Useful bite-sized history suitable for the blues newbie.

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES

Affectionate look at the primal music of the black South that too often reads like a college dissertation.

During the last few decades, the blues, one of only a handful of indigenous art forms in the United States, has been more appreciated in the U.K. than here at home. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who and even the Beatles lived a significant chunk of their musical lives as blues bands. So when it comes to attempting to cobble together a definitive history of Delta blues, who better than a Californian who migrated to London? Expat Hamilton (When I’m Bad, I’m Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment, 1995) certainly knows her stuff: She can wax nostalgic with authority and enthusiasm about everybody from the otherworldly Robert Johnson and effervescent Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter to jazz showman Fats Waller. But is that enough to make her sophomore effort an essential piece of blues literature? Almost. Despite the fact that Hamilton’s tome is a labor of love, her prose is a bit dry—especially frustrating considering her vibrant subject matter—and she relies too heavily on previously published sources. Since old-school blues has been dissected to death—Peter Guralnick did it first and did it better—she would have been better served injecting more of her own personality. But the author’s heart is in the right place, and her sincere love for the music shines through.

Useful bite-sized history suitable for the blues newbie.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-465-02858-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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