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Prison Noir

Edited by:

A completely new, fresh, and frightening take on “prison literature.”

*While supplies last, books ordered through the website will include a bookplate SIGNED by Joyce Carol Oates!

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

“Reading the fifteen stories in Prison Noir is a sobering experience. Unlike most claimants to that much-abused term, this is the real thing . . . The power of this collection comes from the voices of these authors, voices suffused with rage (“3 Block From Hell,” by Bryan K. Palmer), despair (“There Will Be Seeds for Next Year,” by Zeke Caligiuri), and madness (“Shuffle,” by Christopher M. Stephen).”
New York Times Book Review

“These are stories that resonate with authenticity and verve and pain and truth. Any collection edited by the National Book Award–winning author Oates (them; Blonde, Rape: A Love Story) deserves attention, but the contributors are deft and confident, and great writers without her imprimatur. . . . Authentic, powerful, visceral, moving, great writing.”
Library Journal, Starred review

“A remarkable anthology of stories written by inmates of correctional institutions across America . . . Most importantly, this landmark volume amplifies the voices of the incarcerated.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review

One of BookRiot’s Must-Read Books from Indie Presses for 2014

“I gobbled it up. The voice in each piece is authentic . . . A fascinating read.”
subTerrain Magazine

“A strong compilation of prison literature, varied, well-written and not always what might be expected.”
Reviewing the Evidence

“No matter what side of the bars you live on, Prison Noir is worth doing time with.”
Killeen Daily Herald

“Readers will soak up every line . . . There is no doubt that readers from all walks of life, especially those less knowledgeable about life in prison, will appreciate Prison Noir.”
Killer Nashville

“This is a collection of stories that you will want to take your time with, savor, and probably reread a few times.”
Jenn’s Review Blog

“There is an intensity and melancholy that shines through these fifteen short stories, all written by prison inmates incarcerated throughout the US, and edited by the inestimable Joyce Carol Oates.”
A Lit Chick

“Affecting, powerfully written and arresting literature. Well worth seeking out.”


Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.

Brand-new stories by: Christopher M. Stephen, Sin Soracco, Scott Gutches, Eric Boyd, Ali F. Sareini, Stephen Geez, B.M. Dolarman, Zeke Caligiuri, Marco Verdoni, Kenneth R. Brydon, Linda Michelle Marquardt, Andre White, Timothy Pauley, Bryan K. Palmer, and William Van Poyck.

From the introduction by Joyce Carol Oates:

The blood jet is poetry—these words of Sylvia Plath have reverberated through my experience of reading and rereading the fifteen stories of Prison Noir. In this case the blood jet is prose, though sometimes poetic prose; if we go a little deeper, in some chilling instances, the blood jet is exactly that: blood.

For these stories are not “literary” exercises—though some are exceptionally well-written by any formalist standards, and artfully structured as narratives; with a single exception the stories are stark, somber, emotionally driven cris de coeur . . . We may feel revulsion for some of the acts described in these stories, but we are likely to feel a startled, even stunned sympathy for the perpetrators. And in several stories, including even murderers’ confessions, we are likely to feel a profound and unsettling identification . . .

There is no need for fantasy-horror in a place in which matter-of-fact horror is the norm, and mental illness is epidemic. Vividly rendered realism is the predominant literary strategy, as in a riveting documentary film.”

Read interviews with editor Joyce Carol Oates at Publishers Weekly and at The Record (New Jersey).

Listen to interviews with Joyce Carol Oates at KCRW’s Bookworm, Cat Radio Café (WBAI), and Publishers Weekly Radio.

Read interviews with contributor Eric Boyd at the Huffington Post and at the Setonian.

Table of Contents


Part I: Ghosts in the Machine
“Shuffle” by Christopher M. Stephen (Federal Correctional Institution, Oxford, Wisconsin)
“I Saw an Angel” by Sin Soracco (California Institution for Women, Corona, California)
“Bardos” by Scott Gutches (Fremont Correctional Facility, Cañon City, Colorado)
“Trap” by Eric Boyd (Allegheny County Jail, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
“A Message in the Breath of Allah” by Ali F. Sareini (Coldwater Correctional Facility, Coldwater, Michigan)

Part II: Caged Birds Sing
“Tune-Up by Stephen Geez (Ryan Correctional Facility, Detroit, Michigan)
“Foxhole” by B.M. Dolarman (Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester, Oklahoma)
“There Will Be Seeds for Next Year” by Zeke Caligiuri (Minnesota Correctional Facility, Stillwater, Bayport, Minnesota)
“Immigrant Song” by Marco Verdoni (Marquette Branch Prison, Marquette, Michigan)
“Rat’s Ass” by Kenneth R. Brydon (San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California)

Part III: I Saw the Whole Thing, It Was Horrible
“Milk and Tea” by Linda Michelle Marquardt (Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Ypsilanti, Michigan)
“Angel Eyes” by Andre White (Ionia Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan)
“How eBay Nearly Killed Gary Bridgway” by Timothy Pauley (Monroe Correctional Complex, Monroe, Washington)
“3 Block from Hell” by Bryan K. Palmer (Jackson State Prison, Jackson, Michigan)
“The Investigation” by William Van Poyck (Florida State Prison, Raiford, Florida)

Book Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Published: 9/2/14
  • IBSN: 9781617752391
  • e-IBSN: 9781617753312
  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • IBSN: 9781617752384


JOYCE CAROL OATES is the author of many works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. She is the editor of New Jersey Noir, Prison Noir, A Darker Shade of Noir: New Stories of Body Horror by Women Writers, and Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers. Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Humanities Medal, and a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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