Interview Part 1

Glenn Langohr



Your call is now being recorded.

EL: Okay; now being recorded.

GL: Alright.

EL: So we better be as entertaining as possible. For every second this is being recorded.

GL: Let’s do this, then.

EL: Do you have your entertainment voice on? I know I have mine on.

GL: Yeah. I’m good.

EL: Okay …

GL: I’m always ready.

(laughter)

EL: So, my first question is … umm … the type of books, that are popular — among people — the people that you were around — like — what are, what are popular books? — I’d imagine, like religious texts, like the Bible and the Koran … et cetera. Is that an accurate perception or — ?

GL: Yeah: it’s: those are religious texts that prisoners use to, uh, use the paper to roll cigarettes with.

EL: Oh really.

(laughter)

GL: Yeah; no; I actually read the Bible a lot; I read the Bible a lot in there, but, at the very back of the Bible, there’s these little pieces of paper that you can use to roll up cigarettes or like almost as good as rolling papers: or other things, but.

(laughter)

GL: Yeah, as far as like reading books, any book is good; I mean — umm … romance books, — uh, crime books … thrillers … truth stories … any kind of book’s good in there; and everybody’s got different tastes — there’s actually libraries and stuff … so you can get almost everything, from … from umm — from Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, newer stuff would be Lee Child … umm — Robert Ludlum’s a popular one, you see all the movies coming out now, all those books: I mean even Louis L’Amour; like westerns and stuff … but then you know, like psychological thrillers, medical thrillers, you name it; it’s in there, being read.

EL: Yeah. So it’s really diverse then. It’s not …  — 

GL: Absolutely: very diverse. Yeah.

EL: Okay. And is — what’s the popularity of reading? What’s the general sense of it? Is it a rarer thing — or … ? you think: umm: actually, it’s a slight segue … but: do you think, people read more when they’re in prison?

GL: Absolutely. Absolutely. So: basically — uhh: that’s all you have to do. Is read. So there were times when I was reading for eight to ten hours a day: just non-stop: and I became well-read, because of — because of it. And so, that’s pretty much where people learn a lot of — a lot of — a lot of uh, a lot of knowledge from reading books in there. There’s nothing really else to do and some of the places are really locked down, and so that’s your — that’s your best time-killer, and if you’re stuck in a cell for twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, or almost that much, books are your best friend.

EL: Has it ever occurred to you, like — like maybe it’d be better for my writing, if I went back(laughter) … to prison? Like — 

GL: Yeah!

EL: Yeah?

GL: Yeah. Abso — Absolutely. I don’t think so, I don’t want to say that, because I could doom myself, but you,

EL: Yeah. Yeah;

GL: You have a point right there. Like I’m pretty much — locked down, the way I am here — like, I isolate, and I do all my writing: and then I go out and — and engage in life out here. That’s the only way I can keep my writing going, is to — is to basically be that disciplined; because I — like I said, I do have ADHD and I’m all over the place. If it’s, if there’s noise over there going ding ding ding ding ding I need to go investigate what it is. If there’s movement — I just — I’m all over the place, so — the only way for me to,

EL: I’m very much the same way.

GL: You know.

EL: Most people are wired for that,

GL: Yeah.

EL: I don’t blame them; I mean I think it’s instinctual … I think it’s evolutionary,

GL: It is. I think so too. I think so, too. I think it’s …  — a survival, and … what’s going on over there, what’s — what do I need to know about,

EL: Yeah.

GL: And it might be — it might be more entertaining than what I’m doing right now, (laughter)

EL: I think we respond first most deeply to sound, and then,

GL: Yeah.

EL: Most deeply to visuals?

GL: Yeah.

EL: And I think … the, … uhm — gratification of reading, the reception of reading, how it’s uh; discursive, and how — you know — it’s based on, — (sigh) — translation of a word into a meaning, into an understanding? it’s a slower … a slower intake?

GL: Yeah. Right.

EL: More steps there? It’s not as instantaneous a gratification?

GL: Yep.

EL: How do you — um, when you’re making the audiotapes, um; Do you … ; read in like a prison-like atmosphere? Is like the background noise … ?

GL: Yeah. Absolutely. So basically, I’m — I’m with a studio microphone, and I’ll throw my voice into Mexican prison guards — as they sounded, while I — as they sounded while I was in there —  … Mexican prisoners speaking from one cell to another one; the same way that they’re talking …  — like to give you an idea … uh — or — or a block gun — a block gun going off in a riot: it’s like BOOM! … BOOOOOM!!! …  — and then they’ll yell: LIVE ROUNDS COMING NEXT!!! DOWN, DOWN, DOWN! GET DOWN! (laughter) — just — right? You’re — you’re in this — it’s just — it’s just the storyline; it’s just the way it is in there, and then like, — you know, you’ll see — you’ll see a — Mexican — like — you’ll see who’s got the most control, by — by watching from your cell, and seeing people fish their lines and how they communicate … so all that’s being … written, and comes across to the reader — and — the way they — the way the inmates sound. You know, I — I — that’s the funnest part about it. Is throwing my voice into a black person’s voice; into a Mexican’s voice; into a prison guard’s voice.

EL: So: — that’s interesting …  — So: what is your experience, of the reading voice in your head? — Like, we kind of all have reading voices, and they sort of subtly change, based on our location; based upon our mood — based on the, you know — the tempo of our environment — 

GL: Right.

EL: Umm … Do you feel your — your inner, internal reading voice — changed significantly? — umm … in prison — versus out of prison? And if it did, in what way.

