Showing posts from January, 2010

they're trying to build a prison, for you and me to live in

In 2007, while researching my novel Cannibals & Thieves , I interviewed a San Quentin inmate and then visited the prison myself. I dug this research out for a friend of late, and decided to clean it up and post it here. I also decided to remove details which could identify J., the subject of the first part. Which is kind of a shame, as they're very colourful, but it seems only polite. Part I Discussions with J., who did ten years at San Quentin. For what it's worth, while the proverbial grain of salt is probably a useful spice here, I didn't get the sense he was prevaricating about anything much, if at all. J. doesn't look like a ex-con. He's a wiry guy, about five foot six, with the sides of his head shaved and bangs dangling from what remains. He's laid-back, laughs easily, very sharp, I liked him immediately. Only his slightly uneven teeth, and the edges of solid-colour tattoos visible beneath the collar and above the cuff of his blue, short-sleev



Haiti: context

I've been a couple of times, to visit my friend L., who now lives back in New York City, and to research this piece I wrote for The Walrus about MSF's obstetrics hospital there. Estimates of the ultimate death toll range from "thousands" up to 100,000 or even 500,000 - although "both men admitted that they had no way of knowing." Haiti's poorest of the poor, a large number, live in tin shacks like these in La Saline: The one virtue of such shacks is that when they collapse in an earthquake you probably won't be either immediately killed or buried beyond recovery. So that's sort of a good thing. However, slightly more affluent Haitians tend to live in dense warrens of concrete boxes like the ones on the right here: Also, Port-au-Prince is a very hilly city, and thanks to the security situation, there are walls everywhere: and up another economic notch, you get rickety, often-incomplete, multi-story concrete buildings, which are probably the mo