Monday, September 6, 2010

New Reviews by Carl Brookins

McMansion
by Justin Scott
Poisoned Pen Press
255 pages, hardcover
ISBN: 1-59058-063-X

Justin Scott has written over a dozen mysteries, thrillers and adventure novels under several names, taut, exemplary stories that illuminate and explore many of our social concerns. They are good stories, well-written with drive and panache. This is another, peopled with interesting characters, a serious underpinning, and enough crime and mystery to satisfy the most enthusiastic crime fiction reader.

Ben Abbott is a sometime private investigator, sometime real estate agent,and a full time commentator on some of the more egregious aspects of our modern society and the influence on small town America. Abbott is also one of the more pleasant and thoughtful investigators readers are likely to run across in this age. Abbott is concerned about the effects of aging on his Aunt Constance who lives nearby, he takes in children in need of adult supervision, and he worries about unrestrained development of open spaces in the Connecticut town of Newbury where he lives. That last concern forms the core of this interesting novel about crooked developers, and a badly twisted legal system.

One of the worst developers, a Billy Tiller, possessed mostly of terrible taste, monumental greed and a willingness to break the law anytime he thought there was profit in it, gets his come-uppance when somebody drives a bulldozer over him at a construction site. The perpetrator, a young member of ELF, is discovered by the local troopers sitting at the controls of the offending 'dozer with the crushed body of Billy Tiller underneath. Open and shut, but Abbott, retained by the boy's lawyer, doesn't believe it. His pursuit of the truth leads him into some interesting and stressful situations.

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The Protest Singer: Pete Seeger
By Alec Wilkinson
Pub by Vintage Books, 2010,
ISBN: 978-0-307-39098-1
Trade Paper, 152 pages, including
credits, acknowledgments and testimony.

The mystery is that Pete Seeger survives and endures. In his lifetime which spans much of the turmoil of the Twentieth Century, he has been beset by some of the most vicious and evil forces we have experienced in this country and in the world. Yet, here he is, still pluckin’ and singin’ and taking on injustice and good causes, like cleaning up the Hudson River.

I suppose I’m biased. I grew up in a time when folk singing in America was in the ascendency and I have a lot of old records and memories of these folks, including Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, several others, and had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Seeger through the good offices of my friend, another fine folk singer, Gene Bluestein. So it was great to read about all those folks, many of whom it’s easy to think of as friends, whether personal or only through their music, through the sensibilities of Seeger and Wilkinson.

It is wonderful, although disturbing, to read this elegantly written, honest look at a man, his friends and companions, his family, his trials and his triumphs, who sang his way into the hearts and memories of a lot of people. Seeger’s influence is found not just in the music world; after all, the Weavers recording of “Goodnight Irene” in 1950 sold over a million copies. It is and will be enduring.

This slender book, written in the kind of engaging style that is somehow the essence of Seeger’s approach to a principled life, is a moving tribute to him and to everything that’s right in these United States. Readers may disagree with his points of view, but you cannot disagree with the way Mr. Seeger fashioned his protest. Wilkinson has set down, in a most engaging manner, for readers everywhere, the values and the reality of a true American.

Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

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COMING WEDNESDAY: Part One of "Publishing’s Journey From Privately-held Companies to Multinational Corporations". Part Two follows on Thursday.

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2 comments:

  1. Oh, thanks so much for the info on the Pete Seeger book! My father was the music critic for the old Chicago Daily news, and covered all the folk acts back then--as I result, I grew up loving that genre, and still do.

    (I still remember being taken to a party at someone's apartment--gosh, I might have been--6? What group did you say they were in, I asked my dad? "The Weavers" he said.)

    Thanks Carl! Dad will love the book, too...

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  2. I'll add my thanks to Hank's, Carl. You just gave me a great idea for my husband's Christmas present. A guitar picker for 40 years now, he admires and often plays Seeger's work. Long live The Weavers!

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