…So Close to the United States

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While Pancho Villa lamented Mexico's proximity to the United States in relation to its distance from the Almighty, those of us in El Norte can rejoice as we have these books, full of suspense and local color, to take us there vicariously. Lili Wright's Dancing With the Tiger could have been a huge mess. There are lots […]

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Neo-Southern Gothic

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While the term "Southern Gothic" may bring to mind Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor, there are writers working now that are of close if not equal quality. What is Southern Gothic? Along with occurring south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it often concerns misfits, creepy situations, and sinister events caused by poverty, violence, or faults in the characters' […]

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The How and the Why: Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish

I like to think of myself as a rather well-read person, but I had not heard of Stanley Fish until I picked up his latest book. Turns out, he's a bit of a polymath and Dean Emeritus at the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIC, among other posts. While Fish writes a great deal about English literature and […]

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Murder Among the Ruins: Ancient Roman Mysteries

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For fans of historical novels, the ancient Romans are an entertaining bunch. If you like mysteries as well, there are definitely authors who cater to you. Below are three series that take place in the Eternal Empire. All are richly detailed and have a touch of humor to go with the whodunit. The Flavia Albia series by […]

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Noir in Space

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Science fiction is a big genre, with room for just about everyone. Today, I'd like to focus on modern noir set in orbit, whether around Earth or someplace else. The title of Anthony O'Neill's The Dark Side refers to Earth's moon, where lies the territory of Purgatory and its capital, Sin. Damien Justus is the new police sergeant there, […]

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Tudor Queens

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As Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her birthday last weekend, it might be fun to take a look at her female predecessors on the throne, especially the mightiest of them all: the Tudor queens. Alison Weir made her name writing biographies of English royals, including the excellent The Life of Elizabeth I. Her new fictional series, […]

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Funny Tough Guys

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Novels about crime can be gripping, but there's nothing saying that they can't be funny, too. Throw in the unique stylistic touches of the varied authors below, and you're sure of a good time. Pete, known as Pillow to most, is a punch-drunk former boxer who now works as muscle for the local crime syndicate run […]

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Meet Samuel Beckett, Master of the Absurd

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I have just finished reading the delightful A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker. This is the new fictional account of the writer Samuel Beckett's sojourn through WWII. Knowing he cannot write in the placidity of neutral Ireland, Beckett returns to France and the privations of occupation. However, he can't just write, he has to […]

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Art and Power

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Samuel Goldwyn, the movie studio head, told his writers: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." What he meant was that he was not interested in scripts that expressed social or political opinions. Lenin and the soviet leaders after him, on the other hand, felt that all art should have a message: theirs. With […]

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Love and War: Novels of World War II

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Nothing in the 20th century seems to capture the imagination quite like the Second World War. Lots of books have been written by and about men, but there are also some very good books written by and featuring women. These are just a few of the most recent. Martha Hall Kelly has never written a […]

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