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Damien Echols' powerful new memoir 'Life After Death'

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The former death row inmate finds his voice.
PHOTO BY PETER ASH LEE

But Echols the person is more than just Echols the condemned, and Echols the writer is more than a one-note diva. Strewn throughout his narrative are wryly humorous observations, such as his glowing description of a sumptuous breakfast at the mental institution where he was temporarily confined as a youth ("The insane do not count carbs"), and his tongue-in-cheek recounting of his teenage attempts to find a summer job ("I was growing desperate because potential employers didn't seem to value the exceptional intellectual giant who was presenting himself to them"). His glowing tributes to his wife and defending angel Lorri Davis are touching and truthful, and his penchant for poetic phrasing is transcendent when it hits its mark.

"I've seen ghosts in the lines of a woman's face and heard them in the jangling of keys," Echols writes urgently. "Sometimes I even mistake myself for one." Fortunately for his audience his writing, at least, tethers him unequivocally to the corporeal world — a man after all, not a shade. *

 

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