By Tony Hillerman
Harper Collins, $26
Most readers have a recurrent fantasy: We meet our favorite author. He or she turns out to be so friendly and talkative that we adjourn to a nearby bar for an evening of stories and sage observations.
For anyone addicted to Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, Seldom Disappointed is several evenings’ worth of conver- sation, in which the author talks about growing up on a red-dirt Oklahoma farm, his World War II combat experience, his newspaper years, and New Mexico politics.
In the same smooth, muscular prose as his other 14 novels, he reveals how he came to create the two Navajo reservation cops, the reaction of the Navajos (mainly positive), and what, at age 76, is still on his agenda. —
OUR READ A book that lives up to its title
PRESIDENT NIXON: ALONE IN THE WHITE HOUSE
By Richard Reeves
Simon & Schuster, $28
No other American president has presented voters, allies, enemies, journalists, biographers, and historians with a personality as rich and complex, as dark and tormented, as Richard Nixon.
Using the famous White House tapes and masses of memoranda and other paper generated by an administration nearly narcissistic in its attention to its own record, Reeves, author of the best-selling President Kennedy: Profile of Power, has made a history that is as rich and textured as one of Gore Vidal’s historical novels. As you read, you find yourself thinking this is all pretty clever and inventive — the paranoia and the scheming — and then you recall that it all actually happened.
Watergate, Cambodia, the trip to China — it’s all here with the man at the center, worrying an aide about the location of a pool table in the White House at the same time he plans the invasion of Cambodia. The result? Nixon is more fascinating and quixotic than he has ever been. — G.N.
OUR READ A triumph of journalism and history
A SECOND LIFE: A COLLECTED NONFICTION
By Dan Gerber
Michigan State University Press, $26.95
Dan Gerber is, first of all, a poet whose work is routinely anthologized. But he is also a sportsman or “man of action,” as the clichéd dichotomy would have it. His appetites for both the inner and outer worlds survived a horrifying race-car crash, and he continued to seek out various forms of adventure — sailing, sportfishing, traveling to remote and dangerous places. He even went back to racing briefly.
He was writing poetry all along, but he was also contributing to magazines and writing nonfiction books about the other world, the one he experienced directly. In A Second Life: A Collected Nonfiction, he has assembled all those writings between covers. No other writer has such a feel for the tension between the inner and outer worlds or such a compelling way of making the rest of us feel it. — G.N.
OUR READ Worth any serious reader’s attention
THE GOOD GERMAN
By Joseph Kanon
Henry Holt and Company, $26
In this novel set in the ruins of Berlin, Hitler is dead, a continent and a world have been destroyed, and Jake Geismar, a journalist, has come to the city to cover the Potsdam Conference. This, anyway, is his professional assignment. His personal mission is to locate the woman who had been his mistress before the war. Inevitably, he is also searching for truth.
Jake finds himself at a lakeshore crime scene, where a full money belt is discovered, the currency in it plainly dirty. Now, we are in noir country. In fact, one can almost hear the theme song of The Third Man, playing softly somewhere off-camera.
Jake’s pursuit of the truth takes him down a path of discovery that is, among other things, a fine portrait of this chapter in history. Kanon has written a book that is a thriller and something else. The kind of novel, one thinks, that John le Carré would consider worthy, and that even Graham Greene might have found entertaining. — G.N.
OUR READ Eerie noir worth reading
By Bill Marvel and Geoffrey Norman. Marvel is a senior features writer for The Dallas Morning News. Norman is the author of nine novels and several nonfiction books.