Monday, January 28, 2013

From Willie to Rod: these bestsellers fit any genres

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Publishers Weekly –

Bestseller Grisham (The Litigators) is back in top form with this twisty, precisely plotted legal thriller that eschews the civics lessons of some of his more recent work. The masterful opening introduces disgraced Virginia lawyer Malcolm Bannister, who has served half of a 10-year prison sentence for money laundering after getting caught up in a federal net aimed at a sleazy influence peddler. Bannister's conviction has, naturally, destroyed his life, but he thinks he can use the murder of federal judge Raymond Fawcett to his advantage. Fawcett, who presided over a landmark mining rights case, and his attractive secretary, with whom he was having an affair, were both found shot in the head in his cabin in southwest Virginia. Near the bodies was an empty open safe. When the high-profile investigation stalls, Bannister tells the feds that he can identify the killer for them in exchange for a release from jail and the means to start a new life. The surprises all work, and the action builds to a satisfying resolution. 

The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

From Barnes & Noble –

This standalone sequel to The Walking Dead novel series starter takes off where Rise of the Governor ended. Not content to rest on his laurels, the self-proclaimed leader formerly known as Philip Blake takes control of the squatters' town of Woodbury. What had been a secure sanctuary against the zombie plague becomes a cesspool of oppression and violent upheaval. A stirring, unconventional novel of the undead.

Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart

Kirkus Reviews –

In which Roderick David Stewart, aka Rod the Mod, bares all--not least the secrets of spiky hair. If Keith Richards is the dangerous old man of rock 'n' roll, Rod Stewart is the standards-crooning nice old geezer. Even in his down-and-dirty days--for example, snorting mounds of cocaine with pal Elton John--he was a nice guy, unless, perhaps, you were married to him. This memoir sails from one mostly amiable anecdote to another, quickly revealing an odd factoid: Like recent memoirist Neil Young, Stewart is a model-train fanatic ("In December 2010, I reached a major career milestone. I appeared on the cover of Model Railroader magazine for the second time. Getting on the front of Rolling Stone had nothing on this"). Unlike Young, Stewart is no motor geek. He admits to liking to drive cool cars without feeling the need to know anything about them, instead reserving his major store of passion for models (female, not railroads) and soccer. Stewart charts his rise from unwashed beatnik poet to lead singer with the Faces, a position fraught with politics and intrigue. He is surprisingly modest about the three great solo albums that marked his work in the early 1970s, though he does reveal the secret of how "Maggie May" came to be written, and he is nicely cheeky about his decline later in the decade ("I may have lost the thread a couple of times in that period"). Even so, he professes to being somewhat mystified by his being named the enemy of all things punk in the '70s, since the likes of the Sex Pistols worshiped the Faces. He pulls off a nice and not too heavy-handed bit of comeuppance, though, even while compounding his enemy status with the runaway commercial success of his four albums of grandpa-era standards, which is perhaps forgivable in a man approaching 70. A likable, mostly generous and well-written look back at the days of bedding starlets and destroying hotels.

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road by Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman

Kirkus Reviews –

Legendary musician Nelson and his friends share a year's worth of stories, lyrics, riffs and dirty jokes. At age 79, the prolific Nelson (A Tale Out of Luck, 2008, etc.) shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to travel the world with his "band of gypsies." This funny, heartwarming collection doesn't quite capture the experience of being on the road with the circus, but Nelson's unmistakable voice shines through. The songwriter shares tales from the road, thoughts of the day, early memories, classic lyrics, and recollections of people like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among a host of lesser-known collaborators. Sister Bobbie Nelson and various children also chime in, while Kinky Friedman offers an affectionate foreword and Nelson's son Micah contributes some terrific portraits of everyone from Ray Charles to Django Reinhardt. There are some semi-serious moments, but the best characteristic about the book is its sense of being mostly unplanned. Page by page, you might get a list of the best pickers Willie has ever heard, the lyrics and the inspiration for "Shotgun Willie," or musings on golf, addiction, biodiesel, Farm Aid or the Occupy movement. However, it is neither as immaterial as The Tao of Willie (2006) nor as essential as his autobiography. Like another collection, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes (2001), how closely readers follow Nelson's meandering path may largely depend on their own lucidity at the time. Just one volume in Nelson's long story that remains much like its author: funny, inspirational and bawdy, with a well-honed sense of humor.

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