1 out of 4 stars
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Once Upon a Crime in LA – A Criminal Ballet by Ceasar Demetrius Nickson is, according to the author, a true American crime story, and written in a movie script style.
The story tells the tale of two jewel thieves named K-Nine and Eyez who, with the help of female crew members, pull off 17 robberies where they steal over 300 million dollars’ worth of jewellery. The reader is told how K-Nine got the idea, how his crew joined him and what the repercussions of the heists were.
The author touted this book as “an Urban Masterpiece” so I was genuinely looking forward to reading it. The claim that it was based on a true story intrigued me, so I did a little research on the subject and found that the author did indeed get convicted of robbery, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and interstate transportation of stolen property. I started reading and quickly found the script style difficult to read at times, as often the person’s name who was about to say something would be at the bottom of the page, while their speech would be on the next page. There is a lot of swearing and some colloquial expressions (which some might find offensive) scattered throughout, so potential readers would need to take this into consideration. A lot of spelling mistakes cropped up which, in the beginning, I thought were there to emphasise pronunciation like are for or, or studda for stutter. When there and their were mixed up and too and to were interchanged I thought maybe they were simple grammar mistakes. Then along came apostrophes inserted for no reason, capitals in the middle of sentences and spelling like braclets (bracelets), neckless’s (necklaces) and conceiled (concealed). The tone that the author uses is very upbeat and on an average page of 10 lines of speech, about 7 of them end in an exclamation mark, 2 with a question mark and the others with a full stop. I found that this made it quite difficult to “come down” in your head while reading. Here is a typical page in the book (taken directly from page 76):
I feel you my nig!
And know this! All yawl, I got you backs! (Sing-a-long)
And, We got your’s!
What time is it!
Tear down the door’s!
Ain’t no future in yo front’n!
Never was Cuz!
Never was Blood!
Ain’t no future in yo front’n! (Laughs all around)
Saw something down in Miami! Large!
Sound’s good to me! When?
Next week or so!
I expected a lot more from the story itself and I’m still confused as to why it is referred to as a criminal ballet. I wondered if it was a reference to a dance between the police and thieves, but since the police are only mentioned much later that didn’t make sense. In the beginning K-Nine gets the idea to rob a jewellery store and takes Eyez with him. They go in, threaten the salesperson, take diamonds and watches, and leave. Maria, who lives in the same apartment block as K-Nine, hears about his haul and asks to join in the next heist. He agrees and they rob the next place in the same way. The next girl asks to join, he agrees and they do the same thing. And so on and so on. Each time it’s a different combination of girls, but it’s always a case of them threatening the salesperson with a gun and then taking the diamonds and watches. There is a small part explaining what K-Nine buys with the stash and how the money he throws around in clubs gets him “respect”. He also focusses briefly on how all the girls in the crew (whether gay or not), fall in love with him and want to marry him. Eventually the law does catch up with him, a crew member starts snitching and he goes to jail and does time for some of the robberies. The only real “aha” moment is when you find out what happened to the rest of the loot.
I struggled with this story as I can’t really say I enjoyed it. I cannot condone the story itself, and the script style made reading very difficult and influenced my rating a lot. The repetition of scenes in the story, for example the girls that just kept cropping up to join the crew and the way the robberies kept happening, as well the grammatical errors, made me remove 2 stars immediately. The third star was influenced by the lack of description, as in a script you are presented with speech and the action will happen around it on screen. This script was put forward as a book to be reviewed, so there are lots of blanks as to what the characters are actually doing, how they are moving, what they and the landscape look like and there is not enough substance to flesh it out. I thus rate Once Upon a Time in LA – A Criminal Ballet 1 out of 4 stars as I am unable to endorse this in its current format, but reiterate that it is merely my opinion. The book has received 5-star reviews on major sites so any potential reader has a number of different reviews to base their decisions on.
Once Upon A Time In LA, A Criminal Ballet
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