The Graybar Hotel
In this stunning debut collection, Curtis Dawkins, an MFA graduate and convicted murderer serving life without parole, takes us inside the worlds of prison and prisoners with stories that dazzle with their humor and insight, even as they describe a harsh and barren existence.In Curtis Dawkins’s first short story collection, he offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates. Dawkins reveals the idiosyncrasies, tedium, and desperation of long-term incarceration—he describes men who struggle to keep their souls alive despite the challenges they face. In “A Human Number,” a man spends his days collect-calling strangers just to hear the sounds of the outside world. In “573543,” an inmate recalls his descent into addiction as his prison softball team gears up for an annual tournament against another unit. In “Leche Quemada,” an inmate is released and finds freedom more complex and baffling then he expected. Dawkins’s stories are funny and sad, filled with unforgettable detail—the barter system based on calligraphy-ink tattoos, handmade cards, and cigarettes; a single dandelion smuggled in from the rec yard; candy made from powdered milk, water, sugar, and hot sauce. His characters are nuanced and sympathetic, despite their obvious flaws.The Graybar Hotel tells moving, human stories about men enduring impossible circumstances. Dawkins takes readers beyond the cells into characters’ pasts and memories and desires, into the unusual bonds that form during incarceration and the strained relationships with family members on the outside. He’s an extraordinary writer with a knack for metaphor, and this is a powerful compilation of stories that gives voice to the experience of perhaps the most overlooked members of our society.

The Graybar Hotel Details

TitleThe Graybar Hotel
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJul 4th, 2017
PublisherScribner
ISBN1501162292
ISBN-139781501162299
Number of pages224 pages
Rating
GenreShort Stories, Fiction, Adult Fiction

The Graybar Hotel Review

  • Paromjit
    May 1, 2017
    The Graybar Hotel is a collection of brilliant short stories that draw you into the harsh and demanding world of prison without resorting to the well known tropes of brutality and violence. Curtis Dawkins, the author, is a prison inmate serving life without parole, convicted of murder. He makes no bones about his guilt and holds his hands up to the crime. His experiences and knowledge inform the stories and the characters rendering them authentic. A wide array of characters and experiences are c The Graybar Hotel is a collection of brilliant short stories that draw you into the harsh and demanding world of prison without resorting to the well known tropes of brutality and violence. Curtis Dawkins, the author, is a prison inmate serving life without parole, convicted of murder. He makes no bones about his guilt and holds his hands up to the crime. His experiences and knowledge inform the stories and the characters rendering them authentic. A wide array of characters and experiences are covered, such as a man who shuns social contacts finds himself so trapped by the mindless monotony of prison life that it triggers a change in his personality. He finds himself phoning random numbers, he has no-one else, with the hope of conversations with complete strangers and hearing the everyday noises of the outside world. There are the awkward relationships with family members. We are given insights into the experience of processing, the bartar system and the relationships between prisoners. Then there is the difficulties of adjusting to the world outside and its complexities upon being released.The author writes with intelligence on a subject that most of us have little experience of, an invisible world, and makes prison come alive effortlessly. I found the well written narrative, the challenging environment, and the characters, both gripping and compelling. Dawkins has a real gift for language and dialogue and left me wanting more. A moving collection of stories that I recommend highly. Hope to read more from the author in the future. Thanks to Scribner for an ARC.
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  • Hannah
    June 28, 2017
    This collection of short stories reads more like non fiction - and I mean that in the best possible way. Curtis Dawkins tells stories of prison life - something he is intimately acquainted with as he is serving a life sentence for a robbery gone wrong (that is such a weird phrase by the way, as if a robbery can ever go right). As such he tells stories that feel true and believable while at the same time being well written and polished. Save a few stories that have elements of magical realism, th This collection of short stories reads more like non fiction - and I mean that in the best possible way. Curtis Dawkins tells stories of prison life - something he is intimately acquainted with as he is serving a life sentence for a robbery gone wrong (that is such a weird phrase by the way, as if a robbery can ever go right). As such he tells stories that feel true and believable while at the same time being well written and polished. Save a few stories that have elements of magical realism, the majority of this book gives snapshots of people, situations, moments of life totally different from life outside of prison. There is an underlying sadness here that is always tempered with acceptance that this will be the rest of the protagonists' lives. The characters are all guilty of their crimes and they know it. They have to adapt to the rules of prison life and find whatever solace they can; or even something to do. What struck me most was the sense of total and utter boredom, of days that are much like the days before and the days coming afterwards. Still there is always small change - new bunkmates, new rules, new stories to be listened to. The stories made me so sad. This sense of the inevitablity of live in prison, of wasted opportunities and of stupid decisions, made the collection a very melancholy read for me. I could not divorce the author from his work - his stories were so believable that I could not help but wonder how much of the stories' sadness is his sadness, his regret. A very impressive collection._____I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Scribner in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!
