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Penitentiary Tales: A Love Story
Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story recounts the escapades of Dean Davis, a thirty-something, educated, straight white male from the affluent community of Sausalito, in Marin County, California, who is sent to an Illinois prison dominated by a daunting, ethnically diverse population of inmates from the mean streets of Chicago. How does he do his time? What challenges does he meet? Addressing issues of race and gender in America, it is at once a serious inquiry into the minds and hearts of the marginalized and the oppressed and a bit of a romp. Like Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, which celebrates the lives of the disenfranchised during the Great Depression without railing explicitly against social injustice, Luetkemeyer’s audacious new novel sheds light on the daily lives of its characters, and on their humanity no matter how obscured by circumstance. In a moment of sympathy for an inmate doing life without parole, Davis reflects: “From my point of view we were all victims, even the lowest of the low, the most foul, forlorn and forsaken fuckers on the planet: victimized by the lack of a key, by a missing piece, by the absence of a blueprint, an instruction manual, a map of the soul; by too much of one chemical, too little of another.” Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story will appeal to adventurous and intelligent readers of all persuasions who appreciate a literary walk on the wild side.
Reviews
—Dr. John M. Coggeshall, Clemson University

“an insightful and at times darkly disturbing glimpse into an institution rarely entered by most readers…compelling and realistic...filled with vivid character descriptions…[Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story] is a fictionalized account of a pivotal period in the life of the author…through his wit, insight, athletic prowess, bravado, and luck, [protagonist Dean Davis] is able to navigate successfully between racial gangs, the administration, the guards, and otherwise dangerous individuals in order to survive and to thrive… Much like Erving Goffman’s portrayal of total institutions… [Luetkemeyer] reveals a common theme among inmates, and one that I discovered in my own prison research: all incarcerated individuals (and perhaps all of us) operate behind…protective masks, preserving a part of one’s self-identity only for one’s closest intimates”

—Dr. John M. Coggeshall, Clemson University

Kirkus

“Bold prison tales…from the perspective of a white drug dealer serving time in a state penitentiary…with an emphasis on the eccentricities of other inmates… [Luetkemeyer’s] self-assured visceral approach…is unflinchingly abrasive when capturing the realities of prison… readers will appreciate the testosterone-fueled language”                                            

Readers' Favorite--5-Star Review

“Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story…is a cross-examination of social inequalities in race and gender…Dean Davis, an educated white male [is] doing time for dealing marijuana…How a highly literate convict manages to survive makes for a brilliant depiction of how the human spirit can triumph under the most adverse conditions…Luetkemeyer [demonstrates] that love can spring forth…in a setting that hardens criminals but softens our hearts to miracles.”                                  

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