Book Reviews: Real Life Prison Tales Worthy of Note; True Notebooks by Mark Salzman. Published by Bloomsbury. Pounds 15.99
Byline: PAUL McGURK
TRUE Notebooks is an account of the author's time spent teaching creative writing to juvenile offenders in prison.
The true story of a sensitive man giving violent criminals encouragement and a free hand to produce startling and occasionally moving pieces of work, the book could have foundered on any number of cliches - but Salzman's honest, light touch keeps it brilliantly afloat.
Salzman was initially reluctant to join the Inside Out writing programme at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, as his diary entries show. "Feel unqualified to evaluate poems about AK-47s", "Still angry about getting mugged in 1978" and, "The cliche problem: white guy with everything going for him telling dark-skinned kids that art matters", he notes with endearing candour.
But he quickly overcomes his squeamishness when he encounters the boys in his class, and his amazement and wonder at some of his students' work is evident. …