Christmas Post

Happy Christmas everyone! Thank you for your support in 2012. Thanks to the help of many kind people, I have accomplished more than ever this year. We go onwards and upwards from here. In prison, Christmas is the time when suicides peak. Here's what I wrote about my last Christmas in prison (2006), plus a conversation on Boxing Day with Two Tonys, a Mafia mass murderer, now deceased, who protected me.

“Standby for chow, Yard 1. You’re getting breakfast first.”
On a cold crisp Christmas morning, below a pink and blue sky, I join the prisoners drifting towards the chow hall. Most look miserable, as if suffering a winter virus. A few swap greetings and gang handshakes.
“Merry Christmas, homey!”
“Happy Hanukkah, you sarcastic motherfucker.”
“Happy Kwanzaa, dawg!”
“Felice Navidad, ese.”

Inside, each of us takes a tray as it emerges from a slot in the wall. Breakfast is pancakes, scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls, cereal, and an apple. A guard with a clipboard checks off names, and jokes about how hung over he is. The rising sun floods the room with light, illuminating the dust motes dancing over our food. After fifteen minutes, the guards order everyone out. The prisoners rise from tables strewn with spilt milk, corn flakes, and apples stabbed to prevent hooch brewing.

We retire to our cells. While I reflect on being absent from my loved ones, a sad silence spreads across the yard. No basketball. No pull-ups or dips at the workout stations. No squabbling. No “motherfucker” this and “dawg” that. No announcements.
At least it’s my last Christmas here. I read to take my mind off the mistakes I made to lose almost six years of my life.

At Building B, a guard starts a security walk. “Put away your hypodermic needles! Don’t let me catch anyone drinking hooch!” 
By the time the swing shift arrives, the sun is shining through a sky mottled with clouds like the hide of a cow.
In a slow sarcastic voice an announcement comes: “We would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and to thank you for providing us with such a wonderful 2006!”
The yard animates with obscenities and threats:
“Merry fucking Christmas to you, too!”
“Shank you very much, motherfucker!”
“Come and say that to our faces, bastards!”
The guard continues: “And you’ll all be pleased to know that we fully intend to keep up the time-honoured Christmas tradition of shaking your houses down.”
Two guards – a female and a Mexican we call the “Fruit Nazi” who overzealously seizes apples and oranges from inmates leaving the chow hall – raid cells, scattering property, confiscating food, thwarting hooch operations, and doling out disciplinary tickets.

Late afternoon, we emerge for a surprise. The Gatekeepers – a young and high-spirited choir – sing carols from the other side of the perimeter fence. Briefly, I’m not a prisoner anymore. I’m someone’s son, brother. I’m human again.

At dinnertime, skimpy portions of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and broccoli provoke outbursts that unsettle the guards. 
After eating, I join a queue for phones that barely work. Written on the faces of the prisoners are the usual concerns. Will our loved ones be home? Will they accept the expensive call charges? Unable to get through, some prisoners hang up, cursing life.
Nearby, a demolition team of pigeons is savagely pecking the cling film off chow trays abandoned by the guards. From a burst of blowing dust that deposits sand in my mouth, a flock of Chihuahuan ravens descends – a vortex of big black birds with a purple and blue iridescence – scattering the pigeons and ravaging the spoils.

A final announcement at 7:55pm: “Yard 1, rec is over. Take it in and lock down.”

