Longlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Ryan Chapman’s “gritty, bracing debut” (Esquire) set during a prison riot is “dark, daring, and laugh-out-loud hilarious…one of the smartest—and best—novels of the year” (NPR).
A largescale riot rages through Westbrook prison in upstate New York, incited by a poem in the house literary journal. Our unnamed narrator, barricaded inside the computer lab, swears he’s blameless—even though, as editor-in-chief, he published the piece in question. As he awaits violent interruption by his many, many enemies, he liveblogs one final Editor’s Letter. Riots I Have Known is his memoir, confession, and act of literary revenge.
His tale spans a childhood in Sri Lanka, navigating the postwar black markets and hotel chains; employment as a Park Avenue doorman, serving the widows of the one percent; life in prison, with the silver lining of his beloved McNairy; and his stewardship of The Holding Pen, a “masterpiece of post-penal literature” favored by Brooklynites everywhere. All will be revealed, and everyone will see he’s really a good guy, doing it for the right reasons.
“Fitfully funny and murderously wry,” Riots I Have Known is “a frenzied yet wistful monologue from a lover of literature under siege” (Kirkus Reviews).