"A great read; an exciting, frightening account of organized crime today. But like all important works of nonfiction, it goes further… This book is must reading for anyone with an interest in the enduring effects of the Vietnam War, the subject of crime in our streets, and the issue of personal responsibility in a harsh, chaotic world."

– Le Ly Hayslip,
author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

"A revealing, exciting read… A must for anyone interested in the emerging multiethnic face of organized crime in the United States."

Washington Post Book World

"T.J. English has hit the bull’s eye again."

Publishers Weekly

"Hard-hitting… torrid and fascinating… Born to Kill is a fine piece of work, an involving read about an important subject."

Austin Chronicle

"English is an accomplished storyteller… Born to Kill delivers more than its share of surprises and suspense..."

– Michael Tomasky,
New York Newsday

"An alarming portrait… smoothly readable."

Kirkus Reviews

"Entertaining, exciting… puts a spotlight on an aspect of the Vietnamese-American experience that enriches understanding of our complex society."

– William Wong,
Oakland Tribune

"A story of brotherhood and survival...
gives the reader a crash course on the inner workings of the Asian underworld in America.."

Northwest Asian Weekly

Born To Kill cover
The Books sectionhead


The Rise and Fall of America's Bloodiest Asian Gang

PAPERBACK: 310 pages
PUBLISHER: Harper Paperbacks
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER: William Morrow & Co. (1995)
ISBN-10: 0061782386
ISBN-13: 978-0061782381
ONLINE PURCHASE: Harper | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


Click to Close ⊗
David Thai, Leader of BTK Gang Gang members parade the coffin of a fallen
gang brother through Chinatown. Gang members gather for the burial of a
gang brother. A BTK gang member displays his tattoos in a NYPD mugshot A victim of the Born To Kill gang.


Throughout the late 80s and 90s, a gang of young Vietnamese refugees cut a bloody swath through America’s Asian underworld. They were the lost children of the Vietnam War, severed from their families by violence and cast adrift in a strange land. They took their name from a slogan they had seen on helicopters and helmets of U.S. soldiers; and it perfectly reflected their dark, nihilistic worldview: "Born to Kill."

Born to Kill traces the rise of this terrifying new criminal phenomenon through the eyes of Tinh Ngo, a young refugee born in South Vietnam. At the age of eleven, Tinh Ngo was sent out to sea by his parents, part of a massive flotilla of postwar refugees known as the “boat people.”  Tinh spent years in squalid refugee camps and survived a series of failed foster homes in the United States before his arrival as a would-be gangster...

As newcomers to America’s vast criminal marketplace, the Born to Kill gang followed patterns of criminal behavior remarkably similar to those established by earlier generations of immigrant racketeers.  In New York City’s bustling Chinatown, they took over the community’s most lucrative commercial boulevard through a campaign of extortion, robbery, and violent intimidation. Then they took their act on the road, tapping into a sprawling network of young Asian gangsters stretching from the Deep South to the suburbs of California.

The gang’s leader was David Thai, known to his minions as Anh Hai, the oldest and wisest brother.  Raised in Saigon during the worst years of the war, Thai saw himself as a modern-day mandarin prince, the supreme commander of a vast Asian underworld.  Thai’s megalomania spurred the gang on to more and more outrageous acts of mayhem, culminating with the brutal shooting of a jewelry-store owner during a robbery gone awry.

It was this act that stirred a smoldering sense of guilt within Tinh Ngo, who had joined the gang for brotherhood but become increasingly disenchanted with the violence. Eventually, Tinh began to cooperate with a group of federal lawmen investigating the gang.

Born to Kill is an examination of the changing face of organized crime. As the Cosa Nostra wanes, a vast multicultural criminal marketplace has begun to take shape in America. Born to Kill lays bare aspects of this budding underworld in dramatic, human terms, through the eyes of those caught in a daily, terrifying quest for their own unique version of the American Dream.