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by Erwin James

The unforgettable story of a damaged little boy who became a fatally damaging man, who embarked on a twenty-year journey behind bars that would take him out of the darkness and into the light

Born in Somerset in 1957 to itinerant Scottish parents, Erwin James lost his mother when he was seven. Shipped from home to home and subject to the whims of various caregivers after his father turned to alcohol and violence, he committed his first crime of breaking and entering when he was ten. His teenage and early adult years were spent drifting, and his petty crime turned increasingly violent, culminating in the terrible events for which he was jailed for life in 1984.

Entering prison at 27, James struggled to come to terms with the enormity of his crimes and a future without purpose or hope. Then he met Joan, a prison psychologist, who helped him to confront the painful truth of his past, and to understand how it had shaped him from such a young age. Her sessions transformed his life. Encouraged to read and to educate himself, over the next twenty years Erwin James would go on to receive a BA in History, and become a regular columnist for the Guardian.

Speaking to the very heart of the human condition, this is a book that offers no excuses – only the need to understand how we become who we become, and shows that no matter how far a person may fall, redemption is possible with the right kind of help. It is an important and timely memoir.

About Erwin James

Erwin James is a Guardian columnist and freelance writer. He is the author of two collections of essays: A Life Inside: A Prisoner's Notebook and The Home Stretch: From Prison to Parole. He is a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and a patron of the charities Create, Blue Sky, the Writers in Prison Foundation, The Reader Organisation, Human Writes and the Prison Phoenix Trust. As a speaker and commentator he is one of the most authoritative voices on prison issues in the UK, having given keynote addresses to the Royal Society in Edinburgh, the Prisons and Probation Union at the Danish parliament in Copenhagen and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and an Honorary Master of the Open University. He lives in Wales.


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