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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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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