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  • Karen
    May 7, 2017
    THE GRAYBAR HOTEL BY CURTIS DAWKINSThis collection of short stories are as well written as any I have ever read. Curtis Dawkins is a talented writer and I was thoroughly transported into the scary world of losing all of my freedom. For when you are incarcerated you do not have any rights that I take for granted. If a fellow inmate does something erratic or violent the whole prison population gets punished. You are a number. That is it. Reading this collection of stories makes me value my freedom THE GRAYBAR HOTEL BY CURTIS DAWKINSThis collection of short stories are as well written as any I have ever read. Curtis Dawkins is a talented writer and I was thoroughly transported into the scary world of losing all of my freedom. For when you are incarcerated you do not have any rights that I take for granted. If a fellow inmate does something erratic or violent the whole prison population gets punished. You are a number. That is it. Reading this collection of stories makes me value my freedom and leaves me grateful for the simplest pleasures.Curtis Dawkin's proceeds from the sale of his book all go towards an education fund for his children. He admits that he is guilty of committing murder and says he lives with sorrow and despair for the victim and family of the victim but also for his own family. I do not know the details of his crime and I am not a proponent for breaking any laws ever. I do have to give this author credit for excellence in creative writing. Some stories are very short. Some are longer. They all give glimpses behind the curtain of prison where time is all one really has. The author states that there are a lot of liars in prison. He makes reference to a fellow prisoner named Catfish who is serving time for killing his wife. The author states that he doesn't believe that Catfish really committed murder but is covering for his sister.Don't get me wrong---You couldn't pay me enough money in all the world to visit a jail or a prison. I am left shaking just thinking about what it must be like to be any of the characters he writes about. It did open my eyes to all of the massive amount of people who use hard core drugs and make bad decisions to ruin not only one's life but the family they leave behind. The author says that lying or calling somebody a liar in prison could earn you a beating before a guard could intervene opening the cell with a key. That lying is one step up on the ladder from being a snitch.In the acknowledgements Mr. Dawkin's thanks many people for helping to bring his fictional short stories to a published accomplishment. Two writer's that I have read for many years have helped with bringing this book to fruition. My last words are reiterating what I already said that I will be grateful for the smallest hardship that I have to face for freedom and being able to make my own choices. While the subject matter of this book is very unpleasant the stories and the writing is excellent. It is not graphically violent or gratuitous but humane.Thank you to Net Galley, Curtis Dawkin's and Scribner's Publishing for providing me with my digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.Publication Date: July 4, 2017
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  • Theresa Alan
    May 27, 2017
    If you like Orange is the New Black or are interested in the topics of addiction and our damaged prison system or if you just like well-written short stories, you will enjoy this collection authored by a man who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man during a home invasion.As with any short story collection, I liked some stories more than others, but the writing is consistently good. The stories convey the boredom of incarceration, but what I felt most acutely was not being able to get a If you like Orange is the New Black or are interested in the topics of addiction and our damaged prison system or if you just like well-written short stories, you will enjoy this collection authored by a man who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man during a home invasion.As with any short story collection, I liked some stories more than others, but the writing is consistently good. The stories convey the boredom of incarceration, but what I felt most acutely was not being able to get away from the endless mindless chatter of other inmates (such as one character who consistently bored his other inmates with explicit descriptions of his dreams). One of my favorites of the book was titled “Engulfed,” in which the narrator describes the liars in prison as well as the way those of us on the outside lie—to others and to ourselves.I would have expected stories about the fear of being raped, but there wasn’t any of that. There are some stories about the fear of being beaten up over not being able to pay back debts to other prisoners.Some stories are about what becoming an addict is like—what leads someone to begin to steal to support a habit. Others are about the first days of incarceration, others about what it’s like to be inside for many years, another about the challenge of getting out into the world. I read this in two big chunks, which is not the way to read a short story collection. However, taken in smaller reads, these stories show the lives of damaged people inside and outside prison walls. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.For more of my reviews, please visit: http://theresaalan.net/blog
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  • Sofia
    July 2, 2017
