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Hard Truth

By Nevada Barr

Berkley (Paperback, $7.99, ISBN: 0425208419)

Publication date: February 2006

Description from Publishers Weekly :

In Barr’s taut 13th thriller to feature Anna Pigeon (after 2004’s High Country), the 50-ish National Park Service ranger leaves her new husband, Paul, back in Mississippi, to assume a new post in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where she encounters a serial killer and a strong, determined woman, Heath Jarrod, much like herself. Heath, a former ice climber now confined to a wheelchair after a near-fatal fall, feels depressed, isolated and helpless. She’s camping in the national park with her physician, who’s also her aunt, when a pair of battered young girls, two of three missing from a nearby religious retreat, appear at the campsite. Heath and Anna at first dislike one another, but join forces to break the silence enforced by the retreat’s domineering head and discover why the youngsters vanished, who took them, where they were and what happened to the third girl. Barr skillfully weaves contemporary issues of parental responsibility, religious and political separatism, and sexual abuse into her harrowing story. She carefully sets the scene in the first part of the book, which builds to a spectacular climax that pits Anna against evil incarnate. Noted for her precise plotting and atmospheric descriptions of nature, Barr again proves her skill in putting believable characters in peril against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Novels 1926-1929 Novels 1926-1929: Soldiers’ Pay, Mosquitoes, Flags in the Dust, The Sound and the Fury

By William Faulkner

Library of America (Hardcover, $40.00, ISBN: 1931082898)

Publication date: April 2006


The Library of America edition of the novels of William Faulkner culminates with this volume presenting his first four, each newly edited, and, in many cases, restored with passages that were altered or (in the case of Mosquitoes) expurgated by the original publishers. This is Faulkner as he was meant to be read.

In these four novels we can track Faulkner’s extraordinary evolution as, over the course of a few years, he discovers and masters the mode and matter of his greatest works. Soldiers’ Pay (1926) expresses the disillusionment provoked by World War I through its account of the postwar experiences of homecoming soldiers, including a severely wounded R.A.F. pilot, in a style of restless experimentation. In Mosquitoes (1927), a raucous satire of artistic poseurs, many of them modeled after acquaintances of Faulkner in New Orleans, he continues to try out a range of stylistic approaches as he chronicles an ill-fated cruise on Lake Pontchartrain.

With the sprawling Flags in the Dust (published in truncated form in 1929 as Sartoris), Faulkner began his exploration of the mythical region of Mississippi that was to provide the setting for most of his subsequent fiction. Drawing on family history from the Civil War and after, and establishing many characters who recur in his later books, Flags in the Dust marks the crucial turning point in Faulkner's evolution as a novelist.

The volume concludes with Faulkner's masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury (1929). This multilayered telling of the decline of the Compson clan over three generations, with its complex mix of narrative voices and its poignant sense of isolation and suffering within a family, is one of the most stunningly original American novels.

The editors of this volume are Joseph Blotner and Noel Polk. Joseph Blotner, who wrote the notes, is professor of English emeritus at the University of Michigan. Biographer of William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren, he is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and the French Legion of Honor. Noel Polk is professor of English at Mississippi State University and editor of The Mississippi Quarterly. He has edited the texts in all five volumes of William Faulkner's novels for The Library of America.

In his first four novels, William Faulkner moved beyond early experiments to discover the themes and style of his maturity. With Soldiers’ Pay, a sardonic distillation of postwar disillusionment, and Mosquitoes, a freewheeling roman à clef satirizing the writers and artists of his New Orleans milieu, Faulkner served his restless apprenticeship as a writer of fiction before settling in Flags in the Dust (first published in truncated form as Sartoris) on the material that would chiefly engage him: a mythic Mississippi region dense with ancestral memories and echoes of the Civil War. The volume concludes with what many consider Faulkner's greatest work, The Sound and the Fury, a novel of family torment whose audacities of form and fearless explorations of the inner life continue to astonish. The newly edited texts in this volume include passages altered or in some cases expurgated by the original publishers.

