Book reviews by Larry Cox
‘The Red Squad’
By E.M. Broner (Pantheon, $24)
Anka Pappas, a professor at an Ohio university, is startled when an envelope containing a confidential file that was kept on her during the 1960s by the Red Squad is tossed on her front porch. She wonders who sent the file to her and why. This profoundly crafted story involves Anka, a group of instructors, a spy, and the separate trails their lives have taken.
By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central Publishing, $26.99)
The popular characters Pendergast and D’Agosta are tapped once again when William Smithback, a New York Times reporter, and his wife, Nora, a Museum of Natural History archaeologist, are attacked in their apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Eyewitnesses claim and a security camera shows that the assailant was a strange, sinister neighbor, a man who by all reports had died two weeks before. This tale of magic, cults and sorcery will keep readers entertained to the last page.
By Glen David Gold (Knopf, $26.95)
This uneven story set in 1916 features Charlie Chaplin at its center. The narrative is a mix of real characters including Mary Pickford, Doug Fairbanks and Adolph Zukor, and a doomed expedition staged against the Bolsheviks. Swept up in the events is Chaplin, who faces such complications as studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, perhaps, most frightening of all, his mother.
By Eric Bogosian (Simon & Schuster, $25)
The third novel by the author of “Talk Radio” is a meditative and lacerating portrait of a writer as he morphs from callow young man to aging literary lion. Partly autobiographical, this double narrative slyly moves back and forth between New York’s underground arts scene of the 1970s and ’80s to the present. While recovering from surgery in his Connecticut country home, Richard Morris finds a cache of old journals and rediscovers the voice of his younger self. Intriguing characters, memorable dialogue and a well-crafted story bring into sharp focus the underbelly of the American Dream.
‘The Secret Speech’
By Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99)
In his second novel, Smith, author of “Child 44,” sets his story against the turmoil and upheaval of the post-Stalinist Soviet Union. Leo Demidov, a former member of the state security force, struggles to build a new life with his wife and their adopted daughters. As the Soviet Union begins to fracture, the dark legacy of Leo’s past career resurfaces to threaten both him and his family.
‘Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization’
By Jeff Rubin (Random House, $26)
The chief economist at CIBC World Markets for almost two decades and one of the first to accurately predict soaring oil prices in 2000, is one of the country’s leading energy experts. His new book maps out a plan of how we can benefit – politically, personally and economically – from a future that might in its physical limits resemble the distant past. He builds a convincing case that the American economy can be made stronger if we work to forge “green” alliances between labor and management that are good not just for business but also the very air we breathe.
‘The Center of the Universe: A Memoir’
By Nancy Bachrach (Knopf, $24.95)
When Bachrach’s father is killed in an accident aboard his cabin cruiser, she leaves Paris for the family home in Providence, R.I. Her mother, Lola, is on a ventilator and near death. As Nancy rearranges her life, she rediscovers her brother, Ben, a surgeon who was born with three thumbs, and Helen, the “wild child” and now an “abnormal psychologist.” This memoir is a fascinating blend of dark humor, stark reality and crisp writing.
‘WWII Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West’
By Laurence Rees (Pantheon, $35)
This gripping new history of World War II by an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker provides documentation of the little-known secret deals that were struck that helped make the war possible. These deals, which involved Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, will change not only the way we think about the war but also the relationships that existed between the Allied powers. Drawing on archives in the East and testimony from nearly 100 separate witnesses, Rees presents a new and disturbing history of the war, raising such questions as: Was it necessary for the British and Americans to surrender so much to Stalin at Yalta? Did the British behave honorably toward the wartime Poles? And were Churchill and Roosevelt as friendly as legend would have us believe?
‘The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela’
By Brian A. Nelson (Nation Books, $26.95)
Nelson, who has lived in Venezuela and studied its culture and history extensively as a Fulbright scholar, presents a balanced account about the coup that attempted to topple Chavez during the spring of 2002. As an estimated 1 million citizens marched on the presidential palace demanding the resignation of the democratically elected President Hugo Chavez, a bloody confrontation ensued and within the subsequent 72 hours the country would go through three presidents. What exactly happened during this turbulent period is revealed in depth and through multiple perspectives in this meticulously researched and masterfully written new book.
‘Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits’
By Barney Hoskyns (Broadway Books, $29.95)
As a fiercely private, enigmatic, talented and mischievous man, Waits is the perfect candidate for a biography. Part carnival barker, part beatnik poet, part avant-garde rabble- rouser and part crooner, Waits began his musical career during the 1970s in Los Angeles. Hoskyns, a British music critic who has written extensively for such publications as The Times, The Guardian, and The Observer, gained unprecedented access to the closest people in Wait’s world. The result is a book that peels away many of the myths as it serves up one of the most nuanced and completed portraits of this remarkable one-of-a-kind artist.
‘Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon’
By Michael Collins (St. Martin’s Press, $24.95)
Even though Collins enjoyed his work breaking concrete and throwing rocks for a construction company, he knew that there was more to life than crushing rocks and drinking beer. In his first memoir, “Hot Lights, Cold Steel,” Collins recounted his 4-year surgical residency at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. In his new book, he takes readers back to his early days as a Chicago construction worker and how he reached his soul-searching decision to leave that life and become a doctor. This is an extraordinary book of how one man went from construction worker to medical doctor by hard work, determination and beating the odds.
‘Easy Company Soldier’
By Sgt. Don Malarkey with Bob Welch (St. Martin’s Press, $14.95)
Malarkey was drafted in 1942 and two years later he and his fellow paratroopers provided ground cover for the largest amphibious military attack in history, the Normandy Invasion. In this dramatic account of the bloody battles and dangerous rescue missions he took part in, he paints memorable portraits of the men he trained and fought beside. The Easy Company soldiers were featured in both the “Band of Brothers” book and the HBO miniseries.
‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book’
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and David Tabatsky (CSS Books, $14.95)
When Elizabeth Bayer, a vibrant Tucson resident, was diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer, she was determined to fight it. Even though she would eventually lose the battle, her determination and courageous fight are an inspiration to others. In this memoir, her cancer diagnosis, treatment, remission and return are documented along with many of the valuable lessons she learned along the way. In addition to Bayer’s story, there are other real-life experiences that can help others embrace life with cancer as Elizabeth did.
‘Up Till Now: The Autobiography of William Shatner’
With David Fisher (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.95)
One of the real pleasures of this autobiography is its unexpected wit. After almost 60 years as an actor, musician, producer, director and celebrity pitchman, Shatner has stories to tell. Even though he was emerging as an important Broadway actor during the 1950s, it was his role as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek” that brought him lasting fame. Written with all of the kicked-back style of a personal visit, this is a show business tale that is fun, entertaining and out of this world.