Damien Echols, Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, Lisa See, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jun. 2014, Pt. 1

Allen, Danielle. Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality. Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780871406903. $27.95. HISTORY
A political philosopher who looms large in the scholarly community (she is a professor of social declarationscience at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton and on the board of the Pulitzers), African American Allen looks at the 1,337 words that constitute the Declaration of Independence and sees it differently from previous generations. For Allen, the document is less about liberty than about equality, on which its claims of liberty rest. Thus, her examination of how the Declaration also allowed for slavery will be particularly bracing. With a six-city tour to Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, DC, New Haven, and Princeton.

Boies, David & Theodore B. Olson. Redeeming the Dream: The Inside Story of the Most Important Civil Rights Case in a Generation. Viking. Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780670015962. $28.95. CIVIL RIGHTS
In June 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, which had forbidden same-sex marriage, the nation had Boies and Olson to thank. Though they had argued against each other in Bush v. Gore, the two prominent lawyers worked together from the 2008 adoption of Proposition 8 to guarantee marriage equality in this country. Now they’re giving us an insider’s view of their battle—just in time for the first anniversary of the decision.

Echols, Damien & Lorri Davis. Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row. Blue Rider. Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780399166198. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. MEMOIR
In 1996, while sitting on death row after being convicted with two associates (wrongly, as it was finally determined) for the murder of three boys in West Memphis, AR, Echols received an encouraging letter from Davis, a landscape architect in New York City who had seen a documentary about the West Memphis Three. They continued corresponding, eventually falling in love and marrying three years later at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit in Tucker, AR, having never been able to spend time alone together. Following Echols’s affecting Life After Death, this book draws on the thousands of letters the couple wrote each other to tell the story of a seemingly impossible love. With a six-city tour.

Foulds, Adam. In the Wolf’s Mouth. Farrar. Jun. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780374175825. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374711306. LITERARY FICTION
Foulds won the Encore Award and the European Union Prize for Literature for his novel The fouldsQuickening Maze, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize; he’s been called “one of the best British writers to emerge in the last decade” by no less than Julian Barnes. And I was so wowed by The Broken Word: An Epic Poem of British Empire in Kenya, and the Mau Mau Uprising Against It, a Costa and a Somerset Maugham award winner, that I made it an LJ Best Poetry book in 2011. All of which means you really must read his latest novel, set during World II as the Allies chase the Germans north from Africa to Italy. At the heart of the narrative are Will Walker, an ambitious English field security officer, and the greener Italian American infantryman Ray Marfione. We get an eyeful of organized crime in Sicily, too.

Hastings, Michael. The Last Magazine. Blue Rider. Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780399169946. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
Hastings’s 2010 Rolling Stone article, “The Runaway General,” which revealed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s insular conduct of the war in Afghanistan, led to McChrystal’s resignation—and a George Polk Award for Hastings. His New York Times best-selling The Operators expanded on the article. At the time of his death in a fiery car crash in June 2013, Hastings was reportedly anxious about National Security Agency surveillance, and some press accounts called the crash suspect. This debut novel, retrieved from his files after his death, traces the career of a young journalist named Michael M. Hastings at the Magazine, where he starts in 2002 as an intern, works to impress the right people, and observes a star reporter’s crisis when he’s asked to cover mobile phone outsourcing in Chad as more important than violent conflict there. (Hastings’s narrative draws on his experiences working at Newsweek.) Of interest for the backstory, the portrait of news reporting in the last decade, and Hastings’s fine writing.

Henderson, Smith. Fourth of July Creek. Ecco. Jun. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780062286444. $26.99. LITERARY FICTION/WESTERN
Graced with powerful characters and beautifully focused writing, Henderson’s epic debut hit my desk the day a critic friend buttonholed me at an awards event to tell me that it was something special. The 100,000-copy first printing suggests that plenty of other people have faith in this book. Set in Montana, the author’s home state, in the late 1970s–early 1980s, it features social worker Pete Snow, increasingly dismayed with his job until he meets scrawny, untamed, 11-year-old Benjamin Pearl, whose crazy survivalist father is anticipating some kind of apocalypse. Pete is all fired up to help Benjamin, but then his own estranged daughter disappears and the FBI gets interested.

