Book Review Archives

  • By Brad Watson
    W. W. Norton, 2016
    $25.95, Hardcover

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    It was 1996 when Brad Watson published Last Days of the Dog-Men, which won the Sue Kaufman Award; 2002 for his novel, The Heaven of Mercury, runner-up for the National Book Award; and 2010 for the story collection Aliens in the Prime of their Lives, a finalist for the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction—an average of seven years between books. William Styron’s books, such as The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, are spaced about the same way. Although this is not how a writer becomes a household name, Watson doesn’t let them go until they are right. There should be more of this. Read the complete review

  • By Carey Link
    Mule on a Ferris Wheel Press, 2016
    $14, Paper

    Reviewed by Harry Moore

    Poetry

    A Fairer House Than Prose

    I dwell in Possibility—
    a fairer House than Prose
    —.

    —Emily Dickinson

    The thirty-eight free-verse lyrics of Carey Link’s Awakening to Holes in the Arc of Sun probe a world of ambiguity, tension, struggle, and pervasive beauty. Beyond all else, the poems affirm and celebrate the transforming power of poetic imagination. Read the complete review

  • By Lee Smith
    Algonquin, 2016
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction/Memoir

    Reviewed by Anita Miller Garner

    Lee Smith published her first novel The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed forty-seven years ago. Since, she has published thirteen novels—more than one making the NYT bestsellers list—and four collections of short fiction. The fifteen concise, artful essays in Dimestore are her first book-length collection of nonfiction, and the glimpses they give us into her life, the writing process, and the American South are in turn artful and funny, poignant and prophetic. Read the complete review

  • By Willie G. Moseley

    The Nautilus Publishing Company, 2015

    $19.95, Paper

    Reviewed by Ed Reynolds

    Nonfiction

    Willie G. Moseley, senior writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine, has recently written an excellent history of Peavey guitars. In Peavey Guitars: The Authorized American History, Moseley presents guitar aficionados with a detailed study of the evolution of the Peavey Electronics Corporation, focusing primarily on the company’s line of guitars and bass instruments. With a background working in his father’s music store in Meridian, Mississippi, in the 1950s (his father did not like electric guitars, instead preferring acoustic instruments) and playing guitar in local combos, Hartley Peavey began his company with an $8,000 loan from his dad after graduating from Mississippi State with a business degree in 1965. Peavey earlier attended Ross Collins Vocational School before entering seventh grade, receiving an age-waiver because his great-uncle—the fellow who invented hydraulic lifts for automobiles though failing to get it patented, thus missing out on a fortune—was an instructor. The kid studied mechanical drawing, radio repair, and how to operate milling machines and lathes. Read the complete review

  • By Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, 2015
    The National Poetry Review Press, 2015
    $17.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Tina Mozelle Braziel

    Reading Lauren Goodwin Slaughter’s a lesson in smallness reminds me of Jane Hirshfield’s statement about poetry: “…true poems, like true love, undo us, and un-island. Contrary, sensual, subversive, they elude our customary allegiance to surface reality, purpose, and will.” The poetry in this lovely debut collection are true poems of this sort. They immerse the reader in stunning water imagery and thrill her with peeks (three poems!) inside the life of the Barefoot Contessa. More significantly, this collection raises essential questions about the nature of our personal lives: Who are we within them? How do we reconcile our expectations for our lives with what we find to be our reality? It is the examination of these questions that reveal Slaughter’s poems to be as emotionally astute as they are beautifully crafted. Read the complete review

  • By Monte Burke, 2015
    Simon & Schuster, 2015
    $27, Hardcover
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Nonfiction

    There is a good case to be made for not writing biographies until the subject is dead. Feelings are inevitably hurt. The subject’s family and friends may learn things they don’t need to know. Coach Nick Saban may not like being the subject of this book, but the question most asked about Saban is “What is he really like and how did he get that way?’’ and Monte Burke’s book makes the best attempt yet to answer the question and in a pretty responsible way. Saban did not authorize this book and sit for hours of interviews, but neither, it seems, did he actively try to squelch it. Read the complete review

  • by TJ Beitelman
    Black Lawrence Press, 2015
    $13.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jim Murphy

    “Why do I love such a city / as this?” asks the observant and bemused speaker of TJ Beitelman’s “Why I Love a City” from the Birmingham author’s just-published second book of poems, Americana. The thought continues: “Do mosquitoes have thumbs? They / should. Where is Carl Sandburg when you / need him? Who are my hog butchers?” Here, and in so many ingenious and surprising places in the volume, Beitelman carefully observes and good-naturedly questions the dreams and realities of Americans and their lore, mindfully engaging all the earnestness and kitsch of the culture in the best traditions of America’s great city poets. Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, Kenneth Koch—and of course, Carl Sandburg—are all present here one way or another, and their collective influence is put to fine use in conversation with Beitelman’s own distinct, contemporary voice. Read the complete review

  • By Rex Burwell
    Livingston Press, 2015
    $17.95, Paper; $30,Hardcover,

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Ed Reynolds

    With a title like Capone, the Cobbs, and Me, (and featuring photos of Al Capone, Ty Cobb, and Cobb’s drop-dead gorgeous wife Charlene on the cover), the reader is intrigued right off the bat. The story told within doesn’t disappoint, either. The “Me” hanging out with Capone, his thugs, and the Cobbs is a Chicago White Sox catcher named Mort Hart who quickly falls in love with Cobb’s wife. Hart is second in hitting percentage in the Roaring ’20s when a knee injury places him on the disabled list. Hart also happens to be the only major leaguer with a law degree. The ballplayer’s life suddenly catapults into spellbinding adventure when Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis needs someone special to investigate Capone’s fixing outcomes of ballgames using Cobb. Read the complete review

  • By Gin Phillips
    The Penguin Press, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
    $16.99, Paper; $10.99 eBook

    Young Adult

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Birmingham writer Kerry Madden is fond of saying, in fiction for young people the writer should run her protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at her. One assumes none of these rocks will hit her in the head and kill her. Gin Phillips follows this pattern. Her heroine, the eleven-year-old Olivia, has just moved with her mom from their home in Charleston, South Carolina, to downtown Birmingham where they moved in with Gram in her condo. Read the complete review

  • By Watt Key;
    Illustrations by Kelan Mercer
    The University of Alabama Press, 2015
    $29.95, Hardcover; $20.65 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Among the Swamp People is a combination of memoir, nature writing and personal essay. Key, raised in Point Clear on Mobile Bay, writes of his nearly life-long fascination with the Mobile-Tensaw Delta at the north end of the bay. This is the Lower Delta, not to be confused with the Upper Delta. The Upper, he tells us, has more high ground and taller trees. The Lower is swamp. If you are thrown from your boat, or capsize—and you might as there are numerous stumps, submerged logs, and boats with no lights—or are lost overnight, “it will be almost impossible not to come across an alligator or, worst of all, a cottonmouth…cottonmouths are aggressive and extremely poisonous snakes. There are thousands of them….” Read the complete review

  • By T.K. Thorne
    Cappuccino Books, 2015
    $22.50, Hardcover; $7.99 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    T.K. Thorne’s last novel, Noah’s Wife, published in 2011, is set in northern Turkey, near the Black Sea in 5500 BCE. The book is the story of Na’amah, a young woman with unusual powers. Thorne has done, once again, a prodigious amount of research in Jewish and Islamic texts. The novel convincingly recreates the dwellings, utensils, food, business practices, and religious beliefs of the age. Although based on a few Bible verses people are familiar with, this tale is fully imagined and takes great liberties with the Bible story. Lot, for example, is not the virtuous fellow Genesis makes him out to be, not at all. Read the complete review

  • By Monique Laney
    Yale University Press, 2015
    $35, Hardcover; eBook, $16.99

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    German Rocketeers was published by Yale University Press. Monique Laney, raised in Tuscaloosa and Germany, is now an assistant professor of history at Auburn and this book was her PhD dissertation at the University of Kansas, but do not be afraid. This book is accessible, clearly written with an easily forgivable amount of jargon, and should be of considerable interest to citizens of Alabama. Read the complete review

  • By Steve Flowers
    NewSouth Books, 2015
    $29.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    There can be few Alabamians better situated to write this book than Steve Flowers. In this political memoir Flowers devotes chapters to the major figures of Alabama politics—elected officials such as Wallace, Folsom, Richard Shelby and powerful forces such as Paul Hubbard and Judge Frank Johnson Jr. —and sketches the story of his own life in politics. Read the complete review

  • By Wade H. Hall
    NewSouth Books, 2015
    $12.95, Paper; $9.99, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    “The Shortest Book in the World” is a venerable genre: Career Management by Charlie Sheen; Secrets to a Successful Marriage by Tiger Woods.

    At eighty-nine pages, Wade Hall’s study of Southern Civil War humor is definitely in this category. Considering that the war was a four-year bloodbath with, sometimes, tens of thousands dying on the same day, it may even be an oxymoron. It wasn’t a naturally funny subject. But there was, of course, humor, and veteran commentator Wade Hall, way back in a section of his doctoral dissertation in 1961, had found and classified that humor and explained its uses for Southern soldiers, civilians on the home front, even the African-American slaves left behind. Now, for the Sesquicentennial, NewSouth has made this available. Read the complete review

  • By James Miller Robinson
    Mule on a Ferris Wheel Press, 2014
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Harry Moore

    The speaker in James Miller Robinson’s chapbook The Caterpillars at Saint Bernard is on a quest. From the naïve hitchhiker in the first poem, who hears as he is stranded on the roadside “the distinguishable voice / of [his] own particular life / whispering its promises / murmuring its warnings,” to the seasoned pilgrim in the last poem bringing home an entire monastery on his back, the poet is looking for something. Read the complete review

  • By Floyd McGowin
    NewSouth Books, 2015
    Price: $27.95, Paper; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Floyd McGowin, of the Chapman, Alabama, McGowins, the owners of the W.T. Smith Lumber Company, was born in 1931 and died in 2010, but this memoir takes his story basically up to 1966. At that time, the W.T. Smith Company was sold and McGowin started the Rocky Creek Logging Company and ran it for forty-two years, covered here in an epilogue of only six pages. The Forest and the Trees is the story of his life, but it is also a social history of the times, including race and class relations, a corporate history, and an informed, extensive commentary on developments in private aviation. Read the complete review

  • By Katherine Clark, with a Foreword by Pat Conroy
    University of South Carolina Press: Story River Books
    $29.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Katherine Clark has, most unusually, even unbelievably, written a quartet of novels set not in exotic Alexandria, as were Lawrence Durrell’s, but in Mountain Brook, Alabama. The first of these, The Headmaster’s Darlings, is just out and is first-rate. Clark, a native of that enclave of privilege, attended the Altamont School, here called the Brook-Haven School (and later Harvard), and was clearly paying close attention. Read the complete review

  • By Dana Gynther
    Gallery Books, 2015
    $16, Paper; $11.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Like many another in the recent craze we can, I think, trace to Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Dana Gynther is fascinated by Paris between the wars. This novel is a biofiction, perhaps to coin a term. The real Lee Miller was a woman of breathtaking beauty. Born in 1907 and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, she was a supermodel for Vogue magazine and photographed by the best in the business. The gorgeous Miller is more than sexually liberated; she is charming, tireless, ambitious, endlessly curious, adventurous, and unfaithful without much conscience. Read the complete review

  • By Pat Mayer
    Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama, 2015
    $30, Hardcover; $17.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    As many will recognize, the title Two Legs Bad comes from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In that parable of revolution, when the livestock take over, they adopt this slogan, referring to their previous masters: humans. The humans in Pat Mayer’s three books of fiction are not all “bad,” but many are incomplete or damaged. Read the complete review

  • By Michael Martone and Bryan Furuness, eds.
    Indiana University Press, 2015
    $17, Paper; $11.81, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    In 1919 Sherwood Anderson published Winesburg, Ohio, a collection of connected stories set in fictional Winesburg, based on the real Clyde, Ohio. Considered a masterpiece, Winesburg inspired a new sub-genre: “The Revolt from the Village.” i>Winesburg, Indiana, is Michael Martone’s 2015 version of Winesburg, Ohio, but with some differences. Martone and co-editor Bryan Furuness asked twenty-eight authors to contribute stories to this collection, which contains forty-one pieces, each in a different voice. This is not a parody of Anderson. It might be considered an updated report on conditions in flyover country, 100 years later. Read the complete review

  • By Carolyn Haines
    St. Martin’s-Minotaur Books, 2015
    $25.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Carolyn Haines’ Bones books have moved now from a mystery series to a mystery serial. When Haines’ last novel, Booty Bones, set on Dauphin Island, concluded, the hurricane passed, the pirate treasure found, the innocent freed, the guilty locked up, Graf Milieu, Sarah Booth’s fiancé, learns he has a long-lost daughter and goes to California to be a dad. The heartbroken Sarah Booth reluctantly attends the fundraiser gala her friend Tinkie has arranged in New Orleans. The novel closes at 10 P.M. on Halloween at a Monteleone-like hotel. The final lines are: “maybe sometime in the future, I would love again.” Bone To Be Wild opens about four hours later, around two a.m., the party in full swing, our heroine in an Armani gown, the band, Bad to the Bone, headed up by the sexy blues singer Scott Hampton, an ex-lover of Sarah Booth. Hampton still yearns for Sarah Booth, but understands she will need time. Jitty, her ghost advisor, suggests “Love the One You’re With.” Read the complete review

  • By Kirk Curnutt
    River City Publishing, 2015
    $26.95, Hardcover; $4.90 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Vance Seagrove, PhD, the hero of Raising Aphrodite, however, is divorced, raising daughter Chloe as a single dad. Deb, Chloe’s mom, skipped out when Chloe was a baby. It is a difficult situation. Seagrove is as conscientious a dad as the world could imagine. He worries; he sacrifices; he communicates. But, alas, the novel opens with these lines: “My daughter, Chloe, celebrated her sixteenth birthday by having sex with her boyfriend.” Read the complete review

  • By Ace Atkins
    G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
    $26.95, Hardcover; $12.99 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    The Redeemers is the fifth Colson novel, and I can tell you with absolute certainty it is a fine beach read. I just read in on the beach at Dauphin Island. But the Colson novels are about more than crime. They really are fictional explorations of contemporary Mississippi life, not exactly Jane Austen, but broader than is usual in crime fiction—more like James Lee Burke. Read the complete review

  • By C.J. Hatch
    Dagger Books, Second Wind Publishers, July 2015
    $12.20, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Gretchen McCullough

    C.J. Hatch’s first novel, Hurricane Ron, a thriller published by Dagger Books, offers insight into the nasty, secret world of motorcycle gangs who recruit soldiers returning from war. Hatch is no stranger himself to war zones. Heavily decorated and widely travelled, Hatch served in Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Sarajevo in Operation Provide Promise as a military journalist. A native of Mobile, Hatch writes about a rural setting he knows well, peppering his novel with a cast of colorful characters. Read the complete review

  • By William Cobb
    The University of Alabama Press, 2015
    $34.94, Hardcover; $34.95 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Kirk Curnutt

    William Cobb’s memoir, Captain Billy’s Troopers, begins with a scene common to many of these narratives. It is July 21, 1984, and the author has hit rock bottom. Knowing he may die if he doesn’t get help, he desperately seeks admittance to Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham, dreading the withdrawal symptoms but also terrified of coping with life’s inevitable disappointments without Scotch to blot the depression. “A drunk grows old alone and dies alone,” Cobb writes, “all alone, because all he wants is his booze and his booze seals him off from everything he values and loves.” In many ways, Captain Billy’s Troopers is the author’s way of reaching out from the abyss of the false romance of the drinking life to understand how alcohol went from a diversion to something that threatened his marriage to fellow writer Loretta Cobb (the couple recently celebrated their fiftieth anniversary) and his relationship with his beautiful daughter, Meredith. Read the complete review

  • By Steve Tomasula
    The University of Alabama Press, 2013
    $22.95, Paper; $19.95 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Carroll Dale Short

    To call the short stories in Tomasula's new collection "non-traditional" is an understatement. With paragraphs and pages randomly set in various typestyles, font colors, margins, interspersed with Web addresses and binary code of zeroes/ones, and with illustrations relevant to each narrative, the effect is a hybrid of conventional storytelling mixed with elements of the graphic novel. Read the complete review

  • By Harper Lee
    HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
    $27.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Nancy Grisham Anderson

    The wait is over. Since the announcement from HarperCollins on 3 February 2015 of a second novel by Harper Lee, anticipation has been building as has the controversy. HarperCollins Senior Vice President described the forthcoming publication as “a remarkable literary event.”