On Boxing Day, I meet Two Tonys at the fence. “How the fuck was your Christmas?”
“Not too bad because the day before I got an unexpected visit from Royo Girl, which gave me a boost,” I say, grinning. “It’s been so long since I saw her, I almost wrote her off. We got a little kissing action in, and she said she’s coming back soon. How was your Christmas?”
“Good ’cause I ain’t got no beefs,” Two Tonys says. “Let me ask you something, Shaun. You ever heard of Chad or Somalia or Sudan?”
“Well how nice a fucking Christmas do you think those poor motherfuckers had?” he says, raising his chin.
“I see what you’re saying,” I say, nodding.
“Do you know how many pieces of apple pie I got?”
“Three, and two issues of roast beef. It might have looked like shoe leather and tasted like shoe leather, but that’s OK ’cause guess what?”
“Ivan Denisovich would have snorted those motherfuckers up with his left nostril, and been as happy as if he were having supper with Mikhail fucking Gorbachev.”
We laugh.
“That’s my barometer now: how rough Ivan had it,” Two Tonys says. “Imagine being happy to lick some carrot gruel off a spoon. Or having to ride the cook’s leg to come up on some extra gills and tails in your fish-eyeball soup. Or Slingblade grabbing your bowl of oat mush, and you’ve got to go toe to toe with the fucking Neanderthal or starve to fucking death. My point is this: how the fuck can I complain when there’s always someone worse off? Of course I’d like to be chowing down on a Caesar salad, some escargot, a little bowl of scungilli, and some ravioli stuffed with spinach, but I ain’t gonna let those thoughts get me down.”
“What did you do on Christmas Day?” I ask.
“Played a little casino card game with Frankie. Watched a little TV. Sang some fucking Christmas carols to myself: ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Jingle Bells,’ and all that shit. How the fuck can I get depressed in here? This is my retirement home. Not just any motherfucker qualifies to be in here you know. You don’t just hop on a bus and say, ‘Driver, take me to the big house.’ This is an exclusive club. You’ve got to put some serious work in to get here. And what’s good about it is they can’t ever kick me out, ’cause I’m doing life. If things get shitty in here, I just tell myself, Get a grip, man. What would Ivan Denisovich be thinking? Would he be raising hell about his waffles being cold in the morning? Would he fuck! Like I’ve said before, that’s PMA, bro. That’s my positive mental attitude.”

Shaun Attwood

Manchester Book Signing

Pics from today's signing at the Trafford Centre.

Hair of the day. I think this young woman belongs on the cover of Party Time.

Great to meet my long term reader Hazel Andrew in Manchester today.

This woman lives in Tucson, Arizona.

 Shaun Attwood


My little niece with cancer, Yasmin, made the tabloids today. She was at the party at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where thieves stole the kids' Xmas gifts. Check this pic out of her in The Sun:

Shaun Attwood

Birkenhead Book Signing

Just got home from Birkenhead. The young woman in pic 1 had the best hairstyle of the day. In Pic 5, I'm with Acronym Man, who approached me, and said, "I like acronyms. Here's Waterstones: Whales And Tarantulas Eat Raw Strawberries Tremedously On November Evenings Sometimes." I laughed, and said, "How about WH Smith?" Without hesitating, he replied, "Weevils Hate Small Monkeys In Their Hotel."
Acronym Man introduced himself to my mum as, "Julius Ceasar. I'm over 2000 years old." "You look well for your age," Mum said. "I had much more fun invading England than I have in England these days," he said. For 20 minutes, he laid acronyms upon me, until a staff member took him aside and escorted him out. Every now and then, you meet a colourful character in Waterstones.   

With Acronym Man

Shaun Attwood

Manchester Book Signing

Pics from today's signing at the Trafford Centre. I'm signing there again on Christmas Eve.

Shaun Attwood

Manchester Book Signing

Met some great people at the Waterstones Manchester Trafford Centre signing today, assisted by my friend Wild John. I'm back at the Trafford Centre all day tomorrow.

With Wild John

Shaun Attwood

North Nottinghamshire College Visit

Just did 6 talks at NNC - my last school visit for this academic year. Now I'm at my parents' house, wrapping Xmas gifts. My two weeks of Waterstones book signings start on Saturday. Click here for times and locations. Got the most number of Tweets ever to come in after a school visit from NNC students:

 Shaun Attwood

Woodlands School (Essex) Visit

Shaun Attwood

Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 8)

Jack is serving life without parole, and has terminal cancer. Throughout my incarceration, Jack was a positive influence. He encouraged me to keep writing, to enter short-story competitions, and we proofread each other’s chapters. Jack is seeking pen pals, so anyone interested please email me at for his details. 

