Review: Prison Time by Shaun Attwood

Prison Time by Shaun Attwood

Prison Time by Shaun Attwood

So I have just finished the last in the Shaun Attwood ‘Time’ series, and wow, it was emotional. The sequel to ‘Hard Time’ follows ‘English’ Shaun as he journeys through Arizona’s prison system serving time for distributing Ecstasy. The series charts his rise from a poor English student to a drugs kingpin, then right down to a prisoner in a system designed to make you fail.

Having read the whole series in chronological order (Party Time, Hard Time and then Prison Time) I was expecting this to be the most difficult part of the saga, and I wasn’t wrong. As gripping and difficult to put down as the previous two, it benefits from Shaun’s finely tuned, almost journalistic, style of writing. Which captures the drama and feeling of the moment while creating an accurate documentation of what his surroundings where like.

We are introduced to some amazing characters throughout the book, both scary and genuine. From She-Ra, a tall transsexual who becomes friends with Shaun during his spell on the low security yard. Another is a great giant of a man is T-Bone, a kind of dark knight of the prison, who puts his life on the line protecting those who are weaker then him from prison rape. The person who seems to have the most effect on Shaun in ‘Two Tony’s’, a mafia hit man who  has left a trail of bodies from New York to LA.

One thing that stands out to me in this book is how genuine and touching Shaun’s naivety when it comes to women is, from Jade to She-Ra. Maybe it is down to him looking for the best in people, but in this book we see love, heartbreak and confusion in equal measure.  I especially liked the confusion that arose when he met Gina, who he describes as being as close to a women that you will meet in an all-male prison. After being in prison, where the constant search for love and companionship is part of everyday life for that long, I can sort of understand where he comes from.

We see Shaun develop his caring and nurturing side within this book, even to the point of developing an almost ‘guru’ persona in the prison. But not everything is smooth sailing, from arguments with others over his blog to a system that seems to be out to get him. Shaun battles not just to stay out of trouble, but to get out alive.

As with all the other books in the series it is dark, shocking, funny and really emotional right to the end. I must admit I am really sad the series is now over for me and will hope that one day Shaun writes a book about his return to normal life in England.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Review: Hard Time by Shaun Attwood

 

Hard Time by Shaun Attwood

Hard Time by Shaun Attwood

 

The News of the World are quoted as saying this book ‘Makes Shawshank look like a holiday camp’, and while that description may be a tad emotive, the conditions described in this instalment of the Shaun Attwood series are beyond horrific and push the boundaries of what is barbaric. In this book, Shaun leads us through one of America’s most tough jail system, in a journey that involves everything from militant cockroaches to brutal beatings.

The book spans a period of just over 2 years in which Shaun goes on a wonderfully scary journey of self-discovery where there are battles at every turn and a judicial system that seems hell bent on making an example of him. Using his charm and his English wit he manages to progress from a broken shell of a man to a teacher and leader, but the biggest battle seem to come from within. When voices keep creeping into his every thought, sleep deprived and malnourished, Shaun battles not only for his freedom but his sanity.

One thing that does stand out to me in this book is Shaun’s ability to self-reflect and convey that he deserved to be punished for what he did, but not even animals deserve to be treated in the way that Sheriff Joe Arpaio prides himself on. A man who is clearly suffering from some kind of personality disorder which drives him to treat un-sentenced prisoners as his own toys to abuse. If you haven’t heard of Sheriff Joe before, I suggest you do some reading. You will be shocked. In this book Shaun is honest, sometimes to a fault, including stories that will make your toes curl. Such as the time his penis shrunk so much he struggled in the strip search and the time he had to unblock a toilet with his hand.

When it comes to his writing style Shaun states that the book was started in 2002 and you can tell he has come a long way with his writing ability. You can almost experience his ability grow as the book progresses. A more then forgiveable offence I am sure, this being his first book after all. But having said that, he still captures the imagery of the jail with great detail, from the smells of blocked toilets to the sounds of people being ‘smashed’. Yet another of his books that I struggled to put down.

I particularly like the competition hidden in the ‘Acknowledgment’ section at the back, although I suspect the prize has been claimed by now.

I gave this book 4 out of 5.

Dopamine Plushy AKA The Awesome Wife PT2

Did you catch my previous post about the chalk outline plushy’s my wife made me? Really you didn’t? Well then you should probably go and check out the awesomeness here. How awesome are they? To make it even better she only went and made me a Dopamine molecule teddy too 🙂

Check this bad boy out:

Dopamine Plushy Teddy

 

If you would like one let me know and I’m sure i could convince here to make some for a small fee 😉

My Awesome Wife A.K.A The Dead Plushies

If, like me, you have a passion for understanding crime and murder then the fact i have the best wife in the world might make you jealous. You see, not only does she work hard and help raise our child, she also spoils me rotten. I came home the other day to discover that she had made me a dead ‘chalk outline’ plushy toy and a dead ‘gingerbread man’ plushy toy.

