January 14, 2011

December 2010

It was a cold and blustery night, but inside was warm and festive.  Big thanks go to Jane for hosting our event and for cooking up a delicious stew.  It doesn't get any better than that:  good friends, good books and great laughs.

After a few glasses of wine and carrying on like we were the Rockettes, we did manage to take care of business:

The Death of American Virtue - Ken Gormley
The Best American Essays - Christopher Hitchens
Half-Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Books by Janet Evanovich
A Secret Kept - Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
Before I Forget - Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Nobody's Perfect - Donald Westlake
Open - Andre Agassi
Beginner's Luck - Laura Pedersen
Hallam's War - Elizabeth Payne Rosen
The Steig Larsson trilogy (yes, you're going to want to hole up until you're done)
Lit - Mary Karr
The Liar's Club - Mary Karr
Father Beck on ABC network
The Path Between the Seas, Creation of the Panama Canal (research for some of our lucky members *wink wink*) - David McCullough
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Ceres - L. Neil Smith
Kecksies and other Twilight Tales - Marjorie Bowen
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry - Craig Heimbuch
Fatal Error - F. Paul Wilson
Chaos and Beyond - Robert Anton Wilson
The Experience of Insight - Joseph Goldstein
Angels Flight - Michael Connelly
You Had Me at Woof - Julie Klam
Little Chapel on the River - Wendy Bounds
The Ape House - Sara Gruen
Me - Katherine Hepburn
A Highland Christmas Hamish Macbeth mystery - M.C. Beaton

Sharman in Canada is reading Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts.  She says so far so good.

From Dwight:

In the late 60's I was doing some remarkable freelance work for Simon&Schuster, up on the 14th floor of 30 Rockefeller Center. I had my own key and worked nights and weekends typing up final drafts for all kinds of work in progress. Michael Korda was my boss and a delightful and clever man. His new work on Lawrence sounds captivating, doesn't it?

I have the 1st volume of the
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, received it only Saturday.
The current TIME has a terrific review!
Also, the talented LAURA HILLENBRAND (SEABISCUIT) has a new book, UNBROKEN about a runner of Olympic strength who winds up as a p.o.w. in a Japanese prison and survives!

He also reports he's reading the new book on Cleopatra.

From Mary Lou:

Ken Follett, A Place Called Freedom (1995).  This historical romance begins in the coal mines of the Scottish highlands in the mid-1700s.  The hero and his entire village are essentially enslaved for life to the mine owners.  He discovers that Parliament has outlawed this practice and when he informs the village, he is convicted of inciting a riot and deported to the American colonies.  The heroine, the granddaughter of a local landowner, opposed the cruel practices of the mine owners while courted by their son.  The hero and heroine find their way to the same area of southwestern Virginia as the colonists begin the agitation that leads to the American Revolution.  Like Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons and David Baldacci’s Wish You Well, the second half of this novel takes place in colonial Virginia and westward into the Appalachians.

Robertson Davies, The Deptford Trilogy (1983), consisting of Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975).  Davies is a major and respected Canadian author.  His novels are less grotesque than those of his compatriot Howard Norman, but his characters are bizarre nonetheless.  The three main characters all come from Deptford, a fictional town on the Thames River in southwest Ontario.  Fifth Business is narrated by Dunstan Ramsay, an aging and retired bachelor school teacher, reflecting back on his early life in and around Deptford.   Through his eyes, we are introduced to his wealthy and charismatic contemporary Boy Staunton and the 12-years-younger Paul Dempster, son of the local Baptist parson.   In Ramsay’s mind, the events surrounding Paul’s birth precipitate the major crises that ensue throughout the lives of the three men.  This novel ends with Boy’s mysterious death as he was just about to be named to a prestigious political post.  The Manticore is narrated by Boy Staunton’s son David, who has come to Zurich for treatment of psychological disorders reaching their peak at the death of his father.  There he meets the reinvented Paul Dempster, now the magician Magnus Eisengrim.  In World of Wonders, Ramsay, David Staunton and Paul/Magnus are united as guests at a remote Swiss estate, where they come to understand their totally different interpretations of the events of the trilogy.   These novels are no match for the passion of The Forsythe Saga, but they form an intriguing trilogy with vivid (and deluded) characters whose recollections and conversations present their distinct and separate realities.  Eventually we (and they) learn who killed Boy Staunton. 

Having read quite a bit of Canadian literature in the past year, I decided to delve into the Australian literary world.  Here’s what I’ve read so far.

Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874).   This is the classical, famous, historical novel of Australia’s early years as a penal colony.  In it we learn about life in the settlements of Port Arthur, Macquarie Harbour, and Norfolk Island.  The title character, under the alias Rufus Dawes, is transported after he is convicted of murder (wrongly, of course).  His essentially honorable character contrasts sharply with that of the vain, weak, and ambitious naval officer Maurice Frere.  Romantic interest is provided by Sylvia Vickers, introduced to us and the other characters at age of 6 on the prison ship bound for Australia, captained by her father.  Mutiny, shipwreck, betrayal, brutality of both convicts and administrators, and mysteries ensue over a period of some 20 years.  The style is annoyingly pontifical and melodramatic.  As far as I know, the history and geography are accurate.

Colleen McCullough, Morgan’s Run (2000).  This is a considerably more readable and entertaining novel of the early history of the Australian penal colony.  Richard Morgan our hero is of course innocent (he was framed!) of the crime for which he is deported.  The story begins in 1775 in the shipping town of Bristol, England.  Richard’s father owns a restaurant and bar and Richard learns the provisioning trade as well as gun smithing and rum distilling.  After his conviction he spends a year on a prison ship in the Thames while the government tries to figure out what to do with convicts not that the American Revolution has made deportation to the colonies impossible.  Then he spends another year on a slave ship in transit to the new penal colony of New South Wales in the virtually unexplored territory of Australia.  Both on the ships and in the penal settlements, Richard’s abilities as a skilled tradesman bring him favorable attention.  The unfortunate events of Richard’s life that form the plot result from unscrupulous manipulation of his innate honesty and honor.  The injustices of the English legal system and the brutality of the prisons and penal colonies are vividly presented. Eventually, after some 800 pages of trials and tribulations, Richard’s virtue triumphs. 

Colleen McCullough, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet ( 2008).  Jane Austin fans will not enjoy this novel.  Mary is an interesting character who, released from her caregiver role by the death of her mother, astounds and outrages her family by pursuing her independence in a highly unconventional, na├»ve and risky manner.  The other Bennet sisters are virtually caricatures of Austin’s characters and McCullough seems to have a strong dislike for Mr. Darcy.   By the end, however, and partly as a result of Mary’s adventures, the characters attain some portion of the depth achieved by Austin. 

 From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
November 11, 2010

And… just four again. Kim had to cancel at the last moment.
Current readers are:
Frantzie Couch is a retired government contractor from AST.
Susanna Fennema is a retired librarian.
Janie Lytle is a training developer for Northrop Grumman..
Kim McConnell is the city reporter for the Lawton Constitution.
Cynthia Usher works for the Lawton Public Schools as a reading specialist.
We are going to ask Judy Neale and Connie Robertson to join us.

Cynthia talked about the Oklahoma Soulful Stories Program which brings to life the stories of the African-American experience in Oklahoma. Wallace Moore will perform as Henry O.Flipper, who was the first African-American to graduate from West Point. The program will be February 10, 2011, which will be our February meeting.

Cynthia talked about Tulsa’s Reconciliation Park and said that she had read about the dedication in the Wall Street Journal. The Tulsa World website article is at: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20101024_11_A1_ULNSui236476  or you can google for: greenwood statue unveiled in Tulsa. The end of the timeline is:
May 2010 Tower of Reconciliation was installed at the park
Oct. 27, 2010 Dedication of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:00 at McMahon Auditorium: Lawton Fort Sill Cowboy Story Hour – “Telling the Rest of the Story” with Wallace Moore, Tim Tate Nevaquaya on the flute, Debra Coppinger Hill and Kris Forsyth. Same evening at 7:30 at McCutcheon Recital Hall the Composers’ Salon  will hold its third program.

Staking a Claim: Jake Simmons & the Making of an African-American Oil Dynasty by Jonathan Greenburg.

