Arts & Life

An Alabama Songbook is a thorough collection of ballads, folksongs and spirituals. The music displays a rich history of some of the state's lesser-known arts.

An Alabama Songbook: Ballads, Folksongs, and Spirituals

This volume has been a very long time in the making.

A fictionalized account of the worst accident in Amtrak history that happened in Mobile, Alabama.

The Wreck of the Twilight Limited

In real life, here?s what happened.

Satchel Paige's America

Mar 28, 2005

Satchel Paige talks freely and candidly in this memoir by William Price Fox. He discusses baseball past and present, finances and, of course, Alabama.

Satchel Paige's America

In the early 1970s, novelist William Price Fox of South Carolina met with Satchel Paige, perhaps the best pitcher ever to play baseball, in the Twilight Zone Lounge of the Rhythm Lanes Bowling Alley in Kansas City.

I'll Never Leave You

Mar 21, 2005

Nine stories in I'll Never Leave You examine the influence of the sea on the lives and loves of people in a mythical New England town.

I'll Never Leave You

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: a Memoir provides a front-row seat to 1960s rural Alabama--the thoughts, feelings and daily life of a white family living in the midst of the civil rights struggle. Sikora portrays his wife's family vividly, intimately and honestly.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: A Memoir

Too Brief a Treat

Mar 7, 2005

This collection of letters from Truman Capote shows another side of the Alabama native who achieved national acclaim through his short stories and novels. A more personal look at Capote's "raw material" including rare literary criticisms as well as notes from his extensive travels.

Too Brief a Treat

A letter from a friend is a treat. If the letter is short, it is ?too brief a treat.?

The Romanov Prophecy

Feb 28, 2005

A tale of "chase and narrow escape, historical fact and speculation" that leads readers to wonder about the true survivors of a fallen dynasty.

Everybody knows that poets don?t sell many books or make much money.

Fewer people realize that writers of literary fiction don?t get rich either.

Only one of the five novels nominated for last year?s National Book Award sold more than 3,000 copies.

Ah, but genre fiction?that?s a get-rich-scheme, right?

Not necessarily.

The Same Sweet Girls

Feb 21, 2005

Six fading Southern belles commiserate and reevaluate their lives and loves in Alabama.

The Same Sweet Girls

There has been a buzz concerning King?s third novel, The Same Sweet Girls, for a couple of years, although it has only been released for a few weeks.

Why, you might ask?

First, there was a large advance, always provoking talk, envious and otherwise.

Monday Mourning

Feb 14, 2005

The seventh installment in the "Temperance Brennan" mystery series is anything but trite.

Dr. Kathy Reichs is a professor of anthropology at UNC-Charlotte, with a PhD from Northwestern University.

Dr. Reichs is also, more importantly, both a forensic anthropologist for the state of North Carolina and the Canadian equivalent in Montreal for the Province of Quebec.

As part of Dr. Reichs? work, she examines bones and other remains and offers expert testimony in court.

An unrepentant self-examination of Marshall Chapman's unconventional life.

I have been meaning to read singer and songwriter Marshall Chapman's memoir for over a year.

Now I have and I am glad.

It is an unusual book, well-written and a real page-turner.

Lee Smith, an old friend of Chapman, has written the Foreword and tells us how the book came to be.

The Weatherman

Jan 31, 2005

A TV weatherman wages war against his murderous cousin, who's campaigning to be Alabama's Attorney General.

Clint McCown is one of those writers who has not yet, but very well might, break through into real fame and fortune.

The Weatherman is his fifth book, his third novel.

McCown was raised in Homewood, Alabama, and shortly after college at Wake Forest University came to Tuscaloosa and studied for 18 months in the MFA program.

A Dream of Freedom

Jan 10, 2005

This painstakingly detailed account of the Civil Rights Movement opens up that part of history to young adult readers.

For her study of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Carry Me Home, published in 2001, Diane McWhorter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history.

That fairly narrow-focus study was a labor of nearly 20 years, and in the course of researching that book, McWhorter learned an immense amount about the movement that she could not fit into Carry Me Home.

Hearts of Dixie

Dec 27, 2004

A profile of 50 of the state's most colorful characters, with introductions by other notable natives.

Hearts of Dixie is, as the title suggests, 50 mini-biographies of Alabamians of the 20th, 19th, and, in a very few cases, the 18th century.

I began leafing through this oversized book?it approaches being a coffee-table book?and looking at the many pictures. Each entry has a full-page photo, usually very good, and a few smaller accompanying photos.

This collection of short stories from an Alabama attorney portrays "society's underclass."

John Cottle?s debut volume of short stories comes with a very impressive endorsement.

