Review: The Crook Books Vol. 1

15400975_726875727464831_4674864004204867460_n“Throughout his treatment, Mr. West used his dry cynical sense of humor to emotionally distance himself from others… Because of his reliance on the intellectual, Mr. West relies on, and is skilled with, rational challenges of his criminal thoughts.”

— residential drug treatment program summary for Scott West, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2010.

Say whatever else you will about the man, but don’t ever say that Preservation Pub co-founder Scott West doesn’t have brass ones, a set of big, clanking balls, cajones the size of church bells. Once recognized as pillars of the community, Scott and wife Bernadette were shamed, brought low before God and man alike when it was revealed that the duo had participated in a massive drug-smuggling and money-laundering scheme that poured millions of dollars of illicit cash into downtown revitalization efforts.

West was sentenced to years in federal prison, and saw most of his assets stripped by Johnny Law. Cue the mea culpas, the public self-flagellation, the Behind-the-Music-cum-come-to-Jesus fall-and-redemption arc that sees him reemerge as a poster boy for Humble Contrition.

Yeah, well, F@#$ all that. Because instead of ruminating on the terrible magnitude of his sins, West spent his years in the big house planning his comeback (which is going rather well now, F@#$ you very much) and writing a series of books chronicling both his own story and his thoughts on crime, punishment, and the weird, savage herd instincts of American society circa the 21st century.

“In some sense, mug shot newspapers are a more civilized throwback to the good old days when Romans mobbed the Colosseum to see the lions ripe the genitals off naked criminals.”

— Scott West, TCBVOGIBG

The Crook Books Volume One: Good Intentioned Bad Guys is the first book of that series, and it is available now in… well, mostly in places owned by the West family, like Earth to Old City, and maybe Preservation Pub, if you’re lucky…

And this is why you should purchase a copy for yourself, or else steal someone else’s, if you have a half a chance: Reading this book is just about the most fun as you can possibly have for $16 without risking jail, or maybe waking up in the emergency room…

TCBVOGIBG is what might have happened if Fyodor Dostoyevsky had lived in America in the 21st century, and decided to author a bathroom reader in the bleary throes of a whiskey bender. It’s part personal musing, part biography, part history lesson, and part philosophical treatise, if sociopaths wrote philosophical treatises.

It’s also got some really mad cool pictures, mostly courtesy of jailhouse artist and fellow conspirator Mark Cort. If necessity is the mother of invention, then prison is the mother of all necessity: Cort, aka the D-Pod Da Vinci, made most of the clever caricatures and cartoons featured in the book with art utensils cobbled from weird prison detritus. Paint brushes fashioned from plastic sporks, tied with mattress threads, tipped with human hair. Paints created from coffee grounds and melted M&M shells… you get the idea.

Is the book self-serving? Hell, yes it’s self-serving, and you can make damn sure there are no apologies for that. But if you read TCBVOGIBG with anything like an open mind, you may find yourself slightly swayed, if not outright won over to West’s perspective. At the very least, you won’t look at issues of crime, punishment, and public morality in quite the same way ever again.

“The point of being a good-intentioned rule-breaker, after all, is freedom from bosses and bureaucracies, not to commit crimes.”

— Old School, jailhouse sage


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