Orange Is the New Black Soon to Have Company

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Shove over, Shawshank. Former inmate turned author John Espinosa Nelson provides access to the heart and humanity in California prisons with Where Excuses Go to Die.

Where Excuses Go to Die stands in defiance of how the public has been trained by the media to recognize prison. As the popular adaptation of Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black shows, Americans are hungry for an updated perspective on life behind bars.

John Nelson was once called the “Bookstore Bandit” by the LAPD and the FBI for using a movie prop revolver to rob bookstores and eventually banks. Today, actor Judd Hirsch is making an un-credited cameo appearance in a book trailer promoting Nelson’s memoir of the time he served. http://youtu.be/dXwbiMAZ0AM

It’s not your typical prison memoir, and the Tony award-winner isn’t the only celeb supporting Nelson’s message. Where Excuses Go to Die is also endorsed by singer-songwriter Henry Rollins, who corresponded with Nelson during his incarceration. After his release, Rollins encouraged the former inmate to bring his book to market.

Nelson served his first 10 months in the bowels of the L.A. Men’s Central Jail, where he survived everything the place is making headlines for today. When he was shipped to a brand new, yet-to-be-populated California State Prison at Wasco, Nelson found much more than what he expected or feared. A field of construction debris offered weaponizable scraps; electric doors stuck halfway, trapping inmates and staff alike. Lights flickered endlessly, and drinking water periodically ran black. Gang members, arriving daily, weren’t sure which parts of the facility to claim, since so much of it was unfinished. Administrators couldn’t spend money fast enough during this showcase stage; they hired musicians and standup comics to keep the restless and growing populace distracted.

Out of that profligacy came a chance encounter with the late comedienne Lotus Weinstock, with whom Nelson struck up a friendship. At Weinstock’s urging, he entered a statewide prison writing competition, placed third, and never looked back. Nelson also benefited from the tutelage of playwright David Scott Milton and a handful of civilian teachers, some of whom made the biggest impressions of all. The result, Where Excuses Go to Die, tells the poignant, irreverent story of these “first responders of rehabilitation” – strangers, friends, and family who saw a dumb kid’s potential and cared enough to tell him so. Along the way, Nelson, ever the instigator, defied penitentiary defeatism, bigotry, and cell house rules to become his own inmate and eventually his own man.

Where Excuses Go to Die stands in defiance of how the public has been trained by the media to recognize prison. As the popular adaptation of Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black shows, Americans are hungry for an updated perspective on life behind bars. Excuses will do for men what Orange is doing for incarcerated females.

Drawn from the pages of Nelson’s prison journal, it doesn’t rely on rape, riots, and rotten food for authentication. More “Road to Perdition” meets “Bad Santa” than victimhood and exploitation, Where Excuses Go to Die offers a much-needed reprieve from tough-guy prison tropes as it explores what it means to get character, rather than become one. Where Excuses Go to Die is available for pre-sale and is being partially underwritten by a Kickstarter campaign, going on now through August 11, 2013. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/excusesdie/where-excuses-go-to-die

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Crystal Martin
@defcon_john
since: 01/2013
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