Sunday, September 22, 2013

Doing Time in Hell

After writing The Haunting of Ingersull Penientiary I am so thrilled to host J. Bodie's Memoir, Doing Time in Hell on my site. Although Bodie McIlvane has passed on his goal was to,  “help people understand what goes on in prison, and show that both the inmate and the correctional officer are Doing Time.

At this moment, they are beating on the doors and raising Hell down in the Hole, which is really the Adjustment Center.
 A few minutes ago, a con broke out of his cell and tried to cut a guard’s guts out. The guard broke into a run and the con cut him in the buttocks instead, one hundred and nineteen times, using a box cutter he smuggled in from the kitchen…
That was my introduction to Bodie McIlvane’s memoir Doing Time in Hell.  His widow had asked me to “look over it.”  Her husband had written it after he retired.
I spread the pages out on the dining room table, sorted them according to chapters, lined up the photos in another neat stack, and also the poems.
Soon I had the Dedication, Introduction, and a couple of chapters underway.
As chance would have it, however, I had novels of my own being released and I stopped work on Doing Time to proof their galleys.  Then something else came up, and I started procrastinating…it can wait a little longer…pretty soon, the manuscript was left sitting on the table while I worked on my own stories.  Occasionally I’d pick up a page and look at it, perhaps type part of a chapter or go over what I’d already transcribed and revise and edit a little but that was all.
Then one day, an ambulance wailed as it pulled into the parking lot.  I hated that sound. It meant someone was leaving the apartment building…permanently. A few days later, I found out who…Mrs. McIlvane.
As expected, guilt set in.  I was ashamed, putting off working on that book because it looked to be a tedious and exhausting exercise. I dropped everything and then and there concentrated on Bodie’s manuscript. It didn’t take long to finish once I got started. Then I had to decide what to do with it.  No one had said anything about getting it published.  All Mrs. McIlvane had wanted was for it to be put into some kind of “order.” To make up for the way I had put off working on it, I decided I was going to get it published.
As luck would have it, Class Act Books had just come under new ownership and they were advertising they wanted fiction and non-fiction.  So…
I sent it to Class Act Books, figuring I’d start there and work my way around. They accepted it.
Doing Time in Hell is a memoir, the story of an oilrig wildcatter from Louisiana who was “conned” into applying for a job with the Nebraska Penal System.  I say conned because Bodie didn’t want to become a prison guard.  He just filled out the application to please his father-in-law. To his surprise, he was accepted, and ended up working at the Nebraska State Penitentiary for twelve years. It’s an interesting story, an entertaining story, and all the more so because it’s a true one, told in plain language.
Bodie McIlvane wrote it in the hope that his story will “help people understand what goes on in prison, and show that both the inmate and the correctional officer are Doing Time.
The only difference is, the officers are doing it on the Installment Plan.

The inmates had everything but their freedom and they had to escape to get that.
 The main thing we do is count the inmates and make sure they’re there.
 Nobody moves until the counting is done and everyone is accounted for. Make sure you see skin and breathing.
 Sometimes they try to hide under their bunks or wherever they can but if the count is short, then we count again until sooner or later everyone is accounted for.
 One officer discovered he was counting a dummy while the inmate was downtown drinking in a bar. He refused to believe the man he had been counting was caught and in a cell at the Death Row House. I had to relieve him so he could go and see. After that, he started kicking in the doors. That was a pretty good way to make sure the guy under the covers was a real person and not dead or a mannequin.

Doing Time in Hell available at Class Act Books.

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