Fabulous Fiction Firsts #361

Known as the Babe Ruth of Bank Robbers, Willie Sutton, one of the most notorious criminals in American history is also a folk hero to some. He stole over $2 millions, often in costumes (thus dubbed "the actor"), engineered dramatic prison breaks and was serving virtually a life sentence when he received a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve in 1969.

In his debut novel, Sutton *, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter J. R. Moehringer relays, in electrifying prose, the highs and lows of Sutton's dramatic life, from the thrill of the heist and his great, doomed love affair to the brutal interrogations by cops and the hell of years spent in solitary confinement, all the while probing the psyche of an enigmatic man who had a genius for thievery and an even greater capacity for self-delusion.

"A captivating and absorbing read", that will appeal to true crime fans who enjoyed Catch Me if You Can : the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit! by Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. (as a feature film).

For biographical fiction of other famous crime figures, try Bill Brooks' Bonnie and Clyde : a love story and And All the Saints by Michael Walsh, based on the life of Owen "Owney" Madden, the most influential mobster of the 20th century.

* = starred review

Happy Birthday Penny!

Actress, producer, and director Penny Marshall turns 69 today! Marshall is probably best known for her acting role as Laverne DeFazio in the hit sitcom Laverne and Shirley, which followed a stint of acting in many other TV shows, some created by brother Garry Marshall. She went on to direct feature films such as Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Big, Awakenings, and A League of Their Own. Big was the first film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million.

My Mother Was Nuts is a new memoir written by Marshall, and it’s a hoot! The book chronicles her childhood, her life in the Bronx with her family, getting started in show business, motherhood, her acting days on Laverne and Shirley, the crazy 80s, her directing days, and her bout with multiple cancers. Marshall had help writing the book, but if you are familiar with her demeanor, it reads like Marshall speaks. It’s not the most in depth book, and it lacks the emotion you’d find in most memoirs. She name drops her celebrity friends like crazy, and after a while the voice of the book reads monotone, and you’re begging for more emotion and detail. But it’s Penny Marshall! So I had to keep reading, and I’m glad I did. This woman makes me laugh, and I enjoyed hearing stories about her “crazy” mother, her dancing days, and particularly the details in directing some of her films. Happy birthday!

We Bought A Zoo, on DVD

A comedy-drama, We Bought A Zoo is a true story based on Benjamin Mee’s 2008 memoir of the same name. In the film, Matt Damon portrays Mee, who has recently lost his wife, and is struggling with moving on, as well as helping his two children cope with the loss of their mother. Set in Southern California, the adventurous Mee decides the family is in need of a change and buys a house in the country that also happens to be a no-longer-running zoo. A stipulation of buying the house is getting the zoo back up and running, which means Mee has to learn how to run a zoo and care for animals, which leaves for some definite animal-human hijinx as he learns the tricks of the trade.

Mee’s young daughter is more than thrilled at living at a zoo, but his teenage son is not. Mee works them through it and also deals with the zoo’s staff that comes along with the property, including the head zoo keeper played by head-turner Scarlett Johansson. While adjusting to all the changes, everyone’s goal is to get the zoo back in order and ready for inspection in order to open for the summer season.

It’s a feel good film, and a great one for the family. It definitely pulled at my heart strings. One thing I took away from the film is Mee’s idea of 20 seconds of insane courage. If you give yourself just 20 seconds to be courageous, think of what you could do. I mean, why not?

Sporting Lives


Here are some recent biographies and memoirs to tantalize the sports enthusiast:

Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini: Considered by some to be the real life Rocky (Stallone even made a TV movie about him), renowned biographer, Mark Kriegel, writes the life of Mancini like a movie, as his life was like one-rising to the top in the boxing world, hobnobbing with celebrities like Sinatra, to see it come crashing down in one tragic match. Even if you don't like the sport, this will grab your attention.

A father first : how my life became bigger than basketball: Eight time all-star for the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade, and dedicated single father of two sons, talks basketball, while recounting his life overcoming poverty, his mother's drug addiction, and the importance of his own father in raising him.

