SLAMMER by Ben Greer


Email this review


Bruce Dobler's recent (1974) documentary novel about prison life, Icepick, had a commendable balance and objectivity. That is one facet of the increasing post-Attica awareness. Here is another -- more basic, more direct, more powerful and effective than any amount of logic or polemic. The tension is pervasive and immediate. From the moment a young prison guard, Walsh, walks into this Southern penitentiary it is apparent that the air can only be cleared through violence. Walsh is an idealist trying to toughen himself but at the crucial moment he is incapable of killing another human being. There are other figures -- Breen, the rough-spoken Catholic chaplain who perhaps accepts too much and fears that he hasn't done enough for the men; Moultrie, the black revolutionary, determined to wipe out his enemy the Muslim and the corruption which supports him; Childs, an innocent who is victimized by the prison whores; and there is Darcy, the icepick assassin, leaving his trail of decay and death. Slammer is a first novel and a remarkably sustained piece of work going far beyond mere sociology. Its author became a prison guard to accomplish it and the fact fits for there's no mistaking that he's writing from the inside out.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1975
Publisher: Atheneum