Reviews by the Famous and well Known
Autobiographies of serving, or former, prisoners are a staple of the “true crime” genre and can trace their origins back to the picaresque novels of the 18th century; the exemplary confessions contained within the Newgate Calendar; and even execution broadsheet pamphlets which were distributed on “hanging days”. Some recent contributions to the genre – which is now so well established as to have a number of sub-genres to differentiate, for example, “straights” accounts of prison from those of the “cons” - would include Ruth Wyner’s (2003) From the Inside, Noel Smith’s (2004) A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun , Erwin James’s (2005) A Life Inside and Smith’s (2008) most recent work about his time at HMP Grendon called A Rusty Gun: Facing Up to A Life of Crime.
TONY'S BOOK IS MORE THAN JUST A SENTENCE
THERE’S been a rising trend in recent years for notorious ex-cons to publish their gruesome memoirs, writes Henry Croft.
Across the country, those who have done ‘bird’ have been gripping readers with yarns of racketeering and drug-running among other crimes.
But now, thanks to an Eaton Bray man, these dastardly tales will be joined on the shelves by a book about life on the other side of the prison bars.
Family man Tony Levy, 60, of Wallace Mews, has published A Turnkey or Not?, a warts ‘n’ all account of his tumultuous career as a prison officer.
His work for Her Majesty’s Prison Service, which spanned a quarter-century, began, with vigour, at high-security HMP Pentonville in 1983 and ended, on a disenchanted note, at therapy-based HMP Grendon in 2008.
Yet, despite a changing environment which saw budgetary matters override human concerns, Tony says he remained unflinchingly faithful to his convictions
Said Tony: “I would never be a yes man and toe the party line.
“I am a man who cared, and even though my heart was sucked out of my job, I never lost my dignity or respect. Most importantly, I would never allow myself to be reduced to just a turnkey.”
Despite Tony’s fair share of volatile encounters, the book is not just a blow-by-blow account of peril and disillusionment.
Like prison officer Mr McKay in the TV show Porridge, the devoted warden told the LBO he experienced a similar batch of pranks and memorable characters.
He recounts one incident where he told his slippery governor, in front of a crowded pub, she was comparable to the tyrant Saddam Hussein.
He added: “Needless to say for the rest of my time at the prison she never spoke to me again!”
After leaving his job, Tony, who has two step-daughters and four grandchildren, took time to collect himself in sunny Spain, later returning to Eaton Bray when the economy went pear-shaped.
The warden-turned-author is hoping the book, which is his first stab at writing, will prove a breakaway success.
He said: “It was so exciting to get the book published. It’s almost surreal to see it in print.
“My friends and family are so pleased and they’ve been so supportive.
“I’ve been tracked down by colleagues – even those I haven’t had contact with for 20 years – who have read the book.”
Added Tony: “It’s all been a bit overwhelming!”
A Turnkey Or Not? is available from Amazon priced £7.49.
Leighton Buzzard Observer