Education of a Felon: A Memoir
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In Education of a Felon, the reigning champion of prison novelists finally tells his own story. The son of an alcoholic stagehand father and a Busby Berkeley chorus girl, Bunker was--at seventeen--the youngest inmate ever in San Quentin. His hard-won experiences on L.A.'s meanest streets and in and out of prison gave him the material to write some of the grittiest and most affecting novels of our time.
From smoking a joint in the gas chamber to leaving fingerprints on a knife connected to a serial kiler, from Hollywood's steamy undersde to swimming in the Neptune pool at San Simeon, Bunker delivers a memoir as colorful as any of his novels and as compelling as the life he's lead.
and had killed more than one prisoner. I remembered a friend, Ebie, telling me that some drunk Mexican being booked in had thrown a trash can through an interior window. They had dragged him away. It was when they were away, in a room without witnesses, that the guy slipped on a banana peel and broke his skull on the bars. It was part of the criminal ethos to expect an ass kicking as part of the game if you did certain things, mainly threatened them physically, either by word or deed. In some
contested. I had no attorney and I cannot remember being asked to say anything. I might as well have been a passenger on a train. The journey took ten minutes, and when it was over, they took me to a department of the Municipal Court and filed a complaint charging me not with Section 4500 but with 245 Penal Code, assault with intent to do great bodily harm. A date for a preliminary hearing was set. Bail was set at $20,000. Of course bail was unattainable while the youth authorities had a detainer
Every place I went authority told me, “We will break you here.” They said it in juvenile hall, in various reform schools, and in the reformatory at Lancaster. I cannot recount how many beating I’d had—at least a score, three of which were really savage. Tear gas was shot in my eyes through the bars; fire hoses had skidded me across the floors and slammed me into walls. I’d spent a week naked in utter blackness on bread and water when I was fifteen. When I was in Pacific Colony, at thirteen, I was
was seeking at the moment. I was both confident and watchful, for while I had many friends, I also had my share of enemies. I didn’t want to come upon them unexpectedly; they might think I was trying to make a sneak attack. Outside the gates to the East Cell House I saw San Quentin’s two pairs of bookmakers. Sullivan and O’Rourke were the Irish book; Globe and Joe Cocko were the Chicano book. Each pair had a green sport page from the Chronicle, checking race results from the Eastern tracks.
and Prieto the third round by the same ten to nine. When I came down the steps from the ring, Rudy Thomas was grinning. “I didn’t know you could box that good,” he said. “Desperation,” I said. “And I’ll never put on another set of boxing gloves, believe me.” Later, in the gym, my opponent came out of the shower. I was combing my hair at a sink, and he had to pass behind me. Our eyes caught in the reflection. “Good fight,” he said. “You, too, man.” “I’m kinda glad I didn’t win.” “What’re you