Books

About ten years ago Lynne Truss published a book called "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." The book was a smash hit, a best-seller, and ever since then I have wanted to interview her. I thought it would probably never happen. But I never gave up and suddenly I heard that she had a new book out and that she was actually on tour in the US. This was a rare opportunity because her books always come out in the United Kingdom but they don't always find US publishers. And she hardly ever tours the US. I could not pass this chance up.

Steve Berry's novels tend to be complex puzzles. His latest thriller in his Cotton Malone series is based upon Berry's research into the 16th Amendment. Are you familiar with that piece of legislation? Our national income tax system is the direct result of it. For it to have become a law it had to be ratified by a certain of states. So of course that happened, right? This book might plant some doubts in your mind about those long ago ratifications, were they enacted properly? That is merely one thread in this complicated story. The action is fast-paced, violent, and confusing.

Elizabeth Berg's latest novel is a work of historical fiction based upon the life story of the 19th century French novelist George Sand. Sand was one of the best-selling authors of her time. She was a prolific writer and was also the subject of scandal, rumor, and innuendo. In this fictional biography Berg seems to have formed an almost psychic bond with her subject. Sand comes back to life upon these pages. She was driven to do some things that society condemned. She had many love affairs and some of them ended in tragedy.

Once or twice a week I attend a meeting. It takes place in my recliner, usually late a night. I feel compelled to attend. Let's call this meeting to order. Repressing my guilt I open the next book and smile as I say say to myself again: hello, I'm Vick, and I'm a crime fiction junkie.

This past April we observed the 150th anniversary of our first presidential assassination. When John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln that evening at the theater he changed the course of history. Have you ever wondered what might have been different if Lincoln had not been killed that night and been allowed to serve out his second term? Perhaps he might have been re-elected to a third term? We'll never know, right? But TJ Turner has imagined it.

Before I fell in love with books I had to fall in love with language. And what is language? Words, I fell in love with words. The sounds of words. Their meanings. Certain words have incredible potency. Many exquisite sounding words are names. Place names. The names of people and things. Years ago I was interviewing Professor Harold Bloom. This was our second interview and we had established a slight rapport. Bloom has be our most dignified and intellectual cultural critic.

This new guy, Pope Francis, is really starting to shake things up. Unlike some previous popes who I won't mention by name Francis is addressing real issues, things like climate change, economic injustice, and the sexual abuse scandals that have been the long ignored elephants at the Vatican for centuries. Gary Wills is optimistic that Pope Francis will have a very positive impact. Wills is our leading scholar of things Catholic and his prose is direct, pithy, and clear.

George Hodgman was living his life in New York City. Hodgman had been working in publishing for years-he had come a long way from his roots in a small town in Missouri. Then he went back home for his mother's birthday and he stayed. His mother Betty had been fiercely independent for years but on this visit her son had noticed that time was beginning to catch up with her. Although his mother would have probably denied it, she needed her only child to stick around this time, to look out for her. 

This past April marked the 150th anniversary of that great national tragedy, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Harold Holzer is one of our great Lincoln scholars. In this collection Holzer has compiled some essential reading. Here are the graphic accounts of eyewitnesses; people who were at Ford's Theater when Lincoln was shot, a doctor who was there when Lincoln was dying, there's even a diary entry from the assassin John Wilkes Booth. This documentation of a most terrible event makes for some gripping reading.

What is Appalachia? Do you know the answer to that question? The answer might surprise you. Neil Carpathios moved to southern Ohio and was intrigued. He has compiled a collection of poetry and prose with an Appalachian flavor. Listen to this interview and you'll discover the geographic definition of the region and you'll also obtain a feel for the distinctive literary vibes that Appalachia can evoke.

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