Archive for October, 2008

David Fuller Talks Back

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Not only did Mr. Fuller send me this wonderful email, I also got a chance to meet him at the recent Southern Festival of the book. The generosity of his spirit shows in his life as well as his writing.

This is what he had to say:

Dear Rikki,

Thank you for your stunning review.  I was truly moved and touched by your
kind and generous words.  As a writer (and you know whereof I speak), you
sit in your office, working away, hoping that someday, someone will get a
chance to read the work and hopefully get it.  You have made that dream come

I don't know if it will be a movie.  I have given exclusive rights to a
producer (a man who was my agent for 12 years, so I trust him), and he has
numerous irons in the fire.  That said, the American Civil War is a
non-starter in Europe and Asia.  Authors who are appreciated for their other
works find their Civil War novels unpurchased and unread.  The movie of
Sweetsmoke would be expensive, and have to make its money back in the US
alone.  That makes it a tough sell.  But you never know.

When I finished the novel, I thought of an entire scenario for a second book
about Cassius, as I didn't want him to go away.  But as time has passed, I
think this is the best place to leave him.  So I currently have no plans for
a second Cassius novel.  I am, however, working on my next novel.  I'd be
able to work faster except for all the publicity that I've been doing.

Thank you again for your review.  I am both humbled and pleased.

Warmest appreciation,

Dave Fuller

The Post-American World

Friday, October 17th, 2008

By Fareed Zakaria

The Short Take:

Afraid of the future? Worried about America’s position in the world? Read this book! Zakaria’s insights and excitement will give you a new confidence and a brighter outlook.  Seriously, even if you never ever read books like this, it’s time to make an exception.


I usually avoid this type of book like the plague. Typically authors of politically minded books have an entrenched and known position – either left or right. You know exactly what to expect. Not with Fareed Zakaria.

Reading his columns in Newsweek led me to try this book. I know he writes clearly, without jargon. Best of all, you really can’t tell who he would pull the lever for in an election (yes, I know levers are passé but I like the phrase).

First of all, don’t be misled by the title. This is no anti-American diatribe. The Post-American World refers to the rise of other nations not the demise of our own. The focus is on how America can maintain its preeminent position by recognizing the growing influence of other nations.

While this book focuses on the relationships between countries – their strengths, potentials, and possible pitfalls – you gain much more valuable information. People pondering financial investments can find inspiration and ideas here. If you want a better overview of international history over the past few centuries, Zakaria gives it to you. Plus, there are plenty of factoids you can use to impress your friends and co-workers.

What sets Zakaria apart and ahead is his straightforward language. You never feel talked down to. The writing has a light touch which carries you along instead of bogging you down. His clarity of expression transforms what could be a daunting read into an eye-opening, delightful exploration.

Want Some Plot?

Obviously there is no plot.  But here are a few lines on what you can expect.

After offering a world overview that includes every military might, economic strength, cultural influences, communication abilities and much more, Zakaria focuses on two rising nations in particular. Both China and India have a whole chapter devoted to them, describing their differences and how those differences influence behavior now and tomorrow.

The rest of the world is not ignored, however. The policies and positions of Great Britain and the United Sate of America through history are compared ad contrasted.   Russia, Brazil, and other countries receive plenty of attention as well.

You also gain a different perspective on war and peace, religious influences, wealth and poverty, and many other influential factors.

This is a hopeful, positive book. But is it not pie in the sky. Zakaria warns of the dangers ahead, but you can tell he believes we will avoid them

You can visit Zakaria’s (rather scanty) website by clicking here.

The Southern Festival of Books, Rick Bragg and Other Wonders

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending The Souther Festival of Books in Nashville, TN. I say “privilege” because this amazing event is free. Literally (and literary) more than 200 authors speak at this event which takes place in the environs of the Tennessee State Legislature.

I won’t make the obvious comment about the difference between the usual posturing and hot air you would find in that place as opposed to the second weekend in October. Oops. I guess I just did.

Ann Patchet, Richard Price, Sherman Alexie, and David Wroblewski were just a few of the very well known writers in attendance — all of them reading, talking, and signing. The only problem is that with such riches, you can only attend one session at a time. That often meant there were as many as 10 other sessions you were passing up.

I made a couple of poor choices. One biographer of an incredibly fascinating revolutionary was so boring his audience was drifting to sleep, despite the most uncomfortable chairs in the world. But some choices were sensational.

I made a point of sitting in on David Fuller’s session since I so recently reviewed his excellent Sweetsmoke. He was completely charming, very informative, and quite respectful of his audience. I regretfully came in late for Mark Winegardner’s talk about writing the sequels to The Godfather, but that was certainly eye opening.

However, I must save top honors for Rick Bragg. I heard him talk around a decade ago and he tore my heart out. He still does that, but he makes you laugh out loud as well. After reading his All Over but the Shouting, I permanently deleted the derogatory three word phrase often used to describe financially deprived Caucasians from my vocabulary. I felt ashamed to have ever used it. Bragg speaks for the rural poor, who are so largely forgotten in America. And he does it with such eloquence and grace you cannot help but be changed. Read him. Enlighten yourself.

And, make plans now to go to the Southern Festival of the Book next year. Bookmark this for updates.

The Thrillers of Steve Berry

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

The Short Take:

Hints to the location of a vanished legend come to light. But more than one party is in a race to capture the prize, no matter what the cost. The resulting thrillers not only keep you immersed from first page to last, they also send you to the Internet to learn more about the historical context of Berry’s novels.


A winning combination of break-neck action and mysteries of the ages make Steve Berry’s thrillers truly enjoyable reads. He one-ups Dan Brown by cutting down on the talkiness; then he amps up the action. The results are must reads for pure escapism.

The secrets of Fatima, the treasure of the Knights Templar, the Amber Room of Imperial Russia — these are just a few of the mysteries Berry sends his protagonists in search of. His heroes not only have to solve riddles and seek out clues around the world, they must contend with the nefarious deeds and traps set by others who seek the same goal but for more sinister reasons.

Yes, it’s a formula. But there’s a book-load of difference between each of Berry’s books. He doesn’t even get around to introducing a continuing hero until his fourth book, The Templar Legacy. But his Cotton Malone, a retired elite operative for the U. S. State Department, is certainly worth the wait. Cotton has since been joined by a circle of enemies and friends. But, no worries, you can pick up Berry’s book in any sequence and not miss a thing.

But you’ll miss plenty if you pass this author by.

I’ll confess right now to loving this genre. Mysteries and thrillers that bring in ancient (or even not so ancient) lost treasures or secrets always intrigue me. But Steve Berry gets it spot on. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next thriller, coming out in December.

Want to learn more about the Steve Berry and his books? Check out his website by clicking here.

Douglas Preston Talks Back

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I have to admit I get a real thrill when an author responds to my review. It’s the groupie in me, I guess. Recently Douglas Preston had this to say about my review of his work, The Monster of Florence. This non-fiction exploration of a serial murderer in Italy actually ensnarled Preston as a suspect.

Here’s what he said:

Dear Rikki,

Thank you for the intelligent and well-written review, and my
apologies for not responding sooner. I’ve been on vacation and away
from my computer.

It certainly was a difficult experience, but at least as a writer I
was able to write about it and thereby exorcise those particular
demons. I greatly appreciate your support.


Want to know more about Douglas Preston and his frequent writing partner Lincoln Child? Click here.


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October 2008