Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Biography & Autobiography Criminals & Outlaws

The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson, Leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang

A True Story

by (author) Richard Atkinson & Joe Fiorito

Exile Editions
Initial publish date
Jul 2017
Criminals & Outlaws, Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2017
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


A sober memoir that provides a solid understanding of how crime is situated in structural, cultural, historical, and situational contexts. This is the life story of Ricky Atkinson, leader of the Dirty Tricks Gang, who grew up fast and hard in one of Toronto’s toughest neighborhoods during the social ferment of the Sixties, during the fledgling Black Power Movement in Canada. His life was made all the more difficult coming from a black, white and aboriginal mixed family. Under his leadership, the gang eventually robbed more banks and pulled off so many jobs, that it is unrivaled in Canadian history. Follow him from the mean streets to backroom plotting, to jail and back again as he learns the hard lessons of leadership, courage and betrayal. Today, after reconciling his past and life, he works to educate youth and people from all backgrounds about the no-win choice of being a criminal.

About the authors

Richard Atkinson's profile page

Joe Fiorito was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario. As a young man in Northern Ontario, he worked in a paper mill, surveyed roads, and laboured in bush camps prior to becoming involved in community development and arts consulting. Fiorito spent five years working with a staff of Inuit journalists at CBC Radio in Iqaluit, NWT before transferring to Regina, where he wrote, produced and directed CBC Radio's highly acclaimed "The Food Show," a weekly program about food and agriculture. Fiorito lived for many years in Montreal, where he first wrote a weekly food column for HOUR, and later signed on as a city columnist for The Montreal Gazette. His first collection, Comfort Me with Apples: Considering the Pleasures of the Table, a series of essays about food and memory drawn from Fiorito's HOUR columns,  was published by Nuage Editions (now Signature Editions) in 1994. In 2000, it was  reissued by McLelland & Stewart. Tango on the Main, Fiorito's second collection, was selected from his Gazette columns.Fiorito relocated to Toronto, writing first for The National Post and then for The Toronto Star. In 1999, he published his family memoir, The Closer We Are to Dying (M&S), which became a national best-seller and received widespread critical acclaim. This was followed by the award-winning novel The Song Beneath the Ice (M&S, 2003) and Union Station: Love, Madness, Sex and Survival on the Streets of the New Toronto. (M&S, 2007).

Joe Fiorito's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Crime is terrible, traumatizing, terrifying. But True Crime is mesmerizing. That’s likely why the wily straight-shooter Joe Fiorito has teamed up with the Africadian/Afro-Métis once-upon-a-time risk-and-reward trickster Ricky Atkinson: No way to turn away from this irresistible saga, sprightly as a slot-machine cascade and as irrepressible as a dude sprung from Sing-Sing or Kingston Pen. Look back to books like Dorothy Mills-Proctor’s Chameleon (1995) if you want to find a comparison to what Atkinson and Fiorito offer here: The low-down on the low-down, the up-and-up on the down-and-dirty, but never-ending up down-and-out. ” —George Elliott Clarke, 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2016-17)

“Loved the book – a fantastic tale! This painfully honest, breezily written memoir takes us on a roller coaster ride that is the life story of the notorious Dirty Tricks Gang leader, Ricky Atkinson. His criminal capers are imaginatively told, with a cast of memorable, colorful characters including the hard-nosed kids he grew up with as an 'Afro-Métis gangster in the projects,' to Toronto mobsters, eccentric criminal rounders, hard-core lifelong professional thieves, and shady, often racist cops. The chapters brim with amusing accounts, like accidentally robbing a big mob card game, or deliberately holding up a large Toronto-area black gangster gathering, or the absurd situation that led to unintentionally shooting his friend while taking back-alley potshots at street lights. But the story also contains a stark realism that exposes the social and cultural context of systemic racism in the 1960s through to this day. The Life Crimes and Hard Times of Ricky Atkinson is a gripping and frank take on criminal life in Toronto’s underworld. A very entertaining and edifying read.” —James Dubro, lifelong organized crime specialist; author, Mob Rule and Dragons of Crime; former President of the Crime Writers of Canada

Other titles by