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He set out to be the good son, but the streets had a different plan.

Born to one of the city's most notorious crime families, Shai Clark has always managed to be a good kid. A college hoops star, Shai shunned the world that his father had created and focused on his dreams of going pro. Tommy, Shai's trigger-happy older brother, is next in line for the throne and rules under his father through brute force. But Poppa has bigger plans for Shai.
The situation soon turns ugly when Poppa is murdered and Tommy is removed from the equation. Suddenly Shai finds himself at the head of his father's empire and the streets are thrown into chaos. It is then that he must decide whether to pursue his own dreams or put his father's affairs in order. Unable to sit idly by while the Clarks' underworld empire is pillaged, Shai takes up his father's mantle and brings his game to the streets. He quickly learns that there are two sides to every coin, and the streets hold no mercy for the weak.
Hoodlum chronicles three generations of Trinidadian immigrants and their rise to power in the New York City heroin trade.
A K'wan classic.

ISBN-13: 9780312333089

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group

Publication Date: 08-01-2005

Pages: 336

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.85(d)

K'WAN is the #1 Essence bestselling author of Welfare Wifeys, Section 8, Gutter, Still Hood, Hood Rat, and others. He wrote his first novel, Gangsta, as a therapeutic release, and it went on to become an Essence bestseller and a part of urban-lit history. In 2008 he received the Black Author of the Year Award from Black Press Radio. He has been featured in Time, KING, The New York Press, and on MTV and BET. Besides an author, K'wan is also a motivational speaker, a mentor to at-risk children and the C.E.O. of Black Dawn, Inc. He lives in New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt


By K'wan Foye

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 K'wan Foye
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-33308-9


FAT MIKE TESSIO HAULED his three hundred and some-odd pounds up the tiny steps in front Bellini's House of Pasta. He ran a chubby hand across his gelled hair as he looked in the door's reflection. After fixing the lapel of his polyester suit, he proceeded into the restaurant. His second set of eyes, Nicky Tulips, brought up the rear as usual. Mike and Nicky greeted some of the staff and proceeded to the back booth where Ginerro "Gee-Gee" Giovanni, un-derboss of the Cissarro family, sat.

Ginerro sat at his usual booth sipping a glass of fruit juice. At his side was his bodyguard, Louie Bonanno. Ginerro looked at the fat man coming in his direction and kept on sipping. Even when Fat Mike was standing directly in front of him, he still didn't budge. After an uncomfortable pause Ginerro cast his cold gray eyes on Mike.

Mike could feel the chill run down his spine as the bastard just stared. Gee-Gee was an old-school mobster. He was first introduced into the secret society back in 1951. For more than three decades, Ginerro killed and ordered dozens of men murdered, all at the behest of the Cissarros. Over the last twenty some-odd years, he had served as underboss to three different Mafia chiefs, always seeming to miss his turn at the big time. A lot of the soldiers joked that it was the reason the old man was still around. He refused to die until he had his shot at the throne.

"How ya doing?" Ginerro asked, looking up at Fat Mike.

"I'm good, Mr. G," Mike said sheepishly, kissing him on both cheeks.

"Got something for me?" the old man asked.

"Yeah, here you go." Mike carefully handed a brown paper bag to Louie. "It's all there, boss."

"Good. So, how's business?"

"Right as rain, Mr. G. Couldn't be better."

"You still having them nigger troubles uptown?"

"Nah, we took care of that. All of them guys down there is scared of Poppa and they know Poppa is wit' us. They've been paying up."

"What about Poppa?"

"Well ..." Mike stuttered. "He's pretty much got his own thing going. He don't give us no trouble." Mike chose his words carefully so as not to tip Ginerro off; Gee-Gee had no idea that Tommy and Poppa had been making side deals for the heroin that the Wongs were hitting him with. In the Mob the rule against drugs was very simple: Deal and you die.

"Fuck him," Ginerro said, slamming a bony fist into the table. "He's gotta give up a taste like everyone else. Poppa's got a lot of friends, but he ain't a part of our thing. Don't you come around here telling me what some spade uptown has got going on. If he's got action on any of our turf, then he pays too. Who the fuck is Poppa? You scared of this guy, Mike?"

