Six Prison Novels Worth Your Time
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been drawn to stories about prison and prison life. Shawshank Redemption is, hands down, my favorite flick. Plus, any documentary about prison life–usually on National Geographic or Discovery or some channel like that–is guaranteed to hold my attention for awhile.
But, for whatever reason, I haven’t read that many novels about prison. I realized this while reading Falconer, which in my estimation is a pretty authentic look at prison life, from the standpoint of a guy who murdered his brother.
What are some other well-received novels about prison?
The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer: This is the true story of a guy named Gary Gilmore, who committed double murder then insisted on being executed (quickly) for his crimes. He battles against a slow-moving government that seems dedicated to keeping him alive long after he’s been sentenced to death.
Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean: Made into a movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. This is an amazing, in-depth look at American’s capital punishment system, with all its flaws.
Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King: Everyone knows the movie. But the story originated as a novella called Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, featured in a Stephen King short story collection from 1982. In my opinion, this is the preeminent prison story.
Birdman of Alcatraz by Thomas Gaddis: Another “trueish” story of a man sentenced to life at Alcatraz–in solitary confinement, no less. He becomes obsessed with birds that land outside his cell window. The book was made into a 1960s movie starring Burt Lancaster.
Papillon by Henri Charriere: An autobiography of Henri Charrier–who was sentenced to life in prison, in French Guiana, for a murder he didn’t commit. After a couple of failed escape attempts, Charrier was sent to Devil’s Island–a place which no one had ever escaped from. But Charrier did. This is his story. Sounds amazing.
One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A guy makes a negative comment about Stalin in a letter and is sentenced to 10 years in a Russian labor camp. This book is a day in his life.
Wow. A couple of these books make me want to temporarily stop the list and read them. Especially Papillon.
Your thoughts on any of these books? Or did I miss any others?