Don't Shoot! I'm the Guitar Man
Buzzy Martin
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Buy *Don't Shoot! I'm the Guitar Man: The Remarkable True Story of the Musician Who Set Out to Change Lives, Note by Note* by Buzzy Martin online

Don't Shoot! I'm the Guitar Man: The Remarkable True Story of the Musician Who Set Out to Change Lives, Note by Note
Buzzy Martin
Berkley Trade
224 pages
September 2010
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Martin's tale about teaching guitar to the inmates at San Quentin State Prison is a harrowing one. A sort of failed rock star, the author taught himself guitar and piano and, in 1970, moved to California to pursue music. He met some group-home residents who came to his gigs and began teaching at-risk kids. After years of working in juvenile halls, he took the big plunge and agreed to teach murderers, rapists and lifelong criminals in Q.

The book is broken down into chapters which roughly follow his weekly classes at the prison. Here is his description of first entering San Quentin.

"When I pull my truck up to the east gate entrance, it takes my breath away. I begin having hot and cold flashes every couple of seconds. After signing my name in the prison logbook, I'm searched by the officer on duty and then cleared to enter the prison grounds. I try my hardest not to freak out as I walk through the prison courtyard. The sight of hundreds of inmates dressed in blue denim is staggering. The whole prison looks like a big sea of blue denim. Most of the inmates have lots of tattoos. As I begin walking past some of the officers on duty or the inmates walking around, I keep thinking of the questions that I have about prison life. I have been in San Quentin less than ten minutes, and I'm already getting this creepy feeling running down the back of my neck to my toes. As it is my first night on the job, I am still a little unsure of some things, like what not to say to the officers or inmates. I try not to look too stupid in front of the staff. I am very green about prison life but that is all going to change really quick. This place is crazy. A kind of circus from hell."
The idea of entering a world like San Quentin must have indeed been unbelievably daunting and terrifying. It's just that Martin - though he may be a super guitar player - is just not a terrific writer. He repeats himself over and over once the book begins, and he re-circulates the same ideas: I'm glad I can go home at night; how can I prevent kids from going to prison?

Still, it's a unique look at a world few of us ever get to see. And, if the book jacket is accurate, a film is being made about his story. This one might be better on the screen than it is on the page.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2010

buy *Don't Shoot! I'm the Guitar Man: The Remarkable True Story of the Musician Who Set Out to Change Lives, Note by Note* online
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