First published back in September of 1999, Charles Bronson’s autobiography ‘Silent Scream: The Charles Bronson Story’ provided a personal insight into the life of who is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most notorious inmates.  The book was written by Bronson himself and merely edited by Stephen Richards.

DLS Synopsis:
Born in Luton back in 1952, Michael Gordon Peterson, who acquired the nickname ‘Crusher’ as a young boy, would later become far better known as Charles Bronson – very possibly Britain’s most notorious violent prisoner.

In 1974, at just the age of twenty-one, Bronson was charged with his first serious lot of offences – armed robbery, aggravated burglary, GBH and carrying a firearm.  Bronson, along with three others who were involved, were sent to Risley Remand Centre before going up in front of a jury at Chester Crown Court.  There Bronson received a sentence of twenty-eight years for the crimes.  Considerably longer than any of the other three involved.

Having to say goodbye to his wife, Irene, and their two-year old son, Michael, Bronson was carted off to Walton jail where he would begin his lengthy sentence.

For a while, everything seemed to be going okay for Bronson in Walton.  He’d been purposefully separated from his co-accused in the prison due to their differing sentences.  However, one day the guards make a mistake and Bronson bumped into one of the co-accused whilst out exercising.  One of his so-called mates who had grassed him up.  Seeing the traitorous inmate, Bronson followed him into the toilets and let loose on him.  In that moment, all of the built up frustration and aggression came pouring out.  And with that, Bronson had started down a road of inner-prison violence that would plague his life for years to come.

After a police officer gets done-in with a chair leg (for which Bronson denies any involvement), Bronson was moved to high security prison in Hull.  However, after arriving into the prison, Bronson and a few other inmates from B-wing decide that they don’t want to do the mundane work that they have been set.  But when faced with the guards, it’s only Bronson who stands his ground on the matter.  And so, for his refusal to sew-up mail bags, Bronson is taken to the Seg Unit where he’s given seven days in solitary.  The first of a recurring punishment that Bronson will endure.

After he’s is let out of his twenty-three-hour-a-day cell, Bronson is once again returned to B-wing.  However, the next morning, as they all arrive in the workshop for another day of laborious graft, Bronson decides that he’s not finished with the matter yet.  And so he proceeds to smash out all of the windows; picking up and throwing a table at the guards when they arrive on the scene.  In the ensuing struggle, Bronson brings a brush handle down on the neck if one of the guards – breaking the handle in half. But, this action against the guards brings with it consequences far beyond what Bronson imagined would happen.

After being dragged away by the guards, Bronson is beaten, stripped naked, strapped into a body-belt, and then whilst he is held-down and completely defenceless, savagely beaten until he is nothing but a broken and bloody body.  For his actions he expected a hiding, but nothing like the brutality that he experienced that day.  He simply couldn’t understand it.

Beaten and broken, Bronson is thrown into a small windowless cell with nothing but a chamber-pot and a straw mattress for company.  There he passes out.

Upon waking in the small square cell, Bronson decides he’ll never forget how he was treated.  Trussed-up like a wild animal, beaten senseless, and thrown into a cell whilst his body feels like it’s been through hell and back.  Charles Bronson decides he won’t just sit back and take it.  He decides he won’t be treated this way.  And he decides to fight back.

It’s a decision that he has reverted back to time and time again during his lengthy incarceration.  A decision that will keep dominating his life, keeping him locked away for years on end.  A decision that will extend his prison sentence over and over again.  And it’s a violence that will potentially keep him locked-up for good…

DLS Review:
Charles Bronson is certainly no writer.  His use of word is far from eloquent or particularly accomplished.  However, none of that seems at all necessary when reading about the man.  Okay, even after Stephen Richards has edited the work the text is still littered with typos and grammatical errors.  But again, this doesn’t really matter.  This is what Bronson has to say about his own life.  It’s a stark and powerful read which completely overshadows any poor editing or skilful wordsmanship.

From ridiculously early on, the reader is flung head-first into the ferocious and almost-uncontrollable violence that has consumed Bronson’s life.  From page six, and whilst in custody, Bronson is already stubbing a lit cigarette out on a paedophile’s face before giving him a good beating.

And what’s patently clear from the outset is how Bronson seems to feel that his actions are always so justified.  It’s quite a surreal, reading about Bronson’s own life from his point of view.  And within a matter of pages it becomes clear that Bronson is really quite a misguided individual.  He’s certainly not evil.  But he has one hell of a demon inside him that’s incredibly hard to suppress.

Bronson maintains a particularly strong attitude of “Right you bastards!” which is itself a fairly typical recurring quote from Bronson.  It’s a response that appears throughout the length of the book.  That said, there is nevertheless some degree of Bronson gradually coming to terms with his problems and slowly changing his ways.  There’s certainly no grand “I’ve seen the light” moment whereby Bronson truly sees the absolute error of his ways and totally changes who he is.  However, the book is filled to almost bursting point with hundreds of little moments where Bronson reflects upon who he has become and rom there tries to put an end to the self-destructive streak that has plagued his life.  But ultimately he never really succeeds.

What’s plain to see in the autobiography is that the system isn’t working for Bronson.  Amongst all of the contradicting emotions, the fighting, the hostage taking, the self-loathing, self-doubt, fear and unshakeable pride, is one message that boldly underpins them all.  Bronson is a man who is lost and needs help.  In the only way he knows how he’s crying out for it.  But because of a whole heap of factors that stop him progressing, many of which are down to Bronson himself, he remains in a vicious circle which sees him reoffending time and again within the flawed prison system.

Perspective is something that is absolutely vital with books like this.  What Bronson writes about is how he interprets what has happened to him.  It’s from behind his eyes, with little to no other input.  And it’s a strange and slightly unnerving position to read from.  Mostly because Bronson is clearly incredibly unhinged.  His decision-making short-circuits and so he reacts in the default way that he always returns to – with violence.

Throughout the entirety of the book there’s so much going on and so much to take in and reflect upon that it never once becomes uninteresting.  Indeed, with Bronson continually spiralling down a path towards a self-destructive abyss, all because of his constant use of extreme violence, and despite his repeated promises to himself to stop doing the same thing, the end result has produced an autobiography that maintains a truly gripping and thought-provoking narrative on how one man can keep tearing his own life apart time and time again.  Despite all of the motivation that Bronson has to stop, he nevertheless never manages to keep himself in check.  And it keeps coming back to the same thing.  Charles Bronson is his own worst enemy.

The book also includes an introduction that includes various quotes from people who know Charlie and offer up their support to his plight.  It also includes a complete list of all of the prison moves that Bronson has endured up until the time of the book’s publication (i.e. up until 1999).  Finally, the book concludes with a ‘Summing up’ by the Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Chandara Ghosh, who attempts to address and very briefly reflect upon Bronson’s psyche and his inherent self-destructive nature.  Although brief (Ghosh’s summing up only takes up a mere six pages), these final words on Bronson leave the reader with plenty of food for thought.

It’s certainly a powerful and at times heart-wrenching read.  Observing Bronson’s life from such a painfully misguided and deeply troubled perspective can be very difficult at times.  There are parts which will frustrate as much as anger the reader.  It’s almost impossible not to sympathise with him, often within seconds of feeling uncontrollable loathing towards him.  Indeed, the book throws up so many conflicting and challenging emotions, which ultimately provokes a plethora of thoughts and reflection by the reader.

This is not a book for everyone.  It’s challenging and disturbing in equal amounts.  But is an important document of a man who has struggled with himself and continues to do so.  And it is a book I will continue to whole-heartedly and unashamedly recommend.

The book runs for a total of 206 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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