Solo : a memoir of hope by Hope Solo: An Olympic soccer gold medalist, and one of the best goalkeepers, Solo has an interesting story to tell about growing up on a defunct nuclear testing site in Washington and reconnecting after many years with her ex-con father who was homeless.

One last strike : fifty years in baseball, ten and a half games back, and one final championship season by Tony La Russa; Having been a manager in baseball for that long, La Russa has a lot of stories to tell, but none come close to the 2011 Cardinals comeback from behind to win the World Series.

Musical Memories


There are a plethora of new and highly anticipated biographies coming out this fall. Let's start with those in the music industry...

Waging heavy peace is an autobiography by Neil Young: he discusses his life and career from growing up in Canada to his time with Crosby, Stills, & Nash to his continued success as a solo artist.

Who I am: a memoir: Listed #10 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, having written over 100 songs and rock operas with the Who and solo, as well as a being a noted literary writer, Pete Townshend gives the autobiography writing a go. With so much hush-hush about the contents prior to its release, it should be a fascinating read!

Cyndi Lauper a Memoir: Singer, songwriter, actress, Grammy award winner, and now book writer, the 80’s phenomenon talks about growing up in Queens and her rise to stardom.

Gershwins and me: A personal history in twelve songs: entertainer, Michael Feinstein renders the life of the legendary musical family the Gershwins here through stories of 12 of their songs. Feinstein was lucky to have mentored with Ira Gershwin, so you can expect some personal touches to the stories. A CD is included with the 12 songs performed by him.

In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, & Duran Duran : If you know the 80s group, Duran Duran, then you know their heartthrob/ bass guitarist, John Taylor (what lovestruck fan doesn’t!) This is his autobiography of the time with the band, the parties, & the lush (and lusty) MTV videos that made them famous (Hungry like the Wolf comes to mind).

John Lennon Letters: Here is a lifetime of letters and other correspondence from the the legendary John Lennon collected here for the first time.

Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll: Sisters, Ann & Nancy Wilson, of the rock band Heart share their story of 3 decades of being on stage together.

Luck or Something Like it: a Memoir: Although most notable for his country songs, Kenny Rogers has more than 120 hit singles across musical genres. Here he relates the story of his poverty stricken childhood to his award winning musical career.

Make up to Breakup:My life in & out of Kiss: founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss gives the group its dues.

Mick Jagger: another legend of rock gets the bio treatment here by Philip Norman who is known for the definitive rock bio, Shout: the Beatles in their generation. Let’s see what he uncovers with this one.

Streets of Fire Bruce Springsteen in Photographs and Lyrics 1977-1979: A behind the scenes photographic collection of the Boss.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #350 - Remembering Marilyn

August marks the 50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death but the appetite and obsession with this universal icon have never waned in the intervening years. Just in the past year, we saw the Hollywood adaptation of Colin Clark's memoir My Week with Marilyn and Smash, the 2012 successful television series (renewed for another season), a musical based on Marilyn's life.

Now we have J.I. Baker's The Empty Glass *, a "heartbreaking, pulse-quickening" novel that delves into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the scene of Monroe's death and finds her diary. The deeper Ben reads into the diary, the deeper he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy far bigger than he can imagine. Then there were the photos taken of the night stand next to Marilyn's bed, where no water glass was found, contradicting a second set of photographs being used in the investigations.

Debut novelist James Ireland Baker is the executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler and had worked for various national magazines. He is a founding editor of Time Out New York.

If fact is more to your liking than fiction, then check out a new biography by Lois Banner Marilyn :The Passion and the Paradox *.

As one of the founders of the field of women's history, Lois Banner (Scholar/Faculty, USC) appreciates the complexities of Monroe's personal life in the context of her achievements as an actor, singer, dancer, comedian, model, and courtesan. In the research, she gained access to material no one else has seen (personal papers, interviews with Kennedy's Secret Service detail). The new information she unearthed is nothing short of revelatory.

"A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner's electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we've never seen her before."

