Charles Huckelbury, Author of Distant Thunder

by Alexa Kelly

When Charles Huckelbury was 27 years old, he murdered a man. He paid dearly for that awful crime, spending some 38 years in maximum security prisons before being paroled in 2012. In those four decades, Huckelbury became a new man, a man who embodies the ideals of BleakHouse Publishing. Central to every BleakHouse work is a belief in the inherent humanity of all persons, including those who commit crimes, even the crime of murder. Central to every BleakHouse work is a belief that every life has a story. Huckelbury’s story is that he worked hard to turn his life around in prison. He grew and matured as a person. He found art. He constructed a new life from the pains of confinement and the grace of poetry and art.

Dr. Johnson, Editor and Publisher of BleakHouse with Charles Huckelbury.

Today, Huckelbury is a Senior Consulting Editor for BleakHouse Publishing. During his incarceration, he taught English literature and writing at a community college. He is a contributing writer to the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons and has received four PEN awards for fiction and nonfiction. Huckelbury writes a monthly newsletter for the Prisons Foundation in Washington, D.C., and has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in various online and print periodicals. In life beyond prison, Huckelbury lives in New Hampshire with his wife, Susan, and their two miniature poodles.


BleakHouse released Huckelbury’s poetry collection Distant Thunder in 2012, its substance a string of dualities. He exposes life’s naked contradictions: We are blessed and cursed. We are memory and future. Pain and forgiveness. Huckelbury’s Tales from the Purple Penguin (2008) has been called the work of a “modern day Chaucer.” His poems draw inspiration from unexpected corners and forgotten spaces. All of it beautiful. From real estate salesmen and strippers to addicts and outcasts, no stone of humanity goes unturned in this collection of touching tales.

For his creative work on justice, Huckelbury will receive the Victor Hassine Memorial Scholarship. This award honors the memory of Victor Hassine, who tragically took his life 27 years into his life sentence. Work selected for this award fights ignorance with words. It educates and informs, and it urges others to act. Creative, electric energy charged to serve humanity: That is Hassine. That is Huckelbury. And that is BleakHouse.

Ex-Convict and Students Find Strength Through Art

BleakHouse Publishing is awarding Charles Huckelbury with its Book Award as well as a Victor Hassine Scholarship for his outstanding poetic work Distant Thunder. Huckelbury, who served 38 years in maximum-security prison, uses creative expression to illustrate his reform and discovery of a new life. Read the Press Release »

Annual Meeting of the European Society of Criminology, Bilboa, Spain

Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society (JLS) at American Univeristy and Editor and Publisher of BleakHouse Publishing, along with AU JLS honors student and BleakHouse author Claire Callahan, and AU SPA alum and BleakHouse author Kimberly S. Meyer (MPA 2012), made presentations at the annual meeting of the European Society of Criminology in Bilboa, Spain earlier this month. Johnson’s talk was entitled “Critical Mass: A Poem and Photo Collage on Mass Incarceration,” Callahan read from her short story on violence and justice, “Why the Corrida,” and Meyer presented a paper (co-authored with Johnson and Callahan) on the last words of condemned prisoners. (Picture: Meyer on the left, Johnson center, Callahan right).



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