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.

“Man in the Blue Moon”

Author: Michael Morris   

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

Pages: 377

Price: $13.99 (Paperback)

Michael Morris, who now lives in Birmingham, is a fifth-generation native of Perry, Florida, and it is there, in the Panhandle, that “Man in the Blue Moon” is set, in a little fictional town called Dead Lakes, just outside of Apalachicola, during 1917 and 1918. WWI is raging, but at a distance.

“The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story”

Author: Miriam G. Davis   

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Pages: 320

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

Perhaps the most famous serial killer of all time was Jack the Ripper, who terrorized the Whitechapel District of London in 1888.

That deranged killer attacked prostitutes, stabbed the women, slashed their throats and sometimes partially disemboweled them.

The city of New Orleans, in the years between 1910 and 1920, was likewise terrorized by some kind of madman, dubbed “The Axeman.”

“Mike Denny: The Shadow of a Single Man”

Author: Delbert Reed     

Publisher: Paul W. Bryant Museum

Pages: 325

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

“The Marriage Pact”

Author: Michelle Richmond   

Publisher: Bantam

Pages: 414

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

Michelle Richmond’s fifth novel, “The Marriage Pact,” arrives in a flurry of well-deserved excitement. The talk is that the movie rights have already been sold and the novel is being translated into the known languages.

I hope all this is true; “The Marriage Pact” is a fast-paced, intelligent book and deserves all the success it will get.

The story begins simply.

A nice young-ish couple, Alice and Jake, get married.

“Southside: Eufaula’s Cotton Mill Village and Its People, 1890-1945”

Author: David E. Alsobrook

Publisher: Mercer University Press Macon GA

Pages: 221

Price: $29.00 (Hardback)

I will begin by admitting I never thought I would read an entire volume on the history of one SECTION of Eufaula, Alabama.

But I have and I’m glad I did.

David Alsobrook, now living in Mobile, was the perfect, maybe the only person, to write this history.

“Gone Again: A Jack Swyteck Novel”

Author: James Grippando     

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 400

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

Each year the UA School of Law and the ABA Journal sponsor the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, given to a book which “features the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” This year’s finalists have been announced and I thought it might be fun to review the three novels. You too may want to read them and then vote for a winner at abajournal.gov. Voting closes June 30.

“Once in a Blue Moon”  

Author: Vicki Covington    

Publisher: John F. Blair

Pages: 201

Price: $26.95 (Hardcover)

“High Notes: Selected Writings”

Author: Gay Talese, with an Introduction by Lee Gutkind   

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Pages: 288

Price: $20.00 (Trade paperback)

Lee Gutkind, the founder and editor of the magazine “Creative Nonfiction,” is arguably the guru of this subgenre.

“The Weight of This World”

Author: David Joy   

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 260

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

David Joy dreamed he would be able to make a living writing about fly fishing in the cold, clear waters of the Blue Ridge. It is his passion. In fact, he began his writing career with a memoir structured around fly fishing, “Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey” (2011).

“Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961”

Author: Nicholas Reynolds   

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 267

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover)

In the beginning, everybody loved Ernest Hemingway and Hemingway’s fiction. He had best-selling novels and was one of the most recognized people in the country, imitated in his personal habits and his prose style. And he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

“Beautiful War: Studies in a Dreadful Fascination”

Author: Philip D. Beidler                                                                                     

Pages: 173

Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)

Although Beidler’s last book, “The Island Called Paradise,” is a collection of essays about Cuba, America’s wars have been his main concern from the beginning of his career. Beidler devoted an entire book to discussions of Vietnam War literature, and several collections discuss World War II, “The Good War,” and its cultural aftermath.

“Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories”

Author: Kevin Wilson  

Publisher: Ecco, HarperCollins

Pages: 205

Price: $13.99 (Paper)

“The Family Fang: A Novel”

Author: Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Ecco, HarperCollins

Pages: 309

$23.00 (Hardcover)

In just a few days, Kevin Wilson, who teaches writing at the University of the South in Sewanee, will publish his third book, the novel “Perfect Little World.” To prepare for reviewing it, I thought to read his book of stories and previous novel.

“Alabama: The Making of an American State”

Author: Edwin C. Bridges  

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 241 pp.

Price: $39.95 (Cloth); $19.95 (Paper)

For thirty years as the Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Ed Bridges was immersed in Alabama history. Now Director Emeritus, Bridges has finished his magnum opus, a narrative history of the state from 11,000 B.C. to the very present, in time for the Alabama Bicentennial in 2019.

