Monday, March 31, 2014

Bookviews -- April 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

If there is no other book you read this year, read Philip K. Howard’s The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government ($23.95, W.W. Norton). If you have been wondering why those elected and appointed to public office do not seem able to do anything more than either pass more laws, add more regulations, or not be able to approve a public project such as a needed new bridge or run a business such as a nursing home without being subject to regulation that is so detailed they cannot provide simple, principled service, this book will explain why. As Howard says, “Government’s ineptitude is not news. But something else has happened in the last few decades. Government is making America inept. Other countries have modern infrastructure, and schools that generally succeed, and better health care at little more than half the cost.” This true is demonstrated in the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—that was 2,700 pages when passed and has now generated regulations that when stacked stand seven foot high. “The U.S. is now ranked below a dozen or more countries in terms of ease of doing businesses and effective governance. These are our competitors in global markets.” Howard calls for a return to our founding values of individual responsibility and accountability. “This requires abandoning the utopian dream of automatic government and giving responsible officials—real people—the authority to make practical choices.” In 1994 Howard authored “The Death of Common Sense: How Law is suffocating America” and he’s back with a look at our present state of stagnation and retreat.

Here, too, is another book you should read if you have concluded that there is no global warming (the Earth has been in a natural cooling cycle since 1997) and that the dangers of climate change are the same ones that have existed for centuries, floods, blizzards, droughts, et cetera. Dr. Tim Ball has been among a number of climatologists and other scientists who have outspokenly resisted and exposed the lies behind the global warming hoax that asserts that carbon dioxide (CO2) is trapping so much heat that all manmade emissions of it must be curtailed. In The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science ($22.95, Stairway Press) Dr. Ball relates how initially he “watched my chosen discipline—climatology—get hijacked and exploited in service of a political agenda, watched people who knew little or nothing enter the fray and watched scientists become involved for political or funding reasons—willing to corrupt the science, or, at least, ignore what was really going on.” The global warming hoax was generated out of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and dates back to the mid to late 1980s. Dr. Ball calls it “the greatest deception in history and the extent of the damage has yet to be exposed and measured.”  I have read dozens of books about the hoax and this one sums up everything you need to know even as the claims and deceptions continue at the highest levels of our government, the United Nations, and the media. This book is detailed, documented, footnoted, and very interesting.

If you want to know what really happened leading up to and in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, you should read Bob Ivry’s The Seven Sins of Wall Street: Big Banks, Their Washington lackeys, and the Next Financial Crisis ($25.99, Public Affairs). Ivry is an editor and investigative reporter for Bloomberg News. The tendency is the think of any book about the business community, particularly banking, is likely to be rather dull, but this one is lively from page one and remains a surprisingly entertaining read even as its revelations scare the daylights out of you. For one thing, it is Joe Taxpayer who now guarantees the success of the top banks in America, all of whom were bailed out, paid back the hasty government loans they received, and then went on to make huge profits as the same banks foreclosed on countless homeowners penalized for the failure of the banks to put the brakes on thousands of “liar’s loans”, bundling and peddling them. As Ivry makes clear, the legacy of the financial crisis in 2008 isn’t stronger banks, but a weaker nation. We normally accord respect for the men at the top of the banking industry. They are often called “titans”, but the reality that Ivry reveals will have you calling them something else and the shenanigans since the crisis. Moreover, Ivry shows how the too-big-to-fail banks and their supporters in Washington, D.C., are getting closer to an even greater economic calamity. Neither they, nor their Washington facilitators in major agencies come off looking good and for good reason.

Living through what many feel is the second Great Depression, anyone who loves history will enjoy Bill Friedman’s All Against the Law ($17.99, $9.99, Old School Histories, hardcover and ebook, available from Based on 47 years of research, it is filled with new information about more than a hundred major critics committed during the Great Depression era by bank robbers, the Mafia, FBI, politicians, along with the misdeeds of police detectives, prosecutors, and judges. Hard times tend to bring out the worst in people, particularly if they are inclined toward crime in the first place. Many from that era became legendary and include John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Alvin Karpis whose partner, Doc Barker, killed lawmen in multiple police escapes. It is also the story of the lawmen that pursued them. The FBI under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover gained fame during this period. Politics during the era is also described where it involved corruption, particularly that of the Kansas Penderast machine. It makes our current times pale by comparison.

Having lived through the beginnings of the atomic age, I think a lot of readers who enjoy history will enjoy Craig Nelson’s The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Age ($29.99, Scribner). The Atomic age began with a past-his-prime German physicist working in his lab and continues to the present day with fears that reflect the failures in Chernobyl and Fukushima, as well as those of terrorists with dirty bombs. It began with discoveries of the nucleus by Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller. Craig brings nuclear energy into a modern context. While atomic energy provides electricity (all of France is powered by it) and includes its use for medical purposes, its invisible rays can trigger cancer. This is, however, the story of the people who discovered it and the issues it evoked. As a bomb it was used to end America’s war in the Pacific, but not used since.

The one thing that I do not review, with the exception of anthologies, is poetry. I grew up reading traditional poetry, the kind that rhymed and had a distinct cadence, but over the years many poets abandoned that form, treading close to prose. One who did it to great success was Maxine Kumin whom I met in the 1970s at an annual Bread Loaf Writers Conference where she was already a star. She had since won a Pulitzer Prize and was a U.S. poet laureate. She passed away in February.  And Short the Season ($24.95, W.W. Norton) is the final collection of her work. Though I still prefer traditional poetry, hers demonstrates how a poet can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. While she will be missed by family, friends, and fans, her great body of work will live on. In contrast, death took Marina Keegan too early, shortly after she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012, but The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories ($23.00, Scribner) gives us the opportunity to enjoy a body of her writings; enough to make us wish that an auto accident had not taken her life. She was just twenty-two. Anyone who loves good writing will enjoy this collection. They reveal a great talent.

Some books are so thoroughly amusing that they stand alone. That describes How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom by Patricia Carlin with photography by Dustin Fenstermacher ($12.95, Quirk Books, softcover) and it is a satire that offers tongue-in-cheek advice on how to turn your cat from just a pet that lays around a lot into your door to a fortune. Carlin purports to tell the reader how to identify their cat’s special talents, choose a stage name, film and edit a viral video, and more. Anyone who loves cats will find themselves laughing on every page while enjoying the many color photos. Also from Quirk Books comes William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back Part the Fifth by Ian Doescher ($14.95) which is a merry reimaging of George Lucas’s classic film. If the film has been an Elizabethan play, this is how it would sound and for anyone who loves the former this is an entertaining way to enjoy it again. Quirk Books has definitely earned its name!

I sometimes ask myself why a particular book was written and why a publisher thought it was worth publishing. This is what came to mind with The Mammoth Book of Shark Attacks by Alex MaCormick and Rod Green ($14.95, Running Press). Going back to 1900 and moving forward to 2013, this is a collection of stories about shark attacks. They have made headlines that reflect our natural horror regarding such events. There surely are readers who will find this of interest and it will be thoroughly sated by this book.

People, People, People

We read about people of every description, selecting those who interest us. Memoirs, biographies and autobiographies are in a class of themselves. Here are some books that have arrived that illustrate a more general approach.
Let’s start with a fun, lighthearted book about what it’s like to be a Hollywood paparazzi and, more specifically, how Jennifer Buhl became one. She writes about that in Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood’s Most Famous ($14.99, Sourcebooks, softcover). She has a lively style and begins by telling of her realization that she could make a lot more as a photographer with one good celebrity photo than she could waiting tables as she was doing the day she witnessed Paris Hilton being protected by her entourage amidst a gang of paparazzi. After that it was a question of learning the business. Along the way she made the acquaintance with many of today’s celebrities. Despite the money and fame, she makes it clear that the downside of celebrity is being hunted by the paparazzi. It’s a lifestyle most of us would not want.

Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues: Incredible True Tales of Mischief and Mayhem is one of those titles that tells you everything you need to know about its subject. Paul Martin ($18.95, Prometheus Books) has brought together stories about folks you may not have heard of, but who played a role in history or literature. Take, for example, the drunken cop who abandoned his post at Ford’s theatre, given assassin John Wilkes Booth access to Lincoln. How about a notorious Kansas quack who made million implanting goat testicles in gullible male patients? Or America’s worst female serial killer ever? Or Ed Gein, Alfred Hitchcock’s inspiration for “Psycho”? Thirty brief biographies offer an entertaining look at some unforgettable characters, especially for anyone who enjoys history.

If you like true crime stories, you will like A Rookie Cop Vs The West Coast Mafia by William G. Palmini, Jr. and Tanya Chalpupa ($24.95. New Horizon Press, softcover) which is just out this month. Palmini was a rookie detective who began a crusade to take down the West Coast Mafia by gaining the confidence of a notorious mob operative, William Floyd Ettleman. When he and his gang, skilled safe crackers, set out to rob a popular Sausalito restaurant, the Trident, a one-time mecca for Hollywood, the music industry, and New York gang members, Palmini determined to bring them to justice. He was joined by the FBI and, with the aid of an informant, they were able to bring put an end to their crime. From the same publisher comes Deadly Vows: The True Story of a Zealous Preacher, a Polygamous Union and a Savage Murder ($24.95) by Leif M. Wright. It is the story of Joy Risker’s gruesome death at the hand of Pentecostal preacher, Sean Goff. He had been the author’s best friend for 16 years, during which time he weaved a tangled web of deceptions, religion and polygamy in his life and marriage to multiple women, one of which was Risker. Rather than losing his youngest wife when she wanted to continue her education and have a career, Goff set about to commit the perfect crime. After killing her, he took the body miles into the Arizonan desert and used knowledge of forensics from television to ensure it could not be identified. That changed when a couple came upon a stack of lava rocks and notices a foul odor. Reported missing in October 2003, Goff would turn himself in and confess. As is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction.

Due out next month, Damien Lewis’s Zero Six Bravo ($26.99, Quercus, an imprint of Random House) tells the story of a British Special Forces Squadron that were accused of running away from the enemy, but the true story of sixty men who, in March 2003, 600 miles behind enemy lines, accomplished the extraordinary, the surrender of the 100,000-strong Iraqi Army 5th Corps. Their mission was so dangerous that it was known as “Operation No Return” and they encountered an ambush by thousands of Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen, backed by the Corps’ heavy armor. M Squadron should not have survived, but their courage got them through and this story will rivet anyone interested in military history. Our military is in our thoughts these days as the Obama administration seeks to reduce its budget to pre-World War Two levels. We honor them for their service and for their sacrifice, but a new book, A Trust Betrayed by Mike Magner ($27.50, Da Capo Press) tells the story of the Marines who were stationed at Camp Lejeune a few decades ago, thousands of whom suffered serious illnesses including lymphoma while their children suffered birth defects as the result of the failure of the Corps to take action when it became clear that the water they were drinking was contaminated. There were miscarriages and babies died. This is an ugly chapter in our history and the book argues for compensation for the victims.

The biography of a gifted baseball pitcher, Bill Denehy, is told in cooperation with Peter Golenbock in Rage ($16.95, Central Recovery Press). He was at the top of his game with the New York Mets until he threw a pitch that changed the course of his life. It was a life shaped by his bad temper that would cost him many opportunities. He had had an injury-plagued career, but would ultimately loose his vision due to injections used to keep him in the game. After that he would descend into addiction, but find recovery. His experience will resonate with athletes, baseball fans and others who struggle with addiction.

A very different story is told in Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics ($25.95, Prometheus Books) by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon. It is the story of two of the boldest and most creative scientists, separated in age by forty years, discovered the existence of the electromagnetic field and devised a radical new theory that overturned the strictly mechanical view of the world that had prevailed since Newton’s time, centuries earlier. It is a lively narrative. Faraday who had no mathematical training rose from being a bookbinder’s apprentice to become director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Maxwell was regarded as one of the most brilliant mathematical physicists of the age. Their theory would join Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and gave rise to many of the technological innovations we take for granted today—from electric power generation to television, satellites, and cell phones, among many others. Anyone with an interest in science will enjoy this excellent book.

Getting Down to Business Books        

Power by Sarah Morgans and Bill Thorness ($19.95, Fenwick Publishing Group, softcover) is the story of how J.D. Power III became the auto industry’s advisor, confessor, and eyewitness to history. His award for consumer satisfaction is highly valued by auto manufacturers. It began when Dave Power founded his company in 1968 to aid auto makers understand the value of listening to consumers’ preferences and complaints. It changed the industry. The book tells the story of Power and those who worked most closely with him. The book is hailed by many industry leaders such as Akio Toyoda and the former chairman and CEO of General Motors, Rick Wagoner.

Success is measured and achieved in different ways and Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret: The Power of a Lot of Little Things Done Well by Pat Williams with Jim Denney ($16.99, Revell, softcover) looks at why Coach Wooden became one of college basketball’s most revered coaches. His years at UCLA are testimony to that with ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including seven in a row, a fear unmatched by any other coach. Pat Williams has more than fifty years of professional sports experience and is the author of dozens of books. He tells how Wooden taught his players every aspect of the game including how to put on their socks and shoes to avoid blisters. When asked, he said that little things matter. Williams takes Coach Wooden’s lesson, along with stories of people whose lives have exemplified the importance of little things one does or doesn’t do that affect one’s integrity, reputation, health, career, faith and success.

Carol Liefer was a successful comedian at a time when television comedy was an exclusive all-boy’s club. Part memoir, part guide to life, and very funny, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying: Lessons from a Life in Comedy ($19.95, Quirk, softcover) is a collection of essays that charts here three-decade journal through show business that provides valuable lessons for women and men in any profession. How good was she? She was an opening act for Frank Sinatra. Leifer is a four-time Emmy nominee for her writing on such shows as Seinfeld, Modern Family, Saturday Night Live, and the Larry Sanders Show. She has starred in five of her own comedy specials. Happily she is still active these days and her book will is both entertaining and instructive.

The Joy of Eating

One of life’s great joys is eating. People love cookbooks and reading about various aspects of dining.

Let’s start with a favorite of everyone, maple syrup. It is the subject of The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup—And One Family’s Quest for the Sweetest Harvest by Douglas Whynott ($24.99, Da Capo Press). Like many I do not give much thought to where the syrup comes from, just that I have a bottle on hand to pour some over pancakes. This book introduces the reader to entrepreneur Bruce Bascom whose family business, Bascom Farms, produces 80,000 gallons of sap a day. Whynott takes us through one tumultuous season as we learn the art of the boil, the myriad subtle flavors of syrup, and the process by which syrup is assigned a grade. You will discover that maple syrup is a multimillion dollar industry, one that contains a black market, was subject to a heist monitored by Homeland Security, and an OPEC-like organization called The Federation—which is fitting since a barrel of maple syrup is worth more than a barrel of oil!

Two other Da Capo books are devoted to food. If you like almonds, you will love Almonds Every Which Way by Brooke McClay ($18.99, softcover). Almonds have become a key ingredient in vegan, Paleo, glutan-free, low-carp, and alternative diets as a substitute for grain flours and dairy. Almonds, we learn, can reduce heart attack risk, lower bad cholesterol, help build strong bones and teeth, and aid in regulating blood sugar and insulin after meals. And I like them because they taste good! McClay takes one on a tour of every meal of the day with more than 150 almond flour, almond milk, and almond butter-based recipes. You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy this book, but if you are one, check out Mayim’s Vegan Table by Mayim Bialik with Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatrician ($21.99, softcover). As she notes, getting kids to eat their vegetables can be tough enough, but getting them to eat an exclusively plant-based diet can seem impossible, especially when you want them to take a pass on cheese pizza, hot dogs, and other popular food items. She provides more than a hundred recipes along with chapters that address the principles of vegan nutrition for growing bodies. If her name sounds familiar it is because Mayim Bialik is an Emmy-nominated actress who stars on The Big Bang Theory. She is also a Ph.D. and trained neuroscientist, and the mother of two sons.


There is no end to books with advice on every imaginable topic. Here are a few that run the gamut.

Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom is by Andrea Brandt, a Ph.D. with more than thirty years of working with individuals, couples, groups, and children, all of whom seeking help with emotional issues that include anger and aggression ($22.95, W.W. Norton). As we know, anger can be especially destructive to one’s relationships and interfere with achieving one’s goals. When expressed as rage or aggression, it can land you in jail. “There isn’t an area of our lives—relationships, careers, health—that wouldn’t improve with the proper handling of our anger,” says the author. A pioneer in the field of anger management, her book is a guide to making the kind of self-assessments and identifying the causes that generate anger and thereby finding ways to reduce and control it. If you know a constantly angry person, this would make a good gift for them.

