Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Captive Audiences

Is it a good thing for a writer to be popular in jail?

As a criminal defense attorney, I am always on my guard when a stranger approaches, especially after hearing about the shootings of attorneys in the last few days. Is this person coming at me a disgruntled client?  Could it be someone I cross-examined in a case, or the brother of someone who is now in prison? Yesterday in court, I had such a situation-- a young man, tattoos on his forehead, looked at me strangely, as if trying to place me.

"Do I know you?" I asked.

"Yeah, from jail," he said. That was not surprising. He kept staring at me, I wasn't sure if it was a threat or just curiousity.

"You're that writer guy," he said at last. "I read your book in prison."

"Did you like it?" I asked nervously.

"I did," he said without hestitiaton. "I really liked the ending."

I've already told about "story hours" in my jail, where literate inmates have read my stories to those who can't read. I have been challenged to a "write-off" by a felon in a Seg Pod, who feels that his book is better than mine. I even had inmates quote my books back to me.

Before my first book was published, I will always remember that a producer in LA once told me that he didn't think my writing was "authentic." This producer had never been incarcerated of course.  I felt like having the guy in court call him up and say "Miller is authentic!"

So I suppose it's a good thing.

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