Edward Humes has written what is sure to find him another Pulitzer Prize. His newest book is “A Man and His Mountain” (Public Affairs $26.99), the man is Jess Jackson, who put California Chardonnay on the map and in the Reagan White House as “Nancy’s wine” and eventually made Jess a billionaire. But that was not how he began.
Dana Gioia, poet extraordinaire, has given the reading public a gift with his latest book, “Pity The Beautiful”(Graywolf Press $15.00). The book is in five sections or acts, reflecting his emotions such as in “Reunion” with the first line “This is my past where no one knows me,” or “The Road”, “He sometimes felt that he had missed his life By being far to busy looking for it”. There is a wonderful poem that evokes our commercial world entitled “Shopping” that equates the Mall with a religious experience.
If you are a fan of Downton Abbey and you are waiting breathlessly for its return, Anthony Russell has the real story of that life in his book, “Outrageous Fortune : Growing Up at Leeds Castle” (St. Martin’s Press $26.99).
Memories can be sweet and bitter but being able to look back is the best revenge. Robert Clary wrote his book “From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes”(Taylor Trade $16.95) a while back, but the story of his relatives had not been told until now. His sister, Nicole’s story has been written by her daughter Brenda Hancock entitled “Nicole Holland One Of The Lucky Ones”(Hanover House $15.95)
Noreen Nash has written “Agnes Sorel : The Lady of Beauty & First Official Mistress of France”. It began in a medieval castle in Loches, France with a white marble statue of a reclining young woman who wore a crown lying on top of a black marble tomb, that intrigued Noreen Nash to find out who Agnes Sorel was and the part she played in the history of France in 1450.
Serge Roetheli has written The 25,000 Mile LOVE STORY: The Epic Story of The Couple Who Sacrificed Everything To Run The World(Dunham $25.95). Serge and his wife, Nicole, decided to run a distance equal to the earths circumference, they spent two years planning what they thought was every detail. This had been preceded by their running the American Challenge from the bottom tip of Argentina up to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he met Dr. Ron Zamber, founder of International Vision Quest. Ron would play an important role in their lives in the middle of this adventure.
Serge was a Swiss mountain guide. He had climbed the highest mountains in the world. Previously he had been an amateur boxer who was set to fight in the 1976 Olympics representing Switzerland when the Swiss Team was disqualified due to the president of the boxing federation absconding with the teams funds. It was a terrible blow to Serge, eventually he boxed for twelve years, fought eighty-four fights and won six championships.
He married, had two children, was divorced, and working as a mountain guide. Nicole was 21 working as a waitress when Serge, 34, met her. Their lives were never the same. Over ten years, from January of 1995 to 2005 this book documents their adventures. He was running while she rode the motorcycle towing the small trailer that contained their tent, two cooking pans and all their worldly goods that were needed for this adventure. It must have been love because it is not every woman who will stand naked in the middle of a field while her husband heats up the water and gets the coffee going.
They had written to companies for sponsorships but the results were minimal. Throughout the adventure Serge writes about the importance of coca-cola, I asked him when we taped if they had been sponsors? No, it was that coke was important for staying hydrated and enough sugar for strength. By the time they got to Rio, he was in touch with Ron Zamber who had invested in them when all the other investors had dried up.
The description of running through the Sahara Desert and accepting hospitality from the nomads is out of Lawrence of Arabia. It was not easy moving their motorcycle from one country to another, such as Mozambique to Madagascar. Malaria was a problem to Serge, and Nicole became deathly ill from mosquito bites. Nicole developed seizures that would come and go. They went to Australia where she ended up in the hospital. But the worst was in Nepal, a year later when they were in Katmandu and her constant seizures forced them to return to Switzerland. It was Nicoles mother who urged them to return to their adventure.
They returned to cross the Sinai Desert. As part of his quest to help the poor, Serge visited a jail in Lebanon to talk to the incarcerated young boys. From there, he ran and she drove the bike with the trailer to India where Serge was hit by a truck that didnt stop and people just stood and laughed. Being gone so long life back home did not stay the same, the call came from Serges brother that his Mother had died, which was devastating news to Serge. They returned for the funeral and then left to continue their impossible dream.
