top of page

The Prison House

After several months drifting around Europe, Jimmy Ramone finds himself at the sharp edge of the empire, incarcerated in Seven Towers, a notorious hilltop prison in an unnamed country, peering into the abyss. Jimmy has always been an outsider, but here he is a fully-fledged alien who doesn’t understand the language or customs of the other inmates. He knows little about the men surrounding him except that they are shoplifters and drug addicts, murderers and rapists. But what exactly in the nature of Jimmy’s offence? And what is the secret that haunts him?


Seven Towers is a place where squalor and fear are endemic, and the characters Jimmy meets push his sanity to the brink. There is the silent, pyjama-clad Papa with his knitting needle; the cheerful killer and mutilator known as the Butcher; gentle Franco and cruel Homer; and then there is Dumb Dumb, a deaf mute building a better world out of matchsticks. Sleeping in a room with forty of these men is difficult enough, but made worse by the rats scratching at the door and the monkey monsters whispering under his bed. But Jimmy has imagination, and this is his escape, his means of survival. He heads West along the great American highways. He heads East to the spiritual paths of India.


Intercutting the paranoia of prison life with Jimmy’s memories of his childhood and travels, The Prison House blurs the lines between innocence and guilt, crime and punishment, reality and fantasy, and is as much about one man’s will to live as it is about the capacity for evil. Broken into seven sections to mirror the towers of the prison, these also represent the seven deadly sins, each block suggesting Jimmy’s possible crime. When a fire breaks out, there is a chance that several truths will be revealed.

“John King is an adventurous avant-garde novelist. The sheer virtuosity of his language overflows with a richness of invention… In this literary jail, the ghost of Kafka shares a cell with the shade of Burroughs.” Boyd Tonkin 

The Prison House (Cape).jpeg

“With a brutally brilliant imagination, The Prison House takes you to a place where angels fear to tread. Go there and be redeemed.” Brian Keenan

“A compelling, impressive read. King is perhaps the most passionately liberal writer in Britain today.”

The Big Issue

bottom of page