Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book Pays Homage to 'Ladies of Lights'

Michigan history fans can enjoy a pair of highly entertaining new books that focus on fascinating aspects of our Great Lakes state.

These aren’t your usual run-of-the mill volumes of generalized or glorified history; instead they offer new and intriguing insights into uncommon past livelihoods.

“Ladies of the Lights” by Patricia Majher (University of Michigan Press, $22.95 pb, $65 hb) is a well-organized, illuminating look at Michigan women in the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

It’s broken down into a dozen short chapters plus an epilog, providing an amazing view of a long-overlooked subject. There were 52 women who served in this unusual capacity, beginning with Catherine Shook, who maintained the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse on Lake Huron from 1849.

The carefully researched volume is not likely to put you asleep; it’s filled with great photographs, lively insights and remarkable information about the strong-willed women who were vital in safely guiding ships through treacherous waters.

Majher, the editor of Michigan History Magazine, also includes a wonderful recent interview with Frances (Wuori Johnson) Marshall, the last of the female lighthouse keepers. Marshall appeared as a guest on the popular 1953 “What’s My Line?” television show and successfully stumped the panel.

Majher’s great book is ideal for average readers, historians and libraries; it provides geographical and alphabetical lists, suggested readings, an excellent bibliography and detailed footnotes.

“Sawdust and Woodchips” by Ben Mukkala (Still Waters, $15.95) is another relaxing, insightful volume by one Michigan’s best storytellers.

It deals mostly with the lumberjacks and the logging industry in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, told in Mukkala’s folksy, laid-back style.

Mukkala deftly tells tales of famous and infamous Michigan lumberjacks from a bygone era, exploring their attitudes, foibles and follies.

The are many wonderful short vignettes that explore the history, growth and disappearance of a variety of logging communities in the U.P.

Mukkala also provides a 50-page chronology of the logging industry in Michigan, beginning in 1797, peppering it with numerous insights into regional history.

The author, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Major in 1970, has also written other entertaining, self-published, popular paperbacks, including “Copper, Timber, Iron and Heart (Stories from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” and “Come On Along (Tales and Trails of the North Woods”).

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published in the Lansing State Journal on December 26, 2010.


Sunday, December 19, 2010


If you’re trying to escape from the holiday celebrations, here’s a quick look at a pair of fast-paced crime novels with memorable characters and many surprising plot twists.

“Cross Fire” by James Patterson (Little, Brown, $25.95) is the 17th in his exceptionally popular series starring Washington D.C. police detective Alex Cross.

It marks the return of Cross’s deadly foe, Kyle Craig, a clever killer and former FBI agent who’s escaped jail. Craig has struck again, this time murdering undercover FBI agent Max Siegel and stealing his identity.
Cross is investigating a series of murders in the nation’s capitol; a corrupt congressman and a shady lobbyist are assassinated by sniper shots.

Craig assists on the case, meticulously planning his violent revenge. Cross is unaware of the villain’s goals; another odd series of murders occurs and he must investigate. Meanwhile, Cross is planning on getting married to Bree Stone and faces a variety of other challenges.

Patterson frequently and smoothly shifts viewpoints in this highly entertaining tale, raising the tension level while offering insights into an assortment of devious minds.

The award-winning author, who’s sold over 200 million books, has created another compelling page-turner that can easily be made into an exciting movie.

“Kind of Blue” by Miles Corwin (Oceanview, $25.95) is an excellent debut crime novel by a former LA journalist who’s written three non-fiction books.

It introduces Ash Levine, who was one of the LA police department’s best detectives until he resigned a year earlier. Latisha Patton, his murder witness in a homicide investigation, was killed; Levine feels her death was his fault.

Lieutenant Frank Duffy is getting pressure to solve the murder of Pete Relovich, a legendary ex-cop; he convinces Levine to return to the force.

With his badge back, Levine digs deep into the case,
uncovering hidden clues that other cops have missed. Soon the investigation expands in unexpected directions; he wants to solve it so he can work on the Patton case again.

This book is filled with flawed, quirky characters, especially its hero, an obsessive, surfboarding, Jewish
detective who has flashbacks about his time served with the Israeli Defense Forces.

Corwin, a remarkable new talent, goes deep into Michael Connelly territory; he’s created an exceptional, atmospheric police procedural that’s easily one of the year’s best crime novels.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.This review was originally published in the Lansing State Journal on December 19, 2010.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Murder, mayhem take over Detroit

Two recent novels by award-winning Whitmore Lake author Loren D. Estleman offer a variety of reading pleasure.

While his latest crime novel takes place primarily on the crime-ridden streets of Detroit, his other highly entertaining tale is set mostly in the 1800’s, exploring an unusual 20-year relationship.

“The Left-Handed Dollar” (Forge, $24.99) is the twentieth novel in the last 30 years starring Amos Walker, a tough Detroit private investigator.

Short on funds, Walker takes a job from “Lefty Lucy” Lettermore to investigate an old case that severely injured Walker’s best friend, investigative reporter Barry Stackpole.

Mob figure Joseph Michael Ballista was sent to jail years earlier for the car bombing. Lettermore wants Walker to track down an informant and look into other aspects of the crime.

Walker faces a number of challenges, his friendship with Stackpole is at risk; he uses a variety of sources to gather information. When the body count rises, Walker knows he’s got real problems – he may be the next target of a crafty killer.

Estleman, one of America’s best crime novelists, has produced a nifty, well-plotted, hard-boiled tale that’s rife with mayhem and murder.

Die-hard gumshoe fans may also enjoy “Amos Walker, The Complete Story Collection” (Tyrus,$32.95) which includes a brand new short story in the hefty, 600 page book.

“Roy & Lillie” (Forge, $24.99) is a step in a different direction, focusing on the unusual romance between notorious Texan Judge Roy Bean and beautiful British stage actress Lillie Langtry.

Estleman has carefully crafted a fascinating dual biographical novel of the distinctive pair, who corresponded for 20 years but never met while both were alive.

It showcases their wildly differing lifestyles, with Langtry rising to be adorned by high British society while Bean was gaining notoriety as “The Hanging Judge”.