    Immediately after the announcement, concerns about Lee’s health and state of mind were voiced, with anonymous charges of elder and financial abuse brought to the attention of the state. Authorities investigated and dismissed the case, ruling that the author knew exactly what was going on and wanted the book published. Read the complete review

  • By Andrew Glaze
    NewSouth Books, 2015
    $21.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Barry S. Marks

    Can you blame me for approaching Andrew Glaze’s Overheard in a Drugstore: And Other Poems with a sense of trepidation? The latest book by Alabama’s 95-year-old Alabama Poet Laureate opens with a copy of a 1956 letter from no less than Robert Frost and a photograph of Glaze, Frost, Wallace Stegner, and others at the 1946 Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

    As if that is not daunting enough, the first poem, “Mr. Frost,” recounts a meeting between the Great Poet and a 100-year-old man ruminating on the meaning of life and the value of whiskey. Read the complete review

  • By Janice Law
    Eakin Press, 2015
    $19.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Ashley Justice

    Janice Law’s expert penning of American Evita: Lurleen Wallace is a unique look at two women, distanced in both time and geography. Law points out common threads in the lives of Eva Duarte, Argentinean radio actress turned politician and philanthropist, and Lurleen Burroughs Burns Wallace, dime-store clerk turned governor of Alabama.

    Read the complete review

  • By S. McEachin Otts; Foreword by Frye Gaillard
    NewSouth Books
    $23.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    The central event of S. McEachin (Mac) Otts’s Better than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist is a voting rights march to the Hale County Courthouse in Greensboro on July 16, 1965. The march received some coverage, even by the national press, but, after the massive national attention to events in Selma four months earlier, very few people seem to have paid much attention to the Greensboro march. And yet for some people, this march had a far greater direct impact than did the events in Selma. Read the complete review

  • By Ravi Howard
    HarperCollins, 2015
    $25.99, hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    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.

    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.

    Read the complete review

  • By Charles Farley
    The Ardent Writer Press, 2015
    $17.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Huntsville author Charles Farley, retired after a long career as teacher and librarian, is now the author of five books. His biography of singer Bobby “Blue” Bland appeared from the University Press of Mississippi in 2010 and since then he has completed his Secrets of Florida trilogy. His protagonist is old Doc Berber, GP, practicing in Port St. Joe, who finds himself turning detective. Doc Berber solves murders in Secrets of San Blas, 2011, Secrets of St. Vincent, 2012, and Secrets of St. Joe, 2014.

    Farley’s newest novel, The Hotel Monte Sano, is a stand-alone, but again a story of murder and revenge.

    Read the complete review

  • By Frye Gaillard
    NewSouth Books, 2015
    $23.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Michael Thomason

    “The past is never dead, it’s not even past” William Faulkner

    The familiar quote is at the heart of this book. In the South the past lives on in so many ways and is remembered in just as many different ways. The American Civil War is the lynchpin of the region’s history and self-image and its memory runs like a river through the century and a half since it ended in the Spring of 1865. Americans from other parts of this nation often wonder why its memory is so alive here. Historians have written countless books about every aspect of the conflict, but we still struggle to understand it. What did the War mean, after all? Of course there is no single answer to this question, but Journey to the Wilderness offers a thoughtful and compelling response. It is not a big book, but once read its message is impossible to forget.

    Read the complete review

  • By Herbert James Lewis
    The History Press, 2014
    $19.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    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.

    Read the complete review

  • By David T. Morgan

    CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2015
    $12.50, Paper; $2.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    Marcus Aurelius Strong, a widower who has retired after a thirty-year career with the Secret Service, is well-known for his bravery and intelligence, having actually saved the life of a president he was charged with protecting. But now he is bored and looking for something to recapture some of the excitement of his old job and at the same time defend the weak and mistreated victims of evildoers. As it happens, there has been a series of robberies at rest stops on Interstate 95 near his home in Maryland, and none of them has been solved. He determines, as vigilantes are given to do, that law enforcement has higher priorities and thus is not moving fast enough in solving these crimes. Thus he will intervene.

    Read the complete review

  • By Dan Albergotti
    Southern Illinois University Press, 2014
    $15.95, Paper; $15.95, eBook

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Mark Dawson

    It is easy to see why Dan Albergotti’s 45-poem book, Millennial Teeth, won the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, selected by final judge Rodney Jones.
    These poems are ambitious, and broad in theme, and a tour de force in form. In a time when some poetry books are based on delicate epiphanies (or "epuffanies" in some cases), Albergotti’s voice is direct as he explores both inner and outer themes.

    Read the complete review

  • By Marlin Barton
    Hub City Press, 2015
    $16.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Pasture Art is Marlin Barton’s fifth volume of fiction—there have been two novels and two collections of stories—but this book stands a good chance to be his break-out book. The stories are more insightful, more psychologically complex than any of his previous work. As a story writer, he has arrived.

    Like many another Southern fiction writers Barton has his home territory, his own postage stamp of soil which seems to supply him with all the materials he needs. Coincidentally Barton’s patch is the same patch cultivated by the brilliant short story writer Mary Ward Brown—the area around Forkland, Marion, and Demopolis, Alabama—but Brown chose a different slice of the local population. Her people were often professional people, like the judge in “Amaryllis,” or associated with the plantation, the big house, as in the story “New Dresses.” No longer truly wealthy, her white characters are likely members of the local Episcopal church. People of goodwill, not Klan members, they are nevertheless rooted in tradition and distressed by the changes around them, often in the arena of race.

    Read the complete review

  • By Marian Lewis
    University of Alabama Press, 2015
    $39.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Dr. Sue Brannan Walker

    Meet Marian Lewis. Think “sanctuary”: And thank you Marian Lewis! "Sanctuary" is not a word we hear much anymore—not before toast and tea on an ordinary April morning after a week of rain. Perhaps we do not believe that there is such a place—a sanctuary—in our too busy, often too-frenzied world of meetings, assorted appointments, and daily to-do lists: call the Critter Getters; there’s a coon in the attic. But wait! Stop! "Sanctuary" is a word synonymous with "Marian Lewis" – who has just written a gorgeous book titled Southern Sanctuary: A Naturalist’s Walk Through the Seasons published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press. The walk begins in April—but here we are—or rather, here I am at my computer—and I haven’t yet had my cup of tea.

    Read the complete review

  • By Kim Cross; Foreword by Rick Bragg
    Atria Books, 2015
    $25.00, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    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.

    Read the complete review

  • By William J. "Bill" Plott
    McFarland and Company, 2015
    $39.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by William "Bill" Cobb

    This immensely entertaining book fills a void in the story of American baseball. The Negro Southern League was a minor league feeding into the Negro American League and the Negro National League, two “major” African-American leagues that have received—especially in recent years—due documentation, as they provided a richly talented group of players to the Major Leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Read the complete review

  • By Michael Patton and Kevin Cannon
    Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
    $17.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    Formerly regarded as childish and borderline dangerous, comics have undergone a rehabilitation of sorts. Texts such as Art Spiegelman's Maus and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home have made their way into classrooms, where they are taught alongside traditional prose narratives. Even so, the majority of textbooks are dominated by prose, including only the images that are absolutely necessary to illustrate concepts. Although graphic narrative is gradually being recognized as a medium capable of producing mature, serious work, prose is still the go-to means of communicating information. With that in mind, Michael Patton and Kevin Cannon's book The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy is something of an oddity. Read the complete review

  • By Suzanne Hudson
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $16, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Suzanne Hudson is the author of three novels, In a Temple of Trees, In the Dark of the Moon, and Second Sluthood, but her career was launched when judges, including Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., chose the story “LaPrade” as the winner of the 1976 Penthouse fiction contest. She has published stories regularly ever since, with one previous collection, Opposable Thumbs. This volume, All the Way to Memphis, contains nine stories previously published and one brand-new, “The Good Sister.” Some of these tales are hilarious, if bizarre. Read the complete review

  • By Rick Bragg
    HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
    $27.99, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by
    Don Noble

    Over two summers, Rick Bragg sat by Jerry Lee Lewis’ bed, where Lewis, in his late seventies, was mostly immobile, in pain, suffering from shingles, systemic infections, pneumonia, a compound fracture of the leg that wouldn’t heal, and crippling arthritis, tended to by his seventh wife, Judith. After a lifetime of alcohol, barbiturates, amphetamines, and thousands of one-night stands with his band and strange women, it was a wonder he was alive at all, but The Killer, a nickname earned in the sixth grade, his last year of schooling, was surviving and unrepentant. Read the complete review

  • By Jesmyn Ward
    Bloomsbury, 2014
    $26, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Jesmyn Ward’s first novel, Where the Line Bleeds (2008), is the story of twin brothers. Her second, Salvage the Bones (2011), published while she was teaching at the University of South Alabama, won the National Book Award even though it had just been released, there had been no reviews, and the reading public had barely seen it. The judges were rightly amazed. Candid, but in lyrical imagery, Bones captures the life of a poor black family as Hurricane Katrina looms, then strikes. Now we have this painful, raw memoir, and it is not the story of literary and financial success, the rising out of difficult circumstances, that one expected. Read the complete review

  • By Fannie Flagg
    Random House, 2014
    $15, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion is Harper Lee Award recipient Fannie Flagg’s ninth novel and her fans are going to love it. Descriptions of this novel by reviewers and by Flagg’s friends Mark Childress, Pat Conroy, and Carol Burnett include “funny,” “quirky,” “charming,” “kind,” “entertaining,” “page-turner,” “sunny,” “witty,” “warm-hearted,” and, of course, “heartwarming.” And it’s true. This novel is a confection, cotton candy. It is highly readable and enjoyable. To complain about a lack of gravitas would be churlish. Read the complete review

  • By Tim Parrish
    Texas Review Press, 2013
    $26.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Raised in blue-collar Baton Rouge, after LSU and an MFA in fiction writing at Alabama, Tim Parrish has had his teaching career at Southern Connecticut State University. But in his writing, Parrish has never left the neighborhood in Baton Rouge where he was raised. Through three books in three genres he has returned to this seething, rather toxic place. Red Stick Men, his volume of stories, tells of his childhood and adolescence in the 1960s. Recently, his memoir, Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, recalls the anger and frustration among lower middle class whites as the civil rights movement gained power and teenage boys were inspired to violence by the rhetoric of resistance. With The Jumper, winner of the George Garrett Fiction Prize, Parrish has returned again to the same few blocks of run-down, sad little wooden houses at the edge of the industrial “park.” Read the complete review

  • By Edward O. Wilson
    Liveright Publishing Company, a division of W. W. Norton & Co., 2014
    $23.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    What writer/thinker would have the expertise, the wisdom, the confidence, and the courage to write a book titled The Meaning of Human Existence? The subject is infinite and eternal, not to mention wildly controversial. Luckily, there is such a person: E. O. Wilson, Harvard Professor of Biology Emeritus, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author of over twenty books, inventor, one might say, of sociobiology, expert on ants and superorganisms of all kinds, premier ecologist, and, one could argue, the Francis Bacon, the Charles Darwin, of our time. Read the complete review

  • By Robert Bailey, 2014
    Exhibit A, 2014
    $14.99, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Robert Bailey, in practice as a civil defense trial lawyer in Huntsville for the past thirteen years, has now joined the legion of Alabama attorneys to try their hand at fiction. And it’s not a bad start at all. The Professor has believable, interesting characters and, most importantly, pace. Set in Tuscaloosa, at the UA Law School, with references to the City Café in Northport, in Faunsdale at the crawfish festival, on Route 82 halfway between Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, and with Alabama demi-gods as supporting cast, The Professor is rich, even over the top, in its desire to please an Alabama readership. Read the complete review

  • By Harry Moore
    Mule on a Ferris Wheel Press, 2014
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Penne J. Laubenthal

    Time's Fool, Harry Moore's second chapbook, consists of twenty-four beautifully crafted poems that are both confessional and conversational. As a poet and a scholar, Moore acknowledges his literary predecessors, among them John Donne whose life has much in common with Moore’s own. Moore pays homage in his dedication, as well as in the title of his collection, to Shakespeare, the book of Psalms, and to his wife Cassandra, their children, and grandchildren. Grippingly honest and deeply moving, the poems in Time's Fool are by no means dark. They are celebratory and full of light, held together by hope, joy, faith, and always by love which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Read the complete review

  • By James Pittman Jr., MD
    NewSouth Books, 2014
    $45, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Irene Wong

    As the mother of two children who became medical doctors, I have often wondered how both siblings from our long family line (on both sides) of humanities teachers instead chose medicine for their career. As they made their way through elementary, junior high, and high school, I did not foresee that goal. Some friends teased me about being a “tiger mom,” in the spirit of author Amy Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother). The only similarity is simply that we both saw potential in our kids and we needed to convince them that if they would apply themselves they might be amazed at what they could do. In view of all this, I just read with much interest the new biography, Tinsley Harrison, MD: Teacher of Medicine by James A. Pittman Jr., MD. It answers many questions about the appeal of the profession of medicine. Read the complete review

  • By Allen Berry
    Aldrich Press, 2014
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Since the 1920s, poets have been taking their inspiration from the rhythms and moods of jazz. Allen Berry now follows in that tradition, connecting past and present: Chet Baker “raises the sash, / a swan takes flight” in Amsterdam in 1988, and the speaker of “Look for the Silver Lining” says, “I don’t meet him / until Spring 2000. . .” [sitting] “cross-legged / on Stacey’s floor / assembling a CD rack . . . .” The lyric and the mundane are always bumping up against each other in Berry’s poems, and that’s a great part of their pleasure, the romantic aesthetic grounded by the motions of daily life. Read the complete review

  • By Frye Gaillard
    and Kathryn Scheldt
    Solomon & George, 2012
    Paper, $19.95

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Alabama lays claim to an amazing array of musical talent, from the “Father of the Blues,” W. C. Handy, to premier country music icon Hank Williams Sr. In Frye Gaillard and Kathryn Scheldt’s The Quilt and the Poetry of Alabama Music, stories of the rich and famous are shared alongside those of songwriters and musicians who never saw their names in lights. Regardless, the state’s obscure musical talent proudly carries on the beloved tradition of songwriting as brilliantly as that of the stars who inspired them. Read the complete review

  • By Hank Lazer
    Little Red Leaves, Textile Series, 2014
    $10, Paper, textile art book, designed and sewn by Dawn Pendergast with artwork by Marilyn MacGregor

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    Hank Lazer’s new book, N24, continues his fascinating investigation into the relationship between poetry and philosophy. By turns—puzzling and revelatory, now contemplative, now celebratory—this slender volume is both a disciplined re-reading of Merleau-Ponty’s core texts and a visionary re-enchantment of the written page itself. Read the complete review

  • By Davis Raines
    CD Baby, 2014
    $9.99, Compact Disk

    Music

    Reviewed by Katie Jackson

    How in the world does one write well about an exceptional piece of writing?

    That was the dilemma faced by Davis Raines and Frye Gaillard when they agreed to pen a song about the book To Kill a Mockingbird. It was also the quandary I faced when trying to write a review of Mockingbird, the album that song inspired. Read the complete review

  • by Jennifer Horne
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover; $29.95, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mary Katherine Calderini

    Tell the World You’re a Wildflower by Jennifer Horne offers a delightful medley of women from all over the South. Horne has produced a book of stories as varied and unique as a real woman. Her stories range through ages and locations, but all of Horne’s women possess a genuine truth to them that will transport readers into the innermost workings of the characters’ thoughts and lives. Read the complete review

  • By Marja Mills
    The Penguin Press, 2014
    $27.95 Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nancy Grisham Anderson

    In a June [2014] issue of The New York Times Book Review, two writers for the Bookends section respond to the question “When we read fiction, how relevant is the author’s biography?” This question has been asked about Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, since the author withdrew from public view within a few years of the release of her novel in July of 1960. Several biographies in recent years, a number of them for young readers, have been published without the approval or involvement of the author herself.

