Archives for john nelson

On Where Excuses Go To Die, a Memoir by John Espinosa Nelson

Where Excuses Go to Die by John NelsonI have been amazingly fortunate. Two writers from my prison classes have produced exceptional works. Ken Hartman, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, worked on a memoir in my class at Tehachapi Prison. It was eventually published as Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars.It won the Eric Hoffer award for a memoir and received spectacular reviews. It’s a powerful work, profound, frightening, moving. And now another student of mine, John Nelson, has come up with an equally stunning work, also a prison memoir: Where Excuses Go To Die.

Where Excuses Go To Die” is funny, touching, wise. Nelson gives you the desperate, grinding prison reality in fire-cracker language that has you shaking your head in admiration. This guy has an eye and an ear and an instinct for what really goes on behind the walls, what criminals are truly like, the relationships between staff and convict, how the whole circus cartwheels along. Want to know how a bright, middle-class kid ends up a convict, serving seven years for bank robbery? Want to know, feel, taste the innards of California prisons in hilarious, disturbing detail, how one survives or doesn’t in fantastical situations absurd, brutal, terrifying? I spent thirteen years teaching in maximum-security prisons. My one-man show, Murderers Are My Life, is a revelation of that world—I thought I had seen it all– but John Nelson pulled the curtains aside and showed me the core of incarceration, stuff that I never could have imagined.

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Jail Guitar Doors: Rock Out!


Tom Morello performed several Nightwatchman songs at the benefit, including “One Man Revolution”.

I love music and have witnessed some great performances in my time. I was living in New York City when Bob Dylan came on the scene. I worked at the Jazz Gallery and the Five Spot and saw such greats as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. I saw the Eagles tour Hotel California, and Springsteen when he toured Born To Run. So I know good music. I must say, though, I’ve rarely been as captivated and excited and moved as I was the other night at the Ford Theater in the hills of  Hollywood during the Jail Guitar Doors Rock Out! Concert. Jail Guitar Doors is a charity that provides musical instruments for inmates in prison and those newly released. It takes its name from a song by The Clash, the opening line of which is, “Let me tell you ‘bout Wayne and his deals of cocaine”, referring to guitarist Wayne Kramer of the rock group Motor City 5, who spent two years in prison for selling cocaine—in those days Kramer had a heavy addiction.

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John Nelson on David Scott Milton and his one-man show Murderers Are My Life

Evaluation of John Nelson.

Evaluation of John Nelson.

You may recall John Nelson, ex con and ex student, from my post last month about him and his soon to be published memoir. He was kind enough to download my one-man show Murderers Are My Life  and discuss it, as well as aspects of the time we spent together, on his site. He’s far too kind in his treatment of me, but every word about the show is spot on 😉 Read his take!