Buckley, Mailer, Styron: American Writers and Their Pet Criminals
From the Washington Post:
Death row inmate whose release was championed by William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 83
Mr. Smith was released in 1971 in a case involving the 1957 death of a 15-year-old high school cheerleader, and he became a cause celebre, only to return to prison for another gruesome assault.
By Paul W. Valentine
A couple of generations ago, you almost couldn’t be a big time writer in America without championing the release of some pet inmate, who would then almost immediately get thrown back in the slammer for committing another vicious crime. Buckley had Edgar Smith, Norman Mailer had Jack Abbott, and William Styron had Benjamin Reid.
This kind of naiveté about criminals was widespread in the 1960s. Buckley, Mailer, and Styron were not unworldly men, but they each fell for a crook’s hard-luck story.