A major American novel, and arguably the finest work of literature ever to emerge from a US prison, On the Yard is a book of penetrating psychological realism in which Malcolm Braly paints an unforgettable picture of the complex and frightening world of the penitentiary. At its center are the violently intertwined stories of Chilly Willy, in trouble with the law from his earliest years and now the head of the prison’s flourishing black market in drugs and sex, and of Paul, wracked with guilt for the murder of his wife and desperate for some kind of redemption. At once brutal and tender, clear-eyed and rueful, On the Yard presents the penitentiary not as an exotic location, an exception to everyday reality, but as an ordinary place, one every reader will recognize, American to the core.
Life in prison is the subject of Braly's 1967 classic On the Yard, now back in print with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem. Braly, who wrote the book while doing time in San Quentin, has an uncommon ear for the rhythms of big house speech. The expertly drawn ensemble cast and institutional insight may remind readers of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Braly does for prisons what Kesey did for the insane asylum.