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I'm not a big fan of detective novels in general, but I'm a sucker for the works of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse ever since I bought a 25-cent paperback of the latter's hilarious novel, "Psmith" when I was a kid. Later, I was introduced to detectives like Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, the elegant aristocrat detective who stars in "Murder Must Advertise" and other wonderful novels that I call British drawing-room mysteries. Now I've found a "new" writer in M.C.
Normally I write about two books each week -- one national and one regional. This week I'll mention just one because it straddles both categories and because its author, a Minnesotan, belongs in the ranks of the "nationals," taking his place with authors like William Stafford and X.J. Kennedy. "The Reindeer Camps," by Barton Sutter (BOA Editions, $16) is a breath of fresh air in the poetry world. Sutter, Duluth's famous and first Poet Laureate, is in some ways a traditionalist.
Mark Kurlansky astounded the reading world several years ago when he wrote "Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World." Later he did the same thing with "Salt: A World History." Now he's out with another food book -- or, more specifically a book about a man who tinkered with food and gave his name to an iconic product. When I was a kid, I thought Birdseye was a brand name. Like Green Giant. Or Spam. Then I read in my hometown weekly that the banker's wife had a visitor from out east, an old classmate.
Oh, shucks, thought I. Sara Rath has given up on non-fiction and has taken to penning novels when I received the Spring Green author's "The Waters of Star Lake," by Sara Rath (Terrace Books, $26.95). I remembered one of her earlier books, "About Cows," followed by "The Complete Cow," two wonderful coffee table books about those cud-chewing bovines. Later, she wrote a fine book about H.H.
In one sense, baseball is a game of numbers, numbers involving runs batted in, earned run averages, singles, two-baggers, homers, attendance.
Extra! Extra! Late breaking news from the publishing industry. And it's not good news. In a recent issue of New York magazine reporter Jessica Grose tells the story of the growth of a subgenre of fiction that's beating out all other contenders in the race to sell books. Grose calls the subgenre "smutty books." When it comes to sales, smutty books lead the pack with annual sales of $1.358 billion. Christian and inspirational books, comes in a weak second at $759 million. Lots of people buy mysteries, but its publishers report $682 million, followed by Science Fiction at $559 million.
I was very happy to receive "Walking the Rails," by Ethel Erickson Radner (available at iUniverse.com; barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com, $13.95 paper; $23.95 hardcover; $3.99 e-book). It's always interesting to read a memoir by someone you know because you normally find out that you didn't know as much about the person as you thought. Ethel Radner, nee Erickson, grew up a block from where I spent my youth.
Gary Boelhower, a St. Scholastica theology professor, writes on a variety of topics, his first wife, his daughter's wedding, his gayness, his grandmother "ground down by the hard soil of two failed farms." His poetry is unfailingly concrete and he breathes life into the most mundane of topics.
Ever since I read "The Education of Henry Adams," I've thought of its author, the great-grandson of our second president and grandson of John Quincy Adams, as a sanctimonious little prig. Reading his "St. Michel and Chartres" didn't alter my opinions. I guess I was only partially right. I've finished "Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life," by Natalie Dykstra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) and have come to know Henry and his wife "Clover" in a more complete light.
Back in the 1950s adolescents looking for exciting reading about the facts of life, etc., turned to a series of books by muckraking journalists Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. Books like "Manhattan Confidential," "Chicago Confidential" and even "Midwest Confidential," which exposed all sorts of sin in the nearby Twin Cities and notorious streets like Washington Avenue. These books couldn't hold a candle to a new scholarly book called "Island of Vice," by Richard Zacks (Doubleday, $27.95).