A beautifully composed, tragic narrative with relevance to today’s morass of chaos and bigotry.



Tickel’s haunting novel, the third installment of his Hymns of Kingdom series, is set in 1915 southern Texas during the time of the Mexican Revolution.

Thomas Asher is a complex man. He is a Texas Ranger past his prime. An injury has left him in constant pain and addicted to laudanum, the narcotic of the day. It relieves his discomfort and eases a mind still struggling with past hurt and grievances. His new assignment, requiring several days on horseback, will challenge him physically and emotionally. The Mexican Revolution has made the Rangers edgy, worried that the fighting will cross the Rio Grande into a state where the white population is a distinct minority. When a petroleum geologist spots Emilio Sanchez, a Mexican, in the desert with a horse and pack mule and casually mentions it to a deputy sheriff at his boardinghouse, he catches the lawman’s interest. That interest leads him to embellish the tale a bit, “unaware, for now, that his desire to impress a man he does not like will result in the death of a man he does not know.” The story makes its way up the chain to Capt. Render Moates of Ranger Company D in Laredo. Moates’ fateful decision to send his Rangers to track down a “contingent of Mexicans” will result in the reckless accidental shooting of Sanchez. Asher makes a life-changing decision and volunteers to stay behind to watch over the slowly dying man. Tickel has added a cosmic overlay to a basic morality play, but his linguistic skills and ability to tell a solid earthbound story should engage even the least spiritually oriented readers. When Asher begins to share his desperately needed laudanum with Sanchez, he transitions from has-been to prime mover in the battle to get justice for Sanchez. Among the cast of secondary characters, several of whom will have to face their own crises of conscience over the debacle, the most important is Beulah, Asher’s wife. Tickel unwinds the backstory of her days as a prostitute with tenderness and a not-so-gentle swipe at society’s hypocrisy.

A beautifully composed, tragic narrative with relevance to today’s morass of chaos and bigotry.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9888900-3-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Ventris & Bywater LLC

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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