties. Poverty, high-powered weapons and narcotics are the staple diet of the content of the book. All the major warlords are acknowledged - Claudie Massop, Bucky Marshall, the CIA, the Jim Brown dynasty, "Uzi" Edwards and the like, though some are portrayed with a little too much deference to the cowboy movies we're informed had so much influence on the protagonists. The colonial context and crimson history of the island and it's inhabitants is also covered, though with a hand towel rather than a tarpaulin; more pages are devoted to the surviving and/or imprisoned soldiers of the ghetto ranks, recanting the cinematic scenes from their virulent, violent careers. Ms Gunst, however, doesn't refrain from telling it how she saw it - pulling no punches when disclosing the catalytic role played by the fire-starting local politicians: ".......they got their guns from the JLP (a one-time ruling party.)" The book is an informative introduction to the study of Jamaican criminal crews and is worth a read, though you may have to look past the author's somewhat mawkish stance and her romanticised sense of reality: she describes a machine-gun toting soldier, carrying out what's known in the ghetto as a 'rat-patrol' as having "beautiful hands, poised ever-so-gracefully on the barrel." Their is a portent to that sort of thing in the book's introduction, where the writer describes how she conceived the book as "part travellers' tale." There is also a quite intentionally scaremongering afterword entitled 'Is Britain next?' that is covered, along with the rest of this subject matter, far more broadly and authentically in the book Ruthless written by Geoff Small.