The Holly by Julian Rubinstein

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Holly:

Denver is a damn mess.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Terrance Roberts and the gang war he both participated in and fought against.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Rick Ross, the rapper, is actually using the name of “Freeway” Rick Ross, the convicted drug dealer. The drug dealer actually sued the rapper for it.  

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

If you never knew the difference between Crips and Bloods, this book will take you through their whole history. It’s pretty terrifying on a number of levels.

My Take on The Holly:

Julian Rubinstein wrote Ballad of the Whiskey Robber which is true crime hilarity. This book is…. demonstrably not funny.

It is really good though, especially if you like the history of gangs mixed with current events. Rubinstein tells the story of Terrance Roberts, who was in a gang but got out of the life and tried to make a difference. Ultimately, he ended up shooting a gang member when he thought his life was in danger. He shot him at a peace rally to really amp up the irony.

The story sounds simple, but Rubinstein explores what makes it all so complex. Gangs fight within their own ranks, politicians seem to be on both sides and also no sides at all, and Terrance Roberts is both a crusading peace activist but also someone who can come unglued rather easily it seems.

If you go into this story looking for a simple hero or villain, whether it be gang members, police officers, or politicians, you will be disappointed. Rubinstein will convince you that everyone has to look in the mirror.


A really great read that provides no easier answers to a lot of troubling questions. Buy it here!

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