Book Reviews

Letters from the Pen is the journal from a man who was locked up for five years in a federal penitentiary for crimes he committed. Dale McCurry spent his precious free time behind bars writing in longhand about his life in prison, and how the human condition of  fright, tears, struggle and joy applies to all of us, no matter our circumstance. He lost his marriage, job, freedom, and self-esteem while behind bars.

Yet, McCurry gained insight, saw humor, noticed the purple martins singing above the exercise yard, and managed to keep one eye on the moon. His escape was philosophical rather than physical, and from his sharing personal and profound moments, readers get insight from an insider about what prison life can do to and for a man.

Letters from the Pen was published two years after McCurry's release, a period when he renewed relationships, started writing for a living, and realized life is not about being nice, it's about being good. No matter our circumstance.

Letters From the Pen

Reviewed by Dan Krotz

Letters from the Pen has nothing to do with correctional facilities or the experience of being held in a correctional facility. It is about being held as a prisoner, but the prison can be constructed of anything that ails us. Letters from the Pen is certainly about McCurry particularly, but it is also about people generally, and how they can - or not - make their lives mean something.

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Letters From the Pen

Review by Z Reeder

Letters from the Pen is a thoughtful, funny, painful and touching book, and I enjoyed revisiting your life on the inside without you having to be there again. What a journey. Z Reeder

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Letters From the Pen

Review by Bob Lancaster

From the March 1, 2007 Arkansas Times.

"Letters from the Pen" is a collection of weekly newspaper columns written by an inmate in the federal penitentiary at Forrest City and published by the hebdomadal Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs from 1999 to 2004.

The columns were written over that span by Dale McCurry of Eureka Springs, who was serving a five-year term for a white-collar crime involving business fraud. They were published under a pen name, Curly MacRed, an anagram of his real name, because prison regulations prohibited his using his real name or the names of other prisoners or prison personnel. He also was forbidden to receive any compensation for the work.

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Letters from the Pen

Review by John Lovett

From the March 21, 2007 Hot Springs Sentinel-Record.

A collection of columns Dale McCurry wrote from the inside for the Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs, Letters offers a rather inspiring perspective on life amid an otherwise depressing predicament, partially due to the humor he finds in some of his fellow inmates.

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Letters from the Pen

BY KEVIN KINDER

Northwest Arkansas Times

Curly MacRed was made up, but the prison time was all too real. In December 1999, McCurry was sentenced to eight years in a penitentiary for an illegal money-making scheme. During his incarceration, McCurry wrote "Letters from the Pen," a newspaper column in Eureka Springs' Lovely County Citizen. Having put in his time - four years, seven months and four days, but whose counting ?, McCurry said - the Eureka Springs resident is now a free man. Writing the column stirred a dormant passion in him, and McCurry is now employed full time by the newspaper that carried his column. Although "Letters from the Pen" ended the day he was released from jail, the words live on in the form of a book that shares the column's name. In February, Boian Books, a new Eureka-based publishing house, released 242 of McCurry's letters from prison.

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Dissipated Assets

By Steve Weems, author of soon-to-be published The Pleasure of Displacement

I do not know much about poetry, but there is much here to ponder, and the more I ponder, the more I think I understand. For the most part, the poems in this book are short and simple in structure, and they say a lot with few words. Dissipated Assets is a book I think I will be able to pick up time and time again and discover something new and clever with each reading.

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