I downloaded one of his free short-stories back in the winter from his "And Thereby Hangs a Tale" collection, and after just a few paragraphs in, I was immediately taken on an amazingly tantalising and tactile journey that pulled my emotions along in a very seamless manner. His story-telling skills are incredibly sharp and finely-honed, and in that regard, he reminds me very much of Dan Brown or J. They may not be literary giants, but they know how to tell a whopping great story. When I read his words, all I care about is what happens next. I think his novels are cracking good escapism.
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He ticks every box. We shake hands, and I go back to the glass cell. I only have to wait for a few more moments before a young lady in prison uniform asks me to accompany her to the medical wing. I grab my plastic bag and follow her. We climb three floors of green iron steps before we reach our destination. As I walk down the long corridor my heart sinks.
Every person I come across seems to be in an advanced state of depression or suffering from some sort of mental illness. I later learn that most first-time offenders spend their first night in the medical centre because it is during your first twenty-four hours in prison that you are most likely to try and commit suicide.
When the door slams behind me I begin to understand why one might contemplate suicide. The cell measures five paces by three, and this time the brick walls are painted a depressing mauve. In one corner is a single bed with a rock-hard mattress that could well be an army reject. Against the side wall, opposite the bed, is a small square steel table and a steel chair. On the far wall next to the inch-thick iron door is a steel washbasin and an open lavatory that has no lid and no flush.
I am determined not to use it. No curtains, no curtain rail. Stark, cold and unwelcoming would be a generous description of my temporary residence on the medical wing.
A key finally turns in the lock to allow another young woman to enter. She is dark-haired, short and slim, dressed in a smart striped suit. She shakes me warmly by the hand, sits on the end of the bed, and introduces herself as Ms Roberts, the Deputy Governor. Every officer carries a large bunch of keys that jingle whenever they move.
Have you been able to make a phone call? I flick open the cover to find a message: Hope you never have to read this, Dad, but if you do, chin up, we love you and your appeal is on its way, William xx James xx Thank God for a family I adore, and who still seem to care about me.
They made so many sacrifices to be with me for every day of the seven-week trial. There is a rap on the cell door, and a steel grille that resembles a large letter box is pulled up to reveal the grinning West Indian. I thank Lester and then take some considerable time making the bed. The promised phone call has not materialized, so I finally turn off the fluorescent light that shines above the bed, place my head on the rock-hard pillow and despite the agonizing cries of the patients from the cells on either side of me, I eventually fall asleep.
The suicide watch. I eventually fall asleep again, and when I wake just after 4 am, I lie on my back in a straight line, because both my ears are aching after hours on the rock-hard pillow. I think about the verdict, and the fact that it had never crossed my mind even for a moment that the jury could find Francis innocent and me guilty of the same charge. They also appeared to accept the word of my former secretary, Angie Peppiatt, a woman who stole thousands of pounds from me, while deceiving me and my family for years.
Eventually I turn my mind to the future. Determined not to waste an hour, I decide to write a daily diary of everything I experience while incarcerated. At 6 am, I rise from my mean bed and rummage around in my plastic bag.
Yes, what I need is there, and this time the authorities have not determined that it should be returned to sender. Thank God for a son who had the foresight to include, amongst other necessities, an A4 pad and six felt-tip pens.
Two hours later I have completed the first draft of everything that has happened to me since I was sent to jail.
Day 2 Friday 20 July 8. He slips an A4 pad, not unlike the type I always use, through the little steel trap. In return he asks me for six autographs, only one to be personalized — for his daughter Michelle. As no money can change hands in jail, we return to thirteenth-century England and rely on bartering. But I am grateful for this trade, because I have a feeling that being allowed to write in this hellhole may turn out to be the one salvation that will keep me sane. While I wait for Lester to return and escort me from my cell to a shower — even a walk down a long, drab corridor is something I am looking forward to — I continue writing.
At last I hear a key turning and look up to see the heavy door swing open, which brings its own small sense of freedom Lester hands me a thin green towel, a prison toothbrush and a tube of prison toothpaste before locking me back in.
I clean my teeth, and my gums bleed for the first time in years. This, according to the prison handbook left in every cell, is nothing less than the management requires. Another grin. I feel I should let you know that in my apartment on the Albert Embankment, perhaps the facility of which I am most proud is the shower room.
When I step out of it each morning, I feel a new man, ready to face the world. The large stone-floored room has three small press-button showers that issue a trickle of water which is at best lukewarm.
