Strong leads star in a passionate war tale filled with political intrigue, violence, and scoundrels.

MATAMOROS

A historical novel offers an in-depth view of the machinations surrounding the Civil War battle for Texas.

The year is 1863, and Matamoras, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, has become the Confederacy’s backdoor port for trading cotton for munitions. The once-sleepy village is now a booming town of 40,000 with “a hive of Northern and Southern spies” and profiteers of all stripes. A very large cast of colorful characters and complicated plotlines are woven together through interrelationships with the novel’s primary protagonists, Clayton Wilkes, owner of Brave River Gambling Emporium, and Allie Stoneman. Clayton, whose father was a cruel plantation owner, despises slavery. Secretly working with Yankee Ambassador Leonard Pierce, he is a spy for the North who feeds Confederate Consul Jose Quintero misleading information about Union plans to invade Texas. Allie is Clayton’s former con-artist partner and lover. A Confederate sympathizer, she has come to Matamoras to establish a business. But she requires capital. When Clayton learns of her scam to raise money, he sets her up to give Quintero false information as to where the Union force will attack. Of course, one con deserves another. When Allie learns she’s been had, she schemes to nullify Clayton’s plan. In this deadly game, thousands of young men are going to die. The only question is whether they will be Rebels or Yankees. Kahn’s (Timefall, 2014, etc.) descriptive prose delivers powerful images, as when Brownsville prepares to evacuate before the oncoming Union Army: “Clayton walked the streets under sensory assault: trees afire, people barking, animals screaming, orange shadows on adobe; glass breaking, fists beating flesh, sour smoke.” And when Allie tells Clayton: “ ‘This is my new life…I don’t want you in it’…a hollow opened in the pit of his stomach.” The slow plot development eventually leads to lively, often gripping action. Clayton’s thoughts, scattered throughout the story, clarify the man he has become. Skirmishes between the two armies and the maneuverings of the characters involved successfully build tension to an ending that delivers more than one surprise.

Strong leads star in a passionate war tale filled with political intrigue, violence, and scoundrels.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73427-490-5

Page Count: 442

Publisher: Pen Wild Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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