You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish

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A memoir of astonishing power–the true story of a middle-class, middle-aged man who fell into the Inferno of the American prison system, and what he has to do to survive.

It is your worst nightmare. You wake up in an 8' x 6' concrete-and-steel cell designated "Suicide Watch #3." The cell is real. Jimmy Lerner, formerly a suburban husband and father, and corporate strategic planner and survivor, is about to become a prison "fish," or green new arrival. Taken to a penitentiary in the Nevada desert to begin serving a twelve-year term for voluntary manslaughter, this once nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn ends up sharing a claustrophobic cell with Kansas, a hugely muscled skinhead with a swastika engraved on his neck and a serious set of issues. And if he dares complain, the guards will bluntly tell him, "You got nothing coming."

Bringing us into a world of petty corruption, racial strife, and crank-addicted neo-Nazis, Jimmy Lerner gives us a fish’s progress: a brash, compelling, and darkly comic story peopled with characters who are at various times funny, violent, and surprisingly tender. His rendering of prison language is mesmerizingly vivid and exact, and his search for a way not simply to survive but to craft a new way to live, in the most unpropitious of circumstances, is a tale filled with resilience, dignity, and a profound sense of the absurd. In the book’s climax, we learn just what demonic set of circumstances–a compound of bad luck and worse judgment–led him to the lethal act of self-defense that landed him in a circle of an American hell.

Electrifying, unforgettable, bracingly cynical, and perceptive, You Got Nothing Coming is impossible to put down or shake off. What the cult favorite Oz is to television, this book is to prose–and all of the events are real.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jimmy Lerner's chilling, yet surprisingly funny, first person account of his Nevada prison sentence for murder is clearly destined to be one of the most talked-about and well-reviewed books of 2002. Call it "Dilbert Goes to Prison."

New prison inmates are referred to as "fish," which is more than fitting, considering that Lerner's even more of a fish out of water than most. He was a cubicle dweller, a telephone company Organization Man who suddenly finds himself -- totally naked -- in Suicide Watch Cell No. 3, a less-than-desirable site within the Las Vegas prison system. At first, the reader doesn't know exactly why Lerner's in stir (the details behind the murder he committed are not revealed until the book's feverish conclusion), but his frequent references to a nemesis known only as The Monster dramatically set the stage.

Lerner eventually makes the acquaintance of a gentleman known as Kansas, an immense white supremacist sporting huge tattoos and an attitude to match. Lerner's innate sense of humor -- and unwillingness to kowtow, even though that seems to be the smart thing to do -- manage to win him Kansas' friendship (a valuable connection, given that Kansas is one of the top "dawgs" in the Fish Tank, as the prison is called). Lerner is rechristened "O.G." (for Original Gangster), and he sets out to try to survive what he hopes (mistakenly) will be a parole-shortened sentence.

Lerner's plight is so scary that the reader can't help but pull for him as he tries to use the management techniques learned in boring corporate seminars to keep himself alive. Occasionally, Lerner subtly reminds the reader that he is, indeed, a murderer. But once he gets around to detailing his run-in with The Monster, the book moves to a totally different level: What makes a man kill? Lerner has penned a "fish story" the reader won't soon forget. (Nicholas Sinisi)

Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes & Nonfiction editor.

From the Publisher
“Jimmy Lerner is a terrific writer who has produced an unforgettable memoir.”
-Robert Mason, author of Chickenhawk.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the mid-1990s, Lerner killed a man in Las Vegas. Convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he's now doing time in the Nevada state prison system (he's due to be paroled in January 2002). Even so, he quickly earns, and keeps, readers' sympathies in this wholly engrossing memoir of his time behind bars in part because of the charisma of his voice, in part because of his book's clever structure, which has Lerner come clean about exactly why he's in prison only near the book's end. For 18 years an executive for Pacific Bell, Lerner employs a voice that's charming, canny, sassy, self-deprecating; a voice perhaps not to be entirely trusted, but one that's deeply magnetic. Certainly as a middle-aged, middle-class, highly educated white, Lerner brings an unusual perspective to his prison experiences, which he plays on throughout. "Curiouser and curiouser I felt like Alice fallen into the rabbit hole," he writes. Readers will share that sentiment as, along with Lerner, they negotiate prison life and culture, where you don't enter a man's house (cell) without his permission and where a usable chess set can be fashioned from wet toilet paper and stale toothpaste two examples of the hundreds of details with which Lerner grounds his tale. Curiouser still are the prison denizens he describes, misfits and malfeasants all, most notably his longtime cellmate, Kansas, a white supremacist who takes a shine to the author fortunately, as Kansas is the top "dawg" of the cons. Eventually, Lerner loses his "fish" (newcomer) status, growing adept at prison ways and slang ("And every Righteous Con in the joint knows a catcher ain't nothin' but a punk-ass bitch!"), carrying readers along with him up to the book's final chapters, that is, where he flashes back to the crime that sent him behind bars in passages that reek of self-justification. Overall, this is the most gripping, and most inviting, prison memoir in years. (Feb. 12) Forecast: Any book by a convicted killer, especially post-Jack Abbott, may face some media and public resistance, but the national radio campaign and other publicity planned by Broadway should bring this title serious attention and healthy sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lerner here recounts his slide from successful marketing executive to "prison fish" (a new prisoner) after he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Tempered with black humor, and with dialogue skillfully written in the vernacular ("Wassup, dawgs"), this tale of prison acclimation reads like an adventure story. The author was a marketing executive for Pacific Bell, complete with an MBA, living near San Francisco, when he was incarcerated in Nevada for manslaughter. He refers to his crime obliquely until the last section of the book, when he details the events that led to the murder of the "monster." First, readers learn what it's like for a 47-year-old, white, middle-class man to suddenly be a "fish" or newcomer to prison. Taken under the wing of Kansas, a muscled skinhead who thinks he is a Nazi descendant, not the Jew he actually is, Lerner manages to survive. And he learns, ironically, using the business education lessons he acquired through years of management seminars (from Managing the Difficult Employee-"mirroring and echoing") how to get along. And, readers finally learn what brought Jimmy to this place. It's an old story-prescription drug abuse and chronic alcoholism. This isn't an angry or self-serving story; the author is only too aware of his failings. He also portrays his fellow convicts in the same honest and sardonically humorous manner. The prison system incurs more of his disdain. The guards, too, fare poorly under his descriptive pen. Lerner's lively and action-packed story is a stunning reality check, showing readers what can happen when you give up your life to the power of an addiction. Tragic and honest, it is a compelling read.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A jolting, unusual memoir from the ultimate fish out of water: a middle-aged MBA who pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Brooklyn-born Lerner, a former Pacific Bell executive who comes off as a wittier version of every cellular-equipped guy in a Lexus, saw his world destroyed after he inadvertently strangled an unhinged, violent acquaintance following a booze-and-gambling binge. Charged with murder, he accepted a two-to-twelve-year sentence in 1998. Overwhelmed by the Dickensian sadism and Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the Nevada prison system, he used his immersion in corporate self-help maxims (a gag that grows tiresome) to adapt to this new environment of hostile takeovers. While Lerner is threatened with sodomy, mocked for his genteel background, and occasionally pursued by roughnecks like Big Hunger ("This banana be mines!"), little physical harm befalls him: his cellmate and friend Kansas is a "shotcaller" among the Nazi prisoners (Lerner neglected to mention his Semitic roots); the other inmates laugh at his "side-talking" witticisms and appreciate his help with sentencing figures, personal-ad writing, and legal jargon. Even Kansas's white-power acolytes seem a jolly bunch, once Lerner assigns them the Seven Dwarfs' nicknames. The unrelenting viciousness of many of the jail's COs, however, runs as a disquieting undercurrent about the realities of imprisonment in post-Drug War, "Tough On Crime" America. The final quarter here is weakest, as Lerner melodramatically depicts the yearlong struggle with divorce, corporate bloodletting, alcoholism, and recovery that culminated in the Las Vegas incident. Whatever the author's personal failings, his depiction of contemporary prison life(he remains incarcerated, following a parole approval that was later denied) is invaluable: humorous, crisply detailed, and sometimes heartbreaking, as when his attuned suburban eye captures the desolate loneliness of once-youthful gangsters 20 years into their life-without-parole sentences. Ironically, Lerner's white-collar Everyman perspective may force readers to truly see the cruel inequities of our current system. Despite its flaws, hard to put down, and harder to forget. Film rights to Phoenix Pictures
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767909198
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/14/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 414,215
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

