Written by an ex-convict, a man who knows the insides of San Quentin, Walla Walla and Stillwater prisons, The Riot is powerful storytelling. It's a brutal, black vision in which the cynical despair is offset by a cool, shrug-shouldered presentation. Protagonist Cully Briston assumes symbolic proportions in the story. He's an underworld Everyman; tough enough to be left alone, he just tries to get by in a world where monotony deadens and hatred revives. Originally an innocent bystander, he is accidentally thrown into the center of the action at the outset of the two day holocost. Propelled by both conscience and fear of reprisals he soon finds himself responsible for the lives of the hostages, one of whom, ""Andy Gump,"" has been a subtle, expert sadist. A reluctant arbitrator, he becomes ""The Man,"" the law, policing his fellow inmates as it becomes a mob scene with racial violence, persecution of the ""rapos"" and stoolies, men flipping out on stolen Bennies or brewed raisinjack, queers dragging it up, diehards frantic to escape amid the distorted rationale of the radio reports which assume that it is an organized riot instead of unplanned chaos. In the meantime Cully is threatened by a psychotic prison product, one ""Indian Joe,"" a man warped and destroyed by long stretches in ""The Hole"" and sessions with ""Andy Gump."" To protect the sadist, Cully finds the ultimate irony: he must cage Joe. And he is forced into a special kind of martyrdom--hated by both sides--he enters a no man's land of total isolation. Gripping.