    Now The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills, identified as “a memoir,” is an effort to fill some of the voids left by the earlier biographies. Read the complete review

  • By Jim Murphy
    NegativeCapability Press, 2014
    $15.95, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    University of Montevallo English professor Jim Murphy’s third collection of poetry takes its title from the first poem in the book, “The Uniform House of Dixie,” which sounds like a Walker Evans photograph and presents images congruent with Evans’ work. Read the complete review

  • By B. J. Leggett
    Livingston Press, 2014
    $32, Hardcover; $18.95 Paper; $7.95 Kindle

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mollie Smith Waters

    B. J. Leggett has written extensively about academic subjects such as authors A. E. Housman, Philip Larkin, and Wallace Stevens. His latest novel, Prosperity, is only his second fictional book. In Prosperity, Leggett introduces readers to a world of crime and a corrupt police force. Read the complete review

  • By Irene Latham
    Blue Rooster Press, 2014
    $14.95, Paper
    Poetry

    Reviewed by Foster Dickson

    Irene Latham’s slim new poetry collection, The Sky Between Us, caught my attention with its title. Latham, an award-winning poet and young-adult novelist, throws the browsing reader a poetic curveball: the sky is above us, not between us. She is inviting us to open it and read. Read the complete review

  • By Judith Richards
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $19, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot Lloyd

    When the masses latch on to a culture, what makes it unique can quickly become cliché, and nowhere is this more apparent than in New Orleans. Scratch the surface of the garish, exploitative caricatures that are Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, and you will find an intricately woven intersection of musical, culinary, religious, and mystical traditions, their history lying just beneath the touristy surface. If you stop, seek, and listen, they will breathe life into two-dimensional misrepresentations, taking you through sides streets and neighborhoods, then into churches and juke joints, and, finally, into the hearts and souls that make up the city’s true essence. In Judith Richards’ novel, Thelonious Rising, this beautifully aged and tattered tapestry is symbolized by an unlikely protagonist, nine-year-old Thelonious Monk DeCay. Read the complete review

  • By William Cobb
    SixFinger Publishing, 2014
    $18.99, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    William Cobb is one of the Old Masters of Alabama literature and his eight volumes of fiction have won a mantlepiecefull of prizes, including the Harper Lee Award. It would be understandable if this veteran writer continued to mine the material he is best known for—examinations of racial tensions in the South (especially his home place, Demopolis), coming of age stories, satire of cultural morés, often gothic or even surrealistic in style. His characters have often been struggling blue-collar families or Black Belt aristocrats gone to seed. But, in fact, with A Time To Reap Cobb has chosen to strike out in, what are for him, some bold new directions. Read the complete review

  • By Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
    William Morrow, 2014
    $25.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    In Oxford, Mississippi, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly both write and teach writing at Ole Miss. Tom, a novelist, is best known for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Hell at the Breech, and other works of fiction containing considerable violence and cruelty. Beth Ann is a lyric poet, mother of their three children, but almost as well known for Great with Child, her tender letters to a friend who was expecting. They decided to write The Tilted World together. All marital projects are perilous, from raising children to choosing wallpaper, but writing a novel? Read the complete review

  • By Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh, with a new Afterword by Dilsy Windham Hilley and Ben Windham
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    In 1964 The Strode Publishers of Huntsville, Alabama, released Treasured Alabama Recipes by Kathryn Tucker Windham. A great success, the book’s recipes were accompanied by stories that caught the public imagination. Strode was eager to have another book by Windham, stories this time, no recipes needed. She chose to write up ghost stories from around Alabama. 13 Alabama Ghosts was a hit, too, Read the complete review

  • By Todd Keith
    Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2014
    Price: $19.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Todd Keith, the author of Insider’s Guide to Birmingham, has collected dozens of photographs, the earliest of which seem to be about 1905, and, restricting himself to the old city limits and early suburbs, matched them up with contemporary shots of the same church, office building, street, park, athletic field, or monument. The photos, combined with brief commentaries, make for a pleasing visual trip through Birmingham’s architectural past. Read the complete review

  • By Philip D. Beidler
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $34.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Over a long career, Phil Beidler has written analyses of early American and Alabama literature, sweeping commentaries of the literature of World War II and Vietnam, a number of powerful personal essays based on his experiences as a lieutenant in Vietnam and, most lately, in American Wars, American Peace (2007), savage, outraged appraisals of American political leadership and foreign policy. To all this he brings considerable skill as a cultural critic, usually of the U.S. But here the subject is Cuba. Read the complete review

  • By Carla Jean Whitley
    The History Press, 2014
    $19.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Through fresh interviews with musicians and considerable research online and in newspaper files, Carla Jean Whitley has generated this compact history. Admittedly most appealing to aficionados, this book will teach any reader a good deal about a section of Alabama often overlooked. Read the complete review

  • By Kelly Kazek & Wil Elrick
    The History Press, 2014
    $19.99; Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Alabama Scoundrels is a short book, 122 pages, of brief sketches of twenty-two Alabama miscreants. Most of the scoundrels of the title are criminals, usually killers of some type and usually nineteenth century, although a few go back further, to before statehood in 1819, when Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory. READ MORE…

  • By Betty Jean Tucker
    Livingston Press, 2014
    $17.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    These are stories of desperate poverty. The characters are not just making do with last year’s coat, they are constantly hungry, even starving. Sometimes, people who have only a little are willing to share—a romantic mythology we like to impose on hard times. Usually, a Darwinian ferocity takes over and the weak fall. Often, the characters’ hunger and despair leave deep psychological scars. READ MORE…

  • By Donald Brown
    Borgo Publishing, 2014
    $10.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Well known to Alabamians as a nonfiction writer, Donald Brown has been executive editor of both the Florence Times-Daily and the Tuscaloosa News, and he has written histories of Tuscaloosa’s First United Methodist Church, The Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, and of his alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College. As he explains in an afterword, Brown, as a reporter for the Birmingham News, covered this crime in southwest Alabama. He had not covered the first trial, in which the conviction was reversed on a technicality, but was assigned to cover trials two and three of the same killing. READ MORE…

  • By Faye Gibbons
    NewSouth Books, 2014
    $21.95, Hardcover

    Young Adult Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Faye Gibbons is an old pro at children’s and Young Adult writing. An Auburn graduate and author of more than a dozen books, she won the Georgia Author of the Year award in 1983 for Some Glad Morning and the Alabama Author Award, given by the Alabama Library Association, for Night in the Barn in 1998. Although she lives in Alabama now, Gibbons was raised in the hills of northwest Georgia and sets most of her fiction there. Her characters are generally rural and poor, struggling to get by but holding together, only by virtue of family, sharing, love, church, neighbors. READ MORE…

  • By Kevin Waltman
    Cinco Puntos Press, 2013
    $16.95, Hardcover; $11.95, Paper

    Young Adult Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Sports fans know that what football is to Alabama culture, basketball is to Indiana culture: passion, obsession, madness, religion. The young adult novelist Kevin Waltman grew up in Indiana, played high school basketball and attended Depauw University. Waltman, now an Alabamian, took the MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama, and stayed on to teach in the English Department. In Next, Waltman’s third novel, he has created a more accurate picture of Hoosier basketball and done so with considerable elegance and authority and without stereotypes. READ MORE…

  • By Mike Mahan
    with Norman McMillan
    NewSouth Books in Cooperation with The Cahaba Trace Commission, 2014
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Complete disclosure: A Montevallo resident, this reviewer is acquainted with both Dr. Mike Mahan and Dr. Norman McMillan.

    Not every Southern boy has a spring-fed swimming hole at the end of his street, a woman’s liberal arts college—known as the Angel Farm—at the other end, and Frog Holler—once a place for illegal horse races, boxing matches, Battle Royals (last black man standing won the pot while the white men stood by & bet), and cock fights, but much later “a perfect playground”—in the middle. Local boy Mike Mahan had all of this and more, and he writes extensively about it in this new memoir No Hill Too High for a Stepper: Memories of Montevallo, Alabama. Read the complete review

  • By Joe Formichella, ed.
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $34.95, Hardcover with CD

    Fiction/Spoken Word/Music

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul. The title has a story behind it and the subtitle is a pun. The story is simple. On a winter’s night near Brewton, Alabama, a group of kindred spirits were talking, singing, drinking of course, and rather than making a trip to the woodpile, they burned, one at a time, a box of old shoes. This became a ritualized event held around a Fairhope bonfire, the idea being that each shoe burned had a story to tell, or be told about it. At that bonfire last year one young woman happily announced she was finally making a living as a singer and burned her white waitress shoes.Read the complete review

  • By Joe Formichella
    River’s Edge Media, 2014
    $16, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Joe Formichella has had considerable success with a book on a black baseball league in Pritchard, Alabama, Here’s to You, Jackie Robinson, and a first novel, The Wreck of the Twilight Limited, nearly a true-life novel about the catastrophic 1993 Amtrak train wreck on a bridge over Bayou Canot north of Mobile. His true crime book Murder Creek and the story of a basketball coach, Staying Ahead of the Posse, were less successful, but now, after some time, Formichella is back with a much more structurally complex novel. Waffle House Rules is ambitious and is, surely, Formichella’s best work to date. Read the complete review

  • By Carolyn Haines
    Minotaur Books, 2014
    $24.99, Hardcover
    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Harper Lee Award recipient Carolyn Haynes has now published fourteen Sarah Booth Delaney “Bones” mysteries over the past fifteen years. What started as a series set at Dahlia House, in Sunflower County, Zinnia, in the Mississippi Delta, has done some travelling.

    At home, Sarah Booth is aided by her gang: Madame Tomeeka, the psychic; Cece, the transsexual journalist; Millie, who picks up gossip in her café; and always her fiery detective partner, Tinkie. Some of these characters have even helped Sarah Booth solve crime in Costa Rica.

    At first, Jitty, the antebellum slave ghost of Dahlia House, did not travel but, in Booty Bones, Jitty and Tinkie are with Sarah Booth, and even the hound Sweetie Pie and cat Pluto lend active assistance. The others help by phone. Read the complete review

  • By Tim Parrish
    University Press of Mississippi: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography, 2014
    $28, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    A river of books has come out of the civil rights moment: large-scale general histories like Taylor Branch’s three volume America in the King Years and more focused studies such as Diane McWhorter’s investigation of the Movement in Birmingham, Carry Me Home. Likewise there are memoirs by famous activists such as John Lewis and by many minor figures who have contributed their small pieces to the historical picture.

    Up until now we have had almost no reports from the other side of these ’60s and ’70s battlefields. What were the violent racists, brutal policemen and troopers, Klansmen, thinking? Why did they behave as they did? What beliefs, emotions, one might one say misguided principles, caused them to act in vicious, cruel, and finally futile and stupid ways? There is now a trickle of memoirs from those individuals, “recovering” racists, the most articulate of whom attempt to explain why they acted as they did. Read the complete review

  • By Lachlan Smith
    The Mysterious Press: An Imprint of Grove Press-Atlantic, 2014
    $24, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Just last year, Lachlan Smith, a Birmingham attorney practicing civil rights and employment law, published his debut thriller, Bear Is Broken. Smith was well prepared to write that novel, having studied writing at Stanford and Cornell and then getting a law degree from UC Berkeley in 2009.

    In the opening scene of Bear Is Broken, Leo Maxwell is having lunch with his older brother Teddy Maxwell, famous San Francisco defense attorney, when a hired gun enters the restaurant and shoots Teddy in the head. When Lion Plays Rough opens, Teddy, having survived the shooting, has had some rehab, fallen in love with a brain-damaged girl, and is learning to walk and talk. He will almost certainly never practice law again, but might be able to live independently. Read the complete review

  • By Nimrod T. Frazer; Introduction by Edwin C. Bridges.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $34.95, Hardcover; $34.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The awe-inspiring sculpture of a World War I soldier carrying a wounded comrade was the perfect choice for the cover of this book. As the text on the jacket points out: "The book borrows its title from a speech by American General Edward H. Plummer, who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service.... Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed: "In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord's sake, send them to somebody else!" The time was 1918; the event was The Battle of Croix Rouge. Read the complete review

  • Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty
    By Brian McAvera and Steven Dedalus Burch, eds.
    Carysfort Press, 2013
    $27, Paper

    Breaking Boundaries: An Anthology of Original Plays from the Focus Theatre
    Steven Dedalus Burch, ed.
    Carysfort Press, 2013
    $27, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nicholas Helms

    Founded in 1963 by the Irish American actor Deirdre O’Connell, the Focus Theatre of Dublin brought Stanislavskian method acting to Ireland and challenged the country’s parochial preconceptions about theatre. Two recent works chronicle the life of Focus Theatre: Stanislavski in Ireland: Focus at Fifty, a collection of essays that serve as biography of the Focus Theatre and of its talented and eccentric founder, Deirdre O’Connell, edited by Brian McAvera and University of Alabama theatre professor Steven Dedalus Burch; and Breaking Boundaries: An Anthology of Original Plays from the Focus Theatre, a collection of Focus Theatre’s work, edited by Steven Dedalus Burch. Together, these volumes put a microscope to the theatre of Dublin in the 20th and early 21st centuries, charting the type of regional theatre work that, despite its far-reaching influence, so often goes unrecorded. Together they sketch a lively narrative of a theatre that produced high quality work for fifty years while scraping by economically and struggling against the established theatres of Dublin. O’Connell’s Focus Theatre revolutionized Irish theatrical practice, and these two volumes chronicle the far-reaching—and often unremarked—effects that a small theatre on the fringe of the mainstream can have. Read the complete review

  • By Chervis Isom
    The Working Writer Discovery Group, 2013
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    In the first chapter of The Newspaper Boy, Chervis Isom, age about 26, makes a visit to an office on the fourteenth floor of the Empire Building in Birmingham. Possibly he remembered learning as a child that it was one of four tall buildings erected between 1902 and 1912 anchoring the intersection of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North. Though not so tall by later standards, these buildings were skyscrapers of the time and the intersection became known as the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” The buildings represented Birmingham’s sudden emergence as center of industry and commerce and portended a bright future for the city. And, except for the years when the whole country experienced the Great Depression, that’s about the way things turned out. In 1943, which was the year of Isom’s first memoir essay, the wartime demand for steel had returned the city to prosperity, which continued through the postwar building boom. And even as late as the mid 1950s, Birmingham competed with Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans as one of the premier cities of the south. Read the complete review

  • By Philip Shirley
    Mindbridge Press, 2014
    $15.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed By Mary Beth Mobley-Bussell

    When we first meet advertising executive Peter Brantley he is not having a good day. Depressed over the drug related death of his brother, unable to focus at work, and on the verge of losing his wife, Peter suddenly finds being violently carjacked at gunpoint by a ponytailed fugitive with a gym bag full of cocaine among his growing list of troubles. Read the complete review

  • by Ron Self
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013
    $15.95, Paper

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This compact paperback printing of seventy-five lyric poems has an attractive cover with a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted circa 1511-1512. The collection offers three titled sections: Part 1: As Nature Made Him; Part 2: Family Business; and Part 3: Make It Dance. Read the complete review

  • By Roy Hoffman
    The University of Alabama Press, 2014
    $29.95, Hardcover; $29.95, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Linda Busby Parker

    Fiction isn’t spawned totally from the imagination—it’s generally hatched from an inkling of truth that is combined with inspiration and a flight of fancy. Such can be said of Roy Hoffman’s latest novel, Come Landfall. For Hoffman, the inkling of truth was the loss of his uncle, Major Roy Robinton, U.S. Marine Corps, World War II. Major Robinton was captured and held on Japanese “Hellship” and disappeared with no record of his final days. The story of this lost uncle—Hoffman’s namesake—has become part of Hoffman family history, and via Come Landfall, Hoffman allows readers to share part of this history. Read the complete review

