A simple tale with a hero who’s just a regular guy, which makes him all the more likable and exemplary.

Concrete Evidence

A CALAVERAS COUNTY THRILLER

An agent in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, searching for missing parolees, fears that the Aryan Brotherhood may be responsible for their disappearances in Shaw’s straightforward debut thriller.

When Sam Wellington’s injury in Afghanistan renders him ineligible for re-enlistment in the Army, he gets a job as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison in California. It’s a tough gig, and he gladly opts for a parole agent position in nearby Calaveras and Amador counties, even if his predecessor, Lucas Kane, inexplicably disappeared. Sam’s duties seem fairly routine until he promises Jesse Ramirez’s family that he’ll look for the recently missing parolee. Other parolees disappear as well, but it’s the discovery of Kane’s badge that leads Sam to wealthy Felix Tully, who has ties to the Aryan Brotherhood. Sam, after a few run-ins with the Aryan group, whose members include Tully’s brother Hitler, believes he may find answers at Tully’s mansion in the mountains. The author aptly develops his protagonist well before the Calaveras investigation starts. Sam, for example, is an exceptional Army Ranger, but seeing him out of his element at the grueling San Quentin prison establishes him as both tolerant and pragmatic. His down-to-earth status makes the missing persons case even more intimidating and also sets the stage for his inevitable romance with the abrasive Pam Maxant. The no-nonsense Pam, whose cabin Sam rents, works her way into Sam’s investigation, including tagging along to a crime scene because she knows a more efficient route. The tale involves little mystery: Sam doesn’t gather clues or scrutinize evidence, and he has no genuine suspects beyond Tully and his Aryan entourage. But the villains are unquestionably menacing, particularly Hitler and his cohorts, sparking conflict with Sam after one merely brushes up against Sam’s shoulder in passing. The protagonist, meanwhile, makes progress with both the missing parolees and in his relationship with Pam. Lengthy scenes with Sam at a Veterans Affairs Hospital and San Quentin initially seem irrelevant but pay off in the blistering final sequence that allows Sam to use skills he’s picked up along the way. Mystery fans may see the lack of genre elements as a shortcoming, but Shaw keeps the story moving and retains interest with engaging characters.

A simple tale with a hero who’s just a regular guy, which makes him all the more likable and exemplary.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9706798-8-8

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Talahi Media Arts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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