Addiction stories are not always a page turner. Memoirs should not read like a patient talking to a therapist. But actor Danny Trejo took the couch. You are the therapist now – as you read his memoir "Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood" – written alongside his friend and actor Donal Logue.
As you start delving into Trejo's unapologetic stories they turn into head scratchers. Soon enough, as you progress through the chapters, you start feeling less like a therapist listening to someone lay out their life story, and slowly turn into a friend that is along for the ride through his prison stint. Think of this camaraderie like befriending a street-smart amigo. Careful. Trejo started drug dealing at 12.
Danny Trejo, 78, is a man of second chances. His childhood was like a gangster movie. His convict years followed by debut in Hollywood: almost reads like a 'Rocky' script. Decades later, when his career peaked, he made redemption his religion.
Trejo is a familiar face if you have seen Anaconda, Spy Kids, and Con Air. Have you ever seen a happy family in a Dhallywood film not being killed by the villain? (If it is a family of four, and they dance in a garden right after the opening credits, the father dies). Trejo's career is weirdly similar to this trope. He is a character actor. And he dies in most of his films. The kill count in his movies crosses the triple digit mark.
Picture toxic masculinity in a large Mexican-American household. Do you see drugs, abuse, health scares, and crime? Add some steroids. This paints the childhood of Danny Trejo. The first few chapters will take you to the dark alleys of life gone really bad. However, the writer of this review does not intend to stereotype Mexican-Americans.
This book is like 'The Wire' meets 'Prison Break.' There are episodes of drug related escapades. Then 11 years of jail time for Trejo in maximum security prisons. He did not cocoon to prison blues. Instead, became a boxer. Met inmates that changed his life. Survived so that he could find salvation.
In no-holds-barred detail, Trejo recounts his hair-raising stories. The book is part making of toxic masculinity (and the unlearning of it). Another part reads like a prison survival guide. Trejo met a notorious serial killer in prison. The chapter detailing this encounter will fascinate readers.
After drugs, prison and self-awareness, comes sobriety. That is, obviously, if one is a man of spirituality and grit like Trejo. Trejo became a man of faith in prison. And he promised to God that he will reverse his life for good if he gets a second chance.
Some years later. Trejo is out of prison. Looking for a job. Hoping for a fresh start. One fateful 'extra money' gig landed him his first role in a Hollywood film. No one in his family thought he would be having dinners with the likes of De Nero and Pacino. It happened, indeed.
The best part of this book is that Trejo does not project himself as a tragic hero, nor does he romanticise his reckless past. He admits his mistakes. He does not want other young people to go through the same ordeal. After fame and enough money to provide a decent roof over his head, Trejo did not forget his roots. Going to drug rehabilitation centres and youth correctional facilities became his routine.
Danny Trejo could have been just another death row convict. His rock bottom moment was an epiphany that came with spirituality. He started talking to God and promised he would save others if the Almighty saved him.
The least this book will do is save you from another bad book. Because it is such an exciting read. You can see it the other way around: Danny Trejo is saving you.