Skin of Tattoos by Christina Hoag

Skin of Tattoos  Cover

Christina Hoag’s bio reads like thriller fiction. As a journalist, she was threatened by a killer's girlfriend, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and her phone tapped in Venezuela. She was suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hid under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, and posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail. She has interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. 

While working as a journalist, Hoag co-authored Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. Co-written with Aquil Basher, Pease in the Hood ia a handbook for doing intervention work in gang neighborhoods. Chapter titles include “The Mindset: Inside GangLife and Culture,” “The Grapevine: Controlling Rumors,” “Colors on Campus: Understanding the School Dynamic,” “Street-Savior Syndrome: Surviving the E motional Toll,” and “Empowering Communities: Restoring Fractured Neighborhoods.” 

You can read a few of Hoags articles on gang-related topics here:

Her journalistic experience and her cooperation with Aquil Basher, the founder and operator of the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute, was the perfect preparation for Hoag to write a noir crime story for young adults that has a reluctant gangbanger hero:

The memory of that day bore down on me. We were kicking it at a street corner, and Rico was bragging about how he shot a trey-eight into the ceiling of a liquor store he was jacking, and the storeowner pissed his pants. As he was talking, he took the .38 out of his waistband in a live re-enactment, and I just had to take the piece, feeling its cold weight in my hand for just a second or two before handing it back to Rico. That second or two cost me twenty-six months of my freedom.

The hero of the story is Magdaleno — Mags — who is just out of prison after Rico framed him for gun possession. Mags wants to go straight but Rico uses every weapon in his arsenal to suck him back in to the world he wants to escape:

“A lot of changes gone down in the barrio. We need to catch you up.” His arm hooked my neck in a chokehold. “You our firme homeboy, man, you’ll always be part of la familia. We need you, fool.” He squeezed a little too hard. “You come by the garaje. We got a jump in day after tomorrow. We’ll be waiting. We’ll hook you up again, then you can dump this shit.” He pointed his forefinger at me with a barbed wire smile. “Missed you, Mags.”

I watched him vanish into the crowd of shoppers, and spat on the ground to get rid of the bad taste that had flooded my mouth.

The book is fast-paced and Mags is a sympathetic and credible narrator. Hoag does a masterful job of putting the reader though gut-wrenching cycles of fearing for him and hoping for him, hoping for him and fearing the worst. It’s book that demands to be read in one sitting.


Christina Hoag

Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” with a “well crafted debut” in Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. 

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This blog is part of a tour organized by the International Thriller Writer's Association FEARLESS BLOGGER tour. The Fearless Bloggers were created by Alison McMahan to help new thriller writers who were members of ITW promote their work. Blogs are written about new thrillers by thriller writers. All work is done on a volunteer basis. Other blogs in this tour include:

Sherry Knowlton Blog

Mark Bacon 

Nina Mansfield

Pamela Crane

Susanna Calkins

Michael Niemann

Bonus: Article by George Ebey in The Big Thrill