The New Yorkers and The Three Weismans of Westport by Cathleen Schine.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Amish Way and Amish Grace by Donald Kraybill.

Eleven Minutes and Brida by Paulo Coehlo.

My Book House (series): Little Pictures of Japan, Nursery Friends from France, and Tales Told in Holland.

The Last Station (Movie)

Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography by Alexandra Popoff.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager.

Janie is off to read some fairy tales – Swedish? or Polish? or?

Further comment concerning Reconciliation Park: Rilla Askew's Fire in Beulah is an excellent novel about the Tulsa race riots.
  Frantzie then adds:
Thanks Susanna, for the thorough wrap-up.  The story in the Tulsa World on John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park was great.  How nice that he was present at the groundbreaking, before he died in 2009.
Fire in Beulah is a very powerful book.  I believe it also mentions some of the black towns.  Askew is spot-on in her descriptions of Tulsa and Greenwood, both the physical descriptions and the general atmosphere.  I was raised in Tulsa and, even though three decades or so had passed since the riot, not much had changed.  I could see in my mind's eye the oilmen's homes, and the downtown streets and buildings, and even the Greenwood neighborhood just to the north of downtown.
Thanks again.  Am so glad to be par of this group.


For a good laugh visit Reasoning with Vampires at http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/  and a grumpy literary agent's blog at http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

Thanks again for a wonderful time and see you next year!  


October 2010

A small party of the book club saw Jeannette Walls the night before, and she was practically with us at the meeting.  We all came away from it with different takes, but I was impressed with how warm and funny she is.  She could have been bitter and angry, right?  Her choice to move on and succeed is a lesson for all of us.  She signed my book, Life is an Adventure!  

Now on with the show:

Water Stone Heart - Will North
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier
Countdown to Valkyrie - Nigel Jones
The Earth Will Shake - Robert Anton Wilson
Kecksies and other Twilight Tales - Marjorie Bowen
Visit Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org and turn your cellphone into an e-reader!  Tom made us swoon by showing us Pride and Prejudice on his.
Fortunate Harbor - Emily Richards
Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver
Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Fiddler in the Subway - Gene Weingarten
The Island - Elin Hilderbrand
Maybe This Time - Jennifer Crusie
Sara's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
The Last Child - John Hart - good suspense thriller if you're looking for one!
What If? - Robert Crowley
Then Karen joined us and was also reading The Fiddler in the Subway.  A coincidence?  I think so!
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Simply from Scratch - Alicia Bessette
The History of Christianity - Paul Johnson
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Corduroy Mansions - Alexander McCall Smith
Baking Cakes in Kigali - Gaile Parkin
Death of American Virtue - Ken Gormley

Pam and Barb couldn't join us but  - another coincidence - they are both reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  Pam reports that reading them while the Wallender series was on PBS has given her the itch to go to Sweden.  Count me in.

For the best in new fiction visit www.thenewcanon.com.  (The New Canon - Ted Gioia reviews books)

Read Tom's blogs!  
Robert Anton Wilson:
Modern classical music:

Jane Austen had a great editor:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130838304    See for yourself.  Her manuscripts are now in a digital archive.

From our sister group in OK: 

Lawton Book Bunch
October 14, 2010
Just four again. May need to expand. But we did spend almost two hours talking – even as we ate.
The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler by Thomas Hager. Think this is the book Cynthia was trying to think of for the title. Was reviewed on C Span.
Tipping Point and What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. This led to a discussion of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics.
Cesar Milan and intuition. And what does the dog see and understand?
Cynthia talked about the Ferris Street Project that would be on Ferris Street from 11th to Sheridan. It would include an art walk. Sounds like a terrific idea. My interpretation is that it would be more community oriented than 2nd – including shops, housing, etc.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. The author holds a PhD. in neuroscience and works for the National Alzheimer’s Assoc. The novel is a first person account of early onset Alzheimer’s. Interesting, informative, and sad.
Separate from the World: An Ohio Amish Mystery by P.L. Gaus. The background is a place very much like Wooster, Ohio with a college named Millersburg College. There is a bell tower, and oak grove, etc. Good mystery which will lead to further reading.
Beowulf and The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo This version of Beowulf is very good if you want to skip Middle English and read a narrative. Plus the art work is lovely. Morpurgo is a YA author with many books in his bibliography. His War Horse is currently running at the National Theatre in London. In August 2011 the Spielberg movie will be on screen.
Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test by Thomas Wolfe.
Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea.
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Janie is reading some McCarthy and says she can handle the violence because she admires his writing.
Molly Ivans. A discussion of her writing and whether a reporter/journalist should be partial or impartial – the difference in roles between a reporter and a columnist. And also discussion of where we (people in our group) get their news.
Tess Gerritsen’s books and writing.
Ezra Jack Keats’ picture books.
War Horse clips: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/warhorse
 No matter what you think of Jonathan Franzen, if you think about him at all, there are some interesting short observations/statements in this review.

