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Life After Death Paperback – Illustrated, May 7, 2013
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“[Echols] has written a haunting book, and the story it tells is hardly over. He is living out a sequel that is no less strange and magickal than what he has already been through.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[A] tale of romance, resilience, and the power of the written word."—O, the Oprah Magazine
“Damien Echols spent eighteen years on death row for murders he did not commit. Somehow, in the depths of his unspeakable nightmare, he found the courage and strength not only to survive, but to grow, to create, to forgive, and to understand. Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful, and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration, and the beginning of a new life.”—John Grisham
"Damien Echols suffered a shocking miscarriage of justice. A nightmare few could endure. An innocent man on death row for more than eighteen years, abused by the very system we all fund. His story will appall, fascinate, and render you feeble with tears and laughter. A brilliant memoir to battle with literary giants of the calibre of Jean Genet, Gregory David Roberts, and Dostoevsky."—Johnny Depp
“Wrongfully imprisoned by willfully ignorant cops, prosecutors and judge, Damien Echols draws on all his wits and his unique view of humanity to survive eighteen years on death row. My admiration for him, and the strength of his spirit, increases with every page.”—Sir Peter Jackson, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter
“I am in awe of Damien's ability to write so beautifully, with such ease, humor and honesty—this is inspired storytelling, a wonderful book!”—Fran Walsh, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, composer and producer
“The life of Damien Echols is a journey similar to that of the metal that becomes a samurai’s sword. Heated and pounded until it becomes hardened, it can hold its edge for centuries. It is incredible that Damien endured and survived one of the most tragic miscarriages of American justice, and emerged such a centered, articulate and extraordinary man and writer. Life After Death proves that he paid dearly for his wisdom.”—Henry Rollins
“Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three. [B]are facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal. Essential reading.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“This is a stunning piece of work. Such hope while faced with injustice. Damien teaches us how to live.”—Eddie Vedder
“[Echols’] case garnered worldwide attention, but [his] memoir is about as far away from a publicity-seeking I-was-wronged story as possible. The author opts for a meatier, and certainly more haunting, account of his life behind bars, coupled with flashbacks to his childhood....Echols is a talented writer, and when the book dips into his own spiritual and philosophical beliefs...it achieves the kind of emotional resonance that many similar books lack....A tragic and often disturbing story.”—Booklist
“[T]his is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience.”—Library Journal (starred)
“In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row … The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism....a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred)
“Echols is a writer whose talent is commensurate with the task of telling this story....The man who has emerged from death row at last is not quite a hero, but he’s something far more interesting: an artist—and, most definitely, well worth meeting.”—Laura Miller, Salon.com
“Gripping…Echols has already lived a remarkable life, one forged in tragedy and all manner of iniquity. That he is able to write so movingly about the many trials he endured speaks volumes about his intellect and character.”—Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe
About the Author
While in prison, Damien was ordained into the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition. Today he teaches classes on magick around the country and works as a visual artist. He and Lorri live in New York City with their three cats.
- Publisher : Plume; Illustrated edition (May 7, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0142180289
- ISBN-13 : 978-0142180280
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.94 x 8.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #67,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If you have not watched the three "Paradise Lost" documentaries, please do so, as they extensively cover the mind-bogglingly corrupt investigation into the murders of three young boys and the ensuing trial that landed Echols on Death Row and his two co-defendants with life sentences. In particular, the final documentary, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory , summarizes the first two films, and includes the events leading up to the trio's long-awaited freedom. Echols devotes very little time to these events because so much information is already available, but readers of his memoir should view them in order to gain a more complete picture of this travesty. Instead, Echols focuses on his impoverished upbringing and his eighteen years on Death Row, as he and others fought for his exoneration. When he writes of the stifling heat in the tiny, tin-roofed shack he inhabited in his childhood, you can almost feel it yourself. When he writes of mosquitoes feasting on his flesh in his prison cell, I could feel my own skin crawl.
The prison life he depicts is much like what we all imagine from movies and TV shows: abusive guards, horrible food, lack of sleep, etc. But Echols informs us that sadistic guards are the norm, rather than the exception. We also learn about the overwhelming filth, both of the prison itself and of some of the inmates due to their less than stellar hygiene practices. His misery in his cell due to cold winters was dwarfed only by the stifling summers. Time ceases to have any meaning other than bringing him closer to execution. Echols also writes in depth of his spiritual journey that led him from being raised Protestant to exploring Catholicism on his own as a teen. His general thirst for knowledge and his keen interest in spirituality led to an ongoing study of Buddhism while he was imprisoned.
It's hard to believe that if not for a couple of filmmakers who decided to make a documentary of the trial of the so-called "satanic" murders of three children, Echols may be dead today. These filmmakers quickly realized that the real story was not about Satanism, but rather it was about the entire Arkansas justice system that was willing to throw away the lives of Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley. They were garbage - poor white trash, so what did it matter? Who cares if a sick child-killer is still on the loose as long as the public's bloodlust was sated? Evidence clearing the involvement of the three was not enough for the courts; it was only years of effort on the parts of Echols' supporters - celebrities and otherwise, and most significantly, his tireless wife, Lorri - that finally forced Arkansas to act. In other words, Echols was freed not by the normal means of little things like evidence, DNA, and alibi, but rather by public shame, scorn, and embarrassment from which Arkansas could no longer hide.
I've finished this book, but I still can't stop thinking about it. It depicts a life that I can barely imagine, but Echols depicts it all unflinchingly and without an ounce of self-pity, to which he is certainly more than entitled. There will never be another memoir like this, not only because Echols' beautiful writing skill is unlikely to be possessed by any other death row inmate, but also because any who have been wrongfully convicted are unlikely to be spared like Echols.