* = starred review

Video from "An Evening With Dan Rather"

In May, the AADL hosted Dan Rather at the Michigan Theater where the legendary broadcaster discussed his memoir, "Rather Outspoken: My Life In The News." If you were unable to attend or want to review his talk, watch the video of his presentation!

Rather's memoir highlights major stories from his decades of reporting and his reflections on the state of journalism today and what he sees for its future, as well as never-before-revealed personal observations and commentary.

First-ever Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction have been awarded

The American Library Association, long noted for its revered, prestigious awards for children's books (Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Caldecott, Printz, Alex, to name a few), has entered the adult field.

Yesterday, at their annual conference in Anaheim, CA, ALA gave the nod to adult writers in the organization's first AndrewCarnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. This honor is bestowed on the best nonfiction and fiction titles published in the previous year.

Anne Enright received her medal and cash prize for her novel, The Forgotten Waltz, a lyrical novel of adultery between two deeply flawed Irish citizens and the fallout on both of their families. Enright won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for The Gathering.

Robert K. Massie captured the nonfiction category for his riveting biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. Massie, who is THE preeminent biographer of Russian czars (he won the 1981 Putlizer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his seminal Peter the Great, His Life and World. In Catherine, Massie's edge-of-the-seat storytelling gifts bring to life this fascinating historical figure, from her roots as a minor German princess to her enormous influence on Russia.

Public lists for the winners and finalists of this award have been created here:

winners

finalists

Her Life

The past year has given us a number of excellent LGBT stories, especially from the L and the T. From graphic novels to memoirs to teen fiction, check out one of these incredible stories. You won't be able to put it down.

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel - Bechdel's amazing 2006 graphic novel, Fun Home, told the story of her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up with him. Are You My Mother gives the same treatment to her other parent. With references to Virginia Woolf and various psychotherapists, Bechdel's recollections are as literary and allusive as they are fascinating.

Pariah - Alike is a 17-year-old living in Brooklyn with her mom, dad, and sister. She is starting to embrace her identity as a lesbian, but this causes tension between her mother and father who differ in their attitudes toward their daughter. Alike's home life and her friends constitute two different worlds, and her struggle to reconcile the two is heartfelt and compelling. This critically acclaimed film currently boasts a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson - Winterson recounts the story of her early life, growing up with a fanatical mother obsessed with hell and damnation, not unlike the mother character in Carrie. She tells of finding shelter in her local library, discovering poetry and the world of words, and eventually becoming an author herself. This book is a fascinating autobiography of a leading lesbian author. Don't miss it.

Albert Nobbs - The titular character, played by Glenn Close, lives in 19th century Ireland, a time and place unwelcoming of independent women. Nobbs is living the life of a man, working as a butler in an upper class hotel. Nobbs maintains an introverted personality in order to prevent any discovery of the nature of her gender, but when other employees of the hotel get too close, her carefully constructed walls are compromised.

The Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George - Two very different high-school girls, Jesse, a politically active outsider, and Emily, a popular girl on the student's council, have been having clandestine meetings in the third-floor library bathroom to kiss. The"opposites attract" formula is put to the test when the two find themselves on opposing sides of a battle about a megastore threatening to crowd out local businesses. This is smart, thoughtful writing that will entertain, but also make teens (and adults) think.

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch - Fans of Tina Fey's Bossypants will be tempted to assume the two comedian-penned memoirs are similar, but Lynch's book is less jokey and more personal. She tells it all, from her teenage alcohol abuse to her success as a popular actress. Jane Lynch has led an amazing life, and I'm happy she put it all down on paper for our enjoyment.

Smell & Tell: Using Your Sense of Smell For Creative Inspiration

Wednesday June 13, 2012: 6:30 pm to 8:45 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Michelle Krell Kydd is a flavor and fragrance expert and award winning blogger who uses her training as a "nose" to bring stories to life. She is editor of an award-winning blog on smell and taste, Glass Petal Smoke.

This "Smell and Tell" workshop is perfect for food lovers and writers who are interested in smell and the autobiographical memories that it inspires.

This event is for adults and teens (grade 6 and up).

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