“Inside-Outside (to be continued) by Richard Herr is a fascinating memoir by a man convicted of a local murder, who served 12 years in Jackson State Prison.
Self-published by iUniverse as a $24.95 hardback or $14.95 paperback, the slim volume explores the amazing life experiences of Herr, who was born in Lansing in 1941.
Herr had a strict religious upbringing, but he was rebellious. He didn’t finish classes at Sexton High School, joining the Marines in 1959.
He toughened up, got a G.E.D. and served at assorted sites in Southeast Asia, including Thailand at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Upon release in 1963, he worked for a local cab company and an advertising agency; he married the daughter of a Lansing organized crime figure. Herr worked behind the scenes, betting for winners at the Hazel Park Race Track and working as a collector for local gambling debts.
He went to work for a Lansing used car dealer, then switched jobs to a different dealership. He was arrested in 1965 for the murder of Betty Reynolds, a client’s wife, in Grand Ledge.
Herr feels that he was wrongfully accused, relating his series of bad experiences with assorted attorneys, including F. Lee Bailey. In 1967, he was sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison by Judge Richard Robinson, who later gave the same sentence to John Sinclair for marijuana possession.
At Jackson State Prison, Herr learned quickly, eventually controlling the penitentiary’s drugs, gambling, protection and policies. He served as editor of the prison newspaper and booked music appearances at the facility by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and others.
He played on the prison football team with Ron LeFlore; Herr also offers his insights on what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa. He discloses how drugs were successfully smuggled into prison in boxes of books, even though the volumes were carefully scrutinized.
A highly talented artist in prison, Herr did portrait paintings of J. P. McCarthy and others, getting many accolades from prominent people.
Herr discusses how he was finally able to get paroled, addressing problems within the system. He offers numerous interesting sidebars on his life after prison, focusing on his success in starting a family, selling cars around the country and becoming a community leader.
An excellent, captivating storyteller, Herr adds much colorful detail as well as intriguing photos in a distinctive memoir that is “to be continued”.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.
This book review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on June 26, 2011.