Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Hi folks,

MEGA UPDATE! JUST LIKE THAT keeps moving up! Just checked the rankings and here's where it is now:

Thanks, folks! It would send me into orbit if it hit #1 on either list!

UPDATE! Your support has been overwhelming! Just checked Amazon's stats and here's where JUST LIKE THAT is right now:

Keep it up, please! My understanding is that if a book cracks the top 100 Amazon itself begins promoting it once it goes back for sale. Also, if you'd click on the "Like" button I'm told it helps. Again, THANKS!

There are a couple of blog posts that came out today that you may find interesting. Both are by Jed Ayres, the really cool writer who hosts Noir @ the Bar in St. Louis where I was recently privileged to appear and read at. Jed and I struck up a friendship and he wanted to know which books and movies I thought portrayed prisons accurately. Since I’m not aware of many, I talked instead about why I thought most got prison life wrong.

Lately, I seem to have gotten my needle stuck on railing against the many inaccuracies about prison in books and movies. Mostly, that’s because I’ve just had it after reading book after book by writers who don’t have a clue and keep perpetuating out-and-out falsehoods. I’m kind of old-school in that it was always drummed into me that a writer needed to be accurate. That the second-worst thing that could happen to a writer was that an editor found a factual error in a manuscript. The single-worst thing is for a reader to find such an error—that meant the editor missed it and that kind of makes ‘em angry.

But, like many things, it’s apparent to me that standards have slipped in the last generation. I may be wrong, but I see substantially more and more writers who don’t give a damn if they’re accurate or not. Not even a consideration. That, to me, is simply evidence of one thing. Laziness.

What allows writers to get lazy is that no one calls them on these things. Most inmates are poorly-educated and don’t read all that much. Not to mention that most prison libraries are abysmal. The one at my alma mater, Pendleton, consisted mostly of Zane Grey paperbacks witht the covers torn off for their fiction offerings. (Never figured out why an inmate wanted those covers but they do.) Not only don’t inmates in any appreciable numbers read crime or prison novels, it’s not like they’re regularly invited on Good Morning America to set the record straight. Not much of a forum for us ex-cons to let the public know that Mr. Megaseller is a phony and wouldn’t know a criminal from his dentist. So, writers creating prison scenes pretty much have carte blanche. And that’s why I guess I’m talking about it these days. If a heart procedure appears in a novel and the surgeon uses a soup spoon to open up the chest cavity, you can be fairly certain a number of white-coated folks are going to be on TV and talking to reporters about the moron who wrote the medical thriller with the spoon. However, nobody’s asking us ex-cons if anyone in a real-life joint ever actually used the word “shiv” in actual conversation. (They don’t. It’s almost always exclusively “shank.” Or… ready?... knife.) If I ever heard an actual inmate use the term shiv, I’d know instantly this was a young kid who’d never been inside and got his knowledge of prison lore from bad movies and novels and was most likely headed for a bad ending as everyone would know this was a guy who’d be easy pickings—he’s just revealed he’s an innocent and cons eat guys like this alive. Whenever I see this particular word, it always sets my teeth on edge.

Anyway, check out Jed’s blogs. I’d begin with his Barnes & Noble newsletter for the first part of our conversation at http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Ransom-Notes-The-BN-Mystery-Blog/Inside-Scoop-Les-Edgerton-s-Reasons-Why-Your-Prison-Fiction-Is/ba-p/1338672

and then go over to his Noir @ the Bar blog at http://spaceythompson.blogspot.com/2012/05/inside-scoop-les-edgertons-prison-myths.html for the rest of it. BTW. Jed chose to lead this off with a photo of Nicholas Cage in RAISING ARIZONA, and his character in this black comedy as well as his rappies' characters are fairly accurate depictions of ex-cons... Good choice, Jed.

Please know that I'm not advocating that only those who've actually been in prison write novels about prisons or that include prison scenes. Not at all! I don't expect only surgeons or nurses to write medical thrillers. Just make an effort to be accurate. There are probably at least 7-8 million ex-cons walking around, most likely a few even in your neighborhood. Just ask some of us to vet your book. At least make an effort to get it right.

And, if anyone wants an accurate portrayal of the criminal mind or an accurate account of a prison, for the next three days, StoneGate Ink is offering free copies of the ebook version of my autobiographical novel, JUST LIKE THAT. (The paperback version isn’t included in the freebie offering.) This novel is about 85% ripped from my own life and I promise you it’s spot-on.

If you grab a copy, please consider hitting the “Like” button or even leaving a review—it’d be much appreciated.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a guide for writers (and other interested parties) on prison life. Any publishers out there who think this might be something worthwhile to pursue, please get in touch!

Blue skies,


Rob Brunet said...

Les, in my first novel, a dark comedy about petty backwoods criminals, I did my best to limit the "inside" references and descriptions because: 1) it's supposed to be comic and I doubt prison usually is; and 2) I was pretty sure I didn't have a f***ing clue.

You do us all a service with your POV. If we want to make stuff up out of thin air, there are genres for that. Crime fiction isn't one of them.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Rob. Although, prison is often comic and genuinely funny much of the time for those of us inside. We laugh all the time, to be honest. Most don't sit around acting grim at all, but it's a lot like the service where you're with a bunch of your buddies and joking about everything. And, the more gruesome the more we joke. My wife gets mad at me when I crack on things most see as deadly serious. Can't help it. With some of the things you witness, if you didn't joke about them you'd go mad.

Ron Scheer said...

Les, considering all the self-help books for crime fiction writers, you'd think a writer's guide to prison would be a must-have item. I'm not a crime fiction writer but would want a copy out of sheer curiosity.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Ron. I've been thinking about creating a proposal for one. Nice to see there might be some interest! And, it would of necessity be a fairly complex book as one size doesn't fit all. There's a vast difference between state joints and federal joints, for just one example.