God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison

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9780345435538: God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison

Never before had Daniel Bergner seen a spectacle as bizarre as the one he had come to watch that Sunday in October. Murderers, rapists, and armed robbers were competing in the annual rodeo at Angola, the grim maximum-security penitentiary in Louisiana. The convicts, sentenced to life without parole, were thrown, trampled, and gored by bucking bulls and broncos before thousands of cheering spectators. But amid the brutality of this gladiatorial spectacle Bergner caught surprising glimpses of exaltation, hints of triumphant skill.

The incongruity of seeing hope where one would expect only hopelessness, self-control in men who were there because they'd had none, sparked an urgent quest in him. Having gained unlimited and unmonitored access, Bergner spent an unflinching year inside the harsh world of Angola. He forged relationships with seven prisoners who left an indelible impression on him. There's Johnny Brooks, seemingly a latter-day Stepin Fetchit, who, while washing the warden's car, longs to be a cowboy and to marry a woman he meets on the rodeo grounds. Then there's Danny Fabre, locked up for viciously beating a woman to death, now struggling to bring his reading skills up to a sixth-grade level. And Terry Hawkins, haunted nightly by the ghost of his victim, a ghost he tries in vain to exorcise in a prison church that echoes with the cries of convicts talking in tongues.

Looming front and center is Warden Burl Cain, the larger-than-life ruler of Angola who quotes both Jesus and Attila the Hun, declares himself a prophet, and declaims that redemption is possible for even the most depraved criminal. Cain welcomes Bergner in, and so begins a journey that takes the author deep into a forgotten world and forces him to question his most closely held beliefs. The climax of his story is as unexpected as it is wrenching.
        
Rendered in luminous prose, God of the Rodeo is an exploration of the human spirit, yielding in the process a searing portrait of a place that will be impossible to forget and a group of men, guilty of unimaginable crimes, desperately seeking a moment of grace.
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Review:

Not since Truman Capote's In Cold Blood has a writer so humanely evoked the complicated, harrowing lives of violent convicts. At turns haunting and inspiring, God of the Rodeo is novelist-journalist Daniel Bergner's riveting account of a year spent visiting the maximum-security prison at Angola, Louisiana, also known as "the last slave plantation." Initially there to report on the prison's annual four-weekend rodeo in October 1996 for Harper's, he was able to extend his stay for a full year when he was granted complete, unsupervised access to the seven prisoners with whom he became most closely acquainted.

In God of the Rodeo, he introduces readers to rodeo champion Johnny Brooks, a 41-year-old "lifer" incarcerated for a murder he committed at the age of 18, who is engaged to marry a civilian woman he met at the rodeo. He's also the most promising candidate for parole. There's Terry Hawkins, a man who tries to seek salvation for the violent murder of his boss, the grotesque details of which haunt him, and Danny Fabre, plagued with comically large ears he desperately wants corrected by plastic surgery almost as much as he wishes to learn to read past the 6th-grade level. Perhaps the most striking figure is the stern, spiritual warden, Burl Cain, a self-proclaimed prophet who genuinely believes in redemption for even the most violent offenders.

Written with the eloquence of a poet and the perceptive eyes of a painter, Bergner's extremely well wrought, unforgettable book offers a rare glimpse into the hearts and souls of men who commit violence, finding hope and courage where few dare to look, without ever losing sight of the horrific crimes that landed them in America's most isolated prison. --Kera Bolonik

From the Back Cover:

"A story of such eloquence and brutality that, from time to time, I simply had to put the book down and think about what I had just read. Magnificent!"
--Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

"A fascinating descent into the hell of one of America's most notorious prisons, God of the Rodeo offers a surprising and humane portrait of the men trapped in a horror beyond imagining."
--John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

"For most of us the story ends when a defendant is sentenced to prison. But as Daniel Bergner demonstrates so compellingly prison itself may be the most astonishing story of all. A horrific, macabre--yet strangely ennobling--tale of life on the other side."
--Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer, The New Yorker, legal analyst, ABC News, and author of The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson

"An unusually stirring and transcendent work about a former slave plantation in Louisiana that is now one of the nation's most isolated prisons. Important, timely, and disturbing."
--Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation

"Daniel Bergner uncovers a bizarre secret world inside Louisiana's notorious Angola prison, where unskilled prisoners perform as gladiators in public rodeos. He offers a stunning glimpse into an otherworld brimming with human passion and ambition, and does so with insight, eloquence, and compassion."
--Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing

"A first-rate piece of investigative reporting that's written and constructed like a novel, God of the Rodeo brings us inside a place that seems almost unimaginable in present-day America."
--Nicholas Lemann, author of The Promised Land and Out of the Forties

"Daniel Bergner's account of what really goes on in hellholes like Louisiana's Angola prison should shock the nation's conscience."
--Tom Wicker, former New York Times columnist and author of A Time to Die: The Attica Prison Revolt

