In 1967, the black boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and a young acquaintance, John Artis, were wrongly convicted of triple murder by an all-white jury in Paterson, New Jersey. Over the next decade, Carter gradually amassed convincing evidence of his innocence and the vocal support of celebrities from Bob Dylan to Muhammad Ali. He was freed in 1976 pending a new trial, but he lost his appeal -- to the amazement of many -- and landed back in prison.
Carter, bereft, shunned almost all human contact until he received a letter from Lesra Martin, a teenager raised in a Brooklyn ghetto. Against his bitter instincts, Carter agreed to meet with Martin, thus taking the first step on a tortuous path back to the world. Martin introduced him to an enigmatic group of Canadians who helped wage a successful battle to free him. As Carter orchestrated this effort from his cell, he also embarked on a singular intellectual journey, which led ultimately to a freedom more profound than any that could be granted by a legal authority.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.89(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
James S. Hirsch, a former reporter for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Cheating Destiny, the bestseller Hurricane: The Miracle Journey of Rubin Carter, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy, and Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship That Saved Two POWs in Vietnam. He is also a principal of Close Concerns, a consultancy and publishing company that specializes in diabetes. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett.
Read an Excerpt
Death House Rendezvous
By 1980, New Jersey's notorious Death House had been revived as a lovers' alcove, but Rubin "Hurricane" Carter still wanted no part of it.
The Death House was Trenton State Prison's official name for the brick and concrete vault where condemned men lived in tiny cells and an electric chair stood hard against a nearby wall. The first inmate reached the Death House on October 29, 1907. Six weeks later he was dead, his slumped body shaved and sponged down with salt water, the better to conduct the electricity. New Jersey continued to hang capital offenders for two more years. But soon enough the electric chair, with its wooden body, leather straps, and metal-mesh helmet, which discharged three mortal blasts of up to 2,400 volts, was seen as the most felicitous form of execution.
At least one infamous death gave the site a brief aura of celebrity. Richard Bruno Hauptmann, convicted of murdering Charles Lindbergh's baby, was electrocuted in the brightly lit chamber at 8:44 p.m. on April 3, 1936. In later years, sentences were carried out at 10 p.m., after the "general population" prisoners had been placed in total lockup. An outside power line fed the chair to ensure that a deadly jolt did not interfere with the penitentiary's regular lighting. On occasion, "citizen witnesses" crowded into a small green room, with only a rope between them and the chair about ten feet away. The observers watched the executioner turn a large wheel right behind the seated man's ear, thereby activating the lethal current. The body, penitent or obdurate, innocent or guilty, alive or dead, pressed against the restraints until the current was shut off.
The Death House confronted its own demise in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. The electric chair, having singed the breath from 160 men, was suddenly obsolete. So prison officials found a new mission for the chamber: it became the Visiting Center.
Despite its macabre history, the VC was a huge hit with most of the prisoners. It marked the first time that Trenton State Prison, a maximum-security facility, had allowed contact visits. Inmates could now touch their spouses, children, or friends. The metal bars were removed from more than two dozen Death Row cells near the archaic chair, its seven electric switches still in place. The rooms were not exactly cozy hideaways, but they became the unsanctioned venue for conjugal meetings. Inmates seeking a bit of privacy tried to reserve cells farthest away from the guards, and the arrangement, as described by some old-timers, gave rise to Death House babies.
But Rubin Carter didn't care a bit. He refused to accept virtually anything the prison offered, and that included visits inside the reincarnated Death House.
He was repulsed by the prospect of sharing an intimate moment among the souls of 160 men, some of whom he knew. Transforming this slaughterhouse into a visiting center, Carter believed, was like turning Auschwitz or Buchenwald into a summer camp for children. It was another way for the state to humiliate prisoners, to express its contempt for the new law that pulled the plug on its chair.
Carter knew well that he could have been one of the chair's immolations. In 1967 he had been found guilty of committing a triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey. He adamantly claimed his innocence. The state sought the death penalty, but the jury returned a triple-life sentence instead. That conviction was overturned in 1976, but Carter was convicted of the same crime again later that year and given the same triple-life sentence.
By the end of 1980, Carter had gone for almost four years without a contact visit. Since his second sentencing in February of 1977, he had not seen his son or daughter, his mother, his four sisters, or his two brothers. Most of his friends were also shut out. He and his wife had divorced. He saw his lawyers in another part of the prison.
