Steele, Allen. Arkwright.

NY: Tor, 2016.

I’ve read — or attempted to read — several of Steele’s SF novels in the past, but I’m afraid I haven’t been much impressed. This one got a lot of strong, enthusiastic reviews, though, so I felt obligated to give it a try. And it may be better than his earlier work, but it still seems awfully weak. In fact, it’s barely science fiction.


Lord, Walter. The Good Years.

NY: Harper, 1960.

Lord was one of the best popular historians of the mid-20th century, best known for his classic books on the Titanic and Pearl Harbor. His method was always to go to the original sources, especially the people who participated in, or at least witnessed, events. Behind that would be family correspondence, newspaper accounts, and anything else that was “up close and personal.” I got hold of this book my first year in college, shortly after it was published. I was already hooked on social history and I loved it. A half-century later, it well repays rereading.


Montclare, Brandon & Amy Reeder. Rocket Girl. (Vol. 1)

Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015.

I outgrew superhero comic books decades ago, at least those that just reshuffle the classic clichés and the same tired old cast of characters, but now and then someone comes up with an interesting variation. And this one is certainly original.


Hill, Reginald. Pictures of Perfection.

NY: Delacorte, 1994.

This series about Detective Superintendent “Fat Andy” Dalziel of Mid-Yorkshire CID and his intrepid cohorts, DCI Pascoe and Sgt. Wield, started off a bit slow years ago, but by the time the first dozen volumes had appeared, Hill knew what he was doing and the books were justifiably very popular. Apparently, that encouraged him to experiment a little. This presumed “murder mystery” in fact lacks a murder — though the action opens with what appears to be a massacre in the picturesque and historic village of Enscombe.


Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels.

NY: Random House, 1974.

Shaara had been a professional fiction writer for two decades, and he made a decent living at it, but he never hit the big time until a family vacation visit to the Gettysburg battlefield inspired him to begin researching and writing this book. After he finally finished it seven years later, it took him another two years to sell it. And then it won the Pulitzer Prize. The first time I read it, I was already a history librarian and I knew immediately it was a great piece of work. I know now that it’s not only a great historical novel, it’s very likely the greatest piece of fiction ever written about the American Civil War — not excepting The Red Badge of Courage.


Published in: on 19 January 2017 at 4:14 am  Comments (1)  

Telgemeier, Raina. Drama.

NY: Scholastic, 2012.

I became a fan of this author’s graphic novels with Smile, about the young protagonist’s trials and tribulations following a dental accident. You wouldn’t think there would be much of an interesting story there, but it’s really about various aspects of growing up. My very discriminating adolescent granddaughter (who wears braces) loved it — and also the author’s next book, Sisters.


Waters, Sarah. Tipping the Velvet.

NY: Penguin, 1998.

This was apparently Waters’s first novel and it sort of sets the pace for the five books (so far) that have followed. It’s 1888 and eighteen-year-old Nancy Astley spends her days help her family run its oyster business in Whitstable, down in Kent. Though it’s only an hour or so away by train, none of them have ever visited London, but Nance frequents the Palace music hall in nearby Canterbury and knows all the tunes and the comic turns from the big city.


Pelecanos, George P. Nick’s Trip.

NY: Little, Brown, 1993.

Pelecanos is now considered one of the best crime-adventure writers around, and with good reason. But while his first novel (to which this is the sequel) was pretty good, the second one has major problems.


Published in: on 11 January 2017 at 6:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Robinson, Peter. When the Music’s Over.

NY: Morrow, 2016.

This is the 23rd installment in the professional adventures of DCI Alan Banks of East Yorkshire CID and I’m pleased to see that the series continues as strong as ever. Things change, though, and Banks has recently been promoted to Detective Superintendent, which involves more meetings and much more paperwork than he would like. But he’s not going to let that keep him from getting closely involved in his team’s cases, of which there are two this time.


George, Elizabeth. For the Sake of Elena.

NY: Bantam, 1992.

With the death of P. D. James, George has become the primary writer in English of the “literary mystery.” This fifth book in the lengthy series featuring Detective Inspective Thomas Lynley (who is not only a card-carrying English gentleman but also the Earl of Asherton) and his sidekick, the often belligerently working-class Sergeant Barbara Havers, takes the team to Cambridge University where a young woman, the daughter of a top-level academic. was beaten to death while out jogging one very early, very cold, very foggy November morning.