Happy 2013! Wasn’t 2012 a drag? I was half hoping the world actually would end. At least there were lots of wonderful books as a balm with many more to come this year. In fiction we’ve got American lit from Sherwood Anderson, a Bill Pronzini “Nameless Detective” mystery, classic sf from Jules Verne, and the street punks that launched Harlan Ellison’s career. Nonfiction offers the odd mix of an illustrated Agatha Christie bio and a George Washington biography, the 50th anniversary edition of Betty Friedan feminist bible, an updated look at Kevin Smith’s films, and a photographic reenactment of Hitler’s assualt on Russia!!—Mike Rogers
Anderson, Sherwood. Collected Stories. Library of America. 2012. 898p. ISBN 9781598532043. $35. F
Anderson is one of those writers who, while famous, hasn’t fared as well as contemporaries such as Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, although the success of his Winesburg, Ohio helped them and other young writers producing a new type of literature to find public—and publishers’—acceptance. Anderson excelled at the short-story form, and this volume gathers all his collections of shorts: Winesburg, Ohio (1919), The Triumph of the Egg (1921), Horses and Men (1923), and Death in the Woods (1933). Solid.
Ellison, Harlan. Web of the City. Hard Case Crime. Apr. 2013. c.288p. ISBN 9781781164204. pap. $9.95. F
It’s hard to fathom that one of the most illustrious speculative-fiction writing careers—in addition to ten Hugos, Ellison has won so many other awards that even he probably can’t remember half of them—launched with this gangbanger tale in 1958. Ellison based the action on his own experiences in a Brooklyn gang. Along with Web, the volume includes three related gang stories—”No Game for Children,” “Stand Still and Die,” and “No Way Out.” More fodder for the argument that Ellison may have pioneered what we now call street lit. Classic cover art on this one, too.
Koster, R.M. The Prince. Overlook. Mar. 2013. c.352p. ISBN 9781468301175. pap. $16.95. F.
This 1972 first novel won critics’ praise and was a National Book Award finalist—not too shabby! The unusual plot follows Kiki Sancudo, the soon-to-be dictator of Tinielas, a thinly disguised Latin American country that already has had 44 previous rulers in its short history. Before taking power, Sancudo is shot by his best friend, and left almost completely paralyzed. As he plots his revenge, Sancudo unfurls the horror story that has been his life and his nation’s history. Strong stuff!
Pronzini, Bill. Kinsmen. Cemetery Dance 2012. c.185p. ISBN 9781587672668. $19.99. MYS
Mystery master Pronzini has won three Shamuses and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America as well as being named a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. This installment in his 36-volume series featuring the “Nameless Detective” dates to 1993. The anonymous PI here investigates the disappearance of two college students—boyfriend and girlfriend—in the California boonies. Are the kids holed up somewhere for a marathon of partying and sex or are their corpses rotting in a hole?
Verne, Jules. The Earth Turned Upside Down. Hesperus, dist. by Trafalgar Square. 2013. 193p. tr. from French by Sophie Lewis. ISBN 9781843913672. pap. $19.95. SF
Written in 1889 when Verne was at the height of his fame, this story follows the Gun Club of Baltimore’s scheme to buy the North Pole and alter Earth’s axis so the ice melts in order to expose the massive coal supply hidden underneath. While the plot is wacky, Verne’s message is on the dangers of abusing our planet and its natural resources for individual monetary gain; a phenomenon we’re all too familiar with a century-plus later. Fans of classic sf, especially with an environmental bent, will embrace this.
Fido, Martin. The World of Agatha Christie. Carlton, dist by Sterling. 2012. 128p. illus. index. ISBN 9781780971810. $24.95. LIT/BIOG
Fido, who has written extensively on British crime and mystery—both real and imagined—offers a heavily illustrated portrait of Christie. The text covers her life, times, work, characters, place in literature, etc. It is buttressed with hundreds of photos, book jackets, production pix/posters from movie adaptations of Christie’s work, paintings, newspaper clippings, and more. Although other in-depth biographies of mystery’s grande dame are available, this breezy portrait is perfect for those wanting only a moderate introduction.
Flexner, James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. Sterling. 2012. 436p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781402778216. $45. BIOG/HIST
This release is an illustrated, single-volume abridgement of Flexner’s Washington four-volume biography (George Washington, the Forge of Experience, 1732-1775, 1965; George Washington in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, 1968; George Washington and the New Nation, 1783-1793, 1970; and George Washington, Anguish and Farewell, 1793-1799 (1972). It follows Washington from his youth and early life as a soldier and initial successful career as a surveyor through the Revolutionary War, presidency, and beyond. Flexner contends that Washington is shrouded in myth and endeavors to set the record straight. The book is heavily illustrated with portraits, photos, and fold-out maps before each chapter on the battles in which he fought. Handsome and informative.
Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Norton. Feb. 2013. 562p. index. ISBN 9780393063790. $25.95. SOC SCI
Friedan was a college graduate and reporter who lost her job when pregnant with the second of her three children. She found the role of homemaker unfulfilling and wondered if other women in her graduating class felt the same way, so she surveyed them in preparation for a college reunion. The responses were the basis of this title, which hit bookstore/library shelves like a bomb in February 1963. This 50th-anniversary edition sports a new intro by New York Times columnist Gail Collins and an afterword by novelist Anna Quindlen.
Levinthal, David & Garry Trudeau. Hitler Moves East: A Graphic Chronicle, 1941–43. Andrews McMeel. Feb. 2013. 104p. illus. ISBN 9781449428594. $50. ART
This is a weird one. Yale School of Design classmates Levinthal and Trudeau (yeah, the Doonesbury guy) recreated the German army’s invasion of Russia using toy solders and model tanks, planes, jeeps, etc. They photographed their subjects close-up using medium-format and 35mm cameras with lenses wide open to attain the narrowest depth-of-field possible so little actually was in focus. The grainy, monochrome prints were sepia toned to give them an antique appearance. The 1977 book garnered some attention in photography circles but otherwise went unnoticed. Each chapter includes introductory text by Trudeau and quotes from German and Russian officers. This edition reprints the original in a large-format volume with numerous full-spread photographs.
Muir, John Kenneth. An Askew View 2: The Films of Kevin Smith. Applause. 2012. 254p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781557837943. pap. $19.99. FILM
Pop-culture vulture Muir updates his 2002 original to include Smith’s Jersey Girl, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, and Red State plus the gone-in-a-blink Clerks animated series. He also presents seven theories on why the characters of perennial stoners Jay and Silent Bob (the latter played by Smith himself) are so popular, and a glossary of “Smithisms.” This update takes the director from making his signature comedies to mainstream Hollywood fare like the Bruce Willis vehicle Cop Out to the deadly serious and superb Red State. Smith, alas, has abdicated the director’s throne, but still enjoys a fiercely loyal following and will continue to inspire fledgling filmmakers to follow their dreams. Solid for film collections.