These stories are the winning manuscript in the 2003 George Garrett Fiction Award competition held by the Texas Review Press and were chose by Garrett himself, a man of unimpeachable experience and taste.

These are pretty good stories, and they are, in a painfully realistic way, Christmas stories.

This volume of holiday stories presents me with a dilemma. If the stories had been really sentimental, sappy, cloying, filled with heartwarming goo, Christmas miracles, touched by an angel, etc., etc., I would have complained bitterly. But they're really not. They are so unsentimental I found myself feeling a little dismayed and depressed.


Dec 6, 2004

The protagonist of Inman Majors' second novel, Wonderdog, is Devaney "Dev" Degraw, who is an unhappy, and at present unsuccessful, attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and also the son of the governor of Alabama. Dev is going through an especially tough time.


There is no greater virtue a novel can have than a great opening paragraph:

Standing in the Rainbow

Nov 29, 2004

It is often useful to begin with the title. In the novel, a family drive to the end of the rainbow and then stand in it, where it touches the ground. I am assured that this can actually be done. In any case, it is a metaphor.

Standing in the Rainbow

This commentary on Frank Stitt's Southern Table is the first in this spot about a cookbook. But this book is in fact more than just recipes; there's a good deal of text here, about Frank Stitt's life, his father and mother, education, and philosophy and about Southern food and farming.

Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar

In her first memoir, All the Lost Girls, Foster told of her mother, as a girl, having been raped by her own brother. Now Foster has written volume two: Just Beneath My Skin, a linked collection of autobiographical essays.

Just Beneath My Skin: Autobiography and Self-Discovery

The typical memoir is the memoir of childhood. The writer tells of her or his growing up and the forces that shaped him. More often than not that there is some real unpleasantness.

The Circus in Winter

Nov 8, 2004

You pick up a book about the circus and you think, man, this has just got to be fun, and usually it is. The Circus in Winter is such a book.

The Circus in Winter

There are certain subjects for fiction that seem intrinsically right, that just have to work. You pick up a book about the circus and you think, man, this has just got to be fun, and usually it is. The Circus in Winter is such a book.

Fierce: A Memoir

Nov 1, 2004

Barbara Robinette Moss's memoir Change Me into Zeus's Daughter (2000) was compared by critics to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, and I must admit that for sheer misery, it can compete. Moss, raised mainly in Calhoun County, Alabama, was one of eight children of a violent, alcoholic father, S. K. Moss, and his thoroughly traumatized wife, Barbara's mother, Dorris. S. K. spent most of his pay, week after week, in the bars.

Fierce: A Memoir

The City of Churches

Oct 25, 2004

September of 2003 marked the 40th anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing during which four young girls were killed. It is appropriate, then, that this fictionalized account of those days be released at this time, yet is also unfortunate.

The City of Churches

It may seem odd, at first blush, to review a book on Melville's years aboard a whaling ship in a radio space devoted to Southern literature and, usually, Alabama literature.

Herman Melville's Whaling Years

In Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, it first it looks as if Warren St. John is immersing himself, studying the motor home fans, the enthusiasts who move from Alabama game to Alabama game, Saturday after Saturday.

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

Chicken Dreaming Corn

Sep 27, 2004

There have been many pieces of the southern cultural puzzle missing, and now Roy Hoffman is adding his piece of that puzzle. there have been many pieces of the southern cultural puzzle missing, and now Roy Hoffman is adding his piece of that puzzle.

Southern fiction has undergone a steady metamorphosis, a steady evolution since its beginnings, when it was mainly the novel of the plantation. These novels of the lives of the white planters at first were southern fiction, reaching its apotheosis, of course, with Gone with the Wind.

Cadillac Beach

Sep 13, 2004

Cadillac Beach is Tim Dorsey's sixth novel, and it is much like the previous five. They are satires, but of the most extravagant, over-the-top variety.

Cadillac Beach

Grass Widow

Sep 6, 2004

In September of 1933, Viola Goode Stroud of Camden, Alabama returned home, with a small son and a load of trouble.

Cradle of Freedom

Aug 30, 2004

Why was Alabama so important? Because Birmingham was understood to be the most segregated city in America and the meanest--the toughest nut to crack.

This is Don Noble's 100th book review for Alabama Public Radio.

Cradle of Freedom

Hell at the Breech

Aug 25, 2004

...where armed men, living on what was still a kind of a frontier and still chafing from the humiliation of their defeat in the Civil War, set out to assassinate, hang, bushwhack, burn, and torture one another and any women, children, or black families who happen to be in the line of fire.

Hell at the Breech