This classic book tells the harrowing and inspirational story of Robert Elliott Burns' imprisonment on a chain gang in Georgia in the 1920s, his subsequent escape from the chain gang (twice, no less!), and the public furor that developed. The book was immediately turned into a famous movie and sparked outrage about prison conditions and involuntary servitude that led to major reforms. It is also simply a very interesting read.
Originally issued as a six-part serial in the pages of True Detective Mysteries magazine in 1931, and printed by the Vanguard Press the following year, this is an autobiographical account--written while in hiding, likely somewhere on the East Coast--of the author's painful adventures in the Georgia penal system, beginning with his arrest for stealing $5.80 from an Atlanta grocer in 1922. Burns' candid intent was to expose the brutality and corruption of the chain gang system, and he succeeded: the book created an instant furor upon publication and became a bestseller for its publisher. It served as the basis for the Mervyn LeRoy film released later in 1932, starring Paul Muni in the role of Robert Elliott Burns. The film heralded a new genre--the prison drama--and won three Oscars including a Best Actor Award for Muni. It is an enduring classic of its time and still a compelling memoir.
Published by the progressive Vanguard Press in 1932, while the author was still a fugitive from Georgia justice, the book is available in a modern, well-formatted digital edition, featuring active Contents, readable font, and the original cover from the first edition. It is also available in a 2017 paperback and hardback edition from Quid Pro Books. Part of the Journeys & Memoirs Series.
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