Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, February 22, 2013


From My Shelf

Tarcherperigee: The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children by Emma Johnson

Tarcherperigee: Elements of Taste: Understanding What We Like and Why by Benjamin Errett

Not Your Typical University Press Book

The University of Chicago Press has just published, of all things, a movie tie-in book: Parker ($12), originally titled Flashfire. It's a reissue of the classic crime novel by Richard Stark (one of many pseudonyms used by Donald Westlake) and coincides with the new film Parker, starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, and the 50th anniversary of the first Parker novel, The Hunter.

The Press's website for the Parker series of 24 novels, www.parkerseries.com, offers Parker's 14 Rules for pulling off a heist; the last one is "For a big enough score, any rule can be broken." There's also a guide to the 499 (!) characters Parker encounters, an infographic detailing Parker's take in each book and the corresponding body count (anywhere from three to 41+).

In Westlake's writings as Richard Stark--some would argue his best creations--one can see the prelude to Lee Child's attention to detail ("an empty glass one-point-seven-five-liter jug of Jim Beam bourbon"), and Robert B. Parker's shorthand cadence:

"If we were hijackers, we'd kill you now."

The only thing to do, Parker thought, and waited.

Carlson said, "But that isn't our style."

Then you're dead, Parker thought, and waited.

In addition to the University of Chicago books, IDW Publishing has three Parker titles in graphic novel form: The Score, The Hunter and The Outfit. The last two have been collected in Parker: The Martini Edition--a $75, 360-page slipcased extravaganza, with a knock-out cover. --Marilyn Dahl


University of California Press: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore


Book Candy

Movies Adapted from Books; Feminine Mystique at 50

In time for the Oscars on Sunday, the Huffington Post puts the spotlight on "famous movies you didn't know were adapted from books."

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To mark the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Flavorwire noted "10 essential feminist texts that everyone should read."

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"How many pages did the first published Russian edition of War and Peace contain?" To celebrate the announcement that a mini-series based on Leo Tolstoy's novel is in development for the BBC, the Guardian offered a War and Peace books quiz.

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"Eleven works of sexology that will blow your mind (with science)" were featured by io9.

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For keyboard aficionados celebrating February as International Typewriter Appreciation Month, Mental Floss offered a "brief history of the typewriter."

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You're a flexible person; your bookshelf should be, too. Check out designer Natascha Harra-Frischkorn's flexible wood bookshelf that "bends to accommodate its contents."


Andrews McMeel Publishing: Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6) by Dana Simpson


The Writer's Life

Jim Gavin: Spare the Metaphor

photo: Fred Schroeder

Several months ago I asked Jim Gavin to take our Book Brahmin questionnaire, and when I read his replies, I immediately bonded with him over his love of basketball great Bill Russell and Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies. Then I read his book of short stories, Middle Men (Simon & Schuster, $22), and knew I wanted to talk to him. It opens with "Play the Man"--smart-aleck Southern California high school basketballers, a hapless coach, adolescent despair and bravado. Gavin had wanted to write this story for a long time, since basketball was a part of his adolescence. It sets the tone for the rest of the stories: sardonic, sometimes sweet, with males seemingly bewildered, or bemused, by life. There is a palpable sense of place, especially since the Del Taco fast food chain appears in every story. I asked Gavin what prompted that. He said he didn't realize he was doing it, until friends who read the stories as they were written started waiting for the Del Taco reference. The place is his "total default setting" for when he wants "home and comfort and something terrible to eat." It's distinctly Southern California, where there is a huge dividing line between Del Taco and Taco Bell patrons--"It's like the Reformation."

In "Elephant Doors," Adam Cullen is a new assistant to Max Lavoy, the star of a Jeopardy-like game show. Lavoy likes to entertain his staff with anecdotes from Belgian history, which is the most benign of his obsessive traits. Gavin used to work for Jeopardy, and while he writes with a heightened comic reality--he calls it Evelyn Waugh-esque--it will make you watch Alex Trebek and wonder: it may not be the Walloons he's an expert on, but it might be something just as odd.

