What readers say about “Jerry’s Riot”

Cell House 1 at Old Montana Prison with 1950s-era yard towers.

¶ “I finished the book, and I’m really impressed with both your research and your analysis, not to mention a well-written and riveting narrative. Your book is an important work for understanding the living history of corrections and prison reform. It is also a gripping story of one prison and the tragic event which occurred there. I’m glad to have the book and will read it again.” Myrna, Arkansas 

¶ “I really enjoyed your book ‘Jerry’s Riot.’ Very well written and as a reader, I could tell you dove deep on research as well. My father was in corrections for 35 years on the parole side. I followed him and was a Parole Board Hearing Officer at Trenton State here in New Jersey. I could very much relate, through your writing, to the inmates and the guards. Lee Smart was the most interesting to me. I have met quite a few of the psychopathic types in prison. They are at the same time frightening yet fascinating. The story of the riot is a good one. Hope to visit Deer Lodge someday.” John, New Jersey

¶ “I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin’s book, ‘Jerry’s Riot.’ A true story about the Deer Lodge prison back in 1959, which is near where I live, making every page come alive for me. I could not put it down!” Paula, Montana

“I just want to thank you for writing both books but especially ‘Jerry’s Riot.’ I received them for Christmas from my wife and read both immediately, and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated them! ‘Summer of the Black Chevy’ was great, and it took me back vividly to my own youth, which was about five years after yours but no less a pure adventure! I realize the story was fiction, but I couldn’t help seeing what must have been some very real connections to you and your group of ‘Hooligans’ during those years. The story of the riot is absolutely unbelievable, and what I kept thinking throughout the book was how little I had known of it. It really blows my mind that I lived in that town my whole life through the age of 18, and there was never anything that I can recall mentioned about it in school, or in our home for that matter, with it being such an incredible piece of the history of Deer Lodge! Whatever the case, I just have to thank you for every ounce of effort you, and everyone involved in your extensive research for all those years, put into this book! I had no idea what our town went through at that time, and I can’t imagine what it was like for your mom, and all the people whose loved ones were held hostage for those 36 hours by those madmen. I would hope EVERYONE who lived there will read it!” Mark, Vancouver, Washington

¶ “I’m an avid reader and found ‘Jerry’s Riot’ one of the most enjoyable books that I’ve ever read. The extent of research by Mr. Giles makes all the many characters in the book come to life in a riveting page turner. Having lived in Deer Lodge at the time of the riot makes it that much more compelling. Many of my memories of the event were confirmed by the book. I recommend anyone interested in history or those who enjoy a well written book to pick it up.” Patrick, California.

¶ “I admire your writing style for sure. True, gutsy, graphic and tough just like the inmates.” Joy Morris, author of the forthcoming book Legend of Turkey Pete.

¶ “In Jerry’s Riot, Author Kevin Giles takes us in to the bowels of the old Montana State Prison in the late 1950’s; not far removed from old western justice.  In the old, medieval-looking, sandstone prison, the new Warden, Floyd Powell and his deputy Ted Rothe, have plans to bring the prison in to the modern era.  Author Giles paints the picture of a prison in transformation from an ‘old con boss rule system’ to one more just and not easily accepted by those who stand to lose the only control they have ever known, especially Jerry Myles.  Myles, a wily, middle-aged con boss who has spent the better part of his life behind bars, and his teenage murderer lover, Lee Smart, devise a plan to take back control, or die trying.  From the very first chapter you will be spell-bound as Giles delivers chilling, firsthand accounts of those who experienced the 1959 riot. Giles effortlessly captures the sights, sounds, and taste of a bygone era, in a prison that held some of the most dangerously, disturbed criminals in the West.” Kevin Robert Brooks, author of Zodiac/Montana Connection.Take me to Kevin's books: One Woman Against War, Summer of the Black Chevy, Jerry's Riot

¶ “Loved this nonfiction about a local historical event. Well written and researched. Helpful in gathering information about our region and interesting reading. Thanks Kevin Giles.” Diana, Deer Lodge, Montana.

¶ “As a historical buff I read ‘Jerry’s Riot’ with great relish. Having spent several days with Deputy Warden Dwight in the early 1960s while doing a structural inspection of the prison buildings, I was able to visualize the events and settings with more clarity than some readers may have. Author Kevin Giles’ ability to describe the environment and place the players in that environment with seamless writing is commendable.” Malcolm, Texas.

