RIDE THE LIGHTNING

Oklahoma City trial lawyer Mitchell builds on a 1973 uprising at a Sooner state prison in his flawed but bleakly effective first novel. Carriage-trade attorney Eric Williams welcomes his appointment to the pardon and parole board of an unnamed Plains state not only as a form of professional recognition but also as a distraction from painful divorce proceedings. As the vaguely liberal young advocate prepares for his initial hearing at McHenry Penitentiary, the overcrowded institution's inmates are laying careful plans for a breakout. In the meantime, with an election looming, Governor David Horton and his prospective challengers maneuver for political advantage on the issue of prison reform's high cost. In his official capacity, Eric encounters a host of crafty convicts, more than a few of whom convince him that they're ready to return to the outside world. Warning that most candidates for release will never adjust to civilized society, however, the board's older hands temper the new boy's penchant for clemency. The cynics are proved right when an inner circle of cons ignites a deadly and destructive riot to provide cover for an escape. In the confusion, Eric and fellow civilians are taken hostage. As television cameras focus on the hellish disturbances in the besieged prison's yard, he's led outside the walls through a long-forgotten tunnel behind the subterranean chamber that houses McHenry's electric chair. Eventually, Eric winds up in chains in a backwoods cabin with a band of homicidal fugitives who mean him no good. Then, freed by an unsentimental lawman who understands the criminal mind, the ex- idealist quits his post and lights out for Colorado's mountains to come to terms with the traumatic experience. While Mitchell delivers a full measure of gritty detail on life behind bars, he stumbles with a surfeit of set-piece preachments (on redemption, recidivism, rehabilitation, etc.) and finally veers off course into didactic melodrama at the close.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8061-2917-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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