The Book v1

Where Excuses Go to Die  –  a memoir

“Some people need to get in the box to think outside of it.”

Witness the problematic birth of a maximum security prison. From inmate bus #1 bursting through a “Welcome” ribbon held up by cheering civilians to correctional officers marking their territory before the general population gets a chance, these are the details in the devil.

A showcase facility meant to relieve systemwide overcrowding, this high-tech wonder is activated before it’s even completed, kicking off months of glitches, gangs, and high weirdness. Endlessly flickering lights test the mental stability of all. Electric doors fail, freeze, and crush. Tap water runs black. The high-voltage perimeter fence is faulty, and personnel gaps get filled with rookie badges. As the headcount quickly swells, their top priority becomes keeping inmates away from both the compound’s feral cats and its weaponizable construction debris.

And this only part of the story’s landscape.

At the center of it all is a mindlessly privileged 22-year-old who thinks courteous, corporate-only robberies conducted with a fake revolver will offer built-in absolution. But when his drunken lawyer bungles his plea-deal, “Who the hell robs bookstores?” becomes a mirror he’s made to face more often than he’d like. In prison, his presence is greeted with collective offense. He’s told it’s a place for criminals, not snotty tourists. The young man’s subsequent journey through the justice system initiates the wake-up call one might expect, while the brass tacks of life inside for a mixed-race inmate defy everything he thought he knew.

But this isn’t a fish out of water story, ‘cause when the tank sets the rules, lessons learned aren’t limited to the fish.

Delivered with the humor, heart, and humanity that also abound in custody, Where Excuses Go to Die gives a middle finger to the way we’ve been trained to recognize prison and prisoners.

Some Reactions

“John Nelson, in a very poor choice of maturity management options, had a momentary brush with the fast-moving world of Crime. He found himself in prison, surrounded by some of America’s finest. Where Excuses Go to Die is an insightful and hilarious piece of work from a guy who is an extremely talented writer. I can’t think that prison is anyone’s idea of a good time, but it definitely gave John something with which to apply his very obvious talent. This is an excellent work that would also make a great screenplay.” —Henry Rollins

“This book had me from page one with the author, John Espinosa Nelson, under arrest and in front of an FBI agent. The moment of truth comes when asked ‘who the hell robs bookstores?’ and after wrestling with all the rationalizations he can think of, Nelson simply replies, ‘a criminal.’ A wonderful coming of age journey through his time in prison and beyond.” —Karen Connick, ForeWord Reviews

“An unexpected delight—a story of hubris and horror that is one of the funniest and most touching cautionary tales I’ve read. Instead of a tired catalog of prison tropes, Nelson guides his readers through a world that is indeed grim and dangerous, yet his self-deprecating wit, caustic sense of humor, and incisive eye for observational detail make the journey at once exhilarating, hilarious, and ultimately uplifting.” —Helen Stringer, Penguin Random House , Spellbinder Series

“Wow. This book was fantastic and written with honesty and humor. I haven’t laughed so hard at a book in a really long time and Nelson delivers. His journey is filled with great insight–both to his external and internal world, as well as a look into the prison system.” —Goodreads community reviews

Very insightful, a somewhat horrifying look into California’s jail and prison system. Sometimes sad and other times laugh out loud funny. — Amazon customer reviews