PUBLISHERS WEEKLY GIVES EUREKA MAN A BUY THE BOOK STATUS!

This just in: I have just received notification that the prestigious magazine, Publishers Weekly, has  reviewed EUREKA MAN and given it BUY THIS BOOK status.

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PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

September 28, 2015
Eureka Man
Patrick Middleton, Author

This compelling book tells the story of a young man whose crimes sentence him to a life in prison, but do not keep him from creating a life for himself. Oliver Priddy is a high school honors student who commits a robbery and assaults his abusive stepfather, which lands him in reform school to finish his senior year. There he gets in serious trouble for killing a bully who brutally attacks him, and Oliver is sentenced to life in Pennsylvania’s notorious Riverview Penitentiary. Oliver hopes for release in 15–20 years and resolves to improve himself by tutoring other inmates and enrolling in the University of Pittsburgh’s prison campus. He lives a student’s life, forming relationships with other inmates, his supervisor, his advisor, and other students. Ultimately, this is an inspiring novel; Oliver never loses hope, no matter how grim his situation seems. The story, set over 17 years, is moved along primarily through dialogue; the characters have distinct, well-rendered voices. Oliver’s achievements are a lesson in determination, and the triumph of hope and tenacity under difficult circumstances. (BookLife) Buy this book.
Image 7-28-15 at 3.32 PM

7 More Frequently Asked Questions About Prison Life

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp else what’s a heaven for?”

In my last post, I invited you, my readers, to leave your questions about prison and prison life in the comment box at the end of my blog post. The invitation stands. Following are seven more frequently asked questions about prison. Don’t forget to leave your question(s) at the end. Thanks.

7 More Frequently Asked Questions About Prison Life

1) Q: Are older prisoners treated any better than the younger ones?

A: In Pennsylvania, for the most part, only in the older prisons are the aging prisoners shown a little more respect and consideration. The main reason for this, I believe, is that when in the 20+ new prisons were built and filled beginning in the mid to late 80s to the present, most of the staff in these new prisons were new to the systems and inexperienced. They didn’t have veteran guards around to show them the way, so they established their own way, hence, the loss of compassion and a little lead-way for the old-timers. This new generation of guards doesn’t want to be viewed as being “soft” by their peers or by the prison population, and showing compassion is often taken as a sign of weakness, so they don’t tend to show it much. They want to always give the impression and send the message that they are in control. The guards in the old prisons came up differently, were trained differently, and I must say they were and are treated with much more respect than the newer generation of guards.

2) Q: Are prisoners with serious mental health problems housed in prisons alongside “normal” prisoners?

A: Yes. Most of them live on a special housing unit of their own, but they eat meals right alongside us, go to the same yard as we go to, and attend the same church services and other functions that we attend. There have always been prisoners with serious mental health issues living and functioning in the general population.

3) Q: Is the suicide rate high in prisons?

A: I don’t know what is considered “high”, but they do occur far too often. Most men I’ve know who have taken their lives in here were not on any mental health rosters either. They just got tired and lost all hope and the will to go on.

4) Q: During a prison riot, what do the prisoners who don’t want to participate in the riot do?

A: I’ve only witnessed two riots, or major disturbances, in all of my years in prison; in both circumstances, those men who didn’t want to be a part of the riot just stayed out of the way. Usually, if a man is not an informant or a child molester or a known jerk and doesn’t want to participate in the riot, he’s left alone. Incidentally, riots rarely, if ever, improve prison conditions. While it can be said that one of the worst riots in American history, the Attica riot in 1971 did improve some of the inhumane conditions that existed in that prison before the riot, one has to ask if the price those prisoners paid was worth it. In the end, twenty-nine prisoners and 10 guards were massacred by the state police, and many other prisoners were maimed for life.

5) Q: How do drugs and other contraband get inside the prisons?

A: There are multiple ways, and I must leave it at that. This is not a question I feel comfortable commenting on.

6) Q: Are there healthy friendships between some prisoners and guards?

