Don Noble

Program Host: Book Reviews

Dr. Noble is the host of APR's book review series as well as host of BOOKMARK which airs on Alabama Public Television.  A widely published scholar specializing in American and Southern literature, Dr. Noble received the Eugene Current-Garcia Award as Alabama's distinguished literary scholar for the year 2000 and was nominated for a Regional Emmy Award in 2006 and 2011.  In addition he is on the planning committee of several literary conferences.

Dr. Noble's book reviews air during Morning Edition and feature works primarily by Alabama writers.  His reviews focus on why these writers are concerned with their particular subjects and how they succeed or fail  in addressing issues of concern to Alabama readers.

“Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads”

Author: Paul Theroux, with 24 color photographs by Steve McCurry

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 441

Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)

“The Tongues of Men and Angels: A Novel”

Author: Marian Carcache

Publisher: Solomon & George Publishers

Pages: 125

Price: $15.00 (Paper)

Marian Carcache is the author of a short story collection, “The Moon and the Stars.” “The Tongues of Men and Angels” is her first novel, if novel is what it is.

Her author information reads that Carcache’s father was a Justice of the Peace in Russell County and she often eavesdropped on his court. I am pretty sure she did not hear this tale in her father’s court.

“The Mobile River”

Author: John S. Sledge

Publisher: The University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 304

Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)

John Sledge, senior architectural historian for the Mobile Historic Development Commission, in addition to his collection “Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgimages of the Heart,” has already written books, fairly narrow in scope, on Mobile ironwork, Mobile cemetery art and Greek revival architecture in Mobile.

“Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories”

Author: Steve Flowers

Publisher: NewSouth Books             

Pages: 288

Price: $29.95 (Hardback)

There can be few Alabamians better situated to write this book than Steve Flowers. In this political memoir Flowers devotes chapters to the major figures of Alabama politics—elected officials such as Wallace, Folsom, Richard Shelby, and powerful forces such as Paul Hubbard and Judge Frank Johnson Jr., —and sketches the story of his own life in politics.

“Captain Billy’s Troopers: A Writer’s Life”

Author: William Cobb

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press   

Pages: 205

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

Only a small percentage of alcoholics are writers but the public may be forgiven for thinking a large percentage of writers are alcoholics. After all, writers write their memoirs and are written about, and a number of America’s most famous writers—Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, to name just a few—were also famous drinkers.

“The Headmaster’s Darlings: A Mountain Brook Novel”

Author: Katherine Clark, with a Foreword by Pat Conroy

Publisher: University of South Carolina Press: Story River Books

Pages: 248

Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)

Two fine Southern writers have teamed up on a couple of ambitious new projects, and the enterprise needs some explaining. Katherine Clark‘s first book was “Motherwit,”(1989) an as-told-to biography of midwife Onnie Lee Logan. Then Clark published “Milking the Moon,”(2001) Mobile writer Eugene Walter’s life story, again as-told- to.

“Among the Swamp People : Life in Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta”

Author: Watt Key; Illustrations by Kelan Mercer

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 198

Price: $29.95 (Cloth)

“Swamp People” is a combination of memoir, nature writing and personal essay. Key, raised in Point Clear, on Mobile Bay, writes of his nearly life-long fascination with the Mobile-Tensaw Delta at the north end of the bay.

“The Scribe”

Author: Matthew Guinn

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.

Pages: 287

Price: $25.95 (Hardcover)

Matthew Guinn’s first novel, “The Resurrectionist,” published in 2013, told the story of a cache of bones found in the basement of a medical school in Columbia, South Carolina. They were human bones, buried for decades, but whose? Guinn published the novel as literary fiction with a fresh subject, and it was a great success. Surprisingly, “The Resurrectionist” was nominated for an Edgar, a mystery writers award.


“The Forest and the Trees”

Author: Floyd McGowin

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 334

Price: $27.95 (Trade paper)

Floyd McGowin, of the Chapman, Alabama, McGowins, the owners of the W.T. Smith Lumber Company, was born in 1931 and died in 2010, but this memoir takes his story basically up to 1966.

At that time, the W.T. Smith Company was sold and McGowin started the Rocky Creek Logging Company and ran it for 42 years, covered here in an epilogue of only six pages.

“The Reading Circle”

Author: Ashton Lee

Publisher: Kensington Books

Pages: 234

Price: $15.00 (Trade paperback)

In a recent comic novel, “Love’s Winning Plays,” in which he dared to satirize SEC football, Inman Majors also made fun of book discussion groups. He has his lonely hero, Raymond Love, join one in order to meet women. It sort of works; book club membership is overwhelmingly female.

“The Woman in the Photograph” 

Author: Dana Gynther

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 352

Price: $16.00 (Paper)

Dana Gynther made her debut as a novelist in 2012 with “Crossing on the Paris,” a novel set aboard a transatlantic liner on her maiden voyage from Le Havre to New York. As the ship sails west, three women, one from first class, one from second and one from steerage, strangers until then, meet and exchange their life stories with rich flashbacks to their very different experiences in Paris

“Raising Aphrodite: A Novel”

Author: Kirk Curnutt

Publisher: River City Publishing

Pages: 413

$26.95 (Hardcover)

In Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “Carousel,” Billy Bigelow, the erstwhile carousel barker, now married to Julie Jordan, is overjoyed when he learns he is to be a father. In the song “Soliloquy” he sings of his boy Bill. He’ll “teach him to wrestle and dive through a wave.” Bill might be a boxer or president.

“The Redeemers: A Quinn Colson Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 370 pp.

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)

Ace Atkins is generating a shelf of novels at an astonishing pace. “Redeemers” is his seventeenth.