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2000. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Ballantine Book.. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Never before had Daniel Bergner seen a spectacle as bizarre as the one he had come to watch that Sunday in October. Murderers, rapists, and armed robbers were competing in the annual rodeo at Angola, the grim maximum-security penitentiary in Louisiana. The convicts, sentenced to life without parole, were thrown, trampled, and gored by bucking bulls and broncos before thousands of cheering spectators. But amid the brutality of this gladiatorial spectacle Bergner caught surprising glimpses of exaltation, hints of triumphant skill. The incongruity of seeing hope where one would expect only hopelessness, self-control in men who were there because they d had none, sparked an urgent quest in him. Having gained unlimited and unmonitored access, Bergner spent an unflinching year inside the harsh world of Angola. He forged relationships with seven prisoners who left an indelible impression on him. There s Johnny Brooks, seemingly a latter-day Stepin Fetchit, who, while washing the warden s car, longs to be a cowboy and to marry a woman he meets on the rodeo grounds. Then there s Danny Fabre, locked up for viciously beating a woman to death, now struggling to bring his reading skills up to a sixth-grade level. And Terry Hawkins, haunted nightly by the ghost of his victim, a ghost he tries in vain to exorcise in a prison church that echoes with the cries of convicts talking in tongues. Looming front and center is Warden Burl Cain, the larger-than-life ruler of Angola who quotes both Jesus and Attila the Hun, declares himself a prophet, and declaims that redemption is possible for even the most depraved criminal. Cain welcomes Bergner in, and so begins a journey that takes the author deep into a forgotten world and forces him to question his most closely held beliefs. The climax of his story is as unexpected as it is wrenching. Rendered in luminous prose, God of the Rodeo is an exploration of the human spirit, yielding in the process a searing portrait of a place that will be impossible to forget and a group of men, guilty of unimaginable crimes, desperately seeking a moment of grace. From the Hardcover edition. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780345435538

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2000. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Ballantine Book.. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Never before had Daniel Bergner seen a spectacle as bizarre as the one he had come to watch that Sunday in October. Murderers, rapists, and armed robbers were competing in the annual rodeo at Angola, the grim maximum-security penitentiary in Louisiana. The convicts, sentenced to life without parole, were thrown, trampled, and gored by bucking bulls and broncos before thousands of cheering spectators. But amid the brutality of this gladiatorial spectacle Bergner caught surprising glimpses of exaltation, hints of triumphant skill. The incongruity of seeing hope where one would expect only hopelessness, self-control in men who were there because they d had none, sparked an urgent quest in him. Having gained unlimited and unmonitored access, Bergner spent an unflinching year inside the harsh world of Angola. He forged relationships with seven prisoners who left an indelible impression on him. There s Johnny Brooks, seemingly a latter-day Stepin Fetchit, who, while washing the warden s car, longs to be a cowboy and to marry a woman he meets on the rodeo grounds. Then there s Danny Fabre, locked up for viciously beating a woman to death, now struggling to bring his reading skills up to a sixth-grade level. And Terry Hawkins, haunted nightly by the ghost of his victim, a ghost he tries in vain to exorcise in a prison church that echoes with the cries of convicts talking in tongues. Looming front and center is Warden Burl Cain, the larger-than-life ruler of Angola who quotes both Jesus and Attila the Hun, declares himself a prophet, and declaims that redemption is possible for even the most depraved criminal. Cain welcomes Bergner in, and so begins a journey that takes the author deep into a forgotten world and forces him to question his most closely held beliefs. The climax of his story is as unexpected as it is wrenching. Rendered in luminous prose, God of the Rodeo is an exploration of the human spirit, yielding in the process a searing portrait of a place that will be impossible to forget and a group of men, guilty of unimaginable crimes, desperately seeking a moment of grace. From the Hardcover edition. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780345435538

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Book Description Ballantine Books. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 304 pages. Dimensions: 8.3in. x 5.6in. x 0.7in.Never before had Daniel Bergner seen a spectacle as bizarre as the one he had come to watch that Sunday in October. Murderers, rapists, and armed robbers were competing in the annual rodeo at Angola, the grim maximum-security penitentiary in Louisiana. The convicts, sentenced to life without parole, were thrown, trampled, and gored by bucking bulls and broncos before thousands of cheering spectators. But amid the brutality of this gladiatorial spectacle Bergner caught surprising glimpses of exaltation, hints of triumphant skill. The incongruity of seeing hope where one would expect only hopelessness, self-control in men who were there because theyd had none, sparked an urgent quest in him. Having gained unlimited and unmonitored access, Bergner spent an unflinching year inside the harsh world of Angola. He forged relationships with seven prisoners who left an indelible impression on him. Theres Johnny Brooks, seemingly a latter-day Stepin Fetchit, who, while washing the wardens car, longs to be a cowboy and to marry a woman he meets on the rodeo grounds. Then theres Danny Fabre, locked up for viciously beating a woman to death, now struggling to bring his reading skills up to a sixth-grade level. And Terry Hawkins, haunted nightly by the ghost of his victim, a ghost he tries in vain to exorcise in a prison church that echoes with the cries of convicts talking in tongues. Looming front and center is Warden Burl Cain, the larger-than-life ruler of Angola who quotes both Jesus and Attila the Hun, declares himself a prophet, and declaims that redemption is possible for even the most depraved criminal. Cain welcomes Bergner in, and so begins a journey that takes the author deep into a forgotten world and forces him to question his most closely held beliefs. The climax of his story is as unexpected as it is wrenching. Rendered in luminous prose, God of the Rodeo is an exploration of the human spirit, yielding in the process a searing portrait of a place that will be impossible to forget and a group of men, guilty of unimaginable crimes, desperately seeking a moment of grace. From the Hardcover edition. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780345435538

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