A.C. Clayton comes from a good family. His adrenaline for life prompted him to participate in activities that led to the swift acquisition of his “street cred” at an early age.
Clayton’s first trip to jail was for Graffiti. Soon after, he went for murder and was convicted of manslaughter in 1994. He was released in 2007.
Clayton’s debut book Honor Amongst Thieves is his story, and was a work in progress while behind bars until he was released and able to publish it in 2007. His book is a narrative of the experiences he underwent in the streets, and during his incarceration.
The very title, “Honor Amongst Thieves,” begs explanation. Clayton says, “Yes… there is such a thing as honor amongst thieves despite popular belief. A code of conduct and decorum does exist in the street – similar to that of the mafia. There were taboos and rules that gave the streets it’s structure. For example: A stickup kid would never kill a simple civilian; they went after establishments, i.e. banks, liquor stores or other stickup kids. Drug dealers never sold to little kids or (visibly) pregnant women. The crack era eroded the fiber of this code, and created new laws that said anything goes and anybody is fair game, and so the concept of this book is, acknowledgment.”
While incarcerated, Clayton went through a stage in which he reflected on his crimes and became disgusted. He urged fellow inmates to turn their lives around, but due to his notorious reputation, which his peers respected, they were not convinced nor swayed to change their ways.
Clayton began to see people return to prison for different crimes, which prompted him to ponder capitalism. Clayton says, “With capitalism, there is someone who dictates and delegates, and there is someone who is dictated and delegated to. Racially speaking, impoverished minorities have one or two options: They can either face eviction, or they can get into crime to get over, and crime has unfortunately been a consistent option. These people cannot be convinced or lectured to in prison.”
Clayton says, “What do you say to someone, to affect all the others in the street?” In HAT, Clayton created an elderly character, a “lifer” inmate referred to as the “The God” to illustrate the role of the leader and the preacher. Through the wisdom of this character, Clayton re-introduced the concept of honor into the minds of men. He goes on to say, “At the end of the day, everyone is fighting over crumbs – short money. Even more senseless is a recent murder over a two-year-old argument on Myspace. If you’re going to live in the streets, understand there will always be repercussions.”
Clayton reflects on his life of crime and admits never committing a crime against an “honest john.” That would disrupt the code.
During his incarceration, Clayton facilitated the African and Latino History (criminal justice program), and Non-Traditional Approach to Criminal Justice, which dealt with the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos incarcerated in the New York prison system, and investigated what some of the underlying circumstances were.
Clayton also initiated manhood class “Abandoned Nation” – a combination of the two (before-mentioned) classes. One of his brightest pupils was rapper, Saigon, a “wild adolescent responsible for starting a riot at a prison talent show,” says Clayton. In time, Saigon was swayed by Clayton’s influence and in a year’s time, began teaching his own classes.
HAT is a continuation of Clayton’s ministry, designed to make readers reflect and reshape their lives.
Demographically speaking, everyone is reading it, but readers are primarily comprised of the incarcerated, and concerned mothers seeking insight into what may or may not be taking place with their young boys, who are flirting dangerously with the streets.
Clayton’s life since his return from incarceration is a testament to the lessons he learned over the years. Once home, he immediately secured employment as an advertising executive at the Source Magazine, and is currently working with troubled youth with non-profit organization, Cases. Clayton also started Ammenta Publications, a book publishing company dedicated to improving the urban standard of literature.
HAT has been exclusively released through Barnes & Nobles and Borders.
Book two of HAT is, The Center of Gravity, scheduled for release November, 2010. It is sure to be as captivating, suspenseful and full of ironic twists and plots as it’s predecessor.
The code of ethics that Clayton lives by now is, have respect for all life.