Author(s): Damien EcholsDownload
In 1993 three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley Jr were arrested and charged with the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The ensuing trial was rife with inconsistencies, false testimony and superstition. Echols was accused of, among other things, practising witchcraft and satanic rituals – a result of the “satanic panic” prevalent in the media at the time. Baldwin and Miskelley were sentenced to life in prison. Echols, deemed the ringleader, was sentenced to death. He was eighteen years old.In a shocking reversal of events, all three were suddenly released in August 2011. This is Damien Echols’ story in full: from abuses by prison guards and wardens, to descriptions of inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane for nearly two decades. Echols also writes about his complicated and painful childhood. Like Dead Man Walking, Life After Death is destined to be a classic.
Some Reviews: 963 in Goodreads.com
If you’ve seen the groundbreaking HBO documentary Paradise Lost and the subsequent sequels, Paradise Lost 2 and Paradise Lost 3, you’ll be very familiar with the the case of the West Memphis 3.
Life After Death, by Damien Echols is the definitive memoir of life behind bars as he and his legal team fought to clear his name and the names of his two friends who were falsely accused and convicted of killing three children in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols uses his time in prison keeping a journal of his experiences while also finding solace in spirituality as he comes to terms with his life, and his effort to declare his innocence.
At times, Life After Death reads like a journal, opening the door to life inside the prison system and the horrors that he experienced at the hands of fellow inmates and prison guards. This is a book that won’t be for everyone and at times can be a bit difficult to read, perhaps because much of the content was taken from the journal entries Echols made while in prison. It feels as if it gives a perspective of his state of mind at the time the journal entries were recorded. The fear and hopelessness he felt during his experience.
Nonetheless, Life After Death is a compelling read that will take the you on a journey that is scary and sad, heartbreaking and inspirational. I enjoyed Life After Death. If you’re a fan of the documentary films, this book makes a perfect book end to the events that weren’t documented in the films.
**This book is scheduled to be published in September 2012. I received an advanced reader proof from netgalley.com via the Kindle.
“Who would have thought you could see the future by reading a book about the past?”
This book both broke my heart and filled it with magick. Damien Echols has survived a childhood of poverty as well as 18 years of brutality, cruelty and pain on Death Row for a crime that he did not commit. The injustices enacted upon Damien, as well as Jason and Jessie, are so deplorable that it leaves little faith in the American ‘justice’ system.
Damien writes with such vivid colors that I felt as though I were experiencing every single word. Hearing, seeing and feeling his story. He tells his life story full of such misery, yet he keeps you full of hope and wonder. I can only hope that he’ll write again. And again. And again.
I’ve followed this case for 11 years now and it has changed my life in many ways. This case is far from over as there is now the legal battle for exoneration and the continued search for the truth. I hope this book helps find more support for the WM3 and that the truth can finally be brought forth.
I saw the documentary film Paradise Lost about the West Memphis Three in the late 90’s and was captivated/horrified by the story. There are four documentary films about the trial and the subsequent controversy surrounding the conviction of Echols and two others for a gruesome triple murder they likely didn’t commit. The films detail the prejudices of a small southern town and a broken criminal justice system at length.
Echols memoir focuses on is something different, and is worth a read. He shares his personal and spiritual struggle in prison, as a death row inmate, to remain human and whole in a horribly dehumanizing place without much hope of being released. Echols does spend maybe half the book talking about his childhood in rural Arkansas, touching on events that lead up to his arrest. He is not, however, pleading his case or trying to convince the reader of his innocence. His intention is personal. He reveals himself as a young man in order to focus on what it is like to be locked up at 18 for more than half his life. It is a heartbreaking, and surprisingly hopeful story.
There are some things, in this readers life, that make me think that we would all be better off in a state of anarchy… this book and the horrors it depicts is certainly one of them.
Like many other reviewers I had read Almost Home a few years ago and the bulk of it is indeed held within the covers of Life After Death. It flows better this time round though. Whether it be some better editing or the fact we know that there is a happy ending of sorts, might contribute to that.
The subject matter is depressing on all counts. From absolute poverty and bad parenting to the endemic abuse of power and the cloak of Christianity behind which injustice is served. Despite all of this the author’s dark sense of humour and at times delightful turn of phrase belie the effect of his horrific surrounds and makes this a story of hope, strength and ultimately love.
I’m not convinced that language gives us the tools to convey how it must feel to spend almost two decades on Death Row for a brutal crime you didn’t commit, but Damien Echols gives it his very best shot in this memoir. If you’re looking for in-depth material about the West Memphis Three trial, there are plenty of other places for that; this book is really about the struggles, anguish, strength and perseverance of a kid who’s falsely accused and then locked up in one of the most inhumane places on the planet: the Arkansas prison system. The writing – especially the journal entries written at the time – is sometimes (and not surprisingly) a little immature, but the force, sweetness, and wonder of the author’s spirit is what ultimately gives this memoir its magick. If, at the start of this book, you’re feeling sorry for yourself, I can guarantee you won’t be, by the end.
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