On May 7,2005 they returned to their finish line in Saillon, Switzerland having completed 25,422 miles. What do you do for an encore? Both Serge and Nicole have written about their experiences. It was Serge whom I interviewed so I know his point of view. Unfortunately for all they endured and shared the marriage didnt make it. They both claim the other as a friend but I wonder? Serge is an attractive man who might do well in films here or in Europe. There is a documentary about this adventure which is excellent and already has won awards. I asked him if there was a camera person with them. No, only Nicoles camera and asking strangers if they would mind taking a picture of them, which is why the photos in this book are so colorful and human. It is quite a love story.
The show with Serge Roethel is on Youtube and on www.lacityview.org ch 35 and Santa Monica Citytv ch 16.
Robert K. Tanenbaum has written Echoes of my Soul(Kensington
Publishing $25.00). It is a non-fiction book and one that he
told me is the most important book he has written.
Mike Rose is a professor at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. He has written Back To School : Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education (The New Press $21.95). The subtitle of the book is An Argument For Democratizing Knowledge In America.
In this book Mike examines the important role of Adult Education in our society and the threat of decision makers to eliminate it. He told me about a man called Henry who was now in a wheel chair after being injured by gangs and in prison, who now had a second chance at an education. He went back to his local community college and is currently tutoring other new students.
Mike takes to task those who would look to the dropout rate at Community colleges. He notes the young man who , after finishing one year was accepted into the US Navy that would pay him while he was being taught. Or the single mother raising a family who was able to get a better paying job with this extra education. ESL students feel shamed by their low skills and he comments on the teaching which is not often by highly trained people. Students will often leave before completing a certificate or degree, they are considered a negative for the program, but Rose says they now have significant skills to get a job.
There is great emphasis on the word transfer to a four year college. For most of these students, mathematics was non-existent in their schooling and is too difficult for them to start to learn. Rose asks the question Who benefits the most from college? Going back to his high school days where the two roads diverged between academics to college and the other of vocational studies, which implied blue collar future .
Mike Rose discusses the importance of math in those choosing to learn welding or fashion design that both require knowledge of numbers. As for welding, the ideal would be to havea math teacher demonstration the division of decimal fractions and calculation of volume, and explaining the why of what the class is doing, the mathematical principles involved.
He also puts import on the area not covered. How to study. How to take notes. How to ask for help. And how to use their minds when there is a test. And schools often make it difficult to even register for a class. He tells his own story of not being able to find a certain professor. There were no names on a board at the elevator, the young person at the entrance didnt know where to look. Or as Mike Rose writes that if it was difficult for him, how much more for the person who had never been inside a college before.
There are many questions without answers that he poses as to what type of society do we want our country to be. Our society does not provide a range of options after high school for young people to have a robust system of occupational apprenticeships or a comprehensive national service program.
Connie Martinson Talks Books is seen and streamed daily at 3 pm & 11:30 pm on lacityview-ch 35. This show can be seen on Youtube.com/user/Connie Martinsons channel Join the 828,000 who visit it.
Stephen Maitland Lewis Ambition (Glyd-Evans Press $27.95) opens with George Tazoli sitting in a bank cubicle waiting for the bank official to okay his transfer of seven million dollars to his account in Zurich. Where and how did he accumulate this cash account? This is not the Forest-Vignes bank where George Tazoli works so why is George sweating and looking over his shoulder?
Thanks to the Banks annual Xmas party George had met Sam, the only daughter of the Banks president, Peter Donovan and only grand child of Charles Donovan, the Banks Chairman of the Board. By the time the generations had learned of their love affair, they were already planning to live together. George was acceptable to work in the trading department but not to be part of the family. Sams mother Blair commands, Get rid of him.
George is exiled to their New York City branch in a separate area and with no contact to the other workers. His charge is to get rid of the bad loans on the Banks real estate debit. In New York, George stays at Sams family apartment which Peter uses for his R & R with hookers. He also uses a camera to record his exploits, when George comes across the DVDs he realizes that he has protection if Peter ever tries to fire him. No one in Sams family is happy when she announces that she is marrying George and, incidentally she is pregnant.
