A twice-told tale that doesn't claim anything of its own in the retelling.

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SPANISH LESSONS

BEGINNING A NEW LIFE IN SPAIN

Another Englishman goes to another near-Mediterranean village and becomes besotted by the place in a way that may seem rather familiar already.

Like Peter Mayle, Lambert (Triad, 1991; Vendetta, 1990) had grown tired of his job as a globetrotting journalist and pined for a rustic setting where he could sit down and write that novel that was just itching to escape from his fingertips into the typewriter. So, like Mayle, Lambert and his wife bought a tumbledown home with a pool outside an insular but food-and-gossip-rich little village by the coast—only here the coast is Spain's Costa Blanca. The construction work that the house requires comes slowly and is endlessly delayed, but jasmine and rosemary fill the air outside their windows—so who can complain? The Lamberts have amusing miscommunications with quirky locals and comic brushes with the authorities, but each ends with a splash of sunshine and a fruity bonbon. They suffer the importunings of English `friends` who just happen to be in the neighborhood. They are taken under the wing of neighboring, self-appointed guardians who get them into harmless fixes. They experience benign (if startling) surprises—bats come to sip from the pool at night, a snowstorm results in some melodramatics, fires threaten but claim no victims during the dry season—but then there are the Bermuda buttercups that carpet the earth under the fruit trees. Lambert’s story even ends with a celebration at Christmastime, with work on the house almost completed, all wrapped up in an atmosphere of well-being. If this all sounds too familiar, it is. Both Lambert and Mayle write with a breezy informality, but whereas Mayle (the relaxed self-deprecating sensualist) seemed to have mild adventures fall in his lap, Lambert hasn't shaken his background in journalism: he's out there digging for stories in serendipity. Too often it feels like hard work.

A twice-told tale that doesn't claim anything of its own in the retelling.

Pub Date: May 2, 2000

ISBN: 0-7679-0415-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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