The new book: a progress report

Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls” has been on sale for almost a week now.  It’s been a mixed experience for me.

It’s selling much more slowly than my SF novels – only about 150 copies so far, versus well over 700 of my second novel during the first week it was published.  More of those copies have been of the print version, too, and fewer (proportionately) of the e-book.  Clearly, many fewer people are interested in the non-fiction memoirs of a prison chaplain than want to read science fiction.  On the other hand, those who are reading it are more thoughtful.  I’ve had more e-mails from them than I received from my novel readers, and they’re clearly engaging with the material at a fairly deep level.

Several readers have commented that they didn’t enjoy reading the book, because the material isn’t exactly enjoyable; but they’re glad they read it anyway.  Some have mentioned the ‘rawness’ of some of the people they’ve met within its pages – the pedophile, the thug, the predator, and so on.  They hadn’t realized at an existential level what such people must be like in the flesh, and the realization scared some of them.  They’re quite right to be scared!  As I say in the book, there are many more such people on the streets than are locked away behind bars.  If we’re more aware of their presence among us, we can do more to protect ourselves against them.  As they say in the classics, ‘Forewarned is forearmed‘.

I’m glad I wrote this book, as a personal catharsis if nothing else.  I hope and pray it stimulates debate over an issue that’s one of our biggest social problems.  I’m also going to use it as a marketing test case.  If it isn’t selling well, how can I change that?  Will a temporary free or low-cost promotion help?  Will paid advertising?  How can I get a few reviews in strategic media, to reach those who will naturally be interested in this subject?  All those issues have to be explored, and over the next few months Miss D. and I will do that together.  It’s going to be an interesting process.

I think this book might turn out to be a slow, steady, long-term prospect.  I’ve encountered several books like that dealing with specialized areas.  They may sell ten to twenty books every month over ten years or more.  It’s too early to say whether WWBS will turn out that way, but given its slow start, and the specialized nature of the field in which it’s set, that’s certainly a possibility.

Thanks to all of you who’ve bought and read it, and everyone who’s commented, here, on, or by e-mail.  I appreciate your being part of the journey with me.  Let’s see where it takes us! (If you’ve read it, but haven’t yet commented on, please do so.  It helps other prospective readers to ‘get a feel’ for the book if they can read how others have found it.)



  1. I for one really have enjoyed it. Read half last evening. I purchased the Kindle edition. Its extremely well written and gritty. I highly recommend it. Well done, Sir.

  2. I purchased a copy a few days ago but have yet to download it to my kindle. I'm need to finish a 600 page exploration of the Battle of the Somme before I can get to yours. The chaplains there faced over 19 thousand dead on the first day alone. Reading their comments is both heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time. You had to have a better first day than that.

  3. Got back yesterday, got the Kindle version and read it on the airplane.

    Good book, not a subject that many will find a 'good' read, but one that everyone SHOULD read! You told the truth, whether or not people want to hear it. I like the way you organized it also, and gave multiple 'views'.

  4. I purchased a kindle version a few days ago. Interesting read. I can't say it was pleasurable in a normal sense, but I felt it was well worth the time and money and I enjoyed it as such. I particularly liked the depth you describe things, and how you personalized the prisoners, humanizing without mitigating their crimes. The education and view into an area that is largely in the shadows and hidden from mainstreet USA.

    That said, I found myself bogging down on the writing at the end. It's dry material, so it's to be expected. Your proposals are interesting, but I can't help but find fault with them. For instance, early on, you express how you can not trust a prisoner, how they're always trying to con, game the system/officers, and illicitly gain. It's a running theme throughout the book, but in your proposed changes, your laudable goal of personal change for the convicts requires that you trust them. Trust them to not be running a con just to get out. Trust them to "reform" when they've done no such thing. Further, you're proposing institutionalizing this, and I suspect the unintended consequence will be an increase in fake reformed individuals, not a lessoning of recidivism. The problem I see is that if you post concrete goals (no offense for X years, passed these classes, said these things), you'll set goal posts that the inmates can outlast in order to game it. If you use objective goals, then it becomes a true con game, one rewarding those who are best at being false.
    Another thing I noticed was a lack of discussing the researched psychology of Guard vs. Prisoner. There's the anecdote of the inmate protecting a CO, which demonstrates the outlier behavior, but nothing demonstrating the expected norm. Is that because, in your experience, the studies don't represent reality, or for a different reason?

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