A: Absolutely not. Nor should there be. Lots of prisoners try to form friendships with the guards because it brings them comfort and makes them feel safer. It’s a form of the Stockholm Syndrome; bonding with one’s captors. They hang out with the guards and exchange all sorts of information about what is going on inside the prison. I’ve never known a single one of these men who wasn’t considered a traitor by the prisoners who know better than to engage in this sort of behavior. Most guards who work the cell blocks or housing units on a regular basis seek out these “friendships” in an effort to use the man, and they do. No longer can you walk on a housing unit in a Pennsylvania prison and see a guard sitting alone at his post. Now you will always see one or two prisoners leaning into the guard at the desk, joking and laughing, and often whispering. This sort of behavior was unthinkable years ago. Again, guards are not, and can never be, our friends, and this is not just because they despise prisoners, in general; it goes deeper than that. They are not here to help us. Their job title of “correctional officer” is nothing more than a euphemism. They are simply guards, and their job is to maintain the orderly running of the area in which they are assigned to work, to keep themselves and their fellow guards safe, and that is the gist of it. The only use they have for a prisoner is to obtain information from him. The relationship between a prison guard and a prisoner should always be viewed as adversarial.

7) Q: In a 24 hour period, how many hours are prisoners locked up in their cells?

A: Prisoners who have full-time jobs are generally out of their cells for 9 to 10 hours a day. Prisoners who don’t have jobs are generally out of their cells 7 to 8 hours.

Patrick Middleton

Patrick Middleton is a prisoner, author, and professional editor. Patrick is the author of Introduction to Experimental Psychology, 2nd edition (instructor’s manual and test battery and Research Methods, 3rd edition, (instructor’s manual and test battery); Healing Our Imprisoned Minds, a successful self-help book that is about to come out in a second edition; a memoir, Incorrigible; and the just released literary novel, Eureka Man. Patrick holds a Ph.D degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He was an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pittsburgh (1983-1989) and Villanova University (2007-2010) for graduate and undergraduate students. He has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania since 1975.

If you have a question about prisons or prison life, you can post it in the comment box below and Patrick will answer it in a future post.

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Prison Life

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp else what's a heaven for?"

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp else what’s a heaven for?”

Over the past forty years, many professional and non-professional people have asked me a variety of questions about prison life and issues. Now in the aftermath of the “great escape” that recently occurred in New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility, many of these same questions and others have been popping up on CNN, HLN and various morning talk shows. Unfortunately, many of the individuals who have been called on to respond to the questions haven’t been a hundred percent accurate in their responses. In this blog post and several to follow, I’d like to address these and other frequently asked questions about prisons and prison life. I would also like to answer any questions you, my readers, may have. I invite you to leave your question(s) in the comment box at the end of this post. Thanks.

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Prison Life

1) Q: It was reported right after the recent prison escape at the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York that the two escapees had had a sexual relationship with a female employee in the prison. Does this sort of thing go on frequently?

A: It’s not rampant, but it does happen from time to time. Most male prisoners are heterosexuals and, thus, are naturally attracted to women; it’s only natural for a healthy, heterosexual man who is being deprived of having a “normal” heterosexual relationship to seek it from a willing woman, no mattter that there are rules against it. Men are not in prison for being choir boys, and having sex with a female employee is not a crime, it’s just against the rules. There’s a price to pay when you get caught, but for many men who have a lot of time to do, it’s worth the price. It should be noted too that the penalty you pay if you’re caught is far, far worse than the penalty a man pays when he is caught having sex with another man in prison.

2) Q: Is homosexuality condoned in prison?

A: Yes, as long as it’s consensual. A new policy came out last week defining prison rape, and in the definition of rape, there is a clause that reads, “…unless it is consensual…” In every prison in Pennsylvania, there are many known homosexuals living in a cell with “their man.” So, yes, it’s condoned, or at least tolerated. The penalty for getting caught is usually 30 days in the hole and then the individuals are released back into the population, “free” to double with another man again. In contrast, the standard penalty for a man who is caught having sex with a woman is 90 days in the hole, an automatic transfer, and an ‘H’ code, which means the man is now a high security risk, and is to be watched closely.

3) Q: What are the honor blocks like and who gets to live on them?

