Wayland continues where Belmarsh left off. Again, it is not a literary work of art – short sentences, simple plots. It is a diary, with wit, sarcasm, insight and social commentary.
On the negative side, the style is too matter of fact. The real disgust and fear which Lord Archer must have experienced does not come across. Yes, he tells how he recoiled at having to wash underwear and dishes in the same filthy sink, his anguish at running out of Evian, and some dicey encounters with prison yobs and bullies, but there is little passion in his writing. It’s rather glib. His “messages for the Home Secretary” regarding needed reforms in the prison system were quite a feature of the previous diary. These are are now indirect and muted. He is most obsessed with getting D-category status – i.e. transfer to an open prison – and who can blame him.
On the positive side he shows what he has to do to retain his sanity – staying connected with the outside world of cricket, reading the classics while others are playing rap music, refusing to be contaminated by his environment. His accounts of the numerous and ingenious schemes the inmates have for acquiring privileges and banned luxuries (e.g. an extra shaving mirror) are highly entertaining. Since there seems to be so much of it going on, one has to assume the authorities generally turn a blind eye to much of it to keep the peace.
The book is compelling. While it is popular to criticize Lord Archer you have to wonder how well we ourselves would hold up in prison.