It’s not something I ever expected to have, a book review from death row, but I have, and it is good.
Through a US book blog tour company – Blackthorn Book Tours – I ended up sponsoring a copy of my book for a ‘Books for Prisoner’ scheme (BBT also buy a copy at their own expense). I was quite happy to do this and hoped it would be of some comfort and/or distraction to any inmate that read it. On the 19th May (2021) I received a set of photos of a handwritten review of The Dark Chorus from a man on death row.
I did not give much thought to the reality of sponsoring a book for such a demographic – it just seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I take the general view that whatever people have done in their lives, basic human decency must be applied if or when any retribution is sought. I am not in favour of the death penalty. I do not believe in killing people full stop, let alone potentially killing innocent people. It is anathema to me and many others. We can never know the truth in all cases, and we know that there have been enough miscarriages of justice in the US to demonstrate that a fair few innocent people must have been executed.
It is hard to pardon someone if you have killed them.
There are numerous examples of innocent people becoming the victims of, for example, a biased judiciary system – Anthony Ray Hinton is one such victim. Fortunately, he was not put to death, but he had to endure this threat hanging over him for 30 years. You can hear him speak about some of his case and his time in prison on BBC Sounds. He also wrote a book about his experience – The Sun Does Shine. I have read the book and like many of its reviews I can give testament to the fact that it is a powerful and moving account of his incarceration.
I have been processing this rather surreal connection for a while now. I sit here, in my home, at my desk holding a copy of The Dark Chorus, while across the world, in a prison, in a cage, holding a copy of The Dark Chorus sits a man waiting for death. This sounds like the opening paragraph for a story, but it is not – it is someone’s reality.
That juxtaposition of realities – mine and his – while seemingly poles apart now demonstrates a commonality – a shared experience through our understanding and interpretation of The Dark Chorus. The author of the review, whose name is Jersey, gives a critique of the story and takes time to tell me about the characters. His take on them and the way they connect is very insightful. If I am honest, I would say this surprised me because like many, I defaulted to a Hollywood stereotype of what a death row inmate should be, at least educationally. How wrong. See for yourself by reading the review in the series of pictures below.
I have no idea what Jersey is in prison for and am aware that just because he liked my book does not somehow make him a good guy. He may be, but he may equally have committed some terrible crime that he needs to atone for. However, I come back to my earlier point – I believe everyone should be treated with basic human decency, and yes, that even includes politicians.
Below is the review – have a read.