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March 31, 2018


Blood in the Water

by N@ncy


Impressive list:

  • Awards and Honors Blood in the Water received:
  • Pulitzer Prize in History 2017
  • Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy 2017
  • Ridenhour Book Prize 2017
  • J. Willard Hurst Award in Socio-Legal History 2017
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist 2017
  • Finalist Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts, Honorable Mention 2017
  • New York City Bar Association Award 2016
  • National Book Award Finalist 2016
  • New York Times Most Notable Books of 2016
  • Top Ten Best Books of 2016 Publishers Weekly
  • Top Ten Best Works of Non-Fiction of 2016 Kirkus Reviews
  • Top Ten Books of 2016 Newsweek




  • A New York State special prosecutor’s investigation into the 1971
  • Attica prison riot and killings (39 shot to death, including 10 hostages)
  • failed to indict any police officers or prison guards
  • despite strong evidence that they acted with homicidal intent.



  1. Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan.
  2. She draws on interviews with former inmates,
  3. …hostages, families of victims, law enforcement, lawyers, and state officials.
  4. An important source of information was found in the
  5. archives of previously unreleased materials.
  6. Thompson’s well written reconstruction of the
  7. causes of the riot,  reaction, murder and
  8. criminal negligence by the State Police.
  9. There had been incredible lying by others
  10. tampering with evidence  by the Executive Office
  11. of the State of New York are important.
  12. She was able to review from multiple sources
  13. interviews and  the facts leading
  14. …up to the horrible, unnecessary killings
  15. by the State Police.
  16. The epilogue….is upsetting.
  17. After all the struggles in Attica the US penal system
  18. …is STILL denying inmates rights.
  19. 2009: 1 sergeant  and 3 correction officers attacked
  20. ….prisoner Williams in Attica.
  21. Result: broken collarbone – 2 broken legs and other injuries.
  22. 2015: these guards were charged with
  23. first degree gang assault  + tampering with physical evidence.
  24. Result: light plea deal…no imprisonment….. a slap on the wrist.


Last thoughts:

  1. At times…so captivating that I could not put it down.
  2. Other times… I had to put it down.
  3. I was disgusted with the behaviour of high NY state officials.
  4. The entire investigation stank of politics.
  5. Who now believes the last lines of
  6. the Pledge of Allegiance: “…freedom and justice for all “?
  7. This should be enough to convince you
  8. …this book is a #MustRead or #MustListen.


My notes:

Part III: Ch: Dreams and Nightmares:

  1. Tensions are running high, negotiations between
  2. prisoners and prision officials is ongoing…
  3. …but Gov Nelson Rockefeller….is not pleased, not at all.
  4. Gov Nelson Rockefeller would later order force to be used
  5. …to put the uprising….down.


Part IV: Ch: No Mercy

  1. State troopers quash the prision rebellion.
  2. After 8 hours of listening…I’ve reached the graphic part of the book.
  3. Listening to the descriptions is more powerful….than reading them.
  4. I have to take a break from this book….let it all sink in.


Part VII: Ch: Justice of Trial

  1. I can barely listen to the atrocities and abuse committed at Attica by the
  2. prison guards and even prison doctors
  3. after more than 100 prisoners were wounded and dying.
  4. Just awful…but more shocking is …it really happened.
  5. State officials tried to suppress information about the uprising becoming public.
  6. Still many files have yet to be disclosed.
  7. There must be very damaging information
  8. …officials want kept secret!


Part VIII: Ch: Protecting the Police

  1. State troopers  were blatantly guilty of killing the hostages.
  2. They were the only ones with guns!
  3. But there was an extensive cover-up.
  4. Ironically the NY State Police were appointed to head the ‘independant’
  5. investigation of criminal acts by prisoners.
  6. #Please tell me this is fiction!
  7. It is not.

Part IX: Ch:   Elizabeth M. Fink (1945-2015)

  1. Elizabeth M. Fink Fink graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1973.
  2. Just a month after she had been admitted to the bar,
  3. …she went to work for the Attica Brothers Legal Defense Committee.
  4. She helped draft a civil suit against the New York state authorities.
  5. The case crawled through the courts for more than 27 years.
  6. Fink stuck with it.
  7. In 2000, as the lead counsel in the deferral civil rights case,
  8. she won an $8 million settlement from the state, plus $4 million in legal fees.
  9. #Justice….at last….closure.
  10. Trivia: Liz Fink helped  Heather Thompson with her research.
  11. Unfortunately….Elizabeth Fink died 1 year before publication.



Read more from non-fiction, Pulitzer

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