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He does not give details of the circumstances that led him to be jailed for a double murder out of respect to his victims relatives. He escaped to Erwin James had a peripatetic childhood with a violent drunken father whose behaviour worsened after James' mother was killed in a car accident. He escaped to the continent where he joined the Foreign Legion for two years but returned to face justice.

Like his Guardian columns he describes his time in jail unsparingly and without self pity. It was a psychologist who set him on the road to an understanding of the life paths that had brought him to life imprisonment. Ultimately this is an uplifting memoir of crime and punishment but showing how redemption is possible from the direst of circumstances.


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Nov 12, Jaclyn sixminutesforme rated it it was amazing. Total page-turner! I would never have picked up this book of my own choice, but glad it came my way via the booksontherail senseisubscription! A fascinating insight into prison life, but also a really endearing story of redemption and overcoming adversity. Highly recommend! I actually met the author of this book in the summer of at the Writing on the Wall Festival in my hometown of Liverpool. It is an autobiography detailing Erwin James' life from his difficult childhood and his early and extensive brushes with the law.

James' first charge was at the tender age of 11, when he was charged with breaking and entering into a TV factory, for which he was given a 3 year probation order. This was approximately 4 years after he lost his mother and younger sister in a I actually met the author of this book in the summer of at the Writing on the Wall Festival in my hometown of Liverpool. This was approximately 4 years after he lost his mother and younger sister in a car accident, leading to a strained relationship with his father.

Darkness And Hope

During his childhood he was in the care of a number of members of his family, who, he continued seeking refuge from a number of times in his adulthood. The petty offences escalated to a double murder conviction for which James received a minimum sentence of 14 years. During these years he moved between 5 different prisons, each with an element of wonder as to what life held in store for him.


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  5. His self-deprecating attitude throughout, is challenged by a prison psychologist who helps him to gain a different outlook on life. This leads him to gain an existence behind the four walls of a prison cell and later become a columnist for the Guardian newspaper and a successfully published writer. Who is Erwin James? This book will tell you all you need to know. An honest and eye-opening account of a lad growing up rough and the dangerous road it takes him on.

    Finding Hope in the Darkness – Belinda Davidson

    Losing his mother was a pivotal point in a young Erwin's life. It changed his relationship with his father and brought out the worst in his father. Erwin and his sister being moved from one house to another and eventually being separated had a negative effect on Erwin and he began to stray from the right side of the law. The fact that Erwin gives an honest view of his criminal activity and the att An honest and eye-opening account of a lad growing up rough and the dangerous road it takes him on. The fact that Erwin gives an honest view of his criminal activity and the attitude he had, never believing that these minor offenses would hurt anyone.

    It was only after his sessions with Joan that he started to understand the downward steppingstones of his life. Having had an alcoholic father myself I can relate to many of the memories Erwin shares about his father. However trying to understand the choices he made is still difficult, though he indicates the understanding that they were his choices and he could have chosen a different path. I enjoyed reading about how Erwin turned his life around, even if it took the entire incarceration.

    It truly gives an insight into the life of the not so blessed youth. Nov 26, Jenny Mackinlay rated it liked it.

    Perhaps my expectations were unreasonable. And the flat, affectless tone is perhaps a deliberate choice; it's a grim story and doesn't need melodramatic flourishes.

    Entrance to Enlightenment

    I think I was expecting to gain more insight into why James managed to turn his life around when so many long-term prisoners don't. He gives great credit to the psychotherapist he saw during his early days into his life sentence, but the bits of her work with him that we hear about are unresonant cliches. If anyone needs to stop and Perhaps my expectations were unreasonable. If anyone needs to stop and think about how criminals are made, not born, this book is a graphic account of how one little boy, who wanted love and security and a family and had none of them, grew up to be convicted of double murder.

    I'm glad the book exists as witness--including the critical fact that James is now 'outside' and living a good life, which includes working to help prisoner rehabilitation--but I didn't find it a good read. Apr 18, Lisa rated it it was amazing. A thought provoking and emotional read showing the damage that a damaged childhood can do to an individual.

