HACKSAW by Edward R. Jones


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The Houdini of the jailbirds--14 escapes in 20 years from prisons, jails, and chain gangs--tells how and why he did it in this frisky autobiography. It began for ""Hacksaw"" Jones before he entered his teens, when he suffered two years of beating and homosexual rape in a boy's""reformatory."" He didn't escape from there, but he learned his lesson; no other cell detained him for long. His first bolt came from a Virginia chain gang at the age of 20, when he was sentenced to ten years (!) hard labor for possession of a stolen wedding ring. After a stint of freedom shoveling elephant manure for a circus, he was captured and delivered to another chain gang. Upshot? Another escape. The tango of liberty and incarceration danced on for decades. Along the way, he worked as a drummer in Los Angeles, a gambler in Las Vegas, a property manager in Texas, each job (and one marriage) lasting until the law's long arm throttled him again. Hacksaw gustily recounts his cross-country exploits, casts a wry eye on his current fame, passes on handy tips to would-be fugitives (pour ammonia on a handkerchief to foil the noses of bloodhounds; use the steel insert in your shoe to scrape concrete from cell bars). His portraits of fellow cons (""Some of these bastards are so slick they could follow you through a revolving door and come out ahead of you"") crackle; so does his indignation at the way the judicial system has stomped on him. Now serving time in Marion, Ill., he laments the ""futility"" of of his prison breaks and awaits the possibility of parole. As escapist fare, this one's a lock.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1988
Publisher: Donald Fine