Deftly exploring their lives, Estleman alternates chapters as he focuses on their unusual behavior, personal relationships and amazing careers.

The well-researched novel includes appearances by assorted royalty, playwright Oscar Wilde and artist James McNeil Whistler, as well as cameos by Bram Stoker, John Barrymore and many others.

Many western scenes are vividly described, relating Bean’s unique lifestyle and uneven type of frontier justice.

This smooth, intriguing combination of fact and fiction works well on a number of levels; Estleman is a superb storyteller with remarkable insight.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, December 12, 2010.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.


Sunday, December 5, 2010


Blaine Pardoe will be signing books on
Tuesday at 7 p.m. at University of Michigan’s
Hatcher Graduate Library, Room 100,
913 S. University, Ann Arbor.

Tom Weschler and Gary Graff will be signing books
on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Schuler Books and Music,
Eastwood Towne Center, Lansing.

Two recent books will make ideal gifts for the holiday season for historians, although there’s likely to be a wide variance in the readership. One is great for military historians interested in World War I and II while the other is aimed at die-hard rock and roll fans.

“Lost Eagles” by Blaine Pardoe (University of Michigan Press, $32.50) is subtitled “One Man’s Mission to Find Missing Airmen in Two World Wars.”

It focuses on Frederick Zinn, a virtually unknown native of Galesburg MI. He has played a vital role in tracking down information used in determining the final fate of airmen missing in action.

Pardoe covers Zinn’s lengthy career during World War I, when he was initially a member of the French Foreign Legion. He became the first American aviation combat photographer, but devoted most of his efforts to locating missing airmen.

Zinn’s unusual spying duties during World War II are also carefully examined, when he worked for the top secret Office of Special Services (OSS).

Sections offering insights into the lives and disappearance of the missing flyers follow chapters of Zinn’s mesmerizing biography.

The well-researched volume includes photos, footnotes, a bibliography and a brief section on the fate of the missing airmen. Many methods Zinn originated are still in use today, This excellent, fitting memorial provides a moving tribute and well-deserved recognition. to an overlooked heroic figure.

“Travelin’ Man – On the Road and Behind the Scenes with Bob Seger”
by Tom Weschler and Gary Graff (Wayne State University Press, $18.95) is not a biography of Bob Seger and his assorted bands.

Instead it showcases over 150 Weschler photographs of Seger’s early career, beginning in 1969 through the late 1970’s and beyond.

There are many sharp images of a smiling, young Seger in assorted recording studios and on the road, including visits to MSU, U of M and the 1970 Goose Lake International Music Festival.

Numerous photos have long detailed captions, providing insights into Seger, his creativity and many different band members.

John Mellencamp offers a brief foreword, with Kid Rock supplying an afterword; this distinctive oversized paperback is a real treat for former hippies and good old-time rock and roll fans.

(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, December 5, 2010.)

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.


Sunday, November 28, 2010


William C. Whitbeck will be autographing copies of his book on
Wednesday, Dec.1 at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Historical Center, 702 W. Kalamazoo, Lansing.

Illustrator Deb Pilutti will be signing copies on
dSat. Dec 4 at 11 a.m. at Schulers Books and Music, Eastwood Towne Center, Lansing.

Michigan history is at the forefront of a pair of recent releases; one’s a top-notch legal thriller while the other is great for children or libraries.

“To Account for Murder”, by Lansing author William C. Whitbeck (Permanent Press, $28) is a remarkable debut novel that’s set mostly in the capital city in the mid 1940’s.

It’s loosely based on the sensational, unsolved murder of Sen. Warren G. Hooper, who was slain before he could testify about political corruption.

It features Charles Cahill, the son of a bootlegger, who’s returned home from World War Two. In the first chapter, Cahill acknowledges that he shot State Senator Harry Maynard; he’s been having an affair with the senator’s wife. Ironically Cahill gets a job assisting on the grand jury investigation of the case.

Cahill is balancing carefully on a tightrope fearing exposure, dealing with war flashbacks, corruption and greed, Purple Gang thugs, payoffs, violence, double-crosses and much more.

The author is at his best when describing behind-the- scenes courtroom dealings and corruption; unexpected plot twists make this highly atmospheric novel even more enjoyable.

Whitbeck, who is the Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of appeals, deftly provides a well-researched, tantalizing, tale ideal for those who love legal thrillers or historical novels.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan” (Sterling, $12.95) by Grand Rapids author Susan Collins Thoms is a nifty children’s book that’s illustrated by Ann Arbor’s Deb Pilutti.

Using the Twelve Days of Christmas as a guideline, Thoms alters the theme so that it relates exclusively to Michigan – instead of a partridge in a pear tree, it’s a robin in a white pine, etc.

The colorful, vivid illustrations by Pilutti accompany the informative text, which is written in the format of a daily letter home sent by an inquisitive visiting cousin.

This is a great visual introduction to Michigan history that factually covers a lot of ground, from the Upper Peninsula and the Great Lakes to Detroit and Mackinac Island.

Two additional illustrated pages showcase other highlights; a brief listing of eight famous Michiganders is also provided.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

thriller ripped from headlines

Strong-willed, smart women are the focus of attention in two recent adrenaline-charged international thrillers.
“Running Dark” by Jamie Freveletti (Morrow, $24.99) is the sequel to her best-selling book “Running from the Devil”, which was set mostly in Columbia and Washington D.C.

This time, brilliant biochemist Emma Caldridge is back – she’s in an ultramarathon race in South Africa when she becomes dazed and disoriented by a roadside bomb explosion.

A man reaches over and injects her with medication; suddenly she feels euphoric, finishing the race at an exceptional pace. She’s worried and contacts Edward Banner, head of Darkview, a specialist security company.

But Banner’s firm has other problems – it’s in the midst of a congressional investigation. Also, one of their agents, Cameron Sumner, who’s protecting a cruise ship, reports an attack on the vessel by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The ship may be carrying a mysterious and possibly deadly cargo of drugs. Soon Caldridge is off to investigate, assisting Sumner, who recently had saved her life.

