A native of Brooklyn, New York, and former resident of Danville, California, JIMMY LERNER served in the U.S. Army in Panama, subsequently received his M.B.A., and worked for eighteen years as a marketing executive and planner for Pacific Bell. In 1998 he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter; he has just been released on parole. From the Hardcover edition.
Lerner here recounts his slide from successful marketing executive to "prison fish" (a new prisoner) after he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In the mid-1990s, Lerner killed a man in Las Vegas. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he's now doing time in the Nevada state prison system (he's due to be paroled in January 2002). Even so, he quickly earns, and keeps, readers' sympathies in this wholly engrossing memoir of his time behind bars in part because of the charisma of his voice, in part because of his book's clever structure, which has Lerner come clean about exactly why he's in prison only near the book's end. For 18 years an executive for Pacific Bell, Lerner employs a voice that's charming, canny, sassy, self-deprecating; a voice perhaps not to be entirely trusted, but one that's deeply magnetic. Certainly as a middle-aged, middle-class, highly educated white, Lerner brings an unusual perspective to his prison experiences, which he plays on throughout. "Curiouser and curiouser I felt like Alice fallen into the rabbit hole," he writes. Readers will share that sentiment as, along with Lerner, they negotiate prison life and culture, where you don't enter a man's house (cell) without his permission and where a usable chess set can be fashioned from wet toilet paper and stale toothpaste two examples of the hundreds of details with which Lerner grounds his tale. Curiouser still are the prison denizens he describes, misfits and malfeasants all, most notably his longtime cellmate, Kansas, a white supremacist who takes a shine to the author fortunately, as Kansas is the top "dawg" of the cons. Eventually, Lerner loses his "fish" (newcomer) status, growing adept at prison ways and slang ("And every Righteous Con in the joint knows a catcher ain't nothin' but a punk-ass bitch!"), carrying readers along with him up to the book's final chapters, that is, where he flashes back to the crime that sent him behind bars in passages that reek of self-justification. Overall, this is the most gripping, and most inviting, prison memoir in years. (Feb. 12) Forecast: Any book by a convicted killer, especially post-Jack Abbott, may face some media and public resistance, but the national radio campaign and other publicity planned by Broadway should bring this title serious attention and healthy sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-Tempered with black humor, and with dialogue skillfully written in the vernacular ("Wassup, dawgs"), this tale of prison acclimation reads like an adventure story. The author was a marketing executive for Pacific Bell, complete with an MBA, living near San Francisco, when he was incarcerated in Nevada for manslaughter. He refers to his crime obliquely until the last section of the book, when he details the events that led to the murder of the "monster." First, readers learn what it's like for a 47-year-old, white, middle-class man to suddenly be a "fish" or newcomer to prison. Taken under the wing of Kansas, a muscled skinhead who thinks he is a Nazi descendant, not the Jew he actually is, Lerner manages to survive. And he learns, ironically, using the business education lessons he acquired through years of management seminars (from Managing the Difficult Employee-"mirroring and echoing") how to get along. And, readers finally learn what brought Jimmy to this place. It's an old story-prescription drug abuse and chronic alcoholism. This isn't an angry or self-serving story; the author is only too aware of his failings. He also portrays his fellow convicts in the same honest and sardonically humorous manner. The prison system incurs more of his disdain. The guards, too, fare poorly under his descriptive pen. Lerner's lively and action-packed story is a stunning reality check, showing readers what can happen when you give up your life to the power of an addiction. Tragic and honest, it is a compelling read.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Jimmy Lerner is a terrific writer who has produced an
-Robert Mason, author of Chickenhawk. From the Hardcover edition.