Books: Over the Wall

THE RIOT by Frank Elli. 255 pages. Coward-McCann. $4.95.

The publishers, who awarded their $15,000 Thomas R. Coward Prize to this first novel, call it "unquestionably the most authentic prison novel ever written." No questions are likely. The author wrote his book while serving 6½ years of a 10-to 80-year robbery sentence in a Minnesota jail. He was also a captive researcher at the Walla Walla State Prison (4½ years, burglary) and at San Quentin (three years, robbery).

In fact, Frank Elli, now 41, had been in the pen on one rap or another eleven times since he was mustered out of the...

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