Don Noble's Book Reviews

Mondays at 7:45 a.m and 4:44 p.m.

Recently retired as English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's  specialties are Southern and American literature.  He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm.  and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page.  Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Credit Alabama State Council on the Arts

Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts, with the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners.  Thank you!

“Adiós Hemingway”

Author: Leonardo Padura Fuentes    

Translated from the Spanish by John King

Publisher: Grove/ Atlantic, Inc.

Pages: 229

Price: $13.00 (Paperback)

On the afternoon of January 21 I went to ten Hoor Hall on the UA campus to hear a talk by Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura Fuentes (often referred to as Leonardo Padura).

“American Housewife: Stories”

Author: Helen Ellis    

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 185

Price: $24.00 (Hardcover)

Tuscaloosa native Helen Ellis had a great success with her comical debut novel “Eating the Cheshire Cat,” set on the University of Alabama campus—partly in a sorority house—with its explosive climax on the football field during a half-time show.

“Cries for Help, Various”

Author: Padgett Powell

Publisher: Catapult

Pages: 182

Price: $ 16.95 (Paperback)

In a recent reading in Nashville, Padgett Powell introduced his stories by claiming that they were the beginnings of novels that had petered out and that the volume should have been called “Cries for Help, Failures,” but his publisher didn’t think labelling them as failed novels would help sales.

“Saban: The Making of a Coach”           

Author: Monte Burke

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 324

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

There is a good case to be made for not writing biographies until the subject is dead. Feelings are inevitably hurt. The subject’s family and friends may learn things they don’t need to know.

“The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography”

Author: Scott Donaldson   

Publisher: The Pennsylvania State University Press

Pages: 284

Price: $39.95 (Hardcover)

Scott Donaldson has been for years one of our foremost American literary biographers.

He has written lives of three poets—Archibald MacLeish, Edwin Arlington Robinson and Winfield Townley Scott—but is best known for his biographies of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Cheever.

“Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama”

Author: Robin McDonald and Valerie Pope Burnes

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 242

Price: $39.95 (Hardcover)

“Visions of the Black Belt” is a gorgeous, oversized coffee table book and it will, properly, be bought for the photos, but before talking about the photography, let me urge people to be sure to read the text.

"Carrying Albert Home" By Homer Hickam

Dec 14, 2015

“Carrying Albert Home”

Author: Homer Hickam  

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 432

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

“Carrying Albert Home” is in some ways familiar Homer Hickam territory. Beginning with “The Rocket Boys” (1998), Hickam gained his first successes with memoirs of home, Coalwood, West Virginia. “Albert” might be considered the fifth in that series. But there are big differences.

“My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South”

Author: Rick Bragg  

Publisher: Oxmoor House, Time Inc. Books

Pages: 251

Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Rick Bragg’s last book, his best-selling biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, was an exhausting enterprise. Bragg spent two summers interviewing Lewis, researched widely, and in the writing—476 pages—had the struggle of presenting Lewis’ drinking, drug use, multiple marriages and generally violent nature in a text that was accurate and fair and still readable and pleasing in the Rick Bragg style.

“The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II”

Author: Winston Groom  

Publisher: National Geographic Books

Pages: 512

Price: $30.00 (Hardcover)

“The Generals,” Groom’s tenth volume of military history, tells the stories of George Patton, George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur.

It was only two years ago that Winston Groom published “The Aviators,” the story of three pioneers: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindberg.

“Wherever There Is Light”

Author: Peter Golden 

Publisher: Atria Books, Simon and Shuster

Pages: 353

Price: $25.00 (Hardcover)

“Wherever There Is Light” is a truly ambitious novel. In the course of its 353 pages Golden moves his readers through three generations, forty years, one adventure after the next, as his characters play their parts in several of the major historical events of the mid-20th century.

“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.

"We Were Brothers" By Barry Moser

Oct 8, 2015

“We Were Brothers”

Author: Barry Moser

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill   

Pages: 192

Price: $22.00 (Hardcover)

Barry Moser is a name familiar to many, but not as an author. An artist, Moser is the illustrator or designer of 350 books, including “Moby Dick,” “Frankenstein,” “The Divine Comedy,” and  even the King James Bible, and he won a National Book Award for his edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“We Were Brothers” is utterly divorced from that world of fine art and beauty.

“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.

Lagniappe.

“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.

Pages