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This publication is available \\ in microform from University \\ Microfilms International. Call toll-free 800-521-3044. Or mail inquiry to: University Microfilms International. 300 North Zeeb Road. Ann Arbor. MI 48106. towards swarthy revolutionaries, Sparrow also maintains an annoying refusal to take sides in any of the conflicts into which he’s thrown. Greene’s novels gather critical momentum at that point in their trajectory when the reader understands that Greene’s heroes, in the face of reservations and doubt, conclude that communism is the only logical political position left to embrace. Harry Sparrow never makes such a blind leap of faith. Indeed the only character with any well-defined political ideas is Selchauhansen, who injects into his ferocious anti-communism a good deal more passion than Harry spares for his liberal agnosticism. Shrake’s world view, if it merits such a high-flown name, balances the degrading crimes of colonialism against the intellectual savagery of communism and rejects them both out of hand. Shrake compromises his novel by refusing to deal with the big political questions he creates. Instead, we get a paragon of libertarian individualism, Harry Sparrow, a shiny pinball to bounce off ambiguous bumpers, a straight-up Joe stepping gingerly over the mud puddles of contemporary history. Ah well. Perhaps it’s best to read Night Never Falls as a send-up of the international adventure genre: in any case, it’s not so much a novel as a novelization in search of a movie. The action scenes, which Shrake handles well, keep things moving along at a Technicolor clip. The best thing you can say about the book is that it would probably have made a fairly decent ’50s vintage Hitchcock flick, with Alan Ladd as Sparrow, Cyd Charise as Claudette, and Max Von Sydow as the Nazi. Shrake’s work does, however, hold darker implications for the post-McMurtry Texas novel. \(Naturally, a McMurtry blurb appears on the dust-jacket of Night Never The tongue-in-cheek adventure story got a rather thorough overhaul in the ’70s with gonzo musclemen like Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane giving the traditional formulas a funky paisley languor, and old timers like John McDonald coming along for the ride. You’d have thought after all those sun-stoned Travis McGee novels the whole idea of genre fiction would have burnt itself out. Then along comes Larry McMurtry with Lonesome Dove, a neo-genre masterpiece, a big, scaly epic of a novel that stalked the literary landscape like a prehistoric monster, crushing Toyotas under foot. I’d say McMurtry earned his Pulitzer the hard way, but I hope Texas writers harbor no illusions about the future of oldfashioned linear novels. Unless, that is, they want to follow Shrake’s lead, and crank out an existential comic book in between film scripts. BY DAVE DENISON TEXAS PRISONS: The Walls Came Tumbling Down By Steve J. Martin and Sheldon Ekland-Olson Austin: Texas Monthly Press 1987, 289 pages, $21.95 FOR TWO LONG DECADES, Texas officials fought on the losing side of a war over the state’s prison system. An unbroken line of governors, attorneys general, and prison administrators stubbornly resisted all attempts by a small group of prisoners and their attorneys, and then by a federal judge, to make the Texas Department of Corrections something other than a repressive institution immune to outside scrutiny. When the complete history of the state’s resistance is laid out in one telling, as it is in Texas Prisons, it makes for an astounding tale of bad government. To think of the years spent, and the money, and the innumerable hours in court. For what purpose? To maintain an ill-conceived campaign to stave off the kind of changes that any state leader with open eyes and foresight could have seen were inevitable. This is a case of governmental malpractice we’ve got here. Anyone who reads a newspaper is probably aware of the landmark Ruiz v. Estelle prison suit, and of Judge William Wayne Justice’s ruling for the prisoners, and of the effect it had on the Department of Corrections. The case is as immediate as recent newspaper stories about the constant opening and closing of the TDC doors, as the system tries to stay within courtmandated population levels. Texas Prisons goes back to the very beginning to tell the story of how our prisons got to the point they’re at today. From the first 225-cell prison opened in Huntsville in 1849, through the swelling of the system from 4,000 prisoners in 1909 to 15,000 in 1972 and through the “most massive prisoners’ rights suit in the history of American jurisprudence,” we see the evolution of Texas prisons. And we see how slowly things change in what former prison board member Harry Whittington says in his foreword is “probably the least understood public institution in Texas.” The early history is the most readable part of the book. There is enough that the modern reader can recognize: the overcrowding problem and the temporary halts in admissions, the experiment with private enterprise prisons, the stories of inmate and guard brutality. The first inmates were locked up in Huntsville just 15 years before slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment. But as the authors note well, prisoners were not included in the amendment’s protections. A court case in 1871 declared that because a criminal had forfeited the right to liberty he became “for the time being a slave of the State.” The prisoner was, in the court’s phrase, “civiliter mortuus,” or as we might say today, a dead man. Texas prisons were set up from the start to be financially self-sufficient, thus the large agricultural function of the early prisons. In time, the range of prison industries was expanded so that by the 1960s inmates were at work in factories making garments, soaps and detergents, brushes and mattresses, and in repair and retreading plants. The prison system went through periods of neglect and reform, but it emerged from the 1950s with a reputation under the leadership of O.B. Ellis as one of the most efficient and productive prison systems in the, country. When Ellis died in 1961, George Beto became the new head of the TDC. “Because of the rapid progress the department had made since 1948,” the authors write, “and the resulting credibility of Ellis and Beto, legislative and executive oversight diminished to a point where Beto ruled with little interference from outside forces.” For a brief time Beto enjoyed a period of autonomy . ‘But the winds were shifting in the 1960s. Across the nation the civil rights movement was stirring activists to challenge established power and institutions. The idea that prisoners had Constitutional rights began to take hold. And a few key rulings by the United States Supreme Court affirmed that indeed the due process protections and the proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment were operative clauses of the Constitution. The authors cast Frances Jalet as the central character in the drama about to unfold. Jalet \(described perhaps a few too many times in the book as a “57-year-old to Texas to practice “poverty law.” That year she took up a correspondence with an inmate named Fred Cruz. Cruz was a “writ writer” one of those troublesome inmates who spent a good deal of his waking moments drawing up legal documents The Prison Wars 16 JANUARY 29, 1988