Archive for January, 2008

Read Excerpts from Rheta Grimsley Johnson's Poor Man's Provence

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

NewSouth Books celebrates the upcoming release of noted columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s book Poor Man’s Provence with special excerpts from the book.

Visit NewSouth’s Poor Man’s Provence book page to read an excerpt from the book, including Rheta’s preface, the introduction by writer and NPR contributor Bailey White, and Rheta’s tale “The Tool Shed Reading Club.”

In Poor Man’s Provence, Rheta recounts how she fell in love with Cajun Louisiana, bough a second home there, and set in planting doomed azaleas and deep roots. She writes about an assortment of beautiful people in a homely little town called Henderson, right on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp. As Bailey White notes, “Both Rheta’s readers and the people she writes about will be comfortable, well fed, highly entertained, and happy they came to poor man’s Provence.”

Poor Man’s Provence will be available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer in February 2008.

Anna Olswanger Announces New Website

Thursday, January 24th, 2008 by Mary Katherine

Need a Jewish book author for your upcoming event? Check out, a new independent list site created by Anna Olswanger, author of Shlemiel Crooks.

The site, searchable by name, location, or genre, makes it possible for those who wish to arrange visits and signings with Jewish book authors to quickly find and connect with these authors worldwide. All authors listed on the site have agreed to participate and have provided their contact information, book titles, lecture topics, and areas of travel, and each listing contains links for purchasing the books mentioned. This site should prove invaluable for Jewish Community Centers, Federations, synagogues, book clubs, libraries, bookstores or any other group hoping to host a Jewish book author.

Learn more at

Shlemiel Crooks is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer. Shlemiel Crooks is a Koret International Jewish Book Award Finalist and a Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

BostonNOW! Calls Donnelly’s Three Deuces Down a “Good Detective Thriller”

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 by Mary Katherine

The daily newspaper BostonNOW! has just reviewed Keith Donnelly’s new mystery novel Three Deuces Down. Reviewer Edward Clarkin says there are “big surprises” in what he calls a “good detective thriller.” From the review:

Put together a successful Wall Street dropout itching for excitement and a scion of a local family who is having a hard time with the possible demise of his daughter and mysterious son-in-law, and you’ve got the makings a good detective thriller.

In his first novel, Three Deuces Down, Keith Donnelly introduces Donald Youngblood and his pals—both current and those I-haven’t talked to-in-a-while-but-I-need-a-favor—and leads us down a path centered in his East Tennessee roots. Scattered through past loves, current flames and a few social possibilities—along with a mob boss looking for revenge—and this amateur detective has his hands full.

Read the entire review at the BostonNOW! website.

Three Deuces Down is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Steven Ford Brown Remembers Poet Ángel González

Friday, January 18th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Author and translator Steven Ford Brown sent this remembrance of poet Ángel González:

An announcement that Spanish poet Ángel González died came to me on January 12. He died in Madrid after an illness. He was 82. The high esteem to which he is held in Spain is evident in the number of pages El Pais, the major newspaper in Spain, devoted to his life in photographs, audio, articles, and commentary. His passing is a major event. It’s also worth noting that his passing was carried in news wire articles from Australia and New Zealand to the various capitals of Europe and Latin America and in many American newspapers. It is important to understand the importance of literature and poetry to Spanish culture: when I was living in Barcelona I saw advertisements every other night for books of poetry on Spanish television: the collected poetry of Pablo Neruda or Federico Garcia Lorca in deluxe editions!

Ángel González is one of the last living representatives of the generation of Spanish writers and artists known as the “Generation of the ‘50s.” Most of the writers were born in the 1920s and thus were children when the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) broke out. The war itself, as well as the regime of Franco, left an indelible mark upon their very souls as evidenced in their work, which came to be designated as “social poetry.” The poets of the Generation included Francisco Brines, Jaime Gil de Beidma, Gloria Fuertes, Ángel González, Claudio Rodriguez, Carlos Sahagun and J.A. Valente, all of who have now passed away. The importance of the Generation of ’50 can’t be underestimated in Spanish poetry as they were the bridge between the Generation of ‘27 (Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Miguel Hernandez, Ferico Garcia Lorca) and modernism.

Through the good graces of Daniel Shapiro at The Americas Society in New York City, I was able to read with Ángel González in 2002. Dan and I met with Ángel in his hotel room before the reading to plan the poems we would read together. He was in his late 70s then and like most older Europeans addicted to tobacco and thus we were turned away from numerous restaurants until we found a bar that would let him smoke while we ate. The Americas Society, founded by David Rockefeller, is on Park Avenue in what can be described as a refurnbished mansion next to the Italian Embassy. We were led in to meet the director of The Society and have our photographs taken with Ángel.

The reading room was packed to overflowing that night. Ángel read in Spanish from my bilingual book of his poetry (Astonishing World, Milkweed Editions, 1993) and told funny jokes and then I-–as straight man–had to follow in English. The audience treated him like a rock star. People qued up afterwards to get autographs and shake his hand and pose for photographs. He was the last of a Generation and one of Spain’s most decorated and important living poets. He was a gracious man, a wonderful poet, a true son of Spain, and a mentor to many. He will be greatly missed.

