I like reading about places I’ve visited. I’ve been to the railroad depot in Waynoka, had a nice lunch at the Mexican restaurant (the Harvey House no longer exists) but hospitality is still prevalent in Waynoka. Historically Waynoka is very interesting. Home to Okahoma’s largest rail yard, Santa Fe’s Railway Ice Company, the Transcontinental Air Transport, and branch camp for Camp Alva Prisoner of War facility. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, “ Clothed in surplus military fatigues conspicuously stenciled with “PW,” German soldiers picked row crops and cotton, harvested wheat and broom corn, manned the Santa Fe Railroad’s ice plant at Waynoka, cut underbrush and timber in the basin of Lake Texoma, served as hospital orderlies, and worked on ranches.” The rail yard and the POW’s are the basis for Russell’s engaging mystery, The Yard Dog. (link to James A. Moore review)
Spark Dugan, living on the outskirts of town, on the outskirts of life, a little slow but well meaning ends his life under a reefer train. Reefer trains haul perishable products; fruits and vegetables, stopping for ice at the Waynoka yards.
Everyone is ready to dismiss his death as a little too much drink, except the Yard Dog, Hook Runyon. So we have our detective, well he is law enforcement, well sorta. He’s hired to keep out bums, rail jumpers and pick pockets. But instead he feels everyone is turning a blind eye to what has been happening at the Waynoka railyard and how some people want to keep the POWs from answering his questions about Dugan’s death. Why does everyone seem to have something to hide?
Then of course there is the arrival of Dr. Reina Kaplan, suddening in charge of re-educating the “Nazi” prisoners at Camp Alva pending America’s winning the war. She’s been banquished to Oklahoma as surely as Hook has been banquished to the rail yards. But Hook is a surprising character. Honest, feisty, self deprecating but a survivor, fond of a little too much moonshine from his friend and confidant, Runt. He is determined to solve the mystery of Spark’s murder.
The plot twists and turns, we look at obsession and greed. Why one man’s desire for possessions proves his salvation and the same desire leads to another man’s destruction. I like the characters, the setting, the plot and obviously two thumbs up for this mystery.
There are a few historical anachronisms that even a history dolt like myself can identify. It takes a little away from the story and I’m surprised they exist with such a strong showing by Russell. But don’t hesitate to give this book a read, I loved it, passing it along to colleagues, it’s an Oklahoma author and story you won’t want to miss.
Thanks to Carolyn Leonard for keeping Oklahoma writers updated on recent events. I wish I could have heard Sheldon Russell myself.
or just visit Carolyn’s website for all kinds of good information.
I’ll bet Young Bill Young wishes I would quit procrastinating and get back to blogging. I’ve used working at Valentine’s Day for as long as I can. I even watched a segment on Sunday Morning this very morning about procrastination and it got me thinking about the error of my ways.
Why do I start so many books, get de-railed, start more, finish even fewer and the cycle continues… And I’m not talking about books that aren’t good, I’m talking books I really want to finish. Some I’m within pages of finishing (I realize this is a disease, and I’m the only one who can cure myself).
What titles are lingering on bedside tables, sofas, kitchen counters, book bags,etc….
Yard Dog by Sheldon Russell. His writing just keeps on getting better. If you like Oklahoma settings, cleverly constructed characters, and plot. Well, it’s got it all.
Then there’s the Sound of Honor by Jim Stovall I like the possibility of a blind detective. Very clever, and Stovall uses his own life experiences to bring believable detail to the story. Reminds me of the Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay, with his narcoleptic detective. And look I’ve gone to his website and now I have to read his new one, No Sleep till Wonderland.
I’ve also picked up Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen in the meantime and I need to give it undivided attention or I’m not going to understand it. It’s not for bedside falling asleep reading, but I think it would be worth the effort if I’ll only give it some.
Two others that I’m so close to finishing it’s shameful are Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard and Donis Casey’s The Sky Took Him.
I intend to review both of those so that’s all I’m going to say about them right now.
I realize part of my problem is job related. I walk by the new book display (oops, Doppelgangster just fell into my hands on the way to an appointment).
