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The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream [Paperback]

Patrick Radden Keefe
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Book Description
A mesmerizing narrative about the rise and fall of an unlikely international crime boss.

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. Like other immigrant groups before them, they showed up with little money but with an intense work ethic and an unshakeable belief in the promise of the United States. Many of them lived in a world outside the law, working in a shadow economy overseen by the ruthless gangs that ruled the narrow streets of New York’s Chinatown.

The figure who came to dominate this Chinese underworld was a middle-aged grandmother known as Sister Ping. Her path to the American dream began with an unusual business run out of a tiny noodle store on Hester Street. From her perch above the shop, Sister Ping ran a full-service underground bank for illegal Chinese immigrants. But her real business—a business that earned an estimated $40 million—was smuggling people.

As a “snakehead,” she built a complex—and often vicious—global conglomerate, relying heavily on familial ties, and employing one of Chinatown's most violent gangs to protect her power and profits. Like an underworld CEO, Sister Ping created an intricate smuggling network that stretched from Fujian Province to Hong Kong to Burma to Thailand to Kenya to Guatemala to Mexico. Her ingenuity and drive were awe-inspiring both to the Chinatown community—where she was revered as a homegrown Don Corleone—and to the law enforcement officials who could never quite catch her.

Indeed, Sister Ping’s empire only came to light in 1993 when the Golden Venture, a ship loaded with 300 undocumented immigrants, ran aground off a Queens beach. It took New York’s fabled “Jade Squad” and the FBI nearly ten years to untangle the criminal network and hone in on its unusual mastermind.

The Snakehead is a panoramic tale of international intrigue and a dramatic portrait of the underground economy in which America’s twelve million illegal immigrants live. Based on hundreds of interviews, Patrick Radden Keefe’s sweeping narrative tells the story not only of Sister Ping, but of the gangland gunslingers who worked for her, the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the generation of penniless immigrants who risked death and braved a 17,000 mile odyssey so that they could realize their own version of the American dream. The Snakehead offers an intimate tour of life on the mean streets of Chinatown, a vivid blueprint of organized crime in an age of globalization and a masterful exploration of the ways in which illegal immigration affects us all.


A Q&A with Patrick Radden Keefe

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about Sister Ping? She is one of the most unusual "godmothers" in the annals of modern crime.

Answer: Sure. I first found out about Sister Ping in 2006, when she was on trial in New York. It emerged that she was a Chinese woman who had come to the United States in 1981 with no education, didn’t speak English, and started smuggling other people—from her home village and then the region in China that she came from—to the U.S. She did this for the better part of two decades, and made $40 million or so in the process, and then went on the lam. She was the FBI’s most wanted Asian organized crime figure for another five or six years before they finally tracked her down in Hong Kong, extradited her to the U.S., and tried her.

Q: If you passed her in the street, or went by her place of work, if you were wandering around Chinatown as a tourist, would you have any idea about what she did?

A: You wouldn’t give her a second look. This was a part of what was so fascinating about her; she made an enormous fortune but she made a point of being very humble in her appearance. She worked incredibly long hours, and there was nothing ostentatious about the way she carried herself. And I actually think that this studied anonymity was part of what allowed her to do what she did with impunity for so long. And it also secured her a huge amount of respect within the Chinatown neighborhood, where she was regarded as kind of a humble, hometown heroine who hadn’t let the success she’d had go to her head.

Q: Sister Ping was clever enough to distance herself from the more violent aspects of human trafficking. How did she outsource the seedier aspects of what she was doing, and how did that ultimately affect her?

A: Well, this in some ways was what brought about her downfall, in that she was always a perfectionist, and when she started out as a smuggler in the early 1980s she would transport people herself. By that I mean, she would be there in Hong Kong when she put them on a plane; they would be flown to Guatemala, she would be there in Guatemala when they arrived. They would be escorted up through Mexico; she would meet them in California, then she would fly back with them to New York City. But as her operation grew, and the word spread—really, around the world—that this was a woman who could move anyone from point A to point B, it got so large that she could no longer oversee everything herself, and she had to start subcontracting. And this, in some ways, was her great mistake, because she subcontracted to a very violent gang of youths in Chinatown known as the Fuk Ching gang, and the gang, ultimately—because they were less scrupulous than she was about issues of safety and things like that—ended up mismanaging things. There were a number of these journeys that ended in death, and then a number of murders as well.

