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.

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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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Shaun Attwood – Drugs and Prison School Talk

Shaun Attwood is a former stock-market millionaire and Ecstasy kingpin turned public speaker author and activist, who is banned from America for life. His story was featured worldwide on National Geographic Channel as an episode of Banged Up Abroad called Raving Arizona. Random House published his life story as the English Shaun Trilogy. “Hard Time” (2010) documents his time in Maricopa County Jail that is run by “America’s toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. His second book “Party Time” (2013) documents his rise as an Ecstasy kingpin. His third book “Prison Time” (2014) documents his time served in the Arizona Department of Corrections. His fourth book is a self-help called Lessons (2014).

Here is his hard hitting talk given to school children about what it was like in Americas prison system.

I have just spent the last hour watching this video after finding it on twitter (thanks @sophies_words who has a great blog over HERE) and what a roller coaster of an hour it has been. This man’s story is tragic yet inspiring, the descriptions of the conditions he, and the other inmates, had to live with are shocking. Cockroaches and spiders infest the cells and murder seems to be an almost daily occurrence. These might be hardened criminals, but at the same time we see insecurities and genuine people who have been dealt a bad hand, such as T-Bone.  I would love to interview Shaun for this blog, so if you happen to be reading this Shaun please get in contact! And I will be buying all three of his books.

You can follow Shaun’s blog at www.jonsjailjournal.blogspot.co.uk

And watch his episode of Banged Up Abroad below:

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