On this spring’s centennial of Twain’s death, the scholarly speculation serves as a long, inconclusive footnote.




A valiant attempt to untangle the complications of Mark Twain’s later years, but ultimately it raises as many questions as it answers.

The “other woman” in the title of this exhaustively researched study by Pitzer College president Trombley (Mark Twain in the Company of Women, 1994) is Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who served the author she called “the King” as his private secretary and so much more—though how much more remains open to debate. There was gossip of an affair and perhaps even a possible engagement, though Trombley never claims the former and Twain shot down any possibility of the latter: “I have not known, and I shall never know…any one who could fill the place of the wife I have lost,” he wrote to the New York Herald, after it had reported on an impending marriage. “I shall never marry again.” Thus he didn’t, likely to the disappointment of Lyon, who filled the vacuum of responsibility left by the death of Twain’s beloved wife, serving as his nurse, groomer, sounding board, card partner, decorator, editor and cheerleader. In the process, she alienated Twain’s two daughters, who are disparaged throughout this account in comparison with Lyon. Not that the book necessarily provides a convincing defense of Lyon, who was beset by depression, alcohol, pain medication, ambition and romantic inclinations toward unlikely partners—not just Twain, some 30 years her senior, but a priest with whom she was infatuated and a business advisor to Twain, 12 years younger than she, whom she married but perhaps never loved. What remains at issue is the degree of her intimacy with Twain, characterized at one point as “multilayered” but later dismissed by its lack—Twain’s candor with her “did not seem to increase their personal intimacy.” The aging author ultimately sided with daughter Clara in accusations that Lyon had swindled him, and he vehemently turned against her.

On this spring’s centennial of Twain’s death, the scholarly speculation serves as a long, inconclusive footnote.

Pub Date: March 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-27344-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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