Friday, November 17, 2023

 Dear Great Book Guru, My family is having our annual Thanksgiving gathering - about 50 of us get together the Sunday before the big day. It’s lots of fun and someone always asks, “what have you read lately?”  I’d love to have a great book to recommend - any suggestions? Thankful Reader

Dear Thankful Reader, A few months ago, I reviewed Colson Whitehead’s HARLEM SHUTTLE – the first novel in a projected trilogy.  Recently I read CROOK MANIFESTO - second in the series. Ray Carney - furniture store owner/small time criminal - remains the hero of the novel but now we have moved from the 1960’s to the turbulent 1970’s.  Divided into three separate novella-like tales, the CROOK MANIFESTO tells a compelling tale of political corruption on many levels. New York City and Harlem, in particular, is ablaze with fiery destruction. Carney vows to leave his petty crime career behind as he becomes an established business and family man, but he is brought back into the fray as he tries to get Jackson 5 tickets for his teenage daughter.  Characters we met in his earlier novel reappear - older but many still deeply involved in arson, safecracking, and robbery. The elite Dumas Club – a social bastion for Harlem’s elite businessmen and politicians - that had earlier rejected Carney - now begrudgingly accepts him. His business is flourishing, and his wife’s travel agency attracts an array of colorful and affluent clients. All is going well but the neighborhood is still awash with corporate and local crime.  Will Carney and his city be able to survive and prosper? The novel beautifully captures the energy and fears of the times - highly recommended!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

 Dear Great Book Guru, I was at the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Progressive Dinner last week and we had such a great time.  We started out at one house for appetizers with about twenty-five people and then we moved on to dinner with eight people. Afterwards, we went to dessert at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club with all the participants, about one hundred forty.  While at dessert someone mentioned a favorite series of mysteries set in Ireland in the 1920’s.  Does it sound familiar?  A Delighted Diner

Dear Delighted Diner, Cora Harrison writes Irish historical mysteries, and my favorite is the Mother Aquinas series. Set in Cork, Ireland in the years immediately following the Irish war for independence, these books are a fascinating look into a world filled with violence, passion, and humor.   Mother Aquinas is the head of a convent school and the characters that inhabit her world are the children and their families, the nuns, the local police officers, and the rebel forces. In the first of the ten-book series, A SHAMEFUL MURDER, we meet the cast of recurring characters: Mother Aquinas; Carolyn, her wealthy cousin who represents the Cork elite; Patrick Cashman, a graduate of the school who is now a police inspector; Eileen Sheehy, another former student who is part of the rebel faction; and Dr. Scher, a friend and local physician. While there is usually a murder or two in each of the books, the main attraction is the gentle humor and detailed look into a locale and time, foreign but fascinating to many of us. A highly recommended piece of historical fiction!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

 Dear Great Book Guru, I have read lots about a movie released recently: KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, apparently based on a book you recommended a few years ago. I was wondering if you have seen the movie and – if so- how would you compare it to the book .  Book to Movie Fan

Dear Book to Movie Fan,  A group of friends and I went to Martin Scorsese’s production of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON’S  opening recently.  As you mentioned, I recommended David Grann’s book KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON  when it came out in 2017 and I am  equally as enthusiastic about the movie. Scorsese changes the emphasis somewhat from the politics of the times – the creation of the FBI and the rise in power of J. Edgar Hoover – to a more nuanced love story between Molly an Osage woman and Ernest nephew of a local white landowner, but the basic story remains horrifyingly the same.  In the early 1920’s, oil was discovered on land owned by the Osage people making them the wealthiest people in the world.  In short time, a surprising numbers of death of the Osage began to occur with the rights to the oil being passed on to non- Osages. Grann estimates that hundreds of murders probably occurred.  The movie covers all this but focuses in particular on the one couple,  and we are left wondering throughout the husband’s true motivation.  News reels from the times are interspersed to show how the Osage story was presented to the nation and we realize in horror how little outrage there was. Book and movie- highly recommended!