Chalk Outline Plushy

Makes you sick with envy doesn’t it? 😉

If you would like one, i could probably convince her to make one for a small fee 🙂

Review: Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

“Children Who Kill,” by Carol Anne Davis, is a relatively long (396 pages) book which looks at the always emotive subject of juvenile homicide. The author sets out to explore this subject using in-depth case studies of children aged between 10 and 17. The book, as it was published in 2003, is relatively out of date and it does show when it comes to certain cases.

This could have been a very good book, it is relatively easy, if repetitive, to read. But then it is hard to write a boring book about such an emotive topic. Although this book is described as individual profiles, they are more like average essays including the obligatory lack of supporting evidence for what she puts forward as facts. Which unfortunately leads to Carol coming across as a bit of a ‘know it all’. It also leads to some wild claims which don’t sit as true to me, including a claim that all people who have attempted suicide has at one stage wanted to kill someone else. If I any Psychologists out there can confirm, or deny, this I would be grateful. She also makes the outrageous, and possibly libelous claim that Pathologists lie to spare the feelings of family members.

My main concern with this book, and thus the author, is that she seems to have a very simplistic view of what causes children to kill. Claiming that the only thing that can cause a child to kill is an abusive childhood, she seems to choose to ignore the influence of genetics as well as possible neurobiological influences.

Overall I was glad when it was over and that I don’t have to read it again.

I gave it 2 out of 5

 

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Review: Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell by Gitta Sereny

Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell

Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell

 

Mary Flora Bell at the age of 11, strangled to death two little boys in Scotswood, an inner-city suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of Martin Brown (aged four) and Brian Howe (aged three). In this book Gitta Sereny controversially collaborates with Mary to provide a thought provoking biography that sheds some light on one of the most infamous child-killers of the 20th century.

I went into this book not having read her other book on the case (The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered). The book was well written with a relatively easy to read journalistic style of writing. The book is structured in a way that Gitta writes a factual summery of a period of time which is followed by the reflective memory of Mary ad those who worked with her. I have two main criticism of Gitta, one is that there is almost an air of hero worship in the tone of her writing, this could be because she has spent so much time covering the case. The second is how she related the lack of religious faith to the fall of morality. If you need the fear of hell to behave in a good way then you’re not the nicest of people to begin with.

Mary comes across as a really articulate and intellectual, especially considering her start in life and the time spent in the system. One thing that strikes me as really interesting is her writing ability which can be seen in her letters.

The inadequacies of the UK judicial system, when it comes to youth offenders, is shocking. There was a clear bias by all involved to put the blame on Mary while Norma Joyce Bell was treated with protective gloves. From where she was held on remand to the way the prosecutor omitted evidence. It may be controversial to say but the evidence shows that Norma played on her ‘slow’ status.

There seems to have been many opportunity to remove Mary from her mother’s care and i can’t help but think how different life would have been for her and more importantly for Martin Brown and Brian Howe.

Reading this book with an open mind and the belief that there must be something that has happened to these children to make them commit these horrendous crimes. I must admit that I now stand by this view with even more conviction. This does not take away from the horror and torment she caused to those two children and their families. The revelations about Mary’s childhood and the physical, mental, and most of all, disgusting sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother. Her mother, Betty, clearly demonstrates a clear narcissistic tendency of needing to be the centre of attention and this came at the cost of Mary’s parental ‘safety blanket’.

Overall it is a really interesting book which shows how not everything is black and white when it comes to these cases.

If your looking for a book that condemns child killers without a thought, then this is not the one for you. But on the other hand if you want a book that makes you think long and hard about what can cause these acts, this is it.

I give it 4 out of 5.

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Review: Party Time by Shaun Attwood

Party Time by Shaun Attwood

Party Time by Shaun Attwood

What can I say apart from he has done it again.

After reading “Lessons from a Drug Lord” I was really looking forward to reading more from the English Shaun series, and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. As I am yet to read “Hard Time” or “Prison Time” I am unsure what happened when he was inside, but one thing I am sure of is that he crafted his writing skills to a fine art. This book flowed and captivated me from the first page to the last. With an effortless writing style that made it hard, if not impossible, to put down. Finishing this 288 page book took me less than 2 days, which for me is sort of amazing.

The mood is set with a brilliant first chapter that is so evocative it almost makes me wish I was born in the heady days of the rave scene. His fears and anxieties melting away with the chemical taste of Ecstasy and the beginning of what will lead to a dazzling story of sex, drugs and dance music.

We then step into a time machine to learn about Shaun’s past in his small home town. Stories of days spent with Wild Man in the ‘Thinking Tree’ lead you to realise that, in Shaun, there has always been this thirst for success and adventure that would eventually lead to his downfall.

After moving to be with his aunt in Phoenix, Shaun leads us into his life as a trader and his discovery of the blossoming rave scene in Arizona. Here we discover the “wolves” who will inevitably call him to the slaughter. Fed by the lifestyle and fame that came with his ‘enterprise’ Shaun builds an empire on the backs of his friends and students who are infatuated by the “English Shaun” persona. In the end, as is expected, it all comes crashing down.

