Inside the Crips


There once was a time when the terrorist threat against America came from within, when L.A. street gangs were one of law enforcement’s top priorities. Cotton Simpson, who says he’s the son of an absent major-league baseball player and an abusive mother, chronicles a good chunk of that time in his arresting memoir, Inside the Crips (authored with Ann Pearlman). In search of family bonds, Simpson joined the Crips when he was 10 (the year he killed his first man). Within five years, he was sentenced to the first of several stints in jail. The book’s most revealing passages recount his 12 years in prison, when (he claims) racist guards antagonized inmates as a precursor to beating them. Simpson, now 40, mostly avoids the urge to glamorize his gang years, offering a sometimes boastful but ultimately regretful tale of a life half wasted.