Don Noble's Book Reviews

Mondays at 7:45 a.m and 4:44 p.m.

Recently retired as English professor at The University of Alabama, Dr. Noble's  specialties are Southern and American literature.  He also hosts Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

Don Noble's reviews can be heard most Mondays at 7:45am and 4:44pm.  and have been made possible in part through grants from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

To listen to the audio version of Dr. Noble's reviews, just click on the book title to be taken to the full page.  Audio is found either at the very beginning of the transcript or at the bottom of the page.

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Credit Alabama State Council on the Arts

Dr. Noble's Book Reviews are made possible in part with a grant from The Alabama State Council on the Arts, with the support of The University of Alabama, and from the generous support from our listeners.  Thank you!

“Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and His Last Muse”

Author: Andrea di Robilant  

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Pages: 348

Price: $26.95

There is no end to our fascination with Hemingway. Several books and dozens of articles a year are devoted to aspects of his life and work. They become more and more narrow in scope—for example there is a recent book entitled “Hemingway at Eighteen” by Steve Paul—but they still tell great stories. This one included.

"Mississippi Noir" Editor: Tom Franklin

Aug 9, 2018

“Mississippi Noir”

Editor: Tom Franklin 

Publisher: Akashic Books

Pages: 281

Price: $15.95

In an increasingly difficult publishing environment, Akashic Books has hit upon a system for success, publishing noir collections set in most American states, many American cities and other countries and cities all over the world. Joyce Carol Oates edited “New Jersey Noir.” There is a “Zagreb Noir” and a “Prague Noir.”

Noir is definitely in vogue, but what exactly is it?

“Kaleidoscope Jane & Other Stories”

Author: Carolyn Breckinridge  

Publisher: Author House

Pages: 172

Price: $13.99

Carolyn Ezell, writing as Carolyn Breckinridge, has published two mysteries set in Tuscaloosa, “Tuscaloosa Moon” and “Tuscaloosa Boneyard.” While not exactly cozies, these are not grim either.

Those books have earned her the Druid City Arts award for literature. Now we have her first collection of 15 stories, each about and named for the main female character.

“The Sinners”

Author: Ace Atkins  

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 384

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

The productivity of some writers is simply hard to believe. Ace Atkins, Auburn graduate and football hero, has published 4 true crime novels and 4 Nick Travers novels. Since taking over from Robert B. Parker there have been 7 new Spensers and now we have “The Sinners,” the eighth Quinn Colson novel.

Colson, 39 years old, arrived back in fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi, 100 miles south of Memphis, after ten years as an Army Ranger.

“Land of Grace”

Author: Mike Burrell 

Publisher: Livingston Press

Pages: 253

Price: $23.95 (Hardcover)

Mike Burrell of Birmingham has had for years the itch to write fiction but practicing law was an impediment. Now retired, he has taken the MFA in writing from Queens University, published a handful of stories and now produced his debut novel, “Land of Grace.”

“The Bookshop at Water’s End”

Author: Patti Callahan Henry  

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 328

Price: $16.00 (Paperback)

Patti Callahan Henry, of Mountain Brook, Alabama, is a seasoned, professional writer of popular fiction, the author of 12 previous novels, several of them best-sellers. Her books are highly readable stories of family life, the relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children and quite often between siblings, especially sisters.

“Testimony”

Author: Scott Turow  

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Pages: 477

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

Each year the UA School of Law and the ABA Journal sponsor the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, given to a book which “features the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” This year’s finalists have been announced and I thought it might be fun to review the three novels.  

So far, I have reviewed “Proof” by C. E. Tobisman and “Exposed” by Lisa Scottoline.

“Exposed”

Author: Lisa Scottoline   

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 338

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover)

Each year the UA School of Law and the ABA Journal sponsor the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, given to a book which “features the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” This year’s finalists have been announced and I thought it might be fun to review the three novels. You too may want to read them and then vote for a winner at abajournal.gov. Voting closes June 30.