A: The honor blocks in Pennsylvania’s prisons provide a few amenities that the regular cell blocks don’t provide. This includes an ice machine and usually a weight lifting machine. In addition, prisoners on the honor blocks are allowed to stay out in the day room a little longer in the evenings to play cards or watch television, whereas the rest of the prison is locked down at 8:45 every evening. Honor block prisoners may also come out of their cells right after certain counts are made, whereas the prisoners in the other housing units must remain locked down for usually an hour longer. The other advantages honor block prisoners have are psychological in nature. Many guards and staff members consider honor block prisoners to be “model prisoners,” and they are more often than not treated with a little more respect and consideration. There are long-term prisoners (e.g., lifers) living on these blocks as well as short-term prisoners. The honor block is an incentive-based program, so when an honor block prisoner receives what they call a Class I misconduct and is found guilty of that misconduct, he is removed from the honor block. So rarely do these prisoners cause any major problems, as they don’t want to lose the few amenities they have there.

I should add that in Pennsylvania’s prisons, the administration has very strict guidelines on who can live on these honor blocks. The two prisoners who are recently escaped from the honor block inside New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility would have never been on an honor block in a Pennsylvania prison. In Pennsylvania, if a prisoner has any history of escaping, as the two New York escapees had, even if these escapes occurred as a juvenile, his custody level automatically includes an ‘H’ code, which means, “high security,” which means the prisoner’s every move is scrutinized.

4) Q: Do child molesters and other sex offenders really have a more difficult time surviving in prison than other prisoners?

A: They used to. In the old prisons, these offenders were raped and beaten regularly, and many were, and still are placed in what they call protective custody, or administrative segregation. In the ’85 riot at Western Penitentiary, the first thing the prisoners did when they got a hold of the guards’ keys was to unlock the administrative segregation’s protective custody cells. The sex offenders and child molesters who were in these cells were raped and beaten throughout the night.

Prison rapes occur much less frequently today because the new prisons they’ve built are designed so that the guards can see just about everything that goes on in the housing units (they’re no longer called cell blocks because the designs have changed.) Now there are cameras on every housing unit that constantly record and identify who is going into any given cell. However, child molesters still get roughed up, spit on and pointed out in crowds, and every once in a while they get brutalized physically.

5) Q: Why does the recidivism rate continue to be so high?

A: There are multiple reasons for this. In PA prisons, the most promising progress, in terms of lowering recidivism, were removed beginnings in the late 80s. There are no longer vocational training programs where a man can earn certification as a welder, a plumber, an electronics technician, or an auto mechanic. They also removed most in-house four-year college programs. The research that was conducted on the efficacy of these programs on lowering recidivism was very positive. Yet, they are gone. Another factor has to do with the lack of any effective counseling and cognitive development programs. A large number of men come to prison with faulty thinking skills and lots of anger; when they leave prison, their thinking hasn’t changed and they’re more angry than they were when they first came to prison. So there’s all that, and then there’s the societal components, which can be summed up in four words–a lack of opportunity. They return to the same dysfunctional environments they came from, they have no money, little to no job skills, and in most cases, even less hope. So what do you expect they’re going to do?

Patrick Middleton

Patrick Middleton is a prisoner, author, and professional editor. Patrick is the author of Introduction to Experimental Psychology, 2nd edition (instructor’s manual and test battery and Research Methods, 3rd edition, (instructor’s manual and test battery); Healing Our Imprisoned Minds, a successful self-help book that is about to come out in a second edition; a memoir, Incorrigible; and the just released literary novel, Eureka Man. Patrick holds a Ph.D degree from the university of Pittsburg. He was an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pittsburg (1983-1989) and Villanova University (2007-2010) for graduate and undergraduate students. He has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania since 1975.

If you have any question about prisons or prison life, you can post it in the comment box below and Patrick will answer it in a future post.

LESSONS IN LIFE: On Funky Days

LESSONS IN LIFE: On Funk Days

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp else what's a heaven for?"

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp else what’s a heaven for?”

We’ve all heard it before. A man greets another man: “How’re you doing this morning?” And the other man responds with, “Oh, you know, man. It’s the same old same old.” Or, Ain’t nothin’ changed, man. Same as yesterday. It’s just another funky day.”

