A collection of anecdotes in the classic sense: happenings meant to thrill and entertain.




A debut memoir recounts an assortment of personal tales.

Life, as some view it, is just an accumulation of days, each an adventure (and story) of its own. That’s certainly how McFarland presents his life in this episodic book, each chapter concentrating on a day in which something eventful happened: “The Day We Sparked A Riot In Fargo North Dakota”; “The Day We Lost Ten Grand At The Hollywood Sign”; “The Day They Tried To Kill Us In Arkansas.” Four of his tales relate to his time after college working for the Forest Service in the woods of northern Idaho, which included roping a bear to a railroad tie (only to have the animal climb a tree, the tie dangling beneath it) and dragging a cement mixer up the side of a mountain. Later experiences involved the author fishing for sharks in his underwear in the waters off Trinidad, running with the bulls in Pamplona (“What I remember most was the screaming”), taking a “multi-thousand”-mile detour on a road trip with a spider monkey in the car, and hitching a ride on a plane at a snowed-in airfield in North Dakota that nearly crashed as soon as it took off. Perhaps most notably, there was the time that the author was helping to produce a country music TV special in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his wife was supposedly hit on by none other than Johnny Cash. (When McFarland asked her about it, she said, guilelessly, “Who’s Johnny Cash?”) What did the author learn from all this? It’s hard to say. As he writes in his first chapter, “Life is a delightful…storm of random events, most of which are stumbled into, make little sense and teach Life Lessons in the same way one learns from getting hit with a board.” McFarland’s prose is colorful and conversational, filled with sharp details and wonderfully evocative asides: “My bunk mates were an eclectic bunch…among others, a Nez Perce kid who swore he was related to Chief Joseph (related or not, he had both a lazy grin and a cousin scarred from hairline to chin who staggered in one night, produced a rifle and announced he was going to kill us all).” These are stories for a hotel bar or around the campfire, barely altered from the oral format in which they undoubtedly originally existed. Some pieces work better than others, and these tend to be those from the author’s younger days traveling across the American West in search of work, love, or good times. As with all big fish tales, there’s a certain amount of exaggeration and self-mythologizing. McFarland and his companions often come across as a bit larger-than-life, and there is more than a little self-satisfaction discernible in the author’s tone. But these elements are inherent to the genre, and the right readers (perhaps of a certain generation) should thoroughly enjoy these feats of boldness, chaos, wit, and luck.

A collection of anecdotes in the classic sense: happenings meant to thrill and entertain.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-124-6

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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