  • By Harry Moore
    Finishing Line Press , 2013
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    As I read the seventeen poems in Harry Moore’s chapbook, What He Would Call Them, I thought almost immediately of Auden’s oft-quoted pronouncement: “Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.” With a clear understanding of the importance of family relationships across generations, Moore celebrates his forebears in most of the poems in this collection. But things do not stop there. He brings his readers forcibly back to the present, connecting his current life with previous lives, his own and those of his parents and grandparents. Read the complete review

  • By Charles McNair
    Livingston Press, 2013
    $30, Hardcover; $18.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This interesting, adventure-filled novel utilizes two time frames a century apart. In 1964, the 114-year–old protagonist, Threadgill Pickett, a Civil War veteran languishing in a Mobile retirement home, is obsessed with the belief that something really bad happened to him on his boyhood journey to join the Confederate Army. Read the complete review

  • These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • By Larry Williamson
    The Ardent Writer Press, 2013
    $19.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Carroll Dale Short

    If the springtime of 1864 was not the darkest moment for the Confederacy in the waning days of the U.S. Civil War, it was definitely high in contention. The South's iconic general Stonewall Jackson had died of war injuries, and Union forces were setting their sights on Richmond, Virginia, for its significance as a stronghold of armories and gun manufacturing. Read the complete review

  • By Douglas M. Carpenter
    TransAmerica Printing, 2012
    $24.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    In A Powerful Blessing, an absorbing, affectionate, and scholarly biographical narrative about his father, the Reverend Douglas Carpenter notes that his sources were "letters, diaries, notes, and clippings saved at the time of the events, scrapbooks, conversations with people on site, and [his] own memory, which extends back to the summer of 1936, when [his] family moved to Birmingham from Savannah." Read the complete review

  • Big Al's Game Day
    Aubie's Game Day Rules
    Big Al Teaches the Alphabet
    Counting With Big Al

    By Sherri Graves Smith
    Mascot Books, 2012
    $14.95, Hardcover

    Children’s

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Sherri Graves Smith, a native of Tuscumbia, loves football, reading, and her home state of Alabama. Having grown up in a family of readers and sports fans, when cancer forced her into early retirement she decided to pursue her lifelong desire to encourage reading in children the same way that her parents encouraged her to read. The resulting books—a series devoted to Game Days at various colleges around the country—teach the invaluable lessons of good manners, good sportsmanship, and the importance of healthy rivalry. Read the complete review

  • By Bob Whetstone
    Lulu Enterprises, 2013
    $40.93, Hardcover; $12, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Bob Whetstone, familiar to many readers for his career at Birmingham-Southern College and his work with the Alabama Humanities Foundation and arts organizations, has written five historical novels prior to Jacob's Robe. Set partially in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, Jacob's Robe uses local history, folklore, and storytelling to lure readers into the love-story—turned-mystery of Jim Dean and Rachel Palmer. Read the complete review

  • By Henrietta MacGuire;
    Photography by Katie Faulk
    Mockingbird Publishing, 2012
    $12, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This impeccably produced book from Ashley Gordon’s relatively new Fairhope, Alabama, press is a triumphant journal/account about Montgomery author and editor Henrietta MacGuire’s stint as a volunteer worker in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, in the summer of 2010. The text is enhanced by a plethora of wonderful color photographs, taken by fellow traveler and volunteer Katie Faulk of Memphis. Read the complete review

  • By Sena Jeter Naslund
    William Morrow, 2013
    $26.99, Hardcover; $14.39, Paper; $12.74, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Elaine Hughes

    Sena Jeter Naslund first received international acclaim in 1999 for her novel Ahab’s Wife; Or, The Star-Gazer, which some critics called the feminist version of Melville’s Moby-Dick. She was lauded for her extensive research and her mastery of eloquent language in creating this piece of historical fiction. Again, in Abundance (2006), her penetrating portrayal of the period of the French Revolution and of the enigmatic Marie Antoinette earned her praise and a following of loyal fans. Readers will have much to celebrate with her ninth novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; Or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, in which she portrays two strong women, driven by their passion for their art and haunted by their failures as wives and mothers. Read the complete review

  • By Heidi A. Eckert
    Sand Island Publishing, 2013
    $12.99 Paper; $6.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Dee Jordan

    Heidi Eckert has penned a riveting novel with all of the elements of good storytelling: romance, a haunting past, a doubtful future, and an unforeseen present. The author uses a unique technique by referring to her protagonist as only “she,” “her,” and “hers” rather than naming her. This nomenclature normally would have been a difficult task, but Eckert writes in such beautiful language, that the reader is able to follow the protagonist. She is both invisible and visible in Eckert’s poignant words. Read the complete review

  • By Joy Ross Davis
    Ecanus Publishing, 2013
    $13.99, Paper; $6.50, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Kathleen M. Rodgers

    For two days I've been living with the charming setting and cast of characters in Joy Ross Davis' debut novel, Countenance. Although the Playhouse Inn exists only in the pages of this well-written novel, the author's lyrical style and storytelling ability had me roaming through the rooms (like an invisible guest) in this beautiful old bed and breakfast located in the hills of Tennessee. Read the complete review

  • By Vanessa A. Jackson Austin
    WestBow Press, 2012
    $11.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Cancer runs in Vanessa Austin’s family. Her mother and brother—to whom Austin dedicates her book—both died from various types of the disease. Her sister survived breast cancer. On June 1, 2009, Austin heard from her biopsy—malignant. Cries In the Wind chronicles her battle with breast cancer, a battle she eventually won with medical attention, family support, and—above all—her Judeo-Christian faith.
    Read the complete review

  • By Dana Gynther
    Gallery Books, 2012
    $15, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Judith Nunn

    Walking with the crowd to board the maiden passage of the Paris, Constance Stone is startled by a photographer's flash which makes the two women nearest her, a petite redhead and an older woman to the side, pause as well. Unknown to each other and separated by years and station, the three primary characters of Dana Gynther's first novel begin their five-day journey of choices and change. Read the complete review

  • By Lila Quintero Weaver
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $24.95, Paper; $24.95 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    After going through the Alabama public school system, I was sure that I had a pretty good grasp on Alabama’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement—that it was a terrible dark spot on our history that involved the cruel treatment of African Americans—but Lila Quintero Weaver’s debut graphic memoir has made me question how much I actually know about the subject. Darkroom: a memoir in black & white tells the story of Weaver’s family, who immigrated from Buenos Aires. Several aspects of the family’s history are explored, such as the father’s complicated and storied ethnicity and the speaker’s own feelings of displacement in American public schools, but it was the speaker’s fresh perspective on the Civil Rights Movement that pulled me in. Read the complete review

  • By Robert J. Norrell
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Ruth Autrey Gynther

    The story of Eden Rise revolves around Tom, the 19-year-old son, returning from his freshman year at Duke University where he became fast friends with Jackie, a black Duke basketball player. Alma, an attractive though obnoxious student activist, has persuaded Jackie to join her teaching at a Freedom School in Alabama, and Tom offers them a ride. Read the complete review

  • By Carroll Dale Short
    NewSouth Books Classics, 2012
    $15.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot

    Dale Short introduced the 1988 edition of I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama, with humble wonder, marveling at his good fortune and comparing his childhood home to the Garden of Eden. He opens the twenty-fifth anniversary edition with wistful mourning: “I put off going home as long as I could, because home is gone.” Read the complete review

  • My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

    By Christian Wiman
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
    $24, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Sue Scalf

    I have just finished reading Christian Wiman’s autobiographical quest and was shaken by it to say the least. It was difficult to read for several reasons. The author—an intellectual, poet, and Christian existentialist—although I am not sure of this since Christian existentialists are so hard to pin down—is dying of terminal cancer. He is young and at the very top of his literary powers as editor of Poetry magazine, and he has just fallen in love, married and had twin daughters while he undergoes the crisis of his life. Read the complete review

  • By Kerry Madden;
    Illustrated by Lucy Madden-Lunsford
    Mockingbird Publishing, 2013
    $12.59, Paper

    Children’s

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    When Kerry and Lucy Madden-Lunsford say there’s nothing fancy about Kathryn (Tucker Windham) and Charlie (Lucas), they are only half-telling the truth. On one hand, the authors spin a wonderful tale about two friends, bonded together by their love of simple things like tomato sandwiches and turning combs into homemade musical instruments, which indeed establishes the two as people who do not feel the need to surround themselves with fancy things. Kathryn and Charlie come across as individuals who are as eccentric as they are down-to-earth, so I can definitely see how there is nothing fancy about the pair. Read the complete review

  • By B.J. Hollars
    The University of Alabama Press, 2013
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door took place nearly fifty years ago on June 11, 1963, at Foster Auditorium. B. J. Hollars, who took the MFA in writing at the University of Alabama and taught there for three years, is perfectly familiar with the work of E. Culpepper “Cully” Clark, whose The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama was published in 1995. He acknowledges Clark’s work and covers this central event expeditiously. Read the complete review

  • By Winston Groom
    National Geographic, 2012
    $30, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author of Vicksburg, 1863 proves himself once again to be an expressive literary chronicler of the American Civil War. His subject this time is the Battle of Shiloh (or Shiloh Creek, as it’s also known), which took place near Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee, in early April 1862, the beginning of the second year of the four-year conflict that has also been called The War Between the States. Each of the seventeen chapters has a descriptive title on the Contents Page. Beginning with April Is the Cruelest Month, these include: From Failure to Fortune; He looked Like an Old Viking King; All the Furies of Hell Broke Loose; My God, My God, It Is Too Late!; and An Exalted Distinction. Read the complete review

  • By Barry Marks
    NegativeCapability Press, 2012
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    On page 22 of Barry Marks’s Sounding, there is a poem titled “Father’s Day.” Below this title lies a blank page, a sweep of terminal white that drifts beyond the margins and into secret velocities of imagining. A silent withdrawal from the space of language and argumentation, it is but one of the many complex, heartbreaking, and luminous moments in this book. Written in the shadow of a father’s grief, this book is not only a Kaddish and encomium for his precious daughter, who died just after her seventeenth birthday, but also a gift of transfiguration and hope. Sounding is a study in the topology of loss and the exigent forces that make art possible when the world seems to collapse around us. Read the complete review

  • By John Sledge
    University of South Carolina Press, 2013
    $24.95, Paper; $24.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Fraiser

    Mobile author John Sledge harbors great passion for his Southland, and he shares those sentiments with the same vibrant prose he imbued in his hundreds of Mobile Press Register book reviews and four tomes covering Mobile’s architecture and history. In Southern Bound, Sledge offers past reviews of books ranging from novels that inspired the movies Shane and True Grit, to Winston Groom’s Civil War history, Vicksburg, 1863, and classics such as Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon and Plato’s Dialogues. He also presents exquisite mediations on diverse subjects such as the connection between Oxford, Mississippi, and her many famed authors from Faulkner to Grisham; Greenville’s literary history involving the Percys, Footes, and Carters; and the relationship between Savannah and John Berendt’s novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Read the complete review

  • By Sharman Burson Ramsey
    Mercer University Press, 2012
    $26, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Mollie Smith Waters

    An author writing historical fiction faces the challenge of balancing the realities of a period with the story he or she introduces into that world. Attempting to create that balance in Swimming with Serpents, Sharman Ramsey delves into the midst of Alabama’s 1813-1814 Creek Indian Wars through the adventures of her primary characters, Cade Kincaid and Lysistrata “Lyssa” Rendel. Read the complete review

  • By Andrew Hudgins
    Simon & Schuster, 2013
    $25, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    I have known of chess players who can remember every move they made in championship games over many years. When it comes to jokes, I’d say Andrew Hudgins is in that league. He seems to remember every joke he ever heard. He knows elephant jokes, Helen Keller jokes, dead baby jokes, knock-knock jokes, cruelty jokes, racial jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, fart jokes, Little Moron jokes, Pollack jokes, parrot jokes, and, of course, Alabama jokes and Auburn jokes. And this is just a partial list. Read the complete review

  • By Daniel Wallace
    Touchstone Books, 2013

    $24, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Here in his fifth novel Daniel Wallace has returned to many of the concerns and techniques of Big Fish, his first and most widely admired novel. As readers and viewers of the Tim Burton movie production of Big Fish well know, Wallace’s fiction is never tied too tightly to reality. Here again, in Roam, we are in the land of the tall tale, the fable, fantasy, and fairy tale—and not the tooth fairy kind where there is no down side, just the delivery of a silver coin in the night, but the Brothers Grimm variety, laced with darkness, anxiety, bad behavior, guilt, envy, and pain. Read the complete review

  • By Kelly Cherry
    LSU Press, 2013
    $19.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    The Life and Death of Poetry, Kelly Cherry's ninth full-length collection of poetry, is the 2013 winner of the L.E. Phillabaum Prize for Poetry. Like Cherry's memoir, Writing the World, and her essay collection, Girl in a Library, the book takes writing, language, and communication as central themes. Divided into three sections—Learning the Language, Welsh Table Talk (A Sequence), and What the Poet Wishes to Say—the poems move from silence and the sounds of animals to a father, his daughter, and non-related, yet intertwined friends, attempting to find— not always successfully—the words to bridge the distances between them, until finally reaching the joy of language, and the pleasures of the ordinary word. Dedicated "For my students, then and now," The Life and Death of Poetry is in the tradition of Ars Poetica and John Keats' negative capability. Read the complete review

  • By Therese Anne Fowler
    St. Martin’s Press, 2013
    $25.99, Hardcover; $12.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Katherine Henderson

    "It was all so wonderful, at first," says Zelda Fitzgerald about Hollywood, but the same could just as easily be said about her tumultuous relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Anyone who knows much at all about the pair already knows that, but what may be missing are the details. Details, albeit highly fictionalized, abound in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. In the novel, Fowler brings the famous pair to life, along with a cast of supporting characters that is a veritable who's who of early twentieth century literature and popular culture. But Fowler doesn’t just bring them to life; she stirs controversy, too: What sort of relationship do Scott and Hemingway have, anyway? Just how culpable is Scott for driving Zelda over the edge? And how much credit does Scott deserve for the work published under his own name? As Zelda tells her story—because she’s the narrator and this is her story, not Scott’s or one with Scott’s name where hers should be—the answers are revealed. Read the complete review

  • By Wendy Reed
    NewSouth Books, 2013
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Mixed Genre

    Reviewed by Kirk Curnutt

    Nonfiction isn’t a simple matter of telling true stories. The art of the genre lies in the motifs through which the narrative is staged. Scores of writers have attempted to share their experiences only to discover that facts alone fail them. The memoirs that mean the most, by contrast, are about words as much as events. They dramatize the act of making meaning, often by resorting to what may seem the most unrelated of symbols and metaphors. By any measure, Wendy Reed has a compelling story to share. On May 28, 1996, her Mitsubishi Montero hydroplaned off I-65 at mile marker 251.7, striking an oncoming 1988 Camry. Read the complete review

  • By R.B. Chesterton (aka Carolyn Haines)
    Pegasus Crime, 2013
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Frye Gaillard

    Throughout her remarkably successful career, Carolyn Haines has long been a master of the page-turning mystery. Her latest novel, The Darkling, which is, incredibly, one of more than sixty she has written, is no exception. This supernatural, white-knuckling whodunit, written under the pseudonym of R.B. Chesterton, is set in the fishing village of Coden, Alabama, where the wealthy members of the Henderson family have moved into an estate called Belle Fleur. As recent arrivals from California, the Hendersons are seeking the peace and quiet promised by the languid beauty of the coast. What they find instead are heartache and terror, intensified and made more mysterious by the haunting unfamiliarity of the place. Read the complete review

  • By Frye Gaillard
    NewSouth Books, 2013
    $27.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Frye Gaillard, author of some twenty volumes and winner of both the Lillian Smith Award and the Clarence Cason Award, is solidly in this latter tradition, writing here with insight and feeling about the books that mattered.

