Book Review: Mainline

“Mainline” by Joseph McCarty is a novel that gives the reader a close up look at California prison culture.  The lead character, also named Joseph McCarty, joins a covert program that places military personnel into the prison system. His mission is to observe the prisoners, learn about the culture, and in his final report, make recommendations for improving the system and the lives of inmates. Through the agent’s experiences, the reader is placed in the middle of the volatile prison culture that, surprisingly, also has a significant amount of order. This book includes much of what one would expect from a story about prison life, but also delves into the human-side of the penal system that is rarely discussed.

The Research and Investigation for California’s Administration of Prisons (RICAP) Program began in 2005 under the approval of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Agents are trained by ex-cons during a ten day intensive program then arrested and placed into a prison. Joseph McCarty enters the California prison system on a robbery charge. He is soon given the handle “Seph” by an inmate and quickly becomes acclimated to prison life. In the yard, prisoners separate themselves by race. Seph learns about the dynamics of prison life from one of the older inmates, who helps him see that individuals naturally gravitate to their own race. He is taught how to properly greet his white comrades. Seph also learns that he must be prepared to fight to the death when the whites are “on sight” (basically, at war) with another race.

What the reader learns through Seph’s experiences is that there is a strict set of rules and cultural mores in prison that are taken seriously by the inmates. If an individual breaks a rule, he is punished by his racial group. If a member of one race has insulted or assaulted a member of another, representatives from each side negotiate the punishment to avoid fighting between the two groups. I found these coordinated efforts to mete out appropriate punishments striking. After all, the inmates are in prison for breaking society’s rules and yet, the rules inside prison are viewed as mandatory with violence often leading to death being the punishment of choice for those who violate them.

Seph’s assimilation into the prison culture leaves him with clear ideas about changes that could be made to improve the system and to reduce recidivism. He describes the months of lockdown that the inmates endure and the trouble those who want to further their education have getting assigned to classes. But Seph also suffers on a personal level during his stint as an agent in the RICAP Program. He develops a problem with drugs, violent behavior, and becomes a convincing liar. The character’s experience in the system supports the idea that prison itself creates criminals as opposed to helping those who could make a change for the better.

“Mainline” is a raw, graphic tale of prison culture. It offers the reader an intimate look at the life of an inmate that is disturbing, but also enlightening. The reader will learn a lot about prison culture specifically and human behavior in general. I highly recommended it.

Revolution 2020 Book Review

It is story of three childhood friends: Gopal, Raghav and Aarti. The story is set-uo in the holy city of Varanasi. The trio study in the same class and Gopal loves Aarti from the school days. Gopal comes from a middle-class background. Raghav is from a well to do family, where as Aarti comes from a bureaucratic and political family. They have ambitions of their own. Gopal wants to be rich, Raghav want to change the world and Aarti wants to be an Air-Hostess.

After His failure in getting through AIEEE and JEE exams, Gopal is forced by his       father to repeat the exams next year. Raghav gets a good rank and joins the top college. Aarti falls in love with Raghav.

After failing in cracking the exam next year too Gopal returns to Varanasi and chooses corruption to become a successful and rich person while Raghav tries to change the world with his revolutionary ideas.

The ending of the story is vague with certain twists and surprises which Bollywood family dramas often offer. The book has all the qualities to a bollywood movie.

The revolution part should have been handled in more detail instead of the triangular love story. Chetan Bhagat fails to recreate the magic of his best seller debut novel, Five point someone. It is a good book but not revolutionary one. It is regular triangular love story sprinkled with corruption in India. The book even misses the witty observation for which Chetan Bhagat is known for. The language of the book is simple but at some points degenerated in to clipped ucollogues.

Although, Bhagat’s reflection on coaching system description of job fair highlights the inherent corruption rooted in India’s education system and commercialization of education yet, the book racks the street smart style Bhagat is known for.

The book is a light fiction and it will not pamper your literacy senses if you like reading books. May be it written for some Bollywood masala movie script.

It is story of three childhood friends: Gopal, Raghav and Aarti. The story is set-uo in the holy city of Varanasi. The trio study in the same class and Gopal loves Aarti from the school days. Gopal comes from a middle-class background. Raghav is from a well to do family, where as Aarti comes from a bureaucratic and political family. They have ambitions of their own. Gopal wants to be rich, Raghav want to change the world and Aarti wants to be an Air-Hostess.

Book Review: “The Abbey”

Ash Rashid, former Indianapolis homicide detective now working for the prosecutor’s office, has a new investigation on his hands that strikes a little too close to home. Ash’s new investigation involves his niece’s murder, complicated by the fact that her body was discovered in the home of one of Indianapolis’s wealthiest families. The coroner called it a drug overdose but none of it makes any sense to Ash.

I thought this book started out pretty good and continued that way through the first half , and then things started getting a little uninteresting. It seems like it lost its flow, as if maybe the lack of some of the earlier character definition started haunting the author in his search to try to formulate a plausible beginning to an end.

A few of the main characters

• Olivia Rhodes, Detective Rashid’s partner, was one character that I thought could have been developed better. As the book progressed, her role seemed to diminish, only to re-emerge in a major way
• Detective Rashid’s wife Hannah, and daughter Megan were involved towards the end of the book by being victims themselves
• Nassir and Rena, Rashid’s sister and brother-in-law, and parents of Rachel, the victim
• Detective Mike Bowers, Rashid’s trusted partner at the end
• Konstantin Bukoholov, Russian mob boss and owner of the “Lucky Bastard Saloon.” This fellow is a very interesting character, one of the books best
• Karen Rea, antagonist, has a plan to infect China with a deadly virus

Detective Ash Rashid’s murder investigation leads him on a twisting and turning adventure to find his nieces murderer. Rashid’s a conflicted man, a man who is coping with how to best deal with the demands of the gun toting violent nature of his job, law school at night, and his Muslim faith. Not having the full cooperation of the police department, and the seemingly obstructive behavior emanating from his own bosses, not to mention his own partner Olivia Rhodes, he moves forward in his own imbibing manner.

Even though Detective Ash Rashid never drew a sober breath in this book, he plods forward in his attempt to unravel the mystery. A mystery that eventually involves Dr. Karen Rea and her nephew Azrael. His investigation becomes increasingly personal; if he does not solve it soon it threatens to involve his family.

I would rate this book 3/5 stars. The book has some nice character formation in the beginning, maybe even through the halfway point, and then it starts to lose momentum. I thought the author was struggling a little bit in the last third of the book to find a plausible way to wrap it up. However, I think he did a satisfactory job. It was an entertaining read, not a real page-turner but not bad. Definitely worth the price.

I would look forward to reading another book by this author, especially since I do like reading this genre. I was entertained by the idea of a former homicide detective working for the Indianapolis prosecutor’s office investigating the death of his niece, and at the same time juggling a bottle of booze, night school, and his Muslim faith. That is good stuff.