    “All people are stories” and Dawkins give us some of these people, these stories, in a manner that grabbed me and kept me riveted and which made me think whilst smiling, being sad, being angry and wishing for a different reality. He sets aside the usual prison macho fare and delves in deeper so touching the how and the why and the consequences.None of the inmates have that likeable trait of being innocent of the crime they are in for. That would have made this an easier read for me. But Dawkin “All people are stories” and Dawkins give us some of these people, these stories, in a manner that grabbed me and kept me riveted and which made me think whilst smiling, being sad, being angry and wishing for a different reality. He sets aside the usual prison macho fare and delves in deeper so touching the how and the why and the consequences.None of the inmates have that likeable trait of being innocent of the crime they are in for. That would have made this an easier read for me. But Dawkins does not take that easier more hypocritical road. Instead his people like him are people who are not innocent. Still they are all people with stories. People who believed that they could be the ones to make it through while walking through the razor wire but the wire wins and they bleed and their victims bleed and the sheer bloody waste of it makes me so sad and angry at the loss of the victims, at the pain and loss of all the families involved and the loss of the inmates themselves.How life sort of stops, no more significant memories being made. So the time inside is spent reliving, repeating pasts memories, an endless cycle of one's glorious and more often than not inglorious moments. Where insignificant details gain undue importance.Disappearing. First they are put away from society, disappearing from our view. And then they also disappear from themselves, from their lives, as the connections that tether them to life are cut one by one. So then we get the story of the prisoner who kept calling people call collect just to hear someone from the outside. Or the story of the inmate who could make up a whole story complete with conversations just by seeing someone on the tv. Or we see Clyde almost feeling like an alien when he is returned to life. A great piece of writing that took me to the place I hope that I never end up in, in real life but still it is better that I know about, because people do end up there. Ok it is easy to say it’s their fault, their mistakes, but a wound on a body affects the whole and we must try and do better. Some sort of responsibility rests on society as well.I would like to read more Dawkins of course.An ARC gently given by the publisher/author via Netgalley in return for a review.
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  • Lissa Pelzer
    January 12, 2017
    First up, this is a collection of short stories written by a current inmate serving life without parole for a murder during a ‘botched’ house robbery. The first thing you notice in this collection is how well it’s written. This isn’t a teenager writing fan fiction, this is someone who knows their craft, and I suppose he should as he has an MFA from Western Michigan University. The setting is mostly Kalamazoo Prison, Michigan, and the narrator seems to be often the same person intersperse with an First up, this is a collection of short stories written by a current inmate serving life without parole for a murder during a ‘botched’ house robbery. The first thing you notice in this collection is how well it’s written. This isn’t a teenager writing fan fiction, this is someone who knows their craft, and I suppose he should as he has an MFA from Western Michigan University. The setting is mostly Kalamazoo Prison, Michigan, and the narrator seems to be often the same person intersperse with an Arthur or a George as he tells us their stories too. He takes us through a wide range of experiences from Processing to spending time in Quarantine before being sent to a prison, to the prison itself. It feels dramatically realistic, but there’s also a smattering of the supernatural too.Where this book really shines is in the glimpses of insights into how an obviously intelligent and educated man mitigates the monotony of life in prison. Early on, ‘I’ tells us he isn’t normally a sociable person, talking for no reason, but in jail, you have to be, as there’s nothing else to do. And I think may of us could imagine this of ourselves (imagine it and shudder). So in order to reconnect with the outside world, he calls random numbers collect (he doesn’t have any personal contacts he can call) in the hope that someone on the other end will talk to him for 15 minutes, or at least let him listen to the traffic noise outside their house or the background TV and this as an idea is mesmerizing. In a nutshell, this book is mesmerizing, like been taken for an experience which I hope I’ll never encounter, but for which I’m grateful for the advice. It reads partly like a diary, partly like a philosophy.However, a couple of factors got in the way of absolute pleasure. First off, there’s the issue of the author. If you want to learn more about him, check out Bullmenfiction. The phrase, “I shot a man dead who had no business being shot” shows up here and this reeks of a lack of genuine remorse. If I went to someone’s house and shot them without any reason, I hope I could muster up a little more emotion than that, but hey. The other issue is the short story format. I wish to high heaven, this were a novel, but alas, I’m guessing Mr, Curtis doesn’t have his own personal MacBookPro in his cell with all his research and files neatly organized in colored folders. And you know what they say, if you don’t want short stories, don’t read them. It’s a free world – for some of us.https://lissapelzer.com/2017/01/12/ma...
