Re: RARA-AVIS: Death Row Argosy

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 25 Jun 2001

I don't have CELL 2455, DEATH ROW, but I do have, but haven't read, The Kid Was A Killer, "A Gold Medal Novel by by Caryl Chessman," "Whose fight for life has inflamed passions the world over." It's "A searing novel of violence in the hearts of men."

The first page describes it as: "This is Caryl Chessman's fourth book, his only work of fiction. We print it just as we received it from San Quentin. In it, the author of Cell 2455, Death Row creates a character who has reason to hate the world, and who spends his brief adult life courting death . . ."

The back jacket copy is a note from Chessman:

"Remember: The protagonist of the story, the kid, was a killer. That was and is the simple, stark fact; that was and remains my point in authoring the type of novel I did. I wanted to examine violence--its meaning, its psychological roots, its social implications--in dramatic terms. If I succeeded to any degree, the thrust and power of the story derives from its rawess, its unprettied crudities.

"The title squares with the unfortunate tendency of the public to oversimplify both the genesis and motivation of the disturbed, antisocial personality which, whether with a gun or boxing gloves, violently expresses its rebellion, its sickness. Let the reader, without being misled, discover for himself my thesis.

"Caryl Chessman"

Maybe I should read it some day.


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