Books & Fiction

New Thriller ‘Center Stage’ Spotlights Political Scandals and Corruption

Wayne Avrashow

Tyler Sloan arrived after most of the mourners had already been seated, and a standing-room-only crowd had formed. With his arrival unnoticed, he quietly observed his father, Mike, being escorted to his seat. He moved closer to locate a position where he could hold a clear view of the service. With his plainclothes security aide following close behind, Sloan walked past the numerous Nevada and Washington public officials sitting stiffly on folding chairs. As he proceeded, a synchronized nudging of elbows and whispers mounted in his direction.

 

A Look at the Best Books of 2020

Lee Polevoi

The biggest discovery of my reading year was the work of Canadian author Mavis Gallant, who died in 2014. A hundred or more of her short stories appeared in the New Yorker many years ago, and they feel as fresh and insightful as if they’d been written yesterday. Set in Montreal and later in Paris, where Gallant lived most of her life, the stories glitter with wit, hum with fascinating subtext, and abound in a kind of aristocratic luxury that’s no longer with us.

Exploring the Crime of Fire in Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

Lee Polevoi

The Arsonist, a true crime account of Black Saturday, is divided into three sections: “The Detectives,” “The Lawyers,” and “The Courtroom.” Within this structure, Hooper methodically details the efforts of the Victorian Arson Squad to investigate the horrific blaze -- in particular, one fire that broke out in a forestry plantation near the town of Churchill. Investigators quickly determined the fire was deliberately set in this remote location in Australia’s coal country.

In ‘Daddy,’ Emma Cline Delivers Moving Stories of Human Foibles

Lee Polevoi

“If you could just smile a little.”So asks a store manager of a young female employee for a company photo, but the same request might be made of other characters in Emma Cline’s bleak, yet superbly written story collection, Daddy.  In these stories, we meet characters burdened with a history of oblique misdeeds. They share a persistent loneliness, as well as the nagging feeling they may not be cut out for the task of life in any meaningful way. But there’s charm in their ineptness.

Marvel Universe Fans Are In for a Treat With ‘The Wakanda Files’

Ulises Duenas

This is sold as a premium product for the retail price of $60. The big gimmick for the book is an included Kimoyo bead with a UV light inside that’s used to decode notes and messages left by Shuri. The bead itself is made of plastic and can be somewhat difficult to use because of its small size. The light is activated with a small button that has to be held down instead of working on a toggle. It makes reading notes and other messages more of a pain than it should be, but the notes do add a layer of context to what’s on the page. 

Mikhail Gorbachev Warns Us About What Is at Stake

Adam Gravano

Much of Gorbachev's discussion hinges on East-West relations, particularly between Russia and the United States. This is logical, as certain interests of pre-Soviet Russia were taken up by the Soviet Union, and, post-Soviet collapse, these same interests were transferred to the nascent Russian Federation (and carried on to the present).While there is a brief chapter covering both China and India, with a brief discussion of Malaysia included, the discussion borders on the facile.

Bob Woodward Turns His Mighty Pen on Trump and the Presidency

James Fozard

During the course of advising Trump, all three found their recommendations denied or contradicted in later public statements or tweets. The intelligence agencies were widely and publicly assailed by Trump, most famously in his comments about his private meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, in which he seemed to publicly accept Putin’s denial of election interference and his distrust of his own intelligence services. 

Wars Fought, Scores Settled in Oliver Stone’s ‘Chasing the Light’

Lee Polevoi

The child of a doomed marriage, Stone vividly describes the domestic turmoil of his early years in New York and Connecticut. The restless son of a stockbroker and a vivacious French woman, Stone attended Yale, but dropped out and enlisted in the Marines at the height of the conflict in Vietnam. His experiences there, together with a sobering return to the States, were channeled into the making of Platoon, which remains among his signal achievements.

Troubles Plague Appalachia, Past and Present, in Ron Rash’s ‘In the Valley’

Lee Polevoi

The stories in his new collection, In the Valley, are set primarily in Appalachian. They plunge the reader into challenging, sometimes life-threatening situations that often resolve in surprising ways. Stacy, a mentally fragile park ranger, must hold her own against a lawbreaker twice her size in “Flight.” During the last days of the Civil War, a widow named Rebecca is confronted by a gang of violent Confederates, in “Neighbors.” A young man named Brent takes drastic action when a rich client cheats Brent’s blue-collar father out of money owed in “When All Stars Fall.”

Romance, Loyalty, Patriotism Sweep Through Francis O’Neill’s Italian Saga

Francis O'Neill

They crept into Bologna, the first of the cities of the north. There were recruits here too. Very far from the dove-grey university, down a long stark warehouse avenue, they were being marched by military police. There was no band here, no gold and blue officer, no priest. There were women, girls to ancient, a ragged pack of shawls and dirty aprons, shrieking and throwing what came handy, from cabbage stalks to bricks, at the police. Pretty often, the recruits got hit as well.

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