Archive for March, 2010

The Kept Man

March 17, 2010

The Kept Man

Author: Jami Attenberg

Title: The Kept Man

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages:294

Geographical Setting: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.

Time Period: Present day (approximately 2007)

Series (If applicable): None

Plot Summary: Jarvis Miller’s husband is a moderately famous painter who has been in a coma for the last six years. Jarvis is devoted to Martin’s care and maintaining his artistic legacy but otherwise floats through her days, wandering through her Brooklyn neighborhood in a haze of depression. When Jarvis befriends a group of men, all similarly idle with powerful wives who provide for them financially, she begins to emerge from her isolation. As Jarvis reengages with the world she stumbles onto her husband’s secret life and artwork, kept from her by her husband’s best friend. Jarvis is forced to reassess her past relationship with her husband and make the difficult decisions that will force her to move forward in her life.

Subject Headings: Marriage, Infidelity, Betrayal, Grief, Modern Art, Painting, Euthanasia, Coma Patients, Brooklyn,

Appeal: Closely observed, introspective, eccentric, detailed setting, urban, bittersweet, emotionally-charged, contemplative, accessible, conversational.

3 terms that best describe this book: Character Centered, Urban, Engaging.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The American Painter Emma Dial: a novel by Samantha Peele. A debut novel from the former assistant to artist Jeff Koons, this book focuses on the working and romantic relationship between a painter and his assistant. Through a relationship with another artist, Emma manages to break away from her mentor and lover and reignites her own career in the art world.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. A private detective with tourette’s syndrome solves searches for his boss’s killer in this mystery novel. The borough of Brooklyn is so clearly realized that it becomes almost as much a character in the novel as the protagonist.

The Women by T.C. Boyle. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s many marriages and affairs with women are explored in this fictionalized version of his personal and working life. An interesting look into the personal life of one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated artists.

Three Relevant Nonfiction Books

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson. This book looks at the contemporary art world through the lens of economics. The author examines the interconnected worlds of art dealers, auction houses, art galleries and museums to see how the art world has created an environment that can support works such as Damien Hirst’s titular shark.

The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up: A True Story by Rich Blake. Blake recounts the story of a firefighter who spent more than ten years in a vegetative state to awake from his coma and reconnect with friends and family for a short time before relapsing.

The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and John B. Manbeck. This book looks at the history of the borough including brief histories of each of the ninety neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is profiled in a brief essay and maps are included to familiarize readers with the monuments and boundaries of the neighborhoods.


March 17, 2010

Author:  James W. Fuerst

Title:  Huge

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  304

Geographical Setting:  Suburban New Jersey

Time Period:  1980s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Eugene “Huge” Smalls, a twelve-year-old growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s, and his stuffed turtle sidekick take on a case involving graffiti tagging at his beloved grandmother’s retirement home.  Huge, schooled by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, becomes a hard-boiled detective determined to solve the mystery.  After all, his grandmother already paid him $10.  Unfortunately, the socially awkward Huge misreads clues and misinterprets motives, leaving him embarrassed and frustrated.  Despite his shortcomings as a hard-boiled detective, Huge also undertakes more personal – and important – cases: those involving maturity, responsibility, friendship and family.

Subject Headings:

New Jersey – Fiction

Mystery and detective stories

Interpersonal relations – Fiction

Family life – New Jersey – Fiction

Appeal: detailed, dramatic, quirky, character-centered, domestic, family-centered, flashbacks, literary references, resolved ending, detailed setting, small-town, humorous, introspective

3 terms that best describe this book: nostalgic, hard-boiled narrative, coming-of-age

Similar Authors and Works:


The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption by Bob Ingle (details the corruption that New Jersey has seen over the last thirty years, deals with New Jersey politics, government and business; might appeal to those interested in New Jersey-centered reads)

Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Mark Moran (the New Jersey installment of a travel series dedicated to “strange travels”; appeals to both New Jersey fans and readers enjoying Fuerst’s quirky mystery)

1980s: Decades of the 20th Century by Nick Yapp (a collection of photographs detailing art, politics, war, and American society of the 80s; appeals to fans of Fuerst’s nostalgic descriptions of American life in the 1908s)


How to Sell by Clancy Martin (a coming-of-age novel involving deception in the jewelry industry; appeals to readers favoring detailed, honest, and introspective first person narration like Fuerst’s)

Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman (a Jersey-shore coming-of-age YA novel involving teenage sisters; may appeal to readers who enjoy smart and witty young narrators similar to Huge, also includes detailed New Jersey setting)

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork (a YA novel focusing on a teenager with an Asperger-like condition who unravels a mystery involving his father’s law firm; much like Huge, Marcelo is a dynamic and sympathetic young character bent on finding out the truth)

Name: Elizabeth

Delusion by Peter Abrahams

March 17, 2010

Title: Delusion

Author: Peter Abrahams

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 304

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Geographical Setting: Belle Ville, Louisiana

Time Period: Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

Nell Jarreau was pregnant when her brilliant geologist fiance was killed while they were on a summer evening walk in their native Louisiana.  Her eyewitness identification of Alvin Dupree as the killer sent him to prison for life.  Soon after the murder, she started dating the lead detective on the case. They married and raised her daughter.  For more than 20 years, they had an idyllic life together.  She ran an art gallery, her husband received frequent promotions and they vacationed often on the Carribbean island of one of their oldest friends.  Until there was a hurricane and new evidence surfaced that freed Alvin Dupree.  While Nell struggles to understand these recent events, her husband, now the police chief, refuses to investigate further.  A local reporter and distant friend begins investigating.  Nell wonders if she made a mistake.  Is this new evidence credible?  Who is telling the truth?  Is the reporter lying to write a sensational story? Although she spent 20 years believing her husband’s character to be completely honest and trustworthy, she begins to question his statements, his inconsistencies and his motivations.  Her husband turns from loving and supportive to angry and short tempered. These cracks in what was once a perfectly smooth veneer shed a new light on his life, his career and his friendships.  An added complication is the change in her college student daughter, once open and chatty, now closed and sullen. Her relationship with her stepfather is deteriorating and she’s becoming increasingly curious about her birth father’s life. The plot thickens, new clues surface, new motivations are uncovered and the twists and turns continued.  The setting is well described, in Louisiana and the Caribbean.

Subject Headings: Murderers, former convicts, reporters, police, witnesses, judicial error, betrayal, loyalty, belief and doubt, innocence (law), psychological suspense, suspense stories.

Appeal Terms: fast-paced, compelling, engaging, lifelike, realistic, well-developed, contemporary, details of Carribean and Louisiana, suspenseful, colorful, conversational, descriptive, smart, well-crafted, well-researched, character-centered, complex, layered, plot-centered, plot twists, investigative, layered, familiar, earnest, suspenseful.

Three terms that best describe this book: fast-paced, well-developed, plot twists.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Before I Sleep by Rachel Lee captures the story of a prosecutor who wonders if the man she helped send to Death Row could be innocent. Reigniting a romance with the detective who helped investigate the case raises the romance factor.

Cradle and All by Zachary Alan Fox is a thriller that create a nightmare for a new mother.  Mysterious happenings cause her to question her own perceptions and ultimately discover a web of lies that her husband spun.

While I Was Gone by Sue Miller is a novel with many of the same themes as Delusion. There is a satisfying life that’s been recreated after a terrible crime, secrets from the past and doubts about who to trust.

Just One Look by Harlan Coben is a story centered around a longstanding happy marriage that becomes unraveled after “just one look” at an old photo.

The Last Goodbye by H. Michael Frase is filled with murder and mystery after two passengers become deeply entangled in a relationship despite their short history together.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer.  Scheck and Neufeld are the civil rights attorneys who founded The Innocence Project which seeks post-conviction release through DNA issues. Dwyer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News.

Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases by Scott Christianson.  This book follows 42 cases in which an innocent person was convicted.  It was written by an investigative reporter.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the near death of a great American city by Jed Home – chosen because of its coverage of the damage to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Furnace of creation, cradle of destruction: a journey to the birthplace of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis by Roy Chester.  This book is written for the non-scientist and explains how the surface of the earth is related to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.


March 17, 2010

Author:  Belinda Bauer

Title:  Blacklands

Genre:  Psychological Suspense

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Shipcott, Somerset, England

Time Period:  21st century

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Blacklands, Belinda Bauer’s first novel, is the story of a small boy and his desire to heal his broken family by locating the body of his long-murdered boy-uncle Billy.  Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb believes that once he uncovers Billy’s body from nearby Exmoore, his Nan will stop her eighteen-year wait for her son to come home.  Desperate, Steven begins a correspondence with Billy’s likely murderer, convicted child-killer Arnold Avery, and asks for help in finding the body.  Intrigued by his new pen pal, Avery begins to relive his heinous crimes through Steven’s mission.  The game Steven plays with the child killer turns dangerously real as he unwittingly gives Avery’s life a chilling purpose.

Subject Headings:

Boys –England –Fiction.

Missing persons –England –Fiction.

Murder –Investigation –England –Fiction.

Serial murderers –Fiction.

Exmoor (England) –Fiction.

Appeal: compelling, deliberate, engrossing, closely observed characters, multiple points of view, vivid characters, character centered, domestic, contemporary, stark, chilling, foreboding, suspenseful, descriptive

3 terms that best describe this book: chilling, disturbing, psychological

Similar Authors and Works:


1.  Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America by Paula S. Fass (a study focusing on the American public’s reaction to kidnapping; appeals to readers interested in child abduction as well as profiles of real life kidnappers)

2.  How to Make a Serial Killer: The Twisted Development of Innocent Children into the World’s Most Sadistic Murderers by Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris (an investigation of notorious killers and their lives; for those interested in details of psychological profiling)

3.  The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World’s Most Terrifying Murderers by Harold Schechter (a exhaustive compilation of murderers- some dating back to the 15th century- and their offenses; for those truly interested in the details of serial killers, their minds and their crimes)


1.  The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes (a London family suspects their upstairs lodger is a serial murderer; although it the time period is different than Bauer’s, this might appeals to fans of British murder drama)

2.  Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (an in depth portrayal of an Irish teenager’s path to becoming a murderer; appeals to fans of Bauer’s strong psychological characterization and rich character portraits)

3. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (a truly chilling and disturbing story of a believable killer; appeals to those enjoying suspenseful and detailed prose describing a killer’s sordid aspects of life)

Name: Elizabeth

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

March 17, 2010

Author:  Alan Bradley

Title:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  370

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period:  1950

Series:  Buckshaw Chronicles, Book 1

Plot Summary:  Eleven year old Flavia de Luce’s life revolves around her home chemistry lab and her fascination with studying and creating poisons.  As a motherless child of an emotionally absent father obsessed with stamp collecting and with two older sisters who are so wrapped up in their own interests that they barely acknowledge her existence, Flavia is getting tired of her quiet (and boring) life.  All of that changes the day she discovers a murdered man in the cucumber patch of her family’s garden.  As the police investigate the crime and find clues that appear to tie her father to the crime, Flavia decides to open her own investigation into the crime that happened in her own backyard.  In adventures that take her back to her father’s childhood boarding school, deep into the world of high end stamp collecting, and involved in a theft of royal proportions, Flavia finds more excitement than she had planned.

Subject Headings:  Stamp Collecting, Murder, Poisons, English Country Houses, Boarding Schools

Appeal:  atmospheric, deliberately paced, details of philately (stamp collecting), direct, eccentric, historical details, humorous, intelligent, quirky, resolved ending, rural, suspenseful

3 terms that best describe this book: suspenseful, intellectual, charming

Similar Authors and Works:


Wicked Plants:  The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.  This book focuses on Flavia de Luce’s favorite type of garden plants—the ones that can kill you.  Stewart’s book is an A-Z compendium of plants whose nature has been put to nefarious use to kill, maim, or injure throughout history.

The Error World:  An Affair with Stamps by Simon Garfield.  This memoir chronicles the author’s own obsession with philately while also examining the evolution of stamp collecting.  Where once a common hobby among children, collecting has increasingly become a hobby based on shrewd investment, finding a one-of-a-kind stamp, and obsession.

Upstairs and Downstairs: Life in an English Country House by Edward Hayward.  Flavia de Luce is growing up just as the social structures and affluence that allowed Buckshaw manor to survive are beginning to wane.  This well-illustrated book examines English country houses such as Buckshaw and the power dynamics in English society that allowed them to exist and that ultimately led to their decline.


The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault.  This mystery features two young lexicographers who find clues to an old murder case hidden in the files at the dictionary company where they work.  The clues (presumably left by a former employee) in the citation file lead the main characters on an offbeat adventure to find the killer.

Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (Emma Graham Mysteries #1).  This series also features an adolescent female detective.  Emma Graham works at her family’s resort hotel, where she stumbles upon the mystery of a 40 year old drowning that may not have been an accident after all.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.  Blue Van Meer, the teenage daugher of an emotionally distant academic, finally finds a home to settle into after years of moving around the country.  However, just as she finds a circle of friends just as clever as she is, they start to die mysteriously, leaving Hannah to piece together the truth.

Name: Amanda

Three Bags Full

March 17, 2010

Author: Leonie Swann

Title: Three Bags Full

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 341

Geographical Setting: Glennkill, a fictional village in Ireland

Time Period: Present day (although sheep can’t possibly be expected to pay attention to such little details as time!)

Plot Summary: What’s a sheep to do? With the discovery of their shepherd, George Glenn, murdered, this crafty flock of sheep decides to take the investigation into their own hands (hoofs). Before George’s murder, the sheep lead a quiet, peaceful existence filled with casual grazing and romance stories. After George’s murder, the sheep must overcome their fears of humans to figure out the who’s, what’s, and why’s, because the humans are not equipped to handle this serious matter—they don’t even have the proper sense of smell! Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill and possibly the world, each sheep uses his or her special talents to examine the evidence, observe the suspects, and try to discover the murderer’s identity. This quirky and charming take on the classic whodunit sweeps the reader up into the shady world of the seemingly picturesque Glennkill, as the sheep collect the clues and avert the dangers that still lurk in the shadows. The sheep quickly discover that not every human (or sheep!) is who he or she seems, and nothing is simple in this small village. Told from the perspective of the sheep, the investigation takes many twists and turns as the sheep try to understand George’s death and the human world. An eccentric, intriguing mystery that has a great amount of literary allusions (for example, Miss Maple the sheep is strikingly similar to Miss Marple, a recurring character in Agatha Christie’s crime mystery series), the sheep must see people for who and what they really are to figure out what really happened to George.

Subject Headings: Shepherds; Sheep; Talking animals; Murder investigation; Ireland; Mystery stories, German; German fiction — 21st century

Appeal: eccentric, engaging, multiple points of view, quirky, well-developed characters, plot twists, folksy, investigative, literary references, multiple plot lines, resolved ending, rural setting, small-town, atmospheric, homespun, gentle, witty, playfully philosophical, unpretentious, upbeat, unaffected, colorful

3 terms that best describe this book: gentle mystery, eccentrically fun, surprising plot twists

Similar Authors and Works:


Inside the Animal Mind: A Groundbreaking Exploration of Animal Intelligence by George Page: Wonder what sheep are really thinking? This nonfiction book will help the reader who is interested in how an animal really thinks.

The Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland by Christopher Fitz-Simon: Glennkill is one of the most beautiful (fictional) villages in Ireland. This book will help give the reader a better idea of what exactly an Irish village looks like.

The Lost Pet Chronicles: Adventures of A K-9 Cop Turned Pet Detective by Kathy Albrecht: A perfect read for the reader who wants to learn more about real animals who solve crimes.


