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MITCHEL ROTH - FIRE IN THE BIG HOUSE

Mitchel P. Roth is professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University, Texas. He is the author or editor of many books, including A History of Crime and Punishment: Readings and Documents in Criminal Justice and Global Organized Crime: A Reference Handbook.


On April 21, 1930—Easter Monday—some rags caught fire under the Ohio Penitentiary’s dry and aging wooden roof, shortly after inmates had returned to their locked cells after supper. In less than an hour, 320 men who came from all corners of Prohibition-era America and from as far away as Russia had succumbed to fire and smoke in what remains the deadliest prison disaster in United States history.


Within 24 hours, moviegoers were watching Pathé’s newsreel of the fire, and in less than a week, the first iteration of the weepy ballad “Ohio Prison Fire” was released. The deaths brought urgent national and international focus to the horrifying conditions of America’s prisons (at the time of the fire, the Ohio Penitentiary was at almost three times its capacity). Yet, amid darkening world politics and the first years of the Great Depression, the fire receded from public concern.


In Fire in the Big House, Mitchel P. Roth does justice to the lives of convicts and guards and puts the conflagration in the context of the rise of the Big House prison model, local and state political machinations, and American penal history and reform efforts. The result is the first comprehensive account of a tragedy whose circumstances—violent unrest, overcrowding, poorly trained and underpaid guards, unsanitary conditions, inadequate food—will be familiar to prison watchdogs today.

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TOM MENDICINO - The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter

Tom Mendicino is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina School of Law. His debut novel "Probation" (Kensington) was named a 2011 American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. His novella "Away in a Manger" appeared in the Kensington collection Remembering Christmas and his short fiction has been published in numerous anthologies. He is also the author of the new adult novellas "KC, at Bat," "Travelin' Man," and "Lonesome Town" (eKensington), a trilogy following the relationship between a promising baseball player and a would-be musician. His second novel "The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter" (Kensington) is about the powerful bond between a pair of motherless boys, the sons of an abusive immigrant from Italy, and the choices each makes to protect the other. Please visit www.tommendicinobooks.comS. Gagliano & Son has been a barber shop fixture in South Philly for decades. Frankie and Michael Gagliano’s Italian immigrant father—Luigi to his customers, Papa to his sons—presides over the store, enlisting his children as soon as they’re big enough to wield a broom. On their mother’s deathbed, eight-year-old Frankie swears that he and his little brother will always take care of each other, a vow he endeavors to keep through their father’s violent outbursts and the string of wives who try to take their mother’s place.After their father’s death, Frankie takes over the shop, transforming it to fit in with the gentrifying neighborhood. Michael becomes a successful prosecutor with a rising political career, still close to his big brother despite the differences between them. Then comes an unthinkable, impulsive act that will force Michael to choose between risking his comfortable life and keeping a sacred oath—made before he knew how powerful a promise can be.The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter is a stunning evocation of working-class Italian-American life—a story of brotherhood, loyalty, and the contradictory, unpredictable nature of family love.“The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter is a heartfelt story of two loving brothers as well as a compelling crime drama all set in the changing city of Philadelphia. Tom Mendicino is a supremely gifted writer with an eye for the most telling of details, and I loved this novel!”--Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author"At the heart of this capacious and suspenseful novel is the bond between two very different brothers, but its larger context is the Italian-American family: its values, loyalties and responsibilities. Tom Mendicino writes with honesty and compassion, and the reader can't help but root for his endearing characters."--Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love