Casey Cep’s Furious Hours (2019)

Furious Hours

Harper Lee is famous for her beloved classic To Kill A Mockingbird-just last year it won The Great American Read and was so universally popular that it always led the public’s voting for favorite book by a wide margin for the entire duration of the vote.

However, Lee is perhaps just as famous for the fact that To Kill A Mockingbird is her only book. Sure, publishers released her Go Set a Watchman a few years ago, but in truth, that was just the very early draft of To Kill A Mockingbird and not a new book.

That’s not to say that Lee never tried to write another book, however.

According to Casey Cep’s debut Furious Hours, Lee worked for years on a true crime manuscript about a bizarre case of murder and insurance fraud in 1960s/1970s Alabama. . . .

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Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

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Lee Israel has a problem.

At one point in her life, she was a successful author, writing biographies of famous women like the actress Tallulah Bankhead. She was even on the New York Times Bestseller list.

But that was years ago. Now, she can’t find work and is behind on her rent. The only friend she has is her ailing cat, and nobody will return her phone calls. As far as Lee is concerned, the fact she is now living in poverty and unemployed is a disgrace.

Her longtime agent, though, is less confused about why Lee has been snubbed by the literary world–just because she wrote a bestseller doesn’t mean she’s famous, her proposed new book subject is unmarketable, and Lee herself is just thoroughly unpleasant to deal with. Nobody wants to work with her.

Her agent advises her to seek a different line of work. And that’s just what Lee does. She starts forging letters from famous, deceased authors and selling them to collectors and antique dealers. Needless to say, complications ensue.

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Nita Gould’s Remembering Ella (2018)

Remembering Ella

One of the more infamous crimes in our local area is the gruesome 1912 murder of Ella Barham in rural Boone County, which is just next door to us here in Berryville. I must confess, I had never actually heard of the crime until I read this book. Author Nita Gould has family ties to the case–Ella is a cousin, though one who died long before Gould was born. As Gould quickly learned when she started researching the case, local oral tradition of the case is unreliable and contradictory, so she instead turned to the extensive news coverage of the crime and court files to detail the murder of the vivacious eighteen-year-old and the subsequent arrest and trial of one of her neighbors. Thank you to Julie for ordering this book for me!

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Book Buzz: Therapeutic Gardening, Historical Mysteries, and Criminal Adoptions

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For August, we’re looking at a heartwarming tale rooted in a gardening class (pun intended!), a tantalizing new mystery series set in 1910s Calcutta, and the true crime story behind a novel I reviewed earlier this year.

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David Carlson’s The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry

The Hunting Accident

Charlie Rizzo has spent his life thinking his father was blinded in a hunting accident as a child. Not that it has stopped his dad from living his life or enjoying one of his greatest hobbies — studying poetic masterpieces of world literature. It’s an unusual hobby to have in their 1960s working-class Chicago neighborhood, but Charlie never suspects anything out-of-the-ordinary with his dad. That is, until Charlie finds himself in trouble with the law. He then learns that his mild-mannered father was blinded in a botched robbery and did time for it in the Illinois State Penitentiary, where he was cellmates with Nathan Leopold. As in, Nathan Leopold of Leopold and Loeb thrill-killing infamy.

I had this book (a nonfiction graphic novel that combines true crime and poetry appreciation) recommended to me recently by one of my undergraduate English professors. I always enjoyed the books I read in her classes, so her suggestions are ones I always try to follow up on. And I was not disappointed. Thanks so much for the great suggestion, Leslie!

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From Page to Screen: Bonnie and Clyde

Jeff Guinn has rapidly became my favorite nonfiction writer. Late last year, I read his excellent book about the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral and then back in May I read and profiled his most recent release, a superb examination of Jim Jones and Jonestown.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I read another Guinn book, his examination of infamous Depression-era bandits Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Mary-Esther has urged me to read it for years–she’s the one who put Guinn on my reading radar–and thanks again to her for introducing me to such a wonderful writer! (Thanks also to my dad for buying me the book. He couldn’t resist reading it himself before he gave it to me, which is just about the best endorsement of the book I can think of. Thanks, Dad!)

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Sam Quinones’ Dreamland (2015)

Dreamland

Last week, I wrote jokingly about non-professional authors trying their hand at writing a book. This week, we’re looking at an excellent book written by a professional journalist about a very serious (and timely) topic: the opioid crisis.

A few weeks ago, Mary-Esther suggested Sam Quinones’ Dreamland to me. As I suppose is true of many people, I have been following the news about the opioid crisis, but I must confess, that it’s something I knew relatively little about. (Thanks for the wonderful suggestion, Mary Esther!)

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