Gritty and real, tragic and brutal, Prodigal Father, Pagan Son is a hard-hitting look into what it was like for a boy to be born into and raised by the Pagan Motorcycle Club.
These words ring true for the next 267 pages in Anthony “LT” Menginie’s tragic tale, Prodigal Father, Pagan Son as “Little Tony” relives his life story of being born the son of the feared leader of the Philadelphia Pagans. The story hits readers like a sucker punch as it gives an unglorified account of a childhood where the mother is a dope-fiend and alcoholic, the old man is locked up in prison and a one-percenter motorcycle club are surrogate parents. It is brutally honest and includes a first-hand look into the sex, drugs and violent crimes that came along with being a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club during its hey-day. The story is written with a breadth and depth not normally found in books dealing with the subject of motorcycle gangs that are written from the outside looking in. Prodigal Father, Pagan Son is written with graveness that could only be breached from within.
The book recounts the story of the author’s upbringing in the tough neighborhoods of West Philly. His teachers are the streets and the nefarious characters of the club. The author is at times lost and angry, questioning why his reality is so chaotic because he is acutely aware that the life he’s been forced into isn’t normal. There is a refreshing honesty to his writing. In “LT’s” words, “I lived in the moment, and the moment was about survival.”
One positive effect from the writer’s depiction of the horrendous situation he is raised in is the empathy it evokes from the reader. You’ll find yourself shaking your head at the travesties he endures as a boy. No child should feel like a stray dog, because as the author states on page 75, “Strays were forgotten, tossed into alleys…” The theme of strays plays an important role in the first part of the story, from the stray dog that bit part of his ear off, the rabid stray cat that bit the Pagan called Mongo and killed him to the stray that the author was.
The book is filled with powerful characters, from Maingy, the father who readers learn to hate because of his relationship with the author and his betrayal of the club, to the Saint, who is more of a father to “LT” than Maingy ever was. Menginie learns many of life’s lessons in the Saint’s tattoo shop, including the adage there’s three sides to every story “Like carnival mirrors…” In the latter part of the book, the boss of the South Philly chapter of the Pagans called Gorilla, lives up to his name with his larger-than-life personality and his ability to cheat death. Gorilla provides one of the most compelling storylines of the book when he wants “LT” to kill his father, adding the theme of retribution. Then there’s “LT” himself, who has an uncanny ability to adapt and endure as he drifts between two worlds, the Pagan’s and the “citizens.” His ability to blend unnoticeably into his surroundings and his keen sense of observation become valuable traits during his time as a prospect for the club.
Prodigal Father, Pagan Son is a compelling read. It is well-written, full of short sentences with concrete details that create powerful images. The pacing immediately draws readers in. It is not for the squeamish because it is both tragic and brutal with plenty of R-rated language and can be a heavy read at times. The writer’s anger and pain is apparent in his writing and readers feel for the protagonist because as a boy he’s a victim of circumstance.
Menginie said he wrote the book because “People need to know they have choices.” He sums it up best on page 259 when he says “I used to think it took some kind of courage to become a Pagan; I realized now it took balls to leave.. It was all about control. It was all bullshit.”
Prodigal Father, Pagan Son
A Thomas Dunne Book
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