On a recent weekday afternoon, Dennis Lehane, the best-selling crime writer, stood in front of 17 imprisoned teenagers, trying to establish his street credentials. He grew up in a violent neighborhood, he told them, Dorchester, in Boston. “One or two made it out of my neighborhood,” he said. “Sixteen other guys went down.” Lehane was on a tour to publicize his new story collection, “Coronado”, and had made an unusual stop: at the Youthful Offender Program at the Orange County Jail in Orlando. The participants had been reading “Coronado” as part of a class called “Literature n' Living,” reports the New York Times.
Most of the boys, ages 14 to 17, had been accused of crimes so serious that they were being tried as adults. Some were awaiting trial, others serving sentences of less than a year. Many of the characters in “Coronado,” are, like the prisoners, young, lost and violent, and the book had been assigned to them by John Richter, the program's coordinator, in an effort to get them to read – anything.