#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The extraordinary true story of four men who take the law into their own hands.
This is the story of four young boys. Four lifelong friends. Intelligent, fun-loving, wise beyond their years, they are inseparable. Their potential is unlimited, but they are content to live within the closed world of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. And to play as many pranks as they can on the denizens of the street. They never get caught. And they know they never will.
Until one disastrous summer afternoon.
On that day, what begins as a harmless scheme goes horrible wrong. And the four find themselves facing a year’s imprisonment in the Wilkinson Home for Boys. The oldest of them is fifteen, the youngest twelve. What happens to them over the course of that year—brutal beatings, unimaginable humiliation—will change their lives forever.
Years later, one has become a lawyer. One a reporter. And two have grown up to be murderers, professional hit men. For all of them, the pain and fear of Wilkinson still rages within. Only one thing can erase it.
To exact it, they will twist the legal system. Commandeer the courtroom for their agenda. Use the wiles they observed on the streets, the violence they learned at Wilkinson.
If they get caught this time, they only have one thing left to lose: their lives.
Praise for Sleepers
“Undeniably powerful, an enormously affecting and intensely human story . . . Sleepers is a thriller, to be sure, but it is equally a wistful hymn to another age.”—The Washington Post Book World
“A powerful book, hard to forget . . . Carcaterra is an excellent writer, changing pace here and there but never letting the reader go. . . . Sensitive, humorous, and harrowing, featuring dialogue with perfect pitch.”—The Denver Post
“A gut-wrenching piece of work . . . [Lorenzo] Carcaterra’s graphic narrative grips like gunfire in a dark alley.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A terrifying account of brutality and retribution, searing in its emotional truth, peopled with murderers, sadists, and thugs, but biblical in its passion and scope.”—People
Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, summer 1967: ``a place of innocence ruled by corruption.'' John ``The Count,'' Tommy ``Butter,'' Michael ``Spots'' and the author, ``Shakes, '' went to parochial school, stole anything that wasn't nailed down and ran errands for the local mobster, King Benny. It was all fun and games, but that ended the day a childish prank went wrong, a man almost died and the kids became ``sleepers''--inmates of the Wilkinson Home for Boys in upstate New York. The boys were brutalized by sadistic prison guards; beatings, rape and sodomy happened daily. The author and his pals survived Wilkinson, but their lives were permanently scarred by their detention. John and Tommy became mobsters. One evening in 1980, they happened upon their chief tormentor and shot him dead in a Hell's Kitchen pub. At trial they were prosecuted by their old friend, Michael, now a district attorney, who would purposely lose the trial, and in the process exorcise their childhood demons. Although the author uses fictitious names to protect identities, this is a riveting story delicious with revenge as he details how every guard that brutalized them was exposed. In a memoir that reads like a novel, Carcaterra (A Safe Place) mixes horror, laughter and pathos to show that justice, like love, is in the eye of the beholder. Movie rights to Propaganda Films; author tour.