“Avid Reader: A Life”

Author: Robert Gottlieb   

Publisher: Farrrar, Strauss and Giroux

Pages: 323

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Robert Gottlieb is 85 years old and arguably the most important editor in America since Maxwell Perkins was editing Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe in the 20s and 30s. He should have written his memoirs long ago, but there was always the next book to seek, to sign, to edit, the next issue of the magazine to put out, and in the last 20 years or so, the next book to write, about subjects Gottlieb felt passionately about.

“Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards”

Author: Wade Hall with Nancy B. DuPree and Christopher Sawula

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 224

Price: $24.95 (Trade Paper)

“El Paso: A Novel”

Author: Winston Groom  

Publisher: Liveright: a Division of W. W. Norton

New York

2016

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Pages: 477

After publishing 7 novels, including the mega-hit “Forrest Gump” in 1986, Groom left off writing novels and turned to nonfiction. He has published 10 works of history, mainly on military subjects, from the Civil War battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg to WWI fighting in Flanders to the darkest period of WWII, the year 1942.

“H is for Hawk”

Author: Helen Macdonald 

Publisher: Grove Press

Pages: 283

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

“H is for Hawk” has come to my attention because it has already won prizes in Britain and was a “New York Times” bestseller in spite of being nearly unclassifiable by genre.

“Freedom of the Mask”

By Robert McCammon           

Subterranean Press

Burton, MI

2016

$ 26.95 (Deluxe hardcover Edition)

530 pp.

After a series of highly successful novels in the horror genre, Robert McCammon switched to a series of historical murder mysteries, set in the years around 1700.

In the first Matthew Corbett novel, “Speaks the Nightbird,” Corbett, a magistrate’s assistant, investigates charges of witchcraft in Fount Royal, South Carolina.

“Perfume River: A Novel”

Author: Robert Olen Butler   

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

Pages: 273

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

“Perfume River” is, pardon the pun, a confluence of several themes that Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain,” has explored in previous works and is as smart and eloquent as anything he’s done before.

“A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life”

Author: Pat Conroy   

Publisher: Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday

Pages: 291

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

As his millions of fans know, Pat Conroy passed away early this spring. When any great writer dies, the same question is asked: Are there unpublished manuscripts still to come? In the case of Hemingway, there were reams of work, beginning with “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.”

“Bettyville; A Memoir”

Author: George Hodgman   

Publisher: Viking     

Pages: 276

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

George Hodgman had an up and down career as a book and magazine editor in New York City, working at different times for “Vanity Fair,” Simon and Schuster and other organizations. He had become neither rich nor famous but New York had become home. Through the years, he visited his mother and father, Big George and Betty, in his home town of Paris, Missouri, but certainly never planned to return there to live.

“Go South to Freedom: Based on a True Story”

Author: Frye Gaillard

Publisher: NewSouth Books          

Pages: 80

Price: $17.95 (Hardcover)

“Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee from Scout to ‘Go Set a Watchman’”

Author: Charles J. Shields 

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Pages: 310

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

“The Harvard Bride: A Mountain Brook Novel”

Author: Katherine Clark            

Publisher: Story River Books, The University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 320

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover)

In the months before his death this spring, the novelist Pat Conroy selected a number of titles for his series Story River Books, which he had instituted with the University of South Carolina Press.

Among these were the four novels of Katherine Clark’s Mountain Brook quartet. “The Harvard Bride” is the third.

“A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression”

Author: Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

Publisher: Harper           

Pages: 352

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis’

Author: J.D. Vance

Publisher: HarperCollins             

Pages: 272

Price: $ 27.00 (Hardcover)

“Hillbilly Elegy” has recently attracted a load of attention, partly by fortunate timing.

The book is, first, a conventional memoir. J.D. Vance tells the story of his life.

“Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece ‘The Sun Also Rises’”

Author: Lesley M.M. Blume

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 237           

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

“Beatlebone”

Author: Kevin Barry

Publisher: Canongate Books

Edinburgh                                                                                                      

2015

Pages: 263

Price: $13.00 (Paper)

American readers are aware of the Irish reverence for their poets. The recently deceased Seamus Heaney is a kind of secular saint.

“In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama’s Jews, the Second World War, and the Holocaust”

Author: Dan J. Puckett

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 326                                                                                          

Price: $44.95 (Hardback) ; $34.95 (Paperback)

Dan Puckett, who teaches history at Troy University, has published a scholarly history of Jews in Alabama, not covering all aspects from 1795 till now, but focusing on the run-up to WWII, escapees, Naziism and the war itself, displaced persons, and Zionism.

“The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel”

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Publisher: Random House            

Pages: 235

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

The life of Truman Capote does have the arc of a novel about it. Neglected and, one might say, abandoned by his mother and father, raised by cousins in Monroeville, small, feminine, lonely, longing to be rich and famous, Capote struggled for years, working harder at his writing than anyone could ever guess.

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