Houston Matters

Novel Challenges Our Notions Of ‘Good Guys’ And ‘Bad Guys’

Death penalty activist David Dow discusses his novel, Confessions of an Innocent Man.

David Dow - Confessions of an Innocent Man - Banner
David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, has written several books about the death penalty, including his first novel, Confessions of an Innocent Man.

David Dow often heard one criticism about his books.

As the founder of Texas Innocence Network, he’s written extensively about his efforts on behalf of death row inmates, including Things I’ve Learned from Dying and The Autobiography of an Execution.

His TED Talk about lessons he’s learned from death row inmates has been viewed more than 3 million times.

He says he often had to change certain factual information in recounting those stories in order to maintain attorney-client confidentiality. And some reviewers – especially journalists – haven’t liked that.

Dow says he’d only alter basic facts that weren’t critical to the greater truth of the story – things that helped mask which case or which client he was discussing. Things he called “fact truths.”

For example, he might change where a person was born or where a crime took place. But other elements – what he called “story truths” that were necessary to understanding the legal issues at stake – remained unchanged.

Confessions of an Innocent Man - BookBut he still heard criticism.

“And I said, ‘I’m just going to write a novel so nobody can complain about these things,'” Dow said.

And that’s exactly what he did.

The result is his debut work of fiction, Confessions of an Innocent Man. It tells the story of a man who’s wrongfully convicted of killing his wife and his quest to deliver justice to those who sent him to prison. 

In the audio above, he tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the story, about the different experience of writing fiction, and about the themes he addresses of what happens when “good guys” do bad things and when “bad guys” do good things.

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Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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