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  • Kate Klassa
    March 21, 2017
    I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for review.This collection of short stories written by a current inmate is stunningly well written, and describes the day-to-day flow of life inside prison from perspectives rarely seen in television portrayals. Each story is a moving portrait of the emotional lives of inmates and gives a needed voice to those who have none outside prison walls. The book is very short and each story is so captivating that it's hard not to read it a I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for review.This collection of short stories written by a current inmate is stunningly well written, and describes the day-to-day flow of life inside prison from perspectives rarely seen in television portrayals. Each story is a moving portrait of the emotional lives of inmates and gives a needed voice to those who have none outside prison walls. The book is very short and each story is so captivating that it's hard not to read it all in one sitting.
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  • David V.
    July 2, 2017
    Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started July 2, 2017. Finished 7-6-17. Collection of short stories about prison life written by an inmate who's serving a life sentence for homicide but who also achieved an MFA in fiction writing several years before his crime. Excellent character studies and I wished that some of the stories were longer so I could learn more about these inmates. I guess the author was following the adage, " Always leave them wanting more." I also wondered how much of this Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started July 2, 2017. Finished 7-6-17. Collection of short stories about prison life written by an inmate who's serving a life sentence for homicide but who also achieved an MFA in fiction writing several years before his crime. Excellent character studies and I wished that some of the stories were longer so I could learn more about these inmates. I guess the author was following the adage, " Always leave them wanting more." I also wondered how much of this is autobiographical. Can we, or should we, assume that the "narrator" is indeed Mr. Dawkins? In any event, Mr. Dawkins has a good career ahead of him as a writer even from behind bars. Excellent book title, too.
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  • Wendy Cosin
    June 29, 2017
    Some stories are spectacular, others less so. The uncommon theme about men in prison and the author's unusual background (MFA now serving life prison sentence) make it well worth a read. The writing is very good and the stories important, although a whole book on the subject was a bit much. I received a free copy of this book before publication.More info from NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/02/bo...
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  • Denice Barker
    June 11, 2017
    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. We are told upfront that the author was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. He has three children and a partner who is a professor on the other side of the country. Mr. Dawkins holds a MFW from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. There is no blame throwing, only acceptance for what he did and the price he now pays. We learn this immediately and because of this I took a chance on his book. Th I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. We are told upfront that the author was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. He has three children and a partner who is a professor on the other side of the country. Mr. Dawkins holds a MFW from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. There is no blame throwing, only acceptance for what he did and the price he now pays. We learn this immediately and because of this I took a chance on his book. This collection of stories is stunning. Right from the first story we learn what it feels like to lose our freedoms. Freedom to choose. Freedom to feel air and rain on our face. Freedom to see sunshine and clouds and choose who we associate with and how to dress and what to eat and to stand in a doorway and see a garden before us. Freedom to ride in or drive a car. Free to hold money in our hands. Free to attend to our family. We take so much for granted when we have it. The men in these stories are heartwarming, funny, and sad. In the first story an inmate makes phone calls to strangers at unknown random numbers just to hear what is going on in the background. What’s on television? Are there people talking in the background? Is there dinner on the table that he interrupted? Will the doorbell ring? Who of us thinks of that? But it was this story that had me hooked because of what the author was telling us and how he was speaking to us. He was telling us these men were real people who made a bad decision, made a mistake or perhaps as for some of them, lived their poor choices always. But they were still people with a story. I have no doubt the author is using bits of his own story in the various narrators’. I have no doubt that these are real stories of real men and circumstances in our prisons. You can’t make this stuff up, as the saying goes. This isn’t a daily diary…this is what we do at 8 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., etc. These are the stories of people who use prison tattoos for currency. Of the value of a cigarette when smoking was banned. Of ingenuity in the face of deprivation. Of how to cope when released and the internal courage is takes to not go back. Mr. Dawkins is gifted, polished and yes, he will never be free. But he has his words and he put them out there for us and we would be remiss to not read them.
