I’m reblogging Balogun Ojetade’s essay because it’s sticking to my brain and my heart right now with a certain urgency, like it carries some very painful but needed knowledge to those of us who write and read speculative fiction, as well as to those of us who are survivors.
This episode features Thomas Joseph “T.J.” English, who comes from a large Irish Catholic family of 10 siblings. Early in his writing career, English worked as a freelance journalist in NYC during the day and drove a taxi at night. In 1990, English published his first book, The Westies, an account of the last of the Irish Mob in the infamous Manhattan neighborhood “Hell’s Kitchen.” His second book, Born to Kill (1995), was an account of a violent Vietnamese gang based in New York’s Chinatown. In 2005, he published Paddy Whacked, a history of the Irish American gangster in New York, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, and other U.S. cities. In 2008, English published the NYT bestseller Havana Nocturne, about U.S. mobster infiltration of Havana, Cuba before Fidel Castro (currently in film development). His next book was The Savage City (2011), an account of racial hostilities between the NYPD and the Black liberation movement in the 1960s and early 1970s. His most recent book Whitey’s Payback (2013) combines first-rate reporting and storytelling techniques into 16 true-crime stories.
As a journalist, English has written for many publications including: Esquire, Playboy, NY Magazine, The Village Voice, LA Times Magazine, and the NY Times. In the mid-1990s, he wrote a 3-part series for Playboy, “The New Mob”; in 2011 he wrote “Narco Americano,” for Playboy; in 2010, his article for Playboy about a DEA agent who allegedly framed innocent people on bogus narcotics charges won the NY Press Club Award for Best Crime Reporting. He published interviews with Bill Murray, former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, Martin Scorsese, and George Carlin. As a screenwriter, English wrote episodes for “NYPD Blue” and “Homicide,” for which he was awarded the Humanitas Prize.