Portrait of a Prisoner by Martin Line

“Don’t cry over spilt milk” – it’s a phrase we’ve all heard and all said. But what happens when it isn’t milk that spills, but, rather, beer instead? ‘Portrait of a Prisoner’ by Martin Line finds twenty-something dockworker David Cuthbertson on the woeful end of a tipped pint. When a group of wealthy, out-of-place university students make a ruckus at a local Manchester pub, one of them knocks over David’s coworker’s beer and refuses to buy him another. A hellacious fight ensues, and David ends up punching one of the boys square in the jaw. After a routine police call to the scene, that bloke later ends up dead, and David ends up behind Her Majesty’s prison walls, serving seven to ten on a questionable manslaughter charge. David quickly learns the ropes, however – and, in no time, is climbing them. He ascends to a position of power within the prison, not by abandon or brute force, but because of his incredible intelligence, strong sensibilities, and compassion toward the other men. Even the guards take notice of David’s astonishing attributes, and so, too, do visitors from the outside world. When David is interrogated by the police for complicity in another crime, his honesty and uncanny insight turn him from a suspect into an asset, and he gets unexpected help from a woman with an exceptional gift that enables her to see something to which justice had been blind.

‘Portrait of a Prisoner’ is a multi-layered piece that involves poignant plot points other than those mentioned above. Like a painting, it is rich with both dark and light hues that come together to tell a full story greater than any single shade could tell. From domestic violence, mental illness, jealousy, and revenge, to young love, artistry, genius, and getting what one deserves, it explores the totality of David’s circumstances and exposes both the beauty and chaos of his life, including the secrets buried in his past and inner self, as well as in his backyard. A clever and compelling tome, ‘Portrait of a Prisoner’ is, put simply, well worth the read.

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