An edge-of-your-seat thriller for all fans of James Ellroy, Cormac McCarthy and John Grisham. For fans of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Rock.
After three years' hard time, minding no-one's business but his own, Ray Klein wins his parole. That same day, the disciplinary perfection of Green River State Penitentiary is torn apart by tribal war, and the prison falls into the hands of its inmates.
As the River sucks them all towards the abyss, Klein must choose either to claim his freedom and leave the ones he cares for to die, or risk everything and fight...
Few thrillers aspire to high art; fewer still make the grade. This one, a first novel by an English psychiatrist, exploits the dramatic potential of prison life and gets an A for ambition only. Here, it's a Texas big house whose dome of green glass obviates all privacy and permits its crazed warden, John Hobbes, to enact the arcane correctional theories of philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The ideas of Bentham (and of Kant) seep through the narrative--which focuses on how Ray Klein, an M.D. convicted of rape, behaves during a brutal riot. Willocks coats his narrative with a glaze of intellectuality that's cracked with pretentions: in one scene, Klein and Hobbes discuss fate and free will in terms that should make a coffeehouse poseur blush (``Even the man before the firing squad has a choice,'' said Hobbes. ``He can fall whimpering to his knees or he can refuse the blindfold and sing''). Beneath the glaze lies an utterly conventional--if smartly paced--plot in which villains (Hobbes; savage cons) wear black and get their comeuppance, the heroes (Klein; a gang leader; an aging trustee) wear white and emerge triumphant and the sole woman character serves mostly to provide a graphic sex scene or two. The prose is sinewy but narcissistic, while the atmospherics, though powerful, don't match those of Mitchell Smith's comparable Stone City. First serial to Granta; film rights to Alan J. Pakula/Warner Bros.