I read book reviews for my job, I do Interlibrary Loan for my job, all furthering my book addiction. Stop the madness. I’m going to try finishing books before starting new ones. I’m going to try to be more disciplined. (I didn’t go to the Metropolitan Library System’s Book Sale this year and I’m having withdrawal already.) Next year watch out I’m going to be at the head of the line and push people away from the titles I want.
So wish me luck, I’m working on a better me. Need to stop and finish my book……
Young Bill Young here. I really, really, really don’t like the winter of 2009-2010. I usually like snow, but that Christmas Eve blizzard completely destroyed my holiday plans. And that last snowy blast that hit OKC put me way behind at work and at home.
At least we have the Olympics. I tend to watch the Winter games more than the Summer games because I’m a skating fan. Plus, track runners just can’t match the speed of those downhill racers. And then there’s the luge! It’s a rush to watch!
Want some reading to go along with your Olympic televiewing? How about The Winter Olympics: An Insider’s Guide to the Legends, Lore and Events of the Games? Author Ron Judd provides a history on each competitive sport, along with key figures, rising stars, judging info, anecdotes, and fascinating facts.
For the youngster in your life, there’s Freeze Frame: A Photographic History of the Winter Olympics by Sue Macy. Spectacular photography is coupled with Macy’s prose to give young readers a Winter Olympics 101 experience. Plus, there’s a foreword by ice skater extraordinaire Peggy Flemming.
Speaking of ice skating… if you’re a fan of ice dancing and you don’t like Britain’s Torvill and Dean, then we need to talk! You may be too young to remember the stunning performances by this graceful and athletic pair, but you *can* check them out on You Tube. Here they are dancing to Bolero at the 1984 Olympics. A Gold Medal performance. Priceless!
And here they are at the 1994 Olympics, where they were robbed (robbed, I tell you!) of the Gold Medal.
In Torvill and Dean: The Autobiography of Ice Dancing’s Greatest Stars, the athletes tell their own story, complete with all of the chaos and conflicts behind the scenes. For youngsters, try Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean: Ice Dancing’s Perfect Pair by Franny Shuker-Haines.
OK, that’s my Winter Olympics reading list. And let’s just end this by saying, GO TEAM USA!!
Young Bill Young here. Kitty is on duty at her family’s flower shop. (Valentine’s Day don’t ya know.) So I’m your Okie Reads poster today.
No question what I’m going to write about, either: Connie Willis, who has a brand new novel out titled Blackout. This is a book I can’t wait to crack open and start devouring. Problem is, I have family coming into town, and other responsibilities will probably keep me from bedding down with one of my all-time favorite authors this weekend. (Yeah, that double entendre was on purpose!)
Willis is classified as a science fiction/speculative fiction author, but please don’t let that pigeonholing keep you from discovering this great writer. A friend turned me on to her by recommending Lincoln’s Dreams, which was really more about Robert E. Lee’s dreams. I followed up with the time travel novel, Doomsday Book, winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Doomsday is a devastating and poignant work, and it simply doesn’t prepare you for her subsequent time-travel novel, To Say Nothing of the Dog, which has to be the downright funniest book I’ve ever read.
That’s the thing about Willis: the diverse emotions evoked by her words feel true and authentic. And I just know she’s a good soul. Her goodness shines through even when she writes painful, difficult scenes. She loves Christmas, and she actually makes this resident grinch like the holidays while reading her. She’s fascinated by Britain during the blitz, is a dedicated library-user, thinks romance is the cat’s meow, thinks H. L. Mencken said some damn important things, is one of the best darn short story writers ever, and has some astonishing ideas that give her A+ sci-fi credentials. But Willis knows it’s not just about the ideas, however original or unique. To paraphrase a popular political line: It’s the characters stupid! And I really like and care about the people who populate a Willis story. I’m always ready to get on board for the ride.
I can’t wait.
It’s cold. It’s dreary. Have some fun at a totally free event with Romance Authors and the possibility to WIN an Apple ipod touch!