In New York George has made a deal with his sleazy cousin, Draeger, who convinces George to let him trade the real estate for the lowest amount and he will then sell it for a higher figure. This works fine and George now has his banker in Zurich. His account keeps growing and he has hired Draegers beautiful sister-in-law, Xhana, to assist him in the office and after hours.
Maitland-Lewis has used his experience in International banking in his prior two novels, but Ambition gets into the dirty areas of merging banks and competitions for power. There are no secrets when Peter is angling for a post as an ambassador and the FBI does an investigation. Meanwhile Peter has ordered a hit on George. Fortunately George has an Uncle Frank, who knows where the bodies are buried and who did them in. Uncle Frank is a wonderful character that Maitland-Lewis should use in another book.
In California, the directors of the bank have ordered an audit of Georges transactions which now involves Mike Roman, the U.S. Attorney. Before he can order search warrants, George and Draeger have left for Brazil with Stella and Xhana who is pregnant by George. Brazil will not extradite the parent of a Brazilian child, meanwhile with their Zurich money George and Draeger become richer than they ever thought possible. Stephen Maitland-Lewis has written a novel which can be called a page-turner with interesting characters and a lot of information about international banking and financial scams. Now the question is, whom did he base his characters on?
Connie Martinson Talks Books is aired and streamed on www.lacityview.org ch 35 at 3 pm & 11:30 pm daily and on Youtube.com/user/ConnieMartinsons Channel.
A book that I consider one of the finest this year is Tom Reiss The Black Count : Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown $27.00). Reiss combines in this non-fiction history of Alex Dumas, who was born to an impoverished French nobleman and a Black slave on the French sugar island, Saint-Domingue and the history of France during the French Revolution. His father pawned the boy in order to buy a ticket back to France, after claiming his title, he returned to Saint-Domingue to bring Alex back to France with him.
Dumas was educated in Paris as the son of wealth. He became known for his skill as a swordsman and a handsome playboy, but his fathers new wife resented the money Alex was given. In anger he joins the Queens Dragoon in 1786 as a common soldier. An extraordinary soldier, as a Corporal he captured thirteen enemy soldiers, he led a corps of black and mixed race volunteers called the Legion Noire to guard the borders against the Germans. He rises to be a General in the French army and a hero in the French Revolution. Why does his name and face not appear in history and in paintings? He made an enemy of a little Corsican named Napoleon, who had Alex Dumas painted out of any portrayal of army victories.
Tom Reiss is an artist with words. I told him that he writes history with the ability of a fiction writer. He told me that he spent seven years researching and writing this book. After it was accepted by the publisher, he took the book back and rewrote every page again. It isnt just the writing, it is the historical facts that he writes, including the French conflict about slavery which they were against in France but not in the colonies. Men of color were respected until Napoleon reinstituted laws prohibiting them from living in Paris or going to schools. Napoleon with his brother forced the Senate to grant him the powers of an Emperor. Alex Dumas was not even paid his back army salary. I did tell Reiss that Napoleon was setting a standard that Hitler would emulate.
Dumas went to Egypt with Napoleon. On the return to France General Dumas was captured by Italian terrorists and put in the dungeon that his son, Alexander Dumas would fictionalize into The Count of Monte Cristo and his adventures with the Queens Dragoons in The Three Musketeers . Alexander was born when his father returned a broken man from his two years in the dungeon, but the next four years belonged to the father and son. A devotion that Alexander kept, or as Tom Reiss has written, To remember a person is the most important thing in the novels of Alexander Dumas. The worst sin anyone can commit it to forget.
Apart from the history of France and the life of Alex Dumas, the story of Tom Reiss foraging for letters and legal documents that involve having a dead librarians safe blown up is a book in itself.
This show can be seen on Youtube/user/ConnieMartinson;sChannel also on www.lacityview.org at 3pm & 11:30pm.
On a cold and rainy night, what better than to get into bed with a good cook book. Candace Walshs Licking Spoon, A Memoir of Food, Family and Identity(Seal Press $16.00) is a hit on all three counts. She recounts her youth when her parents divorced and although there were now two kitchens in her life. She also had to go to market with her mother with welfare and food stamps handed to the clerk who was always someone from school.
