Skip to main content

Tag: Book review -

‘Without a voice’ by Michelle Nicholson: A review

Michelle Nicholson is the founder and director of Key Changes -Unlocking Women’s Potential. We’re delighted to have been asked to review Michelle’s book, ‘Without a voice’, a brave and candid account of the events that led up to her conviction for murder.






Michelle was  just 22 years old when she was convicted of the murder of her father. As a single parent, rejected as a child by her schizophrenic mother she was desperate for love and happiness. This search for affection led her to become involved with a man she believed to be good and kind and someone who would give her and her daughter a better life. However, not long after meeting him, she ended up in the dock beside him at Sheffield Crown Court accused of the most horrific crime.

Michelle never denied being at the scene of the crime but stated that she had no idea that her father was going to be killed and was adamant that she played no part in his death. However, her voice went unheard and she was given a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 15 years.

From the minute she was taken into custody, Michelle protested her innocence and when she sat her parole board 14 years later, she told them the exact same story.

When I was arrested I thought the police would find evidence to prove that I was innocent. When they charged me, the most crushing thing was, how could anyone think that I could do a thing like that? I was absolutely devastated because I had lost my father then the double blow, they think I’ve done it. Before it happened I was just a single parent in a fairly poor community, just going to college and thinking about creating my own business and getting a better life for me and my daughter – then it all suddenly changed to everyone thinking that I’ve done this terrible crime. When the jury came back with the guilty verdict I was in complete and utter shock. I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t take it in. That shock continued for years”.

The book follows Michelle’s journey throughout her time in prison where she quickly realised how many women needed help rather than punishment through to her release and securing a job as a caseworker and going on to study for a degree in Social Science.

The book is searingly honest and Michelle doesn’t hold back when describing the details of her upbringing and the death of her father. At times, it’s an upsetting and difficult read especially when Michelle describes the social stigma facing already disadvantaged groups.

‘Without a voice’ exposes the complexities of the criminal justice system and the dramatic ongoing impact it can have on an individual’s life. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in criminal justice who wants to hear about the human side of the system.

Despite running a successful charity, twenty four years on, Michelle is still fighting to clear her name.

Reviewed by Debbie


‘Without a voice’ is available from Amazon in both paperback and e-reader versions.

Junior James; A different deal

diffrent-junior-jamesby Richard, Editor of theRecord

Junior James is a fascinating man, a ‘larger-than-life’ character who oozes energy and enthusiasm. He’s gone from being a busy, but never happy, drug dealer to a NOMS ‘Service User of the Year’ via a spell inside. He made best use of his time in prison by taking advantage of every training and education opportunity he was given, and is now committed to helping others break out of a criminal lifestyle. However, when going through all this, he became aware of one of the major shortcomings with what is on offer for prisoners and was recently quoted in The Voice on-line as saying that it would be particularly useful for courses on entrepreneurship to be available.

Now, ‘entrepreneur’ can mean any number of things in reality, from the likes of Richard Branson and the ‘Dragons’ in TV’s den to someone running a hot-dog stall at a festival or setting up a shelter for the homeless . So I rang him to ask him what he meant: “Being self-employed, mate. That’s the crux of it. It’s all very well giving training courses and helping people getting qualifications, but if you’ve got a record, no-one’s gonna want to employ you, so you’ve got to do it yourself.” And, by and large, he’s right. As we chat we agree that there are a few enlightened employers out there, but not many. We agree that what people need is to learn how to run a business either for just themselves or to employ others. And anyone who’s tried it will tell you it’s not all plain sailing and counting your money. A very high proportion of new businesses go under in the first three years and there’s a lot to learn and a lot at stake. And preparation and knowing what you’re getting yourself into is key to success.

So, keen make best use of his time, put right past mistakes, encourage other not to get involved in dealing and to put his money where his mouth is, Junior took to writing. He first started in prison, showed a few pages to a few mates, got some good feedback about this wit and his style and so carried on. He writes about his life and the way he used to live in in a way that gets to the truth of the paranoia, the fear and the stress that is so often overlooked by young people who see only the money, the status and the bling on offer with a coke-dealer’s trade. He’s funny, direct and real and he’s working on his third book now. The first two, Different, Parts 1 & 2, are available on his website: Check him out, he’s different.

A new lease of life

David Honeywell

My recent book signing event at York’s Waterstones, where I was signing copies of my new autobiography, Never Ending Circles, gave me some time to reflect.

Writing your life story really does bring about psychological and emotional changes inside you but little did I expect the life changes that would follow after becoming a ‘respected author’.

Being respected in York is something I never expected to be because almost 30 years ago I walked into a store just on the outskirts of the City and held it up wielding a 7-inch dagger. Then 27 years later, I was made a Freeman of the City through birthright and now I am being greeted by the Lord Mayor for my work.

York has deeply routed ancestry for me on my mother’s side of the family dating back centuries where 24 members were Freeman. And I feel I now owe it to their memory, victims of crime, myself and my own family to try and put right my wrongdoings.

I started doing this by writing my memoirs in the hope to inspire others that lives can be turned around. Delving into my innermost has forced me to change my life – so much that I have moved back to the City where my criminal life began all those years ago.

It’s as though I have been catapulted back in time but now I am a much wiser person. As I continued to write my memoirs, things inside me started to change. I developed a burning desire to revisit old haunts and track down old friends I had lost contact with over 20 years ago then to go back and start all over again.

It has made me see where things had gone wrong – not just by thinking back – but by standing in the actual places I used to frequent and soaking in the ambience mixed with sadness and relief that they are now distant memories.

I now have a new lease of life and passion for revisiting the past to put things right. York is where it all began and as I plan for tomorrow I feel so humbled that the Lord Mayor is coming along especially to see me in all his regalia. This I hope will be the start of us working together within communities.

Before it all starts though I will be in BBC Radio York talking about the contents of the book. Radio and TV have been a great source of publicity ranging from commentating on recent news headlines to discussing where I’m coming from with my book.

The book signings have been a great way of networking and being able to cut my teeth in the publishing world. I have to say though I am pleasantly surprised by the level of interest from local people who just want to read about real life which is very encouraging. I think a lot of people have a story to tell and publishing their book could a lot easier than they think.

This is why I have now set up my own publishing house name, Nocton Publishing, with a view to publishing inspirational stories.

I think there should always be a theme. Mine was to show that I could relate to every aspect of life from alcohol abuse, depression, incarceration to relationship problems and employment issues. It worked because I have as many people asking for my book who have experienced mental health issues and depression as I have from ex-cons and universities.

It has been the most humbling experience personally, but the most rewarding thing for me will be the lives it helps to change. Even if it’s just making someone who is suffering realise they are not alone, to showing that with determination, you can turn your life around.

You can buy David’s book ‘Never Ending Circles’, here.

Taken from Issue 15

“Every Saint has a Past, Every Sinner a Future”

Marilyn Wisbey

My father played a part in the biggest robbery, in 1963. A moving train was held up and 2 and a half million pounds was taken in cash, was on its way to be burnt, 16 robbers were caught after, and Mr Big remains free. No one was killed, they just used coshes, although driver Mills had a slight cut on his head.

My father along with another robber, gave driver Mills a cup of tea, and bandaged his head but he passed away 7 years later. Many officials, and the media trumped this up, to say the driver was so badly traumatised from this that he got cancer, but my mother campaigned over the worst sentences they received of thirty years – and they missed hanging by 2 years, as it was against the state. My argument has always been, whose pockets was it going into, as it was untraceable, although it’s never been answered!

Schooling for both my sister and I, of 15 months difference in age, was always a little bit traumatised. While the teacher was reading the newspapers to the class – “Train robbers escape!” – all the children would turn round and giggle and look at me. I loved music, singing in the school choir, I played the violin, loved art, and cooking and reading.

My writing was very good, in fact, prior to this happening, I got all the kids from the block of flats and decided to do a musical aged eight, both Racheal Rumbol, my sister and I raised ten shillings, towards Dr Barnados Children’s homes in 1963 (that was quite a lot of money then!)

I ended up working in Selfridges as a senior sales consultant, aged 18, that was where I met my son’s dad which took away the heavy duty depression, which I use to get in whirlwinds – dark mood swings that lead me to drink, as I loved a party or dancing!

At 21, I went to the States which opened my eyes to the other side of life. I always said I would go back. But life goes on. For a time I ran a pub for my mother in the 80’s, before I had a conviction. Here, I placed ads in the newspaper and later found out that most of my staff were ex-offenders. We paid well, they did not thieve off us, we gave them a good wage, much more than the minimum wage! That’s why they loved working their shifts, and always turned up, without being ill, they were reliable, they enjoyed the atmosphere. I believe this or any other Government has to push up the minimum wage to at least £12 an hour, as even professional workers are struggling with their bills.

They spend so much sending people to the moon, and spend far too much on armoury for wars. Let’s get our own people employed, in homes, with proper causes, and stop the greed with corporations that are taking advantage of low paid workers, in this country. This is a first world country, not a third world country!

Being out of work, trying for work at 42 years old, and not getting replies back, feeling worthless, the desperation of going to the Job Centre, even to the point of getting a Christmas job, delivering the Royal Mail.

I had not had a conviction, only for a driving offence, 21 people got work that year, except me, the man said he couldn’t believe it. I leaned over and said “You don’t think it’s because my father robbed the train in 1963, do you?” He said “No, you have a clean CRB.” Or was it age discrimination?

Looking back, I could have taken them to court, see studying law was not my forte. Eventually my drinking turned into drug taking, and I got in a relationship that was violent, a down hill battle.

I can truly say drink and drugs do take away the time, and pain of issues, that you have to face.
More drinking led to my bills not getting paid, wrong judgement on friends, until, a relationship you thought was okay, turned into a controlling, abusive relationship, with me being cut on my left ear.

I never had him charged, and eventually, I managed to leave. But still not in my right head, got involved with some drug dealers, who I owed money to. To pay them back, I decided to take a chance, with fraud, to get my ticket away from being jobless, it never happened, it was my cry for help.

Nicked, with a tag round my ankle, with a big notice on my door not to go out after 7pm-7am, that was then I knew I had to get myself together…

My mum was not well at all and I was a part-time addict, but was not a red faced old lady with a can in her hand. A decent lunch, tea and coffees proved very helpful.

How on earth does any government expect a jobless person, prison leaver, homeless person or a human being on a very low income, to get back their lives and pay bills, (that’s if their lucky enough to have a roof over their heads)?
But I did have the help of a good probation officer. I did ask questions and showed her I was willing to learn, whilst under her wing, which looking back, I still believe, is not for everyone. The support should start from the Job Centre and Social Security, for those people that are heading the benders of drink and drug issues.

I engaged in support groups, with “Women in Prison” and did a screen writing course, which was very basic but good. I got nothing from a Probation service organization.

Then there was a place in Great Portland Street where the staff were excellent, but I could tell, it was a window dressing course (cheap and cheerful). This is where they all fall down, instead of giving the people the right further education, in progressing forward, most of the courses are just plain, uncredited courses.

However I then went to another place for drama, which was a bit better. What really did help me was a charity that did help ex-offenders with some small investment. They gave me a small notebook for my writing, Malcolm the advisor understood my plight, my age, and issues and knew I had written a book. They asked me what I wanted, I said I want to help others, that I have creative brains, and am interested in singing.

At the time, I was so upset about a girl contestant called Rachel, who entered the X-Factor, and the media leaked it out that she had been a ex-offender.

This was a disgrace! I don’t have to explain, because I know most of you will agree with me, that, society does have to change its attitudes. We are not going to change 60% of ex-offenders, but the 40% who are willing should really have that extra support, within the arts, I mean not just using paint and a paint brush, but music technology – proper courses.

So now I’ve just recorded a song called “Gone on ahead” wrote by an old friend called Billy Brindle, a mature man who grew up without a father. He could not read or write, yet has wrote many good songs.

He found a young blind girl, Hayley aged 14 years, and she ended up on Children In Need on BBC plus then went to the States for the Country and Western, over in Nashville.

As I researched his talent of songs, it came to me that with my other plan, in mind for January next year, I have found a new venture. My plan is for a talent show and I’m willing to take on voluntary workers, or entries and would be available to advise the route to go down on the straight and narrow.

My song has only been up a few weeks and it has 200 hits, so far, on I have been invited to sing for the Amy Winehouse foundation over in Belgium which I’m looking forward to. It’s a fashion show… So things are finally looking up!

You can buy Marilyn’s book, Gangster’s Moll on Amazon, here or to volunteer to work with Marilyn on one of her projects email Also, check out Marilyn’s song on Youtube, here.

Taken from Issue 15

Review: Love Life 6958

Ella G reviews Love Life 6958: Memoirs from the Pen by Chris Syrus

Life is a journey sometimes walked in light, sometimes in the dark. This book invites you on a journey into the heart of a man, Chris Syrus, who through his
talent powerfully and effectively shares with the reader, his experiences of going to and being in prison where he would be known as prisoner LL6958. Truth demands passion. From the very beginning of his narrative, the author passionately expresses his emotions, in “Mothers Cry”. The realisation, that the pain felt when giving birth to him was one that turned to joy – the cry he never heard! In contrast to the cry he heard on the day he was found guilty, a cry of which he says to this day “haunts me”.

In his recollections of everyday prison life, tales such as “The Prison Window” anyone who has ever been in that situation, I’m sure will be able to relate to this. “The Yard”, is an illustration that some things in prison are not so far removed from society; conjuring up scenes which would not, I imagine, be unfamiliar in the playground or equally the House of Commons: trying to fit in, prove yourself or gain people’s respect and approval.

Amidst the tales of 10ss (Cry for the Dead), shame (As a Man), the clock ticking boredom (Confined, Move On) you sense that LL6958 is not a defeatist, he lives in hope, (sometimes misplaced). Let’s Bus Case an example of his optimism. He appreciates the people sticking by him (Keep Loving Your Son, Live for the Living) he understands there are some, who will let him go, and others of who he has to let go (The Visit, 2Pac & Nas). There is a turning point. The broken man ready to heal; beautifully and humbly expressed in The Letter. There is a desire to put things right (The Edge), give something back, be a positive example. There is an excitement about the future, joy in appreciating the simple things which once were taken for granted (Have a Look).

All of this can be found within this precious book of memoirs. I really admired and enjoyed the way in which this book was written, it’s not my usual style of poetry, yet I could relate to and identified with a good few of his poems. Which is why I believe that once you’ve read this book (not if, when) anyone who has experienced prison directly or indirectly and for those who haven’t you cannot help but feel inspired by LL6958 aka Chris Syrus.

Article taken from Issue 13


We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now