Meet Carter Tomlin. Once, he was a hardworking and successful businessman who was proud to be able to provide for his family. He had a wife, kids, a nice house, a good track on a senior position, and things were great.
But then he lost his job, courtesy of recent harsh economic realities, and his life started coming apart. And that’s because Carter was too proud to declare bankruptcy, and with the severance package money dwindling, and bills coming due, he made a bad decision that changed everything.
He robbed a bank, like a total amateur, and got away with it.
To those of you who care – Happy March Madness! If watching two or three dozen games over the next few weeks isn’t enough, you can always grab a copy of Tom Hagar’s excellent The Ultimate Book of March Madness to read between tip-offs (tips-off?). If you fall on the normal side of the fence, however, and that would just be way too much basketball, here are a few suggestions of a completely different kind:
Devil in the Grove - Gilbert King. One of the paradoxes of reading is how much you can enjoy the experience of a book even though the subject matter may be repulsive and shameful. Mr. King’s book is a meticulously researched and skillfully written account of the Groveland Boys trial in Florida, shortly after World War II. The story, young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow-era South, played out countless times over several decades. What makes this book page-turningly compelling is the size of its heroes and villains.
Young NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall saw this case and a handful of others as opportunities to slowly pick away at the “separate but equal” laws on the books in many states. He and his staff risked their lives on many occasions, in states where the KKK was riding a crest of power and influence. Future Supreme Court Justice Marshall and the men and women who braved the battles with him were true American heroes – driven, daring and passionate. On the other side, I can’t recall in the darkest of fiction a more repellent villain than Sherriff Willis McCall of Lake County, Florida. Both a pawn of the powerful citrus-growers of the era and the standard-bearer of racism to his constituents, there’s no temptation as you read to excuse him as a product of a different time or influenced by his environment. This was a man fully capable of hating anyone not sharing his skin color or beliefs and acting on that hatred without conscience. That he held office until 1972 is a glaring reminder of how slowly change can happen.
A disturbing, yet thrilling read, too true to have a simple happy ending. It would be fair to say we’re still working toward the book’s resolution.
The Art Forger - Barbara Shapiro. Ms. Shapiro takes a true event, the theft of thirteen major works of art from Boston’s Isabella Gardner Museum in 1990, and turns it into a fine left-field mystery novel. You’ll learn more about the world of art forgery, both legal and not, than you ever thought you needed to know; but it’s all part of a compelling romp through the surprise and suspense of a very well told story. It’s pure coincidence that the FBI announced just last week that they had finally indentified the real-life thieves, and were much closer to solving the case after all these years. I can’t help but wonder if Ms. Shapiro’s research for her book played any part.
Breakfast for Dinner - Lindsay Landis & Taylor Hackbarth. I’ve never been one to adhere to the rules of certain-foods-for-certain-times-of-day in the first place. If I want something savory for breakfast or sweet and comforting for dinner, I don’t let the clock make the decision for me. The authors take that idea even further; creating original, unfussy and delicious recipes that bring the ingredients and flavors of breakfast food to the evening meal. The recipe titles alone will give you a great idea of both the author’s playful creativity and why I’ve become so attached to this book – Italian-Style French Toast, Parmesan Beignets, Breakfast Sausage Ravioli, Bacon Fried Rice, Espresso Baked Beans – need I say more?
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I always welcome and appreciate any feedback you may care to offer. Let’s share recommendations – that well never runs dry.
Until next week,
Who the hell is Richard Hell? If you have to ask that question, you haven’t been paying attention.
In the 70′s and early 80′s, Hell (real name Richard Meyers) was the cofounder of three bands: Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He quit both Television and the Heartbreakers due to conflicts with other band members, and then went on to form the Voidoids, where he could actually drive the bus for a change.
While saying that all three outfits were incredibly influential is simply stating the truth, that’s like saying that Beethoven was a great composer, or Shakespeare wrote some pretty nifty plays. It can be argued that, had there been no Richard Hell to help mold and form the early influences of the music that came out of New York City in the mid to late 70′s, the resulting punk explosion simply would not have happened the way that it did, or with as much ferocity, or the same style and esthetics.
Which means that, if you were slamdancing at hardcore shows in the 80′s, had Sex Pistols or Clash posters up on your walls in high school or college, and still sneer at “punk rock” acts that play large stadiums and charge an arm and a leg for tickets, then you have Richard Hell to thank.
And if you close your eyes and make believe, you might just imagine he’s sneering right alongside you — safety-pinned shirt and all.
Junior Bender? He’s a burglar. He’s also a really smart guy — the sort of person that other crooks press-gang into solving their problems when things get a little too cerebral for them to handle. In fact, he just handled a pretty complex and nasty problem for a few fairly nasty people. Maybe you read about it?
Well, no sooner does Junior extricate himself from one set of problems than he gets tied up in another. But this time, it’s a detective who’s trying to pull his strings. It seems his uncle — former music impresario Vinnie DiGaudio — is being accused of killing a scumbag reporter who wouldn’t stop sticking his nose into his business. Unfortunately, the uncle actually did threaten that reporter a couple times, and was planning on killing him, which makes it a little harder to prove he didn’t.
Not an easy matter to handle, but that’s not the only problem with this case. Read more…
When the Revolution erupted in Laos, in the 1970′s, Dr. Siri Paiboun was a grumpy widower with no faith in man, no tolerance for nonsense, and not a whole lot to live for. When the Communists essentially press-ganged him into being the national coroner (all other candidates had fled, or been shot) he wasn’t very happy about it. But when a genuine mystery was placed in front of him, he somehow managed to overcome his situation and solve it, as well awaken a wise but irritating ghost that had been lurking inside of his soul for all those years.
That was quite a few novels ago. In that time, Siri has learned to walk the line between revolutionary appearances and counter-revolutionary mischief — using his position to see that the right thing gets done, and keep ordinary people from being strangled by communist bungling. He’s learned more about the ancient spirit he’s sharing a body with, and has used that connection to solve cases in more than one realm. And he’s also fallen in love, again, and married, and actually looking forward to the future, even if he has to tweak the noses of the revolutionaries to get there.
Of course, that’s about when things get interesting in a deadly sort of way.
Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife has garnered much praise since it was first released last year and is still a customer favorite. Enjoy the charming and enchanting trailer for the book below:
Back in January, we had Young Adult author AE Rought at our 28th St store for her launch party for her new YA novel, Broken, a gothic revival loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We had a fantastic turn out and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Ms. Rought. She was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick interview and we’re pleased to share it with you all today! Enjoy!
Can you tell us about your book?
Broken is one I’ve been calling a gothic revival. They usually call them “retellings”, but I think “revival” sounds a bit more snazzy. It’s based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but very loosely. I took a few threads and wove them into a new tapestry, and gave the book a completely different focus using Emma as the main character.
What inspired you to write it?
It’s kind of awkward. It wasn’t necessarily an inspiration. I didn’t see something, I felt something. It was like a dark little beast inside that I had to write out of me, and the only thing I could find to do it was the gothic retelling because it had the best atmosphere for putting that spooky, heartbreaking, achy kind of feeling to it.
What was the writing process like for Broken?
A little bit of research, some really vicious outlining, and about four months of butt-in-the-chair typing.
What inspired you to be an author?
Best answer is my daddy. I didn’t somebody I thought, “Oh, I want to be like them”. My dad, since I was a kid, was carving something, building something—he was always being creative. I learned from my dad that creativity is a good thing, so I credit my dad with the creativity.
What are three to five things your readers may not know about you?
I’m a really big Emma May fan and most of the fight scenes I write end up having to be scaled back because I use some terminology that most people don’t recognize. Number two is, hmm, I like going places, but I don’t like going places. I like to be there and I like to see things, but I’m not necessarily the road trip kind of girl. I’d be much happier with a Tardis. Three, I collect stuffed animals. I blame that one on my mother because when I was little she used to take my animals away and put them into storage. If I didn’t ask for them back I didn’t get them back, so I grew up with my toys going missing, haha.
Did you have a favorite stuffed animal?
*Please note: This interview is also appears on DJ’s Life in Fiction.*