St. Martin's brings back into print the hard-to-find third book (first published in 1980) by ex-con novelist, screenwriter, and actor Bunker (Dog Eat Dog, 1996; The Animal Factory, 1977), whose fictional accounts of life in the American justice system- -from juvie hall to San Quentin—bear none of the theoretical pretensions of Jack Henry Abbott. Bunker shoots straight—his direct and transparent prose captures the ``primacy of violence'' that defines life in the slammer. And his larger point is pretty simple: Once you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, it's hard to break the cycle of recidivism. Especially if you're like young Alex Hamilton—a problem child who's thrown out of numerous military schools and foster homes while his father struggles to find work in post-Depression California. At age 11, despite a high IQ and a love of reading, Alex can't control his anger. After he attacks the housemother at a Home for Boys, he hits the road, surviving on petty thievery, until one robbery escalates into his first assault with a deadly weapon. While in police custody, Alex learns that his father is dead. With no relatives, he's now completely at the mercy of a system that values subservience over fairness. His uncontrolled rage sends him to a mental hospital for observation, where some adult junkies school him in the ways of the street. Diagnosed a ``borderline psychopath,'' Alex's escapades eventually land him in reform school. In constant fear of being ``punked'' (i.e., buggered), he resorts to even more violent behavior. Finally paroled in his mid-teens, Alex tries living with his father's long-estranged sister, but that turns sour quickly. More violence, seemingly inevitable, follows. Throughout, Bunker clearly articulates the ``code'' of prison life and the pathology of the career criminal in raw, muscular prose.
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