    The book offers “eleven essays featuring thirty-odd books.” He understands the list is “deeply personal and purely my own.” Such lists always are. Considering that Gaillard’s work has usually been concerned with questions of civil rights—integration, mandatory school busing—with occasional side trips into the world of country music and NASCAR and that his lifelong heroes are Senator Robert F. Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter, most of his choices are not too surprising. Read the complete review

  • By Elizabeth Benedict, ed.
    Algonquin Books, 2013
    $15.95, Paper; 8.77, eBook

    Anthology

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    A sub-title, Thirty-One Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most, provides dimensional definition to this collection of specially commissioned essays. The contributors, all well-known journalists and/or fiction writers, include Montgomery native Judith Hillman Paterson, who is scheduled to present a program at the 2013 Alabama Book Festival on Saturday, April 20. Among highly recognizable bylines are those of Ann Hood, Mary Gordon, Rita Dove, Marge Piercy, Joyce Carol Oates, Lisa See, and the book’s editor, Elizabeth Benedict. Although it’s logical to assume publication was timed to come out near Mother’s Day, each of the thirty-one authors has risen to the occasion of writing eloquently on-theme without over-sentimentalizing. Read the complete review

  • By Willie James King
    Tebot Bach, 2013
    $16, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Tony Crunk

    Willie James King’s fourth collection of poetry admirably continues the hallmarks of his previous work. He doesn’t just integrate the public and the personal, the political and the contemplative, but explores the myriad ways in which these dichotomies reflect and inform each other. Read the complete review

  • By Kathleen Driskell
    Illustrated by AJ Reinhart
    Fleur-de-Lis Explorations, 2012
    $8, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

    Thanks to the recent superhero movie craze, comics are big again. There are entire conferences devoted to comics scholarship, and comics (or, alternatively, “graphic novels”) have become a popular subject for English courses. What Kathleen Driskell brings to the table is a spin on the image-driven genre we are already familiar with. Simply put, it ain’t your grandma’s comic book. Interestingly enough, Driskell’s Peck and Pock: A Graphic Poem comes in the form of an elongated, slim booklet reminiscent of a comic book. The cover art—droplets of rain highlighted against a windowpane—is powered by hues of white, gray, and black. This dark theme continues into the rest of the book’s paratext. Stark black dominates the title and credit pages and acts as the background for the area between and behind panels, otherwise known as the gutter. This sets an excellent mood for Driskell’s dark and hypnotic poetry. Driskell’s writing shines its brightest when it is fixated on the smallest details, like rotten apples being swept along in a current and young faces pressed against windows. While reading, I had the constant sense of being taken aback by these small, strange pieces of beauty. Read the complete review

  • By Carey Scott Wilkerson
    New Plains Press, 2012
    $16.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Aaron Sanders

    Such a collection as Ars Minotaurica flies so close to the sun that its poetic parts don’t melt as much as dissolve. The poet, Carey Scott Wilkerson, then recycles what’s left over into more poems, and the reader gets the sense that the poet would be content repeating this process ad infinitum. Read the complete review

  • By May Lamar
    The Donnell Group, 2012
    $22.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author states on the flyleaf of this spirited first novel, “Brother Sid is a work of fiction primarily based on letters to and from Macon [Georgia]-born artist Sidney Lanier.” The protagonist is the 19th century poet whose real life fame is legendary in Montgomery, Alabama, where a prominent high school memorializes his name. The jacket cover art combines a photograph of the subject with his flute, musical notation, and other colorful symbols of his life, such as a tiger lily (which, capitalized, is the title of his novel), and a Confederate flag. Except for the Prologue and Afterword, the chapters are numbered and interestingly (and rather contemporarily) arranged to convey the life story in juxtaposed order. This dynamically luminous narrative is well-executed in the tradition of inspired fiction about real people who contributed outstandingly to a place and time. Read the complete review

  • By Bert Hitchcock, ed.
    Solomon & George Publishers, 2012
    $20, Paper

    Anthology

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    At a time when independent bookstores are going out of business all over America, the Gnu’s Room –it’s a pun—in Auburn, Alabama, makes a lot of sense. It is organized as a nonprofit bookstore, mainly used books, and as a local center for the arts: literary, visual, and performing. As part of its mission, the Gnu Arts has established a nonprofit imprint, Solomon and George Publishers, named in honor of Olivia Pienezza Solomon, short story writer and folklorist, and Anne Carroll George, poet and, perhaps more famously, the author of the highly successful mystery/cozies The Southern Sisters series. Ms. Solomon and Ms. George graduated from UA, but Solomon taught at Auburn, and the papers of both writers are now in the Auburn library. This anthology, the Solomon and George Publishers debut volume, is, appropriately, devoted to writings by people with an Auburn or east Alabama connection and all seem to be set in Auburn or, at least, not discernibly elsewhere.
    http://www.writersforum.org/news_and_reviews/review_archives.html/article/2013/03/11/chinaberries-crows-an-anthology/813845

  • By Derrick Harriell, 2010
    Aquarius Press-Willow Books, 2010
    http://willowbookspoetry.homestead.com/
    $13.45, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    In his perceptive introduction to Derrick Harriell’s Cotton, Frank X Walker prepares us for the staging of a narrative that speaks to and through the experience of Black America: “Cotton whispers what it means to transcend our collective ignorance, to be raised right and to never forget our roots.” This is an ambitious program, to be sure, but Harriell’s aesthetic commitments are precisely those that permit him to move between epic vision and close observation. That Harriell traces always an elegant arc between these two is the prevailing strength of these fine poems. Read the complete review

  • By Frank “Doc” Adams and Burgin Mathews
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $34.95, Hardcover & eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Birmingham’s Frank “Doc” Adams has led an extraordinary musical life. As a teen, he played saxophone with Sun Ra’s early orchestra and later worked with Duke Ellington’s band. In Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man, the 85-year-old Adams shares an intimately in-depth narrative of his life-long love affair playing and teaching music. Loaded with barely restrained enthusiasm, his voice leaps off the page with wonder and exhilaration as he tells of pursuing and finding his dream. As a storyteller, he’s every bit as entertaining as the magnificent notes he coaxes from his sax and clarinet. Read the complete review

  • By Bram Riddlebarger
    Livingston Press, 2012
    $28, Hardcover; $16.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens, 2012

    If you are looking for a novel that is absolutely appropriate for the times, Bram Riddlebarger’s Earplugs may be exactly what you want. Set in a small Appalachian town, the story follows its main character—who is never named—as he interacts with his quickly modernizing community and deals with the loss of both his best friend and his girlfriend. Then again, “interacts” may be the wrong word for it, as the protagonist responds to the changes by locating and then constantly wearing a set of earplugs. In an age of ever-increasing connectivity, this action makes a loud statement that is as salient in the real world as it is in the novel. Read the complete review

  • By John W. Short and Daniel D. Spaulding
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $39.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Phillip Oliver

    It has been almost fifty years since a book about ferns in Alabama was published. Blanche Dean’s Ferns of Alabama and Fern Allies first appeared in 1964 and was revised in 1969. A new book on the subject is certainly welcome and authors John W. Short and Daniel P. Spaulding have written an admirable study that corrects past technical inaccuracies and provides detailed distribution coverage of ferns growing in the state. Read the complete review

  • By Rodney Jones
    Houghton Mifflin, 2011
    $22, Hardcover

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Rodney Jones’ 2006 collection Salvation Blues: 100 Poems, 1985-2005 is more than the now-standard late-mid-career new-and-collected; it’s a book you can browse through, read start to finish, dip into, or perhaps even open a page at random and point at a line blindfolded and still hit pay dirt, essence of Rodney Jones.

    His new book, Imaginary Logic, is Jones’ ninth book of poetry. In it one finds again his signature combination of the vernacular particular and the highfalutin’ abstract, a mix that often surprises, as though your plumber were to begin quoting St. Augustine while buried under your kitchen sink. Read the complete review

  • By H. Brandt Ayers
    NewSouth Books, 2013
    $29.95, Hardcover; $9.99 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    H. Brandt Ayers, longtime editor and publisher at The Anniston Star, has written a memoir with a unique perspective on his beloved Southland. Writing with historical perception, political awareness, and abiding sensitivity, he has given a history of the South’s painful road from Civil War to the latest New South, a land of culture and prosperity, one in being with the nation yet still maintaining some semblance of the gentle, polite past. His narrative brings us through the hard scrabble years of the Great Depression, the tumult of the civil rights era, and the Republican takeover. Read the complete review

  • By Stephen P. Brown
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $39.95, Hardcover & eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Though many Alabamans may be familiar with John Archibald Campbell and Hugo Black’s appointments to the Supreme Court, Alabama had a third, lesser known appointee, John McKinley.

    McKinley’s acumen, paired with his legal expertise and social connections, allowed him to achieve immense success is a very short time. He was elected to the state legislature three times, serving as both a representative and a senator, before becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1837. His first four years as a justice were spent “circuit riding,” presiding over the recently created Ninth Circuit, which covered the newly created south western frontier of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Read the complete review

  • By Walter Bennett
    Fuze Publishing, 2012
    $16.95, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    A novel called Leaving Tuscaloosa is simply irresistible to a resident, past or present, of Tuscaloosa. Bennett, who grew up in Tuscaloosa and has had a long career as a lawyer, law professor, and judge, now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has studied fiction writing with Lee Smith, among others.

    He begins the novel, his first, with a map of Tuscaloosa so the reader can follow the action, from University Boulevard (which he calls Main Street) to 15th Street, to Hackberry to Queen City. Some action takes place in what he calls the Red Elephant restaurant on 10th Ave.—not yet Bryant Blvd.—which was The Corner. Kids neck in the cemetery down the street. The railroad tracks play a large part, and the black section of town, called Cherrytown, south across the tracks, is the center of the action. Read the complete review

  • By Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America, ed.
    Introduction by Richard Russo
    Illustrations by Leif Parsons
    Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012
    $23.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    There is a wave of justified anxiety moving among the bookstore owners and patrons of America; the number of independent bookstores has been declining steadily since the 1990s.

    There has been a slight up-tick lately, from 1,400 members of the Booksellers Association in 2009 to 1,900 in 2011, but the opening of a new independent is news. The December 2012 issue of The Atlantic Monthly carries an article by the novelist Ann Patchett about her new store, Parnassus Books, in Nashville. The Athens of the South had no bookstore at all. Borders had closed and Davis-Kidd was not profitable enough. Still, writers and many readers love independent bookstores. This volume gives eighty-four writers a chance to praise their personal favorite. Read the complete review

  • By Anne Whitehouse
    Dos Madres Press, 2012
    $16, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Mary Kaiser
    Describing an aging woman, Anne Whitehouse writes, “to go on living / she would have to give up / who she was until this season.” This eloquent statement of loss and adaptation could be an epigraph to Anne Whitehouse’s latest collection, The Refrain, poems that locate moments of transformation when the old life mutates irrevocably into a new form, moments of terror and confusion followed by clarity and the possibility of a new beginning. A house struck by lightning, a bed-bug infestation, the onset of dementia, a bird trapped in a house, a child trapped inside her parents’ squabbles—all of these moments effect a mysterious change, a new and clearer vision. Like novelists Virginia Woolf and Laurie Colwin, Whitehouse scans quotidian detail for her metaphors, and like them, she always selects the resonant image that, without commentary, gives meaning to the whole. Read the complete review

  • Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812
    By Kathyrn E. Holland Braund, ed.
    A Pebble Hill Book by the University of Alabama Press, 2012
    34.95, Paper; $29.95 eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, also known as the Battle of Tohopeka, was a turning point in Creek (Muskogee), Alabama, and American History. Set within the larger context of a newly established America, continuing clashes between the settlers and the tribes for land, and the War of 1812, the Battle at Tohopeka made Andrew Jackson a national hero with both military and political clout. Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812 offers multiple viewpoints on the history, archaeology, and preservation of Horseshoe Bend. Read the complete review

  • By Carolyn Haines
    Minotaur Books, 2012
    $24.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Bonefire of the Vanities is Carolyn Haines’ twelfth mystery in her Bones series. Sarah Booth Delaney, living in Dahlia House in Zinnia, Sunflower County, Mississippi, began her detective agency in Them Bones.

    Haines assembled, right from the start, the ensemble cast that has served her well. Sarah Booth has been assisted in her investigations by her friend Tinkie, the transgendered society columnist Cece Dee Falcon, her psychic friend Madame Tomeeka, and the local sheriff— but especially by the resident ghost at Dahlia House, Jitty, who had been the slave/companion to Sarah Booth’s great-great grandmother. Jitty appears when she feels like it, often in costume, and urges Sarah Booth to find a man and procreate. Read the complete review

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • By David C. Kopaska-Merkel; Illustrated by Valerie Bodell
    Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2012
    $8, Paper

    Children

    Reviewed by Jonathan Rutan

    Making a valiant effort to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Seuss, The Edible Zoo by David C. Kopaska-Merkel is a family friendly romp through the fantastic. In his book, Merkel uses a unique—yet hilarious—approach when he decides to discuss some of the many different animals that live in our world. His interest in them, however, is not one in which he wants to talk about how they might look, but rather how they might taste as he illuminates the many different aspects of devouring a horse—or a crocodile—before moving on to imagine how delicious an aardvark—or a woodchuck—might be. Read the complete review

  • By Ron Meszaros
    Southern Oaks Publishing, 2012
    $15.99, Paper; $5.99 eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Jule Moon

    Set in Fairhope, Alabama, this fascinating novel, The Secret Life of David Goens, fulfills the definition of the root word: new, unusual, strange. This is the first novel of intriguing woven patterns of characters and events by an instinctive, meticulous, extensively knowledgeable writer. Read the complete review

  • By Michael Rosenwald, ed.
    Walker & Company, 2010
    $16, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Readers today may think of Gay Talese as the immersion journalist who hung out with the Bonnano Mafia family and published Honor Thy Father or the writer who explored America’s sexual mores and reported back in Thy Neighbor’s Wife or the historian of the New York Times in The Kingdom and the Power.

    It is easy to forget that Talese started out as a sports reporter and has been writing about football, boxing, basketball, golf, even soccer throughout his long career. Read the complete review

  • By Joy Harjo
    W.W. Norton and Company, 2012
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    When most Alabama readers think of Alabama writers, Native American—or American Indian as Joy Harjo calls herself—aren't the first writers who come to mind, yet Joy Harjo attributes what she considers to be three of the most important traits of her artistry—the need for perpetuating family storytelling, the quest for justice, and the return to and fusing of tribal music with poetry in her more recent works—to her Alabama heritage. In much of her poetry, and, more recently, her memoir, Crazy Brave, Harjo has written about her family's Alabama memories, the juncture of past and present, weaving them throughout a narrative that connects her life and work to the family lore that has been passed down for over seven generations. Read the complete review

  • By Irene Latham; Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
    Roaring Brook Press, 2012
    $15.99, Hardcover

    Children’s Literature

    Reviewed by Peter Huggins

    Who wouldn't want to live at the zoo? Eleven-year-old Whit, apparently, the central character in Irene Latham's new middle grade novel, Don't Feed the Boy. Whit is dissatisfied with life at the Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama, dissatisfied with his busy parents who always seem to put their jobs at the zoo— vet and head elephant keeper—ahead of him, dissatisfied with having no friends since he is homeschooled by the capable and calm Ms. Connie. All of this changes when Whit meets a girl (of course!), Stella, aka the Bird Girl because she draws birds at the zoo and uses the zoo as a refuge from a difficult situation at home. Read the complete review

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • By Skip Tucker
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    A former reporter, editor, and assistant publisher of Jasper’s Daily Mountain Eagle, Skip Tucker has been press secretary for a governor of Alabama and media director for an Alabama Supreme Court chief justice campaign. Described in the jacket text as a “rare espionage thriller set in the Civil War,” this novel—presumably his first published fiction—combines contemporary plot mechanics with historic characters and setting. Read the complete review

  • By Willie G. Moseley
    Acclaim Press, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Currently a senior writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine and editor/columnist/photographer for The Tallassee Tribune, Willie G. Moseley has written an entertaining and informative biography on the life of astronaut Stu Roosa in Smoke Jumper, Moon Pilot, Moseley’s eighth book. Stuart Roosa was a colorful, adventurous character whose life experiences ranged from a summer as a smoke jumper, parachuting into isolated areas to fight fires for the U.S. Forest Service, to orbiting the Moon in 1971. In between those jobs he was a fighter pilot for the Air Force. Read the complete review

  • By Stephanie Lawton
    Ink Spell Publishing, 2012
    $14.99, Paper; $4.99, eBook

    Young Adult

    Reviewed by Eleanor Inge Baker

    Young Adult Readers and Readers Young at Heart:

    If you’re looking for a steamy and emotionally taut read, give Mobile writer, Stephanie Lawton’s debut Young Adult (YA) novel, Want, a try. You will not find vampires or futuristic sci-fi villains between these pages, but a string of nail biting conflicts all the same. Set in Mobile and centered around a family steeped in the dark and secretive traditions of Mardi Gras, the reader learns that things are not always as they seem. Read the complete review

  • By Carey Link
    Finishing Line Press , 2011
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Melissa Dickson

    There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. —Minnie Aumonier

    One need not be quiet to hear the heart or the music of Carey Link’s tree-climbing verses. In her debut collection, What It Means To Climb a Tree, Link has composed an ambitious sequence of lyrical poems celebrating and interrogating the arboreal heights. The chapbook, published by Finishing Line Press, also features stylistically naïve but charming illustrations and cover art by Emily Lynn and Patricia Hart Eldridge, respectively. Read the complete review

  • By Lilly Ledbetter with Lanier Scott Isom
    Crown Archetype, 2012
    $25, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

    Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to change the workplace; she just wanted to help contribute to her family’s finances, help provide more for her children, and achieve financial stability.

