'White Boy Rick' Memoir Joins In-Development Movie

The memoir about the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the U.S. prison system complements the movie of the same name, which is in preproduction.
David Coates/Detroit News/AP
Rick Wershe

Richard Wershe, who is the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the U.S. prison system, has signed to write a memoir with HarperCollins imprint Dey Street Books. The news follows on the complementary announcement of a movie in development about Wershe. It is a wild tale that also touches on serious issues in the criminal justice system, like the idea of incarcerating a juvenile for life on the basis of non-violent crimes.

White Boy Rick (which was Wershe's drug-dealing nickname) will tell Wershe’s story in 1980s Detroit — the height of the crack epidemic — as he became an undercover police informant as a teen, a youthful drug-dealing prodigy, a 14-year-old FBI informant and then a prisoner with a life sentence when his handlers abandoned him.

Wershe, 47, has been in jail since the late '80s, nearly 30 years, for non-violent crimes he committed as a juvenile. The book will take the story up to the present as Wershe has sought parole. (He even went before the board on Tuesday). Journalist Scott M. Burnstein, who has spent considerable time with Wershe, will co-write the book.

The movie and memoir are separate but complementary projects that have the blessing of each other. The book is Wershe’s chance to tell his story in his own words.

Studio 8 is developing the pic, which has already cast Matthew McConaughey as Wershe’s father, Bruce Dern as his grandfather, Bel Powley as his sister and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane as FBI agents who worked with him.

Jon Silk is overseeing production for Studio 8, with John Lesher, Julie Yorn, Darren Aronofsky and Scott Franklin producing. Yann Demange is directing. The movie is described as a less a crime story than a father-son tale set against the backdrop of poverty and the crack epidemic. 

Jessica Regel at Foundry Literary + Media repped Wershe. Matthew Daddona acquired the book for Dey Street.