The Diezmo: A Novel

By Rick Bass

Mariner Books (Paperback, $13.95, ISBN: 0618710507)

Publication date: June 2006

Description from Booklist:

Whether Bass is writing his profoundly affecting narrative nonfiction, which includes Caribou Rising (2004), or such spellbinding short story collections as The Hermit’s Story (2002), he expresses awe over life’s glory and ruefulness over humankind’s folly. Bass has now perfected his novelist’s voice in this commanding tale inspired by the Mier Expedition, an infamous chapter in the brief and bloody story of the Republic of Texas. Bass’ eminently trustworthy narrator, James Alexander, is still in his teens when he and a friend impulsively join a militia ordered by Sam Houston to patrol the border with Mexico, but which, instead, turns rogue, crosses the Rio Grande, and slaughters innocent people and soldiers alike. James and many of his worse-for-wear cohorts are captured, shackled, put to work building a road, then imprisoned in an isolated, vermin-infested mountain fortress, all the while suffering brutal deprivations and terrors (one Mexican commander enforces the diezmo, or tithe, arbitrarily executing 1 prisoner in 10). As Bass recounts the prisoners’ epic suffering and consequential stoicism, he achieves the molten beauty, compassion, and longing for justice found in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage and the novels of B. Traven and Cormac McCarthy. But he also articulates his signature passion for life’s endless improvisations and persistence as manifest in everything from the grandeur of desert landscapes to lice, orchids, jaguars, a young woman in love, and even the cruelty and aberrations of men entangled in illegitimate warfare, a tragic practice we seem doomed to perpetuate generation after generation.

—Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War

By Howard Bahr

Henry Holt (Hardcover, $25.00, ISBN: 0805067396)

Publication date: July 2006

Description from Publishers Weekly:

A middle-aged salesman in 1885 Mississippi, Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran of the Army of Tennessee, which saw action far from the leadership of Robert E. Lee, and ended, badly, at the battle of Franklin in 1864. Cass agrees to accompany a neighbor, 54-year-old terminally ill widow Alison Sansing, to Tennessee to recover the bodies of her father and brother, killed at Franklin. As they travel north, Cass’s memories return with painful vividness, culminating as he walks over the scene of his army’s disastrous defeat. Bahr (The Black Flower) moves back and forth between the tattered post-Reconstruction South and the war. He describes the effect of weapons on flesh in gruesome detail and brings to life a long-gone era with its strange smells, foods, fashions and principles. Though his uneducated characters often seem a little too articulate, their insights are excellent. Author of other well-regarded novels on the same period, Bahr treats the war as a natural disaster not unlike a hurricane.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The BrokerThe Broker

By John Grisham

Delta (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0385340540)

Publication date: September 2006

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Readers will find an amiable travelogue to Italy and its charms in Grisham's latest. What they won't find are the suspense and inspired plotting that have made the author (The Last Juror, etc.) one of the world's bestselling writers. Yet Grisham remains a smooth storyteller, and few will fail to finish this oddball tale of what happens to ruined D.C. powerbroker Joel Blackman, 52, when he's suddenly released from federal prison after six years. Teddy Maynard, legendary CIA director, has engineered the release in order to put Joel into a variant of the witness protection program and then see who kills him. Many want him dead—the Saudis, the Israelis, especially the Chinese—because of his role in trying to sell a global satellite spy system that would alter the world's balance of power; that was what got Joel imprisoned, and the CIA hopes that whoever kills him will clue them in to who may have access to the satellites. Joel is relocated to Bologna, and much of the narrative consists of his touring that city, its historic sights and its many restaurants, and learning Italian ways from his male handler, Luigi, and his language tutor, Francesca—a middle-aged woman with whom he falls in love. A major subplot concerns Joel's secret dealings with his stateside son to prepare for escape from Bologna if necessary. Eventually, the CIA leaks Joel's whereabouts to his enemies, who dispatch killing teams. Can Joel broker his way to safety? There's some depth to the troubled relationship between Joel and his tutor, but otherwise the novel reads like a contented afterthought to a memorable Italian vacation, with little action or tension, plastic characters and plot turns that a tricycle could maneuver. Still, anyone wishing to learn how and why Bologna built its famed porticos, why to be wary of most Italian desserts and how to send an encrypted wireless message using a global cell phone will find that information cheerfully given here.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Lay of the Land

By Richard Ford

Knopf (Hardcover, $26.95, ISBN: 0679454683)

Publication date: October 2006

From Publishers Weekly :

Frank Bascombe meticulously maps New Jersey with a realtor’s rapacious eye, and he is an equally intense topographer of his teeming inner landscape. In the first of Ford’s magisterial Bascombe novels (The Sportswriter, 1986), Frank staved off feelings of loss and regret with a dissociated “dreaminess.” He graduated to a more conventional detachment during what he calls the “Existence Period” of the Pen/Faulkner and Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day (1995). Now we find the 55-year-old former fiction writer and sports journalist in a “Permanent Period,” a time of being, not becoming. He’s long adjusted to the dissolution of his first marriage to women’s golf instructor Ann Dykstra (which foundered 17 years earlier after the death of their nine-year-old, firstborn son, Ralph) and settled for eight years with second wife Sally Caldwell in Sea-Clift, N.J. Permanence has proven turbulent: Sally has abandoned Frank for her thought-to-be-dead first husband, and Frank’s undergone treatment for prostate cancer. The novel’s action unfolds in 2000 over the week before Thanksgiving, as Frank bemoans the contested election, mourns the imminent departure of Clinton (“My President,” he says) and anticipates with measured ambivalence the impending holiday meal: his guests will include his 27-year-old son, Paul, a once-troubled adolescent grown into an abrasive “mainstreamer,” who writes for Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., and his 25-year-old daughter, Clarissa, a glamorous bisexual Harvard grad who’s unfailingly loyal to her dad. Frank’s quotidian routines are punctuated by weird but subtly depicted events: he happens on the scene of a bombing at the hospital in his former hometown of Haddam, N.J., clenches his jaw through an awkward meeting with Ann, provokes a bar fight and observes the demolition of an old building. But the real dramatic arc occurs in Frank’s emotional life—until the climax takes him out of his head. Ford summons a remarkable voice for his protagonist—ruminant, jaunty, merciless, generous and painfully observant—building a dense narrative from Frank’s improvisations, epiphanies and revisions. His reluctance to “fully occupy” his real estate career (“it’s really about arriving and destinations, and all the prospects that await you or might await you in some place you never thought about”) illuminates the preoccupations of the boomer generation; for Frank, an unwritten novel and broken relationships combine with the dwindling fantasy of endless possibility—in work and in love—to breed doubt: “Is this it?” and “Am I good?” Frank wonders. The answers don’t come easy.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town

By John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $28.95, ISBN: 0385517238)

Publication date: October 2006


John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction, an exploration of small town justice gone terribly awry, is his most extraordinary legal thriller yet.

In the major league draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A’s, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory.

Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits—drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.

In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder.

With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.

If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.

A Salty Piece of Land

A Novel by Jimmy Buffett

Little, Brown (Paperback, $7.99, ISBN: 031601429X)

Publication date: November 2006

Description from Publishers Weekly:

There’s a Condé Nast Traveler article fighting to get out of bestseller Buffett’s first new novel in a decade, a groovily laid-back, ramblingly anecdotal, sun-soaked bit of Caribbean escapism that his Parrothead fans will relish like another chorus of “Margaritaville.” Tully Mars, a 40-ish ex-cowboy turned guide at the Lost Boys Fishing Lodge island resort, undertakes various sojourns around the Caribbean, to Mayan ruins, a jungle safari camp, a spring break bacchanal in Belize. Nothing much happens—“That day, we spent the rest of the daylight hours on the shallow waters of Ascension Bay and the lagoon amid incredible natural beauty unlike anything I had ever seen before” is about as busy as it gets—except that Tully meets a parade of colorful natives and expatriates, including a Mayan medicine man, a British commando and a 103-year-old woman who skippers a sailing schooner and wants to restore a historic lighthouse on Cayo Loco, the titular island. The characters are all hospitality entrepreneurs, and Buffett (A Pirate Looks at Fifty) also gives them shaggy-dog anecdotes, tidbits of Caribbean history and desultory life lessons to relate. There are glimmers of plot—bounty hunters, loves lost and found—but mostly Tully has little to do but savor the accommodations and atmospherics of tourist locales while the sea washes him with waves of love, happiness and maturity as infallibly as the tides. This book is as cheery and tropical as Buffet’s music.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Lives of Rocks: Stories