“Proof: A Caroline Auden Legal Thriller”

Author: C. E. Tobisman  

Publisher: Thomas & Merger

Pages: 338

Price: $15.95 (Paperback)

Each year the UA School of Law and the ABA Journal sponsor the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, given to a book which “features the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” This year’s finalists have been announced and I thought it might be fun to review the three novels. You too may want to read them and then vote for a winner at abajournal.gov. Voting closes June 30.

“The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders”

Author: B. J. Hollars  

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 171

Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

B.J. Hollars is an Indiana boy who took the MFA here at the University and since has pursued his teaching career in Wisconsin at Eau Claire.

But Alabama history and culture, as is often the case with northerners, struck him as exotic, seized his imagination and has given him a lifetime of material.

“A Tiger Among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley”

Authors: Bennie Adkins and Katie Lamar Jackson; Foreword by Chuck Hagel

Publisher: Da Capo Press 

Pages: 206

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

The title cries out to be interpreted in two ways. And I will take the bait.

Yes, there is a tiger among us and that tiger is Command Master Sergeant Bennie Adkins of Opelika, Alabama, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Adkins, originally a farm boy from Waurika, Oklahoma, was taken into the Army in 1956.

“Hurricane Season”

Author: Lauren K. Denton   

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Pubs.

Pages: 400

Price: $15.99 (Softcover)

Lauren K. Denton published her debut novel, “The Hideaway,” only last year, in 2017. “Hideaway” tells the story of Sara Jenkins, a woman enjoying her life in New Orleans running a successful antique shop. Her grandmother dies and leaves her, in the will, The Hideaway, a B & B in Sweet Bay, Alabama.

“Whistling Dixie”

Author: Sean Dietrich (“Sean of the South”)  

Publisher: Amazon

Pages: 198

Price: $12.99 (paper)

I learned in March that a featured speaker at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville in April would be the writer who calls himself “Sean of the South.”

This annual gathering is to celebrate Southern, especially Alabama literature, about which it is thought I know something.

I had never heard of Sean Dietrich and here he was, a headliner.

“Charmed Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery”

Author: Carolyn Haines  

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Pages: 368

Price: $25.90 (Hardcover)

Readers were astonished when Sue Grafton undertook to write a series of mysteries beginning with "A Is for Alibi." The series was projected to be 26 volumes long!

“Pomp and Circumstance”

Author: William Cobb  

Publisher: Livingston Press 

Pages: 215

Price: $23.95 (Hardcover); $14.95 (paper)

William Cobb, long-time writer-in-residence at Montevallo, now retired, has had a long and distinguished career as a fiction writer. Cobb has won the Fiction Book of the Year Award from the Alabama Library Association and the Harper Lee Award as Alabama's Distinguished Writer.

“Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Alabama”

Author: Melanie S. Morrison 

Publisher: Duke University Press

Pages: 280

Price: $26.95 (Paperback) 

Although the title may suggest a fictional thriller, "Murder on Shades Mountain" is a straightforward, thoroughly researched nonfiction account of yet another disgraceful episode in Alabama racial history.

“Country Dark”

Author: Chris Offutt   

Publisher: Grove Press

Pages: 231

Price: $24.00 (Hardcover)

Chris Offutt has been writing for a while and has a considerable reputation as a chronicler of life in eastern Kentucky.

His story collections “Kentucky Straight” and “Out of the Woods” appeared in 1992 and 1999; his latest memoir, the very odd "My Father the Pornographer" was published in 2016.

"On the Rocks; A Novella" By Theodora Bishop

Apr 9, 2018

“On the Rocks; A Novella”

Author: Theodora Bishop  

Publisher: Texas Review Press

Houston, TX

2018

Pages: 138

Price: $14.95

“Love & Death in the Great War”

Author: Andrew J. Huebner  

Publisher: Oxford University Press

New York, 2018

Pages: 390

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover)

The question arises all too often; how do we get citizens to enlist in the armed forces and fight our wars? How do we motivate the conscripted to give their utmost? How do we, as a society, convince the mothers, fathers, siblings and spouses of warriors that sending their loved one into battle is the right thing to do?

