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This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang Hardcover – July 7, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1 edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401323243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401323240
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Using all of the tools of a capable police investigation, Logan, a journalist based in Latin America, connects the fortunes of Brenda Paz, a Honduran-American teenager, with the ultraviolent Mara Salvatrucha gang. After family difficulties led Paz's father to send her to Texas to live with her uncle, she witnessed a friend's murder by her boyfriend, the leader of the local MS-13 gang, and fled to Virginia following her boyfriend's arrest. Logan probes the secretive Mara Salvatrucha, which funds its illegal activities through extortion, kidnapping, prostitution, drugs and theft, causing the FBI to label it the most dangerous of all criminal outfits. Eventually Paz informs on the gang about the national leadership and crimes, and the Feds unwisely stash the restless teenager in the witness protection program. Placing the reader in the midst of this story with harrowing detail, Logan writes of a young life wasted and an evil crime empire. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Samuel Logan is an investigative reporter based in Latin America. For the past 3 years, he has reported on gang activity across the U.S. and central America. Originally from New Orleans, he lives in Brazil with his wife and daughter.

More About the Author

Samuel Logan is an investigative journalist with over 11 years of experience in Latin America. His work focuses on black markets, organized crime, street gangs and other matters of national and human security. He is also the founder and editor of Southern Pulse | Networked Intelligence, a not-for-profit human intelligence organization focused on security, politics, and energy in Latin America.

He is a senior writer for the International Relations and Security Network, and he maintains a personal website - used by researchers and journalists from around the world who write about security in Latin America.

Samuel is regularly invited to provide briefings to US Intelligence Agencies, NGOS, and Universities around the United States.

His work has attracted members of the Inter-American Dialogue, the Eurasia Group, the RAND corporation, Control Risks Group, The Olive Group, StratFor, the European Security Institute, the International Crisis Group, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, analysts with US Southern Command, the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, the Federation of American Scientists, Blackwater USA, and other organizations that maintain open channels of dialogue with him about the drug trade in Latin America and other matters pertaining to security in the Western Hemisphere.

The Council on Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the Gerson Lehrman Group, The Nation magazine, France 24 Television, Swiss World Radio, National Public Radio affiliates and others have interviewed him about topics pertaining to the organized crime and the drug trade, and he maintains regular contact with correspondents who work for the British Broadcast Corporation, the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Economist magazine, and the Washington Post.

Samuel has lived and worked in Latin America for nearly twelve years. He has lived in Mexico and Central America and a number of South American countries. Samuel has a MA in International Policy and has studied the economics of black markets, organized crime, and Latin America's criminal groups for nearly a decade. He has written extensively on organized crime in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Central America, and Mexico. And with Jonathan Franklin, Samuel has published City of Death for Maxim, Addict Village for Penthouse, and Birds of Prey for Men's Vogue.

Samuel currently lives in Brazil.

Customer Reviews

This is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about MS-13 and gang life, or for anyone who just loves a good story.
Benjamin Bain
Here's the thing, the author of this book, continually writes what the main players in this book are thinking...whether they're dead or not.
This gripping story tells the story of a young girl who stumbles into the gang life and her struggle to find a better way in life.
Lawrence Baker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because MS-13 is very active in my area (DC/Maryland/Virginia) and I was curious to learn more about how they operated on a national and international level, what their history is, what their main rackets are, what the structure is, what the command and control is, and so forth. However, this is not a book that's going to give you very much of that. Rather, it is a detailed account of the sad story of Brenda Paz -- a teenage MS-13 member whose 2003 murder was a very high-profile news item in the region.

Investigative reporter Logan uses Brenda's story as a way of writing about MS-13, and the book follows her for about two years, starting roughly from the time she moved to Texas to live with her uncle's family until her murder. Her relatives apparently didn't give her a whole lot of nurturing or attention, and as a result, the otherwise extremely bright and bubbly Brenda drifted into gang life. She quickly made friends with a local MS-13 clique, became the girlfriend of their leader, and was jumped in as a member. She spent a little less than a year with the gang, mainly in Texas and Virginia, before she decided to cooperate with police rather than serve jail time. Her apparent photographic memory made her a treasure trove for the cops, and she gave countless interviews to law enforcement officials from all over the country, culminating in a lengthy video-taped session that was adapted into a training video for police on MS-13. Naturally, a number of MS-13 people began to suspect her of being an informant, and as a result of a series of farcical bureaucratic errors and her own hubris, she was killed.

While this picture from inside the gang is often very vivid and interesting, it's not particularly in-depth.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James Creechan on July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anyone doing research or teaching about gangs and delinguency will tell you how difficult it is to encounter relevant teaching material about Latino gangs in the Southwest. The language and cultural divide separates us from full access to the internal "narratives" and subcultural forces that operate within Latino gangs -- especially the most violent versions like the MS-13, the Mara Salvatrucha.

This is an ironic situation for academics, given that the fundamental roots of criminological and delinquent theories describing gangs are strongly rooted in Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin's analysis of gang subcultures in New York -- primarily Puerto Rican and Dominican.

And yet few know much about the Latino gangs concentrated along the southwest border of the USA. Many have a general understanding of MS-13 -- the ritualized elaborate tattoos especially on faces, their roots in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and a reputation for brutal violence etc.

Samuel Logan's book will fill the knowledge gap for anyone teaching delinquency or advanced courses about gangs and street crime. It will be especially useful for people interested in the role of women within violent gangs. The author is a veteran international reporter , and presents a detailed picture of a Mara Salvatrucha gang from the narrative of view of a female chivato -- (informer). Many sociological ideas are nicely illustrated here -- "sexing-in" vs. "jumping-in" etc. The best thing is that most students will love the book because it's tale of abandonment, alienation and teen angst will resonate on a personal level.

Logan's book is an excellent complements to the recent movie, "Sin Nombre" about Mara Salvatrucha gangs and their distorted internal code of "honor" and their relationship to women and family. That movie was written and directed by Cary Fukunagawho rode the rails with migrants from Central America.[...].
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Jacobson on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have struggled with the decision to post a review of this book, as I do not like to disparage the work of emerging writers. That said, I feel obligated to counter the glowing praise this book has received from other reviewers.

Though the author is described as an investigative journalist, this book is, at best, creative non-fiction: it does not contain a single reference! As if that weren't bad enough, the author appears to believe that he has insight into what a range of individuals - from criminal suspects to law enforcement officials to murder victims - feel at any given time, including the moment of their deaths. What I find most egregious is the author's gross generalizations and pseudopsychological musings on the factors that draw young latinos to MS-13, namely the unsubstantiated claim that children reunited with their parents upon relocating to the united states are unloved and unaccepted, and therefore turn to a life of crime.

Compelling as the story may be, the writing is repetitive, simplistic, and mediocre at best. It reads more like a first draft than a complete work.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Davidson on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an incredible story written in a tense and gripping way that leaves you glued to the book. The expression that fact is stranger than fiction certainly holds true in this frightening account of gang life. This is a must-read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Matt Keen on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book explores the life of Brenda Paz, MS-13 member and police informant. It really isn't an expose on the inner workings of the gang. The author's style is simplistic and at times a little presumptuous. What form of clairvoyance does he have that can read the thoughts of people killed years before the publication of this book? If you're not familiar with Brenda's story, I suppose it would be an interesting read. But there's really nothing new here, all the things the author brings up have been portrayed on TV documentaries and in other publications. D+, maybe C-
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