Sandtown is one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the world; it earned Baltimore its nickname Bodymore, Murderland, and was made notorious by David Simon’s classic HBO series “The Wire.” Drug deals dominate street corners, and ruthless, casual violence abounds.
Montana Barronette grew up in the center of it all. He was the leader of the gang “Trained to Go,” or TTG, and when he was finally arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he had been nicknamed “Baltimore’s Number One Trigger Puller.” Under Tana’s reign, TTG dominated Sandtown. After a string of murders are linked to TTG, each with dozens of witnesses too intimidated to testify, three detectives set out to put Tana in prison for life. For them, this was never about drugs: It was about serial murder.
Now an acclaimed journalist who spent his youth in the white suburbs of Baltimore, Mark Bowden returns to the city with exclusive access to the FBI files and unprecedented insight into one of the city’s deadliest gangs and its notorious leader. As he traces the rise and fall of TTG, Bowden uses wiretapped drug buys, police interviews, undercover videos, text messages, social media posts, trial transcripts, and his own ongoing conversations with Tana’s family and community to create the most in-depth account of an inner-city gang ever written.
With his signature precision and propulsive narrative, Mark Bowden positions Tana – as a boy, a gang leader, a killer, and now a prisoner – in the context of Baltimore and America, illuminating his path for what it really was: a life sentence.
Praise for Life Sentence:
“A ground level view… The masterful yarn is a riveting true narrative about an FBI investigation that landed eight criminal bosses behind bars in the city profiled in the popular American television crime drama ‘The Wire.’”—Associated Press
“Most of the TTG gang members are now serving life sentences, but as Bowden starkly illustrates, neutralizing one criminal enterprise won’t solve the great ongoing tragedy of violence in poor, isolated urban Black communities, nor will it fix the devastation fueled by racist policies from the 19th and 20th centuries.”—Washington Post
“Bowden turns his masterful storytelling talent to chronicling the gang’s reign of terror and law enforcement’s Herculean efforts to end it… A powerful chronicle of gang life. Life Sentence is not pessimistic, despite the hopelessness at the heart of its story. Instead, it offers many avenues for change and improvement if only the proper political will can be summoned and applied.”—Booklist
“Life Sentence is a masterpiece, right up there with Black Hawk Down and Guests of the Ayatollah. It’s gripping, it’s fast, it’s deeply insightful and empathetic, and it’s brilliantly and exhaustively reported. People should read it.”—Matt Bai, Washington Post contributing columnist and author of All the Truth Is Out
“A scorching true-crime narrative. . . Bowden pulls no punches in his indictment of the ways in which the richest country in the world has allowed Black children for decades to be born into blighted urban neighborhoods, and saddled them with burdens that they must struggle to surmount to lead meaningful lives. This account of ‘young men growing up in a place where murderous violence has become a way of life’ will haunt readers long after they finish it.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Gripping and revealing. . . A powerful, nuanced depiction of gang violence in America that makes a strong case for meaningful reform beyond policing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Praise for Mark Bowden:
“A Woodward that outdoes even Woodward.” —Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker
“Amazing . . . One of the most intense, visceral reading experiences imaginable. . . . The individual stories are woven together in such a compelling and expert fashion, the narrative flows so seamlessly, that it’s hard to imagine that this is not fiction.”—Philadelphia Inquirer, on Black Hawk Down