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The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson, Leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang
The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson, Leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang

The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson, Leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang

A True Story


376 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper, PDF, EPUB, Mobipocket

Trade Paper, $24.95 (US $24.95) (CA $29.95)

Publication Date: July 2017

ISBN 9781550966749

Rights: US, CA, AU, NZ, EUR & SAM

Exile Editions (Jul 2017)


eBook Editions Available

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Price: $24.95


A sober memoir that provides a solid understanding of how crime is situated in structural, cultural, historical, and situational contexts. This is the life story of Ricky Atkinson, leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang, who grew up fast and hard in one of Toronto’s toughest neighborhoods during the social ferment of the Sixties, during the fledgling Black Power Movement in Canada. His life was made all the more difficult coming from a black, white and aboriginal mixed family. Under his leadership, the gang eventually robbed more banks and pulled off so many jobs, that it is unrivaled in Canadian history. Follow him from the mean streets to backroom plotting, to jail and back again as he learns the hard lessons of leadership, courage and betrayal. Today, after reconciling his past and life, he works to educate youth and people from all backgrounds about the no-win choice of being a criminal.


"Loved the book – a fantastic tale! This painfully honest, breezily written memoir takes us on a roller coaster ride that is the life story of the notorious Dirty Tricks Gang leader, Ricky Atkinson. His criminal capers are imaginatively told, with a cast of memorable, colorful characters including the hard-nosed kids he grew up with as an 'Afro-Métis gangster in the projects,' to Toronto mobsters, eccentric criminal rounders, hard-core lifelong professional thieves, and shady, often racist cops. The chapters brim with amusing accounts, like accidentally robbing a big mob card game, or deliberately holding up a large Toronto-area black gangster gathering, or the absurd situation that led to unintentionally shooting his friend while taking back-alley potshots at street lights. But the story also contains a stark realism that exposes the social and cultural context of systemic racism in the 1960s through to this day. The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson is a gripping and frank take on criminal life in Toronto's underworld. A very entertaining and edifying read." —James Dubro, lifelong organized crime specialist; author, Mob Rule and Dragons of Crime; former President of the Crime Writers of Canada

"Crime is terrible, traumatizing, terrifying. But True Crime is mesmerizing. That's likely why the wily straight-shooter Joe Fiorito has teamed up with the Africadian/Afro-Métis once-upon-a-time risk-and-reward trickster Ricky Atkinson: No way to turn away from this irresistible saga, sprightly as a slot-machine cascade and as irrepressible as a dude sprung from Sing-Sing or Kingston Pen. Look back to books like Dorothy Mills-Proctor's Chameleon (1995) if you want to find a comparison to what Atkinson and Fiorito offer here: The low-down on the low-down, the up-and-up on the down-and-dirty, but never-ending up down-and-out. " —George Elliott Clarke, 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2016-17)

Author Biography

Richard Atkinson, now in his 60s, is a free man, out on full parole. Today, after reconciling his past and life, he actively works to educate youth and people from all backgrounds about the no-win choice of being a criminal. Five-year-old Ricky Atkinson was excited when he found the shiny .38-calibre revolver hidden in his father's bedroom. Sonny Atkinson managed a bar in a rough-and-tumble downtown Toronto neighborhood and he often brought the nightly earnings home. The boy took the loaded gun and his four-year-old brother out into the back yard. "I got my younger brother Dwane to stand against the wall with an apple on his head. The whole William Tell thing and I attempted to shoot the apple." He tugged on the trigger but it wouldn't budge. He slapped the weapon against his thigh and he bashed it on the ground. His mother spied the mischief from a kitchen window and stormed into the yard before the would-be marksman discovered that the gun's safety was engaged. Spankings ensued. "That's my first memory of doing something really, really bad," says Atkinson. Joe Fiorito is a Canadian journalist, author, and recently retired columnist for the Toronto Star. He is the author of one novel, The Song Beneath the Ice, and three nonfiction books.