Romance Authors, how great is that right before the biggest romantic holiday of the year. I so wish I could be there, however I’ll be off peddling posies at my husband’s flower shop. So go to this event, read a romance, have a nice dinner with a special someone and I’ll return after the holiday. (Young Bill Young may post in my absence)
10:30 am to 12 noon
Free and Open to the Public
- Meet Oklahoma Romance Authors
Laura Marie Altom Margaret Daley Alicia Dean Peggy Fielding Georgina Gentry
Myra Johnson Jackie King Malena Lott Vicki McDonough Christine Rimmer Sharon Sala
Love makes the world go around. No one knows that better than the authors and readers of Romance, one of the most popular genres of fiction. In fact, Romance is the king of the publishing world right now, outstripping sales of most other categories of books in this uncertain economy.
Many Oklahoma writers are riding this wave of success in the Romance field, and you’ll get a chance to meet eleven of these authors at the top of their game! Join us for a visit with these successful writers, and tour the Oklahoma Heritage Museum at no extra charge.
Book sales courtesy of Barnes and Noble.
For more information please call 405–522–3383.
Young Bill Young here. English classes in my high school were broken up into four different nine-week sessions. One of the sessions I attended was on the Short Story, and each student had to read x-number of stories and do brief reports on each. We turned our collected reports in at the end of the session, and I’ll never forget my teacher’s written comment on my report folder. Next to the letter grade, she wrote: “You read weird stories, Bill.”
I still read weird stories. Case in point: Pastoralia, a collection by George Saunders. For me, this author’s talent is addressing both the insanity of modern life and the heartbreak of the human condition. In the first two stories, the despicable (inept corporate managers and a narcissistic self-help guru) are depicted with some of the best fall-down-laughing prose I’ve read in some time. Meanwhile, the protagonists struggle with real hurt and isolation, looking for a ray of light that never arrives on the horizon.
Two other stories are more hopeful. In Sea Oak, the matriarch of a hardscrabble family returns from the dead. She is no longer her sweet self. The dearly departed has some unfinished business, and she goads her family to work toward a better life. In The Barber’s Unhappiness, an unattractive middle-aged man finally has a chance at love, despite his obsessive emotional ruminations and unrealistic expectations.
You don’t leave Pastoralia feeling uplifted. In fact, you feel a little dirty and disoriented. Perhaps this is because the author’s perverse picture of America is closer to reality than we would wish.
Read an excerpt from Pastoralia
Young Bill Young and I ventured forth through the snowy, icy mess into Tulsa for the Sunday matinee performance of August: Osage County. (Actually the Turner Turnpike was in good shape) I am so glad we perservered, exchanged our Thursday night tickets and finally arrived at the theater to find they thought we should have been there on Saturday. But with the help of the Performing Arts Center staff we got great seats on the third row right in the middle!!
The stage setting is a three story cut away house. All the action takes place on various floors of the house, starting with Beverly Weston sitting in his office explaining to the new hired help the eccentricities of the Weston household. Beverly Weston drinks, Violet Weston takes pills. The play unfolds as Beverly disappears; the impetus for the return of the Weston girls, with husband, child and fiance and Violet’s sister, husband and grown son. The return of the family to the Pawhuska home reveals a tinderbox of hostility and every dysfunction imaginable.
The acting was superb. The play program has an article on Estelle Parsons who wonderfully portrays a drugged up, foul mouthed, controlling Violet. Shannon Cochran plays Barb Fordham, the oldest daugher, going through a failing marriage, accompanied by an angry daughter and a desire to strangle her mother (which she almost accomplishes in the second act). Ivy Weston (Angelica Torn) is the family doormat, and Karen Weston (Amy Warren) the non-stop talking, self absorbed, but needy last child.
The play has plenty of comedy, we couldn’t survive the three hour drama unfolding without it. Some of the most memorable lines are the funniest. Most I can’t repeat here because NewsOk might censor the language, but take my word on it.
I’ve read the play but it’s so much better when you see it performed. But if you’ve missed your chance to go see it, head on out to the bookstore, or library and get yourself a copy. (I think they should have sold copies of the play at the play.)
Bill and I talked this morning about how much it stays with you. The images, dialogue and characters linger. Oklahoma’s own Tracy Letts has delivered the real thing with this play, and thanks for letting it come to Oklahoma.
For an opening night review read the Tulsa World.