Gavin's stories are perfect complete pictures, with a world summed up in a few lines. In "Bewildered Decisions in Times of Mercantile Terror," ad agencies are awash with "lieutenants in the corduroy mafia," and the luckless Bobby, always looking for the big score, is embarrassed by his appearance: "he wished he had shaved, but all of his roommates' razor blades were dull." The high school in "Play the Man" needs little more description than this: "St. Polycarp had a van that could safely seat nine people, and the next day Coach Boyd used it to drive all thirteen of us to Bishop Osorio High School in Watts." Gavin explains that those bits of compression take a long time. "That may be the best skill you develop as a writer. It's almost negative. You focus on dialogue and get out of scenes fast. I'm not good at metaphor, but these fast lines I rely on. Most of my stories are long, but I feel like my writing is spare."

He's now working on a novel but "the less said about that, the better. I'm in the middle of it. It's a challenge." With short stories, he says, it's feast or famine--nothing for several months, then a story. "You can't get away with that with a novel. It's a daily thing. But it's not total torture." --Marilyn Dahl


Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance (SIBA): Lady Banks' Commonplace Books


Book Review

Fiction

Little Known Facts

by Christine Sneed


Movie stars' lives are so devoid of authenticity, every interaction so infected with false friendships and fawning admiration ("You look great! That was awesome!"), that their relationships with those closest to them must be tainted by that same mendacity. Such is the premise of Little Known Facts, the debut novel by Christine Sneed, a clear-eyed and disturbing assessment of how being the child or lover of a George Clooney-level film star means always wondering if people see you for who you are or are blinded by the reflected glow.

Everyone is turned on and interested by the aging-but-still-magnetic Renn Ivins: women want to sleep with him; men want to know what it's like to sleep with him. Sneed examines the effect of this obsessive interest by adopting the perspectives of various members of his inner circle. Among the effective characterizations: Renn's son, a brooding trust fund slacker who moves to Paris to escape his father's shadow; his daughter, a doctor-in-training whose "good girl" status tarnishes when she pursues a Renn-style affair with an older man; and his son's ex-girlfriend, whom Renn sleeps with because he just can't help himself.

Eventually, Renn's son's attempt at Parisian anonymity collapses when he falls back on the only way he knows to get people's attention and lets slip his lineage. By then, Sneed has convinced us that proximity to celebrity means never being free; it means being trapped in orbit to a blinding star. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic

Discover: A clear-eyed story that paints a disturbing portrait of how those closest to celebrities are forever shadowed.

Bloomsbury, $25, hardcover, 9781608199587

Diversion Publishing: The Skeleton Paints a Picture (Family Skeleton Mystery #4) by Leigh Perry


The Dinner

by Herman Koch, trans. by Sam Garrett


The Dinner, the sixth novel by award-winning Dutch author Herman Koch and already a bestseller in Europe, arrives in the U.S. with an excellent translation and great deal of well-deserved advance praise. A slow burn creeper, this suspenseful and unsettling novel turns a microscope on parenthood, examining the darkness that may lie just below the thin veneer of civilization, social grace and propriety.

The novel begins innocently enough with narrator Paul Lohman and his wife, Claire, preparing to meet his brother, Serge, and sister-in-law Babette for dinner at an upscale restaurant in Amsterdam. Paul is completely devoted to his wife and their teenage son, Michel, but is out of sorts; he hates the pretentiousness of the fancy restaurant experience, he's concerned about Michel and he doesn't care for his brother. Paul appears to be articulate and quite reasonable and at first it is easy to understand his discomfort. But somewhere between the appetizer and the main course, we begin to suspect that Paul may be that most slippery of guides--an unreliable narrator. By the time we discover that the purpose of the dinner is to discuss what to do about the sons of the two couples, perpetrators of a particularly heinous act of violence, our suspicions are confirmed and we've no choice but to stay inside Paul's disturbed and increasingly disturbing mind.

Throughout The Dinner, Koch raises questions about the nature of our bonds and values, personal and societal, yet he wisely leaves what might serve as answers to the reader. What he does do, definitively, is provide an immensely entertaining and absorbing novel that lingers--as tantalizing as the memory of a particularly satisfying meal. --Debra Ginsberg, author

Discover: An unreliable narrator entertains and horrifies throughout a fancy dinner, in an unsettling novel about parenthood and social bonds.

Hogarth, $24, hardcover, 9780770437855

Spiderline/House of Anansi Press:  The Couturier of Milan (Triad Years #3) by Ian Hamilton


The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs

by Nick Trout


The mystery in Nick Trout's cozy The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs isn't "Who did it?" but "Will he do it?" Will Dr. Cyrus Mills, returning to his hometown with a new last name, a suspended license, a shady past and a St.-Bernard–sized load of emotional baggage, pay off the debt on his late father's veterinary practice so he can abandon frigid Vermont for a new life in South Carolina? Or will he embrace his father's legacy and settle in among the history and the snow drifts?

After a 15-year estrangement, Cyrus inherits his father's beloved Eden Falls Bedside Manor, but memories haunt the old offices. The bitter Dr. Mills is not receptive to the welcome from his father's longtime business partner and keeps a suspicious distance from the other townspeople--however, the pets of Eden Falls know a good man when they sniff one. Although Cyrus's specialty was pathology, not hands-on care, he has a knack for diagnosis and a love for the critters who appear in his waiting room.

Charming dog-in-stethoscope photos introduce each chapter, and the citizens of Eden Falls are as quirky as the events that guide Cyrus's path, including the lovely waitress with the heterochromic eyes who catches Cyrus's interest from the get-go. Trout, the author of Tell Me Where It Hurts and other veterinary nonfiction, peppers his first novel with Cyrus's thoughts on obscure medical facts, guiding the young vet's care and enlightening readers. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: A veterinarian's conflicted return to his New England hometown and the various creatures who seek his care.

Hyperion, $14.99, paperback, 9781401310882

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Lilac Lane by Sheryl Woods


Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Afrika Reich

by Guy Saville


Guy Saville's The Afrika Reich begins in 1952--12 years after the war in Western Europe ended with French defeat and a British-German nonaggression pact. Since then, the Third Reich has spread to cover large parts of the globe. The head of Nazi Afrika is Walter Hochburg, a crazed racist notable for his viciousness even by Nazi standards. His Kongo is a scary world of slave labor and the rampant looting of natural resources.

Former mercenary Burton Cole is pulled out of retirement to lead a team to kill Hochburg and protect the few remaining British colonies in Africa. It's supposed to be easy money, and it will enable Cole to support his pregnant girlfriend. But, inevitably perhaps, the mission falls apart, and Cole is forced to flee across thousands of miles of Nazi territory. Desperate to find his way home, Cole will do anything to get to the African coast and kill anyone who gets in his path.

The world of The Afrika Reich is vividly imagined, and horrifyingly plausible, as Saville shows us what the world could have become if the Nazis had won. The Afrika Reich is not for the faint of heart--gruesome and gory, it depicts a continent where racist men have had free reign over the native populace for nearly a decade. Burton Cole must fight not only for his life and those of his comrades, but for the lives of thousands of innocents who will suffer unimaginable torments if he fails. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Africa has become a Nazi stronghold in an alt-history thriller that landed on more than one "best of" list when it was first published in England.

Holt, $28, hardcover, 9780805095937

Biography & Memoir

Living and Dying in Brick City: An E.R. Doctor Returns Home

by Sampson Davis with Lisa Frazier Page


You may recognize Sampson Davis as the co-author of memoirs such as The Pact, in which he, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt chronicle their friendship and their promise to survive the streets of Newark, N.J., finish college and become doctors--despite a lack of resources or father figures. Jenkins is now a dentist who teaches at Columbia University, while Hunt is an internist with positions at Princeton and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Davis became an emergency room doctor and, in Living and Dying in Brick City, he writes about returning to the Newark neighborhood where he grew up to complete his residency and make the transition to a board-certified E.R. physician.

