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.