Books & Fiction

Before Fire, There Was Wood in Roland Ennos’s ‘Age of Wood’

Lee Polevoi

At the same time, wood—in its “original” state as trees—has been adversely affected by global climate change and other environmental factors. This has led to wildfires of unprecedented fury and reach, including the megagires in Australia in 2009 that generated an inferno of hellish proportions, eventually covering more than 100 million acres. What comes across most vividly in this panoramic study of wood is Roland Ennos’s love of the subject.

A Manuscript Containing Disturbing Content Is the Focus of New Sci-Fi Thriller

Christopher Laine

It’s better this way. Put the manuscript down, walk away. You’ll stay happy and stupid, a well-fed moron who doesn’t want to know. The only way you’re going to get to stay safe is if you just don’t know. Don’t dawdle. Go on. Walk away. Go back. Get back on the grid. There’s a good little Chumley. Trust me. You don’t want to know. The batshit accountant told me that, that I didn’t want to know, and you know he was right. I didn’t want to know. I wish I’d listened to him when I had the chance. But no, I had to know for myself, to find out, and that didn’t work out so swell for me. So, learn from my mistake. Take it on the lam.

A Fresh Look at Pre-Camelot Kennedy in Fredrik Logevall’s ‘JFK’

Lee Polevoi

Much of JFK centers on the tumultuous 1930s and the worldwide conflagration following Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Two years earlier, Jack and his friend Lem Billings spent several months on an undergraduate tour of Europe, including a visit to Munich and Nuremburg, where “Nazi fever” was running strong. The trip turned out to represent a pivotal point in the young Kennedy’s views on world affairs. Just as importantly, he began the journey away from his father’s isolationist approach to understanding the need to grapple with the fast-approaching global conflict.

Cold War Blunders Abound in ‘Quiet Americans’

Lee Polevoi

Anderson frames his story with in-depth biographies of four CIA operatives largely unheralded in the annals of American espionage. These men include Edward Lansdale, a larger-than-life advertising executive turned secret agent; Peter Sichel, a German Jew who escaped Nazi Germany and later led key operations in postwar Europe; Michael Burke, an ex-naval officer who guided operations in Albania and Eastern Europe; and Frank Wisner, a crusading spymaster who oversaw many covert missions.

New Thriller ‘Center Stage’ Spotlights Political Scandals and Corruption

Wayne Avrashow

Tyler Sloan arrived after most of the mourners had already been seated, and a standing-room-only crowd had formed. With his arrival unnoticed, he quietly observed his father, Mike, being escorted to his seat. He moved closer to locate a position where he could hold a clear view of the service. With his plainclothes security aide following close behind, Sloan walked past the numerous Nevada and Washington public officials sitting stiffly on folding chairs. As he proceeded, a synchronized nudging of elbows and whispers mounted in his direction.

 

A Look at the Best Books of 2020

Lee Polevoi

The biggest discovery of my reading year was the work of Canadian author Mavis Gallant, who died in 2014. A hundred or more of her short stories appeared in the New Yorker many years ago, and they feel as fresh and insightful as if they’d been written yesterday. Set in Montreal and later in Paris, where Gallant lived most of her life, the stories glitter with wit, hum with fascinating subtext, and abound in a kind of aristocratic luxury that’s no longer with us.

Exploring the Crime of Fire in Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

Lee Polevoi

The Arsonist, a true crime account of Black Saturday, is divided into three sections: “The Detectives,” “The Lawyers,” and “The Courtroom.” Within this structure, Hooper methodically details the efforts of the Victorian Arson Squad to investigate the horrific blaze -- in particular, one fire that broke out in a forestry plantation near the town of Churchill. Investigators quickly determined the fire was deliberately set in this remote location in Australia’s coal country.

In ‘Daddy,’ Emma Cline Delivers Moving Stories of Human Foibles

Lee Polevoi

“If you could just smile a little.”So asks a store manager of a young female employee for a company photo, but the same request might be made of other characters in Emma Cline’s bleak, yet superbly written story collection, Daddy.  In these stories, we meet characters burdened with a history of oblique misdeeds. They share a persistent loneliness, as well as the nagging feeling they may not be cut out for the task of life in any meaningful way. But there’s charm in their ineptness.

Marvel Universe Fans Are In for a Treat With ‘The Wakanda Files’

Ulises Duenas

This is sold as a premium product for the retail price of $60. The big gimmick for the book is an included Kimoyo bead with a UV light inside that’s used to decode notes and messages left by Shuri. The bead itself is made of plastic and can be somewhat difficult to use because of its small size. The light is activated with a small button that has to be held down instead of working on a toggle. It makes reading notes and other messages more of a pain than it should be, but the notes do add a layer of context to what’s on the page. 

Mikhail Gorbachev Warns Us About What Is at Stake

Adam Gravano

Much of Gorbachev's discussion hinges on East-West relations, particularly between Russia and the United States. This is logical, as certain interests of pre-Soviet Russia were taken up by the Soviet Union, and, post-Soviet collapse, these same interests were transferred to the nascent Russian Federation (and carried on to the present).While there is a brief chapter covering both China and India, with a brief discussion of Malaysia included, the discussion borders on the facile.

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