Tales From The Yard - Review
Tales From The Yard is one of four books by author Robert Booker Sr. It contains three short stories: Life of Darby Payne, McKean The Dream, and Gamesmanship. The first two were set in prison, and the third not. I mention this because the author is himself presently incarcerated. He has written this and his other titles from behind bars. I found myself wondering whether an incarcerated author would bring something extra to a tale set behind bars. And on the flip side, I wondered how he may fare writing a story set beyond the prison fence while he himself was stuck behind it. Robert mentioned in his interview about how his view on the world is through the lens of magazines and whatever he can get his hands on.
Almost as soon as I dived into Tales From The Yard I could tell Robert's familiarity with prison had enhanced his work. He knows the terminology, the routine, the atmosphere. He knows the characters, too. Robert was clearly comfortable writing a story set in this environment and that put me at ease reading it. The talk of counts, lockdown, and many other things felt very genuine. When I came to the story set in the outside world, the fact that Robert wasn't out there writing it didn't seem to have impacted it at all. So, although being an incarcerated author is an interesting fact about Robert Booker Sr., it doesn't define or limit him. Read his interview and you'll hear some of the inventive ways he gets past the challenges of writing from behind bars.
All three stories in Tales From The Yard had a lot of sex in them. Graphic, no holes barred kinda sex. The sort of sex you might expect for characters in a prison, over quickly, and from just about anywhere they could get it.
In comparison to the urban fiction genre, Robert's writing was better than the norm, with fewer errors in things like spelling and grammar. This made for an easier read than similar books in the genre.
Life of Darby Payne was the first and longest of the three stories. Initially, I thought I knew where it was going but that didn't last long. As Lisa went to prison it started to get interesting, and moved quickly. There was a steady stream of characters to keep track of. I admit that once or twice I found myself going back to read a few paragraphs over as I didn't always follow where I was. However, one thing was clear, Robert Booker has plenty of imagination. The number of characters and plot threads demonstrated that. Some tighter, more streamlined editing here probably would have kept me on point and enjoying this to its fullest.
McKean The Dream was the second story, possibly the shortest, but definitely the best. The style felt very different from the first. This story was much tighter. The chapters were much shorter, almost like a James Patterson novel. And this kept the narrative at a steady pace. I read this story in a single sitting. This story centred around an inmate called Copeland. He was making moves and plotting to be sitting on a stack of paper when he got out the joint. Copeland was all up in the business of the corrections officers. He was willing to use them, and use them against each other, for his own gain. Things change when he gets involved with a secretary called Leslie.
The sex in this story was more interesting as it seemed more integral to the development of the plot and relationship between the two main characters. I found the relationship between Copeland and Leslie interesting. Throughout I was never sure if he was playing her, or she him.
One thing was for sure though, Copeland was a man whose game was on fire. He seemed to be making more money on the inside than he could on the outside He had anything he wanted, and was able to have sex with whomever he wanted. At times I didn't want him to have it quite so easy. Sure, I wanted him to beat the system and succeed. But I wanted to see him do that with a little more grit and determination. Against all odds I wanted to see him beat the odds.
Gamesmanship was the third story, set on the outside. It starts off with a white woman struggling to make it home in the midst of a great storm. This immediately interested me. She considers staying at a motel but her son tells her not to. They are talking over the phone and he warns her about the motel being a haven for drugs and prostitutes.
My senses pricked up immediately and I wondered how her son might have such an intimate knowledge of this. Was he involved somehow in shady activities? He guides her to a nearby house belonging to a colleague of his. She's forced to spend the night as the storm isn't letting up. The homeowner is a big strong black man called 'Mack' and you start to wonder who this colleague is. Is the woman in danger? Is he involved in shady activities with her son? It felt like the opening of a movie, with so many possibilities for where the story might go.
The story turns quickly to sex between the two of them. It's pretty full on. More characters get in on that action and 'Mack' lives up to his name. There's more to the story, though, and a deeper plot is brought in with some backstory to it. I liked that deeper layer. I wish there had been more time to slowly flesh out this story and its characters. That way, quite so much wouldn't have had to have been squeezed into such a short space of time.
Verdict on Tales From The Yard
Overall, I found Tales From The Yard to be interesting. I have the feeling Robert has many more stories to tell and I'm be keen to see how that plays out in a full length novel. I'm going to take a look at Who Is Karma and will drop a review on that soon.
I rated Tales From the Yard as three stars.
Be sure to read Kim Carter's exclusive interview with Robert, where he talks to her about writing from behind bars, his inspiration, and his future as an author.
Books from Robert Booker Sr.
Places to find Robert