Q: Tell us what the title The Snakehead means.

A: The snakehead is the name, the Chinese name, to refer to these human smugglers, who basically emerged in China in the 1960s and 1970s, helping smuggle people out of China. But then in the late 1980s and early 1990s—basically after Tiananmen Square—it became a massive (many say four- to six-billion-dollar-a-year) industry. These were the snakeheads, and among the snakeheads Sister Ping was the most prolific and certainly the most famous.

In the case of The Golden Venture, they would bring these ships to the U.S., and they wouldn’t want to bring them right to the shore in California or Massachusetts or New York—as you can imagine, it would look a little strange to have a freighter coming up, to appear in Brooklyn and drop off hundreds of Chinese people. So they would bring them to about a hundred miles off shore, out in the open ocean, and then they would send out small fishing boats which would offload the ships. This was called offloading and it was actually a kind of niche in the industry. And the gangsters were the ones who occupied this niche. They would take these fishing boats out and bring the passengers back in. Because Sister Ping had outsourced offloading to one of these gangs, the gang happened to have a lot of inner turmoil in the early part of 1993, precisely because they were making so much money in the snakehead business and they didn’t know how to divide it, and so there was a massive shoot-out just weeks before The Golden Venture arrived, and the guys who were supposed to go and offload the ship were all killed in the shootout. All of the guys who had gone to kill them were hoping they could be the ones to go and offload it and collect the money from the passengers, but they were all locked up and put in prison. So when the ship arrived, there was nobody to offload it, and that was why it came in—all the way in, to the Rockaways, in Queens, and actually ran aground right there on the beach in the media capital of the world.

Q: Of course, the real payoff for the reader is this reading experience—this is an amazing crime story with incredible twists and turns.

A: Yeah; it’s funny, I really didn’t anticipate this to be the case when I began the research. As I started digging in and talking to law enforcement sources and finding out about these various underworld figures, in Chinatown but also in places like Bangkok, I began to realize the relationships between them. One of the things that’s interesting in the book is that you realize that a whole series of people were actually cooperating with American authorities at different times over the years, that we’d never really known about. And in many cases, they were going to American authorities and giving them information about one another. There was an interesting, almost spy-versus-spy game going on between these ruthless, but also very enterprising and business-minded, underworld figures.

(Photo © Sai Srikandarajah)

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Keefe (Chatter) examines America's complicated relationship with immigration in this brilliant account of Cheng Chui Ping, known as Sister Ping, who built a multimillion-dollar empire as a snakehead, smuggling Chinese immigrants into America. Sister Ping herself entered the U.S. legally in 1981 from China's Fuzhou province, but was soon known among Fujianese immigrants in Manhattan's Chinatown as the go-to for advice, loans and connections to bring their families to America. Her empire grew so large that she contracted out muscle work to the local gang, the Fuk Ching. Keefe points to the Golden Venture—a ship full of Fujianese illegals that ran fatally aground in 1993—as the beginning of the end for Sister Ping. She was sentenced in 2000 to 35 years in prison for conspiracy, money laundering and trafficking. Despite an enormous cast of characters in a huge underground web of global crime, Keefe's account maintains the swift pace of a thriller. With the immigration debate still boiling, this exploration of how far people will go to achieve the American dream is a must-read. (July 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Keefe has written an impeccably researched account of human traffickers and inconsistent U.S. immigration policy. Critics marveled at his skill in weaving multiple, complex plots into one highly articulate narrative and described him as "a masterful storyteller with the keen eye of a seasoned reporter" (Washington Post). The New York Times Book Review was an exception, noting that Keefe struggled to depict illegal immigrants as "three-dimensional individuals," and USA Today felt that the background research at times impeded the "mystery-thriller story line." Still, critics enjoyed Snakehead and considered it an important work for those interested in international policy or global crime sagas. Or both. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

A Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post Book of the Year

“Reads like a mashup of The Godfather and Chinatown, complete with gun battles, a ruthless kingpin and a mountain of cash. Except that it’s all true.”
Time

