Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Blade Itself

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The Blade Itself

A Novel

by Marcus Sakey

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2007, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2007, 352 pages

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Beyond the Book

Print Review

Marcus Sakey was born in Flint, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. He is married and lives in Chicago where he has recently completed his second novel, At the City's Edge (Jan 2008). To prepare for The Blade Itself he shadowed homicide detectives, learned to pick a deadbolt in sixty seconds, and drank plenty of Jameson.

Sakey was motivated to write a book after inviting author J.A. Konrath out for a beer following a speech Konrath gave at Columbia College, which Sakey attended for a short time. When they staggered out of the bar five hours later one particular comment of Konrath's was seared into Sakey's brain: "You could stay in school, and in a year you’ll have an MFA. Or you could leave and have a manuscript." Put that way, Sakey says the choice was easy!

"If there’s a platform to The Blade Itself, it’s the impact of prison and the flaws in our system of incarceration. America imprisons more people than any other nation, close to two million inmates. Many states spend more money on jails than schools. Seventy percent of inmates are illiterate. 200,000 are mentally ill. Amnesty International has actually condemned the American prison system.

And worst of all, prison is punitive. Because of the swelling population and shrinking budgets, there is almost no effort towards rehabilitation. There aren't programs to teach job skills, or even life skills. When they are released, inmates haven't learned anything except how to survive in prison.

Imagine spending seven years in maximum security. Learning to survive in a world built to hide the most dangerous of men.

And it got me wondering, what would that do to someone?"

- Marcus Sakey.

This article was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the November 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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