Re: RARA-AVIS: Jack Henry Abbott dies

From: John A. Armstrong (
Date: 23 Feb 2002

Somewhat on the same order, I recommend the film version of Animal Factory by Edward Bunker - produced by Steve Buscemi, starring Willem Dafoe and Edward Furlong. Dafoe made the tabloids this week while filming another crime movie - the Bob Crane murder, in which he plays Col. Hogan's pal and at one time the prime suspect in the murder investigation; the story in the Star said that in filming the nude orgy scenes it was noted surprise, shock and apparently some fear that Dafoe is dangerously well-hung. Paul Schrader is directing.


"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one ." GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
----- Original Message ----- From: "Rene Ribic" <> To: <> Sent: Friday, February 22, 2002 3:45 PM Subject: RARA-AVIS: Jack Henry Abbott dies

> I thought it may be of interest to some list members that Jack Henry
> Abbott, author of "In the Belly of the Beast" died a couple of days
> ago.For those who don't know who Abbott was, he was a long time criminal
> & recidivist prisoner who sent a series of letters to Norman Mailer
> after Mailer had published "The Executioner's Song". These letters were
> a combination of autobiographical stuff about his life in prison & his
> confrontations with prison authorities, & political rants that were a
> self-educated man's combination of Nietzsche & Marx. These letters so
> impressed Mailer that he had them edited & published as "In the Belly of
> the Beast". He also proceeded to agitate for Abbott's release & the
> efforts of Mailer & other literary types, IIRC, eventually succeeded in
> having Abbott released. Two weeks later, Abbott got into a minor
> argument with a waiter in a restaurant & stabbed him to death.
> When this happened, Mailer figuratively threw his hands in the air,
> saying, in effect, "We was wrong. The guy's an animal.Lock him up &
> throw away the key".
> The sad irony here is the fact that anybody who read the book & was
> awake at the time would not have been surprised. The book says, over &
> over, that prisons train men to become the very animals that society
> fears. To survive in prison & keep your self-respect, & more
> importantly, perhaps, from the point of view of survival, the respect of
> other inmates, you have to be more brutal than the other brutes. A man
> is systematically brutalised by the prison & it's guards, by the other
> inmates for many years. Then he is released & expected to adjust
> overnight to civilised life. As I remember the book, Abbott as good as
> warned the reader that he was no longer fit to live in the civilised,
> (more or less) world that most of us live in.
> Regardless of your views on prison, etc, I think that Abbott's book is
> one of the most significant works of prison literature available.
> Abbott's writings were a major influence on the Australian prison flick,
> "Ghosts of the Civil Dead", which I would recommend despite over-acting
> from Nick Cave, whose role is a fairly small one. (Cave also wrote a
> song about Abbott, "Jack's Shadow").
> I'm not sure about this but I felt that a character in the prison escape
> flick "Runaway Train" (co-scripted by Edward Bunker, IIRC) may have been
> based on Abbott.
> The news about Abbott's death said he had committed suicide in his cell
> by hanging himself. There's nothing unusual about prisoners committing
> suicide. On the other hand, it's also a method that has been used by
> crooked jail warders (certainly in this country - there was one very
> suspicious instance only a couple of years ago, ruled as suicide) to
> murder troublesome inmates so there will probably be a question mark
> over his death that may never be resolved, particularly now that Abbott
> has lost his erstwhile friends & allies in the literary set & in effect
> probably nobody cares any more.
> Rene
> --
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