Hard Time - Robert Black

Ladymol's Review

It’s so easy to dismiss porn: sheesh, what kind of crap it must be… what kind of illiterate writes it? Well, in this case, I would say an accomplished author who possibly can’t get his “mainstream” novels published and has turned to porn to keep the proverbial wolf from the door. Because don’t dismiss this book as run-of-the-mill sex-on-every-page prison-porn. It’s not. It’s got a strong, credible plot, characters that I cared about enough to actually wonder what happens to them after the story and want a sequel. But with all that, the sex is utterly relentless, exceptionally hot and hits almost every kink. I can’t really recommend this book too highly if you want to read some good porn!

Paul is a local fly-boy. He’s mean and petty and gets sent up for a minor crime. Simon is gay and stealing money to fund his flight to Palestine to be with his lover. He gets caught. John is a vicar, disgraced for having an affair with a choirboy. Arriving in prison at the same time, these three disparate characters have to learn to survive. The wing is run by Spalding, an albino, and his henchmen. The “screws” have very little contact with the prisoners, leaving the day-to-day enforcement of discipline to Spalding.

Simon, Paul and John get a good idea what they’re in for when the induction video, shown to all the new arrivals consists of a “webcam” of a young prisoner being taken at both ends in his cell by two vicious looking men. The only requirement the Governor has is that all inmates practise safe sex: condoms being the only free commodity in the prison.

Very soon, Simon has had a baptism by fire: raped in front of all the other inmates. Paul initially seems to have risen to the surface of this small pool: joining Spalding as one of his major henchmen. The idyll doesn’t last as Paul discovers that he’s not quite the bastard he thought he was and decides to challenge Spalding’s vicious hold on the wing.

There is a tender love story set in all this hard, prison sex. There’s a man losing and gaining faith. There’s a horrific story of power corrupting those who are there to protect and serve. There’s even humour and great minor characterisations. But most of all there is the sex. In every position, conceptual, non-consensual, vicious, tender, loving, violent…. It’s all very visual and very, very hot.

If I have one niggle, it’s the damn PC-ness of the excessive use of condoms. I get that in movies the guys should wear condoms. I’m all for safe sex. But in a book? What? Are these characters going to leap off the page and contract AIDS or something? This is fiction and it’s pretty unrealistic that in every rape scene (and there are lots of them) the perp would stop to put on a condom. And do you carry condoms into the shower? Where? (okay, that would make a whole new, interesting scene).  It’s only a minor gripe though. It’s not nearly as intrusive as it was in Mindjacker.

Oh, and a second niggle is the whole premise of John, the vicar, being send down for the affair with his choirboy. Tony is 19! An affair with a 19-year old wouldn’t put someone in prison, and would hardly mark him down as a nonce. Paul (the main character) is only 20. Again, I think the author did this (or was forced by the publisher) to stay on the safe side of the PC wall: he couldn’t even discuss an affair with an underage character. It’s a major plot weakness because John’s trials (emotionally and physically) rely on his guilt for this relationship.

But it’s still great porn. Give it a go if you need some visuals for the books that do the “they went to bed and made love” variety of sex.

Cerisaye's Review

Three men arrive in Her Majesty’s Prison Cairncrow on the same day.  Paul is a tough city kid, confident he can look after himself.  They say he looks like a young Robert de Niro.  Simon is a golden-haired pretty-boy, jailed for fraud because he wanted a new life for himself and his Palestinian boyfriend.  Then there’s John, a defrocked vicar, sent down for involvement with a 19 year-old who shopped him out of jealousy when he discovered he wasn’t the first boy to catch the reverend’s eye.  He’s dark with swarthy skin, a ruggedly handsome man. 

Word quickly gets out that a nonce has arrived in Cairncrow, but it’s Simon who’s fingered, Paul’s cellmate.  The top daddy of the prison, an albino called Spalding, makes sure Simon knows how they treat men like him.  Paul, trying to survive himself, stands by.  He’s troubled, knows that he should do something to help Simon.  But in a hellhole like Cairncrow, a privately run institution with a sadistic bastard in charge and guards only too willing to abuse prisoners themselves, it’s every man for himself.

This is gay erotica.  The sex is graphic and relentless:  there’s a toilet cubicle blow job on the first page, though that’s het.  Cairncrow is a prison from a porno.  Locked Up with an edge.  A grown-up version of Scum, the Borstal exposé.  Prison porn is one of my bullet-proof kinks.  This book certainly lives up to its reputation as top quality stroke material.

Out of the three new inmates, two are imprisoned for love, and the other shows signs of repressed homosexual urges.  Sex is currency like tobacco and other luxuries.  Hard men use sex with violence to control weaker inmates.  Man-to-man sex isn’t something to be enjoyed and nothing whatsoever to do with love.  It’s a manhood thing.

John tells Paul to use his friendship with Spalding to save Simon.  But Paul doesn’t understand why Simon can’t stand up for himself, so he uses him too, a receptacle for anger, fear and frustration.  Paul, who reminds Simon so much of Mehmet, his absent lover.  Paul who’s never had sex with another man before.  He tells himself he did it for Spalding, to be like him and the others.  Because Simon was pissing him off with his helplessness.   Nothing to do with need.  Or anything ‘queer’. 

Black uses words like ‘inflorescences’ and writes of redemption.  Not all prison sex is abusive.  Gay inmates keep their heads down but there’s no shortage of opportunity for intimacy.  Simon makes friends with Tim who gets him a job in the laundry.  Their love story is one of few good things to come out of Cairncrow.  Black’s characters are well developed so the novel engages the emotions too.  It’s not an easy read, with plenty of graphic violence as well as explicit sex.  It shocks as much as it titillates.  I couldn’t put it down, though I needed some sweet & tender romance after to recover. 


Published by Idol. ISBN: 0352337001

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