An affectionate final word on an inspiring man comes from his devoted wife.

READ REVIEW

41D MAN OF VALOR

THE STORY OF SWAT OFFICER RANDY SIMMONS

This earnest memoir recalls a SWAT officer who lived and died for the greater good of his community.

Simmons’ book centers on her late husband, Randy Simmons, the first SWAT officer in Los Angeles Police Department history to be killed in the line of duty. The biography tenderly chronicles Randy’s devoutly Christian childhood in Brooklyn and LA, his years in college trying and failing to make the NFL draft, and finally his callings to become a police officer and marry Lisa, his “soul mate.” Together, they build a family and a rich life of community service, from Glory Kids, the church organization Randy launches (and Lisa assists with whether she wants to or not!) to help inner-city kids and families, to the volunteer SWAT efforts he dutifully signs on for. The hostage situation that kills him, which involves a mentally unstable man with a gun, is one such mission. The last quarter of the book describes the aftermath of his death, beginning with the planning of an internationally televised 10,000-person funeral. As Lisa explains to her heartbroken children: “People love your father because he was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.” This moving, well-written biography is as much a love story as it is an homage to Randy’s remarkable goodwill. Simmons describes their relationship with a lot of lightness and humor, adeptly developing the marriage itself as a character that we grow to love and that we miss when Randy’s gone. (Says Randy: “When was the last time y’all been to church?” Lisa replies: “Okay, Moses, you gonna lead the way?”) Understandably, Simmons does not criticize Randy or show him as anything but heroic. It’s only when Lisa is excluded from the police investigation surrounding the unsavory circumstances of Randy’s death that we see another, more nuanced dimension to the story; even then, a potentially gripping plotline seems stifled by Lisa’s loyalty to Randy, who would not have wanted the name of the LAPD tarnished. Nonetheless, it’s that same loyalty that lends real charm and depth to this intimate portrait of Randy Simmons, as well as of the LAPD as a whole, here given a warm, nuanced complexity and a representation rarely seen in the news.

An affectionate final word on an inspiring man comes from his devoted wife.

Pub Date: July 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475937060

Page Count: 342

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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