Life After Death

Life After Death

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.

In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.—who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three—were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the “ringleader,” was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011.

Now Echols shares his story in full—from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades. In these pages, Echols reveals himself a brilliant writer, infusing his narrative with tragedy and irony in equal measure: he describes the terrors he experienced every day and his outrage toward the American justice system, and offers a firsthand account of living on Death Row in heartbreaking, agonizing detail. Life After Death is destined to be a riveting, explosive classic of prison literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142180280
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 170,443
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Misskelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is also the author of High Magic: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row and Yours For Eternity (with his wife Lorri Davis).
While in prison, Damien was ordained into the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition. Today he teaches classes on magick around the country and works as a visual artist. He and Lorri live in New York City with their three cats.

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.


Excerpted from "Life After Death"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Damien Echols.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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 achieves the kind of emotional resonance that many similar books lack....A tragic and often disturbing story."
"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,
“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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Life After Death 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story from Damien's perspective, which until now was only available through pieces of interviews. If you have been following the West Memphis Three case or have any interest in the case at all, then this book is a must read.
mj24 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I could feel Damien's pain in his words. My favorite part is the way he talks about his wife. You can tell he loves her with all of his heart and soul just by the way he talks about her. His story is very moving and I felt very emotional reading about his experiences on death row. How he wrote about the other inmates is very powerful. I am so happy that Damien, Jessie and Jason are out of prison but they are not truely free until their names are cleared. God bless Lorii Davis' kind heart for never giving up fighting for their freedom. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Keep writing Damien!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My heart was broken to read the inexcusible treatment of this sensitive, loving, intelligent boy then man who was failed by society. I cried when he described his arrrest, coonviction, and treatment in prison. How this could happen is beyond my comprehension as an American citizen. The book is beautifully written and descriptive prose reveals the inner goodness of the author and the strength of his character. I pray that he experiences healing , love, and true joy for the rest of his life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
for a man who didn't finish high school and spent 18 years in prison, echols sure has a way with words. he writes beautifully, yet with no fluff. raw, emotional honesty. if you know everything about the west memphis 3, you should read this. if you know nothing about the west memphis 3, you should read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. This is one of the most poingant books I've ever read. I felt like I was with Damien throughout his childhood, having those experiences with him - some I sympathized with, some I empathized with, and some I could have never imagined. Beyond the night of his arrest I was horrified at the unfolding of events as they happened through Damien's youthfully naive eyes, and his time on death row left me feeling empty and desperate. The hope in the story came to me through a letter from a woan who didn't want to pry, a bird on a window ledge, and a simple container of water infused with moonglow. I am inspired by Damien's writing, angered by the injustice of a corrupt system, grieving for a lost youth, and yearning to read more of Damien future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amzing. Well written. The descriptions of his childhood homes made you feel like you were actually there with him. On the outside looking in. the way he described the winter seasons made me long for the winter. The whole story is an emotional roller coaster of anger, hate, devestation, lonliness, heartbreak, tradgedy and the glimmers of hope and the finally happiness. I highly reccommend this book to everyone.
CarpenterNewton More than 1 year ago
There's no better way to get a sense of what these boys went through than to hear it straight from one of them. It's a nice mix of Damien's history (his life through the years) as well as his experiences in prison. He also includes journal entries leading up to his release. If you are unfamiliar with the case, it's probably not the first book you want to read on the subject as the author doesn't delve into specifics of the case (the only reason I don't give it 5 stars). I would suggest reading something like "Devil's Knot" to get the specifics of the case, the "evidence" against the WM3, and how they were convicted. Once you are familiar with the case, this is a wonderful follow-up. I think everyone should read about how these 3 boys became 3 more victims in a horrible crime. The author's risilience is inspiring. A compelling read that I tore through in about a day.
kristeesue More than 1 year ago
This book was good but the title is Life after Death and it was more pre death and during death. I love reading biographies and I would say it's worth a peek.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully haunting, Echols captures each moment in a way only a true poet could. The truth about our justice system exposed, a life of poverty, and overcoming true obstacles in life really sums up "Life After Death". He is a true inspiration in this book. A must read!
patchesdog60 More than 1 year ago
