THIS WEEK’S FEATURED BOOKS, “SOPHRONIA L.,” BY TIM BRIDWELL, “HINENI,” BY JOSHUA MENDEL AND “THE KUDZU KID,” BY DARRELL LAURANT, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 23-MARCH 1
This week features a murder mystery, a quirky novel about the Old West and a somewhat unique romance/memoir hybrid.
“HUSTLE HENRY AND THE CUEBALL KID,” BY JACK STRANDBERG.
This one is just for fun, as author Jack Strandberg cheerfully acknowledges. What he’s done is take the cinematic classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and spin it into a pool-shooting parody.
Jack sets the scene: “Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid is a Western humor story taking place in the late 1800’s–early 1900’s. Clarence Flannery was luckier than most men his age to discover his life’s ambition, particularly in the unpredictable years just following the Civil War. Born with an unmatched skill to play pool, he left his home in Kansas when he turned twenty-six and traveled throughout the Southwestern United States to make his mark as a legendary pool hustler, with every intention of amassing a fortune in the process.
“Clarence needed help for both support and protection, and recruited James Skinner as his partner, along with nine other highly-skilled pool players to assist him in his quest. Wanting to be included in the same sentence as Attila the Hun and Alexander the Great, Clarence changed his name to Hustle Henry, Skinner became the Cue-Ball Kid, and the eleven men would go down in history as The Hole-in-the-Table-Bunch, known far and wide for hustling wannabe pool sharks out of their life savings.
“All goes to plan and life has a rosy and profitable outlook, but Henry and his men want more than what pool halls and saloons offer, so they decide to challenge the more affluent clientele on a riverboat. Initially, the venture proves profitable, but the millionaire tycoon and owner of the fleet of riverboats, takes exception, and intends to bring down the Bunch and thrust Henry and The Kid into a life of destitution. Taking along the Kid’s girlfriend, Penelope Henderson, the Kid and Henry flee to South America – where there will be a final showdown.”
Sound kind of familiar?
“THE GORGE,” BY DAVID ARMAND
Storytellers often depict Louisiana as a spooky and mysterious place, and David Armand plays off that brooding quality in his latest literary thriller. “The Gorge” weaves together the stories of an eccentric cast of dark, frighteningly realistic characters, each under suspicion of murdering a young girl, Amber Varnado, whose body is found hidden in a deep gorge at the opening of the novel. Set in southeast Louisiana in the small town of Franklinton, The Gorge follows the colliding lives of Tuller, the murdered girl’s boyfriend, whose suspicious past and his discovery of Amber’s body make him the prime suspect; John Varnado, Amber’s father, a Vietnam war veteran whose violent flashbacks cause brutal outbursts of rage and paranoia; Grady, a young man dwarfed by rickets who prowls the night to feed his strange desires; and Euwell, a man who lives in an old shack near the gorge and hunts for young girls to satisfy his lusts and quell his inner demons. Armand’s spellbinding story explores the universal themes of desperate love and the pitfalls of false assumptions woven into the tenuous threads of coincidence that connect people in a small town.
“AN UNLIKELY ARRANGEMENT,” BY PATTY WISEMAN
At some point, this Texas-based novelist found herself thinking that her grandmother’s life story sounded like something out of a novel. So she decided to make it into a novel.
“The story,” Patty writes, “is based on the life and times of my paternal grandmother in the 1920’s, set in Detroit, Michigan where it actually took place. The stories were family folk lore throughout my childhood. A colorful figure for her time, she followed her mindset of independence, fighting for what she wanted. What transpires through this struggle is a brush with the Mafia and secrets long kept that come to light and almost destroy her and the family. My mother gave me most of the information as my father had died twenty years before. Through other interviews and research of the actual time and place the story came together beautifully. What we have is a fast paced journey through a young woman’s struggle for freedom, a woman ahead of her time.”