EL: You ever had law enforcement officials say that they’ve read your book, like police officers?
GL: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Uhm — my first couple reviews from prison guards weren’t that good, and then I had another one that was pretty good. And he was from outside of California, and he was like, Yeah, I can tell the guy’s been there … but it’s not like that where we live, I don’t know if he’s telling the truth or not … — and I got some from California — that — recently — that are saying … This guy’s an amazing writer, he’s — he’s turned his life around — and, you know — what he is saying is for the most part a hundred percent accurate; so it’s really nice to be validated from … prison guards — uhm, I told your other — I told your other editor that I met a gang task force guy who turned himself into an author because he couldn’t handle the corruption in Denver as a narcotic detective and gang — gang guy — he saw so much corruption, that it — it torpedoed his spirit and he became a writer, so — it was — very classic for me to be an ex-convict, at one time labeled an organized criminal practically, and … been in prison for almost ten years, a lot of the time in solitary confinement — and so it was very gratifying to — be able to help … uh — a narcotic detective who became a writer. And help him with his marketing. And review his books, and just — you know, it’s — it’s pretty gratifying to meet somebody from the other side that’s read my books and I’m reading his books … and, it’s — it’s kind of gratifying.
EL: You ever read Catcher In The Rye?
EL: It’s uhh — like that was the first book that really moved me; in that way. Uh — I don’t think I understood it at all when I first was exposed to it, as a high school kid — who was very much like Holden Caulfield — … uh, but going back to it, not that long ago, my mind, was … opened up. I mean, I was — it was such a masterful, uhm … impersonation … it was such a masterful impersonation of, such a critical type of character … and I think that’s a really valuable type of fiction. I mean — and, and on that point — I’ve been meaning to ask: Do you write — is the frame of the book, uhm, you writing from being out of prison, or — you — uhm — is the frame of the book you, you being in prison, you know, while you’re writing it — it’s, I, I am in prison, et cetera et cetera — or is it — uhm — you know, reflecting back on what prison was like? — or is it — is it third person?
GL: Both. Both. Uhm — it’s — it’s like this: my very first novel, I had so much time to do. I had, I had seven years of prison time to write it. And I — I tried to cover everything; I tried to cover the drug war, that led to … to me being incarcerated, the dirty cops along the way … the justice system … and uhm — I covered it all. And — uhm, that book right there is — multi, uh — its, uh — the — uh — I toggled the angle through multiple characters. So you have the first person, which is the main character, which would be B.J., and then, uhm — from there I toggle the angle — like I get inside, uh, — uhm — law enforcement’s eyes and — other people’s eyes, and toggle the angle from their perspective to — to write a bigger story. So that book was like a huge undertaking. Way too long, hard to market: I probably sold like 20 thousand Kindle copies of that book. And some of the reviews I got and some of the personal mentors, writing mentors, told me: focus on the prison stuff: just write that for a while. So I wrote a bunch of straight — uhm, prison books, that are showing you the culture of — of California prisons from the perspective of the first person — which would have been my character — and his cell — and his cell brother — and what they’re — what they’re up against: with the — with the racial politics … with the uh, gang task force inside there — some guards that are cool, some guards that are instigators … gun towers … what the — what it looks like in the dayroom; what it looks like on the yard … and then it gets into the real life stuff about drug deaths. Um, what causes riots … and so it’s just pulp. It’s, it’s pure pulp style writing, of … stuff that I’ve lived through … and it’s — it’s pretty much real time, uh — culture — it’s — it’s a real time cultural look into prisons. California prisons.
EL: Here’s a thing, —
GL: And riots. Like, you’ll see — you’ll see — you’ll see the riot over a drug death — you’ll see the inmates going to the hole. What that looks like. Going in. Getting processed into the hole … Every — every part of it — I’ve — I’ve covered. And I, I’m, I’ve still covered — I’m still covering — I’m — I’m, I’m still writing. So.
EL: Now, when you’re — uhm, depicting this — when you’re trying to find, imagery, to … — accurately — uhm, imitate how you felt then and to accurately make the reader see how you felt — uhm, — where, — what’s your source for inspiration? Uhm. Is there a specific style of book that you go for or go to to inspiration, for how you like to describe … you know the way the — the handcuffs look, or the way the person’s jacket looked … or — the way … uhhm — Uh, you know, the way they moved … — in … in line — or the way they made us take our … clothes off, before they sprayed us with water, et cetera,
GL: Exactly. Exactly. So — so basically there’s a lot of descriptive stuff … — even though prisons are pretty bland looking and everything’s — uh.. — bland, there is like — like if you’re looking from a cell, you’ll look out and you’ll see the phones … you’ll see the no — uh, red — in — in red block letters painted on the wall; NO WARNING SHOTS FIRED: warden. Um — you’ll see the gun tower … you’ll see the way the layout of the land is … when you’re getting into describing prison guards: the way they’re dressed … with their — pepper spray canisters the size of fire extinguishers; I mean, they’re not normal size pepper spray canisters; they’re … the size of fire extinguishers. You’ll see — you know — just the way they’re dressed compared to the way the inmates are dressed … it’s a — it’s very — there’s a big contrast. And then — you know, it’s very colorful inmates. You’re talking — for the blacks, you’ve got — you get — you get to describe — the — the Bloods and the Crips, and the way they dress, and the way they — the way they talked. For the Mexicans — you know you get to get into the Mexican culture. For the whites, you get — you get to get into the white culture: you know, skin head style culture … punk rock, grunge … you know basically drug addicts that ended up into the system … and you — you get to paint that picture. And then the — then the policies … and survival … and what that looks like, what — what that has to do with … — you know — just — it’s — there’s a lot of — there’s a lot to work with. I have — it’s — describe; get into — paint the picture, paint the scene … and then it’s — and then it’s … uhm — motivations. What are — what are the motivations. And I usually do have like a good cop, bad cop — always do — a good cop, bad cop … — uh — angle going, where you’ll see the good side of law enforcement in there and the bad side.
EL: Okay. And that’s — that’s true to life too, right? That’s not sensationalized?
GL: No. That’s true — that’s true life.
EL: That’s not an entertainment trick?
EL: Because I was — I was interested in asking you about that, in asking about … where you might be tempted to be … a little bit sensational? Or do you think the subject matter completely and entirely speaks for itself and there’s absolutely no need for … any … entertainment tricks? or entertainment devices? Uhm. And … maybe when you ever — when you’re ever reading memoirs, if you ever pick up — if your ears ever perk up on — oh — you — you know — he added that in for sensationalism; I’ve — you know, I’ve been — I’ve been behind that blinking cursor; I’ve been, had my hands on the typewriter, and that’s — you know I’ve had that impulse to want to write that and I didn’t do that … because … — Do you know what I mean?
GL: Right. Well … you — you hit the nail on the head: You don’t really have to sensationalize anything here in California where — where there’s 36 state prisons; there’s a 99% conviction ratio; and you’ve got every kind of person in there. Drug cartels … don’t — I mean you hear about the drug cartels in Mexico, right? You think they have any say so in California prisons? None. It’s all regulated by street gangs … — They have no say so in — in California prisons. So that gives you an idea that you don’t have to sensationalize anything. But uhm — I was — uh — charged with the building blocks of organized crime charges: I was heavy into the drug war, and then while I was in prison I was involved in riots … went to the hole. I spent four years in solitary confinement. So … — there’s no need to really sensationalize anything? I do however, uhm — fictionalize … like — certain, certain places — certain police — uh; cops’ names … — and certain inmates names. Like: it’s — it’s pretty easy — because, inmates that have, uhh: AKAs — like … Rotten or Bam Bam, or Psycho, or Little Man, or Topo … — it — you know what I mean? Stuff like that, you don’t really have to worry about it; but, if you’re gonna put somebody’s real name in there, then you don’t want to be an informant, you don’t want to — you don’t want to get prison guards in trouble … if — you know — I mean basically, since I was there I would not want to tell on a prison guard for smuggling tobacco in there. I enjoyed the tobacco that I got to have while I was in there, and I wouldn’t want to ruin anybody else’s opportunity to smoke tobacco, so I wouldn’t put the — the — prison guard’s name who was smuggling the tobacco in, if — if you can understand what I’m saying. So in — in those kind of situa —
EL: Oh, yeah. Yeah,
GL: In those kind of situations, there — it’s uhh — it’s, not — it’s not a hundred percent true … life that this person did this and that person did that.
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