To view materials related to the life and death of Ángel González I have prepared a special web page on his death:

Century of the Death of the Rose: Selected Poems of Jorge Carrera Andrade, translated by Steven Ford Brown, is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

BookPage Calls Duff's Fire Ants a “Stimulating Collection”

Thursday, January 17th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

The book review magazine BookPage has just reviewed Gerald Duff’s new short story collection Fire Ants. Reviewer Harvey Freedenberg calls Fire Ants a “stimulating collection.” From the review:

Calling a short story writer a “Southern writer” inevitably conjures up images of giants like Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. While Gerald Duff hasn’t reached that eminence, his collection Fire Ants is a fine addition to the genre.

Like most Southern storytellers, Duff is noteworthy for his focus on some of the more distinctive personalities who inhabit the territory below the Mason-Dixon Line. In “The Angler’s Paradise Fish-Cabin Dance of Love,” for example, a middle-aged oil worker kidnaps a teenager and transports her to a fishing cabin on the Texas Gulf Coast merely to watch her perform her cheerleading routine. “A Perfect Man” shifts the scene to Tennessee, where a mother desperate to free her son from jail after he’s been wrongly arrested for robbing a convenience store turns to the only source she can think of to help her make bail—her old lover. And in the collection’s title story Duff offers the eerie tale of an aging woman who re-enacts the end of a failed love affair in grisly fashion.

Read more BookPage reviews at their website.

Fire Ants is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Howard Ball Praises Steve Suitts's Hugo Black Biography in Alabama Review

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Historian and political scientist Howard Ball has reviewed Steve Suitts’s Hugo Black of Alabama for the Alabama Review. In his review, Ball calls the work “outstanding,” noting that Suitts “has painted a portrait that does not avoid the warts and the impulses; he depicts the good and the bad realistically in this successful effort to give his audience … a clear sense of who Hugo Black was and why he acted the way he did.”

Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution is a definitive study of Justice Black’s origins and early influences. Black came out of hardscrabble Alabama hill country, and he was further shaped in the early twentieth-century politics of Birmingham, where he rose to the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court. One of the book’s controversial conclusions is that in the context of Birmingham in the early 1920s, Black’s joining of the KKK was a progressive act, and this startling assertion is supported by an examination of the conflict that was then raging in Birmingham between the Big Mule industrialists and the blue-collar labor unions. Black went on to become a staunch judicial advocate of free speech and civil rights, making him one of the figures most vilified by the KKK and other white supremacists in the 1950s and 1960s.

From Howard Ball’s review:

Steve Suitts’s excellent biography of the young Hugo, covering the years from his birth in 1886 through the 1926 Senate race, graciously provides answers to the “puzzlement.” Suitts gives the reader an intimate, well-written, and meticulously researched account of Black’s life from his birth in rural Clay County, Alabama, to his prosecutorial and lawyerly successes in Birmingham. In doing so, the author thoroughly analyzes the effect of these years on the future member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several books have examined Black’s life in Alabama. Certainly, Virginia Hamilton’s Hugo Black: The Alabama Years (Baton Rouge, 1972) is a highly regarded resource. In my judgment, given my own familiarity with Hugo Black’s life (based on my research for The Vision and the Dream of Justice Hugo L. Black: An Examination of a Judicial Philosophy [Tuscaloosa, 1975], Of Power and Right: Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, and America’s Constitutional Revolution [New York, 1992], and Hugo Black: Cold Steel Warrior [New York, 1996]), Suitts’s book best explores Hugo Black’s development as an outstanding jurist and interpreter of the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes …

As a scholar who also wrote about these formative years of Black’s life, I was stunned by the quality of Suitts’s research. In preparing the book, he must have spent many months, indeed years, poring over back issues of Alabama newspapers. And this effort has given us a profoundly vibrant view of the social, political, and racial history of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Alabama. Using these original sources as well as more conventional biographical materials (letters, Black’s marginalia in books in his library, etc.), Suitts gives the reader finely crafted descriptions of Black’s experiences and explanations for his paradoxical behavior. For example, as a trial lawyer in segregationist Birmingham in the early 1900s, he used the word “nigger” for effect in civil and criminal trials but subsequently fought for equality for all Americans (see his Chambers v. Florida opinion).

Suitts’s book is a significant addition to the scholarship on the life of Hugo Black. It is required reading for anyone interested in discovering the roots of Hugo Black’s jurisprudence.

Visit the Alabama Review at their website, The full review is available from the following link. The Alabama Historical Association, founded in 1947, is the oldest statewide historical society in Alabama. The Association sponsors The Alabama Review, two newsletters each year, a state historical marker program, and several Alabama history awards. More information on the Association is available at

Hugo Black of Alabama is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer. Learn more about Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black at