This is a captivating international thriller ripped from today’s headlines. Freveletti’s clever plotting, strong characterization and fast pacing makes it tough to put down.

“The Last Run” by Greg Rucka (Bantam, $26) showcases Tara Chace, Britain’s top covert agent, who appeared in “Private Wars” and “A Gentleman’s Game”.

Chace, a quick thinking, fast-acting, deadly spy, is tired of her role. She’s a single mother of a five-year old daughter and wants nothing more that a peaceful desk job.

Of course that wouldn’t make for much exciting reading, so Rucka throws her into one final mission, sending her off to Iran to save a previously botched mission.

Chace’s assignment is to get a highly placed defector out of the country; danger abounds as she gets into nasty situations and attempts to thwart potential roadblocks. Her boss faces considerable additional pressure from a variety of sources.

Double and triple crosses are normal in contemporary and classic spy fiction and this is no exception. Even experienced readers should enjoy the unexpected plot twists.

While the last hundred pages fly by like greased lightning, Rucka is initially over-focused on geographical description, going into much more detail than necessary.

Both books could easily be made into highly entertaining movies; there are certainly enough exciting, dominating action scenes.

Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 21, 2010.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Two award-winning authors offer a change of pace from their usual fare – they’ve joined the ranks of accomplished writers creating books designed for young adults. Both titles offer intriguing, interesting plots thathave virtually no violence and little romantic involvement.

“The Rivalry” by journalist, sports reporter and NPR commentator John Feinstein (Knopf, $16.99) is a mystery set at this year’s Army-Navy Football game.

It showcases teen newspaper reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, who’ve appeared in earlier Feinstein novels.

This time they’re reporting on the rivalry that takes place at a historic event, the latest match-up between the Army’s Black Knights and the Midshipmen of the Navy.

Security is tight at the game and secret service agents are worried about possible threats. President Obama is scheduled to make an appearance at the game.

Thomas and Anderson face additional challenges as journalists as they try to uncover a devious plot while facing tight deadlines.

Feinstein, who wrote “A Civil War: Army vs. Navy - A Year Behind Football’s Purest Rivalry” is ideally equipped to write this book because of his unique inside knowledge.

His fine effort relays a lot of useful information without trying to teach. Ethical dilemmas add realism to the plot, as does the appearance of real sports personalities.

The author has won an Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery for “Last Shot”; this book should certainly be a candidate for similar honors. This is great reading for younger sports fans, but teachers, librarians and adults might like it too.

Pulitzer prize-winning author Jane Smiley’s latest release is “A Good Horse” (Knopf, $16.99), the second book in her series featuring eighth-grader Abby Lovitt.

Set in California horse country in the 1960’s, it explores challenges facing her and her family at their horse ranch.

Lovitt enjoys taking care of the animals, especially handsome eight-month-old Jack and Black George, his stable mate.

Black George turns out to be a natural jumper; the Lovitt family faces problems when a letter arrives from a private investigator that indicates that the horse may be stolen property.

Elaine Clayton’s fine, detailed illustrations appear at the beginning of each chapter, offering additional clear visual images.

Smiley, who raises horses of her own, has beautifully captured the flavor of the times, with a memorable, enjoyable tale of a young girl who loves horses.

Originally published in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 14, 2010.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop has reviewed books regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Gone, Baby, Gone" is missing yet again

Two new crime novels feature strong characterization and careful plotting, with likable, dedicated investigators trying to solve puzzling cases.

Both books use East Coast locales and are the latest volumes in long-running series. Each offers a surprising, unexpected ending.

“Moonlight Mile” by best-selling writer Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, $26.99) marks the return of Boston private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

This is the sixth book in the series and is directly related to events that occurred in “Gone Baby, Gone.” Twelve years have passed since the private investigators found missing four-year-old Amanda McCready and returned her to her neglectful mother.

Amanda, now a brilliant but aloof teen-ager, has gone missing again; her worried aunt seeks help from the investigators. Kenzie and Gennaro are married, with a precocious young daughter of their own; they’ve never felt satisfied about the decisions they made years earlier.

Their search for truth leads to many unusual, dangerous situations; finding Amanda is only one part of a complicated case.

Well-developed and interesting characters abound, including identity thieves, meth dealers, twitchy Russian gang members, a disgraced doctor and many more.

Lehane is one of America’s best crime novelists; this book could easily become as memorable a film as two of his other spellbinding novels, “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island”. (“Red Herring” by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $24.99)

"Red Herring" by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $24.99) again showcases Joe Gunther, the hard-working head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation.

Gunther and his diligent crew are called in to try to solve a puzzling series of deaths, where a single drop of unexplained blood was found at the crime scenes.

Forensic investigation reveals that the blood came from three different unknown people, raising even more questions.

Digging deep into the background of the victims, Gunther and his staff unearth dark secrets, using old-fashioned police methods as well as cutting-edge DNA technology.

Gunther’s life becomes a bit more challenging as Gail Zigman, a former girlfriend, runs for Governor of Vermont in a heated campaign. This is a solid, satisfying police procedural with an intriguing cast of characters and a devious, nasty villain.

A realistic but shocking conclusion will cause more emotional problems for Gunther, who’s appeared in twenty earlier books in the series.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir mysteries regularly since 1987.


Monday, November 1, 2010

R.A. Evans will be signing copies of his novel on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at Schuler Books and Music, Meridian Mall, 1492 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos, Michigan.

It’s Halloween – and a great time to sit down with a scary new book, avoiding the shifting shadows and the grinning skulls lurking in the dark.

“Asylum Lake” by Grand Rapids author R. A. Evans (Chapbook Press, $15) has a striking cover design that should entice many new readers. It’s an intriguing psychological tale set in the small fictional town of Bedlam Falls in northern Michigan.

It introduces Brady Tanner, who’s been successful as a Chicago journalist, but is trying to escape the realities of the tragic death of his wife and their unborn child. The death of Tanner’s father causes Tanner’s return to the small old house where he spent many summers as a youth. It also brings back fond memories, as well as thoughts about the time he almost died.