I knew I would like this book but I loved it. Damien is so articulate but writes with an economy of words. It was so sad but Damien told his story without whining about his lot in life. I have been a believer almost since day one. I lived in Memphis at the time of the murders and told everyone "these boys are innocent". I have recommended this book to everyone. My 91 year old mother is going to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You obviously didn't read the Author's Note. If you had you would have seen Damien Echols said it was snippets of writing that survived the cell raids. This book was not meant to be contiguous. Before you write a review that is so idiotic and easy to show where you missed your vital piece of information, make sure you're right or can make a good arguement over aspects of the book. Sincerely, You jusr got told by a fifteen year old.
EmilyPseuGage More than 1 year ago
Anyone with even a passing interest in the Robin Hood Hills murder case will be blown away by this book. This is not a description of the case. It's not a diatribe against the legal system that failed 6 innocent boys. It's bigger than that, and somehow more intimate at the same time. If you want the details, read Mara Leveritt's "Devil's Knot." This is not that. This isn't the story of a man falsely accused and fighting the system that took his freedom. That happened, certainly, but Damien Echols doesn't dwell on that. He focuses instead on how he used his time on death row to better himself as a man, to explore spirituality from every angle, and to learn from every discipline he imagined. The trailer trash dropout who landed on death row in 1994 is gone, replaced with a man who is eloquent, witty, and has somehow maintained a sense of humor after the horrors he faced.  He writes about the atrocious conditions on death row, and how the mentally ill are often left untreated, ignored, or intentionally provoked.  And woven through the whole story is the miracle of a woman who loved him so deeply that she gave up her life as she knew it to keep him from losing his. I can't imagine anyone reading this book without being moved, inspired and outraged. Undoubtedly the best book I have read this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written, gives great insight of the ignorance and judgemental conclusion from society, our justice system and prison system. Thanks Damien for sharing your story from your side. Highly recommend this book!
Dana_Vigilante More than 1 year ago
This book was phemomenal. I'm glad Damien wrote it, and got to tell his side, which for almost 18 years, was never heard. This is a guy who had a dismal (at best), childhood, then got completely screwed for a crime he didn't commit. Okay, that can happen to anyone, right? Except in his case, he got the death penalty. Not life, but the death penalty. It wasn't until his a woman named Lori took an interest in his case and started the proper wheels of justice moving. Not only did she succeed in freeing him, but she also became his wife. I truly believe Damien would not have lasted much longer in that cell, had he not been released. I followed his story for years, and I was so happy the day CNN aired the live press conference of all three being released. Damien deserves to eat peppermint every day for the rest of his life, not just on holidays. His picture is on my vision board, as a reminder of what phenomenal people can achieve. I wish Damien and Lori the best of everything. I'm sorry we missed his book signing at the NYC B&N. Dana Vigilante
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written and enjoyable. Although I assumed it would have more of the actual court proceedings. So if you are interested in the legal aspects of the case there are different books out there that cover that topic.
Sister-P More than 1 year ago
This was a difficult read. Damien Echols writing is brilliant. He writes palatably where you can feel and see everything. He is an extraordinary person, who  has endured utter hell for something he didn't do. He spent 18 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit. This book made me angry, the gross injustices he had to endure where cruel and inhumane. I highly recommend this book.
Demert More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone who followed the West Memphis Three. Damien does a wonderful job telling the story of his life before/during prison. Once I started this book I couldn't put it down and read it cover to cover. What an injustice these 3 young men suffered. I only hope they can find peace and happiness after 18 yrs of suffering. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Damien is an amazing person for keeping his sanity and his moral aptitude during the many years he was on Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. It is frustrating to read his account of corruption in the legal system and the jails, and to witness the power these people had over an innocent man. He is a very gifted writer and I urge you to read his story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have followed the trial and case for many years. I am glad I took the time to read Damiens side of the story. Great book,heartbreaking story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended. I'd like to read about how difficult it was for him to return to home with wife. What life was like for him? Great book. Great Read
Danielle91 More than 1 year ago
Damien is an incredible writer. I have been following this case for years and I love to read the books and watch the documentaries. Such an interesting case and if you have been following it at all, definitely read this and the others!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so moved by this man and his story. This is a must read! I would give it more stars if i could!
ShelleyM-Arellano More than 1 year ago
I have followed this case for many years. From a rough unbringing, to being convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Damien managed to come through a horrendous ordeal with a positve attitude and not anger or bitterness which he would have every right to feel.He tells his life story in such a public way with honesty and candor. It's eloquently written and a must read for anyone who has followed the case or even just has a passing interest in learning more from someone who lived through it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please read this and be grateful that this good man is now free. I am proud to say that I went to school with Steve Braga, the incredibly brilliant and gifted attorney who freed this young man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago