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Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America


In June 1983, Dennis Stockton entered Virginia's Death Row, convicted of a murder that he vehemently insisted he had not committed. There he remained for the next twelve years, an unwilling cog in the gears of "the monster factory," one of the grim names he gave Death Row in his jailhouse writings. Soon after arriving in prison, Stockton lent his ingenuity to what became the only successful mass escape from Death Row in American history. Ironically, he remained in his cell and recorded the audacious breakout in his diary, hoping and trusting that the system would someday grant him a new trial.
When the explosive journal was published weekes later in Norfolk's THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT, Stockton became a marked man among prisoners, guards, and authorities for blowing the whistle on their corrupt world. This calumny only strengthened Stockton's resolve to clear his name, and spurred him to find his voice and ultimate deliverance as a writer. Yet, even as evidence of his innocence mounted, Stockton was executed on September 27, 1995.
DEAD RUN is the stunning account of Dennis Stockton's life, using lengthy excerpts from his prison writings and told with harrowing immediacy by Joe Jackson, the reporter who investigated his unshakable claims of innocence, and William F. Burke Jr., Stockton's editor at THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT. It is a riveting true-life thriller and an unforgettable, searing portrait of life on Death Row in America today.


"Every contact with an execution becomes a spiritual voyage. Although the event is steeped in ritual, it is the enormity of the walk to death itself that imbues the act with symbolism. An observer sees the effects in the face of the prisoner, aged beyond his years; hears it in the voices of his lawyers, hopeful in the days before the execution, tired and despondent when their efforts have failed; in the grief and complex anger of those who loved the murder victim, hoping perhaps the execution will ameliorate their pain; in the tension of state officials, hoping everything proceeds without embarrassment; in the silence of the witnesses to the execution, holding their breaths as the prisoner walks into the chamber, realizing that on some level they are watching a skewed reflection of their own journeys. Whatever their roles or stations, all are humbled by what they will see."


"DEAD RUN is a gripping true narrative. . . . What gives the tale much of its extraordinary fascination is its rendition of life on Death Row as seen through Stockton's eyes."
--William Styon, from the Introduction


"DEAD RUN is the finest work of crime journalism I've read since THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. This brilliant book transcends the true crime genre."
-- Jack Olsen, author of DOC: THE RAPE OF THE TOWN OF LOWELL