I’ve read scores of memoirs from radical political activists. This one, by James Carr, is among the best.
Carr was a career criminal, in and out of jail until he ended up in Soledad prison and befriended George Jackson, became politicized, and became one of Jackson’s top lieutenants inside. After his release, Carr joined the Black Panther Party, but left soon after to pursue other political work influenced by his growing interested in situationist theory.
This book doesn’t discuss it, but he was killed soon after publication of this book by members of the Black Panther party. The exact reason for the murder remains unknown, I believe. Some have charged he was stealing others from Angela Davis’s defense fund. Others that he was viewed as a threat to Huey Newton.
I read this book over ten years ago, but as I remember it’s the style is easy going and conversational, while there’s a fair amount of braggadocio, it avoids most of the clichéd language of the era. It isn’t a straight forward life of crime, followed by life of righteous political work. Its more complex than that. There’s frank talk here about the violence that brought Carr to prison, and the violence he saw inside. Its tragic that at a time when it appeared Carr was getting a second chance at life, it was cut short so violently.
If you’re a student of this period, or appreciate a well done memoir, there’s much to gain from checking this out.
Recommended for the enthusiast.