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Acclaimed journalist Randall Sullivan follows Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective who in 1997 was called to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting, eventually to discover that the officer killed was tied to Marion “Suge” Knight’s notorious gangsta rap label, Death Row Records. During his investigation, Poole came to realize that a growing cadre of black officers were allied not only with Death Row, but with the murderous Bloods street gang. And incredibly, Poole began to uncover evidence that at least some of these “gangsta cops” may have been involved in the murders of rap superstars Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
Igniting a firestorm of controversy in the music industry and the Los Angeles media, the hardcover publication of LAbyrinth helped to prompt two lawsuits against the LAPD (one brought by the widow and mother of Notorious B.I.G., the other brought by Poole himself) that may finally bring this story completely out of the shadows.
Sullivan (The Price of Experience) strikes again in the arena of California true crime, exploring the sordid world of big money, gangsta rap, guns and drugs. Opening with the shooting of a black man by a white man during a traffic incident, Sullivan underscores the not-so-well-known racial tempest brewing on the West Coast especially when he reveals that the shooter was an undercover narcotics investigator and the man killed was an off-duty L.A.P.D. officer who moonlighted for the disreputable Death Row Records. From here, Sullivan outlines the bad and the ugly of the music industry: mafioso-style music label management; the unsolved murders of rap superstars Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.; and a dizzying series of binary oppositions Crips vs. Bloods; West Coast rappers vs. East Coast rappers; Death Row Records' exec Suge Knight vs. Puffy Combs of Bad Boy Records, etc. Unfortunately, the basic material isn't exactly new; journalists Ronin Ro and Cathy Scott, among others, have previously covered the murders of Shakur and B.I.G. Still, Sullivan's reportorial writing style accurately reflects the investigative work of homicide gumshoe Russell Poole while building the drama within the truly labyrinthine political coverups, cop-to-criminal crossovers and the breaks in the L.A.P.D.'s code of silence. Photos not seen by PW.