After college she came to New York and with her first check discovered Zabars. Along with food, she discovered the single, dating life and the Australian men, who like great wine travel well. Her stories are Sex and the City with Food, at the end of the book are really great recipes, some from her Greek grandmother and others that just stand alone like 2 cups sugar and 3 cups water and now you have Caramel !
Think of Fanny Farmer when you read The Busy Moms Cookbook : 100 Delicious, Home-cooked Meals by Antonia Lofaso (Avery $26.00) Antonias heritage is Spago, foxtail and now Black Market Liquor Bar in Los Angeles, and she was afinalist on Top Chef All Stars. Last minute supper dish I recommend Croque Monsieur and Madame. I just learned the difference. Madame has sunny side egg on top of the ham and cheese sandwich. On page 98 she has her grandmothers recipe for cooking brisket. Braise the brisket and only add catsup and onions, not so fast for Antonia who also adds red wine, carrots, tomato paste and herbs. I also add the ever present garlic. For curry lovers, there is Madras curry chicken with turmeric Basmati Rice.
Trip planning in Europe can be worrysome with strikes and the price of Euros, so what about seeing the USA? And it helps if you know where to eat. Let me recommend Food Lovers Guide to Memphis : The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings by Pamela Denney (Globe Pequot Press $14.95). Yes, there is a plethora of international restaurants, more than just barbeque and ribs- not that there is anything wrong with that. There is fine dining with Vegan restaurants, Memphis has the fresh food that goes to the table. Did I mention that Memphis has Beale Street Blues to accompany a top quality restaurant. But no matter the age, Memphis is Elvis and Graceland. On page 60 and 61 are a list of places to eat that are in the vicinity and who knows, you may be sitting where Elvis sat. The book is beautifully laid out with cute illustrations and, yes, there are recipes too. Thai-style Beef Salad with Chipolte Honey Vinaigrette (pg 268). Despite the name Frogmore Stew(pg 278) is really a fabulous shrimp , sausage and corn dish. I cant write about Memphis without mentioning the recipe of Braised Pork Cheeks and Sweet Potato Puree. As for Barbecue Ribs, you are on your own, as they also have Food Trucks for every taste buds.
Pamela Denney is a Journalism Professor at University of Memphis and the Food Editor for Memphis Magazine.
CONNIE MARTINSON TALKS BOOKS is aired and streamed at www.lacityview.edu -ch 35 at 3:00pm & 11:30 pm daily.
Richard Kramer has written his first novel, These Things Happen (Unbridled Books $25.95). Using first person point of view the reader meets Wesley, a fifteen year old , who attends a private school in New York City. Theo, Wesleys best friend and like a brother since they were born, has been elected president of their junior class. In his acceptance speech he proudly announces I am gay. Wesley is stunned as is the class, but especially Wesley who feels guilt by association plus his own family situation.
Wesley is living with his father, Kenny, a lawyer, and his lover, George, a former actor who is now running Ecco the restaurant on the first floor of their building. Wesleys mother, Lola, is a successful editor at a New York publishing house, who has remarried Ben, a wonderful compassionate man, who lost a son to AIDS,
It is Wesleys question When did you know you were gay? that brings out Kenny and Georges memories. Even in private schools violence against those who are different can explode. Theo is beaten and stomped on, as is Wesley, for being fags. They end up in the hospital.
Lola who urged Wesley to live for a time with his father is suddenly hysterical at the thought her son may have been seduced by George. George has been the compassionate friend to Wesley, not the seducer. Kramer has taken what is not an unusual situation today and made it a personal story for the reader.
Richard Kramer told me when we taped that when he was still at Yale he sold his first story to The New Yorker and it was the last one they bought. So what does a writer do, he came to Los Angeles where he wrote for Thirtysomething,My so-called Life, Tales of the City etc. and listened to friends who kept telling him he should write a book. He has and it is excellent. Richard Kramer will be one of my authors on April 14 at the Brentwood Kauffman Friends of the Library Authors afternoon at 2:00 pm. Meanwhile you can see the interview on YouTube.com/user/ConnieMartinsonsChannel.