¶ “Sooo, on the nicest days of the year so far in Montana, what was I doing? Making the fatal mistake of picking up the book ‘Jerry’s Riot’! I could not put it down and finished the entire book over the weekend! Kevin, your attention to detail was mind-boggling and your style of writing had me on the edge of my seat the entire time…and I thought I knew the story! By halfway through I was even looking for any tiny bit of inaccuracies …ANYTHING that wasn’t correct! It just wasn’t there! Wonderful job…now you need to research and write a book about the 1991 riot! Thanks for a spellbinding weekend!” Gayle, Montana.

¶ “I’m just finishing ‘Jerry’s Riot.’ Well done recreating what had to be an incredibly chaotic story!!!! … Finished the book, and I wanted to add to my earlier comments that I was very impressed with how you maintained an even keel when dealing with all of the characters — cons, guards, hostages — and how special I think it was that you let an unbiased story unfold. Rare to find a story like that today and speaks volumes about the education we all got at the J school. Good journalists know how to do it when most of them around us don’t even understand the principle. Good job, Kevin. I was gonna look up the early [Jeannette] Rankin book but have decided to wait for your revision to publish. Lemme know!” Former Montana journalist Bill Owen, Depoe Bay, Oregon.

¶ “Hey! First, and I’ve told you before, loved the book!! I think I may read it again this summer (which I’ve never done with a book)! 🙂 Went to the prison last week, and saw all the “Jerry’s Riot” paraphernalia. Pretty cool. Even though I’ve been through the prison a million times growing up, it’s very cool to go through it now that I’ve read your book!” Jarrod Neckels, Phoenix, Arizona.

¶ “You can read (or watch) ‘Shawshank Redemption’ forty times and learn less of real prison life in the era than in a chapter of this book.” True crime reviewer Laura James.

¶ “The author’s commitment to symbolic factual detail, together with his excavation of official records and revival of faded memories, bolster a convincing narrative that takes the reader on an ultimately explosive journey.”David, Australia.

¶ “It was absolutely refreshing to at last read a prison story that really told it like it is.” Bob, a guard at Montana State Prison for 32 years.

¶ “It is the best book I ever read in my life and I am a heavy reader. So informative, such interesting data, descriptions. I felt I know the guys you wrote about.” Bill, Montana.

¶ “Occasionally I will become so involved in a book that my free time is spent reading it and your book is one of them. Reading page one I knew your book would hold me captive (pardon my pun). Your book is excellent and I’m glad I decided to give it a try.” John, Texas.

¶ “I would definitely recommend that you read ‘Jerry’s Riot’, if you ever lived in or near Deer Lodge, especially if you lived there anywhere near the time period of the ‘Riot’, in 1959. Kevin was able to recreate the events, with the people involved, as if it happened today. Great read!” Don, who grew up in Deer Lodge.

¶ “I finished ‘Jerry’s Riot’ and enjoyed it immensely. I’d started it while at your place but never got back to it with all our stuff going on when we got home but – I picked it up a couple of days ago and started again and could not put it down. Really enjoyed it – brilliant – very well done – the detail and obvious research was incredible – I kept remembering our visit to Deer Lodge and the prison and thought it would be great to see it again having now read the book.” Gregory, Queensland, Australia.

¶ “I could hear the frightening clang and loud, eerie echo of the prison’s steel door and chills overcame me time and again when reading Kevin Giles’ account of the 1959 fatal riot at Montana’s first territorial prison in my hometown of Deer Lodge, Montana. The riot overtook and held hostage our tiny town for days. “LIFE” magazine even covered the event where my girlfriend, Phyllis Rothe, was taken from our senior classroom to learn that her father, Deputy Warden Ted Rothe, had been savagely murdered by a crazy man named Smart. Giles’ detail in “Jerry’s Riot” is absorbing. He repaints the picture of those formidable and threatening days with a fine brush. The picture Giles paints is haunting and unforgettable.” Suzanne Lintz Ives, prize-winning journalist and author of the book, “Bob, the Tree Who Became a Star.”

¶ “Kevin Giles has taken the Prison Riot that we lived through as little kids from vague memories to vivid recollection and cleared up the mystery. I was with Kevin when he interviewed one of the participants and it is now clear that not many people knew what really happened. I have toured the prison museum and this book should be on display and for sale to help everyone understand what really happened.” Fred, Denver, Colorado, who grew up in Deer Lodge.

