For Bunker, crime is nurtured in institutional cradles and those who are abused and spiritually mutilated in their earliest youth, whether within the family or the foster home or the reformatory, grow up to become society's bloody marauders. - William Styron

1933- American crime writer and famed ex-convict.

Bunker spent most of his young life in reform schools and a big chunk of his adult life in jail, for a series of robberies and drug offenses. After having his first five novels rejected by the publishing houses, he wrote his first published novel, the semi-autobiographical No Beast So Fierce, while serving time in San Quentin. Beast tells the story of Bunker's most recognizable character, Max Dembo, and depicts the impossibility of an ex-con to survive both inside and outside the justice system, rejected by both society and the authorities, and returning to a life of crime for lack of a viable alternative. By the time the novel was published to great acclaim in 1973, Bunker was again in jail, writing his next novel, the violent prison drama Animal Factory.

Bunker was finally paroled in 1975, in time to adapt Beast for the screen. It was made into the obscure 1978 Dustin Hoffman movie Straight Time, co-starring Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and the young Theresa Russell. Although it failed to garner an audience at the time, Time is now considered as one of the best films of the 1970s and one of Hoffman's best, if little seen, performances.

After the commercial failure of his third published novel, Little Boy Blue (less than 4,000 copies were sold), Bunker retreated to more lucrative work. During the 1980s and 1990s he remained in Hollywood, contributing to several screenplays (frequently uncredited), the most famous being Runaway Train, serving as technical advisor on various productions and playing bit parts, usually in crime movies. In 1992 he played the unfortunate Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, a great admirer of Bunker's writing and particularly of No Beast So Fierce. Animal Factory was made into a movie in 2000, directed by Bunker's Reservoir Dogs co-star Steve Buscemi and starring Willem Dafoe and Edward Furlong.

Also in 2000 Bunker published his first nonfiction book, the memoir Education of a Felon. Although No Beast So Fierce remains Bunker's most famous and popular novel, it has been out of print in the United States since 1993.

Random trivia:

  • Former member of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.
  • At age 17 was the youngest inmate of San Quentin penitentiary up to that time.
  • Collectively spent 25 years in jail during his lifetime.
  • Served as a technical consultant on the set of Michael Mann's Heat. John Voight's character is made to resemble Bunker.
  • Has a seventh grade education and an IQ of 152.

    Major works:
    No Beast So Fierce (1973)
    Animal Factory (1977)
    Little Boy Blue (1980)
    Dog Eat Dog (1996)
    Education of a Felon (2000)

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