Hard Time Reviews by Prisoners No. 4: Andrew Donegan

Andrew Donegan is the author of the blog, Wheel of Life at piebald77.blogspot.com  

This may well be a slightly biased review because I have personally met the author and we hail from the same town! However, because the only other books I have read in this genre have been ghost-written for quasi-celebrity hard men I have no affiliation with, this is only to be expected. I’m sure many of the blog visitors and other people who have come into contact with Shaun throughout his journey would feel the same.

This is a special, intimate read, flowing effortlessly in parts, like high-octane fiction. It’s a novel-length book, with enough fascinating characters to warrant it, their range of personalities (as eluded to via their tattoos, pranks, predatory smash-on-sight instincts and general buffoonery), by no means restricted to the intense confines of Sheriff Joe’s walls. The only constant is Shaun himself, and his loving family. The case prosecutors play the indifferent role of chief protagonists.

Few people will condone the drug lifestyle responsible for Shaun’s incarceration, but his activities, prior to a SWAT team arrest, were not motivated by the typical greed we see in regular ruthless criminal masterminds. Already well-to-do via a legitimate career, it becomes apparent that his passion for the rave scene during the advent of ecstasy was bordering on the utilitarian, when he flew friends over and gave away drugs for free, intent to share his revelation of the party scene on a large scale.

It’s not impossible to conclude that Shaun, while encased in the pleasure dome of hedonism, may have, at the time, with his own admitted ignorance, considered his behaviour harmless.

Slapped with an outrageously exorbitant bond, and no definite release date in the violent gang-culture dungeon of America’s toughest jail, his former existence soon shrinks away into the realms of distant, dreamy fairytale. Balancing his sincere remorse for his crimes along with the penal system's cruel treatment of him prove to be a juggling act that pushes him to breaking point. Another tenuous thread is the strain on those close to him back home and the 5000 mile distance separating them.

Included are actual letters of correspondence, most notably between Shaun and his girlfriend. To be fussy, I would have liked one or two of these touching inserts to be set in italics, to further heighten their emotional impact within the text of the book (or perhaps the acknowledgement pages at the end).

It’s a level playing field in Maricopa Jail for rapists, murderers, and petty cons alike. The aim is survival. Through yoga, working out, education, discipline, and, most importantly, love and support, Shaun Attwood not only emerges with his life intact, but with a cautionary tale he now shares publicly within schools and colleges back home. HARD TIME is the physical embodiment of one man’s struggle through adversity, his stand for success in an ordeal of truly terrifying proportions, and with it, via an international blog, the liberation of many unheard prison voices.

Well may it sell.

Click here for the previous review in this series.

Hard Time at Amazon UK. Hard Time at the Book Depository.


Shannon Clark said...

I have to agree that the personal correspondence contained in the book did much to anchor it in reality-when I read the book I thought of the letters Shaun had to sent to me during his incarceration, and these highlighted his personality so well, and where he was at emotionally because what becomes "normal life" in a prison is light years away from what most people understand or can connect with on a personal level.

I know it would be very personal, but I can't help feeling a book of prison letters would be really interesting.

Sue O.

Jon said...


shouldn't you be packing your stuff for england?