"Nah, Mr. G. Fuck I got to fear from some nigger living in a big house? Let's just say that he pays homage to our thing."

"Damn well better be. Poppa keeps the niggers in line like the good little shepherd. That's all he'll ever be to us. The day you start acting like some fucking boot is bigger than our thing, is the day you ain't fit to be a part of it."

"Yeah, Mr. G. You don't have to worry about me fearing anybody except you."

"You better say it until you learn it, Michael. Now, you and this sneaky motherfucker" — he motioned toward Nicky —"get outta here."

Mike and Nicky left without saying a word. He was an underboss and Mike was just a crew chief, it was really a no-win situation. At least for the moment. That old fuck was going to step down whether he wanted to or not, Mike would see to that.

Shai's people lived on a modest estate right outside of Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was a Colonial house that sat alone in the middle of an open field. It was made of a brick-like texture that was painted a gray hue. From a distance it looked like a castle that had lost its place in time. The yellow brick drive snaked the distance of a city block from the house to the black iron gate in the front. The lawn was decorated with trees and stone gargoyles that watched the main road for intruders. Shai and Tommy had nicknamed them "the watchers."

At the rear of the house was a replica of an enchanted forest with all kinds of trees and vegetation. What made the whole thing really look crazy was the artificial pond that replaced their swimming pool. There was a green light built into the bottom of the pool that gave off a mystic effect.

Here pulled the truck through the gates and up the circular driveway. Two men walking pit bulls on chains nodded at the big man as he passed them. The truck pulled to a stop in front of the house and unloaded its passengers. Shai looked up at the house as if it were his first time seeing it. Shai hadn't always lived out this way; he actually grew up in the projects. His father moved them all out here during his junior year of high school.

Shai and Tommy had gotten halfway up the front steps when the oak double doors swung open. A local Mob figure named Jimmy Malone came tripping down the steps, followed by one of his button men. The gray suit jacket he wore didn't do much to hide the bulge under his arm. He flashed a broad grin as the trio approached.

"Lil' T," he said, extending his hand. "What say, huh?"

"The name is Tommy," Poppa's eldest said, wearing a false smile. "And I say, don't forget it."

"I can dig it," Jimmy said, brushing off Tommy's comment. "Heir to the throne and shit."

"And you know this, paisan."

"This kid," Jimmy said, tapping his bodyguard, "such a fucking ballbreaker. We'll probably starve once this guy is running the show."

"The faithful shall prosper," Tommy said, brushing past Jimmy and walking toward the house.

"I still love ya, T," Jimmy said over his shoulder. "Later, fellas." He nodded to Here and Shai. Here just stared, while Shai nodded back.

"Who was that?" Shai whispered to Here.

"Trash," the big man grumbled. Shai left the situation alone and followed Here into the house.

The trio crossed the foyer and beheld the marvel that was Poppa's domain. The interior was almost as spectacular as the exterior. The front doors led them to a circular room that served as the foyer. The room was lined with a plush red carpet that sunk in when you stepped onto it.

This living room of the house was where Poppa would sometimes entertain visitors. It was a wide-open space, decorated in antique furniture with a large crystal chandelier hanging from the gold-colored ceiling. In the center of the receiving area was a long carpeted staircase leading to the upper rooms. On either side of the stairs were doors leading to other sections of the house.

Poppa stepped out from one of these doors, wearing a blue smoking jacket and puffing on a thick cigar. Their father was a hugeman. Not as big as Here, but he wasn't a lightweight. He stood about six three and sported a trimmed beard. His auburn dreadlocks swung freely as he came down the steps to greet his boys.

Shai looked at his father's face, but didn't know what to make of it. Poppa was skilled at making his face unreadable. Shai didn't know if he was going to hug him, or snuff him. He knew Poppa was pissed, but didn't know to what degree. "What's up, Pop?" Shai asked, grinning. "You look good."

"Thanks. I been trying to exercise here and there, when I can. Getting old, you know?"

"Nah, what are you, about twenty-one?"

"Flattery will get you everywhere, boy. So what's up?"

"Nothing," Shai said, shrugging as if he didn't know what Poppa was talking about.

"Here," Poppa said. "Why don't you take the bags upstairs? I wanna kick it with these two for a minute."