The town has grown significantly since Tanner left; the huge state mental institution (which closed in 1958) still looms darkly on the shores of the lake. His former girlfriend April, has moved back to town to take care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s; her young daughter Abby is pivotal to the plot.

Evan’s paperback debut jumps back and forth between decades, including scenes of a violent mass murder by a teenager and other assorted deaths.

The pacing picks up in the last half as Tanner, with the help of police officers, diligently unearths a variety of horrific dark secrets of the mental institution.

In a realistic manner, not all of Tanner’s puzzling questions are answered, although many deadly past events are significantly clarified.

This is the first of a planned series of three books showcasing Tanner. The next volume has him learning more about the background and the fate of the asylum’s elusive last director, Dr. Wesley Clovis.

While Evans’ new release could use a bit stronger character development, it’s still a taut tale liable to raise significant goose bumps.

Evans, a former journalist, has worked in marketing and public relations for the past 15 years; he’s an adjunct faculty member at Grand Valley State University.


Sunday, October 17, 2010


Mark Mattison will be signing books on Monday at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Books, 333 E. Grand River, East Lansing.

Scott D. Southard will be signing books on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at Everybody Reads, Books and Stuff at 2019 East Michigan Ave., Lansing.

Two Michigan authors have released highly entertaining, unusual trade paperbacks that that are aimed at an often-neglected audience.

Each book has strong elements of science fiction and features rousing action that should appeal to young adult male readers as well as grown-ups.

“Commander Chris and the Mystical Orb” by Grand Rapids author Mark Mattison (Gollehon, $9.95) is a nifty debut novel. It introduces young Chris Morinas, a nerdy, unpopular student who’s absorbed in skateboarding and video games.

When a lab experiment goes terribly wrong, he’s transformed and is warped to a distant galaxy and a fleeing spaceship.

If you think this sounds like something straight out of “Star Wars” you’d be right – there’s enough pulse-pounding action to please almost any reader.

He’s got highly interesting crewmembers, including space pirate Ava, who’s stolen the prototype of an alien spaceship. There’s also Pi, the ship’s offbeat android, Zach, a large alien, talking insect and Majubar, another strange alien with a powerful, mystical orb staff.

Fortunately (and happily!) there are no vampires, just lots of fast-paced action that ranks among the best of contemporary space opera. Commander Chris puts his video game skills to use, barely escaping nasty aliens as he faces numerous exciting challenges.

This is a remarkable, enjoyable first novel that may entice readers to discover what wonderful further adventures await in the realm of science fiction.

“My Problem With Doors” by Lansing writer Scott D. Southard (I Publish Press, $15.95), is the latest novel by the author of “3 Days in Rome” and “Megan”.

 It’s an unusual time-travel tale that showcases a young man simply named Jacob, who doesn’t really know what to expect when he opens doors.

It all begins when he stumbles through a door as a toddler, transported to South Africa in the 1870’s. From there, Jacob experiences many fascinating adventures, learning from a patient Master, joining a pirate ship, and bouncing around through time like a ping pong ball.

While he can control his destiny somewhat, he really doesn’t know what to expect when he opens his next door.

His experiences vary greatly from fighting in an early Roman coliseum to having dinner with Jack the Ripper.
He spends time with Lord Byron as well as Percy and Mary Shelley and discovers a fateful true love on an ocean liner.

Southard’s latest novel is a bit disjointed in the beginning but slowly changes into an absorbing, thought- provoking tale.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 17, 2010.


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Two recent mysteries set in Michigan feature well-defined characters, convoluted plots and intriguing crimes.

“And Then There Was One” by Patricia Gussin (Oceanview, $25.95) is a highly entertaining tale that focuses on family members who have to deal with the puzzling disappearance of young children.

Set in Auburn Hills, the gripping novel opens when Katie Monroe, a forensic pediatric psychologist and the mother of identical nine year old triplets, gets word that two of them have disappeared from a local theater complex.

Jackie, the third triplet, is okay, but her mother, a forensic pediatric psychologist, calls her husband, former New York Yankee catcher Scott Monroe, to let him know the situation.

The plot becomes more complicated as Gussin throws in many possible suspects, including a former lover who’s now out of jail and a wealthy defendant in Florida who’s involved in a nasty child abuse case.
The FBI is called in, but few new leads surface; soon the focus shifts and the bizarre real reason for the disappearance is clarified.

Gussin, a physician who grew up in Grand Rapids, has written a top-notch thriller that’s tough to put down, offering an emotional roller coaster ride full of tense suspense.

“Shelf Ice” by Aaron Stander (Writers and Editors, $15.95) is the fourth in his well-crafted series starring Sheriff Ray Elkins, of Cedar County in northern Michigan.

The first chapter is likely to entice readers to continue, as Elkins and his second-in-command are run over in their car by a huge diesel snowplow while en route to a possible crime scene.

A reclusive local artist is discovered badly injured in her isolated home and is taken away to a hospital. Elkins and his staff try to figure out what’s going on, and what the role of a local, charismatic TV evangelist. When the artist dies, Elkins increase his efforts, trying to sort through an odd group of potential suspects.

Stander, who hosts an Interlochen radio show about writers, has put together a highly atmospheric crime tale with crossover appeal to those who love reading books set in northern Michigan.

It’s best to read Stander’s absorbing works in order to fully appreciate the growth of Elkins and other characters. Earlier books in the series are “Summer People”, “Local Color” and “Deer Season.”

Originally published on October 10, 2010 in the Lansing State Journal.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Connelly back in top form in 'Reversal'

"The Reversal" (Little Brown, $27.99) by award-winning crime novelist Michael Connelly, is a real treat for his legion of ardent readers.

The book, which is scheduled for release on Tuesday, features of Connelly major fictional characters - Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Haller and his half-brother, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Both appeared in Connelly's 2008 best-seller "The Brass Verdict," but this time there's an added twist - they're working for the prosecution.

Convicted child killer Jacob Jessup, who's served 24 years in prison, has been granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence.

Haller, who also starred in "The Lincoln Lawyer," agrees to serve as a special prosecutor in the high-profile case, but on his own terms. He wants Bosch as his investigator and his ex-wife, Deputy District Attorney Maggie McPherson, as second chair.

As expected, the case gets complicated. The cops who handled the case aren't around anymore or aren't useful. The testimony of a jailhouse snitch can't be used and Sarah Landry, the only witness to the abduction of her sister Melissa, has dropped from sight.

Longtime police veteran Harry Bosch uses his ties with the FBI to help gather information, but it's not easy. When he discovers unsavory records of Sarah's past, he can understand her reluctance to testify.

Jessup, meanwhile, has a celebrity lawyer who is twisting facts to gain media exposure. Utilizing airtime to proclaim his innocence, Jessup also is making disturbing visits to unusual locations during the night.
The defense brings up an assortment of challenging issues, so the prosecutor's team must go all out, using ingenious methods in an uphill battle for justice.

Haller and Bosch are sure the sadistic killer has plans for more brutal attacks and want to stop him before he kills again.

The conclusion is stunning, yet realistic. Connelly, a former award-winning journalist, deftly captures the courtroom atmosphere as well as life on the turbulent streets of Los Angeles.
Connelly smoothly combines the best of two literary genres, adroitly mixing the intriguing elements of a legal thriller with the insights and step-by step methodology of the police procedural. It's easily one of the year's best crime novels.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sanford's dark novel may not suit all

"Bad Blood" by best-selling author John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95)
is the fourth book in his popular series starring Detective Virgil Flowers.

Sandford is well-known for his excellent "Prey" series, featuring
Lucas Davenport, head of Minnesota's special Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

But Davenport plays only a minor role in this novel.
The quirky Flowers is at the forefront when he's called
to look into a series of deaths in a rural county.

Lee Coakley, the area's new female sheriff, contacts Flowers
for assistance in investigating the unusual murder of Jacob Flood,
a farmer who died while delivering a load of soybeans at a grain elevator.

Flood was killed by Bob Tripp, a teenage employee who hit him
over the head with a T-ball bat and tried to make it look like an accident.

The local cops don't believe the story.
They arrest Tripp and throw him in jail.
The next day, his body is discovered in his cell - an apparent suicide.

Meanwhile, the officer on duty, Jim Crocker, is found dead at home.
Coakley and Flowers are trying to find a link between the deaths.

Their diligent work uncovers another unsolved murder of a young woman a year earlier.
All four were members of a strange religious cult.
As they dig deeper, they discover many dark secrets of the community,
only to be stonewalled by various cult members.

Flowers, the son of a Lutheran minister, is in fine form as he confronts
the Bible-thumping cult members who quote frequently from the
holy book to justify their behavior.

The dark humor adds a needed lighter touch to the novel,
and the growing relationship between Coakley and Flowers adds additional entertainment.

It's a top-notch, compelling crime novel, but it may not be for everybody.
Unwary readers may not be initially prepared for a plot that covers a
variety of dark subjects including child abuse, rape and incest.

"Prey" fans who enjoy solid police procedural novels won't be disappointed, however.
Sandford, (the pseudonym for John Camp) is likely to gain new readers
who will want to catch up on Flowers' memorable earlier appearances.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.
(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 26, 2010.)


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Book Show is Coming!

The 52nd Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show is swiftly approaching! 
Join us at the Lansing Center on Sunday, October 3rd for the Midwest's LARGEST book and paper show. 
The Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show is an assembly of many booksellers from around the American Midwest, Canada, and from further away. We gather at the show twice a year to display and sell books and other printed materials to the public. It's a large one-day show, overseen by the owner of the Curious Book Shop, Ray Walsh.We typically have 70 dealers or more. An average booth might have three tables, and often each table will have bookshelves upon it, so there is a truly impressive amount of material on display.

As this is an antiquarian show, most of the items on display will be older - secondhand, collectible, rare, and often out of print or unavailable. New items are typically not included unless they're related to collectible printed material. In addition to books, dealers bring magazines, posters, postcards, prints, maps, comic books, and so on. Some items may be just a few years old,  and others date back hundreds of years. The prices may vary from a dollar to ten thousand dollars or more. There's sure to be an incredible variety of 


Visitors to the show should wear comfortable shoes and expect to spend at least an hour browsing. The show can be experienced as a museum as much as an opportunity for shopping. Plenty of eating is provided for people who need a rest, and there's a cart that sells hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, beverages and other food items.


Although many of the dealers who attend the show perform appraisals, visitors should not bring their own books and items to the show without making prior arrangements. For security reasons, you can't simply walk in with your own books. You can talk to dealers and collect business cards, of course, and then make other arrangements later.

Some dealers are happy to haggle over prices, some aren't. 
A smile is your best bargaining tool!

See the show page at our website for more information
about the upcoming book show.

We hope to see you there!


Familiar Characters Again on the Hunt in Recent Releases

Two recent crime novels feature determined investigators, dead bodies and a clever sociopath.

Yet they differ dramatically - one is an action-packed tough guy tale while the other is a police procedural.

"Judgement and Wrath" by Matt Hilton (William Morrow, $24.99) is the exciting sequel to his acclaimed debut "Dead Man's Dust."

Joe Hunter, a former counter-terrorist expert, is working as a private investigator in Florida, along with his buddy Rink. He's hired by Richard Dean to get Dean's 18-year-old daughter, Marianne, away from her abusive millionaire boyfriend, Bradley.

Hunter tracks them down, only to find it's not quite as Dean had described. The pair seem very much in love and Marianne says she has not been abused.

Dantalion, a crazed, deliberate, experienced hitman, has his own agenda and is out to kill Bradley. Hunter thwarts the attempt, barely escaping with the couple.

Considering himself a fallen angel, Dantalion bizarrely keeps score of his kills in a little notebook. He's determined to succeed, regardless of the cost of human life.

This pulse-pounding thriller will appeal to those who enjoy Lee Child's "Reacher" series. It would make a dandy movie in the best, early Rambo tradition.

"Hangman" by Faye Kellerman (William Morrow, $25.99) is the latest crime novel starring Los Angeles Police Lt. Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus.

Decker agrees to do a favor for an old friend, but the situation becomes complicated when she disappears, leaving behind Gabe, her 14-year-old son.

Her husband becomes a prime suspect, because of his violent nature, recent actions and past prowess as a professional hitman. Meanwhile, Decker and his team get involved in the murder investigation of Adrianna Blanc, a local neonatal nurse whose body is discovered hanging at a construction site.

Adrianna's lifestyle offers many clues; her boyfriend is missing and the body count slowly rises.

Kellerman's book is ideal for fans of her long-running series, further exploring the strained relationship of Decker and Lazarus.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.
(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 12, 2010.)


Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Novels Take a Step Back in Time

Summer's almost over, so here's a look at a few entertaining books you might have missed.

"Blockade Billy" by Stephen King (Scribner, $14.99) is a slim hardback that includes the 80-page title novella and a bonus short story that originally appeared in Esquire.

King's bloody little baseball tale showcases William "Blockade Billy" Blakely,
an Iowa farm league catcher who's called up to the New Jersey Titans at the beginning of the 1957 season.

The Titans' old third-base coach and narrator of this tale aptly notes "this ain't no kids' sports novel" and he's right. King deftly captures the flavor of 1950s baseball as he explores the dark reasons why the sport has tried to eliminate any mention of the quirky young player.
"Morality" is a brief tale about a desperate couple, tough decisions and unexpected effects. This book is ideal for die-hard King fans who can't wait for his next novel.

"So Cold the River" by award-winning crime novelist Michael Koryta (Little Brown, $24.99) is a powerful step into the supernatural for the highly talented author.

Eric Shaw is a washed-up filmmaker who's hired to make a video of the early history of a dying billionaire's career. It leads him to a small Indiana resort town and a particularly creepy hotel.

Shaw has strange visions and odd reactions when he cracks open a bottle of "Pluto Water" that the billionaire had saved for years. There are many deftly handled flashback scenes of the 1920s,
While it takes a while to develop, Koryta's mesmerizing tale is easily one of the year's best supernatural novels.

"The Big Bang" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) is the last book starring iconic private eye Mike Hammer.
The fast-paced collaboration is based on a lost Spillane manuscript completed by Collins. It smoothly captures life in the 1960s, dealing with drug trafficking in New York City.

It has all the elements that made Spillane one of America's top selling authors: lots of violence, sexual innuendoes, a devious killer and a twisted plot. Dedicated Mike Hammer lovers will enjoy one last fling with Spillane's memorable characters.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.

(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 5, 2010.)


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nihon no Hon ga Arimasu

Common use of the written word in Japan began around the 4th century, when the Japanese adopted Chinese characters as kanji. Interestingly, some of the earliest Japanese written works are also some of the earliest examples of science fiction. Urashima Tarō, the earliest known time-travel tale, tells of a man who travels to the bottom of the sea, and returns to the surface to find that 300 years have passed. Genji Monogatari, written by a noblewomen in the classical period, was one of the first modern novels. Today, Japanese authors continue to make considerable contributions to literature.

We currently carry such major authors of modern Japanese literature as Shiga Naoyo, Yukio Mishima, and Yasunari Kawabata. Kawabata became the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, and you can find a copy of what is considered his finest work, The Master of Go, on our shelves at the moment. Look for some of these authors near the front, under the Women Writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy display.

If you are interested in Japan, we have also recently acquired a large collection of Asian history and culture books. In addition, there are manga and anime materials on the first and second floors of the shop, many of which are written in Japanese.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out and Deception

7/18/10 If it's too hot to go to the beach, here's a quick look at a pair of quirky crime novels set in sunny California. Each features a long-running series character, unusual death scenes and many puzzling questions.

Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg (Obsidian, $22.95) is the 10th book starring Adrian Monk, who appeared regularly on the now- canceled USA Network television series.

This highly entertaining tale takes place in San Francisco before the events of the show's final season It adroitly explores the obsessive-compulsive behavioral problems of the brilliant but flawed detective.

It's told from the viewpoint of Natalie Teeger, Monk's personal assistant, who deals with a lot of frustration and is trying to raise her teenaged daughter.

As usual, Monk is called in to help solve a peculiar case. Soon thereafter, he's laid off from assisting the police due to budget cutbacks.
He also discovers he's become a victim of a Ponzi scheme coordinated by Bob Seles, who handled his financial affairs.

Monk can't pay Natalie; with no money from the police department, they must seek other sources of income, often with hilarious results.

There are many other subplots as Monk loses his sole supply of acceptable bottled water and is evicted from his apartment. Meanwhile, other witnesses in Seles' case are murdered, and Monk can't stop trying to help Captain Stottlemeyer. Natalie comes up with a clever plan that may solve a variety of problems.

This is great fun if you were addicted to the popular television show - you don't even have to read others in the series to enjoy it.

Deception by bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine, $28) is his latest crime novel featuring psychologist Alex Delaware and Los Angeles Police Homicide Detective Milo Sturgis.

They're working on an investigation in which Elise Freeman, a young teacher at a prep school, was discovered lifeless in her apartment in a bathtub full of dry ice.

A DVD is discovered at the scene. Freeman accuses three other teachers of sustained abuse and sexual harassment. Of course, this isn't a simple open and shut case - particularly when another dead body is discovered.

This dialogue-driven tale is a solid, vivid police procedural. Kellerman fans won't be disappointed.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on July 18, 2010


Friday, July 16, 2010

Storm Prey and Slim to None

7/11/10 Hospitals are dangerous places in a pair of recent crime novels. Each has numerous plot twists, strong characterization and a diligent hero trying to track down a devious killer.

Storm Prey by best-selling author John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95) is the 20th in his incredibly popular series starring Lucas Davenport, head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Davenport's wife, Weather, is on her way to a complicated surgical process when she pulls into the hospital parking lot, narrowly missing a van leaving the area.

For a split second, she sees the driver - who is part of a gang that had just held up the hospital's pharmacy, stealing a half-million dollars worth of drugs. An insider, a drug-addicted doctor, is worried because Weather took the same elevator up and may be able to identify him.

