James Webb

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It should be acknowledged from the outset that Joyce Carol Oates is one of America’s greatest living writers. For decades, her prolific pen has produced novels and nonfiction and criticism, at the rate of two or three books a year, and she does this while serving as a professor at Princeton University.

The year 2002 saw Oates take on yet another genre with the publication of Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, her first novel for young people. This month, Small Avalanches, a compilation of tales for teens and young adults that includes classic stories as well as new work, arrives on bookshelves. Kids don’t know how lucky they are.

Oates’ trademark is her ability to tap, uncontrived, into the danger that’s implicit in everyday life, from the tragic slide of old age in The Visit to the volatile stranger in the title piece, Small Avalanches. Reality isn’t a barrier to Oates either. Death shows up in denim in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? and ghosts, both benign and deadly, drift through The Sky Blue Ball and the appropriately titled Haunted.

These days, it seems as if kids are treated as future consumers of bestseller fiction. All the more reason teens should read books by writers such as Oates. It’s surprising that she waited so long to tackle the young adult genre. She must remember her childhood vividly, because the words her characters say and the thoughts they think ring so true. Her collection captures all the intensity and emotion of adolescence.

Small Avalanches isn’t for the casual reader, and neither is it for the immature one, but consider this: Oates began writing novels as a teenager, long before she was ever published. The young, serious reader, and perhaps future writer, will love this compelling book. It is a look at what a writer’s writer can accomplish.

James Neal Webb has two children; both are good writers.

 

It should be acknowledged from the outset that Joyce Carol Oates is one of America’s greatest living writers. For decades, her prolific pen has produced novels and nonfiction and criticism, at the rate of two or three books a year, and she does this while serving as a professor at Princeton University. The year 2002 […]
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Books that endure tell us about lives we can only dream of. Austen, Dickens, and Twain all lived what they wrote about, and what they lived was radically different from what we know today.

Then there's Herman Melville. In my humble opinion, Melville's Moby Dick is the greatest novel ever written. As we learned in English class, Moby Dick is really about man's struggle against death. Well, of course it is. Moby Dick is about death, but first and foremost it is about whaling. We no longer hunt whales; at least most nations don't. This shouldn't preclude readers from enjoying two books that are fascinating explorations into Melville's world.

The first, In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick, details the little-known incident that provided Melville with the foundation of his masterpiece. In 1820, the whaling ship Essex, out of Nantucket, was deliberately hit and sunk in the south Pacific by an enraged sperm whale. The ship's stunned crew of 20 was forced to make their way across 3,000 miles of open ocean to the western coast of South America. It took three months, and along the way they faced death, dehydration, starvation, and ultimately, cannibalism.

Philbrick presents this horrifying tale in a direct, deliberate manner, detailing the culture of the New England whalers, how they fit into the wider world of the early 19th century, and why their fate considering what they had to do to survive was not what we in the 21st century would expect. A sailor as well as an historian, Philbrick's richly detailed account of this tragedy stands on its own merits as a narrative; the fact that the story is the basis for one of the great novels of literature only adds to its attraction.

So, Melville had a historical basis for the sinking of the Pequod. What about Moby Dick himself? Was there a basis for this fish tale? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Tim Severin's forthcoming book, In Search of Moby Dick, explores the existence of a white whale from both an historical and a modern perspective. As Howard Schliemann searched for the gates of Troy by following Homer's writings, Severin retraces the voyage of the Pequod as well as Melville's travels through the south Pacific to get to the roots of the story. Was there a white whale? Does one exist today? He finds some surprising answers. Tropical island gods and legends lead to modern-day whale hunters who search for the great beasts much the same as their ancestors; gasoline motors attached to their outrigger canoes are their only modern innovations. Their physical daring is amazing, and their whispered stories will raise goosebumps. The vividness of Severin's writing as well as his careless disregard for his own safety make In Search of Moby Dick compelling reading.

With a major biography of Melville also on the way for summer, this promises to be a banner year for whaling or at least for the examination of it. If you are a fan of true adventure stories, snap up In Search of Moby Dick and In the Heart of the Sea.

