Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia, by Kenny “Kenji” Gallo and Matthew Randazzo V. Beverly Hills: Phoenix Books. 382 pp.
My review copy of “Breakshot” arrived in the mail courtesy of co-author Matthew Randazzo V, a New Orleans-based journalist and true-crime author best known for his searing rendering of events surrounding the life and death of professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who allegedly murdered his wife and young son before hanging himself over the course of a weekend in 2007—a weekend, in fact, when Benoit had been booked to win the ECW belt in a pay-per-view held in Jacksonville, FL.
Based on the quality of “Ring of Hell”, which despite its tragic undertones is one of the best books ever written about that business, this writer was enthusiastic about sampling Randazzo’s newest project. Knowing nothing about it, my only expectations were that it would be interesting, but not nearly as compelling as the Benoit book. This is among the rare occasions when being wrong is a good thing. “Breakshot” moves at a ruthless pace through the quintessentially Ameican life of Kenny Gallo, aka “Kenji”, aka “Ken Calo”, aka “Kenji Kodama”, aka “Ramon Gomez”, aka “Ramon Gonzalez” and, of course, aka “Kenny G”. (“Kenny Gallo” isn’t his real name, either.)
Like his namesake, this Kenny G. is blowing massive quantities of hot wind, but it seems that very little embellishment was needed for his tales of thuggin’ and buggin’. Randazzo must have had a great time transcribing these tales and fact-checking the insanity playing out in these pages. Gallo’s gallery of hoods and heavy-hitters ranges from small-time crooks and hustlers to some of the major players in American organized crime. Anyone who thinks he’s bullshitting, which may be inevitable in the course of reading the book, should be wary of the fact that the United States government has spent millions of dollars on him, firstly in trying to incarcerate him, then by using him to incarcerate others. The book’s title, “Breakshot”, was their code-name for him, “derived from my ability to singlehandedly knock the Colombo Family leadership pyramid into disarray like the first shot in a game of pool”, and as usual, it made perfect sense.
He is marked for death in certain circles, yet the version of him that exists in the book exhibits very little outward concern. In fact, he readily admits to reveling in the danger he faced almost constantly during a criminal career spanning three decades. Some people do that work because they have to, because they come from circumstances where it’s all they know and alternative options are precious and few. Gallo is not one of those people. He came from a upwardly mobile family of Japanese immigrants who carved out a very good living through hard work and adherence to traditional values. Gallo was given access to the perks of privilege, attending the best schools (where his classmates included Will Ferrell and Zach de la Rocha) and making the kind of grades that would earn scholarships to the school of his choice. Instead, he willingly channeled his physical and mental gifts into a career trafficking cocaine for the infamous Medellin Cartel.
Eventually, the feds got their man, which is how it almost always works out for major-league criminals, and Gallo went the route of numerous gangsters before him: he became a rat, a snitch, a stool pigeon, a penitito who wore wires in service of the government for several years in the late 1990s and early months of this decade. In the process, he helped bring charges against members of some of America’s most feared mob families: the Gambinos, the Colombos and the Luccheses. That is as heavy as it gets in the United States, besides the brutal insurgent cliques of foreign gangsters from Europe and Asia, not to mention the Mexican cartels, whose strength increases every day, to the point that longstanding enemies like the Bloods and Crips have taken to cooperating against them. And Kenny Gallo fucked them like porn sluts in a gangbang. Dangerous shit.
Today, Kenny Gallo lives under yet another alias, this one concocted by the Witness Protection Program, but to say he lives anonymously would be incorrect. Gallo’s blog contains yet more promos on his hapless former colleagues, who have been getting the business from federal prosecutors in this decade, in large part due to the information he acquired for them. He stays active in martial arts, keeping his body and mind sharp for the lethal challenge he knows could come at any moment, from any direction, without warning. Sounds intense, but he’s as ready for anything as a human being can be.