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  • Carla
    July 4, 2017
    When a book stays with you long after you’ve read the last sentence, you know you’ve found a good one! I read The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins in less than 24 hours and have spend the last 24 hours ruminating on the collection of short stories.We have a maximum security prison that sits just outside of our town; it’s like a city on a hill. On the darkest of nights, you can see the orange glow of the prison lights illuminating the bottom side of the clouds. When you walk into the local stores, When a book stays with you long after you’ve read the last sentence, you know you’ve found a good one! I read The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins in less than 24 hours and have spend the last 24 hours ruminating on the collection of short stories.We have a maximum security prison that sits just outside of our town; it’s like a city on a hill. On the darkest of nights, you can see the orange glow of the prison lights illuminating the bottom side of the clouds. When you walk into the local stores, you are constantly met by men and women in their correctional officer uniforms. The prison is never far from the minds of this town’s .As I watched the fireworks explode over town last night, I thought about the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this country. I was free to sit on a grassy hilltop to enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful explosions of color. I was free to hold my children tight - to watch their faces as the pops of colors changed from red, to white, to blue. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw that orange glow and immediately thought about the men inside that weren’t enjoying these same freedoms. Could they see the fireworks from their small window to the outside world? Or were they too far away? Or were they on the wrong side of the building?My thoughts quickly turned to the stories in The Graybar Hotel. While the stories are a collection of fictional stories, I couldn’t help but think that there’s got to be a lot of truth within those sentences, too. Dawkins humanized his characters and managed to instill a sense of empathy and compassion for the men and women who spend their days and nights behind bars. The reader is introduced to many characters - Mickey, Peanut, Mo - who stitch themselves right onto your heartstrings.The writing is lovely, and I'm looking forward to future writings from Dawkins. At the end of the book, he states that all proceeds from the sales of this book will be put into his children's college funds. There's something I really admire in that - even though he's away, he's doing his best to be supportive of his family (in a good and honorable way too, I might add).Thanks to Net Galley and Scribner for the digital review copy - all opinions are my own.
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  • Laurie Larson-Doornbos
    July 3, 2017
    Graybar Hotel is a series of (sometimes) interrelated stories set in Michigan prisons told by narrators who are intelligent and articulate. And self-aware. The character in "A Human Number" calls random phone numbers just to hear the noises of life on the outside--traffic, TV in the background, a vacuum cleaner running. The character--we can call him Hey it's me because that's the name he inserts for the jail's Tel Link recording--talks a few times to KittyKat, an older man weighing the pros and Graybar Hotel is a series of (sometimes) interrelated stories set in Michigan prisons told by narrators who are intelligent and articulate. And self-aware. The character in "A Human Number" calls random phone numbers just to hear the noises of life on the outside--traffic, TV in the background, a vacuum cleaner running. The character--we can call him Hey it's me because that's the name he inserts for the jail's Tel Link recording--talks a few times to KittyKat, an older man weighing the pros and cons of knee surgery, and Revelation, a woman who reads long passages from the book of Revelation in the Bible. In "Daytime Drama" the story turns on Arthur, a prisoner who wears a blanket superhero style around his neck, and requests a lobotomy when the psychologist comes to do a competency screening: "I'd like it out. You probably don't understand the perils of a torturous brain," he tries to reason with the doctor.  There's naive Mickey (he wore a clown mask to rob a bank) who makes a run for it across the field on a misty day (suicide by prison guard), and Peanut who fakes seizures to get out of his cell, but isn't faking a pregnancy. (That Peanut, a trans male, got through intake with no one recognizing his gender, is mind-boggling.)There's more than one kind of prison, though. Dawkins also gives us the stories of the men's lives before prison where poverty, unemployment, and drug addiction are as constraining as the bars of a cell.Writer Curtis Dawkins has published online while incarcerated and the pieces about Jack Kevorkian, his time in solitary confinement, and ten years of cellmates are well worth reading. I imagine his story will be all over the media (here's a piece from The New York Times) after it's published tomorrow, and rightly so. Dawkins stories in Graybar Hotel are compelling and original, the writing fresh--and not to be missed.
