Pulp Friday: On The Yard

On the YardOn The Yard by Malcolm Braly picks up on two themes I’ve examined in recent Pulp Friday posts.

The first is prison pulp, in this instance, written by someone who actually did time. A lot.

The second is the blurred line, particularly evident in the sixties and early seventies, between pulp fiction and literature.

On The Yard First published in 1967. The above is from the Fawcett Crest Books edition published a year later in 1968.

On The Yard, which is on my TBR pile, is the story of two characters, Chilly Willy, who heads the prison’s black market in drugs and sex, and of Paul, who is in jail for murdering his wife.

It’s generally seen critics as vivid depiction of penitentiary life, by a writer who spent many years in prisons, including Folsom and San Quentin. The New York Review of Books called it “arguably the finest work of literature ever to emerge from a US prison”.

Braly wrote three other novels and a biography, False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin and other Prisons. This detailed his slow decent into crime from relatively well off beginnings. He was never a major criminal, most of his prison sentences arose from bullshit jobs. He once robbed a dentist of eleven dollars, which he subsequently lost escaping.

He died of a car accident in 1980 at the age of just 54.

On The Yard was filmed in 1978. Braly did the script and Raphael Silver directed. John Heard (who played Cutter in the 1981 classic Cutter’s Way) starred in the title role. While many mainstream critics savaged the film, the wonderful site, Prison Movies praised it. Read there review for yourself here.

I’d probably take Prison Movies’ word for it. That said, the movie is not generally available on DVD.

By the way, bookmark the Prison Movies site and have a read. As the name suggests, it contains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about prison movies.

Thanks to New Jersey crime writer Wallace Stroby who originally drew this book to my attention.

On the Yard back

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