Good Book

Francis Beckett, the writer and joournalist, and it must be said a good friend has written this appreciation of My Prison Diaries

Dear Denis

Your book is a splendid achievement because it gives the taste and texture of prison. It’s a journalist’s book – all the specifics, all the details, by someone who knows how to write, how to tell a story. You write what you see, as clearly and economically as it can be written.

You have, quite rightly, ignored the commonsense voices that must have told you to leave out your own anger at your treatment. You were treated with appalling vindictiveness, and your own burning sense of grievance makes the book stronger.

A couple of things occur to me. First, that you must have had many much more bitter enemies than most politicians; and that’s at least partly due to the characteristic that makes this book so good – the political method is to soften what you have to say, to use generalities instead of specifics, so as not to make too many enemies, but you and I are writers and we instinctively give our words maximum impact.

And second, that if you hadn’t been treated in this way, you would never have seen the inside of Belmarsh and Brixton, and we wouldn’t have this clear, fluent denunciation of the prison system.

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