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Reverend Eshelman has since 1951 served as Supervising Chaplain for the California State Department of Corrections. Much of his working day is spent at San Quentin, on Death Row ""a grim word where human nature is considered beyond change, except for that produced by introducing cyanide gas into the body chemistry."" His book is a curious composite of autobiography, philosophy, theology, anecdotes about prisoners he has known. Never is the opportunity missed, however, to make a jab at the absurdity of capital punishment. Barbara Graham, whom Hollywood exonerated via the sympathetic histrionics of Susan Hayward, was among the waiters with whom Eshelman stood watch. Though he does not claim Graham was innocent, the author refutes the common belief that she confessed her guilt while on the Row. Over a period of twelve years, Reverend Eshelman discussed everything from Aristotelian logic to tax problems with Caryl Chessman: ""I saw him grow and mature, and learn to channel the explosive forces within him into power for social good."" In the closing chapters of the book, there is an unusually vigorous and telling set of arguments. Byron Eshelman can defend life clinically and theologically; and perhaps both world views can best be summed up in his contention that ""The society that executes its problem children is destroying its own access to insight and self understanding."" A consistently lively and interesting work.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1962
Publisher: Prentice-Hall