LABYRINTH by Randall Sullivan (Atlantic Monthly Press), 324 pages, $40.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
How is it possible that Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, two of hiphop music's biggest stars, could be gunned down in public while dozens of witnesses watched, yet no one has ever been brought to justice? Five years after the two murders, which occurred less than five months apart, there've still been no charges laid and it's unlikely there ever will be, according to Randall Sullivan's revelatory new book, LAbyrinth.
Rolling Stone and Esquire contributor Sullivan, with the close cooperation of ex-LAPD detective Russell Poole (who originally led the Biggie Smalls homicide investigation), uses the veteran cop's detailed case files as the basis of his page-turning narrative.
When the trail of the killers leads Poole to the doorstep of Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight and then back to the LAPD, suddenly Poole finds his investigation being thwarted at every turn by LAPD's internal affairs department and then-chief of police Bernard Parks. What begins as an intriguing whodunit soon turns into a shocking exposé of police corruption that led Poole to resign from the force and sue the city of Los Angeles.
Sullivan is not as skilled an investigative journalist as he is a storyteller, and he relies far too heavily on detective Poole's research and insights. While Poole has uncovered more than enough startling facts and "holy shit" connections to make for a compelling read, Sullivan could have gone much further in interviewing the key players, witnesses (who are dropping dead with alarming frequency) and likely suspects, for a more balanced account.
Still, it's an incredible story. And considering the way the media has mishandled it from the beginning, LAbyrinth -- however biased -- is really the best available source of information about the murders.