A skillful reconstruction of the gripping events in Judge John J. Sirica’s life.




A historical novel dramatizes the tumultuous life of the judge who presided over the infamous Watergate trials. 

John Joseph Sirica was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of an Italian immigrant who toils indefatigably to provide his family with a modest living. Sirica inherits his father’s work ethic—it is evident in his love of boxing and training—but he is an inconstant student who lacks intellectual confidence. Still, after graduating from high school, he follows his cousin Fonsy and applies to George Washington University Law School and, after an inauspicious start, Georgetown Law School. He is never a spectacular student, but he graduates and passes the bar on the first try. He has a rocky start as a lawyer, too, but draws inspiration from his time in the ring: “Didn’t plan it this way, but boxing gave me the courage to stand up in court.” He is eventually appointed an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, but a new Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, ensures a stretch of lean periods for the young Republican, what his wife calls the “starvation years.” Sirica even joins forces with heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, one of his heroes, to promote boxing matches in an attempt to make ends meet. Sirica eventually lands a blue-chip position at a prestigious law firm and then gets appointed as a judge to the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1973, he presides over the Watergate trials, which balloon from what President Richard Nixon calls a “third-rate burglary” to one of the most consequential events in American history, thrillingly depicted by Cooper (Cheating Justice, 2012, etc.). An installment in the Barbera Foundation’s Mentoris Project—which focuses on notable Italians and Italian-Americans—this biographical study artfully chronicles Sirica’s ascendancy from a timid, academically challenged young man to a major legal luminary. The author’s prose is largely unadorned—she writes in plain, matter-of-fact language. But her research is impeccable. Cooper picks an admirable topic to flesh out in novelistic terms—a life both inspirational and historically captivating. 

A skillful reconstruction of the gripping events in Judge John J. Sirica’s life. 

Pub Date: April 1, 2019


Page Count: 199

Publisher: Barbera Foundation

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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