Been a Heavy Life

Stories of Violent Men
Author: Lois Presser
A groundbreaking look at how violent men tell their life stories
Paper – $28
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 09/15/2008
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

In this groundbreaking work, Lois Presser investigates the life stories of men who have perpetrated violence. She applies insights from across the academy to in-depth interviews with men who shared their accounts of how they became the people we most fear--those who rape, murder, assault, and rob, often repeatedly. Been a Heavy Life provides the discipline of criminology with two crucial frameworks: one for critically evaluating the construction of offenders’ own stories, and one for grasping the cultural meta-narratives that legitimize violence. For social scientists generally, this book offers a vivid demonstration of just how dynamic and contingent self-narratives are.

About the Author

Lois Presser is a professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee. Her books include Inside Story: How Narratives Drive Mass Harm.


“A must-read for anyone interested in critical criminology, violent offending, or qualitative methods. . . . Presser provides a unique and fresh new perspective into cultural narratives that legitimate violence.”--Critical Criminology

“Interviews of 27 men convicted of violent crime . . . presented in the context of a mass imprisonment binge, illustrate individual struggles and broader issues related to the politics of criminalization and criminal justice. . . . Highly recommended.”--Choice

This jewel of a book packs quite a wallop."--International Criminal Justice Review."


Been a Heavy Life makes a huge contribution to several different areas of research, including the criminological study of violence and narrative psychology. Presser does researchers across disciplines a great service by wrestling with some of the most daunting methodological and theoretical problems in the intersection of these fields.”--Shadd Maruna, author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives