More Than Enough by John Fulton
Im still hungover from the intoxifying effects of “The Corrections“ by Jonathan Franzen, so I was just a little squeamish about settling into another tome bout a dysfunctional family at various degrees of breaking point, but I had thoroughly enjoyed Fultons first work, a short story collection entitled “Retribution,“ and was rather curious to see how he fared tackling the subject.
Readers wont be disappointed with “More Than Enough“ from the Ann Arbor resident. Sometimes angry, sometimes heartbreaking, almost always poignant, it confirms the promise the author showed in his sure-footed debut, the ultimate triumph here being how much one comes to cared about his characters.
They are the Parkers - cockeyed optimist father Billy, pragmatic mother Mary, and their children, Steven and Jenny. After the siblings are attacked by a neighborhood gang in blue collar Salt Lake City, the family uses settlement money to build a better life, a catalyst that leads to each member grappling with what exactly that is. Billy wants security and creature comforts, but doesnt necessarily want to work for them, forcing Mary to shoulder much of the burden of support. Jenny looks for the balance in life she believes the Mormon faith can insure. Steven sees his family disintegrating, and become painfully aware of how the legacy of violence begets itself.
This is potent stuff, especially since most of the action takes place in a concentrated time period, and the truth Fulton mines resonates with the realities of ambition and failure.
Sweetgrass and Smoke by Constance Cappel
After being published in 1996, Cappels “Hemingway in Michigan“ was instantly recognized by Hemingway experts as one of the more valuable works on a formative time in his life that nurtured him to become one of Americas greatest writer of fiction.
Cappel, a lifetime summer resident of Harbor Springs, is now back with an “experimental“ book that examines Hemingways relationship with the Native American community, set against the backdrop of a family cottage in Walloon Lake, Michigan. There, he came to know and fell in love with Prudence “Trudy“ Bolton, his first love who was also a Native American. Much like Hemingway himself, their relationship was volatile, passionate, and doomed - she was the woman who, according to Hemingway, “did first what no one has done better.“ She also died a tragic death at age 16, the impact of which would surface in different forms throughout some of his most powerful writing.
Cappel states in the introduction that she has long been intrigued with their story, and her meticulous research, pulled from newspaper stories, Hemingway biographies, letters, Native American texts, and prehistory theories combines for a work where fact and fiction merge nicely and provide valuable insights into both the Native American culture and a larger-than-life man who was deeply influenced by it. Hemingway afficionados wont want to miss this one.
Bestseller by Christopher Knight
This Northern Michigan-based radio personality has fashioned a handsome writing career for himself in the recent years, and has a series of “Michigan Chillers“ books for young readers under the name of Jonathan Rand as well as the thrillers “St. Helena,“ “Ferocity,“ and “The Laurentian Channel“ to his credit. With each successive work, its evident hes set the bar a little higher, aiming for the page-turning style of the likes of Koontz, Saul, and Patterson.
“Bestseller“ has a clever premise, and builds from there. Literary agent Anne Harper is taking a much-needed retreat at small cabin in northern Michigan to recharge her batteries and look for a potential new bestseller among a stack of unpublished manuscripts. She finds one delivered to her door - even though few know her whereabouts - that is named “Bestseller“ and has been written by a violent psychopath whose previous work she has rejected. This one is different, though. Not only does it have the genuine makings of a hit, it is about a literary agent who is stalked on her vacation by a violent psychopath whose previous work she has rejected.
The tension mounts as life imitates art, or vice-versa, but Knight delivers a number of unexpected turns, especially in the final pages, that kick this up a few notches, and tie all of the well-placed clues throughout the book together. In “Bestseller,“ demons dont just lurk in dark corners or around the wooded pines at night, they leap from printed pages, fertile imaginations, and places that should bring repite.
Ben Zakkais Coffin by Harley L. Sachs
Express readers look forward to the regular columns of Sachs, the Houghton, U.P., resident who has also produced a number of audio books, including “Threads of the Covenant,“ “The Search for Jesse Bruan,“ and “Conspiracy.“
Hes proven himself to be a sharp-witted, imaginative crafter of mysteries, and this time, his protagonist is Herman Bachrach, a hard-boiled provocateur whose lack of religious conviction doesnt prevent him from becoming entangled in a complicated web of deceit and greed centering round a Holocaust vendetta over stolen gold by a Swiss bank from Jewish depositors.
In a style that evokes Chandler and Hammett, Bachrach meets a femme fatale named Diana who lures him into a murder plot that becomes messy quickly and names him as a suspect. Bacharach makes a trek to Switzerland a he attempts to clear his name and stay one step aside of a growing list of foes, especially an elderly war criminal, who would just as soon have him out of the way permanently.
His discoveries as he doe so are anything but predictable, which is what elevates this from the slightly formulaic compromises of such a tale. There is a deliciously old-fashioned noir sense bout this engaging read, and one hopes there will be more installments with the Bachrach character.