THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE; 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. TODAY, WE’LL REVISIT BOOKS NOS. 1-5. IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ MORE ON ANY ONE OF THEM, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE AUTHOR’S PAGE, THEN ON THEIR NAME.
MAY 26: “ISLAND DOGS,” BY B.M. SIMPSON.
This book had a lot to do with my starting “Snowflakes in a Blizzard.” I encountered Brian Simpson — a successful building contractor in St. Petersburg, FLA — on Linked-In, and we agreed to swap books. I can’t say I couldn’t put “Island Dogs” down, because I received it on my computer, but I hated turning it off. Rarely have I read anything so relentlessly entertaining.
Those of you who have followed this blog know that I occasionally break into rants about our current fixation with “genre.” “Island Dogs” doesn’t fit into any of those neat but confining cubbyholes that someone has handed down from on high. Rather, it revolves around an ensemble cast of mostly woeful but likable expatriates who meet and bond in a Caribbean beach bar. The reason we care about these characters is that the author does a wonderful job of presenting their back stories. The reason we don;’t get bored is that he weaves in a number of ongoing threads throughout the narrative. Moreover, Simpson spent time in the Caribbean himself (including, yes, a few beach bars), so his details are authentic.
And it occurred to me, after reading this, that if something this good can’t find a publisher (Brian eventually self-published), there must be a lot of gems hiding out there that readers ought to know about.
Interestingly, this first Snowflake was the only one so far that hadn’t been published at the time it was featured.
MAY 29: “WAITING FOR WESTMORELAND,” BY JOHN MABERRY.
This book gives memoirs a good name, and also provides an excellent argument for waiting until the arrival of some perspective before writing one.
There have been hundreds — maybe even thousands — of books written about the Vietnam War. Until now, however, there has never been one about John Maberry’s Vietnam War. As with Brian Simpson and his gregarious barflies, Maberry provides a compelling back story — his own, revealing what he brought to Southeast Asia and what he took away from it. He’s an excellent writer with a sly, self-deprecating sense of humor, and reading this is like sitting down for a long conversation with him. All you have to do is listen and nod.
JUNE 2: DEATH OF A CABMAN, BY NINA BOYD.
I liked “Death of a Cabman” a lot, even though I probably would never have read it had it not been presented to me as a Snowflakes possibility.
Our first international writer (she lives in the UK), Nina has produced a soothing but still intriguing cocktail blending a murder mystery with a romance with some turn of the century (the 20th century) English history.
Even if you don’t care all that much about the identity of the murderer (as in the old Perry Mason books, the victim was rather despicable), chances are you’ll find her main characters endearing and her insights into the British suffragette movement intriguing.
This does have a genre — a “cozy mystery.” And it does that genre proud.
This memoir disguised as a novel is so deftly done that even the real-life inspiration for one of its central characters — an evangelist with some very human failings — provided its author with a positive blurb.
Katie Andraski was a long-time publicist whose specialty was working with Christian authors. The main voice in her book is a woman conflicted by her job, tormented by grief over the terminal illness of her mother and at odds with her brother. Although Andraski undoubtedly wrote the book partly as a personal catharsis, it never descends into “poor me.” Instead, it is an enthralling account of how a person trying desperately to do the right thing sometimes finds herself confronted by a fork in the road where “right” has no signpost.
JUNE 9: “WHAT TO DO ABOUT MAMA?” BY BARBARA BLANK.
Our initial venture into non-fiction, and a useful one.
What makes this book unique is that it reflects a diversity of experiences, from heart-warming to sobering to blood-curdling. Caring for an elderly parent or spouse, especially when dementia enters the picture, is a classic example of “You had to be there.” And so the voices in “What to Do About Mama” come not from physicians or social scientists, but people who were, indeed, there — at a time when someone had to be.
Barbara Blank amd co-author Barbara Matthews are two of those voices of experience, and it’s clear that they regarded those in their care as people to be loved and understood rather than problems to be solved.