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.
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."
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.
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."