Behind Bars

“Prison Noir,” which was released on Sept. 2, is the latest anthology in Akashic Books award-winning Noir Series. Featuring stories written by convicts, this anthology gives readers the inside scoop of what life in prison is truly like.

The book contains 15 stories, each one set inside a prison. Prison literature is becoming more popular, with TV shows like “Orange is the New Black.”

This anthology will surprise and engage readers. One of the most interesting facts about “Prison Noir” is that almost each contributor has been or is currently incarcerated, according to the publisher.

I found the most interesting story to be contributed by William Van Poyck who was actually executed in 2013 for his part in a failed attempt to free his best friend from a prison transportation van, where a guard was killed by an accomplice, in 1987.

Van Poyck’s story provides insight into the lives of the incarcerated with a fresh angle and melancholy tone hanging over the entire story. By discussing the routine murders that happen in prison and the likelihood that the convicts will provide false information to investigators in hopes of parole, the reality of what happens strikes an emotional chord. Most people empathize with other human beings based on a hope that respect will be given and deserved.

Another story which stuck with me was written by Linda Michelle Marquardt. “Milk and Tea” tells the story of a woman who survives horrific domestic violence, but then snaps and kills her sadistic husband. The story explores themes of human nature and revenge.

Each short story presented in “Prison Noir” discusses the reality of the life of a convict, leading readers to feel sympathy and pity. However, this anthology also questions those feelings and leaves readers to question human nature.

“‘The blood jet is poetry’- these words of Sylvia Plath have reverberated through my experience of reading and rereading the fifteen stories of ‘Prison Noir’,” editor Joyce Carol Oates stated in the introduction of the anthology. “In this case, the blood jet is prose though sometimes poetic prose; if we go a little deeper, in some chilling instances, the blood jet is exactly that: blood.”

Rebecca White can be reached at

Author: Rebecca White

Rebecca White is from Orange County, California and is a senior majoring in Communication. She started out as the Pirate Life Copy Editor her sophomore year, worked her way up to Assistant Pirate Life Editor her junior year, and enters her senior year as Pirate Life Editor. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester and will graduate a semester early in December 2016. During her time at Seton Hall she has interned for CNBC and, an entertainment site where she coordinates the celebrity interviews. She aspires to be a novelist while working in the publishing industry, either as a book editor or magazine editor.

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