There are many moments where you really feel the sincerity and kindness of Shaun, especially when talking about his close circle of friends or girlfriends. Wild Man, although clearly crazy and very dangerous (don’t come after me please!) is a loveable rouge.

I am left feeling frustrated that he didn’t meet Claudia earlier in his life so that maybe he wouldn’t have gone so far down this path. She comes across as being his guardian angel, who he describes in such fond and cute terms. There is real affection there and it is a shame that life took them in opposite direction.

Overall one of the best books I have read in the true crime genre and I sincerely recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars!!

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Review: Lessons From A Drug Lord

Lessons From A Drug Lord

Lessons From A Drug Lord

First off the bat I must congratulate Mr Attwood on creating a quick, effortless read that was easy to digest and very enjoyable.

For those of us who are yet to come across Shaun’s work let me tell you, well paraphrase from his goodreads bio page, a little about him and his interesting background. Raised in a small chemical-manufacturing town in northern England, Shaun was the first from his family to go to university. As a penniless graduate, he took his business degree to Phoenix, and worked his way up to become a stock-market millionaire. But he also led a double life. An early fan of the Manchester rave scene, Shaun headed an organisation that threw raves and distributed Ecstasy. On May 16th 2002, a SWAT team knocked his door down. He sentenced to 9½ years, and served almost 6. Shaun was released in December 2007, and continues to campaign against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He keeps Jon’s Jail Journal going by posting stories mailed to him by his prison friends. Shaun presently lives near London, and talks to student audiences across the UK and Europe about his jail experience and the consequences he faced from getting involved in drugs and crime.

I must admit I wasn’t expecting much when I first received this book in the post, after all this comes after a trilogy of his life and time in prison, that I am yet to read. But as I had won this copy in a competition run by Shaun on his twitter page I thought I should at least give it a go, and I must admit I am glad I did.

Shaun’s writing style is casual yet entertaining, he keeps you turning those pages without being sensationalist about the emotive subject covered.

I especially like the story of the relationship he formed with a charismatic mob hit man, known as ‘Two Tony’s’. Showing that although people in prison may have committed horrendous crimes they are still people and need to be helped not locked away. I found that man to be really deep and his story touching.

As a Tool fan the section where Shaun talks to his Yoga instructor who metaphorically describes the subconscious as a spiral to be explored and expanded really sat well with me.

Alternatively the only downside to the book I could find was that the advice given by the yoga teacher sounded like pop psychology mixed with spiritualism, but seemed to be passed on like it was sound psychological advice.

Overall a great book and Shaun should be really proud of both the book and how he has changed his life. I will now have to get the first three books so I can learn more about his story. That is unless he wants to send me a copy and I will review them on here for him.

Overall I will give it 5 out of 5

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10 Of The Best Psychology TED Talks

Here are some of the best talks about psychology from some of the giants of this and related fields.

1. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

This has to be one of the best Ted talks I have ever come across to do with psychology.

“Philip Zimbardo knows how easy it is for nice people to turn bad. In this talk, he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. Then he talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge.”

2. Alison Gopnik: What do babies think?

“Alison Gopnik takes us into the fascinating minds of babies and children, and shows us how much we understand before we even realize we do.”

3. Rebecca Saxe: How we read each other’s minds

“Sensing the motives and feelings of others is a natural talent for humans. But how do we do it? Here, Rebecca Saxe shares fascinating lab work that uncovers how the brain thinks about other peoples’ thoughts — and judges their actions.”

4. Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness — from the inside

“Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.

5. VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain

“Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.”

6. Dan Dennett: Dangerous memes

Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes — concepts that are literally alive.

7. Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes — and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create “memories” they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum. Editor’s note: In the original version of this talk, Scott Fraser misspoke about available footage of Two World Trade Center (Tower 2). The misstatement has been edited out for clarity.

8. Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence

Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, and argues that, though it may seem illogical and even obscene, given Iraq and Darfur, we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

9. Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life

If there is one talk out of all these that you do watch, make it this one.

For many years Sergeant Kevin Briggs had a dark, unusual, at times strangely rewarding job: He patrolled the southern end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a popular site for suicide attempts. In a sobering, deeply personal talk Briggs shares stories from those he’s spoken — and listened — to standing on the edge of life. He gives a powerful piece of advice to those with loved ones who might be contemplating suicide.

10. Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity

One of the most watched TED talks and brings a really funny view onto a serious subject.

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

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Dear Mr Gove by Jess Green

Everyone needs to see this.

Education is the most important gift we can give to a person, without education how can people improve both their lives and that of the country. To do that we need passionate, enthusiastic teachers with a realistic and up to date curriculum, not teachers who are overworked and underpaid.

Remember lets make our votes count in 2015

www.jessgreenpoet.com
twitter: @greenellenjess

Thank you to Tracey on FB for the link 🙂

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