Books & Fiction

Troubles Plague Appalachia, Past and Present, in Ron Rash’s ‘In the Valley’

Lee Polevoi

The stories in his new collection, In the Valley, are set primarily in Appalachian. They plunge the reader into challenging, sometimes life-threatening situations that often resolve in surprising ways. Stacy, a mentally fragile park ranger, must hold her own against a lawbreaker twice her size in “Flight.” During the last days of the Civil War, a widow named Rebecca is confronted by a gang of violent Confederates, in “Neighbors.” A young man named Brent takes drastic action when a rich client cheats Brent’s blue-collar father out of money owed in “When All Stars Fall.”

Romance, Loyalty, Patriotism Sweep Through Francis O’Neill’s Italian Saga

Francis O'Neill

They crept into Bologna, the first of the cities of the north. There were recruits here too. Very far from the dove-grey university, down a long stark warehouse avenue, they were being marched by military police. There was no band here, no gold and blue officer, no priest. There were women, girls to ancient, a ragged pack of shawls and dirty aprons, shrieking and throwing what came handy, from cabbage stalks to bricks, at the police. Pretty often, the recruits got hit as well.

Hostility, Terror, and Fear Highlight Cameron Ayers’s Debut Horror Novel

Adam Gravano

The action in the book starts innocuously enough with a group of six people taken into the woods by a small tour company, Mystic Tours, for a sort of Native American sweat-lodge-inspired purification ceremony. After the group is abandoned by their putative guide, John Lightfoot, they're left to their own devices in the face of limited food, struggles over what exactly to do, and the lurking perils of both the forest and the human mind.

Greed, Destiny, and Death at Sea Haunt ‘The Glass Hotel’

Lee Polevoi

The Glass Hotel revolves around two events:  the collapse of a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme in 2008 and, years later, a woman falling (or being pushed) from the deck of a container ship at sea. In between swirl a variety of interconnected subplots and a host of living, breathing secondary characters. And, as with Station Eleven, the author enjoys (and is seemingly peerless at) shuffling time and point of view in ways that subtly enrich the text, while never disorienting the reader as to where and what is going on.

Mired in Controversy, ‘American Dirt’ Is a Gripping Story of a Family’s Perilous Journey

Lee Polevoi

Jeanine Cummins’s novel, American Dirt, appeared early in 2020, drawing initial excitement and laudatory reviews. Soon, the book came under attack, with accusations and recriminations revolving around the issue of cultural appropriation. Critics questioned Cummins’s legitimacy and ability to write a novel about a Mexican mother and child on the run from a vicious drug cartel. Protests followed and a host of publicity events and television appearances were canceled.

Acclaimed Attorney Investigates Dangers of a Justice System With No Juries in ‘The Vanishing Trial’

Robert Katzberg

At the time of my first trial, however, “sink or swim” was the reality, and I accepted it unquestioningly. Accordingly, I was assigned a veritable “slam dunk” case involving an undercover drug “buy and bust” with two defendants, the brothers Calvin and Reginald Smith. All I had to do was call the undercover narcotics agent, have him testify to his dealings with the defendants at their meeting in a JFK Airport hotel, introduce into evidence the drugs the defendants had given him, and then call a government chemist to testify that the drugs seized were indeed illegal narcotic substances.

Remembering a 1960s Revolution to Stave Off Political Corruption in New York

Paul Van Buskirk

At Dawson’s federal trial that summer in 1967, Dawson’s wife greeted every person at the courthouse doors like it was a party and she was the hostess. One of the feds’ witnesses, a housing developer, testified that he gave Dawson $1,750 in cash. Shortly afterward, the city installed water and sewer facilities at one of his developments. Dawson actually testified under oath that his word was the law in Cohoes but denied taking any kickbacks.

Award-Winning Writer Portrays a Moving Family Saga in ‘Someone to Watch Over’

William Schreiber

William Schreiber earned the 2019 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association for his novel, Someone to Watch Over. The book was adapted from his original screenplay, which has won or been nominated for many competition awards, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, as well as numerous Best Screenplay awards at film festivals throughout the country.

New Novel Navigates a Grim Personal Journey and Unraveling World

Eric Michael Bovim

My goal was to try not to think. When I was away, I was a good enough father through texts. I would wait to hit send once the wheels left the tarmac. I don’t know why I would procrastinate until a single column of cell signal remained. By the end of the year, though, I was taking seven pills a day just to freeze the frame of my decline. Grief can bleed you into white nothing. Colin soon became symptomatic.

New Book Explores Travails of Producing ‘Chinatown,’ Hollywood’s Greatest Film

Lee Polevoi

Is Chinatown the best American film ever made? It certainly belongs in the top ranks, as many can attest. After its release in 1974, Chinatown garnered nearly a dozen Academy Award nominations, although the only winner was for Best Original Screenplay. Its Los Angeles-noir atmospherics—and its theme of deeply ingrained political corruption—seem as fresh and powerful today, over 40 years later.

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