An Orangina bottle, soap in an old sock, and a pair of boots: These were Frank Meeink's seemingly innocuous stepping stones in his rise as a notorious neo-Nazi leader.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead (Hawthorne Books, 316 pages, $15.95), co-authored by Jody Roy, provides a rare insight into the creation and undoing of an American monster. Meeink's insider perspective on the skinhead movement, prison culture and drug addiction is captivating. But it is also deeply disturbing. By the time he's screaming at a kidnapped boy not to drip blood from a recent beating onto his carpet, you'll speed through the scene without batting an eyelash. But even the sudden desensitization to violence isn't the most troubling effect of reading this autobiography. Halfway through the book, I figured out what was:

This could have been me.

Before he was the furious, shit-kicking skinhead leader, Nazi-inked to the teeth and followed by a troupe of hateful sidekicks in the late '80s, Frank Meeink was just a scared kid who liked hockey and wished his dad would spend more time with him. And then the luck that had never truly existed for him disappeared altogether. Ignored or worse by a nightmarish handful of guardians, lost in a revolving line of schools, bullied and beaten by a local gang, he was finally informed by his admired cousin that all his troubles originate from the evil forces of ZOG (the Zionist Occupational Government). Meeink's life reads line for line like the textbook for Nazi Brewing 101.

It made me wonder what would've happened if I'd had to go through half the crap Meeink got thrown at him before he hit age 10—what anybody in his scuffed-up, pathetic excuse for shoes would've done.

Meeink leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to explaining how he screwed his life up, even after he left the skinheads and became a poster child for the bigotry-fighting Anti-Defamation League. His memoir is a continuous bombardment of alcohol-fueled self-loathing, manifested at first in Clockwork Orange-esque hate crimes and later in an excruciatingly thorough account of his drug addiction.

In fact, the last 80 pages of the book are dedicated to what can be described as little else than junkie drama. Percocet, OxyContin, speed, LSD, cocaine, methadone, crystal meth, heroin—you name it, Meeink did it, often at the same time as he was on tour as an ADL speaker or coaching his multicultural kids hockey program. And he shares every detail, from explicit instructions on how to shoot up heroin to a play-by-play of his life falling apart over and over again from his newly acquired habits.

Unfortunately, as Meeink's drug use spirals out of control, so does the book's tight structure. What began as a skinhead's memoir turns into a drug-filled soap opera. But even the book's chaotic conclusion is not enough to take away the power of Meeink's story. This is an indispensable testament to the destructive forces brewing in America's own backyards, and the compelling tale of a man who overcame them.


Meet Frank Meeink and Jody Roy at 9 pm Saturday, June 5, at Mississippi Pizza, 3552 N Mississippi Ave., 288-3231.