The Keillor Reader by Garrison Keillor, Viking '14, $27.95, ASIN #0670020583. Several b&w images sprinkled through text.
"When I was twenty and something of a romantic," writes Garrison Keillor in the Introduction to his new book, "I thought about dying young and becoming immortal like Buddy Holly or James Dean or Janis Joplin and people leaving bouquets on my grave and grieving for my enormous complicated talent lost to the world.
"But I didn't have a complicated talent, nor was it enormous. Some people thought I did because I wrote poems and was shy, didn't make eye contact, kept to myself. (Nowadays they'd say 'high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.")
As the grandpa of an autistic child, I recognize the classic traits of the disorder in listening faithfully to Keillor's Prairie Home Companion every Saturday at suppertime. It heartens me to see that an enormously successful person owes much of his success to a fairly common spectrum disorder. Bodes well for you, Toby, I think.
The person who has maintained a top-rated radio show for four decades and has written 19 books has now penned his latest. Even if Dad is only vaguely familiar with Prairie Home Companion, giving him The Keillor Reader is sure to be a Father's Day hit. With dozens of chapters -- each only 5 to 10 pages -- it's great for him to keep on his bedside table and in his generous moments, to lend to Mom.
A peek at the table of contents hints at the book's tone: Bus Children, Truckstop, Faith, Casey at the Bat (a creative takeoff on the iconic poem), Lonesome Shorty, Your Book Saved My Life, Mister; A Speech to the White House Correspondents' Assn. Dinner, Drowning 1954, and My Stroke (I'm Over it).
Garrison Keillor is founder and host of the Writer's Almanac, the editor of the Good Poems collections, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He spends his time between St. Paul and New York City.
The Smoke at Dawn -- A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine Books '14, $28, 495 pages, ASIN #0345527410.
Civil War buffs among us may have already read author Jeff Shaara and his series on that conflict that started with A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder. In his latest, The Smoke at Dawn, the last great push of the Army of the Cumberland sets the stage for a decisive confrontation at Chattanooga that could determine the outcome of the war.
From the dust jacket:
"Summer 1863. The Federal triumph at Vicksburg has secured complete control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy, cementing the reputation of Ulysses S. Grant. Farther east, the Federal army under the command of William Rosecrans captures the crucial rail hub at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans is careless, and while pursuing the Confederates, the Federal forces are routed in north Georgia at Chickamauga Creek.
"Retreating in a panic back to Chattanooga, Rosecrans is pursued by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Penned up, with their supply lines severed, the Federal army seems doomed to the same kind of defeat that plagued the Confederates at Vicksburg. But a disgusted Abraham Lincoln has seen enough of General Rosecrans
"Ulysses Grant is elevated to command of the entire theater of the war, and immediately replaces Rosecrans with General George Thomas. Grant gathers an enormous force, including armies commanded by Joseph Hooker and Grant's friend William T. Sherman. Grant's mission is clear: break the Confederate siege and destroy Bragg's army. Meanwhile Bragg wages war as much with his own subordinates as he does with the Federals, creating dissension and disharmony in the Southern ranks, erasing the Confederate army's superiority at exactly the wrong time."
As momentous as Jeff Shaara's career has been to date, he's just following in his footsteps of his father, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, The Killer Angels. The author was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, N.J., grew up in Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.
Midnight in Europe -- A Novel by Alan Furst '14, Random House '14, 271 pages, ASIN #1400069491.
Historical spy novelist extraordinaire Alan Furst has written 13 novels, which have been translated into 18 languages. His latest, Midnight in Europe, is set in the runup to World War II. From the front cover:
"Paris, 1938. As the shadow of war darkens Europe, democratic forces on the continent struggle against fascism and communism, while in Spain the war has already begun. Alan Furst, whom Vince Flynn has called 'the most talented espionage novelist of our generation,' now gives us a taut, suspenseful, romantic, and richly rendered novel of spies and secret operatives in Paris and New York, in Warsaw and Odessa, on the eve of World War II.
"Cristian Ferrar, a brilliant and handsome Spanish emigre', is a lawyer in the Paris office of a prestigious international law firm. Ferrar is approached by the embassy of the Spanish Republic and asked to help a clandestine agency trying desperately to supply weapons to the Republic's beleaguered army -- an effort that puts his life at risk in the battle against fascism.
"Joining Ferrar in this mission is a group of unlikely men and women: idealists and gangsters, arms traders and aristocrats. From shady Paris nightclubs to whiteshoe New York law firms, from brothels in Istanbul to the dockyards of Poland, Ferrar and his allies battle the secret agents of Hitler and Franco. And what allies they are: there's Max de Lyon, a former arms merchant now hunted by the Gestapo; the Marquesa Maria Cristina, a beautiful aristocrat with a taste for danger; and the Macedonian Stavros who grew up 'fighting Bulgarian bandits. After that, being a gangster was easy.' Then there is Eileen Moore, the American woman Ferrar could never forget."