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!

Sins of the Father: The True Story of a Family Running from the Mob

Author: Nick Taylor

Publisher: Pocket Star Books

Pages: 485

Price: $9.99 (Paper)

Much of the narrative “Sins of the Father” will be familiar to viewers of the TV show “In Plain Sight.” The U.S. Marshall’s Service takes those who are to testify in high profile cases, whose lives would definitely be in danger because of that testimony, and puts them into the Witness Protection Program.

Leaving Tuscaloosa

Dec 18, 2012

Leaving Tuscaloosa

Author: Walter Bennett

Publisher: Fuze Publishing

Pages: 313

Price: $16.95 (Paper)

A novel called “Leaving Tuscaloosa” is simply irresistible to a resident, past or present, of Tuscaloosa. Bennett, who grew up in Tuscaloosa and has had a long career as a lawyer, law professor and judge, now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has studied fiction writing with Lee Smith, among others.

Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man

Dec 18, 2012

Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man

Author: Frank “Doc” Adams and Burgin Mathews

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 267

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

The reader can tell that Burgin Mathews put in a heap of work on this book, interviewing “Doc” Adams dozens of times, transcribing the interviews from nearly a hundred cassette tapes, and editing, cutting, and arranging the material.

Tasia’s Table: Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre

Author: Tasia Malakasis, Photography by Stephanie Schamban

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 143

Price: $29.95

We are used to chef stories like that of Jacques Pepin, who worked as a child in his mother’s restaurant in France, or Anthony Bourdain, who began as a young fellow and worked his way up.

They Came To Nashville

Oct 29, 2012

“They Came to Nashville”

Author: Marshall Chapman, with a Foreword by Peter Guralnik

Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press

Pages: 282 Price: $25.00 (Cloth)

Marshall Chapman, Nashville singer-songwriter, is now the author of about 400 songs and has cut 12 albums at last count.

Her songs have been recorded by musicians ranging from Conway Twitty to EmmyLou Harris to Jimmy Buffett.

She was an unlikely country star. Far from being a coal miner’s daughter, Chapman was a mill owner’s daughter, a debutante from Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“The Lost Ones: A Quinn Colson Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 339

Price: $27.50 (Cloth)

Ace Atkins has been working harder than ever, simultaneously writing two detective/action series. He was chosen to write the Spenser novels after the death of Robert B. Parker and in 2011 began the Quinn Colson series with “The Ranger.”

“The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir”

Author: Frye Gaillard

Publisher: NewSouth Books

Pages: 206

Price: $27.95 (Cloth)

A few writers, even in mid-career, will deny that they read anything much. Faulkner denied, disingenuously, that he had read Joyce’s “Ulysses,” for example, probably for fear readers would feel he had been unduly influenced by Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness experiments.

“Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Conquest of the Americas”

Author: Lawrence A. Clayton

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (Viewpoints)

Pages: 188

Price: $24.95 (Paper)

Bartolomé de Las Casas is one of those historical figures that, one must sadly admit, one knew nothing about. But this concise, informative book by UA history professor Lawrence Clayton can fix that.

“The Weight of Memory: A Novel”

Author: Jennifer Paddock

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing

Pages: 254

Price: $24.00 (Cloth)

Jennifer Paddock is a young woman who writes novels about young women.

Her first, “A Secret Word,” 2004, tells the stories of three girls, friends, growing up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Paddock’s home town. The three girls were close and were all in love privately with Trey, who died in a wreck.

Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope

Editor: Barbara A. Baker

Publisher: University of Alabama Press; A Pebble Hill Book

Pages: 204

Price: $25.00 (Paper)

“Love’s Winning Plays: A Novel”

Author: Inman Majors

Publisher: W. W. Norton &Company

Pages: 256

$25.95 (Cloth)

“Love’s Winning Plays” is Inman Majors’ fourth novel since completing his MFA in creative writing here at Alabama. There was a restless young man novel, “Swimming in Sky,” set in Knoxville, then a fine comic novel, “Wonderdog,” set in Tuscaloosa.

“Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King”

Author: Edythe Scott Bagley, With Joe Hilley; Afterword by Bernice A. King

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 318

Price: $34.95 (Cloth)

“Desert Rose” is a sympathetic, personal remembrance of Coretta Scott King by one who knew her best.

“Zelda Fitzgerald: The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age’s High Priestess”

Author: Sally Cline

Publisher: Arcade Publishing

Pages: 492

Price: $16.95 (Paper)

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was a charismatic, vivacious, beautiful, enigmatic, creative, deeply disturbed woman. Several full-length biographies have attempted to explain her. Before she ever met F. Scott Fitzgerald in Montgomery she was already famous/notorious in Alabama for her wit, physical daring and risqué behavior.

“The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese”

Editor: Michael Rosenwald

Publisher: Walker & Company

Pages: 308

Price: $16.00 (paper)

Readers today may think of Gay Talese as the immersion journalist who hung out with the Bonnano Mafia family and published “Honor Thy Father,” or the writer who explored America’s sexual mores and reported back in “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” or the historian of the “New York Times,” in “The Kingdom and the Power.”

Year of the Pig

Aug 15, 2012

“Year of the Pig”

Author: Mark J. Hainds

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 272

Price: $16.95 (Cloth)

Mark Hainds, a research assistant with Auburn University stationed at the Solon Dixon Forestry Center in Andalusia, Alabama, set himself a challenge. Within the period of one year, 2007 (that is, the “Year of the Pig” on the Chinese calendar), he would hunt and kill wild, feral pigs in at least ten states.

