The Animal Factory by Edward Bunker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Ron Decker is convicted of selling narcotics, he winds up in San Quentin. Earl Copen, a long-time resident, takes him under his wing. As friendship buds between the men, can Ron stay alive long enough to get paroled?
Prison life has always held a strange fascination for me. By most accounts, The Animal Factory is one of the better prison novels.
Written during one of his prison stints, Edward Bunker crafts a tale of two men trying to get by in San Quentin. Not surprisingly, it carries an air of authenticity. There's an undercurrent of despair and desperation beneath Earl Copen's bluster. In Ron Decker, he sees hope that he long abandoned for himself.
Prison life in The Animal Factory is navigating a maze of violence, drugs, and death. Earl teaches Ron to survive in prison and what it is to be a man and a friend. It's a little deeper than I thought it would be going in.
The ending was a good one, one of self sacrifice and showed that a glimmer of goodness resides within prison walls. All things considered The Animal Factory was damn good. Edward Bunker's depiction of prison life in the 1970's is stark and brutal and I can't imagine that prisons have gotten better since then. Kids, stay out of jail! Four out of five stars.
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