    Like many Alabamians of her generation, she was born in a small town (Possum Trot, Alabama) and lived in a house without electricity and running water, amenities that are now taken for granted. She married her husband Charles at seventeen, they had two children within three years of one another, and, like many couples, then and now, found that trying to live on one paycheck was not enough. Going against her husband, Lilly went out and found a job at H&R Block where she eventually worked her way up to managing the office. Read the complete review

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These young adult titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These poetry titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • These children’s literature titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

  • By Edythe Scott Bagley with Joe Hilley
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $34.95, Hardcover; $27.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The late author of this beautifully written, well- organized biography was the older sister of the subject. As noted in the Preface, the project began several decades ago, at Coretta Scott King’s request. On Thursday morning, April 4, 1968, Edythe Scott Bagley put an initial draft in the mail to a publisher. Later that day, her brother-in-law and the husband of Coretta, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot and killed. Publication of the manuscript was delayed, and eventually canceled. Many years later, in 2004, Coretta asked Edythe to take up the project again. Read the complete review

  • By Gregory L. Reece
    I.B. Tauris, 2012
    $17, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by B.J. Hollars

    Gregory Reece knows what it means to be afraid. He, like so many of us, has experienced firsthand the heart-pounding terror that so often accompanies scary stories read by flashlight. Though unlike the hoards of horror-obsessed, monster-magazine-reading pre-teens we likely envision, Reece’s own interest in the supernatural—quite thankfully—far transcended his youth. In a society set on stifling the imagination, Reece seems somehow to have eluded capture, and this—coupled with his keen scholar’s eye—makes him the ideal writer for this highly engaging subject. Read the complete review

  • Photography by Jerry Siegel; text by Julian Cox & Dennis Harper
    The University of Alabama Press / Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, 2012
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This handsomely produced, table-size book is a collection of photographic portraiture by Selma photographer Jerry Siegel. The subjects are a hundred of the South’s most celebrated artists. Each portrait is accompanied by a brief paragraph of biography. Essays by curators Julian Cox, of the de Young Museum in San Francisco and formerly at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and Dennis Harper of the Jule Collins Smith Museum also provide interesting, thought-provoking preludes to the photographic content. Read the complete review

  • By B.J. Hollars, ed.
    Pressgang, 2012
    $14, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Gregory L. Reece

    Monsters come in all shapes in sizes. Some are frightening, eliciting blood curdling screams and pounding hearts from even the most stalwart among us. Some are sad, tearfully, fearfully sad. They make us weep for their deformities, their brokenness, their inability to walk among us without causing a scene, their never-ending quest to find true love in a world to which they do not belong. B.J. Hollars’ collection of short stories offers both these sorts of monsters, the frightening and the sad, as well as some fine examples of some of their monstrous cousins, like the funny and the mystifying. Read the complete review

  • By Paul Devlin, ed.
    Afterword by Phil Schaap
    University of Minnesota Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    Jo Jones, who came to be known as “Papa Jo,” was one of the most important and influential drummers of all time. After growing up in Alabama, Jones worked as a drummer and tap-dancer with carnival shows and later with bands, including Walter Page's Blue Devils in Oklahoma City and Lloyd Hunter's band in Nebraska. His big break came in 1936 when he joined Count Basie's band in Kansas City where he developed his innovative style using brushes on drums and shifting the role of timekeeping from the bass drum to the hi-hat symbol. In Rifftide Papa Jo tells us a lot more, although he never got around to writing his autobiography. Rather, he said to his friend, writer Albert Murray, “This is my last hoo-rah. I will not give this wealth of information to nobody else because they don’t know how to handle it.” Read the complete review

  • By Melissa Dickson, Johnny Summerfield, Sue Brannan Walker, and Carey Scott Wilkerson
    The Halawaukee School for the Exegetical Arts, 2012
    $10, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Aaron Sanders

    Let’s just say it: Gore Vidal was not being complimentary when he wrote this about Carson McCullers: “Of all the Southern writers, she is the most apt to endure.” Nor is USA Today celebrating the breadth and depth of Southern writing in its review of New Stories from the South: “For those sons and daughters of the South who yearn for fiction that eschews the moonlight-and-magnolias claptrap.” Talk about backhanded compliments. Talk about condescension. Go on: talk about it. Thankfully, folks down here have heard it all before, and they’re not listening. Exhibit A: the new book, Table 5. Read the complete review

  • By Harvey H. Jackson III
    University of Georgia Press, 2012
    $28.95, Hardcover; $28.95, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Jacksonville University Eminent Scholar in History Hardy Jackson brings to this job all the right tools. The author of several scholarly volumes, Jackson has also shown in Alabama : A Personal History of My State that he can personalize history, narrate history, in a highly readable fashion and commit sociology in the best possible way, from personal experience and keen observation. Read the complete review

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By Sue Scalf
    Blue Rooster Press, 2012
    $16.95, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Kathleen Thompson

    The poems in each section of Almost Home welter (to borrow one of the poet’s verbs) with a longing and searching for home, either physical or metaphorical. The irony of the title is set up in the sweeping dedication to the people of not just one, but two home states: Kentucky and Alabama.Read the complete review

  • By David T. Morgan
    CreateSpace, 2012
    $10.95, Paper; $2.99, eBook
    Fiction
    Reviewed by John W. Crum

    David T. Morgan’s latest novel, Ireland, Poor Ireland: A Dangerous Man and the Woman He Adored, is a tale of deep love set against the turbulent struggle of Ireland to gain self-rule. It spans the years from 1846 to success in 1922. All the twists and turns are here, from the significant American connection to the tenant farmers’ struggles against Captain Boycott, which added a new word to the English language, to the ill-fated Easter uprising in 1916. The Irish Question, as it was called, became one of the factors forcing the British Parliament to modernize its procedures in 1911 when the House of Lords was stripped of its powers. Earlier, the House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, only to see it fail in the House of Lords, 419-41. Read the complete review

  • By Hank Lazer
    Singing Horse Press, 2012
    $15, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    Let me be unambiguous: Hank Lazer’s new collection of hand-written poems, N18 (Complete) is a singularly dazzling work of purest art, both textually charming and intellectually rigorous. To read these lovely, swirling, torquing, intorsional, gyroscopically involuted poem/commentaries and lyrico-philosophical objects is to experience nothing less than “The New” of Ezra Pound’s historic directive. And it is an astonishing achievement indeed. Read the complete review

  • By C. Terry Cline Jr.
    MacAdam-Cage, 2012
    $17, Hardcover
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Unless the reader is a sitting duck for a suspend-the-belief book, the most interesting part of the narrative is in the Foreword. Terry Cline Jr. explains that he has spent a “fifty year odyssey in search of Edgar Cayce, the so-called sleeping prophet…. Lying on his couch in a hypnotic trance, Mr. Cayce extracted information during life readings that covered a person’s karma from past incarnations.” Among the famous people who supposedly consulted Cayce back then were Woodrow Wilson, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Thomas Edison. Read the complete review

  • by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
    NewSouth Books, 2012
    $24.95, Hardcover; $9.99, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    When I saw the title of longtime syndicated newspaper columnist and author Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s latest book, Hank Hung the Moon and Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts, I wondered why anyone would want to write about Williams Sr. The singer has been thoroughly-documented; I couldn’t imagine another biography.

    Johnson, of course, has been warming hearts for years with her hilarious, heartfelt, and melancholy observations of everyday people who add color to the world. In Hank Hung the Moon, she does reveal a few new tidbits about “Ol’ Hank,” as she lovingly refers to him, but more importantly, she invites the reader to look at the different styles of music that defined the ups and downs in her life, though she admits that Hank will always be her favorite. Read the complete review

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By Anne Whitehouse
    Finishing Line Press , 2011
    $14, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Mary Kaiser

    In her latest chapbook, Anne Whitehouse’s clear-eyed poetic vision uncovers mysteries beneath the calm surfaces of modern life. “This is my life,” she affirms in “Rites of Spring,” “finding one thing in another.” Unclouded by assumptions, Whitehouse’s lyrical voice moves from one carefully observed, imagistic stanza to another, introducing concise narratives that accumulate metaphorical power by juxtaposition, like a chain of haiku. Read the complete review

  • By Amanda Walker
    Walker World Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    After reading this collection of essays by an acclaimed columnist with the newspaper Wilcox Progressive Era in Camden, Alabama, I concur with the back cover observation: “She weaves and dances along the heartstrings through us all. She can be quite opinionated and delightfully humorous.” At thirty-nine, Amanda Walker is too young to be called an old soul, but philosophically, that’s her bent, if not her beat. Read the complete review

  • By Vallie Lynn Watson
    Luminis Books, 2012
    $17.95, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Foster Dickson

    Referring to Vallie Lynn Watson’s new book, A River So Long, as a “novel” puts the term in its truest context: a work very new and modern in style and content. Relatively slim in total and narrated in imagistic vignette-like chapters, the novel allows the reader to glimpse into the life of Veronica, a barely married traveling businesswoman whose emotional baggage and illicit affairs are scattered all over the continental United States, with pieces of her life languishing in Phoenix, New Orleans, New York, Boston, Wilmington, and Memphis, and in the Birmingham of her past. Read the complete review

  • By Jesmyn Ward
    Bloomsbury, 2011
    $24, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Salvage the Bones was released in September 2011, declared a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in October, and awarded the prize in November, before hardly anyone had reviewed it or read it. The five judges of the NBA chose it from a field of 315 novels submitted. And they were probably right. This is a smart, powerful novel and makes, I think, a permanent impression on the reader. Read the complete review

  • By Ted M. Dunagan
    Junebug Books , 2011
    $21.95, Hardcover; $9.99, eBook
    Young Adult
    Reviewed by Tony Crunk

    Trouble on the Tombigbee is the third of Ted Dunagan’s Young Adult novels to chronicle the adventures and deepening relationship between two adolescent boys, Ted and Poudlum, one black and one white, in the southwest Alabama of the late 1940s. As with the two previous novels, A Yellow Watermelon and Secret of the Satilfa, the adventures are frequently harrowing, the boys infinitely resourceful, and the suspense finely honed, all resulting in a satisfying, page-turning read.
    Read the complete review

  • By Wendy Reed and Jennifer Horne, eds.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2012
    $29.95, Hardcover; $23.95, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot

    If titles received awards, Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality might take top prize. The book itself forms a literary and philosophical circle composed of smaller circles, capturing in form and content the complexity of Southern women’s Christ-haunted wrestles with trust in the unknowable. Jennifer Horne’s and Wendy Reed’s skilled editing crafts intricate links to form an enclosed sacred space that steps cautiously around itself. The beginning meets not an end but instead a promise of renewal. Read the complete review

  • By Taylor M. Polites
    Simon & Schuster, 2012
    $25, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This debut novel is a very readable blend of historically detailed narrative and a finely honed, contemporary style of writing. It’s told in first-person/present tense by the main character, Augusta (“Gus”) Branson, who was born into Southern aristocracy before the Civil War did away with the family fortune. Her husband, Eli, who dies horrifically of a blood disease plague in the opening chapter, had been a helpful advocate to newly freed slaves, including those who remained in the household and are like family to Gus. The cast of characters includes both races. Read the complete review

  • By Ralph F. Voss
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $34.95, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    Just when you think nothing new could possibly be added to the volumes of literary criticism written about In Cold Blood, a book emerges that is as compelling as Capote’s original crime novel. The author, retired University of Alabama English professor Ralph Voss, brings a unique perspective to his subject: Truman Capote and the legacy of in cold blood. Read the complete review

  • By Foster Dickson, ed.
    McFarland, 2011
    $35, Paperback
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    This is not a boring high-school textbook. Nevertheless, you might think it is. Children of the Changing South: Accounts of Growing Up During and After Integration has that lengthy dissertation-like title and the sort of cover photograph that says, “You’re in for a long day of schooling.” The photograph shows a loosely-spaced group of teen-aged girls and an older black man with an umbrella lolling down a street in Selma.

    After that, is a preface and then a 21,000-word academic introduction by the book’s editor, Foster Dickson. (Unless one is a scholar, it might all seem daunting and dry.) But after the introduction—Wow! Suddenly, you’re climbing out of a sand pit near Pascagoula, Mississippi. It’s the late fifties, and you feel the desert-like sun burning your neck. After crawling out of that pit, there’s nowhere to go but up. Read the complete review

  • By Anne Markham Bailey
    The Friends of Julian, Norwich, UK, 2011
    £7, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    In Cold Stone, White Lily Anne Markham Bailey gives us poems in the voice of a character she has imagined, a fourteenth-century English anchoress named Anne Wyngfield, who lived in an East Anglican village. The poems are careful to include allusions to specific historical events such as the growing influence of the English vernacular on society and the subsequent controversy over Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English, allowing the speaker to be both observer and participant in the times. Read the complete review

  • By Fairhope Writers Group
    Southern Oaks Publishing, 2011
    $11.95, Paper
    Anthology
    Reviewed by Linda Busby Parker

    Fairhope Anthology is a delightful collection of stories—both fiction and nonfiction—set on Mobile’s Eastern Shore. Contributors to the anthology include Mary Ardis, Vicki Armitage, Karen Bonvillain Bull, Roger Bull, Robert Glennon, Ken James, Ron Meszaros, Jule Moon, and Joe Worley. The beautiful idyllic communities along Mobile Bay—Fairhope, Point Clear, Daphne, Montrose—conjure feelings of charm and beauty, but most importantly, these lovely locales conjure stories. Read the complete review

  • By Anne Chancey Dalton
    Seacoast Publishing, 2012
    $7.95, Paper
    Children’s
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This 104-page book is part of the Alabama Roots series, a joint venture of Seacoast Publishing, Inc., and Will Publishing, Inc., both of Birmingham. The purpose is to provide historically accurate and interesting biographies of famous people from Alabama for students in middle grades. Read the complete review

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By Jason McCall
    Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2012
    $15, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    If you happened to see the 2011 fantasy/adventure film Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, then you would probably be astonished at how easily you could notice and understand the vaguest allusions to Norse mythology in Jason McCall’s poetry collection, Silver. Read the complete review

  • By Jim Fraiser; Photography by Pat Caldwell
    Pelican Publishing Company, 2012
    $24, Hardcover
    Nonfiction—Photo Collection
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    As coffee table books go, this one is really stand-out impressive. The relatively compact size is good for hand-held perusal and reading, and gorgeous photography on the front and back of the jacket bids you to venture inside the covers. John Sledge notes in his eloquent foreword that such a book “has long been overdue…. Locals and visitors have always known about Mobile’s rich architectural legacy, of course…but until now there hasn’t been a suitably attractive and accessible volume communicating that to take home, display, and thumb through with such pleasure.” Read the complete review

  • By Fred Bassett
    Salt Marsh Cottage Books, 2010
    $12, Paper; $5.99 eBook
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Fred Bassett’s third book of poems is subtitled “a life in poems,” and this book reads very much like a memoir, satisfyingly so.

    A native of Roanoke, Alabama, who now makes his home in South Carolina, Bassett has structured his book chronologically in three sections: The Boy, The Man, and The Old Man. True to the meandering ways of memory, however, the poems in all three sections often move around in time as the speaker remembers old neighbors, long-ago tragedies, and childhood questions. Read the complete review

  • By Lt. Col. James D. Lawrence, USAF (ret.)
    Deeds Publishing, 2011
    $24.95, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The author of this well-written and impressively organized autobiography spent twenty-seven years in the service of his country. Jim Lawrence, who grew up in Opp, Alabama, recalls that during his pilot training in 1970-71 “[t]here was great intensity and a lot of pressure to learn and apply a new skill each and every day.” After completing service in Air Training Command in 1974, he underwent training in Arkansas before “heading to Okinawa.” Among the twelve titled chapters are: “Iranian Hostage Rescue Attempt (Eagle Claw)”; “Honduras on the Fly”; “Air Commando History Revisited”; and, what would most certainly appeal to older-timers, “Our Greatest Generation—My Boyhood Heroes.” Read the complete review

  • By Gabriel Gadfly
    1889 Labs, 2011
    $7.99, Paper
    Poetry
    Reviewed by Carey Scott Wilkerson

    In this parlous time, no serious artist can avoid the question of the relationship between aesthetic commitments and the complexities of an increasingly-political daily discourse. My own solution, for instance, has been to deny politics, particularly war, any real place in my work. However, I fully understand the impulse, and I am always pleased to find someone who wields this sensibility, and its attendant forces, with invention and insight. Gabriel Gadfly’s collection Bone Fragments exemplifies precisely that fragile mechanism in which horror and humanity are held in the transformative flux of poetic vision. Read the complete review

  • By Gin Phillips
    Riverhead Books, 2012
    $26.95, Hardcover
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Gin Phillips, who has roots in Montgomery and lives in Birmingham, received a Barnes and Noble award for her first novel, The Well and the Mine. Her new book of fiction, which also has a lilting, five-word title, is filled with mesmerizing imagery and lovely prose. There is not much evidence of narrative tension or mystery; the artistry is the hook. Read the complete review

  • By Philip Cioffari
    Livingston Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Jeremy Dunn

    With a host of colorful characters forming its backbone, Philip Cioffari’s Jesusville explores those difficult and dark corners of the human experience: loneliness, self-doubt, and lust. All the book’s characters, similarly locked in desperate searches for some form of redemption, find themselves in a lonely patch of desert darkened by the shadow of the ruins of the Holy Land, a failed Christian theme park, its facades now eerily defaced. This desolate desert setting takes on a character of its own, and it is in this bleak, ghostly place that the characters of Jesusville must confront inner demons and very real external threats. Read the complete review

  • By Teddy Porter
    Lyons Hart Press, 2011
    $12.50, Paper
    Fiction
    Reviewed by Dee Jordan

    Teddy Porter tells an intriguing story about Calvin Huckabee’s becoming a man. Huck, at age seventeen, is still a virgin. He is torn between what he was taught by his dad, a pastor, and what his body screams in hormonal overdrive. Unlike many coming of age stories about boys in which they have no conscience, the protagonist in this one is different. His friend Ringo is a lady’s man who uses girls for sex. This bothers Huck. Read the complete review

  • By C.S. Fuqua
    The History Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper
    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Danny Gamble

    Arriving in time for 2011’s Year of Alabama Music celebration, C.S. Fuqua’s Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie is an encyclopedic journey through the cotton fields, church houses, and roadhouses of Alabama. All of the biggies are here—Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Erskine Hawkins, three-fifths of the Temptations, Sam Phillips—with extensive biographies detailing their lives and work. Other, lesser-known artists are also included—Azure Ray (Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink), Coot Grant, Ray Reach, Ray “Dr. Hook” Sawyer. The book also includes biographies of two-thirds of Alabama’s American Idol winners/runner-up. More on that later. Read the complete review

  • By Larry Dane Brimner
    Blue Slip Media, 2011
    $16.95, Hardcover

    Young Adult

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Black and White is a capsule history, in plain but not simplistic language, of the events in Anniston and Birmingham–the rallies and boycotts, the arrests, the Klan violence at the Greyhound station, the marches, Shuttlesworth’s attempts to integrate Phillips High School. During one attempt, with policemen watching, Shuttlesworth was beaten unconscious on the street and his wife was stabbed in the hip. Brimner has written this as a battle between two great foes: the fiery preacher who led the protests, Fred Shuttlesworth, and his absolutely stubborn antagonist, Eugene “Bull” Connor. Brimner has cast them not as equals—a number of times Commissioner of Public Safety Connor is characterized as hateful and evil—but rather as classically epic foes, each one necessary to the other in a battle of the darkness and the light. Read the complete review

  • By Sam Hodges, ed.
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $18.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    I have never written a review that was so highly personal and painful. Ron Casey and Bailey Thomson were friends and colleagues at The Birmingham News and The Tuscaloosa News, respectively. They were bright, dedicated men who died far too soon—Casey at fifty-four and Thomson at forty-eight. There is pain in that loss per se and also pain in what has not changed since their untimely deaths. Many of the problems they explored so eloquently still linger in our state. Read the complete review

  • By Michael Martone
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $16.50, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    An innocent browser in a bookstore who picks up Michael Martone’s latest might well be a little confused. This volume declares itself to be fiction, and yet many of the individual pieces seem to be simple descriptions of a restaurant or a kind of railroad car or bits of memoir from Martone’s own life, especially his childhood. Furthermore, all the pieces come in sets of four. In fact on the cover there are four strips of photos, four to a strip, of Martone himself in a coin-operated photography booth. Thus the title, Four for a Quarter. Read the complete review

  • By Jane DeNeefe
    The History Press, 2011
    $19.99, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    No one should be surprised that the most progressive city in Alabama in the 1960s had a rock and roll scene that shook Huntsville with vibrations rivaling the ground-shaking test-firings of the Saturn V rocket engines built at the town’s Marshall Space Flight Center. While NASA rocketeers aimed for the Moon, rock and soul bands aimed for stardom. After years of interviewing local musicians, longtime Huntsville resident and musicologist Jane DeNeefe has thoroughly documented the city’s musical vista in Rocket City Rock & Soul, while also sharing a history of the town’s societal and economic evolution. (DeNeefe also coauthored Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom.) Read the complete review

  • By Kathryn Tucker Windham
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $20, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    She contains a variety of reminiscences of the recent and distant past, but it mainly concerns the changes involved in aging. Kathryn Tucker Windham was, enviably, ninety when this became a problem. That was when the alter ego “She” came into the picture and took over her life. Windham writes, “I can’t recall when I became aware that an old woman was nudging her way into my life.” The arrival of this old woman caused problems. “She disrupts my plans, demands my attention, shames me into completing abandoned projects, requires nutritious meals…hides things from me, makes my handwriting less legible….” And so it goes. Read the complete review

  • By Donald Goodman & Thomas Head, eds.
    The University of North Carolina Press, 2011
    $30, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    At the time of his death in 1998, Mobile author and Renaissance man Eugene Walter had filing cabinets full of recipes he had collected and a number of different writing projects under way. In addition to several volumes of fiction, poetry, and translations, Walter had already published American Cooking: Southern Style (1971), a very successful cookbook for the Time-Life Foods of the World series, Delectable Dishes from Termite Hall: Rare and Unusual Recipes (1989) and Hints and Pinches: A Concise Compendium of Herbs, Spices, and Aromatics with Illustrative Recipes and Asides on Relishes, Chutneys, and Other Such Concerns. One could say he was a well-seasoned cookbook writer.

    Now, Donald Goodman, Walter’s heir and literary executor, has, with the help of Thomas Head, a D.C.-based food writer, completed and edited a volume of recipes under way at the time of Walter’s death, every one of which includes some kind of alcoholic spirits. The first section is, appropriately enough, forty recipes for drinks. The title is “The Cocktail, Or, I Feel Better Already.” Included are punches, juleps, and eggnog sipped and eaten with a spoon, all southern style. No recipes for Manhattans or appletinis. Read the complete review

  • By Joseph P. Wood
    CW Books, 2010
    $18, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Alan May

    The poems in I & We are confessional (in the poem “I Was a Finalist,” the speaker claims he was contending “for wife ignorer of the year”); grotesque (one poem begins “If I were a lesion[…]”); and often political (see the poem titled “Supreme Court Makes Pact to Lose Virginity by the End of December 2002”). Most of these poems find firm footing in the mundane and the base (see “Middle Class Syphilis” and “The Punch”—which is literally about a punch); however, the everyday is sometimes given an almost mythic or heroic rendering. The best example of this can be found in the poem “Total: A Biography.” The speaker in this poem gives the reader the opportunity to experience his Uncle Hymie’s sciatica. Read the complete review

  • By Rupert Fike
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2010
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    A “lotus buffet” evokes the image of a long table filled with various dishes from India. Just as easily, however, the phrase conjures up a scene in which someone is hit repeatedly with a large aquatic plant. Either image would work for this collection, which is both full and hilarious. Read the complete review

  • By Mark D. Hersey
    University of Georgia Press, 2011
    $24.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Mark D. Hersey’s focus on George Washington Carver’s career at Tuskegee is not the story we are familiar with. An eccentric fellow, with no intellectual peer at Tuskegee, Carver was not a popular faculty member. He wore a flower in his lapel each day, ate edible weeds from the countryside if he didn’t like the cafeteria food, and sometimes made his own clothes. As one might guess, he and the principal, Booker T. Washington, had a difficult relationship. Read the complete review

  • These anthologies were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • These fiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • These nonfiction titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By Dot Moore
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    The first question that comes to mind is: Why did the author decide to take on this project? The 1948 murder trial and execution via electric chair of prominent businessman John Wallace in Coweta County, Georgia, for killing a man with whom he'd been involved in the moonshining business, had already been the topic of Margaret Ann Barnes's 1976 prize-winning, still in print best-seller, Murder in Coweta County, which Johnny Cash made into a 1983 TV movie. Read the complete review

  • By Frederick W. Bassett
    All Things that Matter Press, 2010
    $16.99, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Jim Buford

    Fred Bassett’s debut novel is the story of young Barsh Roberts, who navigates the rites of passage through adolescence in a small Alabama community during the late 1940s. Bassett writes in the tradition of Ferroll Sams, whose semi-autobiographical Porter Osburne Jr. comes of age in rural Georgia in an earlier time. To me, Barsh is especially evocative of Porter in The Whisper of the River, an enduring classic of Southern literature. Read the complete review

  • by Marlin Barton
    Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, 2011
    $24.95, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Kirk Curnutt

    Marlin “Bart” Barton’s fourth book in ten years returns us to the west Alabama environs that are his “little postage stamp of native soil,” to borrow Faulkner’s well-known phrase. The Cross Garden is a testament to the beautiful solemnities of place where roots both nourish and restrict growth. In precise prose and lyrical cadences, Barton limns the riverbanks and ironwork bridges, the camphouse lean-tos and cinder-block dives, the turkey-tail-clogged woodland trails and the ornate small-town architecture with such vivid density that Greene County comes alive as a landscape of both unbearable stasis and uncomfortable intensity. Read the complete review

  • By William Todd Schultz
    Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011
    $17.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    What I found particularly interesting about Tiny Terror is that the author defines Truman Capote’s personality perfectly: he was a tiny terror (short but ferocious) with lifelong attachment issues that afflicted everything he wrote. He was a brilliant, precocious youth that his relatives did not know how to manage, and he quickly learned that as an only child abandoned by his mother, he could have his way by manipulation, tantrums, or simply by being adorable. But why stop there? His adult life was marked by these same traits. He partied, drank heavily, took drugs, and wrote about all of it in his quest for fame, mental peace, and acceptance. Read the complete review

  • By Tantra Bensko
    Naissance, 2010
    $10, Paper

    Mixed Genre

    Reviewed by Bebe Barefoot

    Tantra Bensko describes her work as “experimental literary fiction that looks behind the eyelids,” but to anchor yourself as you join her on a journey through the universe of the sub-conscious, you need only look behind her name.

    “Tantra,” or tantric practice, aligns microcosm with macrocosm and makes the ordinary the transportation of choice for reaching an extraordinary that was always already there. Like her experimental forefather, William Blake, Bensko sees “…the world in a grain of sand / and heaven in a wildflower.” Read the complete review

  • By Mark J. Hainds
    The University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $16.95, Paper; $13.56, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Edward Reynolds

    Even academics relish the thrill of the kill. Auburn University forestry researcher Mark J. Hainds, whose published work includes “Distribution of Native Legumes in Frequently Burned Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass Ecosystems” in the American Journal of Botany, is an authority on vegetative habitats, in particular, the longleaf pine. He’s also quite familiar with feral pigs and the damage they inflict on agricultural fields and other ecosystems, which is thoroughly documented in his book Year of the Pig. Read the complete review

  • By Edward Pattillo
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $50, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Well-known throughout the South as an art, antiquities, and estate appraiser, Edward “Eddie” Pattillo has compiled and written this impressive history of several pioneer families who made the trek from the Carolinas into early Alabama. Subtitled The Spencer-Robeson-McKenzie Family Papers, the handsomely produced book, which has been published via a grant from the Blount Foundation, contains photographs and well-organized documentation. At the heart of it is a really interesting, at times almost cinematically described narrative. Read the complete review

  • By Winston Groom
    Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    Kearny's March is a masterful blend of scholarly research, colorful description, and a confident, enthusiastic style of narrative writing that adds freshness and immediacy to a true-adventure saga from an era that decisively formed our country. In 1846, after Congress had voted to annex Texas and Mexico had declared war on the United States, President James K. Polk, whose mentor was Andrew Jackson, sent General Stephen Watts Kearny from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to California with an army of 2,000 cavalrymen to occupy Mexican territory. The expedition included a caravan of wagons bearing settlers and families, frontiersmen, and explorers. When it ended a year later, the country had doubled in size and expanded from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Read the complete review

  • These books were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By Clare Datnow
    Media Mint Publishing, 2011
    $16.50, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Perle Champion

    Clare Datnow’s novel, The Nine Inheritors, reads very much like a biography of ten generations as told by a keen-eyed on-the-scene observer. I enjoyed her omniscient point-of-view because I could journey with the characters as they each moved through their part of history. Read the complete review

  • By Russ Kesler
    Wind Publications, 2011
    $15, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Jennifer Horne

    Russ Kesler’s second book is filled with poems of quiet, steady observation. This alone is pleasing. The poems move beyond attentiveness, however, and into meditation. The “as if” phrase of the title poem appears in three other poems as well, establishing a mode of approach that joins nature with tropes of nature, reality with what’s imagined, the mind with the world. Read the complete review

  • By Richard E. Creel and Grace B. Lebo, eds.; Phillip E. Levin, Editor in Chief
    Gulf Coast Writers Association, 2011
    $11.95, Paper

    Anthology

    Reviewed by Sue Scalf

    After having read a number of very long novels recently, your reviewer was surprised anew by the enjoyment of reading a collection of short stories, especially one whose guidelines were “fictional stories with Southern themes, Southern locations, and Southern characters.” The panel who chose these stories, did, however, include a few nonfiction stories and five poems. Read the complete review

  • These books were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. View the complete list

  • By B.J. Hollars
    The University of Alabama Press
    $24.95, Hardcover; $19.96, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Ravi Howard

    Today, I cannot walk past an oak or a camphor tree without wondering what sordid history might be tied to those branches.

