A captivating assemblage of New York crime stories but awkwardly delivered.

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STRANGER THAN FICTION

A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY'S MEMOIR

A public defense attorney recalls the most peculiar (and gruesome) of the cases he’s encountered.

After college, debut author Siracusa meandered professionally. He had an aborted stint in the Marines and worked for Brooks Brothers as well for the U.S. Public Health Service as an epidemiologist tracking venereal disease in New York City in the 1960s. (He found plenty.) In 1969, he started evening classes at New York Law School and landed a job as a paralegal at the Legal Aid Society working under the mercurial mentorship of a lawyer who specialized in post-conviction remedies. Eventually licensed to practice law both in Washington, D.C., and New York, he largely worked in the latter and amassed an impressively eventful career brimming with the kinds of cases that demonstrate the chaos of the city in its criminal heyday. The stories are as remarkable as they are macabre. The author defended a racist serial killer dubbed the “Midtown Slasher” by attempting to establish his insanity. In another case, a mortgage lender was kidnapped and tortured by a man to whom he refused a loan, a grizzly act of delusional malice. Many of the stories are achingly sad: A Vietnam veteran—emotionally ravaged by PTSD and traumatized by an abusive childhood—murdered his older brother. The author intelligently reflects not only on the city’s manic dysfunction, but also on the failings of judicial process, a bureaucratic maze run by incompetent factotums and petty tyrants. Despite the often grisly nature of the anecdotes, Siracusa relates them with humor and a wry sense of irony. The author displays a keen eye for the eccentricities of human nature and had a front-row seat to the expression of its vagaries. The prose, however, can be ungainly and stiff: “In an attempt to significantly reduce length of time to relate the story of the defecation dilemma, I will leave my magazines and newspapers in another room as I enter the toilet to tell my story unencumbered by reading materials.”

A captivating assemblage of New York crime stories but awkwardly delivered. 

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-5449-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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