But now, on the last Sunday of the year, Carter had a visitor as the result of an unusual letter he'd received three months earlier. As a former high-profile boxer who was known around the country and even the world, he received hundreds of letters each year, but he rarely answered them. In fact, he didn't even open them, allowing them to pile up in his cell. Carter wanted nothing to do with the outside world.
Then came a letter in September, his name and prison address printed on the envelope. Carter could never explain why he opened it except to say that the envelope had vibrations. The letter, dated September 20, 1980, was written by a black youth from the ghettos of Brooklyn who, oddly enough, was living in Toronto with a group of Canadians. The seventeen-year-old, Lesra Martin, wrote that he had read Carter's autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, written from prison in 1974, and it helped him better understand his older brother, who had done time in upstate New York. Lesra concluded the letter:
All through your book I was wondering if it would have been easier to die or take the shit you did. But now, when I think of your book, I say if you were dead then you would not have been able to give what you did through your book. To imagine me not being able to write you this letter or thinking that they could beat you into giving up, man, that would be too much. We need more like you to set examples of what courage is all about!
Hey, Brother, I'm going to let it go. Please write back. It will mean a lot.
Lesra's words, his efforts to reach out, touched Carter. He responded on October 7. The one-page typewritten note thanked Lesra for his "outpouring of hope, concern and humanness . . . The heartfelt messages literally jumped off the pages."
More letters followed between Lesra, his Canadian guardians - who had essentially adopted the youth to educate him - and Carter in which they discussed politics, philosophy, Carter's own case, and his appeal. But when Lesra asked if he could visit the prison at Christmastime - he was going to be in Brooklyn seeing his family - Carter replied noncommittally. That did not deter Lesra. The bond between the two - and, more important, between Carter and this mysterious Canadian commune that typically shunned friendships with the outside world - had been sealed.
Winter's chill could be felt inside the Trenton State Prison on that last Sunday of December. Built in 1836 by the famed British architect John Haviland, the prison is a brooding, monolithic fortress. Haviland used trapezoidal shapes and austere giganticism to evoke a massive Egyptian temple. Scarab beetles, which symbolized the soul in ancient Egypt, were carved into the prison's pink limestone walls. Tributaries from the Delaware River flowed in front of the prison, in faint mimicry of the Nile.
But by 1980 the waterways had long since dried up and the pink limestone had turned brown. Loops of razor-ribbon wire topped twenty-foot-high concrete walls, and stone-faced guards stood in gun towers. The prison yard, with a softball field, weight machines, and handball courts, was said to sit over a cemetery. The yard's red dirt was so dry that it was regularly sprayed with oil, creating a viscous sheen that rubbed off on inmates in crimson splotches.
While the prison sought total control of its inmates, Carter defied the institution at every turn. He did not wear its clothes, eat in its mess hall, work its jobs, or participate in any organized activity. He refused to meet with prison psychiatrists, attend parole hearings, or carry his prison identification card. His rationale was simple: he was an innocent man; therefore, he would not be treated like a criminal. His defiance earned him several trips to a subterranean vault known as "the hole," where inmates were held in solitary confinement. He was also once banished to a state psychiatric hospital, where the criminally insane and other incorrigibles were disciplined.
But Carter had a predatory instinct for survival, and he was eventually allowed to live quietly in his fourth-tier cell. He continued to fight for his freedom in the courts, but by now he had immersed himself in books on philosophy, history, metaphysics, and religion. Searching for meaning in his own life, he turned his cell into "an unnatural laboratory of the human spirit." He studied, wrote, and tutored other inmates about the need to look within themselves to find answers to the world outside.
Carter had been on this personal journey for more than two years by the time a guard came to his cell and told him he had a contact visitor. Suspecting it was the letter-writing youth, Carter walked down his tier, through the center hub of the prison, and past the infirmary, which was conveniently next to the Death House. (The infirmary used to receive the electrocuted bodies.) Before entering the Death House, he gritted his teeth and disrobed for a strip search - standard procedure for every prisoner before and after a contact visit. Searching for contraband, a guard ran his hand through Carter's hair and looked inside his mouth, under his arms, beneath his feet, and up his rectum. This degrading invasion was another reason Carter avoided contact visits.
Once inside the chamber, Carter reserved a cell on the lower tier, placing his plastic identification tag and a pack of Pall Malls on two chairs. The prison visitors soon filed in and quickly joined their friend or loved one. Finally, only two people were left - Carter and a slip of a youth. The young man was trembling.
Growing up in the slums of Brooklyn, Lesra Martin knew plenty of people who had gone to prison, but this was his first time inside a pen. The high stone walls, metal gates, and claustrophobic corridors were imposing enough, but the brusque security checks were even more unnerving. He emptied his pockets, was frisked, was scanned by a hand-held metal detector, and had his right hand stamped with invisible ink. He had brought a package of Christmas cards, socks, and a hat from his Canadian guardians but was not allowed to deliver it because all packages have to come through the mailroom, where they are opened and inspected. Lesra registered and was given a number, but as he passed through the prison in single file, he was jarred by the guards' shrill orders.
"Get back in line!"
"Don't speak to the person in front of you!"
"Have your ID ready!"
"Put your things in your locker!"
As Lesra stood in the waiting room, he finally heard "four-five- four-seven-two, up!"
That was Carter's prison number. Lesra waited before a dim holding bay. As the steel doors opened and visitors began walking in, several women took deep breaths while others held hands. A guard checked the right hand of each visitor with a blue fluorescent light. After about twenty people filed in, the guard yelled, "Bay secure!" The doors shut, and there was a long moment of helplessness, of captivity. Then doors on the other side opened, and everyone moved out. The experience dazed Lesra, who had arrived wanting to cheer up a prisoner but was made to feel as if he had done something wrong himself.
Rubin Carter understood the feeling.
"You must be Lesra," Carter said. He saw a frightened but goodlooking young man about six inches shorter than he. (Carter was only five foot eight.) The prisoner's appearance stunned the teenager. Every picture Lesra had seen of Carter showed him with a clean-shaven head, a thick goatee, and a menacing stare. Now he had a full Afro, a mustache, and a smile. The two embraced, then walked to the cell Carter had reserved. They sat facing each other and leaned forward so passing guards could not hear their conversation.
Lesra recounted his harrowing experience getting to the Visiting Center. "How do you survive in here?" he asked.
"I don't acknowledge the existence of the prison," Carter said. "It doesn't exist for me."
Lesra noticed that the guards patrolling the corridor did not walk as closely to their cell as to other cells, giving them a bit more privacy as a sign of respect. Lesra also heard inmates as well as guards refer to Rubin as "Mr. Carter." When Lesra called him "Mr. Carter," he laughed. "You can call me Rubin, or better yet, Rube." As the inmate explained his refusal to participate in prison activities, Lesra remembered the words of Bob Dylan's song "Hurricane," which had been released in 1975 amid an outpouring of celebrity support:
But then they took him to a jailhouse
Where they tried to turn a man into a mouse.
The jailhouse, Lesra realized, had failed.
He described how he left his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant and moved to Toronto, where his new Canadian family was educating him. The arrangement puzzled Carter, and he told Lesra he need not worry about being alone. "I know they're treating you well because of your smile, but if you're ever not happy there, you let me know," he said. The young man gave him the phone number to his home in Canada.
About an hour passed. As the visit was about to end, a prisoner who had a Polaroid camera approached them.
"You like me to take a picture of you and your son, Mr. Carter?"
"Absolutely!" he responded.
Lesra turned and began walking toward a wall that he believed would make a fine backdrop. Carter yanked him back.
"We don't go that way," he said. "That's where the chair was."
The electric chair had been removed a year or so earlier and was now in the Corrections Department Museum in Trenton. But the bolts were still in the ground, and the imprint of the chair was visible. The picture was taken against a different wall, with the two standing next to each other, smiles creasing their faces, Carter's arm draped across Lesra's shoulders.
As the two walked toward the holding bay, Lesra said, "I wish I could just walk you right on out."
"Don't worry," Carter said. "I'm with you."
This encounter marked the beginning of Carter's reemergence from his self-imposed shell. He would always have a special bond with Lesra, but he would develop far more important ties with the Canadian commune, and its members would provide vital support on Carter's journey through the federal courts. At the same time, the group's strong-willed leader, Lisa Peters, and Carter would become intense but doomed soulmates in an unlikely prison love affair. But all that was in the future. After his visit to the Death House, Carter returned to his cell, lay down on his cot, and stared at the picture of Lesra and himself.
Copyright (c) 2000 by James S. Hirsch. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Table of Contents1. Death house Rendezvous 1
2. Wild West on the Passaic 8
3. Danger on the Streets 19
4. Mystery Witness 39
5. A Force of Nature 60
6. Boxer Rebellion 87
7. Radical Chic Redux 108
8. Revenge of Passaic County. 134
9. Search for the Miraculous 159
10. The Inner Circle of Humanity 181
11. Paradise Found 194
12. Powerful Appeals 218
13. Final Judgment 246
14. The Eagle Rises 266
15. Vindication 285
16. Tears of Renewal 312
What People are Saying About This
A great story. What can be seen on the outside is marvelous, but it is only a hint of the magnificence within.
Charles Kaiser -- The New York Times
Anyone curious about the persistence of Carter's notoriety ... will find all the answers in [this] exhaustive biography . . . A nearly biblical tale of persecution, punishment and redemption.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I strongly recommend this book!!It's amazing, makes you realize and understand the world we live in.
The memoir Hurricane, tells of the miraculous journey of Rubin Carter, a colored boxer who was falsely convicted for a triple murder in his hometown. Hurricane is a detailed, inspiring account of Carter's 22-year effort to exonerate himself and regain his freedom. Carter's story shows how discrimination is everywhere, even in court. I understand what he means because this is how it is today in many different ways. Discrimination exists in schools too, and it's not always because of color. It's because other things too like shape and size, even clothes and shoes. The human being is naturally judgmental of others so this is a problem that no government or law can fix. We must solve this problem ourselves. Carter exemplifies the better human being. He doesn't hate others who hate him; he instead ignores it and stays true to himself. Carter and Artis, and acquaintance of his, are arrested for the triple murder in the Lafayette Bar. This book tells of how they deal with the false accusations and how their lives are changed forever. They attend many hearings and await there final sentence. I read this book and then saw the movie. This is a familiar formula for disappointment. The book is much better and richer than the movie. The life of Rubin Carter is certainly worth reading about regardless of what side of the debate you are on. Many people feel passionate about both his innocence and guilt. This is a wonderfully crafted book about one of the most insidious evils with which we still struggle, about 2 men who had their lives taken from them, and extraordinary people who made freedom for Mr. Carter their full time passion. I strongly recommend that you read this book because it makes you realize that there are many flaws in our world today and that we have a power to make it better.
The song, movie, and book tell an amazing, life-changing story. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter has all my respect and is a hero to me.
I saw the movie yesterday for the first time & i must've cried periodically thru the entire movie. My heart went out to the 'Hurricane' entirely. No one could ever know exactly what he has been thru all we can do is be sympathtic! What a strong man Rubin Carter is I believe every person should be knowledgeable about the facts in our world, how it was and how it should be, and how far we have to go to seek the truth. I am so excited to read this great book just so I can have a better understanding (emotional wise) of how this man survived..God is great & strong, you can never hide the truth for eternity!
I thought that this would be a great book, but it is rather boring. Maybee I need to try reading it again, because it just didnt keep my interest the first time.
I FIRST GOT INTERESTED WHEN I SAW THE MOVIE 'HURRICANE' STARING DENZEL WASHINGTON AND HEARD THE GREAT SONG BY BOB DYLAN INTITLED 'HURRICANE.' THIS BOOK HAS CHANGED MY LIFE, IF YOU HAVE'NT ALREADY, SEE THE MOVIE, LISTEN TO THE SONG, AND READ THE BOOK, IT IS A FACINATING SUBJECT.
This book and the movie are great. They do not deserve anything less than 5 stars
My government teacher decided to assign me this book when I showed the slightest bit of doubt in Rubin's innocence. After reading this book, despite a very neutral tone, Hirsch proved to the reader that there is not the slightest chance of his guilt. An amazing and recommended read.
This book first caught my attention when I saw the movie The Hurricane and sparked an interest. This was the best book I have ever read! It keeps you interested and never a dull moment! Hurricane is my personal favorite book. Everyone should read this book young and old whether you like boxing or not!
Hirsch writes the story of the Hurricane with awesome detail and emotion. Touched my life like no other piece of literature has.
If you have seen the move 'The Hurricane' you should read this book. It is an excellent book to learn about justice system and it makes you want to meet this heroic guy to see how he feels about how is life is now!
My boyfriend would listen to Bob Dylans song the 'Hurricane' and I never completly understood it. So he made me watch the movie... I cried at the end... completly touched me. The movie was very interesting and I new that there had to be some books out on this, so I went and purchased Lazuras and the Hurricane.. Touched me more than the movie had.. I have told all my friends about it and gave the book to my grandmother to read.
I have never seen a more dynamic, powerful movie before. When one who is imprisoned can train themselves to stay awake when others sleep and sleep when others are awake is truly much discipline. When you know - that you know - that you know what you stand for, and who you are, you will fall for nothing. I can't wait to read the book.
In a word... Fantastic! How this amazing man came out of prison without being bitter and mad at the world is beyond most of us...including me...don't miss this book!
THE BOOK IS A MOUTHFUL OF INFORMATION ON MR.CARTER THE AUTHOR DOES A WONDERFUL JOB WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO OTHERS.
I walked away from this book and the theatre a different person!! Stronger! ... Better! ... and determined to make my life have meaning and purpose! Determined to read more! Determined to stand for something! Determined to be aware of and involved in the world around me. Determined to 'hang in there' when things get tough! Determined to accept that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I can't do if I APPLY myself!!!!!
This was most likely the best movie to come out in 2000, even though it is only January, I am confident that they will talk about this heartfelt, true story, for a long time to come, highly reccomended to all, truly makes you think!
Excellent Movie!!!!!! Denzel does a great job. Thought the movie was outstanding from the very beginning. I highly recommend everyone to see it.
THIS WAS A CLEARLY DETAILED AND PERSPECTIVE MOVIE. DENZEL WASHINGTON PLAYED A MIRACULOUS INTERCEPTIVE PART. HE COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE UNPREDICTIBLE AND UNBELIEVABLE.WOW!
THIS MOVIE IS ONE OF THE BEST TRUE STORY WE HAVE EVER SEEN. MY BOYFRIEND AND I WERE IN TEARS TO SEE THE LOVE OF THIS 4 PEOPLE HELPING AN INNOCENT MAN BE FREE. ALSO,CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT MY BOYFRIEND DID NOT WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. AT THE MIDDLE OF THE MOVIE HE HAD CHANGED HIS MIND. NOW HE WANTS TO READ MR RUBIN CARTER 'HURRICANE'S' BOOK. THE ONLY THING I HAVE SAY IS YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE!! :) DENSIL WASHINGTON DID SUCH A GREAT JOB. LOVE IT!!!!
Ezumalid had no idea what the Matching Center was, where he was, or who those people who were talking were. He knew one of them were Kormick. Kormick and the other guy led him to an in to a big round table where tons of men sat. It looked like a council of some kind. "Have you the boy?" A man who was about thirty said from the left side of the round table. "Yes, we have him," The first man said. "Good," the thirty-year-old man answered. Ezumalid looked around. All it was was a wooden inn, a table for dinner, and a round table where the council of men where. "If you're wondering," the 30 year old man turned to Ezumalid, "I'm Hugho. So...you're a wizard,eh?" Ezumalid didn't know what he could say to this man, and he still had no idea of where he was, or why he was here anyway. "Where are we?" He asked. Everybody laughed. This wasn't going so well. "You're at the southeastern end of Arkin. We are in the city of Elia. You're ours now," a bald man said who was right next to Hugho. "Now," Hugho told him," If you don't answer, you'll be killed to the spot." "No," Ezumalid told them. "We can read minds, Ezumalid," Hugho smiled. What? How did they know him? Oh, maybe they had spied on him and his partial friends. "You'll get to read minds later, boy, if you let me train you," Hugho half-blackmailed Ezumalid. Ezumalid wasn't sure about training with Hugho. Without his magic, which was temporarily gone, he couldn't escape. "Sorry about that magic problem, but you're not escaping," a hairy man said at the right of the round table. They could read Ezumalid's mind! "I know you're not sure. You can chose in the morning or be killed." Hugho looked at him solemnly and curious. "We have a room for you," an old man said in the middle. Ezunalid followed Hugho and the old man down the tunnel to his room. He tried not to think. What? What? What? Was all he tried to put in his head, but it was really hard for him to shut out thoughts out of these mind readers. "I'm Yuku. I'll be the servant for your room. You can get ready in here while we go," the old man told him. Hugho and the old man left and closed the door. Ezumalid looked at the room. Just a wooden wall and wooden floor and no windows. No bed. Ezumalid tried the door. Jammed locked. He tried to find a decision on if he wanted training with Hugho, or be killed. He was suspicious they had taken his magic. There was no way out and no way in. Suddenly, the wooden floor gave way and Ezumalid tumbled through. Now he was in a dark tunnel where he couldn't see anything except a white paper at the end of the tunnel. Ezumalid went towards it and turned the blank paper around. It was a map! It showed the whole world of Arkin, but what made him curious was that it showed other worlds. The names were erased, but some cities in this ice world were Ferit and Juyqw. But he looked the city where he was, Elias. It WAS far away from the Gremild Forest. But he looked for things near Elias. It was a desert, but he saw something: Attack routes-going toward the Gremild Forest and Wesfuld Mountains. His friends were in peril!