David Lynch : The Man from Another Place By Dennis Lim

David LynchWhen the Twin Peaks revival was announced a few years ago, a veritable cottage industry of Twin Peaks-related books, think pieces, and apparel appeared virtually overnight to cash in on the news.  Missing from this welcome deluge of material was a concise, accessible critical/biographical overview of David Lynch, co-creator of the cult TV show and arguably the reason most folks were excited about the prospects of the new season.

Dennis Lim’s The Man From Another Place successfully fills that void with a breezy, readable introduction to the life and work of David Lynch. Lim does an excellent job incorporating the many projects Lynch has been involved in, including his art work, “industrial symphonies”, songwriting, Transcendental Meditation advocacy, and even his four-panel comic strip The Angriest Dog in the World.

Lim’s book is saved from being a glorified Wikipedia page by the copious amount of interviews he conducted with Lynch and various artistic collaborators, so that someone who has read, say, the 700-page David Lynch biography Beautiful Dark, will still find new insights and information here. The author is also gracious enough to provide interpretations of Lynch’s films for the newly initiated, giving the perplexed a way into the labyrinths of these visionary works (indeed, Lim has me convinced I now “understand” Inland Empire.)

If you’ve heard the name David Lynch and never understood what the fuss is about, this book is an excellent place to start.

(Chris Fox, Central Library)

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

marsh kings daughterJacob Holbrook breaks out of prison and kills two guards doing so.  Helena Pelletier hears this chilling news on the radio as she is driving her younger daughter home.

Jacob Holbrook is her father, a sociopathic recluse who kidnapped her mother at the age of fourteen and took her to a remote cabin hidden in an impenetrable marshland in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Helena was their child, born two years later.

As she grew up, Helena revered her father for his knowledge of the wild, and feared his unpredictable ire.  He would teach her valuable lessons about survival, and then viciously punish her for minor mistakes.

Her mother was not of much support initially to Helena – she had learned early on to keep her feelings hidden.

It is in remembering this brutal childhood that Helena understands the danger Jacob poses to her husband and children, and she is set on intercepting her father before he harms her family.

The Marsh King’s Daughter mixes Helena’s memories of her childhood and eventual escape to her present day dilemma, where Helena has to best her old man at his own game.  The book is a psychological exploration of 1) depravity, 2) the difficulties of adjusting to the modern world, and 3) how one can find solace from things appreciated during a time of suffering.

If you can get through the different time switches and the occasional interjection of excerpts from the fairy tale of the same name, you’ll find a worthy page-turner of exceptional grit and suspense.  Jacob Holbrook gave me some serious shivers.  His ruthlessness reminded me of the character of John Gload in the book The Ploughmen (and yes, it’s worth reading, too!)  I have to admit I had to put the book down from time to time – there are episodes where the author depicts violence without a flinch, so it’s not for the squeamish.

I imagine comparisons with this book will be made to Emma Donoghue’s Room and Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days, if they haven’t already.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

Lawton and Hunter Loggins are brothers in their twenties, one a Navy Seal, the other inriver of kings college.  After their father’s death, they set out on a kayaking trek, navigating the wilds of Georgia’s Altamaha River to a specific place where they intend to empty their dad’s ashes.

As we travel with Lawton and Hunter, two other tales intertwine with their story – that of their father in his earlier days, and that concerning the first French settlers of this area of southeast Georgia.

Hiram Loggins was a harsh man – unlucky with shrimp boats and the law, and in love with the wrong woman.  As the brothers grew up, he raised them hard and tender – hard with the physical abuse, and tender in the ways that he taught them to revere the Altamaha and its swampy terrain.  It is to this river that they fare, to do their unforgiving dad one last favor.

The third strand of the book concerns the settlement of Fort Caroline, begun by the French in 1564.  Varying alliances with natives and clashes with the Spanish ultimately spell doom to the settlement.  The main character here is Jacques Le Moyne, an artist charged with rendering the sights of the new world with his sketches.

Le Moyne was an actual person; facsimiles of his works illustrate the book.   The River of Kings plays on the proposal that Fort Caroline was situated on the Altamaha rather than the St. Johns River; a theory about this came out about three years ago.

The area of the Altamaha in all three storylines is rich with myth, including the accounts of a mysterious aquatic creature that inhabits the lower reaches of the river.  The French hear tales of it from the natives, and Le Moyne is obsessed with seeing the creature, if anything to sketch it.  The monster also plays into Lawton and Hunter’s story – Lawton especially believes that their father was aware of the creature.  Their leg of the book is its own odyssey, a hero’s journey of siblings and their discovery of each other, while keeping sharp eyes on the dangers of the river, should they be river monster or two-legged nemesis.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

killersIf you like to read about history and like true crime books, you’ll probably find this book a fascinating tale.