I hope this letter finds you well, and not too overworked. I was so sorry to read about your niece Yasmin. Children should never have to suffer with any form of cancer. It’s traumatic enough for an adult to have to deal with, but a child shouldn’t have to go through it. I know that a lot of time, research, and money goes into trying to find a cure for childhood cancer, but in my opinion, it’s not enough. We spend so much effort trying to find new and more efficient ways to destroy each other that we neglect those things that are more important. Can you imagine the benefits that could be realized if the defense budget of the US was channelled into medical research for just one year? What a terrible waste of resources. Don’t get me wrong, I understand better than most the need for a strong military in today’s volatile environment. I just believe we unnecessarily squander large portions of the defense budget on items and projects that don’t work, and are only wanted by the very few who will realize a profit if they are funded.

I must say that I was surprised by how long your last letter was. I can’t remember ever receiving one that ran four pages front to back. I know you said not to expect another one of that length, but next time you feel yourself trapped on the train with nothing to do feel free to unburden yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed the brief glimpse into your thoughts. The opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with someone of your calibre is not something I take lightly.

Thank you very much for the secure pac [food package]. It was very generous and a pleasant surprise. I didn’t fill out the order form because I would never make that kind of presumption. Besides, part of the fun of a present is the surprise. Filling out the order form would negate that surprise.

Historical fiction is nothing more than a novel written around historical facts. I like them for no other reason than one is able to place the story into a concrete time and place, and assume that the characters could have interacted in such a manner as to have influenced or been a part of the actual incident.  


Karate Update

Karate Update: Sensei Perry said the grading was exceptional and what we lacked in style we made up for in heart and spirit, so I left happy and assuming we passed even though I don't find out for sure for a few weeks. Got smashed in the ribs on both sides, so I'm going to have to brush up on my blocking skills.

Shaun Attwood

Karate Grading

Just finished my training at the Spectrum fitness centre till after Xmas as I go on the road up north on Tuesday for book signings and schools talks for 2 weeks. It was my last training before my karate grading in London this Sunday. Among the things I have to do is to fight 5 times. They usually stop the fight when someone scores, but these 5 fights are not getting stopped, its pure endurance, and the opponents are usually bigger than me, but my stamina's up for the fighting from doing two-hours of BodyPump and BodyCombat back to back for a few months, and my upper body strength is up from doing daily morning handstands in my yoga sun salutation routine. Sparring earlier in the year when I was much weaker, I ended up with 3 broken fingers and bruised ribs, and I couldn't exercise for a month, so its serious stuff. This belt (brown) is the last belt before black. I've got 2 xmas parties this weekend with fellow exercise fanatics in Guildford, but I'm only going to drink water and I have to get plenty of sleep for the karate grading. Where has the party animal gone? I hope to see some of my fitness friends at the White House pub in Guildford on Saturday at 7.30, where I'll be drinking water with our brilliant instructors, Tracey Debenham, Jon Hawkins and Tony Coker.

Part of the grading is also this kata:

Shaun Attwood

Paul Bassett Davies

With the hilarious Paul Bassett Davies in London yesterday. Paul's TV credits include Spitting Image:  I'm looking forward to reading his new ebook, Utter Folly.

Shaun Atwood

Bedales School Visit

At Bedales School with Vincent and Augusta, who're getting in character by pulling mean prison faces. I barely made it back to Guildford from Petersfield in time for karate last night. We did 3 1/2 hours of mostly jumping kicks. I still can't walk straight today.

Shaun Attwood

Tormead School Visit

Just spoke to over 100 sixth-formers at Tormead School in Guildford, and about to leave to do a talk at Bedales School in Petersfield.

Shaun Attwood 

Postcards from T-Bone (2)

How goes it my friends?

Thoughts become words.
Words become actions.
Actions become habits.
Habits become character.
Character becomes destiny.

Pass that on to whoever wants to listen about change.
I will be in England some day.

Each one, teach one. Strength and Honor. Steel embrace.

Students at the T-Bone Appreciation Society, I love you,


Click here to read Postcard 1 from T-Bone:

Click here to read the the fight story, T-Bone v Scooter: 

Shaun Attwood

Epping College Forest Visit

For my third year in a row, I was back at Epping Forest College today.

With Glaci

With Jason

With Mollie
Shaun Attwood