One of the pharmacists dies. Davenport and his crew become involved, working with minimal clues. Meanwhile, the gang members turn on themselves.

The complicated plot features a large but well-developed cast of characters, including scheming villains, dumb robbers, frustrated addicts and a cold-blooded killer.

Sandford, one of America's best crime writers, is in fine form with a compelling page-turner that's likely to keep you eagerly flipping pages.

Slim to None by Timothy Sheard (Hard Ball Press, $15) is the fourth in his atmospheric series showcasing Lenny Moss, a Philadelphia-area hospital custodian and shop steward.

Moss gets a frantic late-night call from Carleton, a friend and hospital worker, who sees a man furtively dumping a nurse's body a nearby park.

After the conversation, Carleton calls 911 but doesn't stick around. Police discover the victim and think Carleton's the killer. He flees, but keeps in touch with Moss.

Discovering unnerving facts, Moss investigates. There are many tense scenes inside the hospital as Moss becomes the target of a clever killer, while an over-zealous security chief creates extra challenges.

Laced with dark humor and told with an insider's knowledge, this fast-paced, nifty paperback is the best yet in the series.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on July 11, 2010


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Wonderful World of Oz

Most of us are familiar with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz (based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum) centered around the 12 year-old Dorothy Gale and the meteorological troubles in Kansas which transport her to another world. However, few realize that there is an extensive series of books which details the history of Oz and myriad characters who populate this magical world.

Dorothy was not the only child from our world to venture into Oz. Betsy Bobbin, Peter Brown, Jenny Jump, Bucky, Jam, and Robin Brown all made the journey and had adventures in this strange, wonderful land. The Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman, and Scarecrow were not the only companions to these young travelers. Oz was home to such reoccurring characters as Tik-Tok, a wind-up mechanical clockwork man, Scraps, a patchwork girl, and Kabumpo, the elegant elephant.

In total, there are 40 official Oz books. L. Frank Baum wrote the original 14 books, which included The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and The Patchwork Girl of Oz. After Baum's death, Ruth Plumly Thompson continued the series with such books as The Cowardly Lion of Oz and Grampa in Oz. The next author to write the tales of Oz was John R. Neill, who had been the illustrator for the series. Neill was succeeded by Jack Snow, Rachel R. Cosgrave, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, and Lauren Lynn McGraw. The last book in the series was published in 1963.

At the Curious Book Shop the Wizard of Oz books are one of our many specialties. We have the books mentioned by name above in the shop (at the moment), in addition to dozens more Oz and L. Frank Baum books! We also have a one-of-a-kind, American folk art bookcase near our front counter made by a man who sold us his Oz books 25 years ago, featuring painted characters from the stories. You'll find these books housed in that case, behind the front counter, and in the New Arrivals section right now.

Don't wait for a tornado to carry you to the Curious Book Shop to see our Oz collection!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


7/4/10 If you're ready for fast-paced action, quirky characters and unpredictable plot twists, here's a quick look at one of the year's most entertaining crime novels.

Strip by award-winning author Thomas Perry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) is an adrenaline-charged tale set in Los Angeles that deftly injects dark humor into a wide variety of dangerous conflicts.

It introduces Joe Carver, new to the Los Angeles club scene, who is wrongly accused of holding up strip joint owner Claudio "Manco" Kapak while he's making a bank deposit.

Manco is enraged, not so much at losing thousands of dollars, but that his image has been tarnished. He vows revenge and directs his thugs to track down the masked man responsible.

His hoods figure Carver did it, but they're wrong. When they attempt to kill him, Carver takes command and survives, even though he's facing virtually impossible odds.

Manco is frustrated, especially when Carver invades his plush mansion and proves his innocence. Manco, still angry, wants to save face - when Carver leaves, he takes a shot at him, with unexpected results.

Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis Falkner, the real hold-up man, is still on the loose, spending money foolishly on his girlfriend, who works at one of Manco's clubs. But Falkner isn't happy and hooks up with Milesande Carr, a twisted woman he meets at a diner.

Carr is out for thrills and Falkner is glad to oblige, ironically setting up another robbery of Manco's deposit. This time, it doesn't quite go as planned.

The frustrated, aging club owner has more problems - part of the stolen deposit was from a major drug dealer, who's been laundering funds through him for years.

Lt. Nick Slosser, who's investigating the robberies, faces challenges as well. He's a bigamist and is trying to come up with cash for the college education of the eldest kid in each family.

Various other thugs and lovers add complications. Perry masterfully increases the tension as the body count rises.

Strip is a great blood-spattered page-turner that's full of intriguing characters and devious double-crosses. Perry has written 17 other novels, including his highly acclaimed Jane Whitefield series. This would be ideal for film adaptation or a multi-part TV series.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on July 4, 2010


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Justice in June

6/27/10 If you're tired of reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, with all the exploding cars and screwy antics, maybe it's time to switch to Barbara Levenson.

Justice in June by Levenson (Oceanview, $24.95) is a highly entertaining, fast-paced and funny legal thriller.

It's the sequel to Fatal February, which introduced feisty Mary Magruder Katz, a quick-thinking, hard- working Miami criminal defense attorney.

Katz always seems to get involved in unusual cases and her latest challenges are no exception. Judge Liz Maxwell is being investigated by the Florida Office of the State Attorney for taking bribes in exchange for dropping or reducing charges on assorted drug cases.

The veteran justice swears she's innocent and is being framed; it's Katz's job to represent her and find out what's really going on.

Meanwhile, Katz's boyfriend, Carlos Martin, asks her to take a case involving Luis Coloma, a young Argentinean family friend who's been accused by the government of being a terrorist.

Katz has difficulty even connecting with Coloma, whose wealthy parents acknowledge that their son has problems, but isn't a terrorist.

As if that's not enough to handle, Katz's problems multiply when her boyfriend, a local developer, is being sued by potential tenants.

There are a variety of other confrontations. Katz is being stalked; a break-in at her house and a warning left in lipstick add to the tension.
After a messy break-up with an earlier boyfriend, Katz also is dealing with Martin, who wants more of a commitment.