¶ “Thank you for telling us about this book. I ordered it, and it is great!!!! It’s a
very hard book to put down.” Cathy, Montana probation and parole officer.

¶ “Tom gave me your book, ‘Jerry’s Riot,’ for my birthday. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. Your writing is just terrific, putting related stories in while describing the riot. Never read a book like that.” Harley, Minnesota.

¶ “I’m from Anaconda, Montana, and have always had an interest in Montana history. When I heard Kevin Giles was writing the book about the 1959 prison riot I couldn’t wait to read about it. Over the years, I’ve known several people, including my brother, that have worked at the Montana State Prison. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was amazed at the hours put iinto researching this book. I bought the book for several of my family members and they also thought it was a great read. I have taken tours of the old Montana State Prison in the past, but this book made me want to rush home again and re-tour the site. I certainly have a new respect for the guards who devote their careers to these institutions. This is an excellent book to read.” Connie, Nevada.

¶ “My name is Mike Benson and I am the Assistant Chief of Police with the Glendive Police Department. I am also the son of Ted Benson and grandson of Bill Benson. For years I have heard the story from my dad about the prison riot, based on what Grandpa told him. It was great to read your book to find out, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. It was obvious that your research into this book was very extensive. Thank you for writing such a fabulous book. I really enjoyed learning about the full story about why the riot happened. I also enjoyed learning more about my Grandpa.”

¶ “I had the pleasure of purchasing ‘Jerry’s Riot’ for my father-in-law for Christmas. He read the book cover to cover on Christmas Day. To our mutual surprise, he was mentioned in the prose several times. Lieutenant James Girard now lives in Seattle and was quite impressed at the accuracy of your information. He asked, (since he does not own a computer), that we send you this message expressing his appreciation and congratulations. Good luck with your future books.” James Girard, Doug and Jan Christi.

¶ “I always had an interest in the riot. I thank you for your effort, it is obvious that you did much research. You have made events clear, and I thank you. I knew many of the people cited in your book. I was thinking about MSP since I read the book. I hated going into the place, even though it was only once or twice a week at the most. It was a tough joint (1964-66). The Inmates still had terrible conditions in the cell houses. They had to march in formation to meals. I believe all the staff hated to be there. It reminded me of when I went to work in the mines out of high school, everyone probably hated the mines, but we had to be macho and not talk about our fears with each other. When I went to work at Walla Walla [in Washington state] I was uptight because it had a reputation as a big maximum Pen. It was a tough joint but compared to MSP it was a country club. You wrote a great book. I can tell you put your heart into it.” Law Risken, Olympia, Washington, who worked at Montana State Prison and also worked with former MSP Warden Floyd Powell in Washington state.

¶ “Kevin, I received a great Christmas gift from my wife this year . . your book, Jerry’s Riot!! I couldn’t wait to get started on it and found out that I had a difficult time laying it down. You did an excellent job and one could tell that you took great pains in ensuring for accuracy of the facts and the characterization of those involved on both sides. Having worked with the hostages after the riot I gained a greater respect for what they went through and the courage they displayed not only during the riot but also for the years following. Having worked in Corrections for a number of years your book has reinforced my great respect for those staff who work in our nation’s prisons and especially those who I worked with at Montana State Prison. They are definitely under-appreciated. It was clear that you were very proud of your father and after reading your book I am certain he would “be very proud of his kid”. Thanks Kevin for writing this book.The story had to be told one day and having the true story emerge has provided a great tribute to all those involved.” Jim Blodgett, former Deputy Warden of Montana State Prison from 1968-1981.

¶ “Jerry’s Riot is not for the fainthearted. Kevin Giles provides a chilling look into the mind of a madman and the institution that created him. His account of the 1959 Montana State Prison Riot gives us an insider’s look at both sides of prison society and the predatory misfit who was at home in it. Jerry’s Riot is a good read.” Bob, Montana.

