By Sam Richard
On Thursday, August 3rd, Martin Shkreli was found guilty on three counts of securities fraud. You’re probably aware of the former hedge-manager as the notorious ‘pharma-bro’ who increased the price of the AIDS drug Daraprim by over 4000% in 2015. Apparently, securities fraud can carry with it up to 5 years for each offense. I’d be shocked if he got 15 years, but with the anticipation of incarceration in mind, I will recommend 5 books to prepare Martin Shkreli for his time in prison.
Starting this list with Edward Bunker’s 1977 novel about life in San Quentin may seem a little on the nose, but I think Martin could learn a thing or two from this short read. In the book, Ron’s two-year stint threatens to become 10-to-Life if he doesn’t keep his record clean. Luckily, he forges an unlikely friendship with the hardened, old-timer Earl. Together, they try to survive the tension, violence, desperation, and boredom that is prison, as they simultaneously struggle to learn about friendship in a place that so carelessly tries to strip them of their humanity. Animal Factory could give Martin the strength and courage to open himself up to friendship in his new, grey world.
Look, Martin is a little guy, who better to show him how to get that killer prison bod than the man himself and ‘Britain’s Most Notorious Prisoner,’ Charles Bronson. Sure, whatever white-collar retreat Martin is going it will have a gym nicer than the one down the street from my house that I keep meaning to actually step into, but being the most hated man in America, maybe he’ll feel safer in the confines of his cell. Through this book, Bronson can become friend, mentor, fitness guru, and the only workout partner with a cool nickname to match Shkreli’s.
First published in 1926, You Can’t Win is Jack Black’s memoir about his time riding the rails, safe cracking, thieving, burglarizing, and spending a lot of time in prison in the 1920’s; and it’s a motherfucker of a good book. It was a heavy influence on William Burroughs who wrote a forward for later the book’s later pressings. Eventually Black settled down from his life of crime and became a voice for prison reform. Martin, I am suggesting this book not only because it’s a personal favorite, but it is also a portal that will allow you to see just how much worse things could be, and a mirror by which we could reflect modern prison conditions to see how some things haven’t changed.
A classic of Prison Literature, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this book, as it was a favorite when I was a kid. The book’s themes of vengeance, retribution, and false-imprisonment are sure to reflect what Martin is currently feeling. And I’m sure, much like Edmond Dantes, Shkreli is going to be itching to break out of prison, attain great wealth, and then go all Keyser Soze on all who wronged him. But the book’s true power comes from the emphasis on forgiveness and the true consequences of a quest for vengeance on all involved. For real, this book is awesome.
Maybe this is a cop out. Yeah yeah yeah, I get it. But fucking seriously. Before he was convicted of securities fraud, Martin became infamous as ‘The Most Hated Man in America.’ I’m not sure about you, but I’m convinced that no PR firm is going to be able to scrub that stain off of him well enough that the people he shares a cell with aren’t going to immediately want to punch him in the goddamn face. And sure, in this era of social media and half-a-minute long news-cycles, an argument could be made that there is a modern book that would be more fitting, but it’s not like Martin is going to make much headway by adding the gruff prison guard on Facebook or retweeting a pun that his block-mate made two years ago. No, he needs results and he needs them now. Carnegie’s simple, thoughtful advice is surely enough to get him through, at the very least, a couple of sticky situations.
Sam Richard is the editor for the forthcoming Weirdpunk Books, Zombie Punks Fuck Off anthology, as well as co-editor (with MP Johnson) of Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits and Blood for You: A Literary Tribute to GG Allin. His writing has appeared in such varied publications as Splatterpunk Zine, Cvlt Nation, Profane Existence, The Pulse, and many others. He is available on any number of social media platforms.