Daily Review: The Rap by Ernest Brawley

This is a brutally honest story of a young man working as a guard in a state penitentiary who is as much a prisoner of the system as any convict.

The roiling action of Ernest Brawley’s novel The Rap takes place in and around a penitentiary much like San Quentin. The time is the early 70s when George Jackson, Angela Davis and others were agitating for prison reform, and the authorities were doing everything they could do to thwart them.

A young, sympathetic guard, Arvin Weed, attends night classes at a local college in pursuit of a dream to break away from his worst nightmare: working at the prison forever, like his father. But his reputation as a Vietnam vet rifle marksman draws him unwittingly into a conspiracy to murder revolutionary, black militant leader, William Galliot, who’s just been sent to prison.

Arvin’s evil cousin, Wasco Weed, also a recent arrival to the prison, fancies himself a criminal genius, and has, in fact, been directly tapped by conservative political eminences to assassinate Galliot, the revolutionary.

Wasco shrewdly manipulates everyone in his orbit, including his voluptuous wife, Moke, an almost supernatural creature given to midnight swims in the ocean and driven by a ferocious craving for money and power; Fast-Walking Miniver, a young guard and the warden’s scapegrace son; Big Arv, Arvin’s loutish father; Lobo Miniver, the urbane and opportunistic warden; and even Wasco’s own mother, Evie, the bawdy proprietress of a whorehouse.

Moving from the tragic to the comic, the obscene to the exalted, the real to the surreal, The Rap is the ultimate American saga.

Ernest Brawley

Amazon Review

By Toni

Ernest Brawley’s writing sings. Its energy leaps off the page. He communicates what feels like an authentic sense of the culture in and outside of the prison where the novel is set. The details are thorough and fascinating.

He writes from the point of view of a number of prison workers and inmates. The voices are vivid, alive, and and each has its own musicality. There’s a well-rendered plot in the novel, which I won’t spoil, but the tension set up around it is fabulous, and the execution is so good it also gives us character-driven literary fiction.

The racial politics are refreshingly nuanced and sophisticated. An excellent read.

Amazon Review

By Dr. Michael Hogan

This is one of the most amazing books I have read with insightful and disturbing insights into the criminal justice system, the lives and daily preoccupations of the correctional staff, and the complex interactions with inmates.

Brawley has a great ear for dialog and an excellent feel for his characters who not only come across as three-dimensional but also utterly (and sometimes disgustingly) believable. Everything about this novel rings true in its frightening intensity and even in its lighter moments.

This is the first book I have read by Brawley but it will not be the last. Not by a long shot.

Amazon Review

By C. I.

This is a brutally honest story of a young man working as a guard in a state penitentiary who is as much a prisoner of the system as any convict.

It’s a great story, intensely plot-driven, with a cast of larger-than-life characters. But what really sets it apart is the writing.

Brawley’s characters speak in a stream of consciousness style that perfectly captures the way real people talk.

Please click HERE to find The Rap on Amazon.

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