From Publishers Weekly
In his 22 years as warden of Sing Sing prison through the 1920s and 1930s Lewis Edward Lawes oversaw the execution of more than 300 inmates. In Blumenthal's beautiful and bracing account of those years, Lawes, a death penalty opponent, experienced the pain of each death as though it were one of his own family. Against convention, Lawes saw his charges as individuals with talents, flaws and the need for fundamental respect. In looking out for his "boys," Lawes fought existing practices, misguided reformers and a public that would sooner forget those who have run afoul of the law than come to grips with the social conditions that produce such people. Blumenthal, an investigative reporter for the New York Times
, presents a swirling cavalcade of Runyonesque characters—unrepentant multiple murderers, career armed robbers, fallen society swells and tragic young people whose lives were altered by some impulsive act. He brilliantly captures in them the same spark that drove Lawes's entire career—a basic and irreducible humanity. Always Blumenthal brings the narrative back to the inmates and their trusted overseer. When Lawes retired in 1941, work at Sing Sing stopped and prisoners wept openly. With exquisite detail and real passion, Blumenthal has brought to life a legend and the world he sought to make better. B&w photos.
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"...informative and entertaining..." - New York Times Book Review
"Ralph Blumenthal has given us a remarkable portrait of a remarkable man... Blumenthal is a gifted storyteller... He has given us a tale worth telling." - David Nasaw, author The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst
"The astonishing and compassionate life of Lewis Lawes has remained one of the buried gems of American prison history until now. Ralph Blumenthal's biography of this patron saint of the dispossessed and discarded restores Lawes to a place of worthy prominence in American history."
- James Morris, author of The Rose Man of Sing Sing
"With exquisite detail and real passion, Blumenthal has brought to life a legend and the world he sought to make better." - Publishers Weekly
"If Lewis Edward Lawes's long career as warden of Sing Sing were written as a novel, it would surely be criticized as implausible... A story almost too good to be true, but too true to miss." --Mario Cuomo