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Format Paperback | ISBN 9781904380214 | Publication date 31/05/2007 | 192 pages
A uniquely-sourced account of the life and times of one of the UK's most famous prisons - a fame that flows directly from an account of the execution of Trooper Charles Thomas Wooldridge (CTW) as written by Reading Gaol's best-known prisoner, C.3.3, the pseudonym of Oscar Wilde. Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol, his last work for publication in 1898 is known the world over for its insights and telling phrases, such as 'bricks of shame', 'souls in pain' and 'that little tent of blue, that prisoners call the sky'. Possibly the greatest and most influential artistic work in terms of penal reform and conveying to outsiders the desolate nature and experience of imprisonment, the ballad crystallises the degradation, isolation, fear, introspection and sense of loss involved. Based on close research over ten years, and written by a serving Reading prison officer with access to official records and the Execution Log. Stokes' account: Tells the history of Reading Gaol from early times to the present day; Casts new light on Wildes incarceration; Contains fresh explanations of the Ballad; Gives a previously unpublished explanation as to why Reading was chosen for Wilde; Covers escape attempts, riots and executions; Includes a chapter on the internment of Irish Republicans following the Easter Rising; Plus a chapter on Readings use as a top secret correctional centre for Canadian troops; Contains notes on interesting prisoners - including Amelia Dyer (the Reading baby farmer) and Hollywood actor Stacey Keach.
But above all it is Oscar Wilde and The Ballad of Reading Gaol that permeate and inform this book as the author seeks to combine information about the prison with frequently telling explanations that all too often converge with the more universal nerve that was touched upon by one of literature's greatest creative minds - making Pit of Shame a book for every Wilde aficionado, penal reformer and student of English literature. With a special 16 page collection of photographs which illustrate life in Reading Gaol and some of its prisoners.
Alternative format ISBNs: PDF ebook ISBN 9781906534455.