Alabama attorney Hollon (The Pains of April, 1999, not reviewed) does the jailhouse blues raw and quirky in this tale of a sensitive loser who took the murder-one rap for love, then spent the next 22 years methodically looking for God. Gabriel Black wasn’t exactly on the fast track for success when his lover pulled out a gun and shot her husband dead with him looking on, but even so he didn’t need to take the gun away from her and claim he did it. His act of sacrifice got him life without parole, and he never saw or heard from the woman again, even though he continues to imagine their lives together and writes her poignant letters. Having established on his cellblock that he is not a man to be buggered (by slicing open the scrotum of a would-be attacker), Gabriel is left alone, with plenty of time to create his “God file.” Intended to serve as accumulated evidence of God’s existence, it contains his letters, dreams, conversations with fellow inmates and accounts of prison experience, and above all reflections on his Catholic childhood, his fractured family, and who he has become. But the years of contemplation pale next to a single act of desperation, which leaves a man knifed to death in Gabriel’s cell and him with a new perspective on living.
A strong portrait of a man of nobility at odds with circumstance, but, ultimately, a world not much larger than the filebox Gabriel assembles so obsessively.