3 out of 4 stars
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The Making of a Con by Grace Larson is the biography of an inmate, Edwin Grant Hamilton (also called Pappy), who has spent more years behind bars than out of it. In the opening scene, we are witnesses to a 911 phone call during which someone is seemingly murdered. Next, the scene shifts to the author’s interview with Hamilton, comprised of a set of meetings that would spark the creation of this book. Hamilton himself wanted his tale told in the hopes that other people, especially those with alcohol problems, would learn from it and avoid a life of needless hurt. The story is told in the first-person point of view.
Hamilton started out as a young, innocent and naïve man who, after his father was murdered, was sent to live with his grandparents, as his mother didn’t want to raise him. Soon, he became an alcoholic without even realizing he was one. At the age of 17, he joined the National Guard and eventually was sent to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii during WWII, where trouble followed him. When he played a prank on a colonel by stealing his clothes while he was swimming, Hamilton ended up being court-martialed, got a Dishonorable Discharge and three years in prison. As the story went on, his trials and tribulations continued, as he never managed to stay for too long out of prison. It was enlightening to see him change from a guileless young man to a rather hardened criminal. His crimes were becoming more serious as well, culminating in him murdering his mother during that fateful night mentioned at the beginning of the book.
I found the biography interesting and captivating, but it also made me quite sad. Here was a capable, intelligent young man living a life that he was ill-prepared for. By the end of the book, it was clear that Hamilton was more suited for living in prison than outside in the real world. He just couldn’t cope as he didn’t know how. I am usually not sorry for criminals because there is a reason they are behind bars, however, I was sorry for Hamilton from the first page to the very last. Justice failed him miserably. Of course, this doesn’t mean he was blameless. He was an alcoholic which caused him to do things that he wouldn’t do when sober.
At some point, I had an eerie feeling that I was reading Kafka’s The Trial. The reasons for him getting from one prison to the next were often rather absurd and didn’t warrant such harsh punishments. For example, when he stole some money from a bar counter, the police wanted him to confess to twenty-two counts of armed robbery when he was clearly innocent of those charges. Of course, he went to prison once again.
The title, The Making of a Con, is very apt for this book. Grant Hamilton was, indeed, pushed to be a criminal. While reading it, I experienced quite a few emotions ranging from sadness to anger and disappointment with life in general at how cruel it can be at times.
The story was well written, and I was hooked from the beginning. However, I found several spelling errors, such as “When I came too I couldn’t talk” or “concerning grugs and alcohol.” Due to these issues, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading The Making of a Con, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the penitentiary system or is interested in true crime.
The Making Of A Con
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