King, Stephen. Mr. Mercedes. Scribner. Jun. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9781476754451. $30. CD/MP3: S. & S. Audio. THRILLER
Bill Hodges is bumping around, barely registering his retirement, when a maniac in a stolen Mercedes Mrmercedesrepeatedly drives into a line of unemployed folks waiting in the gray dawn of a gray Midwestern city for a job fair to open. Eight people are killed and 15 injured. Hodges immediately enlists two allies to help him find the killer, who so loved his little taste of death that he’s planning to blow up thousands. The novel, described as King’s first hard-boiled detective tale, has an unsettling ripped-from-the-headlines feel, though the author has said that he started work on it before the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Koch, Herman. Summer House with Swimming Pool. Hogarth: Crown. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN9780804138819. $24. LITERARY FICTION
Dutch author Koch made his name with his sixth novel, The Dinner, an international best seller that hit the New York Times best sellers list, and this new book definitely recalls his big success in plot and feel. Dr. Marc Schlosser is responsible for the death of famed actor Ralph Meier, and it doesn’t seem to be medical malpractice. When Marc’s family stayed at Ralph’s extravagant Mediterranean summer house, Marc’s eldest daughter was raped, and the distraught doctor suspects either Ralph or film director Stanley Forbes, also a guest at the time. But soon it becomes clear that Marc has other reasons for wanting Ralph dead. Koch’s new book has sold 300,000 copies in Holland alone, and readers abroad seem either to love it or hate it—nothing like a little controversy to make a book worth investigating.

McMurtry, Larry. The Last Kind Words Saloon. Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780871407863. $24.95. HISTORICAL FICTION
The big news here? McMurtry is publishing his first novel in five years, and he’s jumped ship to do so, joining Norton’s Liveright imprint. This fictionalized account of the friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday moves from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Denver, to Mobetie, TX, to Tombstone, AZ, and the famed shootout at the OK Corral, with characters ranging from ranchers and gunslingers to tough women who run brothels or break horses. In other words, it’s saturdayclassic McMurtry.

O’Neill, Heather. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Farrar. Jun. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780374162665. $26. LITERARY FICTION
Canadian author O’Neill did very nicely, thank you, with her internationally best-selling Lullabies for Little Criminals, which won the Paragraphe Hugh McLennan Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for six prizes (e.g,. the Orange Prize), and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Notorious Étienne Tremblay, an outré performer who’s in jail almost as much as he’s onstage, has finally burned out, and his 19-year-old twins, Nicholas and Nouschka, must make their own way. Nouschka is beginning to realize that to survive she must break with not only with her father’s past but her nearly over-the-edge brother.

Robbins, Tom. Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life. Ecco. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062267405. $27.99. MEMOIR
Loyal fans of Robbins’s witty, wonderful books, e.g., Jitterbug Perfume and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, won’t be surprised by the wide sweep of this lively memoir. Starting with his Depression-era beginnings in Appalachia as the grandchild of Baptist preachers, Robbins moves through various guides as poet manqué, air force weatherman, art critic gone psychedelic, beloved novelist, and countercultural icon. So dig in; note the one-day laydown on seelisa5/27 and a 150,000-copy first printing.

See, Lisa. China Dolls. Random. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780812992892. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679644163. CD: Penguin Random Audio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
The ever popular See’s novels typically raise ethical concerns in Asian or Asian American historical context, but this new work is especially hard hitting. In 1938, three friends are competing for a single job as showgirl on San Francisco’s Chop Suey Circuit, the city’s glittery underworld of all-Asian revues. They include Chinese American Grace, who’s fled her Midwestern home and beatings by her father; Helen, whose family has long resided in San Francisco’s Chinatown; and Ruby, who is Japanese but passing for Chinese. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans are being interned, among them Ruby. Did one of her friends betray her? With a 12-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Shepard, Sara. The Heiresses. Harper. Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062259530. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062259585. lrg. prnt. POP FICTION
The books in Shepard’s beloved “Pretty Little Liars” series have sold more than six million copies combined, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times best sellers list; the hit show inspired by the series won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Drama. Now Shepard goes adult with the story of the Saybrook family, entrepreneurs who have made their fortune in the diamond trade. The classy Saybrooks are, alas, plagued with bad luck, none worse than when perfect Poppy throws herself from her office window. Or was she thrown? Her cousins are now receiving decidedly unpleasant notes reading “One heiress down, four to go.” Edgy glamour and suspense; with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Stevens, Chevy. That Night. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781250034601. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250034618. THRILLER
Stevens’s Still Missing was a New York Times best seller and won the Thriller Award for Best First Novel at ThrillerFest in 2011; her subsequent novels have received strong reviews. But the stevenspublisher considers this book a big step forward and is positioning it as Stevens’s breakout novel, with the appropriate promotional push. At age 18, Toni Murphy was wrongly convicted with her boyfriend, Ryan, of murdering her younger sister. Home on parole at 34, she’s trying to walk the straight and narrow, even as Ryan stirs things up by seeking out the real killer. Then there are those nasty girls from high school, now nasty grown-ups, who harbor their own dark secrets.

Winton,Tim. Eyrie. Farrar. Jun. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780374151348. $27. LITERARY FICTION
Winner of a record four Miles Franklin Awards for Best Australian Novel and twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Winton writes vibrant, keenly felt novels that sell big. In his latest, former environmental crusader Tom Keely finds himself on the verge of despair, facing scandal with his funds and his ideals depleted. Then a woman from his past appears, herself on the verge of despair and needing Tom’s help. Soon he’s dealing with con artists, drug dealers, and extortionists in a narrative that’s edged with suspense but is truly a dark morality tale.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.