After graduation from Auburn where he played football, Ace—his real name—worked as a reporter in Florida, mainly crime. He has several standalone crime novels—historically based like “Wicked City,” set in Phenix City, and investigative/biographically based such as “Infamous,” about Fatty Arbuckle .

“Go Set a Watchman: A Novel”

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 288

Price: $27.99

This is a book review, a description and evaluation of Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman,” read on a Kindle.

With an important book like this I would normally be reading an ARC—Advance Readers Copy—or a review copy, but these were not distributed. This novel had all the publicity it needed and the publishers obviously felt there was nothing to be gained and perhaps something to lose by letting reviewers see it.

“German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era”

Author: Monique Laney

Publisher: Yale University Press

Pages: 320

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover)

“Southern Made Fresh: Vibrant Dishes Rooted in Homegrown Flavor”

Author: Tasia Malakasis

Publisher: Oxmoor House

Pages: 297

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

“Two Legs, Bad: Dog Town Tales”   

Author: Pat Mayer

Publisher: The Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama

Pages: 166

Price: $17.95 (Paper)

As many will recognize, the title “Two Legs Bad” comes from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” In that parable of revolution, when the livestock take over, they adopt this slogan, referring to their previous masters: humans.

The humans in Pat Mayer’s three books of fiction are not all “bad” but many are incomplete or damaged.

“Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation”

Author: Ammon Shea

Publisher: Penguin Group: A Perigee Book

Pages: 247

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

"Angels at the Gate"

Jun 26, 2015

“Angels at the Gate”

Author: T. K. Thorne

Publisher: Cappuccino Books

Pages: 359

Price: $22.50 (Hardcover)

Birmingham author T. K. Thorne, a retired police captain, is writing hard. Her “Last Chance for Justice,” an extended commentary on the trials that finally brought the 16th St. Baptist Church bombers Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton to account in 2001 and 2002, was informed by her intimate knowledge of Birmingham and 22 years in law enforcement.

“Wild Sweet Orange Ride: Journeys Home”

Author: Julia Gregg

Publisher: Vineyard Stories

Pages: 101

Price: $19.95 (Hardcover)

Julia Hightower Gregg has been a columnist for the “Evansville Courier and Press” in Indiana for 25 years but before becoming a Hoosier, if indeed one can ever become a Hoosier, Gregg grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, took a BS from Auburn University, then took an MS from Vanderbilt Peabody College and an MFA from Murray State University in Kentucky .

“A Little Bit of Spectacular”

Author: Gin Phillips

Publisher: Penguin, Dial Books for Young Readers

Pages: 160

Price: $16.99 (Paperback)

I have from time to time reviewed Young Adult novels and even a children’s book or two but this is my first foray into the Middle Grade, Young Readers category. Young Readers are ages 10 and up, grades 5 and up.

“Bone to Be Wild: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery”

Author: Carolyn Haines

Publisher: St. Martin’s (Minotaur Books)

Pages: 354

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

When I was a kid, on Saturday afternoons I caught the latest installment of Lash LaRue or Commander Don Winslow of the US Coast Guard, weekly series often ending in a literal cliff-hanger—to be continued next week. Like those matinees, Carolyn Haines’ “Bones” books have moved now from a mystery series to a mystery serial.

“Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor”

Author: Wade H. Hall

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 89

Price: $12.95 (Paper)

“The Shortest Book in the World” is a venerable genre.

“Career Management” by Charlie Sheen.

“Secrets to a Successful Marriage” by Tiger Woods

At 89 pages, Wade Hall’s study of Southern Civil War humor is definitely in this category. Considering that the war was a four-year bloodbath with, sometimes, tens of thousands dying on the same day, it may even be an oxymoron. It wasn’t a naturally funny subject.

“South, America: A Jack Prine Novel”

Author: Rod Davis

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 248

Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Before seven on a Sunday morning, in the year 2000, Jack Prine is walking from his apartment to get some coffee and finds a “body … splayed out face down across a busted-up curb in the Faubourg Marigny, downriver of the quarter but not quite in the Bywater.”

Title:  Wrapped in Rainbows:  The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
Author:  Valerie Boyd
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 438
Price: $20.00 (Paperback)

On June 8th, Zora Neale Hurston will be one of twelve writers taken into the newly established Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

Shadows in the Fire

Apr 27, 2015

Title:  Shadows in the Fire
Author: Gray Basnight
Publisher: Five Star: A Part of Gale, Cengage Learning
Price: $25.95 ( Hardcover )
Pages: 364 pp.

The Hotel Monte Sano

Apr 20, 2015

Title: The Hotel Monte Sano
Author: Charles Farley

Publisher: The Ardent Writer Press

Pages: 237
Price: $17.95 (Paper)

Journey to the Wilderness

Apr 13, 2015

Title:  Journey to the Wilderness
Author:  Frye Gaillard  
Foreword by Steven Trout
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Price: $23.95 (Hardcover)
Pages: 160

Frye Gaillard is now recognized as one of Alabama’s most prolific and most important nonfiction writers with books on Southern literature, civil rights, NASCAR, country music, Jimmy Carter and, generally, all things Southern.

Pasture Art

Mar 30, 2015


Title:  Pasture Art
Author:  Marlin Barton
“Pasture Art: Stories”
Author: Marlin Barton
Publisher: Hub City Press
Pages: 152
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

“Pasture Art” is Marlin Barton’s fifth volume of fiction—there have been two novels and two collections of stories—but this book stands a good chance to be his break-out book. The stories are more insightful, more psychologically complex than any of his previous work. As a story writer, he has arrived.

Fox is Framed

Mar 23, 2015

Title:  Fox is Framed
Author:  Lachlan Smith
Publisher: Grove Atlantic, The Mysterious Press, 2015
Pages: 244
Price: $24.00 (Hardcover)