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.

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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!

Halley

Sep 15, 2014

    

“Halley”
Author: Faye Gibbons
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Pages: 208
Price: $21.95 (Hardcover)
208

Faye Gibbons is an old pro at children’s and Young Adult writing. An Auburn graduate and author of more than a dozen books, she won the Georgia Author of the Year award in 1983 for “Some Glad Morning” and the Alabama Author Award for “Night in the Barn” in 1998, given by the Alabama Library Association.

    

“Muscle Shoals Sound Studio: How The Swampers Changed American Music”
Author: Carla Jean Whitley
Publisher: The History Press
Pages: 160
Price: $19.99 (Paper)

Towards the end of her short history of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, “Birmingham Magazine” managing editor Whitley discusses the new documentary “Muscle Shoals” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Next

Sep 1, 2014

 

“Next: D-Bow’s High School Hoops”
Author: Kevin Waltman
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Pages: 287
Price: $11.95 (Paper)

Sports fans know that what football is to Alabama culture, basketball is to Indiana culture: passion, obsession, madness, religion.

Pop culture images of Indiana basketball, however, as opposed to the images of the NBA, show white small-town Hoosiers at play, coached by Gene Hackman. Although blond Larry Byrd, of French Lick, Indiana, has been retired for some time, he is still the model for Indiana hoops.

    

"The Island Called Paradise: Cuba in History, Literature, and the Arts"
Author: Philip D. Beidler
Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
2014, Tuscaloosa, AL
$34.95 (Cloth)
193 pp.

Over a long career, Beidler has written analyses of early American and Alabama literature, sweeping appraisals of the war literature of WWII and Vietnam, a number of powerful personal essays based on his experiences as a lieutenant in Vietnam and, most lately, outraged appraisals of American political leadership.

“Truman Capote: A Literary Life at the Movies”

Author: Tison Pugh
Publisher: The University of Georgia Press
Pages: 287
Price: $79.95 (Cloth); $28.95 (Paper)

On a Darkling Plain

Aug 11, 2014

“On a Darkling Plain: Stories of the Great Depression”
Author: Betty Jean Tucker
Publisher: Livingston Press
Pages: 162
Price: $17.95 (Paper)

Everybody loves a book that comes with a back story. In his very fine Introduction to “On a Darkling Plain,” Alabama literary critic Norman McMillan tells us of a 19-year-old student at Alabama College who, in 1951, published in “The Montevallo Review” her first story, “My Sister Callie.”

“Gruesome: A Novel Drawn from True Crime”

Author: Donald Brown
Publisher: Borgo Publishing
Pages: 197
Price: $10.95 (Paperback)

Alabama Scoundrels

Jul 28, 2014

“Alabama Scoundrels: Outlaws, Pirates, Bandits & Bushwhackers”
Authors: Kelly Kazek & Wil Elrick
Publisher: The History Press
Pages: 126
Price: $19.99 (Paperback)

“Alabama Scoundrels” is a short book, 122 pages, brief sketches of 22 Alabama miscreants. Most of the scoundrels of the title are criminals, usually killers of some type and usually nineteenth century, although a few go back further, to before statehood in 1819, when Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory.

“The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee”
Author: Marja Mills
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Pages: 278
Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

Before describing or evaluating this book, one must first express astonishment that it exists at all.

The White Lie

Jul 14, 2014

“The White Lie: A Novel”
Author: Philip Shirley
Publisher: Mindbridge Press
Pages: 276
Price: $15.95 (Paperback)

Philip Shirley, originally an Alabamian, has had a highly successful career in advertising and public relations in Jackson, Mississippi. Nevertheless, from time to time, Shirley has made forays into writing other than copyrighting: “Endings,” a volume of poetry, “Sweet Spot: 125 Years of Baseball and the Louisville Slugger,” a nonfiction work, and the respectable fiction debut, “Oh Don’t You Cry for Me,” a volume of short stories.

The Newspaper Boy

Jul 7, 2014

"The Newspaper Boy: Coming of Age in Birmingham, Alabama, During the Civil Rights Era"
Author: Chervis Isom
Publisher: The Working Writer Discovery Group
Pages: 359
Price: $27.95 (Hardcover)

A Time to Reap

Jun 30, 2014

  “A Time to Reap: A Novel”
Author: William Cobb
Publisher: SixFinger Publishing
Pages: 268
Price: $18.99 (Paperback)

Birmingham Then and Now

Jun 23, 2014

  “Birmingham: Then and Now”
Author: Todd Keith
Publisher: Trafalgar Square Publishing
Pages: 144
Price: $19.95 (Hardback)

Waffle House Rules

Jun 16, 2014

    

  “Waffle House Rules”
Author: Joe Formichella
Publisher: River’s Edge Media
Pages: 183
Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

Joe Formichella has had considerable success with a book on a black baseball league in Pritchard, Alabama, “Here’s to You, Jackie Robinson,” and a first novel, “The Wreck of the Twilight Limited,” nearly a true-life novel about the catastrophic 1993 Amtrak train wreck on a bridge over Bayou Canot north of Mobile.

  “Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division”
Author: Nimrod Frazer, with a Foreword by Edwin C. Bridges
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Pages: 344
Price: $34.95 (Hardback)

On May 9, 1919, the 167th Infantry Regiment, the Alabama regiment, of the 42nd Division returned from Europe in triumph. They were to be mustered out in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, but their three special troop trains stopped for celebrations in Huntsville, Decatur, Anniston, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.

