LIFE IN PRISON: EIGHT HOURS AT A TIME

By Robert Reilly

Tilbury House Publishers, 2014.

288 pages, $24.95

ISBN 978-0-88448-412-7

It may be hard to imagine, but Robert Reilly actually wanted to go to prison. Several years ago, he was an underemployed musician struggling to support his family, his dream of rock ‘n’ roll fame quickly fading. Reilly desperately needed a real job, so he became a prison guard.

“Life In Prison” is Reilly’s graphic memoir of his years as a prison guard in a Pennsylvania state prison and later in Maine’s “supermax” state prison in Warren. Readers beware: This is not for the squeamish or tender-hearted. His vividly grim and profane portrayal of life for inmates and guards is a stunning exposure to what really happens behind the walls and razor wire of the penal system.

This is Reilly’s first book, but he writes like a seasoned journalist (he’s not), with clear focus and powerful narrative. His experiences and conclusions will be disturbing for many readers, revealing the violence, depravity and despair of inmates, the sometimes callous behavior of guards and the incredible arrogance and incompetence of prison wardens and administrators.

He clearly describes the training for guards (excellent in Pennsylvania, a joke in Maine), and the regimentation of every hour for inmates and guards, as well as the food, living conditions, medical care and lip-service paid to mental health issues and rehabilitation. In fact, he believes that half of all inmates shouldn’t be in prison at all, and the other half should never be let out.

He offers numerous examples of the stress, tension and dangers of being a guard, balanced with anecdotes of humor, kindness and humanity, but he also makes it very clear that no matter what the circumstances, a prison is a really bad place to be.

Reilly lives in Maine, but is no longer a prison guard. He has returned to music.

SEA OF LIBERTY

By Kevin C. Mills

Maine Authors Publishing, 2014

248 pages, $17.95

ISBN 978-1-938883-98-9

In 1774, as war between England and her American colonies looms, Lord North smugly dismisses the colonial problem at the House of Commons in London, blithely saying “Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.”

Of course, he was wrong.

“Sea Of Liberty” is Lewiston author Kevin Mills’ nautical story of the American Revolution as seen through the eyes of privateers, smugglers, merchant seamen and the Royal Navy, set in the years 1773 to 1782. Mills is an award-winning novelist and sportswriter, and this is the third book in his trilogy of maritime history (after “Sons & Daughters Of The Ocean” and “Breakwater”).

This is not a comprehensive historical novel. It makes no attempt to chronicle all the events or the famous figures of the revolution. Instead, it is a story of the men and women of seafaring families trying to make a living and survive during those dreadful years of hardship, separation and sacrifice.

Eli Miller is a Portsmouth, N.H., mariner, first mate on a merchant ship, then later captain of a privateer. He is a patriot and a family man torn between his duty to the new nation and his wife and children. As a privateer, Eli possesses a Letter of Marque, government-issued authority to commit piracy, capturing British vessels for profit. He also dabbles in a bit of lucrative smuggling.

However, such patriotic enterprise earns the deadly attention of Capt. Thomas Kane, Royal Navy, a sadistic officer determined to stamp out smuggling and privateering at any cost, by any means.

With swashbuckling action and suspense, Mills includes pirate chases, bloody sea battles, capture and escape, murder and torture, betrayal and retribution and some nifty seagoing trickery, as men fight on the high seas and families wait forlornly ashore.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.