Its a rare book I do not bother to finish.... this was one I had no time for. However there was limited to no evidence these kids were guilty or even at the murder site. My guess is the WM3 were used to keep the higher up satanic culprits away from this crime no three kids (still getting rides from there mothers) could pull off. Someone much smarter cleaned the site up. A payment of millions of dollars, and at least for Damian, a graduation into the big leagues of witchcraft seems OK years behind bars.
Top reviews from other countries
Especially considering the death penalty is still being used in the States.
Before I continue, consider you might run into what seems to be SPOILERS which won't be my intention, but I'm just warning in case. Also, I don't dislike Americans. Every country has their faults. It just feels as though some states are a step away from burning suspected witches at the stake.
That's literally what almost happened to the author here. Had he not taken the Alford plea (hopefully spelt right now), there seems little doubt he'd be alive now.
The book explains not only life on death row, but the back history of someone who'd been persecuted for years before being arrested.
Reading about death row is horrific, but in a way it's even worse to know the betrayal that lead to an innocent man being accused of murder, along with his friends. There's undoubtedly so much hatred and venom coming from those claiming be righteous. Many underestimate the destruction these individuals cause to innocent lives. From what I've read and my own experiences when it comes to packs of braindead followers; the majority, particularly that Jerry Driver, had decided Damien was going down after first laying eyes on him. This isn't uncommon behaviour but it is disgusting that such persecution exists. It is also unprofessional and doesn't make sense. I've met some nut jobs but Damien was locked up by those in need of some psychiatric assistance themselves.
As I was reading this, I could feel the hostility of those in the town and the obvious witch hunt taking place. And this was being done to a minor two years beforehand. This person was quickly made a scapegoat, blamed for a crime committed by someone else. I don't really want to go into details about who could have done it. It's a sickening miscarriage of justice.
I never finished other books relating to death row because the torture is another kind of inhumane, still accepted by those that only really want to see someone die. I recognise the mentality. We've all heard others talk about what "should" happen to murderers and never is it acknowledged the possibility the accused could be innocent. I've personally always been against the death penalty, even when I've been sickened by crimes committed against innocents. Those in power have to be rational.
Taking someone's life for killing, innocent or guilty, isn't rational! The very fact that person could be innocent and yet could still be executed, is sick beyond belief.
Being from the UK, I remember reading and watching documentaries about condemned such as Derek Bentley and Ruth Ellis. DECADES AGO, before the death sentence was abolished over here. For those that don't know, Derek Bentley had a low mental age and didn't even pull the trigger. I add this because it also reminded me of some of the inmates mentioned in 'Life After Death'.
Damien also describes others on death row. When he talks about them, you start to see how they've been completely stripped of their spirit along with everything else. By then, all that's being killed is a shell.
Who punishes those in power?
The question usually asked to every anti-death penalty believer is "What if you lost someone to murder?" Well answer this: What if someone you cared about ended up condemned for something they didn't do?
I've noticed quite a few people judging the WM3 for taking the Alford plea. Jason Baldwin would have stayed inside from what I've read, but he couldn't watch his friend die. Anyone with any sense would have done the exact same thing without question. Now some people insist "Oh no, no, I would have kept fighting!"
That is very easy to say when not in that position. It's a good job they took that plea.
Now an important issue I feel was overlooked. Some people might not think it was serious but I do because it involves medication. From what I'm aware, Damien has been judged quite severely for how he reacted during the trial. Whenever it's been brought up, I think he described his actions as foolish. What needs to be acknowledged is that he was on Anti-Depressants at the time. I don't know what he'd been prescribed but from experience of taking them myself and loved ones also, I know you cannot take anyone seriously when they're under the influence of that particular medication. Although everyone is affected differently, I can say one can go as far as giggling like an idiot even after suffering a loss. Even though those drugs are needed, they are often prescribed for the sake of it. And then it would have been hell alone being forced to stop abruptly. Obviously he was forced to go without them. Aside from the withdrawal symptoms, all the memories return and are much more intense. This is an important subject because Damien has been ridiculed for his every movement, not only by some so-called body language "experts" but at the trial and just afterwards, every little comment he made was taken literally. I personally didn't see what the fuss was about or what everyone expected, but it is important to know that it wasn't a simple case of a teenager being a bit obnoxious. Apart from anything else, you must also remember that if a person knows they're innocent, in their minds, they're probably expecting someone else to come and save the day. Topped with having their mood heightened by what actually is a mind-altering drug, they may come across as being outrageous. I cringe when I remember what I was like on those tablets. I reiterate this because people bring up how Damien was behaving at the time.
There seems to be little awareness over such matters which I consider barbaric in itself.
I recommend this book to anyone. Anyone. It gives an insight into a world we're ignoring. We cannot pretend there are not innocent people waiting to die. That doesn't mean we have to ignore the victims, it means all the more reason to find answers.
I will probably add more later. I enjoyed reading this. Some of the comments were hilarious.
If you are buying this book, you need to know that about 80% of it is an exact reprinting of Almost Home. Another 10% appears to be reprinting of Damien's blog posts campaigning for help with their case over the last few years. The final 10% is new material, from what I can tell.
With a name like "Life After Death", I expected the book to primarily focus on Damien's experience after coming out of prison, but that part amounts to barely a chapter. There is, for example, a picture of he and his wife in New Zealand with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, but no information about that trip. This smacks of false advertising.
I don't criticise Damien here, so much as the publisher. Repackaging previous work in a new book without making this clear to those purchasing is a rip-off.
You might enjoy this if you haven't already read Almost Home.