“Essential reading. . . . A rich, beautifully told story, so suspenseful and with so many unexpected twists that in places it reads like a John le Carré novel.”
The Washington Post
 
“A masterwork. . . . In this single tale about a global criminal, Keefe finds a story of quintessentially American hope.”
Christian Science Monitor
 
“Painstakingly reported and vividly told. . . . As immigration reform languishes in Washington . . . everyone involved—from policymakers to activists to the undocumented—would be wise to read The Snakehead.
Newsweek

“A formidably well-researched book that is as much a paean to its author’s industriousness as it is a chronicle of crime.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“Keefe has written a vivid non fiction thriller. The Snakehead reads like a Chinese-American version of The Sopranos, except that the mob boss is a grandmother who runs a human smuggling enterprise, and the story is true.”
—Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
 
“Evocatively captures our yin and yang over immigration policy. . . . This is one of the freshest accounts of modern-day migration I’ve read, one filled with moral ambiguity, one that doesn’t pretend to have the answers, one that in these times feels like essential reading.”
—Alex Kotlowitz, The Washington Post
 
“An eye-opener. . . . Compelling and informative. . . . Keefe maintains a commendable fairness and objectivity reporting a fascinating story.”
USA Today
 
“Bracing, vivid. . . . Keefe writes gracefully, perceptively, insightfully. . . . Without sacrificing one iota of narrative momentum, he untangles a dauntingly complicated human-trafficking operation so a reader can effortlessly follow along.”
The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
 
“Brilliant. . . . Keefe’s mastery of this chapter of our ongoing immigration saga is impressive. He muses thoughtfully about its many conundrums and highlights how our ethos of welcoming the persecuted gets soured by bad policy and the pervasive exploitation of the helpless. There will be more chapters, no doubt, but this one was pretty riveting.”
Los Angeles Times
 
The Snakehead achieves what only the finest reporting can: it peels back an astonishing hidden world. Keefe takes the reader on a spellbinding journey . . . that will forever change your understanding of what it means to become an American.”
—David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
 
“Timely and compelling.”
Wall Street Journal
 
“Engrossing. . . . Keefe’s narrative delves deeply into Chinatown and the labyrinthine smuggling routes between China and America, but it’s also a glimpse into our conflicted feelings about illegals and the morass of America’s immigration policy.”
New York Magazine
 
“Epic. . . . Impressive. . . . A true-life thriller that examines just about every aspect of U.S. immigration policy.”
—The Associated Press
 
“Riveting. . . . Keefe deftly interweaves the political, legal and gunslinging strands of Sister Ping’s story, rendering scenes of White House policy deliberation and immigration court procedure as engagingly as scenes of Chinatown shootouts and high-seas rendezvous.”
—National Public Radio
 
“Exceptional. . . . [Told] with a masterful fluidity. . . . An adventure story, crime drama, political thriller and a contemplative look into immigration policy all at once.”
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
 
“Captivating. . . . A page-turner that reads like a crime novel. Peopled with dozens of colorful characters, it offers an authoritative history of the diaspora of the Chinese and their experience in the United States. . . . Keefe’s account reminds us how much hope the American dream inspires and what a steep price some have paid to try to live it.”
­San Jose Mercury News
 
“Brilliant. . . . Keefe’s account maintains the swift pace of a thriller. With the immigration debate still boiling, this exploration of how far people will go to achieve the American dream is a must-read.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author

Patrick Radden Keefe is a fellow at The Century Foundation and the author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. A graduate of Columbia University and Yale Law School, and the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Slate, and many other publications. The Snakehead was a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, awarded by the Journalism School at Columbia University for excellence in American nonfiction writing.

