20 November 2015


While I’ve read quite a few books this year, it’s been a while since I’ve written about any of them so here’s a belated instalment of Bookshelf with a few of those titles.

John Baxter shows why the City of Light during the 1920s was the place to be with a series of engaging stories. There’s le jazz hot, les Apaches, café life, Picasso, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and much more. Also included are loads of photos and four walking tours so readers can visit many of the places mentioned. My only complaint is about the actual edition of the book, which reads as if it weren’t copyedited. There are a number of mistakes including the misspelling of people’s names and a wrong photo caption.

The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide—Kevin C. Fitzpatrick
If you like New York history, writers, and artists then you’ll love this guide by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick. Filled with photos and maps, the book looks at the members of the famed Algonquin Round Table and their haunts from their homes and places of work to their favourite drinking establishments and final resting places. In addition to familiar faces like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Alexander Woollcott, Fitzpatrick draws attention to often overlooked members of the group like Jane Grant, co-founder of the New Yorker, and art critic Murdock Pemberton who first took Woollcott and John Peter Toohey to lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, which naturally gets its own chapter. 

A Study in Death—Anna Lee Huber
Things are starting to look up for Lady Kiera Darby with her engagement to investigator Sebastian Gage and a return to accepting painting commissions. But when the sitter for her latest portrait is found dead, Kiera suspects foul play and finds herself once again working with Gage to catch a murderer while confronting her own past. This continues to be one of my favourite historical mystery series with an appealing setting (1830s Scotland) and a likable couple with great chemistry. 

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood—William J. Mann
The murder of director William Desmond Taylor on February 2, 1922 sent shock waves through the Hollywood community and remains unsolved to this day. William J. Mann examines the details of the case and Taylor's mysterious background while also looking at the lives of three actresses close to the director—Mabel Normand, Mary Miles Minter, and Margaret “Gibby” Gibson—as well as that of one of the most powerful men in the movies, Adolph Zukor. While Mann includes a ton of research and a fresh take on some familiar faces—including a sympathetic view of Will Hays of the infamous Hays code—I didn't agree with his final conclusions.

Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas—Patrick Modiano
This slim collection contains three novellas that all deal with the theme of disappearance: A man tries to find traces of a photographer who has drifted into obscurity; another recounts how during the war his parents sent him and his brother to live with friends who had a collection of unusual guests; and what really happened to a couple who committed suicide (or was it murder) years ago? The German Occupation of France is ever present in these tales, leaving their mark on the characters. I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to read more by the author. His writing is superb, and I found myself thinking about the stories long after I had read the last page.

HollywoodGore Vidal
The power of Washington, DC and the endless possibilities of Hollywood are intertwined in Gore Vidal’s novel, part of the American Chronicle series. A fictional Washington newspaper publisher who goes west to become a silent screen star and her former lover, a US Senator, mingle with the likes of William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin, and the Roosevelts. Beginning at the start of World War I and going through to the Roaring Twenties, the book touches on everything from war propaganda films to political scandals. While a bit lengthy at times, Vidal offers readers a look at how these towns' players spin the truth as only he can.

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