On the Yard
Malcolm Braly
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On the Yard

Malcolm Braly
New York Review of Books
376 pages
January 2002
rated 3 of 5 possible stars
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Prisoners-turned-writers are a pretty common sight for the past several decades. Braly wrote this in 1967 where, by the age of 40, he had already spent 17 of those years locked up. Written nearly 40 years ago, the book is an intriguing take on incarceration and differs greatly from the extraordinary array of books penned by Edward Bunker (Dog Eat Dog, The Animal Factory) that have a more modern feel; and certainly poses a different look than Sanyika Shakur's (aka Monster Kody Scott) autobiography titled Monster and revealing a truly contemporary look at a black, man-killing gangbanger and what life was like for him within the penal institution.

Braly has woven his drama around the lives of Chilly Willy, Manning, Jim Nunn, Stick, and a cast of other abused, confused, illiterate, inconsiderate, killing, molesting, and robbing machines. We find out how terrible is the day-to-day life of a con, a routine that never changes and thus demands of an individual the ability to change himself, to adapt to a life that will forever run on the same plain.

An attempted escape by air balloon, the buying and selling of individuals, the cat-and-mouse game as played by con and jailhouse cop - it is all here, and written to draw us in and make us want more. A terrible book in its recreation of the unholy reality that must be life in jail.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Steven Rosen, 2005

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