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.

“The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War”

Author: James McGrath Morris 

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pages: 312

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

When WWI began in Europe in 1914 the French army was woefully short of ambulances and drivers. The United States was not yet in the war, but some Americans living in Paris volunteered in an informal, unorganized way.

“Quicks”

Author: Kevin Waltman  

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Pages: 292

Price: $ 11.95 (Paper)

Kevin Waltman teaches at UA in Tuscaloosa now but played his high school basketball in Hoosierland, the center of basketball madness in America.

“Quicks” is the fourth and final young adult novel in the series “D-Bow High School Hoops.”

“Being Elvis: A Lonely Life”

Author: Ray Connolly   

Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation

Pages: 362

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Peter Guralnick is considered by many to be the best commentator on American popular music, with books on Sam Phillips, Sam Cooke, Robert Johnson and others.

“Sing, Unburied, Sing”

Author: Jesmyn Ward   

Publisher: Scribner

Pages: 285

Price: $26.00 (Hardcover)

I might have said in this review that “Sing, Unburied, Sing” was a powerful novel which will surely win awards. This turns out not to be necessary. While I was reading “Sing,” it was announced that Ward, who won the National Book Award in 2011 with “Salvage the Bones,” has won again with “Sing.”

“False Friend”

Author: Andrew Grant   

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 282

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

“Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale”

Author: G. Neri    

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99 (Hardcover)

Only a year ago, G. Neri had a nice success with “Tru and Nelle,” a novel based on real and imagined events in the childhood friendship of Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville.

The two were friends, played word games, wrote stories together, and solved a mystery together, with young Truman taking the role of Sherlock.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Author: Margaret Atwood  

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 311

Price: $15.95

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” published originally in 1985, was more than a successful novel, winning several prizes and short-listed for the rest; it was and continues to be a phenomenon.

There have been a feature film (1990), a radio play, a stage play, an opera and a ballet based on the book, and the first season of the TV adaptation, ten episodes, won an Emmy.

“These Rugged Days: Alabama in the Civil War”

Author: John S. Sledge   

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 296

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

There is surely no subject more written about than the American Civil War, so it is perfectly sensible to ask whether this book is needed. The answer is an unequivocal yes, and I learned a lot.

“Fierce Kingdom”

Author: Gin Phillips   

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 274

Price: $ 25.00 (Hardcover)

“Fierce Kingdom” is Birmingham novelist Gin Phillips’ third novel and it is heartening to see the way this Birmingham writer has shaped a fine career with three very different novels, never repeating herself.

“The Well and the Mine,” 2007, was set northwest of Birmingham in a coal mining town in 1931. This novel is gritty/realistic—a family struggles to survive in hard times.

“No Saints in Kansas”

Author: Amy Brashear    

Publisher: Soho Teen

Pages: 320

Price: $18.99 (Hardcover)

For the last few years there have been any number of books which are, in some fashion or other, about other books.

There are retellings of Jane Austen novels and fictionalizations of the lives of humans connected with novels. See “The Paris Wife” about Hadley Hemingway, or “Z”, a novel based on Zelda’s life, or, more to the point, the novel “Capote in Kansas.”

“The Eastern Shore”

Author: Ward Just  

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 200

Price: $ 25.00 (Hardcover)

“Wolf’s Revenge: A Leo Maxwell Novel”

Author: Lachlan Smith         

Publisher: The Mysterious Press New York

Pages: 256

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

Lachlan Smith is an attorney practicing in Birmingham. I do not hear much talk about the Leo Maxwell series around Alabama, perhaps because these novels are set in the Bay Area of California.

But, since the first in the series, “Bear Is Broken,” won the Shamus Award for best first P.I. Novel and this is the fifth, be assured there is a substantial and well-deserved readership.

“Here We May Rest: Alabama Immigrants in the Age of HB 56”

Author: Silvia Giagnoni   

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 276

Price: $29.95 (Trade paper)

Silvia Giagnoni is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Theatre at AUM. She moved to the U.S. from Italy, at the age of 26, with a B.A. and an M.A. in hand, to attend graduate school in Florida. Her first book was “Fields of Resistance: The Struggle of Florida’s Farmworkers for Justice.”

“We Now Return to Regular Life”

Author: Martin Wilson     

Publisher: Dial Books

Pages: 370

Price: $17.95 (Hardcover)

Martin Wilson, raised in Tuscaloosa, now a literary publicist in New York City, has published his second Young Adult novel. The subject once again is the difficulty, for many teens, of growing up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or for that matter, anywhere.

In his first novel, “What They Always Tell Us,” a pair of brothers, Alex and James, are moving through their last years at Central High in the late 1980s.

“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.

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