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Ethan Harms is reluctant to talk about the crimes that earned him consecutive life sentences in a super-max detention facility. Instead, he trains his sharp eye and wry sense of humor on the realities of existence without freedom—deprived not just of movement but expression, distraction, and perhaps even absolution.

Harms is a brilliant autodidact, yet much eludes his grasp. For instance, how is it that his illiterate next-cell neighbor, Cooney, has authored a tell-all best-seller that is a finalist for the National Book Award? And how can Harms be having silent psychic “conversations” with Crow, a Native American mass murderer who has not uttered a word aloud in fifteen years?

With HARMS’ WAY, Rayfiel (author of Colony Girl, a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year) has created a darkly comic, literary novel rich with the pleasures of taut, psychological thriller.

The Big Thrill had an opportunity to meet with Rayfiel and discuss his latest novel, HARMS’ WAY:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Life inside a prison can resemble life outside it more than we’d like to admit.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

Prison novels tend to closely reflect the times they’re written. I hope this one accomplishes that.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

This is the first psychological thriller I’ve written, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all as I wrote. Genre just isn’t something I think about as I write.


Thomas Rayfiel is the author of seven previous novels, including Colony Girl, In Pinelight, and Genius.

His short stories have appeared in GQ, The Threepenny Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn.

To learn more about Thomas Rayfiel, please visit his website.