“The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table”

Author: Rick Bragg  

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Pages: 528

Price: $28.95 (Hardcover)

Rick Bragg's fans can't get enough of his family stories and they won't this time either, although at 528 pages, this is Bragg's longest book.

“The Hurting Part: Evolution of an American Play”

Author: Silas House  

Publisher: Motes Books

Louisville KY

2008

Price: $12.00 (Paperback)

Pages: 119

Readers love a literary origin story. Did the gigantic Thomas Wolfe really write using the top of the refrigerator for a desk? Did Erskine Caldwell really buy 30-day Greyhound passes and write and live in the back of the bus?

“My Exaggerated Life”

Author: Pat Conroy, As Told to Katherine Clark  

Publisher: The University of South Carolina Press

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99 (Hardcover)

On March 4, 2016, author Pat Conroy died in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the literary world lost a generous, talented writer and raconteur. Fortunately for all of us, his voice is still available to us in his books and, vividly, in this extraordinary oral memoir.

“The Vain Conversation: A Novel”

Author: Anthony Grooms 

Publisher: The University of South Carolina Press, Story River Books

Pages: 256

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover)

Calloustown

Author: George Singleton 

Publisher: Dzanc Books

Pages: 261

Price: $15.95 (Paperback)

Before there was “Lincoln in the Bardo,” George Saunders had achieved national fame with his volumes of short stories. In America, where the novel rules, this was unusual.

Another veteran short-story writer, George Singleton, has now published seven volumes and still has not received the acclaim he deserves.

“The Risen”

Author: Ron Rash  

Publisher: ECCO (HarperCollins)

Pages: 253

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

When Ron Rash's first novel, “One Foot in Eden,” won the Novello Literary Award in 2002, he already had in print two volumes of stories, three of poetry and a children’s book. Since that time there have been other volumes of poetry and stories and six more novels, including “Serena,” a best-seller and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

“Hidden Figures”

Author: Margot Lee Shetterly

Publisher: William Morris 

Pages: 368

Price: $27.99 (Hardcover) 

“Hidden Figures” has an extended and explanatory subtitle: "The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race." The life stories of these black women were so immediately compelling the movie was produced about simultaneously with the book.

Shetterly writes that many readers have asked how these stories remained hidden for so long. She writes they were not "so much hidden as unseen."

“The Underground Railroad”

Author: Colson Whitehead 

Publisher: Doubleday

Pages: 306

Price: $26.95 (Cloth)

Colson Whitehead has already won a Guggenheim Grant, the MacArthur Prize, and is the author of six previous novels and a volume of essays. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer, and “The Underground Railroad” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

This novel is a masterpiece, an action/adventure story, a historical novel, and a highly imagined fiction, peopled with unforgettable characters.

Driving Truman Capote 

Author: Theron Montgomery  

Publisher: Boat Shop Press

Pages: 63

Price: $11.00 (Paper)

When we want to know the life story of one our favorite authors, we usually go to the full-length biography. In the case of Truman Capote, that would be Gerald Clark or the composite biography that George Plimpton assembled by interviewing about 170 people who knew Capote in Monroeville, New York City, Hollywood or elsewhere and creating a kind of biographical montage of their impressions and recollections.

“1865 Alabama: From Civil War to Uncivil Peace”

Author: Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr.   

Publisher: University of Alabama Press  

Pages: 276

Price: $59.95 (Cloth)

Christopher McIlwain, a practicing Tuscaloosa attorney, has been researching Alabama in the Civil War for over 25 years.

He has gone deeply into such primary sources as letters, diaries, drafts of legislation before the Alabama legislature and, especially, the editorial pages of the many Alabama newspapers during the years 1861-1865.

“The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War”

Author: James McGrath Morris 

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pages: 312

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)

When WWI began in Europe in 1914 the French army was woefully short of ambulances and drivers. The United States was not yet in the war, but some Americans living in Paris volunteered in an informal, unorganized way.

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