Life After Death

Life After Death

4.1 77
by Damien Echols
     
 

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The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.See more details below

Overview

The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Echols] has written a haunting book, and the story it tells is hardly over. He is living out a sequel that is no less strange and magickal than what he has already been through.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 "[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word." —O, the Oprah Magazine
“Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life.”

—John Grisham

“Wrongfully imprisoned by willfully ignorant cops, prosecutors and judge, Damien Echols draws on all his wits and his unique view of humanity to survive eighteen years on death row. My admiration for him, and the strength of his spirit, increases with every page.”

 —Sir Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter

 

“I am in awe of Damien's ability to write so beautifully, with such ease, humor and honesty—this is inspired storytelling, a wonderful book!”

 —Fran Walsh, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, composer and producer

 

“The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai’s sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. Life After Death proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom.”

—Henry Rollins

 

“Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. [B]are facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal. Essential reading.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

 

“This is a stunning piece of work. Such hope while faced with injustice. Damien teaches us how to live.”

—Eddie Vedder

 

“[Echols’] case garnered worldwide attention, but [his] memoir is about as far away from a publicity-seeking I-was-wronged story as possible. The author opts for a meatier, and certainly more haunting, account of his life behind bars, coupled with flashbacks to his childhood....Echols is a talented writer, and when the book dips into his own spiritual and philosophical beliefs...it achieves the kind of emotional resonance that many similar books lack....A tragic and often disturbing story."

—Booklist

 

"Damien Echols suffered a shocking miscarriage of justice. A nightmare few could endure. An innocent man on death row for more than eighteen years, abused by the very system we all fund. His story will appall, fascinate, and render you feeble with tears and laughter. A brilliant memoir to battle with literary giants of the calibre of Jean Genet, Gregory David Roberts, and Dostoevsky."

—Johnny Depp

 

“[T]his is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience.”

Library Journal (starred)

 

“In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row … The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism….a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life.”

Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

 

“[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word.”
—Stephanie Palumbo, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Echols is a writer whose talent is commensurate with the task of telling this story....The man who has emerged from death row at last is not quite a hero, but he’s something far more interesting: an artist—and, most definitely, well worth meeting.”

—Laura Miller, Salon.com

“Gripping…Echols has already lived a remarkable life, one forged in tragedy and all manner of iniquity. That he is able to write so movingly about the many trials he endured speaks volumes about his intellect and character.”

Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe

Publishers Weekly
Wrongly convicted at 18 along with two other teenagers and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., Echols spent nearly two decades in prison before being released in August 2011. In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row. Sent there in 1994, Echols journaled consistently, though many notebooks were destroyed by guards. Echols describes death row as the equivalent of solitary confinement, his only human contact the infrequently allowed visitors from the outside world. Even sunlight and fresh air were denied at Varner Super Max, the facility he was transferred to in 2003. Echols recalls his less than ideal home life, with a mother who cultivated drama and a stepfather he despised (the feeling seems to have been mutual). The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism. In one journal entry that survived the guards’ purge, Echols contemplates what he misses the most while in prison. The answer is a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life: “In the end it’s not the fruit I miss most... I miss being treated like a human being.” (Sept.)
Library Journal
Echols is one of the West Memphis Three (WM3), convicted in 1994 of the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was sentenced to death as the purported leader of what the prosecution asserted had been a deadly satanic ritual. After spending 18 years in prison, with Echols on Death Row, the WM3 were released in 2011 after years of appeals and the presentation of new forensic evidence. Here, Echols traces his life from his impoverished and difficult childhood to his false conviction and his years in prison. The chapters on his earlier life alternate with his impressions of and commentary upon his life on Death Row. Echols's rescue took the form of a devoted woman, Lorri Davis, whom he married while imprisoned, the support of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, and an HBO documentary, Paradise Lost, that publicized and examined the West Memphis Three's case. VERDICT Though its chronology is sometimes choppy, this is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience. [Look for LJ's interview with the author, online only.—Ed.]—Antoinette Brinkman, Evansville, IN
Kirkus Reviews
Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, Echols (Almost Home, 2005) was convicted, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., in the case of the sadistic sex murders and mutilations of three young boys in the woods around their hometown of West Memphis, Ark. The state's case was based almost entirely on the confession wrung out of Misskelley, who, writes the author, had the "intellect of a child," and who recanted soon afterward. Witnesses' testimonies to Echols' "demonic" character sealed the defendants' fates. Baldwin and Misskelley each received life sentences; Echols, perceived to be the ringleader of an alleged "satanic cult," was sentenced to death. Over the next decade, an HBO trilogy of documentaries on the case, collectively titled Paradise Lost, helped spark an international campaign to free the West Memphis Three. Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson were among the celebrities who became personally involved in the case; thanks to their efforts, and especially those of Echols' wife, Lorri, whom he met during his prison term, the three were released in August 2011. Those bare facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols' ordeal. Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142180280
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
174,440
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

I have the shape of a dead man on the wall of my cell. It was left behind by the last occupant. He stood against the wall and traced around himself with a pencil, then shaded it in. It looks like a very faint shadow, and it’s barely noticeable until you see it. It took me nearly a week to notice it for the first time, but once you see it you can’t un-see it.…Perhaps it’s just superstition, but I can’t help feeling that erasing it would be like erasing the fact that he ever existed. That may not be such a bad thing, all things considered, but I won’t be the one to do it.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“[Echols] has written a haunting book, and the story it tells is hardly over. He is living out a sequel that is no less strange and magickal than what he has already been through.”

—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
  "[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word." —O, the Oprah Magazine

  “Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life.”
—John Grisham
 
“Wrongfully imprisoned by willfully ignorant cops, prosecutors and judge, Damien Echols draws on all his wits and his unique view of humanity to survive eighteen years on death row. My admiration for him, and the strength of his spirit, increases with every page.”
 —Sir Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter
 
“I am in awe of Damien's ability to write so beautifully, with such ease, humor and honesty—this is inspired storytelling, a wonderful book!”
 —Fran Walsh, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, composer and producer
 
“The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai’s sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. Life After Death proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom.”
—Henry Rollins
 
“Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. [B]are facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal. Essential reading.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 
“This is a stunning piece of work. Such hope while faced with injustice. Damien teaches us how to live.”
—Eddie Vedder
 
“[Echols’] case garnered worldwide attention, but [his] memoir is about as far away from a publicity-seeking I-was-wronged story as possible. The author opts for a meatier, and certainly more haunting, account of his life behind bars, coupled with flashbacks to his childhood....Echols is a talented writer, and when the book dips into his own spiritual and philosophical beliefs...it achieves the kind of emotional resonance that many similar books lack....A tragic and often disturbing story."
—Booklist
 
"Damien Echols suffered a shocking miscarriage of justice. A nightmare few could endure. An innocent man on death row for more than eighteen years, abused by the very system we all fund. His story will appall, fascinate, and render you feeble with tears and laughter. A brilliant memoir to battle with literary giants of the calibre of Jean Genet, Gregory David Roberts, and Dostoevsky."
—Johnny Depp
 
“[T]his is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience.”
Library Journal (starred)
 
“In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row … The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism….a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred)
 
“[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word.”
—Stephanie Palumbo, O, The Oprah Magazine
“Echols is a writer whose talent is commensurate with the task of telling this story....The man who has emerged from death row at last is not quite a hero, but he’s something far more interesting: an artist—and, most definitely, well worth meeting.”
—Laura Miller, Salon.com
 
“Gripping…Echols has already lived a remarkable life, one forged in tragedy and all manner of iniquity. That he is able to write so movingly about the many trials he endured speaks volumes about his intellect and character.”
Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe

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