Thursday, July 1, 2010


Dateline: June 27, 2010


I read an interesting article in the June 8, 2010, “New York Times,” by John J. Miller, about a famous writer who served three years in prison. Although his imprisonment had a great effect on his writing, he considered it a mark of shame, carrying his secret to the grave, never even telling his daughter.

Years after his death, when Prisoner #30664’s secret was revealed by a professor, the public became fascinated by his story rather than shunning him as a criminal. All his worries about his posthumous reputation were for naught.

Reading about such a man gives me pause to consider our differences and similarities, one hundred years apart. Rather than hiding my imprisonment of over 32 years, I make no secret of it, and have steadily recorded my experiences, thoughts, and stories, the entire time. In this new world of the Internet, there are few secrets to be kept by anyone anyway.

Wonder what someone is in prison for and when they’re getting out? Check the web site. The molesters and perverts can no longer fool people into believing they are in state prison for tax fraud. It used to happen all the time. I could tell you stories! And I will.

That man who was ashamed of his imprisonment was named William Sidney Porter. Ironically, another point we share is that most likely he was innocent of the charges he served time for.

While in prison he began submitting stories to New York magazines, some of them inspired by his fellow prisoners. They were best known for their unexpected conclusions. Mr. Miller compares reading Mr. Porter’s works is like watching episodes of “The Twilight Zone.”

Being ashamed of his prisoner status, Prisoner # 30664 did not want to publish his work under his own name, so he possibly borrowed an alias from a prison guard named Orrin Henry, calling himself, “O. Henry.”

Two of my favorite writers as a youth were Edgar Allan Poe and O, Henry. Who can ever forget “The Gift of the Magi,” or “The Ransom of Red Chief?” Little did I know all those years ago that one day I would have something in common with William Sidney Porter?

It’s a good thing you aren’t around in this modern world, Mr. O. Henry. Times have changed. If you’d been serving time in a Florida prison like Mr. Charles Patrick Norman, you might have been thrown into solitary confinement for your writing, like I was.

Perhaps I should have taken a hint from O. Henry, and used an alias, calling myself A. Gordon or T. Melton or S. Wellhausen. Alas, those names just don’t possess the ring of “O. Henry.”


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