A lack of thorough editing makes the strengths of this historical tale difficult to appreciate.

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THE MOONSHINE WARS

OR MY LIFE IN KINCAID, GEORGIA BY TERRY LEE KINCAID III

Micko’s debut novel addresses issues of racism in America by following a Southern family from the end of the Civil War to the early 20th century.

The narrator, Terry Lee Kincaid III, begins this complicated family saga by introducing readers to his paternal great-grandfather, Billy Ray, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who worked as a slave hunter before the Civil War. Billy Ray gets involved with a woman from an upper-class family, but their relationship falls apart because of his connections to the Klan. They have a son together, Terry Lee, but Billy Ray refuses to acknowledge him. Terry Lee grows up and starts a lucrative moonshine business with his best friend, an African-American man named Jim Spicer. Together, they scout out the land that becomes Kincaid, Georgia—a place where a white family and a black family can live peacefully alongside each other as equals. But the Klan disapproves of this, and they use their influence to have Jim and Terry Lee sent to jail. Their sons—Sonny Spicer and Terry Lee Jr.—are raised as brothers by Jim’s wife, Alberta. The two boys have a hard time staying out of trouble; they later end up in jail several times, and they eventually join the moonshine business. All sorts of danger and excitement ensue, leading to triumphs and tragedies that the young Terry Lee III describes with wide-eyed enthusiasm. The book does have its strong points: the characters live richly imagined, exciting, and unusual lives; the plot’s conflicts involving race are pertinent to social and political issues of today; and the folksy Southern style (“For all ya’ll who ain’t heard of Kincaid, I’ll tell you about it”) can be charming. But the story is also undermined by errors in punctuation and spelling (“verifyable”; “ultimatim”) from beginning to end, making the book seem more like a rough draft than a finished novel. As a result, many readers may lose patience with the book long before they reach its conclusion.

A lack of thorough editing makes the strengths of this historical tale difficult to appreciate.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5049-8654-0

Page Count: 346

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2017

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An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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