For these friends, graffiti's story in New York was a tale of richness and despair.
"The thing they had created by that time was worldwide," he says, made famous by movies like the 1983 documentary "Style Wars" and the notoriety of subway art. "But here were these guys who were legendary, who were being sweated all over the place, but they couldn't make a living."
Many of these graffiti writers, Mansbach says, started living in the past, swapping stories about the glory days of New York graffiti art.
By the late 1980s, large-scale graffiti art on the New York City subways was in its death throes. The city destroyed untold amounts of art in its relentless quest to erase graffiti. In "Rage is Back," the character Anastacio Bracken, a villainous MTA police chief turned mayoral candidate, hell-bent on quashing graffiti writers forever, embodies the "vandal squad," the real-life New York City transit police who warred against graffiti writers.
"A lot of these guys are obsessed," Mansbach says. "There are retired vandal squad cops today writing books about chasing these kids around the tunnels. They can't let go of it any more than the writers can."
"Rage is Back" tries to encapsulate graffiti's complexities, its contradictions and its triumphs, and the romance of its wayward heroes.
Graffiti writers, Mansbach says with a laugh, are "very compromised superheroes."
Dayal is an arts journalist based in San Francisco.