An American criminal-turned-crime writer, he is best known for his screenplays for Straight Time (1978), Runaway Train (1985), and Animal Factory (2000). Following his 1975 release from prison, he pursued careers in both writing and acting.
A career criminal, he was convicted of numerous crimes, including armed robbery, drug dealing, and forgery.
At age seventeen, he was the youngest inmate in San Quentin State Prison.
He and his wife Jennifer had a son named Brendan.
He was a close friend of Danny Trejo.