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  • Diane Payne
    July 9, 2017
    As I read these stories, I kept thinking the author's name seemed familiar. Once I got to the Acknowledgements, I saw the school magazine, The Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, where I'm faculty advisor listed in the credits. I wish I hadn't read the notice of how this book earned a six figure advance because knowing that fact seemed to make an impact on how I read some of the stories: Is this a six figure story? Dawkins is in prison for murder, he's a MFA graduate, and the stories take place in pr As I read these stories, I kept thinking the author's name seemed familiar. Once I got to the Acknowledgements, I saw the school magazine, The Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, where I'm faculty advisor listed in the credits. I wish I hadn't read the notice of how this book earned a six figure advance because knowing that fact seemed to make an impact on how I read some of the stories: Is this a six figure story? Dawkins is in prison for murder, he's a MFA graduate, and the stories take place in prison. They're written in first person, yet marketed as fiction. One part of me wondered if the publisher is banking on this collection becoming the next "Orange is the New Black." Regardless. The stories have a merit of their won. Dawkins writes: "For me, fiction is a large part of that present, and I hold on to it like lifeboat drifting daily from the fog." There is much truth in fiction, and I did find myself reading this the way I tend to read creative nonfiction, assuming there's truth here and there. But if it was nonfiction, he wouldn't get that break he seeks in creating fiction. If I were in prison and longing to create fiction, it seems I'd also want a break from writing about prison. But, we tend to write what we know.
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  • Zachary Houle
    June 22, 2017
    There are some entertainers who do dastardly, horrible things. People such as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have done things that may be offensive, and, in Polanski’s case at the very least, that are just plain criminal. But does that mean we have to stop liking their art? Does that mean that their art carries little weight? It’s that kind of question that readers of Curtis Dawkins’ The Graybar Hotel may be asking themselves when they know the author’s backstory — a backstory that the publisher There are some entertainers who do dastardly, horrible things. People such as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have done things that may be offensive, and, in Polanski’s case at the very least, that are just plain criminal. But does that mean we have to stop liking their art? Does that mean that their art carries little weight? It’s that kind of question that readers of Curtis Dawkins’ The Graybar Hotel may be asking themselves when they know the author’s backstory — a backstory that the publisher isn’t backing away from, thankfully.Dawkins is a MFA graduate who was also a chronic alcohol and drug abuser. One night — Halloween 2004 to be precise — he staged a botched home robbery and killed a man. He’s been in Michigan state prisons ever since. His sentence is life, with no hope of ever being paroled. And yet he’s managed to spend the time in jail — and inmates, as it turns out, have a lot of free time in exchange for their freedom — to crank out a series of seemingly interlinked short stories that have been collected in this volume.Read more here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...
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  • Kyle Robertson
    May 16, 2017
    This collection of short stories is quite entertaining. Some stories showcase the life of a different inmate - their past, their struggles, their imaginations, their hopes and dreams. Others simply describe the prison way of life. Curtis Dawkins has a gift for writing descriptive stories that take you inside the prison life, letting you experience the ups and downs without the stigma often associated with it. He has a beautiful style of writing that keeps the stories flowing well. You'll be move This collection of short stories is quite entertaining. Some stories showcase the life of a different inmate - their past, their struggles, their imaginations, their hopes and dreams. Others simply describe the prison way of life. Curtis Dawkins has a gift for writing descriptive stories that take you inside the prison life, letting you experience the ups and downs without the stigma often associated with it. He has a beautiful style of writing that keeps the stories flowing well. You'll be moved by some of the stories, laugh out loud, and other times just wish they would go on a little longer. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys well written short stories, or anyone looking for a different view of life behind bars. I received this as a free ARC from Scribner, Simon & Schuster on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Angel
    May 25, 2017
    I received this book free through one of the First Reads Giveaways. It's a rather easy read with an array of interesting characters. In one hand they seem to come and go so quickly that you're left going "but I want to know why he does that/what happened to him/etc" and on the other each bit of story is perfectly encapsulated in that time. It's more like real life than a story in a book- you don't get the full backstory or the "happy ever after" ending that goes into the future- you just enjoy t I received this book free through one of the First Reads Giveaways. It's a rather easy read with an array of interesting characters. In one hand they seem to come and go so quickly that you're left going "but I want to know why he does that/what happened to him/etc" and on the other each bit of story is perfectly encapsulated in that time. It's more like real life than a story in a book- you don't get the full backstory or the "happy ever after" ending that goes into the future- you just enjoy that short time the lives of the characters intertwined with the life of the narrator.
