Books Like Falconer
Records of prisons date back as far as the 1st millennia BC and incarceration as punishment for a crime has continued to this day. The harsh conditions inside prison have also inspired numerous movies, television shows, and novels. Whether guilty or innocent, the threat of losing one's freedom for extended periods of time is something feared by most people. One of the most compelling prison novels is Falconer by John Cheever, which features a university professor named Ezekiel who is imprisoned for the murder of his brother. The story deals with how Ezekiel deals with the prison environment and his struggles to retain his humanity. For more books that deal with people imprisoned in some way, check out these novels like Falconer.
by Stephen King
The Green Mile is a 1996 serial novel by Stephen King, which was turned into a 1999 feature film starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. The novel was initially released as six low-priced paperback volumes and was later republished as a single book. With this novel, King weaved a story of a prison called Cold Mountain Penitentiary where the convicted killers in E Block all wait their turn for execution in the electric chair. The title refers to the lime-colored linoleum corridor leading to the chair. Paul Edgecombe is a prison guard who thinks that he has seen it all over the years working at the prison until he meets a convict named John Coffey. John is facing execution for a violent and shocking crime, but Paul soon discovers that there's more to him than what meets the eye.
by Malcolm Braly
On The Yard is a 1967 novel by Malcolm Braly, who himself spent most of his life between the age of 20 and 40 in various prisons due to robberies. Instead of focusing on a lead character, On The Yard deals more with the harsh realities of prison life. One of the prisons, Chilly Willy, is a man who has been at odds with the law from a young age and now runs the prison's flourishing black market. On the other end of the spectrum are prisoners like Paul, a man who murdered his wife and is now wracked with guilty and desperate for redemption. While the story is fictional, it is clear that the author injected a lot of his own experiences and observations, which makes for a gripping read.
by Henri Charriere
Papillon is a 1969 autobiographical novel by Henri Charriere about his incarceration and escape from prison. The novel's title refers to the butterfly on Henri's chest and the nickname it earned him. Henri was sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he did not commit and ended up on Devil's Island. However, his cunning, will, and endurance resulted in Papillon being the first person to ever escape from the notorious prison. The novel was published 20 years after his escape, and while there has been plenty of questions about the authenticity of the events, it remains a fascinating read. The popularity of Papillon saw it adapted as a film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in 1973 and a 2017 remake starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek.
by Rachel Kushner
The Mars Room is a 2018 novel by Rachel Kushner about a woman named Romy Hall who faces two consecutive life sentences. Her sentence begins in 2003 at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility, which is situated in California's Central Valley. Leaving her life in the outside world behind, Romy faces a new reality inside prison. She is surrounded by thousands of women competing to survive while casual acts of violence are inflicted by guards and prisoners alike. It is a bleak yet compelling novel that is told without any compromises.
by John Grisham
The Brethren is a novel by John Grisham published in 2000 about three former judges who are incarcerated at a federal minimum-security prison. The three call themselves the Brethren and end up in prison for reasons that range from tax evasion to skimming bingo profits. However, not even being locked up can prevent them from committing crimes, so they begin operating an extortion scam. The money quickly begins to roll in, and with the aid of their lawyer, everything is funneled to a secret bank account. However, the stakes are raised when the three ensnares a congressman set to become President of the United States in their scam.
by Patricia Highsmith
The Glass Cell is a 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith based on her research on daily life in prison. The protagonist, Philip Carter, is an easygoing young engineer who ends up with a ten-year prison sentence for fraud despite being innocent of the crime. His life in prison changes him, especially after his only close friend is killed during a riot. After six years of prison, Carter is finally released but emerges a much different person after his harrowing ordeal. The original jacket for the book carried a warning that the opening scene of prison violence is "almost unacceptable." This scene sets the tone for the rest of the novel, which is a bleak and compelling portrait of daily prison life.