|About the Book|
I am almost certain that I met Belbenoit around 1950. I recall lying on his bed in his one room cabin (in Lucerne, California?), looking at the exposed rafters, while my parents listened to his stories of Devils Island. Actually, Devils Island is but one of three islands in the Ilses of Health group, and the majority of the prisoners served not on an island but on the mainland. In 1963 a motorcycle accident left me with lots of free time for reading, and I read his book. (Book or books? I have the impression he wrote more than one.) He must have been quite a man to risk years of solitary confinement in total silence to chance an escape, something any reasonable person would deem impossible.Belbenoit is not to be confused with Papillon who may or may not have ever even seen Devils Island. His books smell of fiction from page one. When challenged with discrepencies, Papillons defense was he did not have a typewriter with him while in prison. Belbenoit was there. He did what he said he had done.Later: Wikipedia says that Belbenoit moved to Lucerne Valley in 1951, and that he lived at his store. I was off by at least one year. What I thought was a cabin must have been a back room at his store. I can still see the corrugated aluminum roof. I recall nothing about a store. Give me a break, it was around 57 years ago. He died in 1959, about two months before turning 60 and just after marrying and having a child. Oh, and he had been a technical adviser to the film Passage to Marrseille. Wasnt that with Humphrey Bogart?Still later: Belbenoit wrote Dry Guillotine under the title I Escpaed from Devils Island, and he published a book about the French Criminal (In)Justice System.