Bob Shell: Banned in Boston

Behind the scenes at a porn shoot in LA
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2024


Banned in Boston


I got a Publication Disapproval Notification in my nightly mail here at Pocahontas State Penitentiary. I thought it would be about some magazine that shows a nipple or something, which happens a lot, even though bare breasts are shown now on TV late at night. America is growing up – slowly. But, apparently not the Virginia Department of Corrections.
But no, it’s for my book ban in Boston! They’ve banned ‘Heaven and Hell on the Road to Reno!’ These backward people have said my book violates Operating Procedure 803.2 Incoming Publications, Specific Criteria for Publication Disapproval.
Material that emphasizes explicit or graphic depictions or descriptions of sexual acts
1. Actual sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, or oral) including inanimate object penetration.
2.Secretion or excretion of bodily fluids or substances in the context of sexual activity or arousal.

Yes, the book contains explicit sex scenes. So do many novels. There are dozens in our library here.
My sex scenes are in the context of telling a story, not in isolation, and not as the point of the story. Some were used to emphasize just how evil my villains are. They’re essential to the narrative. This is a detective story with strong erotic components.
The US Supreme Court has held that the work must be judged as a whole, not disapproved just for isolated individual parts.

And they seem to have missed the humor in much of the book.

Effectively, they’re saying my book is obscene. It isn’t, unless the popular Jack Reacher series by Lee Child is, unless the worldwide bestselling series of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books by E. L. James are, unless the worldwide bestselling ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and it’s sequels by Stieg Larsen are, unless many of the books by the late Richard Laymon are, unless most of the books by Wilbur Smith are, unless the books by Stuart Woods are, unless the books by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa are, unless Woody Guthrie’s lone novel is, and I could fill pages with examples, all in our library here, some of which are far more explicit and kinky than anything I’ve written.
Some of these were initially disapproved by the VDOC, but were later approved because of their obvious literary or societal value.

Last August I received a publisher’s proof copy of the book from Amazon without any problems. It was a mess, so I noted the necessary corrections in emails to the publisher. That book was not disapproved.

Forget that the Virginia Constitution says right up front in Article 1 “any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects.” I may be incarcerated, but I am still a citizen! I think ‘all subjects’ includes a detective story with erotic undertones.
It also says those rights “can never be restrained except by despotic governments.”

I recently read an essay by Margaret Atwood, author of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Speaking to the Governor of Florida and his sycophantic minions, she said, “Go ahead and ban my book. That will just insure that many more people read it.”
The sad lesson that censors never seem to learn is that censorship never works. It devours itself and the minds of the censors. Censorship is one of this world’s few genuine evils.

They’ve already admitted to me that I have the right to publish anything I want, just apparently not the right to read it after it’s published!

And to the Virginia Department of Corrections, I say, “Grow up! Sex in its infinite variations is part of the human condition. It always has been, it always will be.”

About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, link here:

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