 

James Neal Webb doesn't go fishing that often, but when he does, he always throws 'em back.

Editor’s Note: This review has been edited after publication.

So many books these days are like Chinese cooking—they're a great meal, but they don't stay with you very long. Books that endure tell us about lives we can only dream of. Austen, Dickens, and Twain all lived what they wrote about, and what they lived was radically different from what we know today.
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In our media-oriented culture, history equals big business. Dissected, deconstructed, glorified and, of course, relived on the big screen, the past is a major money-maker. Now, as we approach its 60th anniversary, one of World War II's biggest events the bombing of Pearl Harbor proves to be the media event of the summer, inspiring a full-length feature film as well as a host of new books.

Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment is an illustrated volume about the making of the movie Pearl Harbor and peripherally about the historical event the movie portrays. It's a fascinating look at the reality behind some jaw-dropping special effects, the growth of a story and the origins of characterizations, costumes and period settings. If you have seen the movie and want to learn more about the filmmakers' secrets and about the real events that inspired them, this is the book for you. Included is a minute-by-minute timeline of the fateful day, along with drawings, charts and photographs (most from the movie) that graphically portray the terror and destruction.

Dan Van Der Vat, along with painter Tom Freeman, has given us the ideal coffee table book on the subject. Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy An Illustrated History is richly illustrated, in much the same manner as the popular Titanic books. It features intelligent diagrams, enlightening illustrations, vivid contemporary photographs alongside vintage shots and gorgeous paintings. The clear, interesting narrative briefly sets the scene, both historically and physically, then leads you through the events of the attack in words and pictures. Freeman's detailed paintings along with easy-to-understand diagrams show you just how, when and why things happened as they did.

The most in-depth of the books is Pearl Harbor, by British military historian H. P. Willmott. This one looks like a coffee table book, but appearances can be deceiving. Although it is filled with hundreds of photographs some surprising and unusual and scores of richly detailed charts, diagrams, maps and blueprints, this is a serious, weighty book, and the serious student of history will find it a delight. History doesn't move in a straight line, and neither does Willmott. He answers the unasked question, for instance, of why a small island nation would intentionally provoke the largest industrialized nation in the world.

Hawaii Goes to War: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor, offers a unique look at how the military and civilians on the island coped with the crisis. Drawing from military and civilian records, Wilbur D. Jones and his wife create a picture of paradise plunged into war. Jones' best witness to what happened is his co-author and wife, Carroll Robbins Jones, who was actually there. Arriving at Pearl on November 25 to live with her father, a Navy officer, Carroll and her family survived the attack. Her mother, a gutsy combination of Margaret Bourke-White and Jacqueline Kennedy, became the Associated Press' main photographer in those frantic first months of the war, and dragging her kids along, she recorded it on film. More than 100 of her photographs are included in the book, documenting the aftermath of the attack in dramatic fashion.

Finally, if you know a child or pre-teen who would like to learn more about this chapter in our country's history, an excellent new children's book will provide the answers. Attack on Pearl Harbor: The True Story of the Day America Entered World War IIis a book the history student in your family will enjoy and probably never forget. Shelley Tanaka's narrative takes no sides in the tragedy; it simply tells the story of young people caught up in the events. An 11-year-old witnesses the attack on Kaneohe Naval Air Station from a friend's house; a 19-year-old sailor on the battleship Oklahoma struggles to survive when his ship is torpedoed; a 23-year-old Japanese sailor prepares to die in his midget submarine and ends up becoming a POW; a 14-year-old Hawaiian girl gets caught up in the confused and frightening aftermath of the attack. Featuring photos, vivid illustrations by David Craig and understandable diagrams, this is a book parent and child will want to share.

James Neal Webb is the proud son of a Navy veteran.

 

In our media-oriented culture, history equals big business. Dissected, deconstructed, glorified and, of course, relived on the big screen, the past is a major money-maker. Now, as we approach its 60th anniversary, one of World War II's biggest events the bombing of Pearl Harbor proves to be the media event of the summer, inspiring a […]
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It's November 1963, and Wayne Tedrow, Jr., a Las Vegas cop, is given $6,000 and sent to Dallas with instructions to make sure a pimp named Wendell Durfee pays the price for knifing a blackjack dealer. A relatively straight cop from a corrupt city, Tedrow is on his way to ground zero of a pivotal event in American history.