    Heart wrenching as you read the battle that Erwin fought to become the person he was always destined to be. A story of the redeeming oneself. Highly recommended. Jan 26, Jared rated it liked it. An enjoyable read. Mar 24, Anne Fox rated it it was amazing. Really enjoyed this memoir. Would like to read more by James. Jun 14, Fiona rated it liked it Shelves: , memoir.

    A memoir of Erwin James's descent into criminality after his mother's death when he was a young child, which is also a moving testament to the power of empathy, psychological understanding, reading and education to effect personal change. After the loss of his mother, James is given no care or support and instead is at the mercy of his violent, alcoholic father, shuttled about between various of his father's girlfriends and the care system.

    The book clearly maps the links between James's offendi A memoir of Erwin James's descent into criminality after his mother's death when he was a young child, which is also a moving testament to the power of empathy, psychological understanding, reading and education to effect personal change. The book clearly maps the links between James's offending behaviour and the chaos, insecurity and lack of love he experienced in childhood.


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    What begins as petty theft and alcohol misuse slowly escalates into more serious crime and ultimately murder. It can be hard to read the somewhat emotionless way in which he talks about his crimes, and he completely avoids writing about the murders - the only description of what he actually did is a copy of a short newspaper article. However this affectless description fits his mental state at the time - it is only after he is sentenced to life in prison and starts seeing a prison psychologist that he gains any understanding of his own behaviour and begins, belatedly, to see the devastating impact his actions had on others and to feel guilt and shame.

    The book is a powerful argument for rehabilitation through care and learning, showing that rehabilitation rather than punishment is what protects the public, as well as being the humane option. It also demonstrates that it was only when James was shown empathy that he was able to comprehend what he had done to others and to feel remorse for his actions.

    It's a strong argument for prison reform, showing that harsh treatment in prison only serves to harden already dysfunctional behaviour. May 06, Ellen rated it really liked it. Well written and easy to read, which kind of contradicts the subject matter.

    A dark tale of how one individual can be so failed by society - his family are there to look after him in a superficial way without there ever being any real connection. And the overriding, dark theme of alcohol made me want to vow to stop drinking. The moment of redemption wasn't as 'wow' as I was expecting from the blurb but was written in a genuine way. An interesting read, although it's easy to forget that this is s Well written and easy to read, which kind of contradicts the subject matter.

    Hope in the Midst of Darkness

    An interesting read, although it's easy to forget that this is someone's actual life experiences. Dec 22, AJ rated it it was ok Shelves: couldnt-finish. I found this memoir difficult to read, and couldn't finish it, even though I had bought it from my Amazon wish list. The grammar was at times poor and I had difficulty keeping events straight. I may finish it some time, since it sits on my kindle, but for the moment I couldn't.

    Apr 05, Esther Nussbaum rated it it was amazing. I won this book in a giveaway and read it cover to cover in one sitting, loved it. Amazing how resilient someone can be! Heather Duffy rated it it was amazing Mar 30, Sukebind rated it it was amazing Aug 29, Patricia Kiss rated it liked it Mar 02, Heather rated it liked it Jul 07, It is easy to lose perspective when you are surrounded by trouble.

    Uncertainty and doubt can fill your mind with fear especially when there seems to be no way out. Perhaps you find yourself in the midst of your deepest problems today feeling discouraged and perceiving no hope of change in your situation. The hope that God offers is not based on the problems we have. His teenage and early adult years were spent drifting, and his petty crime turned increasingly violent, culminating in the terrible events for which he was jailed for life in Entering prison at 27, James struggled to come to terms with the enormity of his crimes and a future without purpose or hope.

    Then he met Joan, a prison psychologist, who helped him to confront the painful truth of his past, and to understand how it had shaped him from such a young age. Her sessions transformed his life. Encouraged to read and to educate himself, over the next twenty years Erwin James would go on to receive a BA in History, and become a regular columnist for the Guardian.

    Speaking to the very heart of the human condition, this is a book that offers no excuses — only the need to understand how we become who we become, and shows that no matter how far a person may fall, redemption is possible with the right kind of help. It is an important and timely memoir.