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  • sarah corbett morgan
    May 17, 2017
    A stunning collection of shorts. Some seem autobiographical, some magical, others just plain brutal. It is better than In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison, more on a par with Cummings',The Enormous Room, reflections from prison. Dawkins has a great voice and his tales kept me glued to page well past my bedtime; I could not put it down. His work deserves a full review and mine will appear on the Internet Review of Books. Five Big Stars.
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  • Gabriel Dedeic
    May 16, 2017
    A collection of short of stories of the lives of people behind the bars. This a world that is terrifying and brutal. I ask this question, were these people brutal animals before they entered the prison system or did the prison system create monsters? I recieved this book as a free give away from Good reads.
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  • Marika
    May 30, 2017
    The GrayBar Hotel might be fiction, but it is the odd beast that reads like narrative nonfiction. The author who is serving a life sentence for murder, writes about the daily grind of prison life. Dawkins, who earned an MFA before he became addicted and committed the murder, is a true storyteller and this is the real Orange is the New Black. I read an advance copy and was not compensated.
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  • Brooke
    May 28, 2017
    I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This is a powerful debut short story collection featuring stories about prisoners by Curtis Hawkins, an MFA grad currently serving a life sentence without parole. The stories are incredibly powerful and Hawkins has a tremendous voice. The writing is superb and the book is extremely readable. Highly recommended.
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  • Courts & Castles Books
    June 21, 2017
    Review on Instagram @courtsandcastlesbooks
  • Adam Di Filippe
    June 24, 2017
    This is a fantastic collection of short stories from a most unlikely author. I highly recommend this one.
  • Kim
    March 12, 2017
    I found myself unable to detach from this collection of short stories only putting the book down to sleep. Each story flowed so naturally into the next making this read like a novel rather than a short story collection. All of the stories are set in prison which accounts for the title The Graybar Hotel Every single story in this book is captivating and beautifully written. Dawkins presents the reader with a strange bunch of intruiging characters. The sense of longing for something plagues each c I found myself unable to detach from this collection of short stories only putting the book down to sleep. Each story flowed so naturally into the next making this read like a novel rather than a short story collection. All of the stories are set in prison which accounts for the title The Graybar Hotel Every single story in this book is captivating and beautifully written. Dawkins presents the reader with a strange bunch of intruiging characters. The sense of longing for something plagues each character. The feeling of longing sticks with the reader long after the final story has ended. The characters may be fictional but the ache is real. Even now hours after finishing the last story I sit here thinking about all of the characters and their fates. That is a sign of great fiction. The characters from this collection have wormed their way into my brain and I have no intention of releasing them. I suppose you could say they are all serving life without parole in my imagination.
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  • Allie Pisarro-grant
    February 16, 2017
    I loved this. Moving, thoughtful, careful stories. A glimpse through bars into life in prison.
  • Ron S
    February 7, 2017
    Debut story collection from an MFA grad serving life without parole. Refreshingly lacking in violence, and reading more like a novel than a collection of stories, Dawkins shows a great facility with dialogue, metaphor, and sentences polished down like water smoothed river rocks.
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  • Ann Welton
    January 14, 2017
    First, thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster publishers for the opportunity to read and enjoy this e-book. This book caught my attention right from the start, and not easy to put down. Most readers like to read about prison life, and this book was a delightful way to accomplish that. Short stories, very quick to get into, and very easy to like. Some quite humorous, some more serious about the life and problems of prisoners. Author Dawkins has been imprisoned since 2005 so is telling thes First, thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster publishers for the opportunity to read and enjoy this e-book. This book caught my attention right from the start, and not easy to put down. Most readers like to read about prison life, and this book was a delightful way to accomplish that. Short stories, very quick to get into, and very easy to like. Some quite humorous, some more serious about the life and problems of prisoners. Author Dawkins has been imprisoned since 2005 so is telling these stories from the front line. I would definitely recommend this book by Dawkins to friends and family.
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  • Kerry Clair
    January 26, 2017
    Good read. Fast moving. Would have liked a little more meat to sink my teeth into. Felt like as soon as a story got started, it was over..but I guess that's the essence of short stories.
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