A native of Brooklyn, New York, and former resident of Danville, California, JIMMY LERNER served in the U.S. Army in Panama, subsequently received his M.B.A., and worked for eighteen years as a marketing executive and planner for Pacific Bell. In 1998 he was convicted of voluntary manslaughter; he has just been released on parole.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt


I am naked in Suicide Watch Cell No. 3.

The white paper coverall lies on the concrete floor, ripped in so many places I must have shed it like a snakeskin while I slept.

I hope they do not blame me.

There are no windows in my cell, and of course they took my watch, but I can estimate the time by the food trays. Three times a day an unseen hand shoves a plastic tray through a slot in the bottom of the solid steel door.

If it's a handful of Rice Krispies and a dented orange (invariably encrusted with a thick white mold), then it must be breakfast time. Yesterday they gave me a few Cocoa Puffs instead of the Krispies. The chocolate puffs were all embedded in the white mold like sprinkles on a vanilla ice cream cone.

Not yummy, but I love chocolate.

Peanut butter and jelly means it's about noon, and macaroni and cheese must signify Happy Hour here on the nut wing of the Las Vegas county jail. I no longer pound on the cell door whenever I hear footsteps outside.

I think it makes them mad.

At night I can hear screams and wild sobbing from the other cells. Keys jangle whenever the cop approaches my cell door, but he rarely responds to the questions I try to shout out through the door. Like, "What time is it?"

Maybe the cop, wise to the workings of the devious criminal mind, regards this as a trick question.

Go figure.

My paper suit may have been less than fashionable, but it was certainly functional, and, most important, it was mine. When all you have in this world is a half roll of toilet paper and a little piece of gray soap the size of a Chiclet, any property loss is an occasion for mourning.

When the food slot opens for breakfast, I seize the opportunity to announce my nakedness to my unseen captors.

"Guard! Guard!" My mouth is practically pressed against the cold steel door.

"What the fuck do you want? There's no guards here, asshole! I'm a deputy sheriff." The voice behind the door has a weary, practiced contempt to it.

"Sorry, Sheriff, it's just that my paper suit has fallen apart and I would appreciate it if I could possibly get another one." I feel like Oliver Twist pleading for some more soup.

"That's Deputy, asshole. Now step back from the fucking door before I chain your ass to the toilet!"

In a cell measuring eight by six feet, stepping back from the door involves taking one baby step back before banging into the stainless-steel toilet and sink unit. I'm not permitted any books or newspapers, and up until about an hour ago my requests for paper and a pen have been laughed at. This absence of frivolous distractions has afforded me countless opportunities to study the graffiti in the cell with a single-minded focus.

fuck the polease is scrawled in red (blood?) on the wall above the sink. The cinder block next to my steel cot is a mural of misery and enigmatic engravings: lord please let me go to the light is somehow carved into the gray wall. Directly above it is a somewhat less spiritual sentiment: eat a hole you'll suck a pole!

I'm still trying to figure that one out.

There are dozens of crudely drawn swastikas and what I presume to be gang names: trey street deuces and bad bloods and the puzzling nazi low riders. Scratched into the metal cell door above the food slot is smoke a rock you'll suck a cock. I feel fairly confident in concluding the latter admonition is by the same author who was inspired to write about pole-sucking.

The only institutional inscription is stenciled in huge black letters at the top of the sliding steel door: sw3. When I was first taken here shortly after my arrest, shuffling pathetically in my ankle shackles and handcuffs secured to a belly chain, I asked the cop what it meant.

The cop--excuse me, the deputy sheriff--a bored and beefy young man, had apparently been asked this before. He answered by shoving me into the cell before saying, "Suicide Watch 3, asshole, and don't even think of offing yourself during my shift."

Offing myself? That sounded not only preposterous but so, well, late sixtyish. Nevertheless, I was scared shitless.

"There must be some mistake. I'm not suicidal." I suspect the cop had also heard this before.

"Oh, that's right, excuse us--you're fucking homicidal! There's no mistake, dickwad. You were arrested on a Murder One with a deadly weapon. That's a capital crime in this state, so you get to stay in suicide watch with the other killers and J-Cats until you're transferred to the joint. Then you can fucking kill yourself."

"J-Cats?" Curiouser and curiouser--I felt like Alice fallen into the rabbit hole.

"Category J--the fucking crazies. I just love chatting with you, convict, but now get on your fucking knees and face the wall. When I uncuff your left wrist, immediately place your hand on top of your head . . . good . . . now your right hand on top of your head, eyes front and don't get up, don't move until you hear the cell door slam behind you. You think you can remember all that, college boy?"

At the age of forty-seven, with distinguished (or so I imagine) gray streaks on my temples, I am hardly a boy, but I decided this was not the time to object.

"Yes, Officer, but the murder charges were dropped to manslaughter, so why am I still in--"

"Don't Officer me dickbrain, I'm a deputy sheriff, and if you have any more stupid fucking questions, why don't you ask your little nutsack New York lawyer?"

Behind me the steel door hissed and rolled shut--thwunk--a tomb being sealed. I climbed up on the steel bed, which was bolted to the concrete cell wall. Grateful to be unshackled for the first time since my arrest, I stretched out on the steel slab, waiting, wondering if the cop would come back with some kind of mattress or sheets or even a blanket.

Closed my eyes.

And wept like a lost child.

Freddy Shapiro was my lawyer. We had been friends as far back as P.S. 161 in Brooklyn and also shared an apartment in New York when we were both going through our hippie cabdriver phase in the early seventies. Freddy, a small man with a startling facial resemblance to Woody Allen, still clung stubbornly to the Radical Lawyer Look with long gray hair falling in a circle from his mostly bald head.

Three days ago Freddy had sat across a table from me in the jail's tiny conference room reserved for inmates and lawyers. Two cops stood guard outside the door, observing through the glass walls.

Freddy placed a thick legal document on the desk.

"Jimmy, this is the formal plea bargain agreement. Just like we talked about. The D.A. drops the Murder One and you get one to six years for voluntary manslaughter and a consecutive one-to-six sentence for the use of a deadly weapon. Jimmy, you have no criminal jacket, no arrest record. This is a two-to-twelve sentence, and with good behavior, you'll be out in two."

I tried to imagine what two years in prison would be like. Couldn't.

"Freddy, I know we went over this, but with all the evidence you say is in my favor, you still don't think we should go to trial?"

In answer, Shapiro reached into a thick folder and put a dozen large color photographs on the table. Facedown.

"Jimmy, we can still go to trial and you probably have a ninety percent chance of an acquittal. But that's still a ten percent chance of a guilty, which is a death sentence. A lethal injection."

"Freddy, you know how much I hate needles."

"That's pretty funny. But save the gallows humor for a state where they hang you. Listen, my friend, a jury is unpredictable--they can do anything. Do you really want to roll the dice for your life when you have this definite deal in front of you? Two years for sure versus maybe a chance of taking the needle?"

"But the self-defense we talked about, the--"

Freddy flipped over the color photographs.

I had to avert my eyes.

"We go to trial and the district attorney will bring out at least two witnesses who will say you threatened to kill this guy just hours before he died. The D.A. will also show the jury these pictures. Crime scene photos. Of your victim. He will wave them in their faces and under their noses and shout that the evidence, the pictures, don't support an argument of self-defense. Take a close look, Jimmy, just the way the jury will. Take a look at all the blood and look especially at the way the--"

I looked down at the pictures, at all the blood and the rest of it, and felt a fist plunge like a hot knife into my stomach--a sickening stab of fear and disgust.

I had to look away. This was pure horror.

My voice finally emerged in a strangled exhalation of breath.

"All right, Freddy . . . where do I sign?"

The food tray slot snaps open sharply and a clean white paper jumpsuit is shoved through, followed by the usual plastic airline tray containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and half an apple, the flesh the color of mud. On the other side of the cell door the deputy's voice, dim and muffled, says, "Lerner! Get your convict ass dressed. First thing tomorrow you're rolling it up--you're catching the train."

After Suicide Watch Cell No. 3, this is great news, maybe the best news I have received since my accountant explained I could carry over a capital loss on my taxes for three years. "Catching the train" is the expression here for being transported to prison. Fine with me. Anything has to be better than slowly growing suicidal in a county jail suicide watch cell with no windows and no one even watching.

"Thanks for the suit, Deputy. You think I could get a piece of paper and a pen? I'd like to write my daughters and let them know."

A long pause outside the cell door, then the familiar jangling of the keys. A minute later the slot is opened and four sheets of lined paper and a pencil slide across the concrete floor.

"If you decide to stab yourself to death with the fucking pencil, do me a favor and wait until my shift is over in ten minutes."

I push the food tray toward the toilet and snatch up the precious writing materials. The pencil turns out to be a stub without an eraser, like the ones you get at the golf course.

"Thanks, Deputy. Don't worry, I'm really not suicidal." The food flap shuts tight.

I write the girls a brief note, figuring I can get an envelope and a stamp at the state prison. I have no idea when I'll be able to use a phone again.

The three remaining sheets of paper I start filling up with these words. I have decided that if I am to keep my sanity in the days and perhaps years to come, I will need a personal therapist, even if it's only in the form of this . . . what? Diary? Journal? Maybe it's going to be a really long letter to my kids, to read when they are older, or just some notes to the outside world.

As my teenage girls would say--whatever.

For now I decide to just start addressing these letters to my best friend, Barry Demant, who both suffered and laughed with me during my eighteen years at the phone company. Years where I happily crouched in a cubicle, crunching numbers and coaxing a series of computers into spewing out hopeful marketing and product proposals.

With lots of incomprehensible charts and graphs with arrowed vectors and critical milestones overlapped by three-dimensional bubbles representing microsegmented target markets.

I miss my job, Barry.

I miss my little girls.

A violent pounding on the cell door. The nerve-jangling steel snap of the food slot, and another plastic airline tray hurtles across the concrete, collides with the far wall, releasing a spray of Rice Krispies. The fuzzy white orange rolls like a tennis ball under the toilet.

"Ten minutes for chow, convict, then roll it the fuck up! Train's coming for all you fish!" The deputy's voice recedes down the corridor, then repeats the instructions to another reluctant guest in another cell. I'm so hungry I collect every errant bit of cereal from the floor and wolf it down with the help of a handful of suspiciously cloudy cold water from the rusted sink. I manage to wipe most of the white sludge from the orange onto my paper pants leg before peeling it. Devour the distinctly unjuicy fruit, seeds and all, in three bites.

Not yummy.

The cell door slides open and the same beefy young deputy flings a bright orange coverall against my chest.

"Lerner! Get the fuck out of your J-Cat costume! A new fish like you is gonna get eaten in the joint anyway--no need to advertise you been locked down with the nutcases." At that moment I had no idea what a huge favor the cop was doing for me. A fish with a "J-Cat jacket" in the joint does not inspire much respect on the yard.

I'm out of the paper J-Cat suit and into the orange jumpsuit in seconds. property of the las vegas county jail is inscribed in black letters on the back. Like somebody would actually want to steal one of these things?

The deputy stands at the cell door, smoking an unfiltered cigarette, watching me dress. I haven't had a cigarette since being taken into custody, and I suddenly want one more than anything, except maybe some bacon and eggs and an English muffin dripping warm with butter. I have always suspected that high cholesterol is one of those made-up medical scares designed to keep us from life's small pleasures.

"Deputy, can I have a cigarette?" With the enhanced status conferred by the cloth jumpsuit, I can feel the old confidence surging through me. The deputy, who looks like he started shaving this morning, removes a Camel from the pack, hands it to me.

"Sure, why not? By tonight in the joint, you'll probably be married to the convict with the most cigarettes."

"Thanks, Deputy, but I hope to remain celibate in prison." This witticism provokes a puzzled scowl from the cop as he nevertheless lights my cigarette.

"Celebrate? Ha! A skinny fish like you, never been down, never even been arrested before, fuck!--the cons in the joint will be celebrating around your asshole. Now roll it up!"

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Author's Note xi
Prologue 1
Part I The Abyss 3
Part II The Inferno 141
Part III The Fall 269
Epilogue 389
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 27, 2010

    You've Been Conned!

    "You Got Nothing Coming" is pure unadulterated fiction posing as a gritty true to life prison novel. Far from it. There is no conceivable reason a white supremacist lifer would take a liking to Lerner, a newcomer to the prison system and Jewish to boot! As the author expresses early in the novel, very little in a person's life is kept private in prison. Therefore, Kansas (the author's supposed cellmate and prison ring leader) would surely know of Lerner's true ethnicity. The abrupt ending of the novel is instructive in itself ie., Lerner simply ran out of lies to undergird his narrative. Finally, if you believe Lerner's retelling of his run-in with "The Monster," you'd probably be better off digesting a Harry Potter novel -- at least then it'd been easy to discern fantasy from reality!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

    Excellent Read Hilarious!

    This is a humorous mix of culture contrasting white collar with gang life. Read it for fun more importantly read it when your a bit down and in minutes you will be smiling. I hope the author doesnt stop. The mid to end part of the book goes over why he isnt guilty and it didnt do much for me. Get it read it share it. Before you know it you will be kicken it with the yard dogs. Have fun with it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2006

    an eye opening account

    My husband is currently incarcerated in a Texas State prison. I never could quite grasp the gravity of his situation, nor could I even begin to relate. I ran across this book while searching for information on wives of prisoners. I must admit that I was shocked and somewhat relieved to find a book that humerously detailed what my spouse is going through. I now have a much better understanding of his situation, and he is elated that I have adopeted an intrest in his locked up (or locked down) life. I too could not put this book down, and even ran to my car on my lunch breaks to get in small portions of it. Ironic how during Mr.Lerners reality and his attempt at escaping from it, we find an escape from our own reality by diving into the world he is trying to get out of. A wonderful read. Everyone should have the pleasure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2004

    I hated finishing this book I wanted it to go on and on.........

    You were there in prison with Jimmy Leaner and he made sure that you felt every horrible emotion that he had to endure. 'great build up ending '

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2003

    this fish isn't outa water!

    This book is one of the best true life reads you'll ever own! It has a combination of elements that can only add up to a winning formula. I laughed out loud (mostly in public places) and felt slightly sad the book had come to an end, i wanted it to go on and on merely for my own entertainment! The wit is fantastic, the sense of transportation to the prisons is first class and the addiction of wanting more, more, more will have you gripped from the first page to the last. You somehow are left feeling nostalgic! If i could empthasise this any more i would: BUY,BUY,BUY!! It really will be worth it. Forget Hollywood movies; this is real life, dawg! Y'understan wot i be sayin'?!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2003


    This book was given to me as a gift and it took me a while to pick it up. It was an incredible story that I could not put it down. Lerner has a talent that I hope he uses again in the future.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2002


    This book was very hard to put down, I read half the book the first day I got it. I recommend this to anyone and everyone, as long as you don't mind the language used.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    another telephone worker excells but not at work

    This is very informative. I expected more reviews from co-workers and neighbors. I guess I'm the first. I'm at Danville Library in his neighborhood. He will be right next to Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame. Two writers from our former employer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2002

    Mark Twain returns!