GL: Yeah: Absolutely. Well: I start off with ADHD, so I’m hyperactive, I’m all over the place, and, before I went to prison, if it wasn’t something that held my interest; I couldn’t remember what I was reading. And it’d be so frustrating. I’d read and read and read and read — and I wouldn’t remember anything. And so it’d be so irritating and frustrating. Well, the ADHD and being stuck in a cell for twenty four hours a day seven days a week … made me almost go completely insane, and I think, what — what saved me from going insane was reading. And I was finally able to like, slow my fast moving mind down, being stuck in a cell, isolated, and I was able to retain what I was reading. And anything became entertainment … and — and worth — worth my, my attention, because there was nothing else, so, it definitely changed: uh — my writing style, is, is much the same way: it’s like … my — I have ADHD, so when I’m in the — when I’m in the zone, it’s flying out: I’m writing so fast, so clear …  — it’s — my writing’s great that way; sometimes I have trouble concentrating, and — I — I just have to keep going over it — to, to get that flow back … but, it’s definitely — my, my writing’s definitely uhh: fast-paced: very fast-paced … Like I would — I would say it’s kind of — like … James Patterson. Who writes with very short chapters. And he, he seems like he must have ADHD, because he writes the same — I write the same way. It’s very: to the point; very fast; description; describe what’s going on; set the scene, set the character, go straight into the character motivations … and: action. I’d say I write a lot — similar to him. Similar to his style.

EL: And I’m wondering what the relationship of that is, to what you’re saying: how it’s more …  — like I’m certainly not in prison right now — (laughter) — how it’s, how it’s more uhm, appealing? for somebody — uhm — with the prison, with the prison environment, with the prison setting: to want to read, to have the patience, and have the, — uh — conditions necessary to read, what that is — what that relationship is to a person who’s not in prison, who’s still a heavy reader, what …  — Uhm — Do you know what I’m trying to say; do you know what I’m trying to get at?

GL: A little bit.

EL: I haven’t formulated — this is just kind of me riffing, but it’s interesting; because — Uhmm …

GL: Now that — Now that I write so much, I’m writing non-stop. I keep publishing new books, new audio-books: I’m really having to force myself to become more disciplined, to go read other people’s books again. Like: I grew up in prison reading … Reading like — starting with like, Louis L’Amour … to, James Patterson, James Clavell … just, you name it: uhm — Sidney Sheldon … Harold Robbins — uhm: All the women, Tammy Hoag; and all the really good women one; good women authors …  — and you name it, like Michael Crichton — just keep going on and on and on. But now that I’m out here, there’s so much to do … I’m all about writing and publishing and marketing … that I’m really having to force myself to go to the beach, and — and read other people’s books. Because that’s kind of how I learned how to — how to you know; formulate books to begin with. Yeah: so, so out here: to get, uh to get people, umm — that, fall into my categories and genres — which are basically you know: drug culture, drug war culture … prisons, crime thrillers: stuff like that — uh — I put, I, I’m putting everything into audio books — so I’m doing all of the narrating myself, because: like you’re saying, out here, most people don’t really have time to — to just — you know: go into exploring, — new authors, new books … If they’re not already a reader: it’s a little too late. But in prison: absolutely. That’s where people are starting to read, that’s where they’re learning how to read better.. — that’s — they’re being self-taught, through books, in prison.

EL: Okay,

GL: And that’s not going to change. Because they don’t have computers … they don’t have uhhm — you know, all the — all the stuff we have out here to get distracted. They’re stuck in a cell.

So it’s like, you’re stuck on a shelf in contemplative mode — I call it like being stuck on a shelf, for, you know — you’re — you don’t age as much; you’re sitting in a cell — and, if you’re in a high level prison, you’re not getting out of the cell very often: so you’re basically in contemplative mode.

EL: So when you were in prison, were you already thinking about — I — I remember reading — you’d — you started writing from solitary confinement? So — at what point did you start writing; at what point did you say, I have to start writing all of this down. And how — how was that experience for you.

GL: Uhm … when I was in the county jail, and I had just lost my limo business … and, wasted all my money that I had prospered — to — to — I — I had a limo business, and I bought a condominium, and for the first time in my life I put as much energy into a legal business, as I had, in the drug war before. And so I — I — you know I ended up with good credit, I had a condo, and I was doing good and I made it. And then 9/11 knocked my — my limo business in the dirt, and … uhm … I ended up back in the drug war. And … I ended up fighting a big case. And previously, I had fought crazy

cases and I basically learned the law myself. Like through studying case law, points of authority … you don’t really have that — the — the best attorneys … in California: it’s pretty much a railroad system; when they want you they’re going to get you so you have to learn the law, so … basically, I started writing in the county jail, facing a lot of time. And I kept writing … and so — uhm, …

EL: And that was the first time you’d written? Like, in a serious,?

GL: Yeah, — 

EL: What was your writing experience before that?

GL: My writing experience before that was: minimum. I started writing in prison. And my reading experience before going to prison was: minimum. But, being in prison and reading for ten hours a day for x amount of years before I started writing, sped up the process of knowing — you know — how — how to format a book from beginning middle end, — you know, I — self taught. And I mean — it’s the same thing with artists. Like I told your partner, your editor partner — I’m getting amazing artwork from prisoners from Pelican Bay, all the way down to local prisons … to — Southern California — amazing artwork, and these inmates did not go in there as artists.

Part 2 →