An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The...




A collection of jarring prison stories centers on Alcatraz.

Editors Keaton (Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead, 2015) and Clifford’s (Trouble in the Heartland, 2014, etc.) group of 19 crime tales is influenced by the historic, notorious Alcatraz Island penitentiary. In his witty, dynamic introduction, Keaton writes of being inspired by the iconic fortification soon after his relocation to California, where he discovered a basketball tournament held in the Alcatraz prison yard. “Combine an island with a prison, and you’ve got a recipe for mythmaking,” notes Keaton, who, along with this band of talented writers, seems bewitched and enchanted by the eerie, mysterious legend of The Rock. Author and New York radiologist Glenn Gray contributes the riveting opener, “Break,” narrated by a brittle-boned prisoner who commemorates his 1941 incarceration in Alcatraz with a contortionistic escape plan. Nick Mamatas’ taut, psychedelic “Being Whitey” channels a malevolent Whitey Bulger through the use of LSD, resulting in a trippy, imaginative treat. In “Dream Flyer,” Les Edgerton, an ex-con and award-winning author, evokes the frighteningly authentic voice of a tough convict eager for his day of reckoning. The volume derives much of its strength from the variety of its contents even while all of the stories orbit a common theme. Crime fiction author and Civil War buff Rory Costello offers a unique history lesson with his 1865-set tale “The Sympathizers,” as does Mark Rapacz’s “Bodhisattva Badass,” a hardcore, 1932-set meditation on bedeviled incarceration. The assortment is accented by a raw, edgy, historical photo collage of Alcatraz, which lends the book a spooky, grim spirit. Each story has merit, whether reflecting the solemn hopelessness of the concrete tomb or capturing the essence of the inmate experience. As none of the pieces approach novella length, readers can enjoy them in the amounts they choose. These tales—infused with raw characterizations, singular narrative voices, and fictionalized situations—vividly conjure the cynical chill of the prison experience. Closing out the anthology are novelist Rob Hart’s potent, food-themed yarn “The Gas Chamber”; Southern author Leah Rhyne’s gorgeous ballerina love song “The Music Box”; and Nick Kolakowski’s unvarnished glance at the institution, where one character, dubbed the “Man in Black,” laments that there’s “nothing good about a prison you can’t walk out of.” But these hardened tales demonstrate that Alcatraz certainly provides bracing entertainment.

An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The Rock.

Pub Date: May 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940885-37-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: Broken River Books

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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