Shelf Life: Michael Dineen Writes on Addiction, Crime, and Change

Huntingtonian Michael Dineen seeks to warn others about the realities of drugs and crime in his book Suburban Gangsters

Born in New York City and raised in Huntington, Dineen describes his early years as uneventful. “I had a similar upbringing to most of the kids on Long Island,” he said, in which he focused on sports and school, excelling in both areas. As he got older, much of his attention went to training in martial arts. But all that changed when Dineen began to experiment with steroids. 

Dineen’s attempt to increase athletic performance escalated very quickly. “By 12th grade, I was being drawn to a life of crime,” he said. That life soon overtook everything. Dineen found himself transitioning with alarming ease to selling drugs, getting involved with gangs, becoming a police informant, and later navigating a heroin addiction. “I was lucky to survive,” he said of that tumultuous time.

In the aftermath of his recovery, Dineen felt compelled to tell his story. “I needed to show people what happens when you pursue a life of crime or dare to get involved with narcotics,” he said. He turned to writing as an outlet, and created Suburban Gangsters—a fictionalized version of his life—as a result. 

Suburban Gangsters spans a 25-year period—from the 1980s to the 2000s—and immerses the reader in President Reagan’s war on drugs and the unfolding opioid crisis, all through the lens of a young man navigating early adulthood.

Though daunted at the thought of revisiting and sharing painful memories, once Dineen put pen to paper he found himself gaining perspective. “I was sober, and now looked at things differently,” he explained. He made sure to keep himself honest, too. “I don’t pull any punches,” he said of his approach to life. “It worked well for [telling] this story.”

Through writing, Dineen said he learned about himself and the person he’d become: no longer a dealer, a gang affiliate, or an addict, but someone who reclaimed his story. “Change is possible,” he said. “I was a bad guy at one time in my life, but have completely changed for the better.” 

Dineen hopes his story serves as a warning. “Having lived it, I pray nobody follows the same path I did. It’s a game no one ever wins.” Dineen said he’d tell both his younger self and other young people to never try drugs, “Not one time. I don’t care what the situation is.” To echo Suburban Gangsters’ synopsis: “It may feel like a quick high. You may think just one more big sale and you can get out. But you’ll learn that the life of drugs and crime doesn’t pay.”

Dineen aims to raise awareness about addiction, drugs, and the life of crime while exploring new projects.

More information about Dineen and Suburban Gangsters can be found on Amazon and Twitter. supports literacy efforts. If you have book-related information you’d like to share, email Molly Prep.

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