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.
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.
William Cobb has published seven volumes of fiction and has won Alabama's Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Fiction. This novel becomes a dual road trip and picaresque adventure story as we follow the restless Minnie through her years as a prostitute in the old hotel on Cedar Key, to New York and back to Georgia and Florida, not seeking or fleeing, needing only movement, like the gypsy she is. She is not doomed to wander; she is free to wander.
His new book, "Trailblazing Mars," is a combination of history and prognostication. Duggins recounts our longtime powerful interest in the red planet, beginning with fictional treatments by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury, gives a sketch of the history of scientific ventures in that direction, and then writes about the different theories on how we might explore Mars, if indeed we decide to go forward with that very controversial, exciting, dangerous and expensive project.
"The Warmth of Other Suns" is a detailed study of that enormous migration. Isabel Wilkerson, who is already the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and the first black to win for individual reporting, has the prize for feature writing as the Chicago Bureau Chief of the "New York Times." This book might very well bring her another Pulitzer, for history. It is that good.
"What They Always Tell Us" is a first novel, marketed as a "young adult" book . The story is told in a straightforward, clear and non-experimental way, and it is absolutely about young adults, brothers Alex and James Donaldson. They are students at Central High; their stories are told in alternating chapters.
The premise of each of these essays is the same: describe what job you were working at when you decided to try your hand at earning a living writing. Sonny Brewer has somehow convinced 23 hard-working, busy, professional writers to pause and remember when they weren't writing full time, but earning a living at some job, dirty or clean, poorly paid or lucrative, dangerous or only mortally boring, that they quit in order to devote themselves to their craft.
Pat Conroy might be the most dedicated reader of any novelist, living or dead. This volume is a kind of memoir, structured around the most important books and book-people in Conroy's life. It altogether one of the most candid, funny, beautiful and heart-breaking books I have read in a very long time.
Allen Barra, a Birmingham native and the author of books on his kinsman Yogi Berra and "The Last Coach," Paul "Bear" Bryant, begins his book just where he should: at the scene of the inspiration for the creation of Rickwood Field.
As all who know him will attest, Wayne Greenhaw is one of Alabama's best storytellers. In "Fighting the Devil in Dixie," Greenhaw shines the spotlight more on the determined lawyers who went after the flagrantly illegal, unconstitutional city and state ordinances and the Klan itself.
It is unlikely that Roger Reid will soon quit his day job. Along with Doug Philips and Wendy Reed, he recently shared a regional Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for the "Alabama in Space" episode of the very successful, long-running series "Discovering Alabama."
"Billion-Dollar Kiss" gives a long, knowledgeable insider's look into the lunatic bin known as the Writers Room, glimpsed in "30 Rock," and the process and huge pressures of a weekly show. The dialogue in "Fireworks over Toccoa" is unimpeachable and each scene is drawn as camera-ready for the folks at Hallmark or Lifetime as a seasoned television professional can make it.
When a writer wishes to have a number of characters reveal their stories, some structuring device must be found. Through an omniscient narrator, DeMott makes the reader privy to the conversations at the actual meetings of the family and to the various private conversations of the participants.
Naslund has tended to be over the years a kind of historical novelist. Although the novel is not science fiction, exactly, in order to have a chance, it needs to be read in a flexible, imaginative way.