Another psychological problem that men in particular encounter is borderline personality disorder. It causes them to have extreme difficulty regulating their emotions. Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, has authored Hard to Love: Understanding and overcoming Male Borderline Personality Disorder ($15.95, Central Recovery Press, softcover.) It is due out in May. Interestingly, it is frequently misdiagnosed in men, leading to no treatment or the wrong treatment. This book will

help any man examine if BPD is the problem he is experiencing. Such men are difficult, but not impossible to love says Dr. Robert Doyle, an assistant medical director at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Child and Adolescent Impatient Union. 

For the gals, there’s a delightful, very funny book by Jenny McCarthy, Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth ($13.99, Da Capo Press, softcover). The co-host of “The View”, is also an actress, mother, and a former Playboy playmate. She dishes about prenatal cravings, leg cramps, fainting spells, and all the other experiences that go with becoming a mother with the frankness and humor for which she has become known. And despite the various challenges a woman must engage to give birth, she says “Welcome to the best job you will ever have, mommyhood.” 

Kid Stuff          

Every so often a really outstanding book comes along for younger readers. U.S. history is something every American should read, but it is no secret that our schools are not doing a good job of teaching it. When a book like World War I for Kids comes along, it offers an opportunity that a parent should embrace. Written by R. Kent Rasmussen ($17.95, Chicago Review Press, softcover) it is a comprehensive look at a chapter in American history of which many adults are unaware, but WWI was a major turning point in the last century for Americans and, as we know, it set the stage for WWII that started within twenty years. Americans were reluctant to participate in either and did so when provoked by attacks such as the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 that took the lives of many American passengers. Extensive illustrations enhance an excellent text that tells of how the war stimulated technological development as well as changing the way wars had been fought. It became far more lethal. Younger readers from age 10 and up will find this book an exciting look at the event, the people involved, and the activities it invites them to do. In truth, an adult can read this book with as much enjoyment. The For Kids series also offers World War II for Kids and The Civil War for Kids.

Last month I noted a number of new books from Charlesbridge Publishing and I will continue this month.

Kids get a head start on school if they get to read books that introduce them to the alphabet and numbers.  Teddy Bear Addition by Barbara Bardieri McGrath ($16.95) uses images by Tim Nihoff of teddy bears to entertain and educate at the same time. It’s lively verse takes the reader through the basics while they learn important vocabulary such as sums and digits. Once the basics are acquired, it’s time to move onto learning about fractions and that is made easy and fun in Fractions in Disguise by Edward Einhorn with illustrations by David Clark ($16.95) that features George Cornelius Factor who loves fractions so much he collects them. I take my hat off to authors that understand how young minds can absorb these things through stories and artwork. If read by an adult to a child or those age 4 to 8, these books open doors early in their lives.

I confess I never expected to be reading a children’s book about dung beetles, but then I forgot how almost any creature can capture the imagination of young readers. Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe and illustrated by Alan Marks ($16.95) is for the early reader and one who finds nature of interest. It’s not disgusting, despite what they collect and dine upon, but rather an interesting introduction to the ecology of how everything serves some purpose and how this beetle is a perfect adaptation to take advantage of it.

Three Charlesbridge books provide interesting reading for early readers ages 9 to 12. At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui ($19.95) by Christine Liu Perkins and Sarah S. Brannen tells of how, in December 1971, the tomb of Xin Zhui, the Marchioness of Dai, was discovered. It revealed the almost perfectly preserved body of Lady Dai. The book will transport back to an earlier age in China and the amazing archeology and forensic science that revealed much about her. In Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe and illustrated by John Shelley ($16.95) tells the story of how the genius of Michaelangelo turned a giant block of marble into one of the greatest works of art from a statue others had tried to create, but failed. From Under the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke and illustrated by London Ladd ($16.95) tells the story of how, on the night of May 23, 1861, three slaves made history when they decided to escape across the Confederate line to the Union-held Fort Monroe. Declared “contraband of war” by the Union General, they were allow to stay and as word of their successful escape spread, thousands of runaway slaves followed suit, pouring into the fort and building the first African-American community in the country. It was under the branches of a sheltering tree that they heard one of the first readings of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