But The Cold Six Thousand isn't about Wayne Tedrow's little errand; it's about the men Tedrow meets, the men who really murdered JFK the assassins, their confidants, their paymasters, their bosses. It's about men with the hubris to think that people and events can be manipulated for their own personal ends, whether they are motivated by greed or idealism or the sheer lust for power.

Author James Ellroy has covered this ground before in his novels of the seamy underbelly of Los Angeles like White Jazz and L.A. Confidential. The Cold Six Thousand is a sequel to his critically acclaimed novel American Tabloid, and many of the characters from that book show up here. Ward Littell, late of the FBI, and Pete Bonderant, ex-cop, CIA asset and killer, wheel and deal with the likes of Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover and Floyd Patterson. History moves with lightning speed in the 1960s, and in Ellroy's fictional world, those who don't like the way it's moving plot to change its course, on the beaches of Cuba, the streets of Las Vegas and even in the jungles of Vietnam. Some warnings are warranted. The Cold Six Thousand is not a pretty book. The language is foul; the sex is careless; the violence is explicit; and the racism is disturbing in short, it's a painful mirror of the era. The good guys don't win because there are no good guys, just a lot of black with a few shades of gray. Ellroy's trademark staccato prose style reaches new crescendos. At times it's almost like a tone poem or a '50s beat rap.

It would be nice to think that James Ellroy is wrong, that history isn't really made by the greedy and the ugly and the amoral. But The Cold Six Thousand provides a graphic glimpse of how things worked back in the '60s, and our nation hasn't been the same since that turbulent era.

James Neal Webb can remember where he was when John F. Kennedy died.

 

It's November 1963, and Wayne Tedrow, Jr., a Las Vegas cop, is given $6,000 and sent to Dallas with instructions to make sure a pimp named Wendell Durfee pays the price for knifing a blackjack dealer. A relatively straight cop from a corrupt city, Tedrow is on his way to ground zero of a pivotal […]
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If you're searching for a gift for a member of the greatest generation, this season's offerings of World War II books provide an exciting range of choices. With the phenomenal popularity of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation as an incentive, publishers have combed archives and other sources to produce books that give new, eye-opening accounts of the war to readers young and old still fascinated by this pivotal event in world history.

What better place to start than Page One: The Front Page History of World War II as Presented in The New York Times. This is a compilation of selected issues of the nation's greatest newspaper covering our nation's greatest crisis and it makes for fascinating reading. Each front page is reproduced in its entirety, and you can't help but take note of the way the headlines grow in point size as the years go on. The smaller stories of the war can be just as fascinating as the headlines. Not many people know that the U.S. mainland the Aleutian Islands in Alaska was actually attacked twice in the summer of 1942, which a careful reading of these front pages will reveal.

A similar approach can be found in The Second World War: An Illustrated History of World War II, Volume I, edited by the writer and literary critic Sir John Hammerton. This is a massive set of books that reprint the journal The War Illustrated, a popular British publication that covered the war practically from its inception. For the true aficionado of WWII memorabilia, this is as close to source materials as you're likely to get. Where else would you find the verbatim dispatch of a Russian journalist as he waits in Moscow, listening to the sound of German guns only 70 miles from the city? Or the account of an RAF bomber crew, shot down over the Atlantic, who survived nine days in a life raft before finally being rescued? Maybe you'll want to get the volume covering the beginnings of the war, or perhaps the one concerning America's entry into the conflict. A truly interested reader will want to have them all.

Another excellent entry is Our Finest Hour: Voices of the World War II Generation. While it contains only a fraction of the vast archives of Life's World War II photographs, every picture included here is superb. In truth, words aren't needed, but contemporaneous material from the magazine enhances the photographs. Photographers for Life have always had a knack for capturing a story on film. Whether it's a colonel kneeling before the flag-draped body of his son on Okinawa, or the mute exhaustion of a foot soldier after D-Day, words aren't even necessary; each photo conveys a wealth of information and emotion.

