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A Time To Die: The Attica Prison Revolt
The essential first hand account of the Attica Prison rebellion, back in print for the 40th anniversary of the uprising.
In September 1971 the inmates of Attica revolted, took hostages, and forced the authorities into four days of desperate negotiation. At the outset the rebels demanded-and were granted-the presence of a group of observers to act as unofficial mediators. Tom Wicker, then the associate editor of The New York Times, was one of those summoned. In four crucial days, he learned more, saw more,and felt more than in most of the rest of his life.In the end,a police attack was launched, and as a result dozens of prisoners, as well as prison employees, were killed.
Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Kurt Vonnegut said of the first edition: "The Attican events, described with primitive energy and workday language. . . . will surely appease the hunger of tens of thousands of us for an honest insider's account of what led to such a ferocious attack on virtually unarmed prisoners. . . . [I]t is a heartbroken rather than angry book. It is a superb documentary which would hold up in court."
On the occasion of its reissue, H. Bruce Franklin, author of Prison Literature in America and editor of Prison Writing in 20th-Century America, commented: "It's a grim sign of our dark times that Tom Wicker's A Time to Die is now more timely than ever. Almost four decades after this book revealed to the world both the horrid conditions that led to the Attica prison revolt and the ensuing carnage and torture carried out by New York State authorities, America's prison system has evolved into one of the most hideous and massive violations of human rights on our planet today. Wicker's role at Attica was a life-changing experience for him, and this book he published in 1975 seemed at the time to be an alarming wake-up call for the nation. Now that this great work is back in print, Wicker's vision can help make the nation confront the roots and realities of the twenty-first-century American prison."
Tom Wicker, a former reporter, Washington bureau chief, and columnist for The New York Times, is the author of several books, including On the Record. He lives in Rochester, Vermont.
Published by Haymarket Books in 2011