The pressure lasts for about thirty seconds before you have to push the button again. This means a shower takes twice as long as usual but, as I am becoming aware, in prison time is the one commodity that is in abundance. Lester escorts me back to my cell, while I cling on to my small soaking towel. He tells me not to lose sight of it, because a towel has to last for seven days. He slams the door closed. I have no idea who it will be this time. It turns out to be a plump lady dressed in a prison uniform who has something in common with the West Indian barterer — a warm smile.
She sits down on the end of my bed and hands me a form for the prison canteen. She explains that, if I can afford it, I am allowed to spend twelve pounds fifty pence a week.
I must fill in the little boxes showing what I would like, and then she will see that the order is left in my cell sometime later today. When she leaves, I study the canteen list meticulously, trying to identify what might be described as necessities. I am horrified to discover that the first column on the list is dominated by several different types of tobacco, and the second column by batteries — think about it. I study the form for some considerable time, and even enjoy deciding how I will spend my twelve pounds fifty.
The cell door is opened to allow me to join the other inmates and spend forty-five minutes in the exercise yard. Before going down to the yard, we all have to undergo another body search, not unlike one you might go through at an airport. We are then led down three flights of iron steps to an exercise yard at ground level. I pace around the furlong square that is enclosed by a high red-brick wall, with a closely mown threadbare lawn in the centre.
He turns out to be tall and slim, with the build of an athlete. He tells me without any prompting that he has already served eleven years of a fourteen-year sentence for murder. He also claims to have written a book of poetry, which I seem to recall reading something about in the Daily Mail.
I stabbed him seventeen times. Gordon goes on to tell me that he was twenty at the time, and had run away from home at the age of fourteen, after being sexually abused.
I shuddered, despite the sun beaming down on me. How long before it becomes matter-of-fact, commonplace? I glance across to see a sick old man with a tube coming out of his nose. For the first time in my life, I keep my counsel.
I feel sure there is a simple explanation. I ask Gordon. I read three days later in the Sun that Ronald Biggs and I shook hands after Gordon had introduced us.
I stand and offer her my little steel chair. She smiles, waves a hand, and perches herself on the end of the bed. They have checked the police computer at Scotland Yard, and as I have no previous convictions, and no history of violence, I am automatically a Category D prisoner,  which she explains is important because it means that during the funeral service the prison officers accompanying me need not wear a uniform, and therefore I will not have to be handcuffed.
The press will be disappointed, I tell her. Ms Roberts goes on to tell me that I will be moved from the medical wing to Block Three sometime after lunch. There is no point in asking her when exactly. I spend the rest of the morning locked up in my cell, writing, sticking to a routine I have followed for the past twenty-five years — two hours on, two hours off — though never before in such surroundings.
When I normally leave home for a writing session I go in search of somewhere that has a view of the ocean. I settle for a slice of bread and a tin cup of milk, not a cup of tinned milk. I sit at a nearby table, finish lunch in three minutes, and return to my cell. I pack my plastic bag which takes another three minutes while she explains that Beirut is on the other side of the prison.
She hesitates. My appearance is greeted by cheers from several inmates. I learn later that bets had been placed on which block I would end up in. More of that later. My new cell turns out to be slightly larger, by inches, and a little more humane, but, as the officer promised, only just. The walls are an easier-to-live-with shade of green, and this time the lavatory has a flush.
No need to pee in the washbasin any more. The view remains consistent. You just stare at another red-brick block, which also shields all human life from the sun. The long walk from the medical block across the prison to Block Three had itself served as a pleasant interlude, but I feel sick at the thought of this becoming a way of life.
He ticks every box. We shake hands, and I go back to the glass cell. I only have to wait for a few more moments before a young lady in prison uniform asks me to accompany her to the medical wing. I grab my plastic bag and follow her. We climb three floors of green iron steps before we reach our destination. As I walk down the long corridor my heart sinks. Every person I come across seems to be in an advanced state of depression or suffering from some sort of mental illness.
BELMARSH HELL JEFFREY ARCHER PDF
JoJokinos His story-telling skills are incredibly sharp and finely-honed, and in that regard, he reminds me very much of Dan Brown or J. The good old British class system automatically kicks in, even in prison — and people know their place. Oct 23, Terry Robin rated it really liked it. I also wonder if his fellow inmates appreciated him printing their anecdotes and conversations, especially as he quotes some of them as asking him not to repeat certain things which he goes on to recount in detail.
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