Yesterday started out to be just another day. I went to breakfast, saw the same geese chattering and squawking as they flew over the prison, just like they’d done the day before and the day before that. Those same handsome cell dogs were in the yard for their morning walk, and the same humongous groundhog I watched yesterday morning was peeking out of its tunnel in the yard outside my window.

After breakfast I was called to the dispensary to have the callous on my foot shaved. I signed in and then sat on the bench to wait. Beside me sat a man who looked to be about my age (never mind). His left foot was wrapped heavily with gauze and red stuff was oozing from his toes. “How you doing, man?” I asked. The man was obviously in pain. He squinted, kept his eyes on his foot and said, “Not too good. They just cut off three of my toes. Damn diabetes.” I said, “That’s too bad. Diabetes runs in my family, too, and it scares the hell out of me. I’ve been lucky so far.” We spent the next ten minutes sharing names of family members who have diabetes.

When the nurse called my name, I said goodbye and good luck to the fellow and followed the nurse into the room. In the corner of the room, a prisoner sat in a wheelchair grasping his chest and grimacing. He was struggling with each breath, but he managed to cry out, “Nurse! Nurse, I’m having a heart attack! Please help me!” The nurse said, “The doctor is on his way. Just hang in there.” She told me to take a seat and remove my shoe and sock. I watched as she took the other prisoner’s blood pressure. A minute later the doctor walked nonchalantly into the room and asked me where the pain was. I said, “It doesn’t really hurt until I step on a rock, Doc.” The nurse shouted, “Not him! This one over here, doctor!”

Suddenly, I no longer want my callous treated. All I wanted was to get up and walk out of that room and find those geese, those four beautiful dogs and that waddling groundhog, and just look at them, man, and really see them! And the next fellow who told me how miserable his day was, I would remind him that he has toes to wiggle and a heart that pumps and eyes to see and if that’s not enough to be thankful for, then what is?

Patrick Middleton

Patrick Middleton is a prisoner, author, and professional editor. Patrick is the author of Introduction to Experimental Psychology, 2nd edition (instructor’s manual and test battery and Research Methods, 3rd edition, (instructor’s manual and test battery); Healing Our Imprisoned Minds, a successful self-help book that is about to come out in a second edition; a memoir, Incorrigible; and the just released literary novel, Eureka Man. Patrick holds a Ph.D degree from the university of Pittsburg. He was an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pittsburg (1983-1989) and Villanova University (2007-2010) for graduate and undergraduate students. He has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania since 1975.

LESSONS IN LIFE: Cultivating Friendships


LESSONS IN LIFE: Cultivating Friendships

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp else what’s a heaven for?”

One annoying cliché repeated so often by prisoners who are still green behind the ears is, “A man doesn’t have any friends in prison. Only acquaintances.” I used to argue passionately with these fellows in an attempt to convert them: “How can you say that?” I asked. “I have several friends in here, good friends.” But to a man, it all came down to trust: “You’re crazy if you trust anybody in prison.” I never changed a single mind. I came to feel sorry for them, though. But I knew that if they stayed here long enough, they would learn the truth about another cliché–no man is an island.

When I was a teen, my grandfather would often remind me to choose my friends carefully. I never did though. I had one real friend and he chose me. I was a juvenile delinquent, whereas he was an upstanding boy. Throughout all my skullduggery, my friend was there for me–never embarrassed, never judging, never giving up on me. Fifty years later, he’s an engineer and I’m a seasoned convict. And we’re still friends. There’s a lesson here. It has to do with loyalty.

Prison has taught me some precious lessons about life. I’ve learned, for example, that there are two distinct worlds in which we human beings live–the internal and external. Each has its boundaries of freedom. My external world now consists of the walkways and hallways, the prison yard, the chapel and other buildings, and this little room of a cell. There is much more freedom, though, in my internal world. The walkways can lead to just about anywhere, and I am free to follow them. I am free to believe, too. I can believe in a God or none at all. I can choose to study algebra or geometry, trigonometry or calculus. I can choose to see the glass as half empty or half full. And if I choose, I can cultivate love and goodwill in the hearts and minds of others and my own.