Katz is juggling three cases, getting publicity but losing clients because she's being associated with representing a suspected terrorist.

Her actions in that case are especially fascinating, as she attempts to thwart truth-twisting, over-enthusiastic government officials.

The author uses short, action-packed chapters to speed the story.

Levenson, who's served as senior judge in circuit court in Miami-Dade County for many years, has created a likable, quirky main character and an enjoyable, atmospheric mystery.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the Lansing State Journal on June 27, 2010


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What You Missed: Classicon 37!

Pulps, posters, and pin-ups - Oh, my!

If you missed Classicon 37, here are just a few photos of the interesting array of collectibles available at this spring's show. Learn what Classicon is all about in our recent blog post, The Mystery and Excitement of Classicon!

If you missed the show, don't despair! This winter, you'll have a chance to attend Classicon 38. We'll have more information about the next show soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime you can see some of the items in these photos at the Curious Book Shop. Our top floor boasts dozens of vintage movie posters and Hollywood collectibles. Our selection of comics is ever-growing, and we have even more stored behind the front counter.

If you can't find what you're looking for - just ask us!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shadow of the Wolf Tree

6/20/10 A determined, strong-willed hero is at the heart of an intriguing crime novel in which the main character gets help in tracking down a devious killer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Shadow of the Wolf Tree by MSU graduate Joseph Heywood (Lyons Press, $16.95) is the seventh in his popular Woods Cop series. It stars Grady Service, a conservation officer/detective for Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.

From the first page, the reader knows Service is going to face challenges, when he's described as

...the sort of rare individual in law enforcement who seemed to naturally attract trouble, and in one way or another always seemed to overcome it

Service doesn't go looking for problems - he's fishing with a retired cop when his dog comes back to camp with an old human skull, then another.
Service has to investigate, but soon that's the least of his concerns. When a booby-trap kills a fisherman and a fellow cop is injured by a nasty trap, Service worries about eco-terrorists.

Service is frustrated by few results and complications in the three cases.

Heywood is at his best when describing locations and when there's action. Despite the high body count, this tale is merely satisfactory; his earlier efforts are far more enjoyable.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on June 20, 2010


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Celebrating Fathers

June 20th is fast approaching. If you're still looking for a gift for Father's Day, the Curious Book Shop might have something for you.

Our books, magazines, t-shirts, sports programs, film memorabilia, and collectible items make excellent gifts, and if you're unsure of exactly what Dad would like, we do sell gift certificates in any amount.

In honor of Father's Day, we are also selling ties at $27.50 each for a limited time. Patterns are inspired by Shakespeare, the Lewis and Clark journals, historical U.S. locomotives, and other literary themes. You'll find them on the front counter, past the display case when you first enter the shop.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Mystery and Excitement of Classicon!

Classicon is a one-day Pulp and Paper Show held twice a year. The show features pulp magazines and pulp-related items, including magazines, digests, paperbacks, comics, pinups, original paperback art, posters, calendars, and more.

The kinds of items you'll find at the show include: Nostalgia from the 1920s through the 1960s; books and magazines and digests and pulps and fanzines in Mystery and Detective, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Aviation, Western, Romance, Characters and Heroes, Vintage Comics, Pinups and Glamour, Petty, Vargas, Marilyn Monroe, and Bettie Page; vintage superheroes, The Shadow, Weird Tales, Doc Savage, Tarzan, Lovecraft, rocket ships and monsters from outer space. All kinds of pulp fiction!

At earlier Classicons, we have had such guests of honor as Walter Gibson, the creator of The Shadow, science fiction historian Sam Moskowitz, illustrator Jim Steranko, science fiction writer Philip José Farmer, and paperback historian Kevin Hancer.

A wide range of items are available, both collectable and for casual buyers, for sale or trade - or even just for viewing. Vintage men's magazines will also be for sale, but there's something at this show to appeal to a wide range of interests. We have dealers from three states scheduled to attend and should have about 35 tables of items on display. The set-up is similar to the Antiquarian Book & Paper Show, though more intimate and specialized.

This Saturday, June 19, the 37th Classicon will be at the University Quality Inn in Lansing, on East Grand River right across from Frandor Shopping Center. See the show page at our website for more information about this upcoming show.

If you enjoy Classicon and pulp-related materials, keep in mind that Pulpfest is around the corner!

Mark, the manager of the Curious Book Shop, has been helping to set up Classicon for three years.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Try to Remember

6/13/10 Try to Remember by Iris Gomez (Grand Central, $13.99) is an intriguing paperback debut that focuses on the coming-of-age and stressful family life of Gabriela de la Paz (Gabi).

It's set primarily in Miami during the late 1960s and early 1970s, showcasing 13-year-old Gabi and her increasing challenges.

The novel is told by Gabi, the daughter of Colombian immigrants. Her unemployed father wants her to help type up letters to businesses as he seeks a job. Unfortunately, his missives are disjointed and make little sense. Soon he changes to writing letters involving moneymaking schemes.

Roberto, her father, loses his temper and is arrested, and then the family's problems intensify. Gabi worries about deportation.

Her mother, Evangelina, takes a menial job in a struggle for survival, but her pride won't allow her to tell her husband. Her father's mental condition deteriorates further, with more violent results.

Evangelina resorts to unusual methods in her valiant attempts to calm her husband down, but his refusal to see a doctor only make matters worse.
As Gabi assists Roberto in his futile letter writing, she becomes more frustrated. She's trying to figure out what to do with her life, getting insights from her friends, the daughters of Cuban immigrants.

Her mother's strict attitudes add to the stress. Gabi's doing well at school but takes part-time jobs to minimize confrontations at home.
Her two brothers have issues at school and turn to drugs, while boys are becoming interested in Gabi and making advances.

Gomez, who graduated from MSU, combines all these elements and adds more plot twists, creating a memorable and innovative semi-autobiographical tale.

The author of two volumes of poetry, Gomez is an award-winning, nationally known immigrants' rights attorney and advocate. She's the director of the Immigrants' Protection Project of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the
Lansing State Journal on June 13, 2010