The Hollywood Kid

The Hollywood Kid:The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman

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The compelling story of the life and death of a Salvadoran gangster

As a boy, Miguel Ángel Tobar fled a small town in El Salvador torn apart by warring guerrillas and US-backed death squads. As a teen in Los Angeles, he fought discrimination and beatings by joining a gang, MS-13. By the time the US deported him to San Salvador, the Hollywood Kid joined a wave of US-bred gangsters, whose violence—in concert with corrupt offiicals—have in turn helped propel new waves of refugees.

The incomparable Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martinez got to know the Hollywood Kid and met with him as he first turned on MS-13, killing gang members, and then in turn was assassinated by other gang members. In intensely vivid scenes, Martínez and his anthropologist brother Juan tell the story of a violent life and death—and of the geopolitical forces that propelled a country into becoming one of the most violent on earth.


  • (El Niño de Hollywood) is a revelation. As they track a single tragic life, Los Hermanos Martínez delve deep into El Salvador’s tortured labyrinth, into the macabre working of the Mara Salvatruches, into the sinister consequence of failed US policies, and in the process recover what Neil Smith called the lost history of the American Empire. This is reportage made literature, darkness made light, and one of the most important books of investigative journalism I’ve read in years.

    Junot Diaz
  • As the poet William Blake famously put it, ‘general forms have their vitality in particulars, and every particular is a Man’. The Martinez D’Aubuisson brothers’ beautifully written account of the life and death of the feared gangster El Niño de Hollywood, based on hours and hours of interviews with him and those close to him, starkly reveals the underlying dynamics of the Central American gang phenomenon in vivid and insightful detail.

    Dennis Rodgers, author of Global Gangs
  • The graceful, incisive writing lifts The Beast from being merely an impressive feat of reportage into the realm of literature. Mr. Martínez has produced something that is an honorable successor to enduring works like George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier or Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives.

    Larry RohterNew York Times