What happens to people once they commit a crime?
And once they're behind bars, what do they do?
What do they do if they don't want to be there?
With fascinating characters, plot twists, and unpredictable endings, Jailbreak chronicles the pick of notorious Australian prison escapes. Ranging from sheer brutality, love-conquers-all and triumphing over adversity, to murder, bashings and cannibalism, every one of these stories is riveting and real.
Escaping from prison is a huge risk to take. The men and women in these stories all decided it was worth the risk. See what you think.
Highlights of this collection include:
Russell -Mad Dog' Cox, the only man to escape from an -escape-proof' prison, who then tried to break back in;
Armed robber Julie Cashman, with her hacksaw blades, shootouts and two devoted lovers who meet horrible ends;
John Killick, whose -mild-mannered Russian librarian' lover hijacked a helicopter to get him out;
Unstoppable Raymond Denning, a cult hero among the anti-establishment intelligentsia in inner-suburban Sydney
Wendy Lewis has been a freelance writer for the last ten years, and has written for stage, screen, television and radio. She is a prolific true crime writer who has written about domestic homicide, fake suicides (-pseudocide'), kidnappings and death by misadventure. She was shortlisted for the Davitt Awards in 2011. Jailbreak is her tenth book. Wendy lives in Sydney.
Author: Wendy Lewis
Question: What inspired you to write Jailbreak?
Wendy Lewis: I'm fascinated by the criminal mind. What drives people to commit crimes? What tips them over the edge? I've always written about specific crimes like domestic homicide (Australian Book of Family Murders) or fake suicide (Playing Dead). While I was working on my last book, I started thinking, well, what other -true crime' stories are out there? I suddenly realised that I could look at crime from another angle and see what happens once someone commits a crime. Once they're behind bars, what do they do? And what if they don't want to be there? And that's how it started…
Question: What research went into Jailbreak?
Wendy Lewis: Heaps! I did lots of research at the State Library, going through old newspapers, including a giant yellowing leather-bound copy of The West Australian weighing several kilograms that had to be wheeled in on a trolley! I visited Boggo Road in Brisbane and Maitland gaol in regional NSW and heard amazing stories about the inmates. So many people were really helpful. A former Lieutenant-Colonel explained to me the inner workings of a .30 calibre M1 American carbine for a particular story so now I know more about guns than I ever did. I also got in touch with the Retired Commissioned Officers Association and talked to a few ex-prison officers about their experiences.
Question: Which of the prison-escape stories entertained you the most?
Wendy Lewis: Carl Synnerdahl wins first prize for the most outrageous escape. He figured out that he could get transferred to a minimum security jail and then escape by pretending to be blind, which he did. He rocked up to court with a walking cane and dark glasses and convinced the medical experts that he had been stuck down by a terrible disease. Rather cheeky.
I also love the story of Peter Gibb and Heather Parker because it's an incredible love story gone wrong. She was madly in love with him and would do anything for him. She smuggled explosives into Melbourne Remand, organised getaway cars and weapons, and then went on the run with him. Oh, did I mention that she was a prison officer there…
Question: Can you talk us through the writing process of Jailbreak?
Wendy Lewis: Once I've zeroed in on some great stories I get a good -mix' by grouping them together with different themes. In Jailbreak, one section is called Think Outside the Square which has bizarre prison escapes like sailing away in a bathtub…true! Once I'm happy with the overall content I write away. I love the process of writing and I always write much more than I need so I can cull what I have and what's left is the best.
Question: What's next, for you?
Wendy Lewis: In keeping with my fascination for dead bodies, my next book is a brief look at the history of Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. It's been around for 150 years and there are great stories to tell. Did you know it's so huge it even has its own postcode? And in the late 1800's it was a popular picnic spot. I'm so glad our leisure activities have changed a bit since then.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Wendy Lewis