The Bookworm Sez: Powerful words in this read

The Bookworm Sez: Powerful words in this read

Sometimes, you have to choose sides.

Republican or Democrat? For something, or against it? Grateful for what you have or irritated by what you don’t? And you want fries with that?

Sometimes you choose your sides, and sometimes they’re chosen for you. And in the new book “Corruption Officer” by Gary L. Heyward (c.2015, Atria, $16, 276 pages), the preferred option is outside.

“Big Hey” had “the shakes.”

Evenings, he spent almost all his paycheck shaking dice, winning some nights and some nights, not. He still lived with his Moms because of that, which was shameful – he was 29 years old, a Gulf War veteran – but, though a good friend urged him to job-search, Heyward figured that better employment was out of reach.

When he learned that his application to Corrections Academy was accepted, he grabbed his mother and danced in their kitchen. “Hello, pension,” he says.

Hello, Rikers Island .

In the first days of Academy, Heyward had plenty to learn: inmates knew how to intimidate, which Corrections Officers were taught to ignore. Counting “mates” was essential, avoiding “undue familiarity” was important, the hours were lousy, but the money was good. Heyward was flush with cash for the first time in a long time. He bought a car.

Then his Baby Mama took him to court for child support.

Weeks later, shortly after his paycheck amounted to $68 post-deductions, after the “hood booga” said she was pregnant and his car was repo’ed, Heyward started hearing temptation. Inmates had been bugging him to smuggle in cash, drugs, and smokes. He’d done it once; the money was there and he knew it was easy. Other COs got away with bending the rules, and just about every male guard was doing whatever he could to pay child support. If they did it, why couldn’t Heyward do it, too?

“I begin to panic,” Heyward says. “I got to get this money up.” And so, he went in search of someone to introduce him to an inside partner, a move that would prove dangerously, devastatingly risky…

At first, I was quite unimpressed with “Corruption Officer.” There’s a lot of profanity in here, and what’s left after that is mostly sophomoric. I kept waiting for this book to grow up.

And then it hit me: it didn’t need to. This memoir of jail from both sides of the bars is really better suited for a young audience anyhow, since it’s ultimately more cautionary tale than not. In the end of his story, author Gary L. Heyward even writes, “Prison should be feared at all times. [It] should be thought about every time a person thinks about doing something wrong.”

Doesn’t that put a different spin on what, in its first many pages, felt like a jokey book? That sure seemed the case to me, as I read “Corruption Officer” in one sitting, alternately horrified and fascinated.

Grandma isn’t the targeted audience for this book. Young people are; they’ll like reading it and it may scare some straight. They’ll find that “Corruption Officer” has very powerful words inside.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

Candy pecans make a sweet snack to enjoy on excursions. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Road trip reimagined

Candied pecans accompany more subdued wandering

Robert C. Lewis photo courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives 
Ready to go fishing, a pair of guests pose in front of the Russian River Rendezvous in the early 1940s.
The Disappearing Lodge, Part 1

By the spring of 1931, a new two-story log building — the lodge’s third iteration — stood on the old site, ready for business

Viola Davis stars in “The Woman King.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.)
On the screen: Women reign in latest action flick

‘The Woman King’ is a standout that breaks new ground

Artwork donated for the Harvest Auction hangs at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Auction, juried show to showcase local talent

Kenai Art Center will host its annual Harvest Auction this weekend, juried art show next month

Sweet and tart cranberry pecan oat bars are photographed. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Cranberries to match the bright colors of fall

Delicious cranberry pecan oat bars are sweet and tart

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Take a chance

The fact of the matter is, you can find a way to hurt yourself in just about any athletic endeavor.

Alaska Digital Archives
George W. Palmer (left), the namesake for the city in the Matanuska Valley and the creek near Hope, poses here with his family in 1898 in the Knik area. Palmer became a business partner of Bill Dawson in Kenai in the last years of Dawson’s life.
Bill Dawson: The Price of Success, Part 5

Thus ended the sometimes tumultuous Alaska tenure of William N. Dawson.

File
Minister’s Message: Plenty

The Bible story of Joseph in Egypt preparing the harvest in the seven years of plenty teaches us some vital lessons

A still from “Jazzfest.” (Photo provided)
DocFest could be the golden year of documentaries — again

Homer Documentary Film Festival returns for 18th year with solid mix

From left: Lacey Jane Brewster, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Donna Shirnberg, Tracie Sanborn and Bill Taylor (center) rehearse “Menopause Made Me Do It” on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Applause for menopause

Kenai Performers’ new play takes aim at ‘not the most glorious part of womanhood’

Bulkogi Stew, a mixture of beef steak, potato starch noodles, green onions and broth, is enjoyed as part of the Korean harvest festival, Chuseok. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A hearty stew to celebrate harvest and loved ones

Bulkogi Stew makes for a perfect drizzly Chuseok in Alaska

This is the only known photo of Peter F. (“Frenchy”) Vian and William N. (“Bill”) Dawson together. They were photographed standing on the porch of their Kenai store in about 1911-12. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Historical Society)
Bill Dawson: The Price of Success, Part 4

One man who never seemed to get on Dawson’s bad side was Peter F. (“Frenchy”) Vian