Books by Russell Martin

Russell Martin is an award-winning and internationally bestselling freelance writer--the author of books published in more than twenty countries, and a contributor to major periodicals in the U.S. and U.K., including Time, The New York Times, National Pub

Released: Feb. 1, 2009

In 1827, a music student cut a lock of hair as a memento from the head of recently deceased Ludwig van Beethoven. In 1994, two Americans bought the hair for about $7,300 and had scientists subject it to forensic tests. This slim volume introduces Beethoven's life, with an emphasis on his poor health and emotional problems, interspersing chapters about the hair's journey from Vienna to Arizona and the scientific analysis. Although the lock's history intersects with Denmark's remarkable evacuation of Jews in World War II, the specifics of its journey are unknown, which leaches some of the excitement from the episode. One must also wonder how many child readers will be captivated by the revelation that Beethoven's hair had extremely high levels of lead, much as the authors strain to build to a dramatic climax. Beethoven fans and music students may be intrigued, but overall the audience for this mildly interesting story will be limited. Black-and-white archival illustrations and photographs add little to the appeal. (authors' note, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

"The attempts at narrative complexity go only so far here—so far before they end up strangling the life out of its characters. "
Martin's road-trip novel speeds too quickly by the horrible illness and personal trauma that provoke the journey in the first place. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"An engrossing story of a landmark work of art and the struggle 'to fashion meaning out of unimaginable evil, once more to offer hope.'"
Imaginative cultural historian Martin (Beethoven's Hair, 2000, etc.) crafts a well-integrated and fascinating account of Picasso's famous painting and the horrible events that inspired it. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 17, 2000

"First-class history, and a fascinating exposition of forensic science."
An engrossing tale of an odd subject—a chance snipping of Beethoven's hair and its perilous journey into the 21st century. Read full book review >
OUT OF SILENCE by Russell Martin
Released: April 1, 1994

Juxtaposing the pain of childhood autism with theories of how language develops and functions, Martin (A Story That Stands Like a Dam, 1989, etc.) evokes the miracle of speech and the tragedy of its loss—in a loving tribute to his nephew, Ian, and his family. After speaking his first word at 18 months, Ian woke up from a feverish sleep induced by a DPT shot unable to speak at all; isolated by inner demons, inexplicable tantrums, obsessions, and rituals, he was to be deprived for four and a half years of the ordering, socializing, connecting function of language. Martin traces the history of autism, names award-winning psychiatrists (such as Bettelheim) who blamed it on parents, covers the recognition of its epidemic proportions, especially among the children of middle-class parents in the 60's, and touches on the quiet substitution of an altered DPT vaccine in 1992 for the lethal variety that destroyed Ian. Martin's concern is with language, semantics, neurophysiology, learning theory, even the importance of narrative (at which he excels). He offers the medical reasons why Ian reacts to loud noises and to changes in his routines with terror and rage, and for the inner voices that confuse him even as he pursues peace through ritual, custom, familiarity. Eventually Ian attends school and learns to convey the ``nightmare'' of his life, the inscrutable world he inhabits, the conflicts among his thoughts, desires, expressions, and behavior. It is in this triumph that the greatest pathos of the book lies, showing a divided consciousness, aware and at war. A remarkable story demonstrating immense knowledge that has no power, good intentions that betray, and, at the very heart of it, the terrible price a child and his family paid because the most important information was in the small print that a country physician did not read. Crucial reading for parents and professionals. Read full book review >