Revelatory and thought-provoking, a redemptive story that eloquently chronicles the long road to right a wrong.

Late Night Letters to the Moon

Timoney’s book—“based on some true events”—follows a crooked real estate broker who does time and emerges a better man.

Though Timoney admits that the people and events are fictitious, his book reads like an intimately narrated memoir. Without fanfare or expository introductions, Timoney writes with urgency of a narrator named Dave being haunted for decades by his parents’ separation when he was 9; the fallout of that trauma was too easily buffered with alcohol dependency later in life. Backtracking to his 20s, Dave deftly chronicles life in the South Bay region of Northern California and, at his father’s urging, his becoming a real estate broker, which was initially a successful endeavor, until the recession of the early 1980s. As property values plummeted, investors became litigious against Dave; that stress, he says, caused him to begin mixing anti-anxiety medications with copious amounts of alcohol and to make fraudulent financial maneuvers with his customers’ money—all cresting with the dissolution of his marriage. His painfully described downward spiral culminated in 1990 with a 30-day stint in rehab and then an intensive governmental investigation, which fueled an indictment and sentencing to 37 months in prison and $500,000 restitution. Much of the remainder of the story comprises Dave’s gritty incarceration at two federal prison camps in California. As if drawn from the pages of a journal, Dave affably describes the excessive desert heat, sleeping alongside snoring cellmates in an 8-by-12-foot confined space, jail work in food service, various sexual release methods, yard duty and lots of time spent writing about life; “Some of it landed here on this page,” he notes. All of what he describes seems incredibly tame compared to a modern jail’s reputation for violence and misery, though his positive attitude and a cavalcade of mostly harmless inmates (including transgendered “shemale” Mica) may have made the “humorous, boring, introspective, frustrating, confusing, a little scary and a little uncertain” aspects of prison life more bearable. However, his re-entry into society proved anything but.

Revelatory and thought-provoking, a redemptive story that eloquently chronicles the long road to right a wrong.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495461842

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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Apt tribute to family endurance in the face of grievous loss.

A RIP IN HEAVEN

A MEMOIR OF MURDER AND ITS AFTERMATH

A wrenching tale of a notorious murder’s long echoes for its survivors.

Cummins terms her debut “both a true crime [story] and a memoir,” intending it to celebrate the lives of her young cousins, Julie and Robin Kerry, killed during a chance encounter in the summer of 1991. Traveling with her family from Washington, D.C., to vacation with relatives in St. Louis, Cummins ruefully recalls, “I thought I was tough.” On their last night in St. Louis, her older brother Tom snuck out with Julie and Robin; the rebellious 18-year-old rookie firefighter had developed a deep emotional bond with his cousins, both lovers of poetry and social justice. The trio went to the decrepit Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, where they ran into four local young men whose friendly demeanor quickly turned savage. The men beat Tom, raped Julie and Robin, then pushed all three into the raging Mississippi River. Only Tom survived, and his family’s horror was compounded when investigators inexplicably charged him with his cousins’ deaths. Tom was held for several grueling days before a flashlight found at the scene led authorities to the real killers, who quickly implicated one another. The least culpable accepted a 30-year plea; the others received death sentences. Identifying herself by her childhood nickname “Tink,” Cummins re-creates these dark events in an omniscient third-person narrative that lends the tale grim efficiency. Although her prose is occasionally purple (“Tink’s blood turned to ice and the room started to spin out from under her feet”), she succeeds overall in acquainting the reader with the horrific toll exacted by proximity to violence. The conclusion, which examines how the cruelest of the murderers became a cause célèbre thanks to his youth, offers astringent commentary on our society’s fascination with killers, who in media coverage often overshadow their victims. Cummins’s memoir does a good job of retrieving the lives of Julie and Robin from that obscurity.

Apt tribute to family endurance in the face of grievous loss.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-451-21053-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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