cover image Hot House

Hot House

Pete Earley. Bantam Books, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-07573-1

With the cooperation of the Bureau of Prisons, Earley ( Family of Spies ) spent much time from mid-1987 to mid-1989 at Leavenworth, a maximum-security institution whose nickname, the Hot House, derives from its lack of air conditioning despite the searing Kansas summers. Interviewing the warden, the guards from captains on down and the convicts, many of whom are imprisoned for shocking crimes, the author takes readers into the mind of the recidivist criminal to show an egoistic, violent nature locked into a code of behavior with elements of machismo, hyper-sensitivity to slights and the conviction that informing is the greatest crime of all. There is also hatred of guards, who hate back, all this played out against a backdrop of racism, sexual exploitation, constant tension and sometimes gratuitous cruelty by the staff and the bureau toward the inmates. A remarkable book. (Feb.)