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Life After Death

Life After Death

Book rating: 05 Hardback

By (author) Damien Echols

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Paperback $13.68
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press
  • Format: Hardback | 399 pages
  • Dimensions: 150mm x 229mm x 43mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 18 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0399160205
  • ISBN 13: 9780399160202
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, colour illustrations
  • Sales rank: 22,951

Product description

In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.--who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three--were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the "ringleader," was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011. Now Echols shares his story in full--from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades. In these pages, Echols reveals himself a brilliant writer, infusing his narrative with tragedy and irony in equal measure: he describes the terrors he experienced every day and his outrage toward the American justice system, and offers a firsthand account of living on Death Row in heartbreaking, agonizing detail. "Life After Death" is destined to be a riveting, explosive classic of prison literature.

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Author information

Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Misskelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of "Paradise Lost," a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and "West of Memphis," a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, "Almost Home." He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in New York City.

Customer reviews

By Cel. E 22 Jan 2013 5

Life After Death, by Damien Echols

When a poor, "what trash" eighteen year old and his friends are sentenced to life in prison and Death Row, you have the makings of a decent story, maybe even a feature film that would probably do well at the box office. The catch is that Life After Death, is not a made up feature film. It's a non-fiction memoir written by Damien Echols, the named "ringleader" of the West Memphis 3, three teens who were wrongly convicted of the murder of three young boys in 1993.

The written-in-prison memoir is critically acclaimed and sports a jacket covered with positive reviews from Echols' large circle of celebrity supporters and friends. The fantastic thing about the book is that the reader doesn't even have to try and ignore the celebrity endorsements and the media circus surrounding anything Damien Echols does since his much awaited, campaigned for and eventual release. This book more than speaks for itself and is a brilliant and emotional read.

Without going into much detail about the case, (there are four extensive movie documentaries that do this already, courtesy of HBO and Peter Jackson) Echols holds his own with his ability to seamlessly weave past with present. Echols' style of writing allows the book to flow, from chapters about his first girlfriend while in high school, to hearing another Death Row prisoner be taken to receive a lethal injection, to the present as he is writing the words and describing the exercises he did that day.

Echols spent half his life (at the time of his release) behind bars and the observations made while serving time are incredibly and affectively articulated. Echols describes his own abuse and treatment by the guards during the years he was incarcerated and clearly expresses his thoughts on the dehumanization of people in prison. He describes other men on Death Row having mental problems, one sticky-taping crickets to his body because they were his "friends" and others wearing the same underwear until they changed colour. Echols explains how many of the Death Row prisoners barely know what's going on yet are led to their deaths when their execution date comes up. "The people here are all mentally defective in ways that range from mild retardation to extreme schizophrenia. Others are stuck in a no man's land between sanity and delusion...The mentally handicapped are executed on a regular basis while politicians all give speeches about being tough on crime."

Echols possesses an amazing ability to draw the reader into situations they have little or no experience with and keeps them there until they feel the sense of injustice he has felt. His writing also appeals to the grown-ups who were once the misunderstood kids in black, listening to metal cassettes as he describes his activities before his arrest and all his favourite songs. His talent is something to be reckoned with and although he laments in the memoir that he wishes he could shake the label of being the face of the West Memphis Three, he seems to have things in perspective and leaves the reader feeling that now that he is out, this memoir will not be the last we will see of him.

"I'm not content to settle for one experience when there is a whole lifetime of experiences to be had. I am so hungry for knowledge that I live several lives to acquire it. A Catholic and a Buddhist, a reader and a writer, a sinner and a philosopher, a husband and a father, a Native American and a white man - I no longer have any desire to fit into one category."

The book comes in the midst of three older documentary movies about the case (Paradise Lost 1,2,3), Damien Echols, Jesse Miskelly and Jason Baldwin's first year out of prison and just before Peter Jackson's movie about the case called "West of Memphis" released at the end of 2012. Life After Death is a spectacular piece of the greater puzzle that makes up the whole story of the West Memphis Three but also is able to stand alone and serves as an remarkable read for those who haven't followed the case or are new to the subject.

Review quote

A "New York Times "Bestseller A "Los Angeles"" Times "Bestseller A "USA"" Today "Bestseller A "Wall Street Journal "Bestseller A "Kirkus Reviews ""Best of 2012" nonfiction selection "Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. "Life After Death" is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life." --John Grisham "Wrongfully imprisoned by willfully ignorant cops, prosecutors and judge, Damien Echols draws on all his wits and his unique view of humanity to survive eighteen years on death row. My admiration for him, and the strength of his spirit, increases with every page." --Sir Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter "I am in awe of Damien's ability to write so beautifully, with such ease, humor and honesty--this is inspired storytelling, a wonderful book!" --Fran Walsh, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, composer and producer "The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai's sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. "Life After Death" proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom." --Henry Rollins "Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. [B]are facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious