Don Noble Reviews...

Don Noble Reviews...

From Alabama Public Radio

Don Noble's specialties are Southern and American literature. His book reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:35am and 4:44pm. Don Noble also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.More from Don Noble Reviews... »

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Fox is Framed

Title: Fox is FramedAuthor: Lachlan SmithPublisher: Grove Atlantic, The Mysterious Press, 2015Pages: 244Price: $24.00 (Hardcover) "Fox is Framed" is the third of Smith's Leo Maxwell mysteries, and a kind of sequel. It is not necessary to have read "Bear Is Broken," winner of the Shamus Award for first P.I. novel, or "Lion Plays Rough," but it would be helpful. In the first, Teddy Maxwell, a powerhouse defense attorney, is shot in the head while having lunch, and his newly-hatched lawyer brother Leo must take over Teddy's cases, including getting their father a new trial. Lawrence, their dad, had been convicted, perhaps wrongly, of killing their mother and was in San Quentin. "Lion Plays Rough" is more of a stand-alone, involving Leo's defense of an accused child molester. In both novels we learn how much police hate defense lawyers, who often reveal police errors and shortcuts. In addition, in "Plays Rough" considerable tension is added by the general hatred of child molesters and

What Stands in a Storm

Title: What Stands in a StormAuthor: Kim CrossForeword by Rick Bragg Publisher: Atria BooksPages: 285Price: $25.00 (Hardcover) After taking the BA and the MA in journalism at the U of A, Kim Cross honed her skills working as editor-at-large at "Southern Living" and writing articles for outdoor and sport magazines such as "Bicycling" and "Runner's World" and several newspapers, including "USA Today." "What Stands in a Storm" is her first book, released March 10th, and it has every chance of being a best seller. Cross's book reminds one of Sebastian Junger's 1997 blockbuster, "The Perfect Storm," in which Junger described to his reader the atmospheric conditions that combined to create the giant nor'easter, and then personalized the meteorology by telling of the fate of the crew of the "Andrea Gail," a long-line swordfish boat out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Cross does a splendid job of educating her readers about tornadoes, the sometimes dangerous myths and life-saving scientific

Lost Capitals of Alabama

Title: Lost Capitals of AlabamaAuthor: Herbert James LewisPublisher: The History PressPages: 158Price: $19.99 (Paper) Montgomery, chosen over competing bids from Tuscaloosa, Wetumpka, Mobile, Marion, Statesville, Selma and Huntsville, has been the state capital since 1846, indeed was the capital of the Confederacy for three months in 1861 before that was moved to Richmond, but it was not always so. Montgomery is our fifth capital; the other four "lost" capitals are the subject of Lewis' brief, informative book. The first of these was St. Stephens, sixty-seven miles north of Mobile, capital of the Alabama Territory from 1817-1819. The inhabitants of St. Stephens were described by Land Commissioner Ephraim Kirby in 1804 as "with few exceptions...illiterate, wild and savage, of depraved morals, unworthy of private confidence and public esteem; litigious, disunited, and knowing each other, universally distrustful of each other." Nevertheless, a capital was constructed and creation of

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League

Title: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks LeagueAuthor: Jonathan OdellPublisher: Maiden Lane PressPages: 462Price: $16.00 (Paperback) This is Jonathan Odell's first and third novel. In 2012 Odell published "The Healing," a novel of black and white, master and slave, set on a Mississippi plantation in 1847. The heroine, Polly Shine, is an herbalist, feared as a witch, and powerful enough to organize the slaves and lead a quiet but devastating insurrection against Master Ben Satterfield and the Big House. Prior to "The Healing" Odell had published, in 2005, "The View from Delphi," with MacAdam Cage Publishers of San Francisco, which went out of business. Revised and retitled "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League," the novel has been re-released by Maiden Lane Press, a new company that recently published Cassandra King's "Moonrise." "Miss Hazel" bears similarities in theme, characters and setting—the beginnings of the civil rights era in Mississippi—to Kathryn Stockett's smash novel, but was

Don Noble Reviews... for 2015-02-23

Title: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, AlabamaAuthor: Hester BassIllustrator: E. B. LewisPublisher: Candlewick PressPages: 28Price: $16.99 (Hardcover) Title: The Cat's PajamasAuthor & Illustrator: Daniel WallacePublisher: Inkshares: Crowdfunded PublishingPages: 28Price: $18.00 (Hardcover) It has not been the custom to discuss picture books or children's books in this space, but these two arrived nearly simultaneously, are so visually elegant in their different ways and so coincidentally linked in theme, that the project became irresistible. "Seeds of Freedom" is the more conventional. Bass and Lewis have collaborated previously, on a children's book/biography, "The Secret World of Walter Anderson," which won awards for both the text and the watercolor illustrations. Bass, who lived in Huntsville for 10 years, has created a story to be read to children: accessible, but not simplistic, inspired, the Author's Note tells us, by a pair of historical markers

West of Sunset

Title: West of SunsetAuthor: Stewart O'NanPublisher: Viking Pages: 289Price: $27.95 (Cloth) What hath Woody wrought? Since the release of "Midnight in Paris" there has been a stream of fictionalizations of the fabled figures of the Roaring Twenties: "The Paris Wife," about Hemingway's wife Hadley, "Z," Zelda's story from her point of view, Lee Smith's "Guests on Earth" with Zelda as mental patient at Highlands Hospital in Asheville, and a half dozen more. Now we have "West of Sunset," Stewart O'Nan's novel of Fitzgerald's last three years in Hollywood, until his death on Saturday, December 21, 1940. O'Nan is an accomplished, professional writer with 14 novels under his belt so the reader can properly assume skillful storytelling and graceful writing. He has the advantage here of a wildly popular, practically no-fail subject. Scott and Zelda are fixed forever in the pop culture pantheon. The public never tires of the stories of their beauty, talent, charm—their rise, wild antics and

Diamonds in the Rough

Title: Diamonds in the RoughAuthor: James Sanders DayPublisher: The University of Alabama PressPages: 300Price: $49.95 (Cloth) The Frontispiece for "Diamonds in the Rough" is a Geological Survey map of the coalfields of Alabama. We are endowed with five: "Plateau" in the north, "Coosa," east-central, "Warrior" in the west and a scattered lignite belt across the south. Finally, tucked between Warrior and Coosa, 67 miles long, in Bibb, Jefferson, St. Clair and Shelby Counties, with the town of Blocton at its center, is the Cahaba Field, the subject of Day's study. James Sanders Day, an historian and administrator at the University of Montevallo, has made a meticulous study of this field—both its industrial and human history. The first third of the book tells the story of the search for coal, from early development of mines, with primitive efforts beginning well before the Civil War, up to the mid-twentieth century. A number of still-familiar names tried their hand through booms and

Better Than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist

Title: Better Than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama RacistAuthor: S. McEachin OttsForward by Gaillard FryePublisher: NewSouth Books Pages: 158Price: $23.95 (Paper) Sixteen years ago Fred Hobson, one of our best commentators on Southern writing, published "But Now I See: The White Southern Racial Conversion Narrative" (1999). He examined in that book the writings of a number of Southerners who had come to recognize and reject their own racism, and then explored their racism and its causes, often in memoirs. The experience was much like the religious conversion experience: emotionally powerful. After all, they felt themselves to be saving their own souls. Hobson wrote about the works of Lillian Smith, Will Campbell, Willie Morris, Larry L. King, Pat Watters and others whose books were published in the '40s through '70s. Now there seems to be a new wave of such memoirs, with the action set mainly during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Recently here I have talked about "Fear and

Driving the King

Title: Driving the KingAuthor: Ravi HowardPublisher: Harper/Collins Pages: 336 pp. Price: $25.99 (Hardcover) A slow and meticulous fiction writer, Howard took years to complete his first novel, "Like Trees Walking" (2007), the fictional retelling of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald in Mobile. But "Trees" brought Howard the Ernest J. Gaines award, was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award and brought him support from the NEA, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Hurston-Wright Foundation and the New Jersey Council on the Arts. (This same subject was examined with great success in nonfiction by B. J. Hollars in "Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America," 2011). "Driving the King" has taken him seven years and I don't doubt it will bring critical acclaim, literary prizes, if not wide readership. It seems lately the best-seller list has little to no room for thoughtful, ruminative prose, and "Driving the King" is literary fiction without apology.

The Meaning of Human Existence

Title: The Meaning of Human Existence"Author: E.O. Wilson Transcript to be added soon.

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