Book Review: Prisoner in the Kitchen

The year is 1973, and recent Montana transplant William Bonham desperately needs a job. Hoping to take advantage of his background working in restaurants and diners, he comes across a listing for a position offering great money and benefits—at Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. Out of money and options, he takes it.


As a food service supervisor in the kitchen of the maximum-security prison, Bonham oversees a kitchen crew of convicts as restless and unreliable as the prison population they serve. Among his staff are Earl, a homely baker; Aldrich, a timid young dishwasher; Smoky Boy, the prison’s most feared and respected convict; Mackey, who claims to have cooked at Seattle’s prestigious Olympic Hotel in his pre-incarceration life; and Reed, whose calm, witty demeanor quickly wins over Bonham, but also disguises a dark past. Although he knows that these men have committed unforgiveable crimes, Bonham forms camaraderie with them that borders on friendship—until one late-night incident calls his judgment into question.


An intimate look inside the U.S. prison system and the damaged but nonetheless human characters that inhabit it, Bonham writes with humor and empathy, illuminating a world often ignored and forgotten by the population at large. A PRISONER IN THE KITCHEN tells the redemptive tale of Bonham’s transformation from a bright-eyed optimist who sees the good in everyone to a man with a deep understanding and respect for the complexities of human nature.  

About the Author

Born and raised in Seattle, William Bonham spent the first fifteen years of his working life as a professional cook. One of those years was as a cook, on staff, at Montana State Prison. At the age of thirty-one, while working in a restaurant in San Francisco, he almost literally stumbled into doing voiceovers for radio and TV commercials. The pay was much better than cooking, the hours kinder, and he packed away his knives. Now semi-retired, and still in San Francisco, he lives with his wife, Louise, and has one son, Christopher.


About the Book

Prisoner in the Kitchen: The Car Thief, the Murderer, and the Man Hired to Feed Them

By William Bonham

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: March 29, 2016

Format: E-book Original

Price: $3.99

ISBN: 9781501139512

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