Davis uses the stories of his encounters with patients at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to illustrate his path from street kid to physician. Those same medical stories alert the reader to the health issues and social struggles that plague the inner-city population; chapters cover such topics as gang violence, narcotics dependence, domestic abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, mental illness and obesity. Davis also addresses the problems caused by poor health care access and lack of insurance, and provides additional resources for understanding and assistance throughout the book.

Davis's story is remarkable, and the combination of patient stories and personal recollections in this memoir makes for a powerful reading experience. Hopefully, his book will also be an impetus for change. --Roni K. Devlin, owner, Literary Life Bookstore

Discover: An emergency room physician's memoir calls attention to the medical, social and economic issues plaguing inner-city dwellers.

Spiegel & Grau, $25, hardcover, 9781400069941

An Enlarged Heart: A Personal History

by Cynthia Zarin


Poet and children's author Cynthia Zarin unveils her talents as a memoirist with the lyric essays of An Enlarged Heart. Zarin revels in her past: a tattered mink coat, paintings at the Museum of Modern Art, yellow stockings and all kinds of curtains are just a few of the objects that intermingle with reminiscences of her youth, her children and her sense of place in the world. Like a Mobius strip, Zarin begins in one spot and meanders, only to bring the reader back full circle by the end of the piece. She reminds us of the minutiae that fill our lives and have the capacity to bring us back to a precise moment in time, be it a sight, scent or sound.

Illness, eccentricity and national disaster all play key background roles as Zarin moves from one New York apartment to another or cavorts on the shores of Cape Cod and Sperlonga, Italy. With these narratives, the story is in the details, like the waiter who arrives one hot day with "a small silver cart with tiny wheels, and on the cart was a small Byzantine city of silver domes... underneath were their sandwiches, three slices of bread each, with the crusts cut off, festooned with toothpicks decorated with tiny streamers of green, yellow and red cellophane." Like the two scoops of chocolate ice cream delivered at that luncheon--"pale, faintly crystallized at the edges, in a just melted lake of paler cream"--Zarin's sentimental, poetic prose is best read slowly, so it can be savored. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A pleasurable dip into the objects and memories that make up one woman's past.

Knopf, $24.95, hardcover, 9781400042715

History

The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century

by Paul Collins


The Birth of the West resembles the world it describes: this broad-brushed history by former priest Paul Collins is fascinating, complicated, messy, occasionally confusing and dominated by a fundamentally Catholic worldview.

Collins chronicles both the dissolution of order after Charlemagne's death and the first steps toward its return. He begins by quoting an Irish monk's fears of Viking attacks in the mid-ninth century, ends with an account of the widespread apprehension at the close of the first Christian millennium and offers few peaceful moments in between. Tenth-century Europe was under attack from within and without; Charlemagne's empire collapsed into political chaos as his descendants fought for control over smaller and smaller kingdoms. The Roman Catholic Church was both a unifying force in a troubled world and a political weapon for ambitious princes and warlords, but Viking, Magyar and Saracen invaders were a constant threat to what little stability existed.

Two-thirds of the way through his action-packed account of state-building, backstabbing and political and religious intrigue, Collins makes a thematic and stylistic detour to discuss everyday life in 10th-century Europe. It takes several chapters before he returns to politics and religion, this time focusing on two major figures from the end of the century: Gerbert (the future Pope Sylvester II) and Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. Structural problems aside, though, The Birth of the West is an engaging account of an often overlooked era. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Discover: A former priest teases out the modern world's roots in the medieval past.

PublicAffairs, $29.99, hardcover, 9781610390132

Religion

99 Blessings: An Invitation to Life

by David Steindl-Rast


"Blessing, rightly understood, is the invisible bloodstream pulsating through the universe," Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast writes in the introduction to 99 Blessings. As he makes a habit of giving thanks and writing down his gratitude, a gentle rhythm--almost like a heartbeat--develops.

In a world filled with daily frustrations and fraught with larger tragedies, gratitude and blessing can provide grounding and healing for people of any spiritual persuasion. Brother David does not proselytize; his lyrical prose is infused with whimsy and grace. He gives thanks for gifts as mundane as spoons and forks, as ordinary and wondrous as dragonflies, cows, palm trees or the smell of leather. Several familiar subjects make appearances--hospitality, deep friendships, healing hands, memory--Brother David is equally grateful for archetypes, flea markets, the Internet and "moments when nothing happens."

