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Summer Picks, 2004

No HeroesNo Heroes, by Chris Offutt

 

A few years ago, Chris Offutt, an accomplished novelist and short story writer, returned to his Eastern Kentucky roots after a long stint out in the world, and took a job as a teacher at the local college, hoping to give something back to the Appalachian community in which he was raised. No Heroes is the resulting memoir. Offutt intersperses his own homecoming experience with the horrific, nakedly honest Holocaust memories of his in-laws and locates some hard truths, finding a way to use the past to examine his life in the here and now. The book is moving, insightful, and compulsively readable. Try his earlier memoir, The Same River Twice, as well, and discover why other writers think of Offutt as one of the brightest talents working today.

 

Every Secret Thing, By Laura Lippman

 

Lippman takes a risk here by moving away from her Tess Monaghan series with this stand-alone, and scores in every possible way. I won’t reveal the plot, but rest assured, this is a major leap forward for a writer I have always admired. In many ways, the book reminded me of Val McDermid’s A Place Of Execution (one of the best crime novels written in the last ten years.) Kudos to Lippman for swinging for the bleachers and knocking the cover right off the ball.

 

DeadwoodDeadwood, by Pete Dexter

 

A classic American western set in the Dakota badlands, detailing the violent, hilarious, sexually charged lives of Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Charley Utter, and many others, straightly written by the brilliant Mr. Dexter. Put this on the shelf next to Jack Schaefer, Ron Hansen, and James Carlos Blake—it’s that good. And if you like it, try God’s Pocket, Dexter’s masterpiece.

Fatal Light, by Richard Currey

 

One of the best Vietnam novels I have ever read, a wrenching, poetic, profoundly human addition to the body of literature that has come out of the war.