"Sure thing, Poppa." Here scooped all of Shai's bags in one arm and lumbered up the stairs.

"Shai," Poppa said, stepping a bit closer. "Do I strike you as a fool?"

"No, sir," Shai whispered.

"Then don't play me like one. You know what I'm talking about. What the hell is your problem?"

"Poppa, I'm sorry —"

"I don't wanna hear that, Shai." Poppa cut him off. "You were fortunate enough to get a free ride to school and you turn around and fuck it up? I didn't raise no idiot, did I?"

"No, sir."

"I didn't think so. I'm disappointed in you, Shai. Very disappointed."

I know," Shai said, lowering his head. "What I did was stupid, I know this. At the time, I wasn't thinking about it. I needed some extra bread and instead of asking for it, I tried to hustle it up on my own. Pop, all I wanted to do was show you that I could earn a buck. I didn't think it would get this bad."

"That's just it." Poppa shook his head. "You don't think, son. I've busted my ass for over thirty years in these streets so my kids could get a proper upbringing. This stunt you pulled was stupid."

Shai understood where Poppa was coming from, but he sure as hell didn't agree with his philosophy. In Shai's mind, money made the world go round, and he craved it in his life. Poppa always made sure he had what he needed, but what about what he wanted? Shai was the type of dude that liked "having thangs." He had expensive taste and loved to floss.

Poppa gave him enough to live very comfortably, but Tommy's little brother liked to splurge. Shai needed to have the finest of everything: women, cars, gear. What he didn't get from Poppa or Tommy he hustled up on his own. Gambling wasn't the only racket Shai had going on down South. He sold weed to the blacks, Ecstasy pills to the whites, and liquor to the browns. The shit was all profit to him.

"I know" — Shai nodded —"I'm sorry."

Poppa looked at his youngest son and sighed. He was pissed off with Shai for getting himself kicked out of school, but he couldn't be too mad at him. Shai had grown up around dirt all his life. Poppa tried to keep his two youngest shielded from it, but it was bound to rub off. Shai was talented and smart, so there was still a chance for him to make it right. Gambling on games was a serious matter and Shai had drawn a lot of media attention because of it. He could probably play for another Division One school, but it would take time and money.

"Come in here and let me talk to y'all," Poppa said, heading down the hall. He took his boys through the door to the right, which led down a corridor to Poppa's office. Poppa approached the office door and removed an odd-shaped key from his pocket. He placed the key against a panel on the wall and stepped back. There was a brief hissing and then the door swung inward. Poppa stepped to the side and welcomed his children into his sanctuary.

Shai looked around the room in astonishment at the redecorating that Poppa had done. The last time that Shai had come into this particular room it had resembled a large, yet modest, office. Now it looked like a miniature apartment. There was a steel desk set in front of a big window. Mounted on the wall above the window was a large battle-ax. A console about the size of a filing cabinet sat off to the right. Inside the console were a dozen or so small monitors. With these monitors Poppa could see almost the entire house, as well as the surrounding lands.

The walls were decorated with pictures of the children when they were young, as well as photos of Poppa with various city and state officials. Poppa had sure come a long way from the corner hustler he was twenty years prior.

"You like?" Poppa asked, smiling at Shai.

"Yeah," Shai said, scrunching up his nose. "It's a'ight."

"Shai, you're so full of shit. You know you're feeling it."

"Yeah, Pop. I can't even lie to you, this is the jump-off. Of course" — he tapped his chin —"I would've done it a little different. Maybe a bed in the corner ... some candles."

"That's my brother," Tommy cut in, "forever the player. Slim, your problem is that you think with the wrong head. That shit is gonna get you into trouble one day."

"No more than your itchy trigger finger," Shai said with a smug grin.

"Why don't y'all cut that out?" Poppa asked, sitting behind his desk. "I brought y'all in here to talk. Sit down, fellas." The brothers did as they were told, taking the leather chairs opposite Poppa's desk. "Shai, that was some dumb shit you did, but you can't let that stop your flow. You gotta get right back in the fight and know not to fuck up a good thing. What you got planned for the summer?"

"I got a few things lined up," Shai answered, still looking around the office.