Admitting that words sometimes fail him, Brother David nevertheless calls attention to both small, daily blessings and larger, anchoring joys (including "all that cannot be expressed in words"). After a blessing for "unfinished business," he leaves his 100th blessing as a open-ended template--a nudge for readers to give thanks for their own gifts. Receiving and acknowledging blessings is only the beginning; as Brother David notes, "Blessings are life-giving only as long as we pass them on."

Full of lucent images and quiet humor, 99 Blessings is an invitation to savor the gifts of everyday life and look for ways to share them with others. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: A whimsical, kaleidoscopic collection of blessings covering everything from archetypes and children's questions to dragonflies and views from train windows.

Image, $14.99, hardcover, 9780385347945

Gardening

Derek Fell's Grow This!

by Derek Fell


Derek Fell's Grow This! is a welcome addition to any gardener's library. As an avid grower, Fell has tested hundreds of seeds and plants and visited countless test gardens across the United States. He compiles his vast knowledge of more than 600 vegetables, annuals, perennials and grasses into one comprehensive bible--listing varieties by name and telling readers which brands to grow. Then he explains why, be it better taste, better color or larger blossom. (In his "be aware" section, Fell gives useful comparisons to other varieties, along with comments on why some plants just don't make his cut.)

Under each "plant profile," he provides the scientific name, growing zones, propagation methods, spacing, pests and diseases and the perfect companion plants, all useful information that can be quickly referenced. He also offers tidbits of history on various plants: lavender's name, Fell tells us, "comes from the Latin lavare meaning 'to wash,' because the Greeks and Romans like to scent their bathwater with the pleasant aromatic blue flowers." Commentary from other growers and seed producers further adds to the enjoyment of reading, and 80 pages of color photographs will inspire daydreams of visually stunning and productive garden plots. Novice and veteran horticulturists will want to have this book on hand when those seed catalogues arrive to ensure they are buying the best of the best. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: A comprehensive analysis of the best garden plants to grow makes a welcome addition to any horticulturist's book shelf.

Rodale, $23.99, paperback, 9781609618278

Children's & Young Adult

Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems

by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Josee Masse


In Marilyn Singer's fun, thoughtful and beautifully written collection, each of her 14 reverso poems spins a familiar fairy tale in a new direction.

Singer introduced the reverso in Mirror Mirror. On one side of the page is a free-verse poem composed of short, simple lines and phrases; the same poem appears on the other side of the page, but with the lines reversed from top to bottom. Meanings alter, tones shift, and often the poem's narrator switches. Together, the two form a single reverso. The results range from hilarious to ominous to poignant. Thumbelina declines the mole's offer of marriage using the exact words he employed to propose; the Pied Piper turns the villagers' insistence that he receive "no pay" into a dire warning; and although the Little Mermaid's reverso begins "For love/ give up your voice./ Don't/ think twice," an inner voice warns her, "Think twice!/ Don't/ give up your voice/ for love."

Singer's poems are evocative and moving even without the clever twist, but the playful puzzle element of the reverso poems will fascinate and delight children and grownups alike. Josée Masse's acrylic paintings visually reflect and bolster the duality contained within each reverso, as in the image that accompanies "Will the Real Princess Please Stand Up?," in which an excessively tall bedpost divides two wannabe-princesses--one sleeping peacefully, one tossing and turning. This versatile collection will appeal to fans of poetry, fairy tales, word puzzles and snarky narrators. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education

Discover: Fun, thoughtful, beautifully written poems that employ a poetic form called a reverso to spin a familiar fairy tale in a new direction.

Dial Books, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 6-up, 9780803737693

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

by Aaron Meshon, illus. by Aaron Meshon


Aaron Meshon, making his picture book debut, sets up his smart, well-illustrated contrast between America's and Japan's embrace of baseball from the first page.