Basket Case by Carl Hiassen: For those who enjoy a witty writing style and lighter tone when reading a mystery, Hiassen’s novel provides quick-witted banter with socio-political undertones wrapped up in a murder whodunit.

Funny Bones: 15 New Tales of Murder and Mayhem edited by Joan Hess: Murder with a side of funny, this collection of stories will entice the reader who loves the tongue-in-cheek, humorous tone of Swann’s work.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: Told from the perspective of an autistic boy, this murder mystery provides the same outsider perspective as Swann’s sheep mixed with dark humor.

Name: Jessica Coates


March 17, 2010


Author:  Kurt Vonnegut

Title:  Slaughterhouse-Five

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1963

Number of Pages: 205

Geographical Setting: Dresden, Germany, United States

Time Period: 1940s-1970s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  After being abducted by aliens from planet Tralfamadore, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time.  We follow Billy through various points in his life from his experiences in the war and becoming a POW to married life and his eventual murder.

Subject Headings: World War II, Time Travel, Prisoners of War, UFO Abductions, Alternative Histories, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Appeal: Literary references, historical details, complex, compelling, multiple plot lines, tragic, thought-provoking, detailed, layered, smart, steady-paced

3 terms that best describes this book: Anti-War, Time Travel, Detailed

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945 by Fred Taylor- This book outlines the Dresden bombing and discusses the motivation of allied forces.

Time: A Traveler’s Guide by Clifford A. Pickover- Pickover takes on the difficult task of explaining time travel.  He does so with physics, philosophy, and quotes from Albert Einstein.

Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped By the Nazi’s Final Gamble by Roger Cohen- This book documents the stories of 350 American POWs in World War II.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Rogue Beserker by Fred Saberhagen- Harry Silver’s family has been kidnapped.  He must defeat a rogue beserker machine in a race against time to find them.

Red Inferno, 1945 by Robert Conroy- This book imagines an alternative history of World War II in which the United States invades Berlin per advice from Churchill and Patton.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger- Clare and Henry are married and in love despite the fact that Henry has Chrono-Displacement Disorder and is constantly traveling through time

Name: Shannon

Fahrenheit 451

March 17, 2010

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Title:  Fahrenheit 451

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1953

Number of Pages: 167

Geographical Setting: Future America

Time Period: In the future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Guy Montag is a firefighter. This book is all about how firefighters are the people who start the fires. They burn the home of people who possess books whether they are in them or not. Books are highly dangerous because they make people think. Montag secretly hides the books that he should be burning and the action really starts when people find out what he has done. He must then decide what is worth fighting for and if books truly are that important?

Subject Headings: Book burning, Science fiction, Political fiction, Totalitarianism, Satire, Censorship, State-sponsored terrorism

Appeal: engrossing, intriguing, insightful, complex, literary references, thought-provoking, political, bittersweet, dangerous, nightmare, academic, classic, smart, sophisticated, well-crafted

3 terms that best describes this book: Dystopia, submission, censorship

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction by Rebecca Knuth. It is about preserving our world’s cultural, intellectual and artistic heritage.
  • Television: Technology and Cultural form by Raymond Williams. It is about how television has become a part of everyday society.
  • Television and American Culture by Jason Mittel. It is about how American culture is influenced by television.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It is about a utopian world state in which everyone is provided for and the people are all drugged to make it easier to rule them.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. It is about a future of totalitarianism in which one man attempts to find individuality.
  • Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. It is about a Harlem teenager who joins the service after not getting into college and his attempt to find virtue as he wonders why blacks are given the most dangerous missions in the Vietnam War.

Name: Emily

Chasing the Devil’s Tail

March 17, 2010

Author: David Fulmer

Title: Chasing the Devil’s Tail

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 348

Geographical Setting: New Orleans

Time Period: 1907

Series: Valentin St. Cyr Mysteries

Plot Summary:  The year is 1907.  Someone is killing prostitutes in Storyville, the notorious red light district of New Orleans.  After three women are found dead with black roses left at the scene, Valentin St. Cyr, a Creole private eye, is engaged by Mr. Anderson, “the King of Storyville”, to find the serial murderer.  As the case unfolds, all existing clues point to Buddy Bolden, famous musician and Valentin’s childhood friend.  It’s true that Buddy has been acting erratically lately, but Valentin hesitates to arrest him.  Drugs, women, and fame have changed Buddy and he is no longer the boy Valentin remembers, but could he really be responsible for the string of gruesome murders which have the district in an uproar?  Whether he likes it or not, Valetin St. Cyr will soon find out.

Subject Headings:  Murder; New Orleans, Louisiana; 20th century; Prostitutes ; Voodoo

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate, engrossing, detailed, dramatic, evocative, intriguing, lifelike, realistic, series (characters), vivid, authentic, complex, explicitly violent, layered, mystical, racy, strong language, detailed setting, historical details, chilling, dangerous, gritty, hard-edged, thoughtful, colorful

3 terms that best describe this book:  vivid, layered, gritty

Similar Works/Authors:

New Orleans 1900 to 1920 by Mary Lou Widmer – Ms. Widmer has written a series of books about different eras in New Orleans history.  This volume will give you a feel for the city during the timeframe of Chasing the Devil’s Tail.

Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville by Danny Barker – A series of writings about the creation of jazz, drawn from interviews and conversation.  Learn more about the historical figures and times that were fictionalized in Fulmer’s novel.

The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld by Christine Wiltz – Utilizing the unpublished memoirs of Norma Wallace, Wiltz reconstructs the life of the extremely successful New Orleans madam during the early 1900s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

New Orleans Noir edited by Julie Smith – This collection of stories set in New Orleans both before and after Katrina captures the spirit and the suffering of this diverse city.

Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau by Jewell Rhodes – The original voodoo queen is featured in this novel.  Learn more about the fascinating character that was only mentioned in passing in Fulmer’s novel.

The Jazz Bird by Craig Holden  – Set in the 1920s, this mystery is steeped in jazz and bootlegged liquor and stars the son of William Howard Taft!

Name:  Bethany Bates


March 17, 2010

Finn: A Novel

Author: Jon Clinch

Title: Finn

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 283

Geographical Setting: Mississippi River; Lasseter, IL (Adams County); St. Petersburg, MO; Alton, IL

Time Period: Pre-Civil War

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Pap Finn is a drunk.  Pap Finn is also a murderer, kidnapper and thief.   Jon Clinch offers a realization of Pap Finn from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Finn is his story.   This volatile character is measured by crisscrossing the span of his life to reveal twisted endeavors and tender motives.  Clinch meticulously dovetails Finn into the tapestry of Twain’s enduring yarn while providing something whole and discrete:  a study of a vicious riverman caught is a swirl of misdeeds that conspire to ruin and extinguish him.

Subject Headings: Finn, Huckleberry, father and son, brothers, runaway children, fugitive slaves, women slaves, men—friendship, race relations, boys, paternity, dead, murder, Mississippi River, Missouri, adventure stories—American, coming of age stories

Appeal: character centered, violent, crude, compelling, measured, rhythmic, engrossing, visceral, evocative, graphic, picturesque, raw

Three terms that best describe the book: dark, lyrical, affecting

Similar authors and works:

Was Huck Black?:  Mark Twain and African-American Voices by Shelley Fisher Fishkin examines the genesis of Mark Twain’s iconic character, Huckleberry Finn.

Inspired by Huckleberry Finn, Jonathon Raban satisfies a lifelong dream in the travelogue Old Glory:  A Voyage Down the Mississippi.

Borrow from the Pap Finn diet plan, eat like a bona fide Mississippi riverman with the help of Stan Warren and his The World’s Best Catfish Cookbook.

More father-son dynamics are on display in Cormac McCarthy’s bleak and haunting The Road.

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen brings new perspective to Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy in this single volume re-envisioning of the everglade epic about a sugarcane farmer and alleged murderer that was famously gunned down in the swamps of southwest Florida.  Another portrait of a deadman.

David Boring by Daniel Clowes approaches the everyday tedium of a character with a larger-than-life story.