By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
When Ted Koppel showed up to do a special Nightlineon the riots -- his "next Tiananmen," as the ABC News anchor would later describe it in his book on the program's history -- he made a beeline for Kershaun Scott. All told, Kershaun appeared on Nightlinefour times. "I was honored to be on Nightline," he told me. He reveled in the sudden recognition, but in a subtly different fashion than his brother. Kershaun saw the camera as an opportunity to take the knowledge he had gathered in all those years he spent at the library before he joined the gang and put it to use. "Ted was blown away, because he expected to get this gang member who was all 'uh, cuz, this' and 'uh, bro, that,' and instead he got a guy who was very aware of our history." Kershaun turned the tables by, for instance, confronting Rebuild L.A. director and former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth on the need for inner-city jobs.
Soon enough, however, the klieg lights were packed up in the TV vans and driven off. But upstate in the solitary-confinement wing of Pelican Bay State Prison, Kody Scott was about to make the biggest post-riot splash of all. He had started writing a book on his gang experiences with a prison-issue pencil and sending the installments to his media contact, Bill Broyles. The former journalist, in turn, had his secretary type out Scott's manuscript and forwarded a partial draft to his own agent and to the editor of Esquire, who published an excerpt. Word of Scott's tell-all gangster confessional quickly made the rounds of a publishing industry eager for a piece of the marketable L.A.-riots drama. Kody Scott had gone on the campaign trail again. While Broyles was under the impression that he had the only copy of the prison manuscript, Kody had also sent the draft to Kershaun and asked him to get director and author Thomas Wright to plug the book to hispublisher, too. Wright sent the manuscript to Avon Books, which Federal Expressed a contract to Scott in prison. A bidding war soon ensued, with each side frantic for victory. Declining an initial offer of a $25,000 advance from Atlantic Monthly Press, Scott argued, reasonably enough, that he should at least get the $75,000 that the first-time author Léon Bing had received for hergang book. By the time he had finished campaigning, Scott had landed a $150,000 advance, with the promise of additional payments to come of as much as $100,000.
The winning publisher, Atlantic Monthly Press, was eager to get the book out in time for the first-year anniversary of the riots, and Scott was pressed to make quick work of it. He said he was also told to drop his concentration on the history and development of gang life and just focus the book on himself. "I said I wanted this to be a book about gangs, not an autobiography," he recalled telling the president and publisher of Atlantic, Morgan Entrekin. "And Morgan said, 'Well, I'm not interested in gangs. I'm interested in you.'" Entrekin recalled that he had advised Scott to cut sections toward the end of the book, where "he had started to become more politicized and more into Marxist and Marxist-derived thoughts. I argued with him that I didn't think it was appropriate." But the original manuscript, Entrekin said, already was mostly a personal narrative.
For the cover, Atlantic Monthly Press went back to photographer Howard Rosenberg for a shot from his Do or Dieportfolio. They settled on another shirtless, gun-clutching pose. Rick Pracher, the art director at the publishing house, later explained to the Los Angeles Timeswhy he selected that particular picture: "There's a slight head tilt, which gives him a fuck-you attitude. I found it much more menacing." The picture was in color, but Pracher converted it to black-and-white for "that rough-hewn edge -- raw, more gritty." Or, as Scott told me later, more candidly: "It was some sexual shit. Here's this black dude with his shirt off, with his gun extended like a phallic symbol. Yeah, it was menacing; it was menacingly sexual." He was being packaged and marketed as a sex object. "And the reason I know that," he told me, "is when the book came out, I got inundated with letters -- 30 to 40 a day -- and 90 percent of them were love letters."
Kody Scott wanted to call the book Can't Stop, Won't Stop, a gang slogan he had tattooed on his chest. But his publisher had other ideas. "They came up with Monster, not me," Scott said. "Morgan [Entrekin] flew out and said, 'Here's your cover!' And pride overrode logic." What Entrekin had unveiled in the prison visitors' room was a mockup of a cover with the elongated letters in "Monster" stripped across Scott's body like jail-cell bars. At the time, Scott acted like "he loved the jacket," Entrekin told me. He even requested "extra copies so he could put them up in his cell." But as time passed, Scott began to feel queasy about the implications of the cover. "It was Monster inã a Cage," he said with a grimace. "It was this whole celebrity thing of 'Let's take this whole gang thing and let's take it down to one person.' And I begin to wonder, Did they think they had found the one guy who could elucidate it all from having survived it? Or did they just take this guy and use him for the moolah in an exploitative relationship? Was I their guide? Or was I the talking gorilla?"