Altered States of America: Outlaws and Icons, Hitmakers and Hitmen

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Nation Books, 2005 - True Crime - 373 pages
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Altered States of America is a riveting collection of journalism by outlaw-turned-author Richard Stratton. Stratton's years as an international marijuana smuggler, his 8-year bid in a federal prison system, and subsequent ascendance to acclaimed author and filmmaker, give him the credibility with which to wrest an uncommon truth from his subjects. The stories in this collection read like adventure fiction. To name a few: the story of Greg Scarpa, a Columbo mob captain turned informant; Bonecrusher, a guard at Corcoran penitentiary who witnessed the bloody gladiator fights between convicts; the CIA's top-secret MK-ULTRA program in which the CIA secretly dosed unsuspecting civilians and its own agents with LSD, or the heartbreaking profile of Joe Stassi, America's oldest living gangster, who was ordered to murder his best friend. Each piece is linked by Stratton's reflections on and connections to the people and places he describes. Whether he is talking with Oliver Stone or a prison guard, Hunter S. Thompson or a gangster, Sean Penn or a CIA agent, Stratton has an empathetic understanding of his subjects. This collection truly embodies Bob Dylan's famous line: "To live outside the law, you must be honest."

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About the author (2005)

In 1982, Richard Stratton was arrested and convicted under the kingpin statute for importation of marijuana. Originally sentenced to 25 years without parole, Stratton became a jailhouse lawyer and had his sentence voided. He was released in 1990 after serving eight years in federal prison. His novel, Smack Goddess, written in prison, was published in 1990. He co-wrote and produced "Slam", the Emmy-award winning "Thug Life in D.C.," the Showtime series "Street Time" and many other documentaries. Stratton's writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Newsweek, U, Spin, Penthouse, and Story Magazine. He is the founding editor of the award-winning magazine Prison Life and is qualified as an expert witness in state and federal court in the areas of prison violence and prison culture. Stratton lives in New York.

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