Review – Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail – Wil Patterson

Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail by Wil Paterson cover art

Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail

Wil Patterson

Finch Publishing

ISBN: 9780648226741

 

Description:

‘Wil’s honesty really had me gripped and his description of his first night in jail is something I won’t forget.’ – Emily Webb, crime author and podcast host of ‘Australian True Crime’.

 

Wil Patterson was your everyday working husband and father, trying to keep up with the latest car, house and toys for his family. Always one to make light of things, he nevertheless became increasingly desperate about how he was going to pay his bills. One day while at work at his insurance job, he came across a large cheque that was addressed to someone who shared his name. The temptation was too great and soon enough Wil found himself down at the bank. After swearing to himself, ‘never again’, it wasn’t too long before a similar situation arose and Wil could not resist.

 

Well, no crime goes unpunished and Wil was eventually caught and charged and, to his horror, sentenced to 3 years’ prison time. Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail is Wil’s account of his time in a contemporary Victorian prison, the unusual characters he met, the often hilarious and terrifying situations he found himself in, and the ways in which he comes to terms with his past and forges a new future.

 

This is for anybody who has ever wondered, ‘What is it really like inside?’ or ever speculated how they might cope if they were in the same situation. It also details the reactions of Wil’s family and friends and examines the steps Wil had to take to be accepted back into his family and society.

 

 

My View:

One upon a time, many years and career changes a go, I had a part time job – social worker for visits time at a low security prison. I was filled with the same trepidation that Will experienced for his first night at prison.  I knew no-one else at the prison, I didn’t know how any of the prison systems worked (I had assumed I would have a meeting with someone on staff before I started work but that didn’t happen). I was a little concerned. The stereotypes of prisoners in crime fiction and film and TV shows were almost enough to put me off- but I was studying and thought I wanted this experience on my resume.

 

So Sunday – visits are generally on a Sunday, I made my way to the local prison. I didn’t even know how to enter the place and consequently drove down a road I shouldn’t have and was quickly escorted to the main entrance by a patrol of guards.

 

My concerns must have been obvious – one of the guards on duty that day took me to one side and said “They (prisoners) are just ordinary people. Think of the street you live in – you don’t know anything about those people, they could have a record…treat inmates like people.” But then suggested a few sensible precautions… and with that piece of worldly advice I started work, mostly I assisted prison visitors to fill out forms and allay their fears (most hadn’t been in a prison before either and shared many of my concerns) – a calm visitor makes for a good visit day.

 

I didn’t work there very long but that’s another story.

 

So I understood a little of Wil’s trepidation. It’s about expectations. And hoping most of them don’t come true.

 

I enjoyed this honest, creative memoir /coming of age/humorous (mostly) reflection on Wil’s time in jail. He highlights some flaws in the judicial system, reflects on his own past, his crime and accepts responsibility for his actions.  He doesn’t allow himself to be defined by the actions that landed him in jail. I am pleased he has found a way to reconnect with his family and start a meaningful life.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Woman Before Me: Ruth Dugdall

The Woman Before Me

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press

ISBN: 9781909593619

Description:

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and the Luke Bitmead Bursary

Shortlisted for The New Angle Book Prize, The People’s Book Prize and the Brit Writer’s Novel Award.

 

‘They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.’

Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her is Emma Hatcher, who’s just given birth to Luke. Joel dies and Luke is thriving, until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.

Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so… by what means?

My View:

This is a haunting story of obsession, birth and murder and the consequences of said behaviours. This is the type of book that once you have read it; it sits with you, teasing your memories, challenging your ethics, ideals and questions “what would you do in this position?”

This is an interesting narrative; before we have even turned the first page we know that 1 baby dies in hospital and one has died in a tragedy, that Rose Wilks has been charged and found guilty of the death of baby Luke and that she is in gaol awaiting possible release on parole. Here we meet probation officer Cate who has the unenviable task of determining if Rose is suitable for early release.  And this is where our story actually starts.

This is a story of the everyday, by that I mean the language is simple, cleanly written, neat and precise. The story sits quietly on the page, daringly revealing the truth word by word, entry by entry in Rose’s diary. In this narrative we have the alternating perspectives of Cate and Rose to guide the reader.

Dugdall is excellent in creating mood and setting. I found the prison settings, inmates and guards disquieting. I did not however find any of the characters particularly inviting or endearing. I did find the story particularly sad and the twist in the tail will surprise many.  I wonder what Ms Dugdall will come with in her next book?

Post Script: Inside These Walls – Rebecca Coleman

This is a beautiful, poignant and haunting story.

Inside These Walls

Rebecca Coleman

Harlequin

Harlequin MIRA

ISBN: 9781459239074

 

Description:

There is only one day, and I live it over and over…

For Clara Mattingly, routine is the key to enduring the endless weeks, months and years of a life sentence in a women’s prison. The convicted murderer never looks back at who she once was—a shy young art student whose life took a sudden tragic turn. And she allows herself no hope for a better future. Survival is a day-to-day game. But when a surprise visitor shows up one day, Clara finds that in an instant everything has changed. Now she must account for the life she has led—its beauty as well as its brutality—and face the truth behind the terrible secret she has kept to herself all these years.

Critically acclaimed author Rebecca Coleman brings you the haunting story of a woman’s deepest passions, darkest regrets and her unforgettable and emotional journey toward redemption.

My View:

I loved every minute of this narrative; the writing is clear, clean, understated and elegant. The protagonist’s voice has a particular sense of calm and peace that I found mesmerising and very, very moving. The story itself is powerful and very sad and very relevant to the social issues and Royal Commissions that countries like Australia are trying to deal with today; this one story speaks so well for the victims of so many kinds of abuse and the voices of the characters in this book ring true and clear, they do not whine, or brashly shout out pleas for attention but quietly inform and allow the reader to peek into the lives of others less fortunate to witness the injustices themselves.

There are so many levels to this very quietly spoken, moving narrative. There were times when I held back a silent tear for the inhumane treatment served up to so many caught up in the penal system – the point of a custodial sentence is to detain not to dehumanise isn’t it?  All involved in this system are affected, not just those who are incarcerated. I think this point is made very clearly.

Clara’s story is moving. Clara’s story is engaging, insightful and so well written – and that is the best part – the writing is so restful despite the subject matter being discussed. I loved Clara’s peaceful, calm, serene voice. This is a great read. Don’t be put off by the gentleness of the words, this is a great story, this is a powerful story of redemption and hopes told by voice that does not preach to or admonish the audience.