From Wigu Publishing comes another in their series “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…” It is devoted to being a firefighter ($12.95) and begins with a boy whose field trip to a local fire station introduces him to the exciting world of firefighting, as well as home fire safety, in a fun and educational book. Upcoming books will include being in the U.S. Navy, a veterinarian, and even a race car driver. Check out the series at

Novels, Novels, Novels

I have no idea how many novels are being published these days, but there are thousands of them. I stick to the established publishing houses with regard to those I recommend though I will occasionally recommend one that is self-published, a trend that is growing. All those noted are softcover editions.

Max Barry has written one of the most curious novels I’ve seen in a long time. Lexicon ($16.00, Penguin Books) It ranges between thrilling, horrifying, and hilarious as a fast, funny, cerebral thriller. Imagine an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, VA where students aren’t taught the usual subjects, but rather the skills of persuasion. Their teachers are a secretive organization of “poets”, elite manipulators of language who can wield words as weapons and bend others to their will. Emily Ruff is running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when this orphan is spotted by the organization’s recruiters. When admitted to the school she becomes its most talented prodigy until she makes a big mistake; she falls in love. There is a subplot that is just as unique, involving rival factions of the “poets.” As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is revealed. I shall say no more! Another novel offers a comparable narrative about a future in which the world’s social order is near collapses and children are abducted for genetic enhancement to become super fighters. In The Devereaux Disaster ($16.95, Two Harbors Press) the son of retired secret-agent Jeremiah Jones has been abducted. Five years have passed and he is determined to rescue him. Soon after his arrival on the Moon, his mission turns sour. He discovered that while Joshua’s body is near perfect, his mind has been poisoned to hate and destroy. With his fellow cadets, they have a mission to attack specific targets on Earth to unite its warring nations. Suffice to say this is a most unusual science fiction novel and one that means Jeremiah can only save the world if his son and fellow cadets are destroyed.

The Catholic church has been in the news for its failure to respond to the problem of priests who abuse children and a novel by Gregory Alexander, The Holy Mark: The Tragedy of a Fallen Priest ($14.99, Mill City Press) takes on this issue as it delves deep into the psyche of a man whose reprehensible acts are perhaps only surpassed by those intent on destroying him. It is a psychologically compelling novel of family, power, and revenge. The author brings insight to the subject having taught English at several Catholic schools in New Orleans. For those who love an old-fashioned mystery, they will welcome news that Johnny Shaw is back. His 2011 novel, “Dove Season” won the Spotted Owel Award for a debut mystery and now he’s returned with Plaster City ($14.95, Thomas & Mercer). Set in California’s Imperial Valley, it’s another raucous caper starring Jimmy Veeder and his best friend Bobby Maves from his earlier novel. Jimmy has settled into a steady life as a farmer and family man, but when Bobby’s teenage daughter goes missing, the two launch their own investigation only to end up in the middle of a violent turf war between a fierce motorcycle gang and a powerful crime lord fighting it out on a desolate strip of desert known as Plaster City. It’s a big-hearted escape that establishes Shaw as a novelist to watch and read.

I love a good title and Six Months of September ($10.00, available from and other outlets) surely qualifies as eye-catching. Mark Allen gives us Duncan Walsh, a former reporter who has struck up a friendship with tour guide Agnes, a beautiful college student working at the Chicago Museum of Natural History. When she disappears he makes national news and Duncan decides to launch his own investigation. With the help of his best friend, Luis, and Agnes’s boyfriend, James, the search is on. James’ father is a Chicago Police Commander, This is already working on the second installment in the Duncan Walsh detective series and you will enjoy going along as he and his friends uncover secrets and discover who is working hard to conceal them in this debut. Allen is a graduate of the University of Illinois in Urban and the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago, so he knows the territory of which he writes. The pace never slackens.

That’s it for April. Come back in May as I can guarantee you that many new books are on the way. And tell your book loving friends, family and co-workers about so they too can learn about many fine books that do not necessarily get the attention they should.