A packed house at Off Square Books on May 14th greeted author Damien Echols with a standing ovation after he spoke about his experience on Death Row, and his memoir, Life After Death. Echols, one of three Arkansas youths charged with the murders of three children in 1993, spent 18 years in prison, a decade of which was on Death Row. The case became well-known after two documentaries, “Paradise Lost” and “West of Memphis,” raised questions of their guilt. DNA evidence disproved their involvement, and with the rallying cries for exoneration from supporters, some quite famous and influential, the three were released from prison in 2011 -- but only by virtue of the Alford Plea, a kind of split-the-baby-in-half knife of “justice” which allows them to declare their innocence but maintains the guilty verdict imposed by the State of Arkansas, thereby protecting the prosecution and the state from the damages of civil litigation many believe they are due. There was talk of forming a “Mississippi Alliance for Arkansas to Do Better” that supports complete exoneration of the West Memphis Three.
Life After Death is the story of Echols’ childhood, his imprisonment, and the spiritual survival skills he cultivated while on Death Row (Buddhism, meditation and reading, always reading).
Square Books' current # 1 bestseller is the new book by John Hailman, From Midnight to Guntown, a collection of fascinating and often hilarious true crime stories based on the author's 34 years of experience as a federal prosecutor.
Hailman, a one-time journalist with a nationally syndicated wine column and the author of Thomas Jefferson on Wine, and presently an Overby Fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi, applies his excellent writing skills to this marvelous new book. Check out this fun fifteen minute interview with Steve Yates of the University Press of Mississippi https://vimeo.com/65233654 -- and call Square Books for your copy, signed or inscribed, as you wish. A great gift in this season for grads, moms, or dads, so don't forget to ask for our free gift wrapping.
Then on Thursday, May 2, Ben Greenman will read from The Slippage (Harper Perennial, $14.99), a romantic novel about mid-life marriage that Karen Russell calls "relentlessly funny." Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker and has written three story collections and two previous novels, Superworse and Please Step Back.
A reception was held at Off Square Books on Friday for the volunteers to meet one another and share their plans for giving away their books. A big thank you to everyone who participated and to all the authors who waived royalties as well as the many companies who paid for printing costs to make World Book Night a success. We look forward to an even bigger WBN next year! AL