Well, kids, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? The column has been on hiatus while a few tangles were combed out, but now we’re back with a vengeance. In fiction, we’ve got some hardcore American and Japanese lit, some sf, a few femalecentric mysteries, and, my favorite, what arguably can be considered early street lit by none other than Harlan Ellison. Nonfiction has memories of Kafka, a Buffalo Bill bio (which mostly is buffalo chips), and Walter Lord’s other noted book.—Mike Rogers
Caspary, Vera. Laura. 197p. ISBN 9781558615052.
Hughes, Dorothy B. In a Lonely Place. 224p. ISBN 9781558614550.
Lee, Gypse Rose. Mother Finds a Body. 192p. ISBN 9781558618015.
Taylor, Valerie. Stranger on Lesbos. 135p. ISBN 9781558617995.
ea. vol: Feminist Pr. (Femmes Fatales). 2012. pap. $13.96. MYS
Here are a couple of quick shots of vintage mystery and intrigue from Feminist Press’s “Femmes Fatales” line. Laura and In a Lonely Place (both 1942) will be familiar as the basis of popular films of the same names. Famed stripper Lee followed up her debut mystery, The G-String Murders, with Mother (also 1942), in which she again appears as herself playing sleuth to solve a murder. Silly, but both books were quite well received. Taylor’s 1960 Lesbos offers a bored housewife who finds love in the arms of another woman. Scandalous for its time, this will be tame by today’s standards. Still, all these volumes are fun, kitschy reads for those who like the vintage stuff.
Ellison, Harlan. Pulling a Train. Kicks Books. 2012. 158p. ISBN 9780965977753. pap. $14.95. F
Ellison knocked out this street gang story in the late 1950s under the name Paul Merchant. It’s as tawdry as possible, but making a living by writing fiction isn’t easy, and a guy’s gotta eat! Fast-forward half a century later, and an argument can be made that these stories and others like them featuring sex, violence, and leather-jacketed punks are the granddaddies of what we now call street lit. Although Train no doubt is far from his best efforts, Ellison always is worth reading.
Endo, Shusaku. Volcano. Peter Owen, dist. by Trafalgar Square. 2012. 175p. tr. from Japanese by Richard A. Schuchbert. ISBN 9780720614305. pap. $14.95. F
One of the author’s finest works, Endo’s 1959 novel looks at two old men, who have spent their lives living under the shadow of a volcano in central Japan. Endo uses the characters to highlight his country’s treatment of the elderly as well as their relationship with nature. Along with the translated text, this volume features a brief glossary.
Rihani, Ameen. The Book of Khalid. Melville House. 2012. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781612190877. pap. $15. F
Rihani’s 1911 novel, which is illustrated by Kahlil Gibran, follows the adventures of Khalid and Shakib, two Lebanese men who leave their country for the wilds of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Together, they share the experience of being poor immigrants among many others, and also attempt to immerse themselves in the city’s political and cultural life, often with comic results. Considering the current friction between the United States and the Middle East, Rihani’s call for political and religious tolerance was a century ahead of its time.
Scott, Justin. The Shipkiller. Pegasus. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9781605983714. $25.95. THRILLER
Despite being named one of the best of its kind ever published by the Thriller Writers of America, Scott’s volume has been unavailable for roughly 25 years. The plot follows Peter Harden, who watches in horror as his 40-foot sailboat is crushed with his wife aboard after being run down by the 1800-foot steel beast Leviathan. Peter’s revenge against the ship takes him around the world in pursuit. A solid page-turner that’s as good in front of a blazing fire as the snow piles up as it is at the beach.
Burke, John M. Buffalo Bill: From Prairie to Palace. Bison: Univ. of Nebraska. Oct. 2012. ed. by John M. Burke. c.355p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780803243897. pap. $24.95. HIST
Burke (1842–1917) was a press agent/publicist whose clients included one William F. Cody, whom he catapulted from a Wild West showman to an international star. Although Cody truly did some remarkable things in his career as an army scout, frontiersman, Indian fighter, Pony Express rider, etc., his adventures were aggrandized in this 1893 volume. This edition contains the full illustrated text of the original volume with an introduction and notes by editor Burke.
Janouch, Gustav. Conversations with Kafka. New Directions. 2012. 219p. index. ISBN 9780811219501. pap. $14.95. LIT/MEMOIR
Budding poet Janouch was 17 when he met the world-renowned Kafka. Despite their age difference, they became fast friends and spent much time walking together throughout Prague. Kafka would discourse on life and art while Janouch wisely listened. He produced this literary memoir of his friendship with the writer in 1968. This edition sports a preface by Francine Prose. Solid for lit collections.
Lord, Walter. The Dawn’s Early Light. Johns Hopkins. 2012. 384p. index. ISBN 9781421405476. pap. $24.95. HIST
It’s a banner year for Lord. First, his A Night to Remember was reprinted to hop on the Titanic centennial bandwagon, and now his chronicle of the War of 1812 is being reproduced to honor that event’s bicentennial (although he mostly follows the 1814 attacks on Washington, DC, and Baltimore). Lord dissects the defense of Fort McHenry and Francis Scott Key’s writing “The Star Spangled Banner,” etc. If your history collection lacks a volume on this subject, here’s a good remedy.