A smoothly told, unexpectedly affecting foray into a lesser-known chapter of the literary giant's life.

SERGEANT SALINGER

Charyn's latest foray into historical fiction is a richly imagined account of J.D. Salinger's years as a combatant and counterintelligence officer in Europe during World War II.

The book opens in April 1942 at the Stork Club, where the rising short story writer has memorable encounters with the imperious Walter Winchell and the dashing but down-sliding Ernest "Hemmy" Hemingway. Sonny, as Salinger is called, is the guest of Oona O'Neill, the 16-year-old debutante with whom he is infatuated. The relationship ends when he is drafted and his "timid tigress" heads to California, where she will marry Charles Chaplin. (The war dashed Salinger's own dreams of acting in Hollywood.) In France, Salinger proves himself in battle and in negotiations with the enemy, working when he can on his "Holden Caulfield novel." He has punishing sex with Sylvia Welter, a German ophthalmologist doubling as a spy. To his Jewish family's chagrin, he brings her back to the U.S. as his wife along with their "Nazi dog." Increasingly, Salinger finds himself caught between reality and grim fantasy, haunted by traumatic war memories—a soldier with missing eye sockets whose "blackened teeth revealed a jarring smile, like an angel soaring into the unknown"; the harsh whistle of "Screaming Meemies," which "bit into your bones." With a nod to Catch-22, Charyn captures to darkly comedic effect the inhumanity of war and the altered state his hero lives in. Known to readers for his prickly nature, Salinger emerges as a likable eccentric with deep reserves of empathy, especially for young people. Building on the established facts of Salinger's life, this supremely engaging novel leaves us with a new, sometimes heart-rending understanding of the author and the times in which he came of age.

A smoothly told, unexpectedly affecting foray into a lesser-known chapter of the literary giant's life.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-942658-74-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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THE DARK HOURS

Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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