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E. Richard Johnson

Mystery & Thrillers

3.2/5 (51 ratings)
Born
December 31 1937
Died
3030 11 19971997
If Emil Richard Johnson’s gritty, grim crime novels about crooks, killers, tough cops, and angry prisoners had a rare immediacy and a core of red-hot reality known to few other authors, it was no coincidence, and it didn’t come cheap. The acclaimed author of Mongo’s Back in Town and the award winning Silver Street was himself a convicted murderer and armed robber who spent most of his adult life behind bars and wrote nearly every page of his 11 mostly tough, dark works of fiction in the narrow confines of a cell at Stillwater State Prison in Minnesota. The mid-westerner had gotten into crime after returning from the army in the early 1960s. After two years of stickups he was caught during a robbery in one state and linked to another in Minnesota. The other state let Minnesota have him. A man had been killed in the stickup, and Johnson got 40 years for second-degree murder.

Johnson turned to writing as a way to pass the time in prison. After some inconsequential short pieces , he wrote his first novel. It was about a tough, honest police detective named Tony Lonto, working an urban hell crammed with humanity’s dregs, and his job to save them from a marauding killer. The manuscript made the rounds. The legendary mystery fiction editor Joan Kahn discovered it in the slush pile at Harper & Row. The topic, Silver Street, won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for 1968 , and Johnson was hailed as one of the most exciting crime fiction discoveries of the decade. He produced a follow-up the next year and that did not disappoint. Mongo’s Back in Town presented a more complex story and an even more vivid picture of the criminal underworld, as a gangland hit man coming home for Christmas finds himself in the middle of corruption, treachery, and murder. The topic was as good—or better than—its award-nabbing predecessor. Film rights were bought and the topic became a well-received television movie.

Working in his cell, surrounded by colorful characters and their violent life stories, studying the tricks of writing and storytelling as he went along, Johnson produced seven topics in four years, including another Lonto thriller and the extraordinary Cage Five Is Going to Break , a violent depiction of men turned into animals in captivity and a blistering attack on the American prison system. After 1971, Richard’s literary output began to sputter. He was falling into destructive patterns in Stillwater. A bad Mafia mystery, The Cardinalli Contract, appeared as a paperback original in 1975, the last of his work to be published for many years. The success and acclaim had not been enough to keep him out of trouble. Drugs, a prison escape, a return to crime on the outside, recapture, meant the hope of a reduction in his sentence evaporated.

Back in prison Johnson returned to writing. His old reputation had faded among readers, critics, and developers and his new topics were judged unpublishable. Finally, in 1988, with the help of his original editor, he got another Lonto crime story into print, The Hands of Eddy Lloyd. It came and went without much notice. Because of his bad behavior in the past, Johnson remained in Stillwater until the last day of his sentence. He came out in 1991, tried to rebuild his life and to go on writing, without much luck. In the mainstream of publishing he was considered washed up, although a growing cadre of hard-boiled and noir fiction fans came to know and worship Johnson’s early work for its dark, unrelenting vision of crime and the sort of men who commit it.

* Source

E. Richard Johnson

Mystery & Thrillers

3.2/5 (51 ratings)
Born
December 31 1937
Died
3030 11 19971997
If Emil Richard Johnson’s gritty, grim crime novels about crooks, killers, tough cops, and angry prisoners had a rare immediacy and a core of red-hot reality known to few other authors, it was no coincidence, and it didn’t come cheap. The acclaimed author of Mongo’s Back in Town and the award winning Silver Street was himself a convicted murderer and armed robber who spent most of his adult life behind bars and wrote nearly every page of his 11 mostly tough, dark works of fiction in the narrow confines of a cell at Stillwater State Prison in Minnesota. The mid-westerner had gotten into crime after returning from the army in the early 1960s. After two years of stickups he was caught during a robbery in one state and linked to another in Minnesota. The other state let Minnesota have him. A man had been killed in the stickup, and Johnson got 40 years for second-degree murder.

Johnson turned to writing as a way to pass the time in prison. After some inconsequential short pieces , he wrote his first novel. It was about a tough, honest police detective named Tony Lonto, working an urban hell crammed with humanity’s dregs, and his job to save them from a marauding killer. The manuscript made the rounds. The legendary mystery fiction editor Joan Kahn discovered it in the slush pile at Harper & Row. The topic, Silver Street, won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for 1968 , and Johnson was hailed as one of the most exciting crime fiction discoveries of the decade. He produced a follow-up the next year and that did not disappoint. Mongo’s Back in Town presented a more complex story and an even more vivid picture of the criminal underworld, as a gangland hit man coming home for Christmas finds himself in the middle of corruption, treachery, and murder. The topic was as good—or better than—its award-nabbing predecessor. Film rights were bought and the topic became a well-received television movie.

Working in his cell, surrounded by colorful characters and their violent life stories, studying the tricks of writing and storytelling as he went along, Johnson produced seven topics in four years, including another Lonto thriller and the extraordinary Cage Five Is Going to Break , a violent depiction of men turned into animals in captivity and a blistering attack on the American prison system. After 1971, Richard’s literary output began to sputter. He was falling into destructive patterns in Stillwater. A bad Mafia mystery, The Cardinalli Contract, appeared as a paperback original in 1975, the last of his work to be published for many years. The success and acclaim had not been enough to keep him out of trouble. Drugs, a prison escape, a return to crime on the outside, recapture, meant the hope of a reduction in his sentence evaporated.

Back in prison Johnson returned to writing. His old reputation had faded among readers, critics, and developers and his new topics were judged unpublishable. Finally, in 1988, with the help of his original editor, he got another Lonto crime story into print, The Hands of Eddy Lloyd. It came and went without much notice. Because of his bad behavior in the past, Johnson remained in Stillwater until the last day of his sentence. He came out in 1991, tried to rebuild his life and to go on writing, without much luck. In the mainstream of publishing he was considered washed up, although a growing cadre of hard-boiled and noir fiction fans came to know and worship Johnson’s early work for its dark, unrelenting vision of crime and the sort of men who commit it.

* Source

Books from E. Richard Johnson

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