    B.J. Hollars shares this revelation in Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America, an insightful analysis of how the residual effects of a violent racial history contributed to a 1981 lynching in Alabama. Read the complete review

  • By Guild of Professional Writers for Children;
    Illustrations by Sue Blackshear
    Look Again Press, LLC, 2011
    $23.95, Hardcover; $16.95, Paper

    Children

    Reviewed by Linda A. McQueen

    Tuskaloosa Tales Stories of Tuscaloosa and Its People is an interesting collection of short stories for children that examines the diverse heritage of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There are true stories as well as fictional stories of people, places, and events of the past. These stories from the past have developed to form Tuscaloosa’s future. Read the complete review

  • By Anne Whitehouse
    Finishing Line Press, 2010
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by P.T. Paul

    Down the left side of the front cover of Anne Whitehouse’s book Bear In Mind is a black, orange, and yellow strip of artwork titled “Transit of Venus: Ingress.” Down the right side of the back cover is the reverse image “Transit of Venus: Egress.” At first glance, one might wonder what, exactly, is the significance of this particular choice of artwork. And one might wonder exactly what one is supposed to “bear in mind.” However, within the pages of this book, one might find more questions than answers, as well as poetry that will make one momentarily forget their original questions. Read the complete review

  • By Claire Klein Datnow
    Media Mint Publishing, 2011
    $14.25, Paper; $8.25, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    To say that growing up in South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s was like growing up in the segregated American South would be preposterous. Yet, there were parallels in the two cultures based on unapologetic white domination of subjugated black people. Perhaps the most striking thing about Claire Klein Datnow’s memoir is the isolation of the whites in both cultures. Read the complete review

  • By Carolyn Haines
    St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books, 2011
    $24.99, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Carolyn Haines of Semmes, Alabama, has now published eighteen novels and is the winner of both the Harper Lee Award and the Richard Wright Award. Things are going well. Bones of a Feather is the tenth in her very popular Bones series. Sarah Booth Delaney’s home place is Dahlia House, Zinnia, Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta. But Haines cannot set all her mysteries there or the population would be, literally, decimated, so Bones of a Feather is set in historic Natchez. Read the complete review

  • By Michael Meyerhofer
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2011
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Lewis Robert Colon Jr.

    Crack the lid on the melting pot of contemporary poetry and you’ll find no shortage of poets trying to do what Michael Meyerhofer does effortlessly in Damnatio Memoriae, his third full-length book. Many of the poems in the Brick Road Poetry Prize-winning volume are the kind of imaginative feats of cleverness that Amy Gerstler has perfected. This good-natured weaving of tragicomic autobiography, obscure history, and imaginative dives down the what if rabbit hole is the sort of stuff that’s easy to like but not so easy to pull off. Read the complete review

  • By David Oates
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2011
    $12.95, Paperback

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Allen Berry

    Drunken Robins is a new collection of haiku and senryu from poet David Oates, collected over the last twenty years of living in rural Appalachia and Athens, Georgia, where Oates is a teacher and public radio host. By his own account, Oates's work adheres to the philosophy of the poet Basho in that he tries to write, not as if he were in medieval Japan, but rather drawing inspiration from nature and the life that surrounds him. Read the complete review

  • By K.T. Archer
    iUniverse, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover; $17.95, Paper; $9.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Marianne Moates Weber

    When Alabama author K.T. Archer completed her first novel, The Silver Spoon, she knew she had created a character in Lizzy Wallace that would have many more adventures. The latest for the protagonist is in Kismet, where Lizzy focuses on rebuilding her own life rather than being swamped by the family drama in The Silver Spoon. Read the complete review

  • By Barry Marks
    Brick Road Poetry Press, 2010
    $15.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Melissa Dickson

    Barry Marks’ Possible Crocodiles, winner of the 2010 Alabama State Poetry Society book of the year award, is remarkable as a living document of a man engaged in the quiet heroics and failures of life on earth. Marks doesn’t seem concerned with issues of craft or artificial manipulations of language for the sake of Poetry with a capitol P. His work speaks to a genuine struggle in the face of emblematic twenty-first century ordeals: a computer virus, a tedious wedding guest, a holiday meal with family, the body as depreciating real estate, returning to the dating scene, loving and mourning a lost daughter, doing the dishes, and the impossibly shifting dynamics of human love, connection, and communication. Read the complete review

  • By Jule Moon
    Southern Oaks Publishing, 2011
    $10, Paper

    Mixed Genre (Poetry, Short Fiction, Vignette, Memoir)

    Reviewed by Anita Miller Garner

    Virginia Woolf in “A Room of One’s Own” noted the historical absence of women telling the stories of their own lives. Women’s stories—if mentioned at all—were told sketchily by others. Initially inspired to gather fragments of her own life story for the anthology Writing Mobile Bay: The Hurricane Project, Jule Moon continued to work with and be inspired by other writers in the Fairhope, Alabama, area. The result is a pleasing, artful patchwork of memories, poems, short stories, and vignettes that capture some of the moments of what it was like to live a life as a twentieth century American woman in the American South. Read the complete review

  • By Anne Cope Wallace
    Summerfield Publishing/New Plains Press, 2011
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Kathleen Thompson

    A funeral pyre and a vibrant Veteran’s #2 rose: what contrarieties does this book of ninety-one pages hold beyond its cover? Wallace confirms in her brief preface that she has discovered such collisions of “music and cacophony,” their “sounds of sorrow and song, grief and joy” wherever she’s traveled. Indeed her poems in four numbered sections hum along from darkness to light, from grief to acceptance, and from weakness to power. Read the complete review

  • By Dave Madden
    St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books, 2011
    $26.99, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    It seems that Dave Madden, now an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama, was taking a course in nature writing when he became interested in museum dioramas and then taxidermy. Madden researched this book on taxidermy for five years and, as unlikely as the subject may at first seem, it is, in its own very odd way, a page turner. Read the complete review

  • By Irene Latham
    Blue Rooster Press, 2010
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Sue Brannan Walker

    Irene Latham’s The Color of Lost Rooms is a museum of art, history, literature, and the long treasured artifacts of the human heart. To open the book is to take a museum tour, to stop and revel in all that is found there. Read the complete review

  • By http://www.aceatkins.com/>Ace Atkins
    G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011
    $25.95, Hardcover; $12.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    The Ranger is the first of the Quinn Colson books. The protagonist, Colson, has been an Army ranger for ten years, since before 9/11, and served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stationed now in Fort Benning, Georgia, Colson is called back to the bleak, depressed town of Jericho in Tibbehah County in northeast Mississippi for the funeral of his sheriff uncle. Hampton Beckett, Quinn is told, committed suicide. Well, readers know this will be questioned. Uncle Hamp wasn’t the type. Read the complete review

  • By Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman
    NewSouth Books, 2011
    $27.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Nancy Wilstach

    Danger, fear, confrontation, heroism. The legendary, history-making saga of the nation’s first black combat pilots is the stuff of romance, that heady aura that surrounds a man who stares down death amid the clouds. He soars far above the earth and deep into our imaginations. It also is the stuff of these particular men’s gritty determination to defend their country, never mind that it was a country steeped in rock-hard racism, a country that then would not even have let them try on a pair of trousers in a department store or drink a malted milk at a drugstore soda fountain. Read the complete review

  • By Gretchen McCullough; Translation by Mohamed Metwalli and Gretchen McCullough
    Afaq Bookshop and Publishing House, 2011
    $12, Paper

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    Gretchen McCullough is a true WT, a world traveler. Not cloistered in a comfortable Midwestern college, McCullough, now fluent in Arabic, is a writer with a lot of life experiences and material for her fiction, much of it exotic, even fantastic. This is the world of 1001 Arabian Nights, where not everything is what it seems. These three stories, all set in Cairo, make use of some of these experiences and exude a sense of the magical. Read the complete review

  • By Louie Skipper
    Negative Capability Press, 2010
    $17.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    It seems most probable that the “tongue” in the title of Louie Skipper’s new collection is meant to connote language, or a way of speaking—the “tongue” of poetry. In fact, in the book’s title poem, the speaker acknowledges that he’s “planned the jailbreak of these words from within, / my scratching of ink.” Yet I couldn’t help but think, as well, of the concept of speaking in tongues—praise and consolation—as I read these lyrical and well-made poems. That religious connotation of “tongue” also seems appropriate, given that Skipper is an ordained Episcopal priest. Read the complete review

  • by Janet Johnson Anderson
    Mirror Press, 2011
    $20, Paper

    Poetry

    Book Noted

    This collection of some 160 pages by Janet Anderson, a Huntsville poet, was compiled in response to the tornadoes that hit Alabama on April 27, 2011. The book features black-and-white photographs of the tornadoes and their aftermath and poems related both directly to the tornadoes and more generally to themes of loss, grief, resilience, and recovery, often from a religious perspective. This book is available for purchase at all Books-A-Million locations, with profits going to disaster relief organizations at work in Alabama. Read the complete review

  • By Natasha Trethewey
    University of Georgia Press, 2010
    $22.95, Hardcover; $13.77, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    In Beyond Katrina, Natasha Trethewey looks at the life, death, and ongoing resurrection of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Trethewey is not the center of the story, nor is she alone in it. She speaks with a former mayor of her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, state legislators, a young waiter, an historian, and family members, among others. Besides bringing a fresh witness to the lives of those who were violently baptized by Katrina, the book concerns her brother who was incarcerated for trafficking cocaine. Read the complete review

  • By Jonathan W. Jordan
    NAL Caliber , 2011
    $28.95, Hardcover; $14.99, eBook

    Nonfiction
    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    This somewhat hefty book has "Winner" subliminally imprinted on its stately, classic cover. The Introduction defines it as "the story of three men sent to tear down an empire.... This account of the campaign to liberate Europe is drawn from the words, observations, and writings of Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton, as well as those of the many aides, staffers, superiors, secretaries, stenographers, celebrities, chauffeurs, and orderlies who walked with them through their great struggle." Read the complete review

  • By Bob Whetstone
    Lulu Enterprises, 2011
    $35, Hardcover

    Fiction

    Reviewed by Bill Plott

    Bob Whetstone, professor emeritus at Birmingham-Southern College, came from an environment far, far away from academia. He grew up in a cotton mill village near Alexander City, a childhood that generated this book. Cotton Mary is the life story of Mary Christine Tarley Stone, a young girl growing up with an abusive father, forced into backbreaking labor in the cotton fields and orphaned and pregnant as a young teenager. Life is a roller-coaster ride of exhilarating highs and stomach-aching lows for Mary. Read the complete review

  • By Brewster Milton Robertson
    Mangus Hollow Books, 2011
    $24, Paper; $4.99, eBook

    Fiction

    Book Noted

    From the publisher: Gone to Graveyards, an epic novel of the Korean War, has an immediate relevance today, over a half-century after the Korean truce was signed. Incredibly the daily headlines portend the ominous threat of North Korea’s nuclear ambition while UN troops still anxiously patrol the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th Parallel. Pundits have variously called the Korean War "a black hole of history" and "The Forgotten War." Most of the meager legacy of written history about the so-called “Forgotten War” would have current and future generations believe the Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel into Seoul and ended slightly over one year later on July 10, 1951, the date both sides sat down at negotiating tables at Panmunjom, a village a few miles north of Seoul. This is the farthest thing from the truth. Read the complete review

  • By Wayne Flynt
    University of Alabama Press, 2011
    $29.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Norman McMillan

    Wayne Flynt’s memoir, Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, is an excellent read for anyone, but it should be required reading for Alabamians. Through the prism of his own life, Flynt addresses some of the most profound issues Alabama has faced over the years and shows how the state has failed to deal with them adequately. Read the complete review

  • By Beck McDowell
    Kirkland Fort, 2011
    $9.99, Paper; $7.99, eBook

    Nonfiction

    Book Noted

    From the publisher: The true story of Courtney Miles' rescue of over 300 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While government officials posed for cameras, a boy from the projects with no driver's license stepped up and showed what "drive" is all about. Last Bus Out tells how Courtney Miles stole a bus, charged past a police roadblock, and argued with a National Guardsman who threatened to lock him in the makeshift jail at the Greyhound Bus Station. Sick with worry about his missing grandmother, he drove his passengers to safety, and then went back into the city at midnight to help others. Read the complete review

  • By Emilye Crosby, ed.
    University of Georgia Press
    $69.95, Hardcover; $26.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Julia Oliver

    These essays by twelve scholars analyze how and why local-level organization was crucial to the success of the national Civil Rights Movement. Emilye Crosby, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Geneseo, justifies and clarifies that rationale in her Introduction, "The Politics of Writing and Teaching Movement History." A basic theme is that the existing "top-down literature" does not reveal the whole story to students "who want to do in-depth study of the movement, and to make connections between the history and their contemporary world." Read the complete review

  • By Conchita Hernandez Hicks
    Author House, 2011
    $14.95, Paper

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Beth Wilder

    In the 1950s, Havana, Cuba was a playground for the rich and famous. Wealthy Americans and Europeans traveled to and from the worldly city, enjoying the beautiful beaches, glamorous nightlife, luxurious hotels, and fine restaurants and casinos. This was the Cuba Conchita Hernandez Hicks called home. This was the Cuba where Conchita and her close-knit family lived a life of luxury, complete with chauffeurs and nannies, palatial homes and sugar plantations, government connections and influential business partners. But this was not a Cuba that would last forever. In 1959, everything changed—for the country and for the Hernandez family. Read the complete review

  • By Eva Skrande
    River City Publishing, 2010
    $20, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Russ Kesler

    If you think of the flight of a butterfly—unpredictable, jinking and dodging, lighting for a moment then off again into the ether—you will have an apt metaphor for the movement of imagery and story and sound in the poems in Eva Skrande’s My Mother’s Cuba. Don’t look for the personal narrative or the political polemic, but expect instead the ethereal lyric, poems that pay homage to the sublime. Read the complete review

  • By Georgia Ann Banks-Martin
    Plain View Press, 2010
    $14.95, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Bruce Elliot Alford

    Georgia Ann Banks-Martin particularizes the homiest of subjects, which ironically, charges them with emotion. A splinter is small, but when stuck in your hand, it feels large.

    She creates no distance between herself as a writer and herself as speaker. Her voice, which runs throughout the collection, creates a narrative pull and suggests connections. Read the complete review

  • By Robin Behn
    Spuyten Duyvil, 2011
    $14, Paper

    Poetry

    Reviewed by Emma Bolden

    The Yellow House, Robin Behn's blisteringly brilliant fifth collection of poetry, shows the reader how the inner space of a woman moves as she moves through her life—through loss and love, creation, death, and recreation—with the metaphor of a yellow house, a house which “is the dream of the woman”—the self known and recognized—and at the same time “the dream about the woman / another woman, her/not her, / woke in the middle of, and wept.” The collection is, in one sense, narrative: as one moves through the poems, one moves through the shifting spaces of the house and comes to discover the events of the woman's life which create these spaces, and how the house itself reacts.... Read the complete review

  • By Delbert Reed;
    Foreword by Paul W. Bryant Jr.
    Paul W. Bryant Museum, 2010
    $39.95, Hardcover

    Nonfiction

    Reviewed by Don Noble

    If this were just another Alabama football book I would neither read it nor review it. The world does not need another game-by-game, play-by-play recapping of another however-glorious season. Even the title I take to be a subtle variation on the dubious pronouncement “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Football is a serious game, true enough, but war is not a game at all. Read the complete review

  • By Henrietta McCormick Hill, Foreword by Henrietta Hill Hubbard
    Reviewed by Don Noble

    On February 20, 1928, Henrietta McCormick, age 23, of Eufaula, Alabama, married U.S. Representative Lister Hill. Hill had been a member of the House for five years, its youngest member. He usually ran unopposed and won a seat in the Senate in 1938. Through those early years and on through the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Henrietta kept a journal, wrote letters home, gave the occasional talk or wrote the occasional magazine piece. These scattered and various writings have been edited and pieced together by Henrietta’s daughter to make this informal memoir. Read the complete review...