A suspense tale set in a well-developed, if dark, world of hobos.



From the Hobo Kingdom series , Vol. 1

A debut thriller tells the story of two boys sucked into the underground kingdom of hobos.

In 1968, Glen Roylihan befriends Denny Grabolski, the new kid at school, even though he’s from the wrong side of the tracks. Denny shows Glenn the hobo camp outside of town, and both sixth-graders are intimidated by the men that they find there. Soon after, the boys are approached by a group of hobos led by Stosh “Due North” Grabolski, who turns out to be Denny’s estranged father. He’s come back to teach his son the code by which all hobos live. “Tramps and bums steal and cheat and worse,” says Due North. “Hobos are hard-working men and women drawn to a life on the move, on the tracks.” Denny goes with his father and learns all about flying from trains while evading the bulls (the railway police) and cinder dicks (railroad detectives). But before long, Due North “catches the westbound” (is killed) during an altercation with police—and the fault lies with psychotic hobos who obey no man’s law. Meanwhile, still at home, Glen gets a job at the local gas station with Allen “Socrates” Julien, a Korean War veteran who isn’t afraid to work outside the law in order to achieve justice. Each boy gets an unexpected education about how to walk the righteous path in dangerous times, which will come in handy when the two friends reunite in order to bring justice to the hobos responsible for Due North’s death. In his series opener, Biermeier writes in a clear, muscular prose that captures the gruff demeanors of his characters and their world: “Socrates had hopped the trains home from California after Korea and knew that the tracks hauled just as much bad as good. Many times he had witnessed the bums jumping to the hobo jungle no more than a quarter mile from his door.” The book is rife with violence and other disturbing material that the author does not, perhaps, handle with the proper weight. But the kingdom of hobos he imagines—as replete with White Hats and Black Hats as any Western—will surely be an attractive fantasy for some readers.

A suspense tale set in a well-developed, if dark, world of hobos.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5406-0557-3

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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