Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
"I had been living in Cambodia for almost a decade and had built for myself a very comfortable life. I had a fabulous apartment, a landlord who treated me like family, and true friends who made Phnom Penh a real home away from home. Life in “the Penh” was, compared to Manila, very cheap, stress-free, devoid of traffic jams, flash floods and the constant security issues. It was rather odd to decide to say goodbye to all of that and return to chaotic, overcrowded Manila. Most of all, it was difficult to leave the place where I had found my true love, who for reasons too complicated to go into at this time could not follow me to Manila.
As if I needed confirmation that I was doing the right thing leaving Cambodia, my book deal with Maverick House Publishers of Ireland came halfway through my transition period. In March this year, Maverick House decided to re-publish God Loves Bakla internationally as Of God and Men, scheduling it for an October 2011 release. It was, to me, a sign from God that He was indeed calling me back home!
An interesting anecdote relates to my book’s new title. It was obvious that God Loves Bakla sounded too ethnic and would make the book a tough sell internationally, so I was asked to think of something more accessible. I suggested “My Secret Life in the Closet.” But my publisher nixed it, saying the book was “more spiritual than most books of its genre.” Thus the decision to retain the word “God” in the title. I was most impressed: my publisher “gets” GLB. I knew then that I have found the right publisher who truly understands my work and can push it to a global audience. "
You can read the rest of the blog by going to raymondalikpala.wordpress.com or by clicking here
Monday, 18 July 2011
After penning nine gangster books, including the latest that Maverick House has published as The Bangkok Connection: Trafficing Heroin from Asia to the USA, I can say with confidence that, despite all the songs and the movies supposedly based on the true stories of the kingpins and the dope boys, the truth is far harder to discern. Documenting the history of organized crime can be a tedious and often frustrating experience. Reliable information is scarce. Most lazy journalists (and law enforcement) pass off myth and folklore as fact, and supposedly reliable media sources allow themselves to become breeding grounds for misinformation. Criminal sources lie or spin their recollections. Moreover, they don’t generate many records. Ever heard of a gangbanger keeping a diary or writing instructions to his lieutenants? That is both the challenge and fun in writing about gangsters, but I love it. What can be more interesting than writing about the underworld and the characters who populate it?
Along the way, though, I’ve learned a few things on the subject. So let me help dispel some of the myths regarding the history of organized crime. Here are three of the biggest myths:
1) The amount of money gangsters are supposed to make.
The media routinely report wildly inflated figures as how much money gangsters make. The truth is nobody really knows because we dealing with the underworld. But there is an invested interest on both sides of the law to inflate the figures. Law enforcement does it to justify their budgets and to get promotions. Gangsters exaggerate because of their egos.
Frank Lucas, the subject of the blockbuster movie, American Gangster, bragged that he was making a million dollars a day in Harlem in the early 1970s peddling smack. First of all, can you imagine trying to haul away in a car $1 million a day in street money? Also, Lucas was on welfare when they published that New Yorker magazine article that caught the attention of Hollywood. So what happened to the million bucks a day? I know for a fact from sources whom I interviewed for The Bangkok Connection that Lucas was in constant trouble with La Cosa Nostra because he owed them money.
2) African American organized crime does not exist, or at the least, African-Americans are not smart enough to organize crime.
Racism has affected all aspects of American society, including how it perceives Black gangsters. Four decades ago, many criminologists did not believe African-Americans were smart enough to organize crime. And it was not just the academics. Blacks were able to control lottery or policy racket in their communities because La Cosa Nostra thought it was just a petty ante criminal enterprise. The Mob was shocked to learn about the money being made and subsequently moved in to take it over. Frank Matthews, who jumped bail in 1974 with 15 million and has never been found, was able to operate under the radar of law enforcement for several years because at first they didn’t investigate him seriously. But by the late 1970s, with names like Matthews, Robert Stepheney, Zack Robinson, Nicky Barnes, and Goldfinger Terrell operating as big-time drug lords, law enforcement knew that African-American organized crime existed.
The truth is, to be a successful drug dealer at the higher level, you need to exhibit entrepreneurial skills and have brains. Some of the big names in Black organized crime have been really complex multidimensional characters.
Take Bumpy Johnson, for example. Remember him in the opening scene of American Gangster. Bumpy was sophisticated, cerebral and self-educated. Black gangster Nicky Barnes was well read and had a brilliant business mind. The Bangkok Connection is about the life story of Ike Atkinson, the Black gangster from whom Frank Lucas stole much of his story. The word law enforcement officials use to describe Ike is intelligent. One former prosecutor said he could have been a CEO of a major corporation.
3) Errors, omissions and distortions are okay in a gangster movie about a real life gangster because the movie is just based on a true story.
That’s essentially a cop-out rationale for Hollywood to make a lot of money without having to worry about its credibility. The key word is “based”. Given that qualifier, Hollywood can take all kind of liberties with the story. It has led to a lot of myths and distortions about gangland history. The recent movie, American Gangster, is a prime example. Unfortunately, moviegoers don’t take the time to check out the movie’s accuracy and the myths prevail.
Well, that’s it. There are other myths about organized crime, but take these three for a start.
– Ron Chepesiuk
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
In 2008 Raymond Alikpala self-published a novel entitled 'God Loves Batla'. The novel documented Alikpala's journey of self discovery that took him from the predominantly Catholic Philippines to Singapore, Thailand and eventually to Cambodia. It was a journey in which he joined and left the priesthood after deciding that his God wanted him to live a full and honest life, which meant coming out.
In an interview with Craig Gerard of asialifeguide.com (Read the full interview here) Alikpala remarks that "life experiences, pain, sacrifice, are what bring us closer to God" something he struggled with when he decided to come out as a gay Catholic in the Philippines.
In October 2011 Maverick House will re-publish Alikpala's book which has been described as "amazing and inspirational" under the new title ‘Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet’ to make it available to a worldwide audience.
‘Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet’ by Raymond Alikpala will be available for purchase for a worldwide audience on October 1, 20011. It is also available to pre-order from Book Depository. Click here to pre-order and save over 20%