Out of the black, into the blue

Written by Christopher Boyce I had not spoken for days and had spent the entire night listening to my sink drip. When you have not felt sunlight on your skin for years, you can almost forget what it was like. To live in a regime of imposed inner stillness will oftentimes make you scream in your dreams. It did me. I would never tell them that, though. Not for many years. I did not want to give the bureaucrats who had jammed me into the enforced silence of solitary confinement the satisfaction of knowing how much they were hurting me. But they were. I exercised vigorously, at first every day, all day. I jogged in place at a furious pace. I did pushups and situps and jumping jacks. In time I re

The good death of Joachim, the crazy Mexican

Written by Christopher Boyce I had never seen a living man covered in so much blood. At first glance, I thought it was Joachim’s own blood, but I was wrong. I realized this as he began to wash himself. He was covered in the blood of his enemies and he felt good about it. As the frenzy drained out of him, he began to sing a happy tune in Spanish, but I didn’t understand the words. So, instead, I said to him, “You crazy Mexican.” Finally, he looked over, and in a voice resigned to his own approaching death, asked, “What else can I do?” I was on Youth Study. That’s what the federal judge called it. I was being studied by United States Bureau of Prisons psychologists to determine if I was still

Christopher Boyce looks back fondly on Judge Harold L. Ryan

April 11 marked the 18th anniversary of the death of U.S. District Court Judge Harold Lyman Ryan, a man whose words when sentencing Christopher Boyce for bank robbery would ultimately set the stage for his release from prison. In 1982, Ryan was the presiding judge in the trial against Christopher Boyce in Boise, Idaho. Two years earlier, Chris had escaped from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, where he’d been serving a 40-year sentence for espionage. The events surrounding his original crime were documented in the bestselling book The Falcon and the Snowman by Robert Lindsey and later turned into a movie of the same name starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. Following his escape, Chris lived for

The Falcon and the sage grouse (and an English Setter named Freckles)

Written by Christopher Boyce You have to keep your eyes on the dog in the sage desert. My English Setter means more to me than most humans, but she becomes reckless when faraway hints of grouse scent come floating down the wind. For the sake of the dog, I have to stay focused on that black and white spot a quarter mile out that is Freckles. Too many hungry eyes are always watching from the rimrock, and bad things happen to soft-mouthed bird dogs in the desert. As for bad things, I have seen enough to last me. Too many killings, too many blood puddles coagulating on the concrete. I thought I was done with everything but prison gore. And I never thought I would see another winter’s dawn in the

Of Alcatraz, bank robbers, and uncles named Christopher Boyce

March 21, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the closing of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. While it is a cold, foreboding place, it sparks warm memories for me – memories of being 19 and having my appendix removed at Letterman General Hospital, watching the signal light from Alcatraz by night in recovery; of making the drive from Marin through the Waldo Tunnel, seeing The Rock off to my left and knowing I was “home”; of riding in Sean Penn’s speedboat with Andrew Daulton Lee, skipping past the east shore of the island – and Sean turning to Daulton to ask: “Do you want to stop?” Some of the fondest memories I have of living in San Francisco took place when my nieces, Natalie and Haylie, wo

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