"I love baseball...," says a freckle-faced boy, "in America... and in Japan." In his right hand, he holds a blue baseball jersey with an American flag, and in his left hand, he holds a red jersey with a Japanese flag. As he introduces each new element from Japanese culture, the boy also exhibits the corresponding familiar American counterpart (and Meshon keeps the color coding). "My American pop pop takes me to watch baseball at the stadium," the narrator says, wearing the blue jersey and matching cap against a light blue background on the left-hand page. "My Japanese ji ji takes me to watch yakyu at the dome," the boy says, sporting the red jersey and matching cap, against a light red background. A glossary fashioned as a scoreboard at the back helps children who can't figure out the word from its context.

Other fun facts come to light: while the boy's family drives a blue station wagon to the ballpark in the U.S., he rides a short red bus that "turns into a train" to the baseball game in Japan. The boy describes what fans eat in the ball park, tells us the names for pitches (fastball in Japanese is "sokkyu") and explains scoring differences (in Japan, if one team has not gone ahead by the 12th inning, the game ends in a tie). Rookie Meshon scores a homuran (home run)! --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A picture book home run that introduces youngest children to Japanese culture through the game of baseball.

Atheneum, $15.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 2-6, 9781442441774

Dream Friends

by You Byun


Luxurious, sherbet-colored artwork carries this debut from author-artist You Byun about a dream of friendship come true.

Melody, in blonde pigtails, has "a very special friend... in her dreams": a giant white cat sporting a cherry-red bow tie that matches her jumper and boots. She rides him through the skies, and he surprises her with "lovely things," such as a rocking horse and a hat filled with stars. They play hide-and-seek and watch fireworks together. But when day dawns, he disappears and, as the new girl in the neighborhood, shy Melody makes no friends. One day, at the playground, Melody closes her eyes and dances, imagining the friend from her dreams as her dance partner. "Is that a new game?" asks a brown-haired girl in overalls. Soon the whole playground joins in their dance, and Melody confides in her new friend about her dream friend, and they all play together.

Byun's ink-and-watercolor artwork evokes the look of woodcuts. Textured full-page illustrations and smaller dream-like scenes help differentiate Melody's real world from her fantasy life. All of the images--both actual and imagined--share the same palette. This works well once Melody's dream world spills over into the playground, but up to that point of intersection, children will need to look for the large white feline to see which landscape--real or fantasy--Melody inhabits. Children will welcome Byun's message that Melody does not have to give up one friend for the other. In her dreams, and on the playground, all are welcome. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: A girl hero whose imaginary friend leads her to a real friend, in a sherbet-colored landscape that looks good enough to eat.

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, $16.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 3-up, 9780399257391

Performing Arts

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

by Glenn Frankel


In The Searchers, Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Frankel suggests there are layers to John Ford's classic 1956 film The Searchers that most of its audience won't have noticed.

First, the history: it was a desperate time for the nomadic Comanches in the winter of 1836. Many had died from hunger and disease; they blamed the white settlers. A hunting party raided the Parker family's East Texas ranch, slaughtering five and capturing five, including a nine-year-old "blonde, blue-eyed princess," Cynthia Ann Parker. She was raised by the tribe, married a Comanche chief and had children. Twenty-four years later, in 1860, she was "rescued" by the Rangers. She never saw her children again, and never readjusted to the white world. She died in 1871.

Alan Lemay was a successful author of westerns when he discovered her story; he knew he had to write a novel about it. The Searchers was published in 1954 to much acclaim; film rights were bought by a businessman who hired Merian C. Cooper as his executive producer. Cooper's other business partner was filmmaker John Ford.

To play Ethan Edwards, the novel's protagonist, Ford cast John Wayne against type as a contemptuous, brutal Indian hater. Once the film was written and filmed, Ford cut it down to its essence, weaving "myth and truth into a seamless fabric."

The "relentless ambiguity" of The Searchers "defeats us," Frankel writes. "We honor its ambition and its artistry. But we have no firm sense of what it means nor how truly great and disturbing it is." Similarly, this book is ambitious, and disturbing, and oh so good. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Discover: A superbly written, highly entertaining mixture of American history and popular culture that reveals anew one of our greatest films.

Bloomsbury, $28, hardcover, 9781608191055

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