It Was the Best of Line, It Was the Worst of Lines – January 31, 2019

edgar allan poe by the terrible designer designer,terrible,edgar,allan,the,poe,by GIF

“True! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

Edgar A. Poe.  “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Damn, that’s good, and at the moment I’m into lines that work, that do the job.  This one surely does that.  We’ve all read the story, right, and do you know why?  Mainly because teenagers are always eager to read for a good case of the heebie-jeebies or, more likely, only if they’re ensured a good case of the heebie-jeebies.  This famous line is as good a guarantee as you’ll get.  I can’t read it without tensing up, can you?  Oh, what is up with this person?  What.  Is.  Up?  Nervous?  Aren’t you feeling a little anxious yourself?  A lot?  If I had two Xanax, I’d give you one.

 

Dave Robicheaux Returns: The New Iberia Blues

Been hanging out in the Delta with my friend Dave Robichaux.  I don’t know how old Dave actually is now (two hundred three or so?), but he’s still kicking butt, breaking hearts and doing his own yardwork at his peaceful Cajun cottage on the bayou.  No matter.  For the creator of this all-time great detective series, I’ll willingly suspend any disbelief.  The man is a writer.  He can tell a story and write up a storm.

You do know James Lee Burke, don’t you?   If you don’t or you think he’s mass market dross ‘cause he’s on every drugstore rack, get over it and get on with it.  If you’re a returning devotee like me, New Iberia Blues is a good place to jump back in.  If you’re a devotee-to-be, start here or anywhere, or, if you want, go back to where it all began with The Neon Rain.  You will, anyway.   Feel the soft bayou breezes through the window screen, fluttering the curtains just before the storm.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I’m Not Here to Give a Speech

As for me, I’d grovel shamelessly before this man’s brain in a jar.  Spend some time with the galactic genius of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in this collection of speeches spanning sixty-three years (1944-2007) and beginning with a speech he gave at seventeen to his graduating class.  Speeches, according to Marquez, are “the most terrifying of human commitments”, and he tells us, “I began to be a writer in the same way I climbed up on this platform, I was coerced.”  But how blessed are we to visit with him once more.  Spend as much time or as little as you want.  Dip in, especially when you need to be reminded that the human race can produce such a one.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group / Vintage via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

My Young Life: A Memoir

Award-winning author Frederic Tuten recounts twenty or so years of his youth (early 1940’s to the 60’s) and does not spare himself.  Reared in the Bronx, he longs for his on-again, off-again father; and, like many (most?), he struggles with agonizing uncertainty while, at the same time, is sure he’s far superior to, well, just about everybody.  Seems he’s not going to be an artist after all, so he gets into and out of college by the skin of his teeth and now desperately wants to write, but you see, his work must be the best anyone has ever seen, must be because….hmm….well, it’s his.  Paralyzing, you know, and always gets in the way of headway.  He tells us, too, openly and in detail, that sex pretty much tops his needs list, and he is in love and lust through a variety of affairs, life consuming chunks.

Along the way, to his good fortune….and credit, Frederic meets so many who see his promise.  They nudge him along and/or back onto his bumpy, twisty path, and we are privileged to meet them as well.  But my favorite and, I think, the most influential character in this young man’s life is New York, the wondrous city itself.  Tuten’s writing is lean, quirky, and rings like a bell, so even though there were times when I wanted to give Fred a good shake and a talking-to, I was engrossed and pulling for him all the way.

Click here to order from Amazon or support your local indie bookstore by clicking here to order.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Dominic Smith’s The Electric Hotel

The title?   Didn’t think it sounded too promising, you know; but I was wrong, so very, very wrong; and it was my good fortune to meet an elderly French gentleman, Claude Ballard, living out his life in a rundown Hollywood hotel.  This is not the electric hotel of the title, but it is the same hotel where, according to this novel, D.W. Griffith died.  Turns out, Mr. Ballard has a history in silent film that predates Griffith, and we go back in time to learn about the earliest days and the simplest of films, moving figures in a stream of light.   Here is a man who films his own sister’s death from tuberculosis as he tries to understand and promote this new medium.  Meet Sabine Montrose, a bold-going stage actress who transitions to film and then into exile after starring in a doomed masterpiece.  And Chip Spalding, teenage Australian daredevil, forerunner of all Hollywood stuntmen to come.  Hal Bender from Brooklyn, where he stays a step ahead of trouble eking out a living with nickel peepshows, to studio head where he struggles to stay…………

Unforgettable.  Lose yourself in layer upon rich layer and a stellar cast of characters.  Read Dominic Smith’s lovely new work, you lucky reader, you.  It is truly a find.

The Electric Hotel is not scheduled for release until June 4, 2019 so put this on your calendar.  Not to be missed!!!

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Sarah Crichton Books via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Bill Whiting’s The Way Back

A crusty senior citizen, who’s been duped by his son and lost everything, runs away from a nursing home to a trailer park by the sea.  On the road he’s adopted by a battle-scarred bull terrier and, once there, becomes fast friends with an elderly Chinese lady who has a cat and dispenses “Chinese” wisdom such as “The Yangtze will never run backward.”  Together they find the way back.  This is a short, Hallmark card kind of book that brings everything round right and neaty-tidy in the end.  To be blunt it is sugary sweet and pretty sappy, but, if you want a “feel good” read, it is what it is.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Troubador Publishing Limited / Matador via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

It Was the Best of Lines, It Was the Worst of Lines – January 25, 2019

FatalYellowishAlabamamapturtle GIF

“My husband brought a date to our divorce.”  —  Swimming for Sunlight       Allie Larkin

In reviewing  Swimming for Sunlight , I mentioned that the first line led me to read this novel, and there you have that line.  Now I’m not putting this opener up as a candidate for the best of lines, but it is darn good and does its job so well.   What I want to praise here is brevity.  It is short, short, short.   We do not need to know that her eyes are swimming with hot, bitter tears and that they are the blue of a sapphire sea.   We do not need to know that her husband wore alligator boots,  stood tall on long, lean legs and that his dark chest hair curled from the open collar of his chambray shirt  as her world crumbled around her.  No, we do not.  Only eight words to get the job done.   We know that this lady is starting over; we know that her husband is a dirty rat bastard; we know this book is not going to take itself too seriously.  Eight short words.

Hey, just “Call me Ishmael.”