As Stephen Leather's latest novel, Hard Landing, is set in
a prison, he was testing his material on possibly the toughest audience
of all. As part of a national tour of HM's establishments, Stephen
gave a reading from his new book at Durham prison.
is not a first for writing and books: there's a great deal of interest
in reading and creative writing in Britain's prisons and the outside
world occasionally gets a glimpse of the inside.
you choose to go here? (The gates to Durham prison.)
and theatre groups occasionally hold workshops in prisons. BBC Radio
4's monthly show, Book
Club, broadcast its programme about Tony Parsons' book,
Man and Boy, from Coldingley Prison. Readers of The Guardian newspaper
might have read Erwin James' column written from behind bars. And,
even though some have questioned if he fits into the category of
creative writing, let's not forget one of our more infamous prison
writers of late, Jeffrey Archer.
given that most writers find the cushier option of touring bookshops
fairly gruelling, Stephen's choice of tour venues was interesting.
part of the research for Hard Landing he spent a day inside
Belmarsh Prison in South London. Whilst there, he discovered that
his books were very popular in the prison library.
Stephen discovered at Durham Prison
a high security prison, accommodating category A and B male
is also a category A and long term training prison for women.
serves as a local prison for the courts in the area.
has an operational capacity of 730.
regime includes full time and part time education.
has a Close Supervision Centre, which holds a small number of
prisoners who are among the most difficult and disruptive in
the prison system.
stuff: the graphic on the cover of Stephen's latest book.
undercover cop Dan Shepherd is sent to HMP Shelton, a category A
prison, to get close to Gerald Carpenter, one of the UKs most
notorious drug dealers.
has contacts across South America and the Far East and hes
running his business from the inside.
his case about to come to court, Carpenter is killing off agents,
threatening witnesses and destroying evidence.
wants his freedom and hes prepared to pay any price to achieve
it. Shepherds task is to find out who hes using and
to shut down his lines of communication.
the alias 'Bob Macdonald', Shepherd knows he's putting his life
and his family's life at risk in the process ...
from the fact that writers visiting prisons can be entertaining
and stimulating, there is also the serious issue of literacy amongst
number of the people making up Britain's prison population are illiterate.
Some people have argued that this, combined with other factors,
has led to many prisoners being inside in the first place.
is debatable, but being illiterate is certainly a barrier to many
inmates finding work and leading a stable, law-abiding life on release.
you would like to find out more about literacy in prisons, contact
the Prison Service
or you might be interested in the work of The
Shannon Trust, which has pioneered a literacy mentoring
programme in prisons.
PO Box 236
Oxford OX2 6XU
Tel: 0845 458 2641