For character dossiers, an image gallery, interactive maps, and more, please visit: www.thesnakehead.com.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Alex Kotlowitz In the early morning hours of June 6, 1993, a small, weathered freighter, the Golden Venture, ran aground along the shoreline of New York's Rockaway Beach. It was carrying 300 people from China's Fujian province. Most were men, though there was also a handful of women and children aboard. It was in many ways an age-old journey: immigrants risking their lives for a better life. But this was different. Each had paid $35,000 to smugglers (the going rate is now upward of $70,000), and when the ship beached (purposefully, it turns out) those on board, who were already weakened by the 120-day voyage, were ordered by the smugglers to jump into the rough surf and swim ashore. The sea was so turbulent that it flipped a 22-foot Boston Whaler sent out to rescue the swimmers. Ten of the Chinese men died. The rest lay exhausted in the sand, tended to by medics, given food and water, and then arrested. "For much of its history," Patrick Radden Keefe writes, "the United States has suffered from a kind of bipolarity when it comes to matters of immigration." And so it was that the men and women on the Golden Venture were not embraced but instead imprisoned, most of them in a jail in York, Pa., where they remained for three years while the government tried to figure out how it viewed them: as illegal immigrants or refugees -- or something in between. Indeed, the Golden Venture, which Keefe points out brought "the single largest arrival of illegal aliens in modern American history," came to symbolize the tightly wound tension that has long characterized this nation's stance on immigration: the instinct to take in the tired and the poor versus the oft-expressed inclination to return new arrivals to their home countries. "The Snakehead" evocatively captures our yin and yang over immigration policy. Even if you know where you stand, you'll get tossed about enough in this compelling narrative that you won't necessarily end up where you began. "The Snakehead," thankfully, is not a polemic. It's a rich, beautifully told story, so suspenseful and with so many unexpected twists that in places it reads like a John le Carré novel. Keefe, a masterful storyteller with the keen eye of a seasoned reporter, paints a discomforting picture of a worldwide smuggling network so lucrative that an INS agent renowned for his pluck and persistence is himself eventually drawn to the allure and the enormous profits of the trade. The numbers astound. During a two-year period when many Chinese were smuggled from Canada through a Mohawk reservation in the United States (a story captured in the extraordinary movie "The Frozen River"), the Native American smugglers made an estimated $170 million. The spine of "The Snakehead" is the account of Cheng Chui Ping, known to most as Sister Ping, an aloof if not eccentric woman who helped finance the Golden Venture. An immigrant herself from Fujian province, Sister Ping built and headed a global smuggling empire, an underground network that extended from Asia to Africa and Latin America, all stops along the way to the ultimate destination: the United States. Sister Ping made a small fortune trading in humans, which it becomes abundantly clear is a cutthroat, often brazenly violent business, measured not only by street shootouts between rival smugglers but also by the brutal nature of the travel itself, including the claustrophobic and odorous voyage in the small hold of the Golden Venture, which Keefe recounts in haunting detail. Food and water were so scarce that fights would break out. One of the smuggled Fujianese became so unhinged that he mindlessly pressed buttons on a handheld video game long after the batteries had died. Another passenger told Keefe, "I think it changed many people, being on that ship." The ship also changed others, as well. When many of the Chinese were detained in a prison in the working-class town of York, some of the locals befriended the new captives and then took up their cause, arguing -- convincingly -- that they should be permitted to stay in this country. But beginning with the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and then reinforced by post-9/11 hysteria, our nation has become less welcoming to those seeking refuge. We now detain roughly 300,000 people, most of them accused of entering this country illegally, most of them awaiting deportation. Yet, as Keefe suggests, it's ingrained in the history of this country that "many an immigration story begins with some transgression, large or small." Indeed, Sister Ping, who is now serving time in prison, has become a folk hero in her Chinatown neighborhood, or as Keefe observes, "a latter-day Harriet Tubman who risked imprisonment to shepherd her countrymen to freedom." This is one of the freshest accounts of modern-day migration I've read, one filled with moral ambiguity, one that doesn't pretend to have the answers, one that in these times feels like essential reading.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One
Pilgrims
THE SHIP made land at last a hundred yards off the Rockaway Peninsula, a slender, skeletal finger of sand that forms a kind of barrier between the southern reaches of Brooklyn and Queens and the angry waters of the Atlantic. Dating back to the War of 1812, the people of New York erected battlements and positioned cannons along the beaches here, to defend against foreign invasion. Even before white settlers arrived, the local Canarsie Indians had identified in the eleven miles of dunes and grass something proprietary and exclusive. "Rockaway" derives from the Canarsie word Reckouwacky, which means "place of our own people."

A single road runs down the center of the peninsula, past the Marine Parkway Bridge, which connects to the mainland, through the sleepy winterized bungalows of the Breezy Point Cooperative, right out to the western tip of Rockaway, where weekend anglers reel in stripers and blues. Looking south, past the beach at the Atlantic, you wouldn't know you were on the southern fringe of one of the biggest cities in the world. But turn your head the other way, out across the bay side of the peninsula, and there's Coney Island in the distance, the grotty old Cyclone tracing a garish profile above the boardwalk.

At a quarter to two on a moonless Sunday morning, June 6, 1993, a single police cruiser drove east along that central road, its headlights illuminating the dark asphalt. A large stretch of the peninsula is national park land, and inside the car, a twenty-eight-year-old National Park Police officer named David Somma was doing a graveyard shift with his partner, Steve Divivier. At thirty, Divivier had been with the force for four years, but this was his first time on an overnight patrol.

It wasn't typically an eventful task. The Breezy Point neighborhood west of the bridge was close-knit. The families were mostly Irish Americans who had been in the area for generations, working-class city cops and firefighters whose fathers and grandfathers had bought modest summer homes along the beach in the fifties and sixties and at some point paved over the sandy lots and winterized their weekend shacks. At 98.5 percent white, Breezy Point had the peculiar distinction of being the least ethnically diverse neighborhood in New York City. A night patrol of the beach might turn up the occasional keg party or bonfire, but serious crime along that stretch was unheard of. The Breezy Point police force was a volunteer auxiliary. The officers had so little use for their handcuffs that they had taken to oiling them to stave off rust.

Somma was behind the wheel, and he saw it first. An earlier rain shower had left the ocean swollen with fog. But out to his right, beyond the beach, the darkness was pierced by a single pinprick of faint green illumination: a mast light.

The officers pulled over, got out of the car, and scrambled to the top of the dunes separating the road from the beach. In the distance they beheld the ghostly silhouette of a ship, a tramp steamer, perhaps 150 feet long. The vessel was listing ever so slightly to its side. Somma ran back to the car and got on the radio, alerting the dispatcher that a large ship was dangerously close to shore. He and Divivier climbed the dune for another look.

Then, from out across the water, they heard the first screams.

Half stifled by the wind, the cries were borne to them across the beach. To Somma they sounded desperate, the kind of sound people make when they know they are about to die. He had a flashlight with him, and pointed it in the direction of the ship. The sea was rough, the waves fierce and volatile. About 25 yards out, between the rolling swells, Somma saw four heads bobbing in the water. The officers turned and sprinted back to the car.

"We've got a large number of people in the water!" Somma shouted into the radio. Divivier had grabbed a life ring and was already running back to the beach. The officers charged into the water. It was cold--53 degrees--and the surf was violent, big swells breaking all around them and threatening to engulf the people in the distance. Guided by the wailing voices, Divivier and Somma strode out until they were waist-deep. As Divivier closed the distance to the four people, he hurled the life ring in their direction. But the wind and current carried it away. He reeled it in, walked deeper into the water, and cast the ring again. Again it failed to reach the people as they struggled in the swells.

Realizing that they couldn't do the rescue from solid ground, Divivier and Somma plunged into the water and began swimming, enormous waves twisting their bodies and crashing over their heads. The drowning people writhed in the cold ocean. Eventually Divivier and Somma reached them and shouted over the percussive surf, telling them to take hold of the life ring. Then the officers turned around and dragged the shipwrecked strangers back to shore. There the four collapsed, panting, on the sand. They were Asian men, the officers saw, diminutive and cadaverously thin. When Somma spoke to them, they didn't appear to understand. They just looked up, with terror in their eyes, and pointed in the direction of the ship.

From the ocean, the officers heard more screams.




Somma's first radio call to the Park Service Police dispatcher had gone out at 1:46 a.m. There was a Coast Guard station just across the peninsula from the beach, at the Rockaway end of the Marine Parkway Bridge. Charlie Wells, a tall, ruddy, nineteen-year-old seaman apprentice, was on radio duty from midnight to four in the morning. Wells, the son of an Emergency Medical Services captain, had grown up in Whitestone, Queens. He lived in the barracks; he'd been with the Coast Guard less than a year.

"A fishing boat sank off Reis Park," a dispatcher's voice said, crackling through the radio. "There's forty people in the water!"

Wells ran out of the barracks, started his truck, and drove a few hundred yards south down the access road in the direction of the ocean side beach. He pulled over in a clearing and ran up onto the beach, where he was startled by the sight of the ship in the distance. He mouthed a quiet Wow.
On the beach in front of him, it looked like some madcap game of capture the flag was under way. A dozen or so dark, wiry figures, some of them in ragged business suits, others in just their underwear, were running in every direction, and a number of burly police officers were giving chase. Three off-duty Park Service officers had joined Somma and Divivier and were scrambling after the Asian men who had managed to swim to shore.

"Help!" one of the officers shouted, spotting Wells.

Wells took off after one of the men, gained on him easily, and rugby-tackled him. He was much smaller than Wells, skinny, and soaked through. Wells held the man down and looked up to see more people emerging from the surf. It was a primordial scene--an outtake from a zombie movie--as hordes of men and women, gaunt and hollow-cheeked, walked out of the sea. Some collapsed, exhausted, on the sand. Others dashed immediately into the dunes, trying to evade the cops. Still more thrashed and bobbed and screamed in the crashing waves. Wells could just make out the outline of the ship in the darkness. There was movement on the deck, some sort of commotion. People were jumping overboard.

"We need a Coast Guard boat!" one of the officers shouted at Wells. "And a helicopter!"
Wells ran back to the van and radioed his station. "I need more help," he said. "There's a two-hundred-foot tanker that ran aground right off the beach, and these guys are jumping right into the water."

The tide was coming in, and a strong westerly crosscurrent was pulling the people in the water down along the shoreline. The officers ventured into the water again and again. They plucked people from the shallows and dragged them onto the shore. The survivors were terrified, eyes wild, teeth chattering, bellies grossly distended from gulping saltwater. They looked half dead. They were all Asian, and almost all men, but there were a few women among them, and a few children. They flung their arms around the officers in a tight clench, digging their fingers so deep that in the coming days the men would find discolored gouge marks on the skin of their shoulders and backs.

The night was still so dark that it was hard to locate the Asians in the water. The men relied on their flashlights, the narrow beams roving the waves in search of flailing arms or the whites of eyes. But the flashlights began to deteriorate from exposure to the saltwater, and when the lights failed, the rescuers had to wade out into the darkness and just listen for the screams. "We entered the water guided only by the sound of a human voice," one of the officers later wrote in an incident report. "When we were lucky, we could then use our flashlights to locate a person . . . When we weren't lucky, the voices just stopped." The rescue workers pulled dozens of people to share. Every time they thought they had cleared the water, another pocket of screams would pick up, and they would head back in.

Those who were too tired to walk or move the officers carried, jackknifed over their shoulders, and deposited on higher ground. There they collapsed, vomiting saltwater, their bodies shaking, their faces slightly purple from exposure. The officers tried massaging their legs and arms to improve circulation. Some were hysterical, sobbing and pointing out at the ship. Others seemed delusional and rolled around covering themselves with fistfuls of sand, whether to insulate their frozen bodies or hide from the officers was unclear. Some were more collected--they were strong swimmers, or they had caught a generous current. They walked up out of the water, stripped off their wet clothes, produced a set of dry clothes from a plastic bag tied around an ankle, and changed right there on the beach. Some of them then sat among the gr...

From AudioFile

A well-researched descent into the world of Chinese organized crime, THE SNAKEHEAD centers on the barbarous Sister Ping, who ran an international smuggling ring out of a noodle shop and ruled with an iron hand in the 1980s in New York City. The author reads his work himself, and it's a good thing. Keefe's voice is temperate but never monotonous as he describes the recently arrived Chinese immigrants, crammed 20 to a house, with nothing better to do than watch Asian martial arts movies and play video games before the sun goes down and they ply their ruthless trade. Similarly, accounts of boat people, jammed into shaky vessels to fester among one another, will make listeners recoil--but only at their horrific realism. J.S.H. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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