The time?  The 1920s.  The place?  The Osage Indian lands in Oklahoma.  The situation?  These Indians, after the discovery of oil under their land, were the world’s richest people per capita.

Then Anna Brown, an Osage Indian, disappeared.  Her body showed up in a river; someone had shot her through the head.  This was the first of many deaths among the tribe’s members – from gunshot wounds, from suspicious illnesses, and from an explosion in the home of an Osage couple.  Local investigators were unable to solve these crimes, and some of these investigators also met untimely deaths.

The FBI was rather new at this time.  J. Edgar Hoover, its young director, sent a former Texas Ranger, Tom White, to investigate the matter.  The FBI estimated a total of twenty-four murders, and later estimates are much higher.  White and his team were partially successful in determining the cause of the murders; later investigators, including this book’s author, have made more discoveries.

Grann also wrote The Lost City of Z; I have not read that book but did enjoy seeing the movie version of this true story about exploration in the Amazon region.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

If you read this thriller, I’m warning you – you’ll want to put the rest of your life on holdbehind until you reach the last page!

Grace seems to have the perfect husband and the ideal life.  Most people who visit their home to enjoy her gourmet meals are amazed and jealous.  Grace’s husband, Jack, is movie-star handsome.  As an attorney who represents battered wives, he’s never – ever – lost a case.  Jack is not only accepting of Grace’s beloved younger sister, Millie, who has Down’s syndrome, but is eagerly looking forward to her coming to live with them.  Jack and Grace seem inseparable.

However, behind closed doors, Grace’s life is not what it seems to be.

Behind Closed Doors is the author’s first novel.  I have not yet read her recent thriller, The Breakdown.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

The Vine That Ate The South by J. D. Wilkes

vine that ate the southThere is a mythical part of western Kentucky knotted by rivers where the supernatural reigns supreme.  Angels and monsters lurk here, time forgets itself, and stories tell of a vicious vine of kudzu that has eaten an older couple in their own house.

Our nameless hero, a man-child in his thirties, is a shy and shamed member of his small town.  Fatherless at an early age, he has existed into adulthood without much of a mark in the world.

His friend Carver Canute is a societal outsider like himself, but stranger and crazier, with an Elvis pompadour and bad teeth.  Together, our fabulous duo travel on an epic bicycle ride to find the legendary vine and do battle with the supernatural critters that populate the Deadening, the forest of mystery in which they journey.  Along the way, they encounter torrential rain, rideable dust devils, gun-toting property owners, snakes, and a haunted Masonic temple.   What they intended as a day lark becomes an odyssey of horrors.

Suspend all belief when reading The Vine That Ate The South.  Instead, just dig in and enjoy this hillbilly hero’s journey to the dark side.  The humor is earthy and profane, the imagery that of old-time religion and the natural world, all slammed together into a ghastly, funny conglomeration.  Oh, and the pictures are interesting too.

To see what the author is about, check out J. D. Wilkes’ website here.  He appears to be about as crazy as his book.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


Fateful Mornings by Tom Bouman

Maiden’s Grove Lake in Wild Thyme Township in northeastern Pennsylvania is an oasisfateful mornings for the well-off in an otherwise hilly, hard-bitten place where crimes both petty and strange happen semi-regularly.  Here in this beautiful but harsh place, there is an uneasy truce between poor and rich, meth labs and natural gas interests.  All of this tends to keep Officer Henry Farrell busy enough.  Being a native of the area himself, he well understands the foibles of his neighbors.

When investigating a burglary at a house on the lake, Henry gets involved with one of the suspects, a young man who lives with his girlfriend in a trailer on the edge of property belonging to Andy Swales, a moneyed lawyer about town.  The girlfriend, with a history of drug abuse, has been missing.  The couple have a small child with health issues, but she has long been in foster care.

The missing person case and a purported shooting has Henry digging deeper and farther, crossing the state border into Binghamton and elsewhere, and finding trouble in all the wrong places.  Extended family resentments are revealed, the body count mounts, and bigger menaces come into play beyond the relative calm of Wild Thyme.

As if his job doesn’t provide enough drama, Henry has his own affairs (literally) to sort out, including one he’d love to end, and another that shows strong promises.  He still grieves for his deceased wife, drowns his share of sorrows on a regular basis, and moonlights as a construction worker for his close friend Ed Brennan, with whom Henry plays old-timey fiddle music.

Fateful Mornings moves at a slower pace than most thrillers.  Not to say that there aren’t sudden surprises here – they come with their own grisly quickness – but the nature of the book is that of character development, slow and sure and ultimately worth it.

This one can be read as a standalone, but if you prefer to read things in sequence, start with Dry Bones in the Valley, the first book in the series.

(William Hicks, Information Services)