Formed in mid-1990s Atlanta by ambitious, Detroit-born hustler Demetrius ""Big Meech"" Flenory, the Black Mafia Family controlled most of the American cocaine trade for the better part of a decade. Interviewing members from all levels of the national organization, including now-imprisoned Big Meech, Atlanta-based journalist Shalhoup delivers a stunning exposé of a crime empire that collapsed under the weight of its own success, rising and falling on its charismatic founder's desperate desire for success, popularity, and, ultimately, music-business legitimacy. Shalhoup examines each character in the federal prosecution's comprehensive case, tracing their activities over many years, revealing a lifestyle of over-the-top glamour punctuated by random, brutal violence. Shalhoup quickly, and graphically, dispels the air of hip-hop romance that Big Meech cultivated first through crime and, later, by playing a supporting role in the careers of up-and-coming rappers like T.I. and Jeezy. With superb pacing and a thorough handle on her extensive cast, Shalhoup's true crime debut makes a highly addictive read. Color photos.