    Biting satire and pithy insights on corporate America, delivered in a perfectly sardonic and pleasantly unmannered fashion, admixed with vignettes of prison life and culture. The descriptions of his fellow 'dawgs and fish' and their guards are reminiscent in their humor and insights to the best of Mark Twain. The final chapter puts his entire miserable predicament into context and further serves to condemn the rotten US corporate/industrial prison system. In summary, an outstanding book: well written and very, very funny.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2002

    Best Book I Have Read in a Very Long Time!!!

    'You Got Nothing Coming' is one of those rare and marvelous books. I didn't have to skip over the boring parts, because there were no boring parts! The scenes with the author trying to tutor the young neo-Nazis in prison about math or geography are absolutely hilarious! The satirical treatment of our 12-Step, Alcoholics Anonymous-influenced culture is dead-on and refreshing in its political UNcorrectness! Can't wait to see more from this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2002

    You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish

    Jimmy Lerner's memoir takes us from his 8 X 6 foot Suicide Watch cell (where, strangely enough, no one ever watches) to prison and then back to his corporate cubicle. Lerner's ironic and humorous style is perfect for a book dealing with such serious subjects as prison rape of teenagers, suicides, stabbings and much, much worse. At times I felt like a voyeur inside this world which is so totally savage and alien that I pray no one I love or like ever has to experience it. Jimmy, thank you for reporting back to us about Savage Planet's surface conditions. Because we never want to go there but we love you for taking us inside with such style!!! Can't wait for the movie with Ben Stiller and the sequel!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2002

    You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish

    This book kept me turning pages all through the night. The author's horrible situation in that tiny prison cell he had to share with this huge neo-Nazi gang leader is an unbelievable true story. The writing is great and full of delicious humor and irony. In the midst of his despair and pain the author somehow is able to connect with his reader with a gentle playfulness that is delightful. His description of the bureaucracy at the Phone Company and his analogies to prison are extremely insightful. Jimmy is not just a great writer - he is an Everyman Philosopher able to connect the dots in life that define us all. I can't wait for his next book! Or poem, or anything he writes!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2002

    Strong start, weak finish

    When I first started reading this, I couldn't put it down. Speaking for all middle aged white office workers, its our worst fear come true - prison, and Lerner doesn't leave out a single detail. Frankly, though, I was surprised to see how well he did behind bars (could I do that well?). The book does start dragging around 2/3 of the way through when the author takes us out of prison and into his personal life, but I would definitely recommend this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2002

    You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish

    When my husband told me what a great book this was, I thought it was pretty much just another book about prison and I wasn't too interested. But he insisted it was a lot more than that and so I tried the first few pages. And found I could not put it down! This is a true story about a father, husband and corporate cubicle employee, just an average guy who makes a terrible mistake. The mistake costs him his family, his freedom and almost his sanity in a maximum security prison in Nevada. What makes this book so unforgettable is the author's irrepressible sense of humor and great sense of irony. Here he is, 47 years old, Jewish and sharing a cell with a young, huge, skinhead Nazi gang leader! More amazing is that they become friends. This is the most riveting and moving book that I have read in a very long time and it reads like a novel - a great and unforgettable novel. I think that 'You Got Nothing Coming' will be a classic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2002

    Best Book I Have Read In Years

    This was a beautifully written book that made me laugh and made me cry. Jimmy Lerner is an amazing writer who grips you from the first page. He provides a unique prespective of a 'regular' middle class man thrown into the inferno of the American prison system. Lerner resists self pity and writes with insite, wit and humor. I could not put this book down and can't wait for the movie.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2002


    I loved this book and would reccomend it to anyone that has the guts to find out what it would really be like in prison. I found myself staying up half the night just to see what was going down next. This is an awesome page-turner and a unimaginable true story!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    This one will make you laugh!

    I enjoyed reading this one! I think I might read this one again... Lerner, I loved it! Keep writing!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2009

    I have read this twice

    and I usually do not read a book more than once. I thought it was thouroughly entertaining and hard to put down.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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