The Node

Aug 15, 2012

“The Node”

Author: Tito Perdue

Publisher: Nine-Banded Books

Pages: 258

Price: $12.00 (paper)

Tito Perdue of Centerville, Alabama, now the author of seven published novels, has a small readership but has received a few extraordinary reviews over the years. His fiction is disturbing, difficult to categorize, even to describe.

Perdue’s voice is singular and original. One does not have the feeling reading “The Node” that he is imitating or even much influenced by previous writing.

And, to the best of my knowledge, no one is imitating him.

“Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby: A Spenser Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 310

Price: $26.95

Robert B. Parker was a major detective fiction franchise, having published 49 Spenser novels, 9 Jesse Stone novels, 6 Sunny Randall novels and 14 other miscellaneous books.

His fans were certainly dismayed when Parker died in January of 2010. Would there be no more Parker books? He did not leave piles of completed manuscripts, as Barbara Cartland is said to have done.

No need for concern.

“Old Havana: Spirit of the Living City”

Author: Photographs by Chip Cooper and Nestor Marti

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 208

Price: $49.95 (Cloth)

First things first.

Describing a book of photographs in words is a tricky and probably thankless task. So let me begin simply. This is an absolutely beautiful book. You could take any page in the book, have it framed and hang it proudly on your wall.

Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves and Demons

Author: Gregory L. Reese

Publisher: I.B. Tauris & Co.

Pages: 208

Price: $17.00 (Paper)

The author of this volume, Dr. Gregory Reese, is an old hand at explaining the unusual and the paranormal. Reese, who has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, is the author, previously, of “Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs,” “UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Cultures” and, perhaps most intriguing of all, “Elvis Religion: The Cult of the King.”

“Austin and Emily: Sometimes Love Is Blind…and Deaf…and Dumb”

Author: Frank Turner Hollon

Publisher: MacAdam/ Cage

Pages: 294

Price: $20.00 (Paper)

Frank Turner Hollon, an attorney in Baldwin County, Alabama, has been a steady producer of dark, painful novels, usually involving betrayal and often death. With books such as “The Point of Fracture” and “Blood and Circumstance” he generated a loyal readership.

After a while, I left that group, thinking Hollon was repeating himself, writing too fast and too thin.

Shiloh: 1862

Jul 10, 2012

“Shiloh: 1862”

Author: Winston Groom

Publisher: National Geographic

Pages: 443

Price: $30.00 (Cloth)

Alabama author Winston Groom has had a remarkable spring of 2012.

His novel “Forrest Gump” was reissued in a 25th anniversary edition, and now his sixteenth book, his third study of a Civil War battle, has been published. This is a highly detailed narrative and the reader had better want to learn a lot about the Battle of Shiloh, April 6th and 7th, 1862.

Crater: A Helium-3 Novel

Jul 10, 2012

“Crater: A Helium-3 Novel”

Author: Homer Hickam

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pages: 311

Price: $14.95 (Cloth)

Over the years Homer Hickam of Huntsville has tried his hand at several genres. He’s done straight nonfiction with books like “Torpedo Junction,” series fiction with his WWII Josh Thurlow of the U.S. Coast Guard books, and of course his several volumes of memoir, set in West Virginia, beginning with “Rocket Boys.”

“Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones”

As Told to Albert Murray

Editor: Paul Devlin

Afterword: Phil Schaap

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Pages: 172

Price: $18.95 (Paper)

book cover "Over Time, My Life as a Sports Writer"
New York Times

Author: Frank Deford

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

Pages: 354

Price: $25.00

As Camille Elebash explains in her Foreword, Alline Van Duzor was brought to Tuscaloosa from Atlanta in 1946 to manage the then-new University Club. Van Duzor did just that, for 15 years. In 1962, right after her retirement, she published the original edition of this volume, containing the recipes for the dishes produced in her kitchen.

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

Clyde Bolton is one of Alabama's best-known and admired writers. His new book, "Hadacol Days," seems much less edgy, lively and immediate. It is of course smoothly told?Bolton knows how to write?but the story seems a distant overview, more a summary than an analysis, pleasant and nostalgic, a report about an age when it was still safe to hitch-hike.

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

In this novel, "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" we have an exploration of the issue of race in Mississippi that certainly brings to mind the tangled family patterns, with absolute separation of the races combined with miscegenation, leading inevitably to catastrophe, that one finds in Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom" or "Go Down, Moses."

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

Rice is factual, but somewhat remote and, to no one's surprise, maintains mostly a tone one might call cool. Anyone searching for details of Dr. Rice's personal life will be mostly disappointed. This is absolutely not a tell-all autobiography. A few men get a few words each.

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

Joe Louis: Hard Times Man

Feb 21, 2011

Randy Roberts, who has also written biographies of fighters Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey, has done a beautiful of laying out the life and career of Joe Louis and explaining the role that boxing played in American popular culture, race relations and civil rights and, in fact, the ways in which boxing was linked with American patriotism in the late '30s and '40s.

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

This is an eclectic and eccentric little book, put together, one is sure, over time from bits Kelly Kazek, managing editor of the "News Courier" in Athens, Alabama, has collected, heard, read, researched and written up and gathered here.

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio