A rollicking, rip-roaring novel, big and wild as the American frontier.

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Madoc's Legacy

Brawls and battles ensue when a trapping party encounters a weird tribe deep in the wilds of 19th-century Upper Michigan.

Swanson (Mesmer’s Disciple, 2012) returns with another work of historical fiction featuring tough-guy former patrolman Alvord Rawn. In Chicago in 1847, after being drummed out of New York for excessive violence, Rawn falls out with his double-crossing Chicago law enforcement superior and joins an ill-fated fur-trapping expedition to Upper Michigan with a motley crew of adventurers, including rough mountain men, a witty Irish immigrant and a nerdy scientist. Despite warnings from a tycoon named Cadwallader Jones and ominous Indian legends that their destination is protected by fearsome, copper-clad manitous, the group ventures deep into the wilderness. Soon enough, they’re attacked, but it turns out, their opponents bleed and aren’t gods after all; they’re men—a lost tribe of Welsh Indians descended from Madoc, a Welsh prince who immigrated to America in the 12th century. Hemmed in by advancing settlers, this tribe, like other natives, is just trying to survive, in this case by spinning fearsome legends and attacking interlopers. Buckets of blood spill throughout this tale, which ends happily for most and at least honorably for the dead and maimed who pile up on the losing end of the countless conflicts. Swanson bases his highly creative, action-packed novel on legend, backed by substantial historical research and acumen right down to the language, as florid as a 19th-century novel but as vigorous as a James Bond movie. Though glitches with writing mechanics crop up often enough to be distracting, and the occasional cliché slips through, Swanson creates convincing portraits of the men and their times, capturing the raw, restless spirit of the age and place. His descriptions of the land and the characters peopling it are particularly acute—so much so that the constant brannigans and battles sometimes seem overdone and anticlimactic. But this is a digestible and enjoyable fleshing out of a legend and setting often overlooked in the wide expanse of historical fiction.

A rollicking, rip-roaring novel, big and wild as the American frontier.

Pub Date: April 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1939739247

Page Count: 498

Publisher: RiverRun Select

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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