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I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks [Hardcover]

Steve McVicker
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax Books (Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786869038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786869039
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 771,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
Steven Russell was not looking for love in the law library of the Harris County Jail in Houston when he saw Phillip Morris for the first time. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read 14 May 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Being a massive Jim Carrey fan, I knew quite early on that he was in the process of making a movie depicting the life of real-life con artist Steven Russell, and being impatient, I decided to do as much research on Steven Russell as I could, and the more I read, the more fascinated I became. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed with the film, because I felt it almost trivialised the actual escapes. Nonetheless, I was very interested in Steven's life and ordered the book anyway. So, without giving too much away...

Steve McVicker may be the author, but it is not he who is actually telling the tale. Steven himself is talking to the reader, and speaking quite candidly about his famous escapes. The escapes were so simple, and yet genius, that although Steven is a criminal, I found myself in awe and thus was effectively cheering him on. Although something that struck me was not just the simplicity of Steven's daring escapes, but the sheer stupidity of the law enforcements. It was so laughable; at times I'd almost forget that this was a true life story.
Some fairly emotional background was given on Steven's childhood, ultimately humanising him, since I feel he is somewhat detached from civilisation in his adult years. Perhaps detached is not the right word, but he is so good at controlling his emotions that I guess you can never really know what he's truly feeling.
Generally, I thought the book was reasonably well structured, engaging and well written. Note though that the sequence of events in the book is not really in chronological order. I found this ok, but I know that some people found this a little confusing.
On the downside, there wasn't a great deal of information given about his relationship with Phillip Morris.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly interesting 10 April 2010
By Carrie
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book after seeing the film of the same name, hoping to get a sense of how much was true, and how accurate the film's portrayal of the main characters was. The book is written by a journalist, but it isn't too sensational. If you are interested in the mechanics of Steven Russell's escapes and his life before prison, it's a fairly interesting read, but there is little sense of the character, and surprisingly little detail about Phillip Morris. It gives a nice bit of context, but not as much as I was hoping.

The book may be of some interest to those who like true crime books, but fans of the film won't gain much from reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read alright 22 Jun 2010
Format:Hardcover
An interesting story about an interesting man. It could have been better written and there are huge gaps as if the author couldn't find a source but I enjoyed reading it and found myself talking about it a lot in the weeks after reading it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I love you Phillip Morris 6 July 2010
Format:Hardcover
With all the hype of the film, I was pleasently surprised when I received the book, and discovered that its more a biography than a novel. The book is written in an easy style, that doesn't tax the reader, and I found the actual man that the book was written about interesting, and complicated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilder Than Fiction 3 July 2003
By Lisa Gray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The amazing true story of con man and escape artist Steven Russell is the stuff movies are made of. A sample escapade: To escape from a Texas prison, he dropped a green Magic Marker into a sink full of water, then dunked his prison-uniform pants. Combined with a stolen hospital shirt, the green-dyed pants looked like surgical scrubs. Guards assumed Russell was a visiting doctor, and let Russell walk out of prison.
The books is full of such highjinks, including Russell's love story with Phillip Morris, a scrawny miscreant he met at the Harris County Jail.
But most fascinating of all is the character study of a highly successful liar. Says Russell: "I'm persuasive because I understand and listen to people. I study everything about a person. No detail is too small. People love to talk, and I love to listen. Listening to a person is the key to being able to outwit them."
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Look at an Escape Artist 31 Mar 2010
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Had he come into the world 61 seconds earlier, he would have been born on Friday 13, a magic number for Steven Jay Russell, prison escape artist par excellence. That is the date he always chose to break out of prison if possible and the birthdate of his lover Phillip Morris in 1959 two years after the birth of Russell on September 14, 1957 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Morris, the son of a Baptist preacher, was born in Blythe, Arkansas. Journalist Steve McVicker recounts the wild ride of this latter-day Bonnie and Clyde duo through several states and about as many prisons. Russell, the escape artist, has the skill of Houdini and the charm of the fictional Tom Ridley.

Mr. McVicker got the bulk of his information from interviews with Russell whom the author says he never caught in a lie. To his credit, McVicker does not try to analyze the reasons for what Russell did-- after all he is not a psychologist but a jouralist-- but lets Russell tell the events as he remembers them. Neither does Russell spend any time contemplating his own motives. "I live in my own little world. I build walls around me to keep from getting hurt. I don't understand why I'm like this. I've never tried to analyze it. It takes a lot of bumps in the road before I am able to trust another person." According to Russell, he has an I.Q. of 163. "Studyng people is a large part of what I do. . . When I talk to someone, I watch their eyes to see if they're looking at me in the eye or if they're drifting off somewhere else. I have to know that I can trust them before I know I can get them to trust me."

Russell first exhibited unusual behavior shortly after his parents told him when he was nine that he was adopted but that he was special. He soon proceeded to torch a cousin's parents' garage. And as an adult, he remembers when he made a conscious decision to lead a life of crime. He had previously been married, had become a father and had run the family business, been a police officer-- before being arrested by a vice squad officer for solicitation for sex-- and even been a church organist.

It is almost as if Russell breaks out of prison multiple times for the sheer joy of outsmarting law officials. At various times during his wild ride, he impersonates a prison physician, an attorney and a police officer. He even fakes an AIDS diagnosis and his death in order to escape. During Russell's long life of crime, however, he never becomes violent or hurts another person. He is also capable of great affection towards those people he cares about: his wife, his child, a lover he takes care of during that lover's long illness with AIDS and, of course, Phillip Morris.

There are few dull moments in Russell's life of crime which McVicker narrates in spare, to-the-point prose. Now we have the movie version with Jim Carrey as Russell and Ewan McGregor playing Phillip Morris. If the film is half as good as this book, it will be well worth seeing.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bravo! 13 Aug 2003
By Julie Mason - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
McVicker effortlessly blends excellent journalism with great writing and a suspenseful tale in this compelling, readable true-life adventure. The story is poignant without being mawkish, and hilarious without condescension.
Once I started, I couldn't put it down.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars it's fluffy, sure, but a heist book is a heist book 11 Sep 2003
By Scott R - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There's no doubting that this book is compelling, both in idea and execution. The prisoner who keeps returning for the man he loves? The life history of both? Good stories of prison breaks? Hard to keep a heist lover down. A solid, fun read, perfect for passing the time with a good story.
That said, McVicker's a writer for a (good) weekly alternative paper, and this book reads like an overlong story from those pages, filled up with anecdotes that go just this shy of deep. I'm just not as impressed with the depth of characterizations or the writing as I am with writings in a similar narrative vein.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's no escaping it: this jail break book is a great read 15 Aug 2003
By Jake Dyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
McVicker reels in the reader immediately with this incredible but true story of embezzlement, jail breaks and crazy love. It's a top-notch book -- and one that's nearly impossible to put down.
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