Booty Bones

Jun 2, 2014

  “Booty Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery”
Author: Carolyn Haines
Publisher: St. Martin’s Publishing Group, Minotaur Books
Pages: 355
Price: $24.99 (Hardback)

Carolyn Haynes has now published 14 Sarah Booth Delaney “Bones” mysteries over the past 15 years.

What started as a series set at Dahlia House, in Sunflower County, Zinnia, in the Mississippi Delta, has done some travelling.

  “Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist: A Memoir”
Author: Tim Parrish
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography
Pages: 263
Price: $28.00 (Hardback)

A river of books has come out of the civil rights moment: large-scale general histories like Taylor Branch’s three volume “America in the King Years” and more focused studies such as Diane McWhorter’s investigation of the Movement in Birmingham, ”Carry Me Home.”

Come Landfall: A Novel

May 19, 2014

  “Come Landfall: A Novel”
Author: Roy Hoffman
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Pages: 232
Price: $29.95 (Cloth)

The novels of Roy Hoffman seem to flow from two sources.

First, as a writer for the “Mobile Press-Register,” Hoffman wrote scores of stories, profiling the citizens of the city. Character sketches of interesting though not conventionally important people were a specialty. In doing this work he of course came to realize more fully than most how multi-ethnic the population of Alabama actually is.

  “Lion Plays Rough: A Leo Maxwell Mystery”
Author: Lachlan Smith
Publisher: The Mysterious Press: An Imprint of Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 246
Price: $24.00 (Cloth)

Just last year, 2013, Lachlan Smith, a Birmingham attorney practicing civil rights and employment law, published his debut thriller, “Bear Is Broken.” Smith was well prepared to write that novel, having studied writing at Stanford and Cornell and then getting a law degree from UC Berkeley in 2009.

  “Brother Sid: A Novel of Sidney Lanier”
Author: May Lamar
Publisher: The Donnell Group
Pages: 265
Price: $22.95 (Cloth)

Second Cup

Apr 28, 2014

  “Second Cup of Coffee: Collected Columns”
By Mary Adams Belk
Introduction by Joe McAdory
2014
Auburn, Alabama
Solomon & George Publishers
$18.00 (Paper)
209 pp.

Mary Belk has written a weekly column for the “Opelika-Auburn News” for many years and of course her readers have urged her to collect these columns and make them available as a single volume.

The Secret of Magic

Apr 21, 2014

“The Secret of Magic”
Author: Deborah Johnson
Publisher: P.G. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 394
Price: $26.95 (Cloth)

The Invitation

Apr 14, 2014

    

“The Invitation” Author: Clifton Taulbert
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Pages: 206
Price: $25.95 (Cloth)

The Shoe Burnin'

Mar 30, 2014

    

“The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul”
Editor: Joe Formichella
Publisher: River’s Edge Media
Pages: 216
Price: $34.95 (Cloth) including CD

“The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul.” The title has a story behind it and the subtitle is a pun.

The story is simple. On a winter’s night, near Brewton, Alabama, a group of kindred spirits were talking, singing, drinking of course, and rather than making a trip to the woodpile, they burned, one at a time, a box of old shoes.

The Never List

Mar 24, 2014

    

“The Never List: A Novel” Author: Koethi Zan
Publisher: Viking Press
Pages: 303
Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

One rarely begins a review by quoting from the acknowledgements, but this is an unusual situation. Koethi Zan thanks a number of people including her daughters, who “are not allowed to read one word of [“The Never List”] until college.”

This is perfectly understandable.

Hum

Mar 17, 2014

    

“Hum” Author: Michelle Richmond
Publisher: University of Alabama Press, FC2
Pages: 149
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

A native of Mobile, Michelle Richmond began her career with a volume of stories, “The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress,” which won the Associated Writing Programs prize for short fiction in 2000.

Fielder's Choice

Mar 10, 2014

    

“Fielder’s Choice” Author: J. Mark Hart
Publisher: TradeWorks Publishing
Pages: 460
Price: $12.95

Superzelda

Mar 3, 2014

“Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald”
Author: Tizania Lo Porto
Illustrator: Daniele Marotta
Publisher: One Peace Books
Pages: 175
Price: $16.95 (Paper)

Graphic books are, to me, a relatively new phenomenon. I have seen a few graphic novels and Lila Quintero Weaver’s fine graphic memoir, “Darkroom,” but this is my first graphic biography. As successful as many graphic novels may be, perhaps graphic books are not suited to biography. In biography we usually already know what the characters look like. Sometimes the faces are downright famous.

Turning the Tide

Feb 24, 2014

  

“Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s”
Author: Earl H. Tilford
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Pages: 252
Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

Earl Tilford offers what seems a very useful way to think of the history of the University of Alabama. He suggests there have been three UAs, or rather the university has been born, then faded and reborn twice. The first university dates from the founding in 1831 and ends when the Union troops burned all but four buildings in 1865.

  

“Bear Is Broken: A Leo Maxwell Mystery”
Author: Lachlan Smith
Publisher: The Mysterious Press: An imprint of Grove/Atlantic
Pages: 256
Price: $24.00 (Cloth)

Since the early years of John Grisham, It has become a commonplace that attorneys write legal thrillers. Nothing new there. But few can have been as fully prepared for the job as Lachlan Smith.

Smith took a BA and MA at Stanford, where he was a Richard Scowcroft Fellow in the prestigious Wallace Stegner Writing Program, and followed these up with an MFA in fiction writing from Cornell.

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