By Rick Bass

Houghton-Mifflin (Hardcover, $23.00, ISBN: 0618596747)

Publication date: November 2006

Description from Booklist:

Bass draws on his geological expertise to ground his latest collection of stop-in-your-tracks short stories on a bedrock of realism only to have his wild-hearted characters race off to realms surreal and mythic. In “Pagans,” three teens use an abandoned construction crane on a polluted river to create art out of junk and test their courage. In “Goats,” two friends want to be ranchers, but their calves routinely escape. Bass meshes wit with an elegiac sensibility to capture the dark ambience of a world besieged by rampant desecration and destruction. His jittery and desperate characters struggle with desire, sorrow, and fear; intending to help each other, they are, instead, helpless. Bedeviled men and women are inextricably connected to the land, from the “treacherous shifting Yazoo clay of Mississippi” to the snowy mountains of Montana, the setting for two unforgettable linked tales about a resolute and resourceful woman, modes of survival, and the majestic cycles of existence. Embedded in each paradoxical story is Bass’ perception of everything from a rock to an elk, an egret, a woman, and a tree as a precious “carrier of life” on a planet graced with a “topography of spirit.” Compassionate and hard-hitting, knowledgeable and transcendent, Bass is essential.

—Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

The Book of Hard Choices: How to Make the Right Decisions at Work and Keep Your Self-Respect

By James A. Autry and Peter Roy

Broadway Books (Hardcover, $23.95, ISBN: 0767922581)

Publication date: December 2006


“There are a thousand acts of duplicity and dishonesty every day, some large and some small, some of which undoubtedly take place in your workplace. The question for all of us is, ‘Are we going to resist or just play along the path of least resistance?’ The first hard choice a person of integrity must make is to choose to live, both personally and professionally, in a way that embodies integrity. The power of this book comes from the real-life, in-the-workplace experiences that these executives have been so generously willing to share. None had easy choices, but that’s the point: Integrity is not about easy choices, it’s about the courage to make the right choices.”

—From The Book of Hard Choices


All of us like to think that, in any given situation, we’d act with integrity and do the right thing. But what happens when we get to work each morning? Do the same rules we follow in our personal lives apply to our work lives?

The lines between right and wrong become blurred when we must weigh our obligations to our employer against our own ideas about what is right and wrong. Should altruism trump profit, even to the detriment of the organization? When should you step in to protect an employee and when should the employee be left to take the heat? If the CEO is up to some unethical accounting, should you always risk your job—and the company’s reputation—to sound the alarm?

These are the hard choices, the dilemmas that put your integrity to the test and require you to look beyond organizational policy and industry precedents to find an answer that reflects your personal sense of justice. The Book of Hard Choices goes to the heart of these difficult decisions. James Autry and Peter Roy, experienced executives themselves, interviewed numerous leaders about the tough decisions they’ve made on the job. They spoke with people like former Starbucks president Howard Behar, Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner, and Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa as well as entrepreneurs, military officials, members of the clergy, and a whole host of leaders. The authors dig into the thinking process these people went through, as well as the emotional strain, the self-doubt, and the fear of a wrong decision’s impact on their business, family, or coworkers. Not everyone in this book made the right choice, but all of them were forced to examine their values and make decisions in complicated circumstances. The result is hard-won wisdom on how to navigate the ethical gray-areas of work life—from daily challenges to possible career ending choices—and make the best possible decisions in the most difficult situations.

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