The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir

Journalist Dwight "D." Watkins (The Beast Side) grew up in East Baltimore, Md., worshipping his drug kingpin big brother, Bip. His story begins when Bip is shot dead in a neighborhood bodega, and D. "inherits" Bip's safe, containing $100,000 cash ("thick, wrinkled, tatted, bulky, and fluffy--every dollar has a story"), several guns, two bricks of cocaine and heroin, and a Michael Jordan rookie card. He recruits a neighborhood crew to cook up some primo crack and sell it on the corner of Ashland and Madeira. Because they start up the business with no-cost product ("hood trust-fund babies"), the cash comes rolling in. D. takes care of himself and his boys: "My whole hood was fresh from head to toe--it looked like a Macy's and Foot Locker warehouse had exploded."

The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir rings authentically with the sounds of Watkins's turf--the gunshots, the music, the slang. Through sheer personal will, the love of a woman, and the advice of his dying wholesaler Old Head ("Ain't no 401K for smack dealers, boy"), Watkins leaves the drug life to study his way to advanced degrees in education and creative writing. The obstacles to exit are formidable: "We start out in the hood that's full of junkies and dealers. The cops are racist and the teachers only show up to get paid," and most of his crew just can't jump the hurdles. Watkins's memoir is a compelling story that TV entertainment can't touch. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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