From Mary Lou:

Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons (2006).  Although fictional in both characters and setting, this novel nevertheless travels against a familiar historical background.  Historical persons and events include President Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett and John C. Calhoun; the Cherokee Nation, the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War.  The fictional setting is somewhere in the Carolinas on the western slopes of the Appalachians. The major character is Will Cooper, a clever, literate orphan who at the age of twelve is sent to journey westward alone through the wilderness to the Cherokee Nation, where he is indentured at a trading post.  There he is befriended by Bear, a Cherokee chief who favors the old culture in which the men hunt and the women farm.  Will also meets and falls in love with Clare who is eventually taken west along the Trail of Tears by her father or guardian, the wealthy Featherstone.  The events of Will’s life are presented in the form of memories and reflections back over a period of more than 70 years, spent largely in struggling against the tide of history.  Of equal importance to these events are Will’s thoughts on the nature of “truth” and the texture and meaning of individual life as determined by one’s choices.  The title refers to the divisions of the Cherokee calendar, including Planting Moon, Green Corn Moon, and Hunting Moon.  These are some of the chapter headings and they also are emblematic of the stages in Will’s own life. 

David Baldacci, Wish You Well (2000).  This is another novel set in a remote area of the Appalachians.  Twelve-year-old Lou, her younger brother Oz, and their comatose mother go to live with their great-grandmother in a frontier cabin in southwestern Virginia.  Although the story takes place in the 1940s, the farmhouse has no electricity, running water, or heating and the farming is powered by mules. Great grandmother Louisa Mae is highly respected in her mountain community, where she has lived alone for many years and tended the farm with only the assistance of a young orphaned black man.  There’s an element of mystery, with Lou and Oz’s mother’s condition and the well in the woods where young Oz goes to wish her recovery.  Conflict is represented by the greed and exploitations of the local coal company and the courtroom denouement is reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Howard Norman, The Haunting of L ( 2002).  Norman writes strange novels.  The story of Peter Duvett begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia and soon shifts to Churchill, Manitoba, where Peter accepts a job as assistant to a photographer, Vienna Linn.  He is fascinated by the photographer’s wife Kala, who lectures on “spirit pictures” that allegedly present the ghostly image of a dear (or feared) departed behind the subject of the portrait.  Peter and Kala develop a sexual relationship.  Vienna attempts to murder his wife in a plane crash while he attempts to capture the spirits of the victims on film.  Peter gradually comes to understand the depth of Vienna’s evil.  This is a chilling, grotesque tale.   

Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005).  Set in a remote area of China in the nineteenth century, this novel is presented as the autobiography of one Lily.  As she approaches the age for foot binding, she is paired with another girl as a friend for life, an “old same” named Snow Flower.  They exchange poetic messages on a fan in the secret language of women.  We learn (more than we ever wanted to know) of the tortuous and sometimes fatal custom of foot binding, as well as the ceremonies of match-making, betrothal, marriage, motherhood, midwifery, funerals, widowhood, and the unfortunate role of women in this culture.  Lily narrates her story clearly and without self-pity.

Gwendolyn Bounds, Little Chapel on the River (2005).   Thanks to Omni Book Club for introducing me to this fascinating book.  The author and her partner are rendered homeless when the nearby Twin Towers collapse on 9/11. Offered a short-term lease, they make their way to the small Hudson River town of Garrison.  The Little Chapel of the title is Guinan’s, the local pub, general store, and commuter train stop.  All the locals gather here and from time to time help keep the pub going.  Eventually the author herself takes her turns behind the bar and becomes inescapably involved in the lives of the proprietors and regulars. She finds it impossible to return to Manhattan when the time comes, and instead purchases a house in the town and writes the story of Guinan’s, the regulars, and the town.  It is a fine exploration of the nature of community.

James Lee Burke, Bitterroot (2001).  In this continuation of Burke’s series featuring defense attorney and Billy Bob Holland of Deaf Smith, Texas. Holland has journeyed to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, where a friend has requested the assistance of this former Texas Ranger.   A parolee has targeted both Billy Bob and his friend for vengeance.  As always, Burke’s descriptions of the Big Sky setting are lyrical and compelling. 

James Lee Burke, The Moon of the Red Ponies (2004).  This is another novel featuring Billy Bob Holland, who has married and relocated to Missoula, where he has opened a law practice.  He is representing Johnny American Horse, a Native American environmental activist accused of murder (wrongfully, of course). 

Clive Cussler, Pacific Vortex (1982).  Fans of Cussler’s oceanographic novels of adventure and intrigue will enjoy this is the first Dirk Pitt novel.  The plot is somewhat less complex than Cussler’s later novels but Pitt is already the familiarly shrewd, unconventional and death-defying escape artist.   

September 2010

Well, The Glass Castle is such an electrifying book that the conversation spilled out into the parking lot!  A complicated life on so many levels, I hope the author Jeannette Walls is seeing a therapist.
Now on with the show:

City of Falling Angels - John Berendt
We didn't talk about it that night but another good book on Venice is A Thousand Days in Venice - Marlena De Blasi
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
Philistines at the Hedgerow - Steven Gaines
The Day the Rabbi Resigned - Harry Kemelman
The Lighthouse - P.D. James
The Lincoln Lawyer - Michael Connelly
The 36-Hour Day - Nancy Mace
The Long Goodbye - Patti Davis
History of Christianity - Paul Johnson
(There are only two emotions:  fear and love)
The Inheritance of Rome - Chris Wickham
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Obama's War - Bob Woodward
A Journey of My Political Life - Tony Blair
The Christ From Death Arisen - Robert Geis
The Ten Things You Can't Say in America - Larry Elder
Let's Take the Long Way Home - Gail Caldwell
Drinking, A Love Story - Caroline Knapp
The above two books led to the discussion of the friendship between Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy
Beachcombers - Nancy Thayer
Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver (the members were polite with what could have been an uncivilized discussion)
A Gate on the Stairs - Lorrie Moore
Jack the Ripper - Patricia Cornwell
Charlotte Bronte
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
Unbound - Dean King
Mount Pleasant - Steve Poizner
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones - Alexander McCall Smith
The movie(s) of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are really good!
The Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwell

From our sister group:

Lawton Book Bunch
September 9, 2010
Again, we were only four and we still spent two hours discussing. There were fewer books.
Cricket: A Little Girl of the Old West by Forrestine C. Hooker. Cynthia is very interested in the history of this area and talked about collecting Forrestine Hooker’s books. She has two copies of this one with the prices at about $30 and $100 – not related to condition.
Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe by Michio Kaku. String theory.
Read My Pins by Madeline Albright. Jewelry and diplomacy.
Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid. Frantzie really enjoys Kinkaid’s writing. She and Susanna are going to read their way through her books.
Russia Against Napoleon by Dominic Lieven. Frantzie’s read in preparation for “War and Peace.”
New York by Edward Rutherford. Kim liked the vast amount of description and the multigenerational approach. Discussion of the gang era and the movie, Streets of New York.
The above also led to discussion of the recent biography Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee and to Rutherford’s Sarum.
Susanna brought copies of the magazine “Bookmarks” and shared a review of The Imperfectionists: A Novel by Tom Rachman. The book deals with an English-language newspaper in Rome. One for the newspaper folks.
Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. Very light read.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. A novel about early on-set Alzheimers.
Cynthia brought a survey of banned books that the AARP magazine had recently published. This led to a discussion of the absurdity of banning books.

Mary Lou was able to join us in person and highly recommended The Red Tent:

Antero Pietila, Not in My Neighborhood (2010). This is a very well researched history of housing discrimination in Baltimore. I lived there for 15 years and knew or knew of many of the individuals discussed in the chapters dealing with the 1960s and later. It explains how Baltimore came to be the City of Neighborhoods and I will never again view that as the benign phrase of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Laura Lippman, In Big Trouble (1999). This is one of the earlier books in a series of detective novels set in Baltimore. The detective is Tess Monaghan and the case in this novel takes her to San Antonio, Texas.
Louisa May Alcott, A Long and Fatal Love Chase (1995; written 1866). Alcott wrote this novel at her editor’s suggestion to make some quick money for her family after returning from a year in Europe. It features many of the places she visited on her trip. It’s a romance novel on the order of Fielding’s protracted rape novel Clarissa. Her editor deemed it too sensational for publication, unfortunately. The current editor acquired the manuscript from a university library in 1994, where it had been mis-catalogued, and obtained permission to edit and publish it. A portion of the royalties go to the Orchard House, the Alcott home in Concord, MA.
Anita Diamant, The Red Tent (1997). This is an excellent historical novel, describing the tribal and pastoral way of life of biblical times. It features Dinah, the only daughter of the Jacob of the book of Genesis. It is principally the story of the lives of the women of the family, Jacob’s four wives (all sisters) as well as Dinah. Dinah learns midwifery from her Aunt Rachel and this skill later saves her life. The women in this legend are sources of love and stability, while the men are victims of testosterone poisoning in various forms of greed, lust, envy, and aggression. Nevertheless the characters are powerfully and convincingly drawn, escaping stereotypes. Read this book.
James Lee Burke, Half of Paradise (1965). Burke is a novelist whose powerful descriptive passages read as poetry. This is his first novel, set on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. It features three men, strangers to each other, whose lives are eventually linked as they struggle to overcome the destinies to which they were born.
James Lee Burke, Cimarron Rose (1997). This is an early (perhaps the first?) novel in Burke’s series featuring defense attorney Billy Bob Holland of Deaf Smith, Texas. Once again, the hero is a jaded, flawed, credible seeker of truth and justice in a corrupt world. The lyrical descriptions of the setting contrast sharply with scenes of violence. Evil is real in these mystery novels, but so is redemption.
James Lee Burke, Heartwood (1999). This is another novel featuring Billy Bob Holland.
James Lee Burke, White Doves at Morning (2002). This civil war novel focuses on two friends who join the 18th Louisiana regiment of the Confederate Army. Two beautiful women are also featured, a Yankee Quaker abolitionist and the slave daughter of a local plantation owner. The novel explores the nature of courage. Burke’s style and characterizations are well suited to the story of this most painful American epoch.

From Dwight:

Hi!  I haven't heard much about bruhaha in Cleveland literary circles but we are aghast at the closing of the Port Charlotte (FL) library due to an invasion of bed bugs.  (Cf.:  bedbugs is now two words according to the NYT.)  We all shake the binders and covers and I must watch the cracker crumbs, too.   Flying termites usually infest desk drawers in season, devouring all the glue on postage stamps and envelopes.  (Seems all creatures have a drug of choice!)
Meanwhile, I look forward each month to the goings-on with your book club!  So much enthusiasm, so catholic in the reads.St Mary Windau would be pleased.
I finally got around to the sequel to Presumed Innocent - INNOCENT - Scott Turow .  Stephen King said this book is the dedicated fiction-reader's version of El Dorado.
Thanks to the NYT Book Review I picked up SECRET HISTORIAN, the life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade - by Justin Spring.
I would be interested to know how many of the members are reading e-books, subscribe to the NY Review of Books, the NYT Book Review, the Kenyon Review, all of which whet our appetites to no end.

From Sharman who's getting her first pair of glasses  ;P   :

I'm reading Vinegar Hill now and next is Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts (same author as Where the Heart Is) ... I think.  

This is Banned Books Week.  Celebrate by reading one of them:  http://bannedbooksweek.org/index.html