We all know that life in prison ain’t grand, but the utter horror of it springs from the pages of this autobiography, written by a one-time death-row inmate. Billy Wayne Sinclair is now serving a reduced 90-year sentence for murdering a Baton Rouge convenience store owner in a robbery gone wrong more than three decades ago. His story of an adult life spent in one of Louisiana’s harshest prisons is amazing, not only because he has survived with his soul intact, but because it provides such a raw look at the inner workings of a system bent on revenge, not rehabilitation.
Sinclair claims he was brutally beaten by his father as a child. But that abuse has been upstaged by the stabbings, suicides, and rapes he has witnessed while in custody of the state. His descriptions of lives lost behind bars are gripping and tragic. Along the way, Sinclair also chronicles bloody integration battles, drug dealing, and political corruption. And he falls in love.
Coauthor and wife Jodie Sinclair was a TV reporter working on a death-row story when the two met. Their unlikely pairing consumes much of the latter half of the book, although the story falls short in conveying the emotional depths of the relationship. The Sinclairs may not win the sympathy of every reader, but they have succeeded at providing a rare view of what happens to prisoners long after the crimes and court dates are over. (Jodi Mailander Farrell)