Damien Echols' Memoir "Life After Death" Hits Shelves

Damien Echols' Memoir "Life After Death"

via Salon

In 1994, Damien Echols, Jessie Miskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were found guilty of the murder of three little boys in West Memphis. Both Miskelley and Baldwin got life imprisonment and Echols was sentenced to death. It remains one of the most controversial murder cases in American history and is observed by many (including many celebrities, such as Henry Rollins) as a total miscarriage of justice. Today, all three are out of jail, but haven't been declared innocent. Many books and movies have chronicled the fight of these men, now known as the West Memphis Three, including the award winning documentary series, Paradise Lost. We can now add Damien Echols memoir Life After Death to the long list of works about the infamous case.

The road to publication wasn't easy for Echols, who self-published a memoir called Almost Home in 2005 with the limited means afforded a death row inmate, and it received the cold shoulder from the literary community. "Too short" and "questionable style" were common complaints. Well, the new book from Blue Rider Press is more than twice the length and comes fully edited by Sarah Hochman. It was released on Tuesday the 19th and it's already tearing up the charts on Amazon.

Echols split the narrative of this new volume in two distinct parts: one about his upbringing and one about his time on death row, which gives perspective to the situation as a whole. It's possible no one will ever know what really happened to the three murdered children of West Memphis. Hopefully you can learn a little about it by reading what Damien Echols went through.

What do you guys think? Has anyone read the book or seen the films? Are the West Memphis Three Innocent or guilty?

Image of Life After Death
Author: Damien Echols
Price: $13.98
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 416 pages
Image of Almost Home
Author: Damien Echols
Price: $34.99
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (2005)
Binding: Paperback, 168 pages
Benoît Lelièvre

News by Benoît Lelièvre

Benoît Lelièvre is twenty-nine years old and lives in Montreal,Canada. His fiction has been published in Needle Magazine, Crime Factory, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Shotgun Honey and The Flash Fiction Offensive, amongst others. When he's not furiously typing away, he's watching hockey, studying martial arts, consuming pop culture or kicking back with his better half and his dog. He blogs out of Dead End Follies, where he reviews books, movies and chronicles his existence.

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Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading The Warehouse by Rob Hart September 19, 2012 - 10:50am

I've followed developments on the WM3 since 1998 when a friend told me about the case and recruited me to help with a fundraiser at the bar where I worked. I visited their support site, wm3.org, regularly and familiarized myself with the details of the case as best I could, and have since seen all 3 installments of the Paradise Lost films. Based on all I know, I am convinced that Damien, Jason and Jessie are innocent of the crimes and themselves victims of a gross miscarriage of justice.

They were released from prison last August, pled out on an Alford Plea just weeks before an evidentiary hearing was scheduled to introduce new DNA evidence which exonerated them. The AK prosecutor has admitted himself that the state had no interest in paying restitution in the event the boys were exonerated, and therefore approached them with the Alford deal in the hopes of a quick settlement.

I have the book, and look forward to reading it. Damien, while accentric, comes off as a bright guy even without much formal education, and I'm interested to hear what he has to say. While I'm sad at the news that he throws best friend Jason Baldwin under the bus in the book, I can understand the bitterness, paranoia and persecution he must continue to feel even now.