Five years after its original publication Andy Rooney's My Warhas been reissued in a gift edition with a new forward by Tom Brokaw. Rooney was a young sergeant writing for Stars and Stripes during the war, and he was eyewitness to some of the most momentous events in this nation's history. He focuses not on the planning sessions or the summit meetings or even the crucial battles though he was present at many of these things but rather on the experiences of the common soldier. Whether it be the pilots who bombed Germany despite their horrendous casualty rate, or the foot soldiers who plodded across Europe, Rooney tells their story. Drafted at the war's beginning, he began as a member of an artillery company, but used his writing background to gain a position with the Army's newspaper. Rooney tells his story in such an appealing, matter-of-fact style that the reader feels like he is part of a private conversation. An excellent, funny and moving book, My War makes a worthy addition to any World War II bookshelf.

Now if you're wondering, Which of these books should I buy my Granddad? we have a surprising answer for you. If he's a veteran of the war, he'd enjoy any of these selections, but we would be willing to bet that Max Allen Collins' For The Boys: The Racy Pin-Ups of World War IIwould put the biggest grin on his face. This is a full color collection of the arty and racy pin-ups and posters that ended up on the walls and jackets and bombers of the soldiers of the war. It may be politically incorrect, but it's history. Just don't give it to him while the great-grandkids are around!

A personal favorite among the new World War II books is one of the most unusual books on the war I've ever seen. While we all have been raised to think of the war as one fought in black and white, in newsreels and grainy photographs, The Second World War In Color by Stewart Binns and Adrian Wood is just that a collection of color photographs of the war. Adolph Hitler lounges in a smartly cut blue pin-stripe suit and olive bombers warm up with brown beaches, blue skies and green palm trees in the background. This book is at times jaw-droppingly amazing; somehow the color makes the impact of the war more immediate.

From funny posters to heartbreaking photographs, these new books bring to life the experience of World War II and provide fascinating reading for the veterans who were there and for those who want a revealing glimpse of history in the making.

If you're searching for a gift for a member of the greatest generation, this season's offerings of World War II books provide an exciting range of choices. With the phenomenal popularity of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation as an incentive, publishers have combed archives and other sources to produce books that give new, eye-opening accounts […]
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Gregory Boyington, otherwise known as Pappy, was a media darling before there was such a term. A Marine Corps fighter ace and leader of the famed Black Sheep Squadron during World War II, Boyington used and was used by the press during his long and tumultuous life. His fame took him all the way into the television age when Baa Baa Black Sheep, based on his autobiography, became a hit TV series during the 1970s. Author Bruce Gamble skillfully unravels the highs and lows of Boyington's paradoxical story in Black Sheep One: The Life of Gregory Pappy Boyington. Raised by an alcoholic mother and her common-law husband, Boyington managed to overcome the obstacles of his home life by entering the military, which would ultimately prove to be his salvation as well as his damnation. The Marine Corps trained him as a pilot and rewarded his sometimes reckless courage, but it also introduced him to his nemesis alcohol. The camaraderie and culture of the military made consumption of alcohol almost a requirement.

Despite his drinking binges, Boyington managed to down more Japanese planes than any other Marine fighter pilot and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Gamble's extensive use of military records, interviews and contemporary accounts all give Black Sheep One a wealth of detail. His prose style is clear and he dispassionately recounts the events of Boyington's career without condemning his excesses or extolling his virtues. Black Sheep One succeeds both as biography and history, but its strength lies in its power as a cautionary tale. Looking back at photos of his boyish face as a winning pilot, and later, at the alcohol-ravaged features of an old man, the reader can't help but wonder about the price of Boyington's success.

 

Gregory Boyington, otherwise known as Pappy, was a media darling before there was such a term. A Marine Corps fighter ace and leader of the famed Black Sheep Squadron during World War II, Boyington used and was used by the press during his long and tumultuous life. His fame took him all the way into […]
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The reality of the past always stands out in stark contrast to our fuzzy mental pictures. Ross King's account of the building of Brunelleschi's Dome, the gargantuan centerpiece of renaissance Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, is both a portrait of a driven man and the age in which he lived.