¶ “Thank you for writing and publishing such a fine and accurate account of ‘Jerry’s Riot.’ I read every word and enjoyed it very much! I must admit that I had to stop every two or three chapters to fall back and regroup. It was like putting in a very strenuous eight-hour shift all over again. Memories came out like crazy. I was remembering names, faces, places, times, etc. I remembered also that every day of my 32 1/2 years of working there I was reminded of that terrible 36 hours. It was either by people I knew who survived and the accounts they gave, or the physical evidence left behind. However, most of all the realization that the same type of people exist in that bastille as they did in 1959. The only difference between now and then is time itself. I must admit that I also took a certain amount of satisfaction and gratefulness in that I survived that place as long as I did without getting seriously injured. I know that you spent years researching and it shows. I appreciate your endeavors, but most of all, the way you did it, factual, accurate and honest.” Retired Montana State Prison guard Bob McNally.

¶ “If you are a Montana history buff, this is a must-read book. Kevin’s extensive research and dedication to this book makes it a wonderful contribution to Montana’s history.” Vicki L. Ross, president of ComSense, Inc.

¶ “Congratulations on your book ‘Jerry’s Riot.’Having worked with your Dad and most of the hostages after the riot and then with the inmates involved, the book had a special interest to me. The time and research spent provided the reader with a most accurate and interesting description of the riot and all those involved.” Retired Capt. Don DeYott, more than 30 years at Montana State Prison.

¶ “Read your outstanding book and salute you for your accomplishment. I am a Correctional Lieutenant and 14-year veteran of Montana State Prison and was seized by a real sense of deja vu on almost every page. It’s obvious that you know MSP and understand its 130 yr culture. While a lot’s changed there still remains the relationship between the prisoners and their keepers with all its dynamics. Your book helped me gain insights to the continuality of my position. I recognize the tactic your Dad employed, “talkin the talk,” and that still happens. … Your book is spreading throughout the prison and I’ve yet to hear anything negative about it.” Lt. Michael D. Zuber, Montana State Prison.

¶ “I want to tell you that your book ‘Jerry’s Riot’ is a wonderful book. Your writing is superb and excellent. My aunt Sharon Thompson has told me the book is hard for her to read because it’s so true to our family. It is very well written and accurately true. My Aunt Phoebe “Thompson” Parish said the book helped the living understand the reason of an institution on how it worked/works and clarifies some history. It is very emotional to her. She had to put the book down a few times. Aunt Phoebe and Uncle “Frosty” were very close. My mom and Aunt wanted also to say that your classmates are reading and appreciating your book and your years of research has paid off for a wonderful true story. Thank you for writing it.” Dixie of  Montana, writing on behalf of the Thompson family, who also live in Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell. Her great uncle, DeForrest “Frosty” Thompson, was a hostage in the riot.

¶ “I got my copy of ‘Jerry’s Riot’ on Wednesday and finished it last evening. It was mesmerizing and very insightful. I really enjoyed reading it and frankly, learned a lot about the prison in the 50’s. Your writing style is terrific. You really have a wonderful way with words and the descriptions are outstanding—I could feel, see, smell, and hear through your words. Thanks for writing the book—I loved it.” Deer Lodge native Todd Eliason.

¶ “Just finished reading ‘Jerry’s Riot,” of great interest to me for multiple reasons. Kevin is an old schoolmate I walked to school with for years. My dad was a purchasing agent for the prison for 17 years … and for a short six months I worked there. I realized shortly into the book how sad and desperate a life as a prisoner must be. Kevin has successfully worded the book where one can actually feel the true emotions and despair of prisoners. As with others, having lived in Deer Lodge all my life I was unaware of many of the real facts of the riot, and being only 7 at the time I probably did not ask many questions. Congrats to Kevin on a fine book to give us all great insight to one of the true gut-wrenching events our small town had ever endured. This book will be a fine gift for anyone who has lived in Montana or has worked at the prison.” Gary, Montana.

4 thoughts on “What readers say about “Jerry’s Riot”

  1. I just toured the prison and bought the book. As a child I spent a lot of time with my uncle Louie Dwight living in the house across the street. Gave me chills reading about what my uncle did in 1959 when he was sent in with the National Guard. I had no idea he was that involved. I only remember him being the Deputy Warden. Could not put the book down. Are there any more books written about the prison?
    Diane Jones (Louis Dwight’s Niece) Beaumont CA

    • Hi Diane, thanks for writing. I remember your uncle Lou well. Jerry’s Riot is the only accurate authoritative book written about the 1959 riot and events leading to it. I won’t list all my sourcing for you because I do that in the back of the book. However, I interviewed at least 100 people involved in the riot in some fashion. Other books might be available about other eras or events at the prison, but I’m at a loss to name one. Kevin

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