"I hope so. You know that we don't sit around on our asses in this house. I got a friend that plays for the USBDL. He's running a basketball camp in New Rochelle this summer. Thought maybeyou'd like to check it out. Supposed to be other Division One players there too."

"I dunno, Pop."

"Well, what do you know? I thought you loved to hoop."

"Oh, I do. But I thought I'd just kick back this summer. Maybe hang out in the City?"

"Oh, hang out in the City, huh?"

"Yeah, kick it around Harlem."

"Shai, you just got your silly ass kicked out of a school that I've been spending thousands of dollars to send you to. Boy, you ain't hardly in no position to be negotiating. No matter how 'old school' you might think I am, I'm always street first. I know what's on your mind before you think it." Poppa grinned at his son.

"Come on with that, Pop." Shai flashed an identical grin. "I'm just trying to chill and get my head together. I've always liked the City more than I liked it out here. I don't know anybody. At least I know the City. Besides, some of my teammates from school will be in the City for the summer."

Poppa looked at Tommy with a "he can't be serious" look. Tommy just shook his head as his father took the floor. "What kind of jackass do you take me for? You don't hang with them squares when you're away, so I'm supposed to believe that you're gonna hang with them in the City? The only reason your ass is itching to get back to the City, is to hang with Swan and them old thug-ass niggaz."

"But, Pop —"

'"But Pop' my ass." Poppa cut him off. "I know you, Shai. You came from me, so I know how you think. Let me put you up on something and you better pay attention. Swan, he's a good kid, but he's doing dirt. Him and all them niggaz you hang with is on the grind. Why the hell would you wanna go and stand around on a hot-ass block and ain't getting no money?"

"Pop, you know that's my click."

"Yeah, Shai. I know that's ya click, but hear me out. The City ain't no playground. These lil' niggaz is out there killing and dying,all in the name of a dollar. If we ain't losing soldiers to the grave, we're losing 'em to the system. Either way, it ain't for you."

"But, Pop, you never had a problem with me hanging in the City before."

"Yeah, that's when Tommy was out there. Your brother's upper management now. He ain't in the field no more. There won't be anybody out there to watch over you, Shai."

"I'm hip, Pop. I don't need no babysitter," Shai said coolly.

"Shai, it ain't about needing no babysitter," Tommy cut in. "Them streets ain't no joke."

"Tommy, I ain't no sucker. I can hold my own. Who knows, maybe I can help you out with the business this summer?"

"You must've fell and bumped yo' damn head," Poppa snapped. "It bad enough I gotta worry about Tommy, but you won't have no part of that."

"Pop, you know I ain't built for no job," Shai pleaded. "I'm not trying to play no corners or nothing like that. I can just kick it with Tommy when he makes his rounds."

"Shai, this isn't even up for discussion. You will not be running around the City like that. Especially with all the drama that's been popping off. No Shai, you can't roll with Tommy."

"Damn, Pop. You act like I'm a punk or something. I grew up learning the same things that you taught Tommy. What makes me so different?"

"The difference is, the family has a different plan for you. Tommy has made his choice. I can't say that I agree with it, but that's his choice. If he's gonna be out there getting money, then I'm gonna make sure he's doing it the right way. You, on the other hand, you're a schoolboy. You had an opportunity that none of us did. You slipped, but you'll bounce back. Get that education, Slim. Lord willing, you might even make it to the League. I'd much rather have you playing in the League instead of a prison yard."

"I can take care of myself, Pop."

"Shai." Poppa sighed. "You so damn hardheaded. Just like your mother."

At the mention of his mother Shai got quiet. She was somewhat of a touchy subject in their household. Their mother had left them when Shai was about six. She got tired of playing housewife and sought to recapture her youth in the streets. As it turned out, the streets ended up capturing her. Their mother had given up on them to chase rock. For a while she would pop up from time to time, mostly when she needed something. She would stay around for as long as it took to squeeze some money out of Poppa and then she'd be gone again. Poppa tried his hardest to help her, but you can't help someone that isn't ready to help themselves. So Poppa did what he thought was right: he banned her from seeing her children.


Excerpted from Hoodlum by K'wan Foye. Copyright © 2005 K'wan Foye. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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