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!

“The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction”

Author: Amy Brashear 

Publisher: Soho Teen, Soho Books

Pages: 312

Price $21.99 (Hardcover)

“Another Slice of Life”

Author: Thom Gossom, Jr.  

Publisher: Aquarius Press

Pages: 98

Price: $14.35

Thom Gossom is a name familiar to many Alabamans. In 1975, He was the first black athlete to graduate from Auburn University, having played on the championship team quarterbacked by Pat Sullivan.

Gossom went on to have a career in film and TV acting with a recurring role in “In the Heat of the Night” and guest star appearances on “NYPD Blue,” “ER,” and many others.

“The Allies: Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and the Unlikely Alliance That Won World War II”

Author: Winston Groom 

Publisher: National Geographic

Pages: 463

Price: $30.00 (Hardcover)

“The Allies” is Winston Groom’s twentieth book, his twelfth book of nonfiction. Not surprisingly, he has become a smooth storyteller, usually writing about America’s wars—Civil, 1812, or the Western Front in WWI, reading and synthesizing huge quantities of material and presenting it in narrative form for the common reader.

“Blue Green: A Novel”

Author: Gregory N. Whitis  

Publisher: Page Publishing Inc.

Pages: 308

Price: $15.95

Gregory Whitis grew up in Iowa, graduated from Iowa State University, earned a Master’s at Auburn “studying fish” and for a time he worked as manager of Alabama’s largest catfish farm.

After a second career as a deputy sheriff in Hale County, Whitis has begun his third career—as a novelist.

“Alabama Founders: Fourteen Political and Military Leaders Who Shaped the State”

Author: Herbert James Lewis  

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 232

Price: $39.95 (Cloth)

“A Hard Rain: America in the 1960’s, Our Decade of Hope, Possibility, and Innocence Lost”

Author: Frye Gaillard  

Publisher: NewSouth Books, 2018

Montgomery

Pages: 700

Price: $35.00 (Hardcover)

Frye Gaillard of Mobile is one of Alabama’s most important and prolific writers.

The author of a shelf of books, he has written about religion, politics, music and recently the civil rights movement in Alabama.

“A Hard Rain” is, without a doubt, his biggest, most ambitious and finest work to date.

“A Gift of Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery”

Author: Carolyn Haines  

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Pages: 261

Price: $24.99 (Hardcover)

Every year for 19 years, Carolyn Haines of Semmes, Alabama has published a “Bones” book one might give as a Christmas present. This year the novel, “A Gift of Bones,” is, in fact, a Christmas book.

With only a few days until December 25th, Sarah Booth is decorating her home, Dahlia House, in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta and expecting a visit from her beau, Sheriff Coleman Peters.

“American War: A Novel”

Author: Omar El Akkad  

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Pages: 333

Price: $ 26.95 (Hardcover)

International journalist Omar El Akkad was born in Egypt, raised from age 6-16 in Qatar, then moved to Canada where he worked for “The Globe and Mail” for ten years. He covered the Arab Spring in Egypt and reported from Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Ferguson, Missouri. Now El Akkad lives in Oregon.

He has had a vision of our future and it is not pretty.

“Becoming Mrs. Lewis”

Author: Patti Callahan 

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Pages: 432

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

Patti Callahan, the author of this volume is, in fact, Patti Callahan Henry, bestselling and prize-winning Alabama author of 13 volumes of fiction, most recently “The Bookshop at Water’s End,” one of a series of books in which a female protagonist has her life disrupted, by illness, accident or most commonly, a rotten husband, and has to regroup. She does this with the aid of supportive friends and there is usually a happy ending.

“Boundary Hunter”

Author: A. R. Moore  

Publisher: Mindbridge Press

Pages: 295

Price: $15.00 (Paper)

The process is a familiar one.

A person retires from a profession many find intriguing. In conversation, others tell him he should write about his life, in a memoir or perhaps a novel.

Usually it stops there, but not always.

A.R. Moore went ahead and wrote his novel, “Boundary Hunter,” and found a publisher, Mindbridge, in Florence, Alabama.

“Points of Honor: Short Stories of the Great War by a U. S. Combat Marine”

Author: Thomas Boyd  

Edited and with an Introduction by Steven Trout

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 180

Price: $19.95 (Paper)

In just a few weeks it will be the hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day, 11-11-11, that is, 11 a.m. on November 11th, 1918, when the shooting in the first world war officially stopped.

“Southern Writers on Writing”

Edited by Susan Cushman 

Foreword by Alan Lightman

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Pages: 200

Price: $28.00 (Cloth)

Susan Cushman of Memphis, Tennessee has assembled 26 essays by Southern writers, on writing. There are 13 by women, 13 by men, from 9 states; four contributors are African-American, four are poets. I guess poets constitute a kind of group needing representation.

Rush: A Novel

Author: Lisa Patton  

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

Lisa Patton has three previous novels, all overtly “Southern,” in fact called the “Dixie Series,” with Leelee Satterfield as protagonist.

In her first, “Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter,” for example, Leelee, a Southern belle, the fish out of water, has to cope with Vermont winters. She also has the struggle of opening an inn and has her heart broken.

Civil War Alabama

Author: Christopher Lyle McIlwain Sr.   

Foreword by G. Ward Hobbs

Publisher: University of Alabama Press

Pages: 435

Price: $59.95 (Hardcover)

Tuscaloosa attorney Chris McIlwain, for 25 years, has been practicing law all day and in the evenings and weekends researching the Civil War in Alabama. He read journals and diaries, the military records and, most especially, the many, many newspapers published all over Alabama during the conflict.

The result of this Herculean effort is, so far, three books.

"Penelope Lemon: Game On" By: Inman Majors

Sep 18, 2018

“Penelope Lemon: Game On”

Author: Inman Majors 

Publisher: LSU Press

Pages: 218

Price: $25.95 (Cloth)

Inman Majors has become a productive, professional novelist. A Tennessee native, he took his MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama, went to work at James Madison University in Harrisonburg and lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Majors has published his young man novel, “Swimming in Sky,” and a very fine serious novel, “The Millionaires,” centering around the World’s Fair in Knoxville.

“South Toward Home: Adventures and Misadventures in My Native Land”

Author: Julia Reed  

Foreword by Jon Meacham

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 238

Price: $25.99 (Hardcover)

I had no plans to review this book. I was tired of reading serious history and long novels and picked up Julia Reed just for fun. I had enjoyed “Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena,” so I knew what to expect: humor and anecdote, lighthearted stuff. I read half the book in one sitting, the rest the next day.

“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!

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