And then there are lessons about friendship. How life is so much better when we have a few good friends to share it with. It takes time, years, to cultivate lasting friendships. It starts with trust. We take chances, we show our vulnerabilities, and it’s a beautiful thing when it’s reciprocated. Along the way, we learn to listen and encourage, we share our histories, our hills and valleys, we laugh and tease and sometimes cry together, and so much more.

Many of the friends I’ve gained over the years are fellow musicians. We worked hard together. We argued, we fussed, we created lots of goo music and many special memories. We grew as musicians and as human beings. We came to depend on each other for a smile or an ear when we needed it. There was a spiritual comfort in knowing that the had my back and I had theirs.

What do you do after you’ve shared years of your life with a friend who goes home and leave you behind, or dies suddenly? How do you deal with that “missing you” feeling, that homesick feeling you felt when you first came to prison?

We stay strong. We wait for time to lessen the pain. We work on new friendships. And from time to time, we rearrange the pictures of our friends in our photo albums; we relive the memories of them in our hearts and minds. And if that’s not enough, we talk to our old friends when we’re alone. We tell them how much we miss them.

And then we remember that in having known them, life itself has been good to us.

Patrick Middleton

Patrick Middleton is a prisoner, author, and professional editor. Patrick is the author of Introduction to Experimental Psychology, 2nd edition (instructor’s manual and test battery and Research Methods, 3rd edition, (instructor’s manual and test battery); Healing Our Imprisoned Minds, a successful self-help book that is about to come out in a second edition; a memoir, Incorrigible; and the just released literary novel, Eureka Man. Patrick holds a Ph.D degree from the university of Pittsburg. He was an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Pittsburg (1983-1989) and Villanova University (2007-2010) for graduate and undergraduate students. He has been incarcerated in Pennsylvania since 1975.

I am pleased and honored to share this news I just received from KIRKUS REVIEWS

KIRKUS REVIEWS

TITLE INFORMATION
EUREKA MAN
Middleton, Patrick
CreateSpace (270 pp.IMG_1625
$11.50 paperback, $3.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1494224202; October 15, 2014

BOOK REVIEW
A debut novel about a decade in the life of an incarcerated man who attempts to vindicate himself through higher education and enlightenment.

 

Oliver Priddy, as the story opens, is a teenager sentenced to do time in a Pennsylvania boys’ reform school for assaulting his abusive stepfather and committing a robbery. When he becomes the focus of school bully Jimmy Six’s bloody violence, he exacts vengeance by killing Jimmy with a baseball bat—which lands him in Riverview Penitentiary in 1977 to serve a life sentence for murder, with no possibility of parole. But although Middleton keeps his protagonist firmly under lock and key, he also spins Priddy’s seemingly hopeless situation into a tale of strength and perseverance, revealing Priddy’s abusive family history along the way. The inmate radically changes his self-destructive course of conduct after some much-needed introspection, and after receiving visits from his brother, his biological father and his new love, Penelope. He also gets kind words from his fellow inmate Early Greer, who counsels him to “[g]o to school,
learn a trade.” He busies himself in the ward’s education department, under the guidance of a volunteer professor. He also faces challenges from sexual predators, as prisoner deaths at the institution mysteriously increase. Despite the dangers, Priddy still manages to educate himself and compare notes with other inmates, such as Champ Burnett, an intimidating prisoner he tutors in math in exchange for protection inside the jailhouse. Middleton, a prisoner whose own incarceration has produced college degrees, textbooks, a memoir and a self-help book, crafts an atmospheric, semi-autobiographical tale. In it, he effectively captures the prison experience, complete with panicked lockdowns, riots, bittersweet visitations from friends and family, and the unquenchable passion of becoming a self-made intellectual while living life permanently behind bars. Overall, it’s a story about the power of positive thinking and hard work, and
Priddy’s story shines with hopefulness throughout.

A searingly honest novel of determination and redemption that’s also an emotionally rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744
indie@kirkusreviews

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NEWS FLASH: Eureka Man Unleashed!

11/12/2014

Greetings, friends and fans! I am most pleased to announce that my new novel, Eureka Man, is now available at both Amazon and Smashwords. Set in Pittsburgh’s notorious Riverview Penitentiary, Eureka Man is a coming-of-age story that follows the life of handsome and headstrong young Oliver Priddy, while the combined forces of blackmail, harsh prison conditions, and a beautiful college professor converge on Oliver and turn his ivy league prison upside down.

Smashwords offers multiple ebook formats for various devices. You can also read the first 20% of the book here FREE.

Eureka Man is available in paperback or Kindle format at Amazon. It is also available at Smashwords for other Ebook devices.

Eureka Man is also listed on these fine literary sites:

oyster.com, scrib’d.com and goodreads.com

Meantime, won’t you take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know? And, finally, I would be grateful if you would write a thoughtful and balanced review once you’ve read the book. Give me your insights and feedback. You can post your review here in the reply box at the bottom of this page or at your favorite online retailer.

Thanks so much for your support!

Sincerely,

Patrick Middleton

♦♦♦♦♦

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR 

by Ben Grandis 11/12/2014

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, Eureka Man. Why don’t you start by telling us about the title and how it relates to the story?

Sure. None of my editors and early readers liked any of the half-dozen titles I had come up with. One afternoon, my wife Marta an I were playing that old free association game. You know, where you say the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Well, the moment Marta blurted out “Eureka Man,” I knew instantly it was the right title for the book. Oliver Priddy, the young protagonist in the novel, is always having these Eureka moments where he “gets something–an idea, a truth, a realization. He is the Eureka Man. So that’s how the title came about, and my wife gets all the credit.

Eureka Man is listed as literary fiction. For the sake of young readers and others who may not fully understand that term, would you explain what makes a novel fall into the literary fiction category?

Author Ken Follett once said that thrillers are about one thing — danger. You think up a dangerous situation in which to place people, create a setting, etc., and then you find a way to draw the story out for a hundred thousand words. One of the cardinal rules of writing literary fiction is that less is more. You allow the writing to speak for itself in a somewhat more formal style through the use of figurative language — analogies, allusions (not illusions!), metaphors, and similes. These are generally employed not just to achieve some aesthetic quality, but usually to suggest something more, something symbolic, perhaps some abstract or universal idea about what it means to be human. In my novel, I set out to present the protagonist Oliver Priddy and his actions in such a way that my readers could see themselves doing the same thing if they were put in his circumstances. Oliver Priddy is much like you and anybody else. He’s human, he’s doing the best he can, but unfortunate events and circumstances still seem to follow and find him. In spite of it all, though, he grows in knowledge of self and the world. He shows us what makes him tick and shares with the reader a partial meaning to human existence through his own acquired philosophy. And herein lies another trait of literary fiction—creating characters who are best suited for providing the greatest range and depth of ideas to the reader. In Eureka Man, Oliver Priddy is one of those characters.

You didn’t give your protagonist a sympathetic bent.

Nope. Eureka Man is not a story about forgiveness, or even of seeking forgiveness. It’s more about survival and self-preservation and redemption. Oliver doesn’t spend much time thinking about getting out of prison because he’s too busy living in the present. He creates a life for himself in prison that has many of the qualities of life lived anywhere. And there’s nothing sympathetic about that.

What kind of book is Eureka Man in terms of genre?

Simply put, it’s a literary novel, out with a caveat: It’s a psychological study, and it’s a bit of a mystery and a romance. It’s a novel that can’t be narrowly pigeon-holed. One thing the book is not is a stereotypical prison novel.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?

Well, even though I didn’t begin writing the official first draft until the spring of 2010, this novel has been simmering in my head for a very long time. I started writing short stories back in the late 80s and early 90s, and many of the scenes and characters in those stories ended up in the book.

How much rewriting and revising did you have to do?

Lots. My writing does not come out fully formed after the first or second draft. I am very hard on myself and that’s because I’ve arrived at a point where I know when something I’ve written is good or not. I’ve been a professional editor for close to thirty years, so there are those standards to meet. But there’s more. Every word, sentence and paragraph, every page i write is put to the test: If it’s not compelling and compulsive readings to me, it has to go. Eureka Man, I believe is a compelling read.

How the story takes place in the fictitious Riverview Penitentiary located on the North Side of the city of Pittsburgh. You once lived in the real Riverview Pen, didn’t you?

Yes, I did. Riverview Pen is the mirror image of Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, where i spent the first thirteen of my now forty years in prison. The name was changed in the novel, but the book is spot-on in its description of the real Western Pen, right down to the streets and alleyways and the thick green ivy that used to crawl over the walls of the old Home Block.

You’ve heard the saying “write what you know.” Is that a good adage? Do you think a writer who’s never experienced prison life firsthand can write an effective novel set in a prison?

Whether the saying is good or bad depends on the subject matter, I think. I believe it was author Ken Follet who said that, if you’re writing about flying airplanes and you have a scene where you have to on for forty pages describing someone flying an airplane for the first time, you would probably do better if you had my firsthand experience. Stephen King was never in prison to my knowledge, but he wrote two very compelling prison stories in The Green Mile and the short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Both of these stories do a spectacular job of capturing prison life, excuse the pun. However, what I set out to do that might distinguish my novel from these stories was to explore the deep aesthetics of prison life and the intricacies of relationships that only a person who’s been a prisoner for a very long time can truly know about.

What is it about Eureka Man that you hope will pique the reader’s interest?

The story dispels so many myths about prison life and stereotypes. For example, how many people can fathom that someone living in prison can thrive and be productive and celebrate life every single day? Or that even among seriously flawed human beings goodness exists in abundance? That hope and redemption and love and compassion and loyalty exist in prison?

When the magazine journalist, Hope Best, comes to interview Oliver in her office, she asks him to tell her everything he can about prison, and here’s one of the things he offers her: “And in case you didn’t know it, Ms. Best, there are real live love-affairs in this place, too, just like anywhere else. A teacher, a secretary, a nurse, a female guard, or any other willing woman can ease the pain in a man’s groin and at the same time ease the I’m-so-lonesome-I-could-die stuff in his head.” Is this an example of dispelling a prison myth?

Yes, it is. In a previous chapter there’s also a passage that reads: “What the world knows about what goes on between the sheets in prison can be summed up in a phrase: Bubbas and pretty Michaels.” Oliver has two motives in the passage you just quoted. He wants to expose the myth about prison sex; and at the same time he wants to plant a subtle seed in Hope Best’s mind.

What would you like to accomplish with Eureka Man besides selling lots of copies?

I hope anyone who reads the book will agree that it would make a terrific movie. So there’s always that. Of course, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for something like that to happen. Really though, what I truly hope is that readers will discover they share a common humanity with some of the characters in the story. If that happens I’ll be deeply grateful.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ve often thought about this question. My problem in answering it is that I don’t know enough about young actors of today to match them up with some of my characters. Denzel Washington would be perfect for the role of Champ if they could make him look 25 years younger. A young Julia Roberts would be ideal for the role of Penelope. I have no thoughts on who might be suited to play the young Oliver Priddy, but in his latter years Ben Affleck or Rob Lower would be spot-on. For Dr. B.J Dallet, I would choose Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep. For Sgt. Dewey, I would go with Forrest Whitaker. To play Wayne St. Pierre’s character, I would want a young Robert Duvall. And I think James Earl Jones would nail Early Greer’s role, and for Warden I.M. White’s role, I’d pick Don Cheadle.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my next novel, tentatively titled, Dickie Gee’s Blues. The story begins in the 1950s in a Southern Maryland town called La Plata. Without giving away too much, the plot centers around the intricate friendship between a white family and a black family that goes back three generations. The central character is a twelve-year-old boy named Dickie Gee Moody who witnesses the murder of a black man who has ties to Dickie Gee’s family. Dickie recognizes the culprit, but his father forces him to conceal the identity of the murderer. As he gets older, Dickie Gee’s maniacal obsession to bring down the killer takes over the story. I’m very excited about the project.

In three words, what do you feel now that your book has just been published?

Nervous. Excited. Hopeful.