“An impressive novel . . . the most brutal and authentic account of a road gang that we have had.”–New York Times
Out of his experiences working on a chain gang, Donn Pearce created Cool Hand Luke, the larger-than-life war hero–Good Guy Number One–turned drunkard, vandal, and convict. A blasphemer and “pretty evil feller” who “could work the hardest, eat the mostest, and tell the biggest lies.” Luke’s outsized feats of gambling and gluttony–he bets Society Red, a college man from Boston, that he can eat fifty eggs–and his harrowing escapes and recaptures are recounted by Dragline, who followed Luke in his last, fatal escape attempt and who basks in Luke’s reflected glory. To the convicts left behind on the chain gang, Luke has become the hope of freedom and defiance that they dare not act upon themselves. Luke’s refusal to “git his mind right” and submit to the sadistic discipline of the Walking Boss becomes part of their mythology of survival.