Like a Thief's Dream.
Photographs and text by Danny Lyon.
powerHouse Books, New York, 2007. 200 pp., 20 duotone and four-color illustrations, 6¼x8¼".
James Ray Renton—thief, counterfeiter, and bank robber—became one of America’s Ten Most Wanted Men when he was charged with murdering a young Arkansas policeman in 1976. After a daring escape from the Tucker Maximum Security Unit in the 1980s, Renton made the FBI’s Fifteen Most Wanted List before eventually being recaptured. Then, while in solitary confinement, Renton wrote a 60-page account of his escape and adventures, sent in a series of letters to Danny Lyon, a close friend of Renton’s since they had met in the Texas prison system in 1967.
After Renton’s death in 1995, Lyon visited the Arkansas town where Renton had been convicted. Following an incredible paper trail left behind by the crime and 1978 trial (in which Lyon had testified), Lyon located Dinker Cassel, who was sentenced to life along with Renton for the murder. Like a Thief’s Dream is Lyon’s gripping story of two men—one alive, the other dead—and an unparalleled portrayal of prison life in the 1980s and 1990s. A tale of murder and betrayal, romance and robbery, Like a Thief’s Dream is Lyon’s first work of non-fiction in text form, a work of realism based almost entirely on documents including police and FBA records, prison and police mug shots, tape recordings made by the FBI and the author, Renton’s own written account of his escape, letters from other prisoners to the author and to each other, and photographs made by Lyon and anonymous police photographers.
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