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.