We tend to admire the beauty of wonders such as the dome without pondering the human sacrifices required to produce them. King brings the inspiration and the perspiration equally to life. Known primarily as the "inventor" of perspective painting, Filippo di Ser Brunelleschi was a goldsmith, an artist, an inventor and an architect; in this last role he was called upon to create a miracle to build a dome without using support scaffolding during construction, or with the familiar gothic flying buttresses when it was complete.

Many residents of 15th century Florence felt the task was impossible and denounced Brunelleschi as a madman. But he persevered to complete construction of what was then the largest dome in the world. That how he did it still manages to mystify us after half a millennium makes this study of life, art, religion, and politics doubly fascinating.

The reality of the past always stands out in stark contrast to our fuzzy mental pictures. Ross King's account of the building of Brunelleschi's Dome, the gargantuan centerpiece of renaissance Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, is both a portrait of a driven man and the age in which he lived. We tend to admire […]
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Looking back on it, Tom Clancy's success seems as improbable as the fate of the protagonists in his many best-selling novels. The Bear and the Dragon to be released later this month, is the 11th novel from this prolific author. He has also created a successful fiction series (Op-Center) and written several nonfiction works on military topics. Not bad for a former insurance salesman.

Thomas L. Clancy, Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1947. He graduated from Loyola College with a major in English before settling into life as an insurance broker. Like so many English majors, he dreamed of writing a novel. In Clancy's case, his hobby of warfare became the inspiration for that novel; the technology of warfare, in particular, interested him. An avid gun collector, he eventually moved on to the study of more high-tech weaponry.

In the early 1980s, Clancy read about the captain of a Soviet frigate attempting to defect to Sweden, and the seed of a novel was planted. The Hunt for Red October was eventually published by an obscure military press. It was the first work of fiction for both, and only about 14,000 copies were printed. After President Ronald Reagan read it and pronounced it "the perfect yarn," the book shot up the New York Times bestseller list.

Sales climbed when the Navy and other intelligence sources expressed consternation at Clancy's technical accuracy. Despite the rumors, he isn't a retired spy he's simply a diligent researcher. He's been debriefed by Pentagon officials and is required reading in military colleges.

Success has brought personal gain as well as personal cost; he has a fine house overlooking Chesapeake Bay, but he's been swindled in a stock scam. He's been criticized for his technology-as-hero approach, but Clancy himself decries the "techno-thriller" label attached to his fiction. He's seen three of his novels become hit movies, and his Op-Center creation has become a TV mini-series.

The entertainment press is abuzz with talk of Ben Affleck taking over for Harrison Ford as the third actor to play Jack Ryan. All of this sets the stage for the forthcoming release of The Bear and the Dragon, wherein converging forces of Russia and China present President Jack Ryan with a crisis of devastating proportions. Can there be any doubt who will rule the bestseller lists in the fall?

Jim Webb writes from Nashville.

Looking back on it, Tom Clancy's success seems as improbable as the fate of the protagonists in his many best-selling novels. The Bear and the Dragon to be released later this month, is the 11th novel from this prolific author. He has also created a successful fiction series (Op-Center) and written several nonfiction works on […]
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Today's average 10-year-old is a lot different from you or me at that age; heck, they're different from when my own kids were 10, and that hasn't been too long ago. Children today are worldly wise and verbally sophisticated, but one thing remains unchanged: they're still kids. Tom Lichtenheld understands this. He respects his audience, but maintains a sense of humor just the same. In his book Everything I Know About Pirates, he has taken a subject near and dear to kids pirates and created something fresh, entertaining, and full of whimsy. Well-written and illustrated, this book is full of slick, witty humor that won't go over kids' heads.

Pirates is chock full of facts, jokes, smirky little asides, craziness, and Lichtenheld freely admits stuff he just made up. You gotta love it. So, in addition to getting the usual pirate data, you find out such things as the fact that the swashbucklers are basically clumsy (why else would they have hooks for hands, peg-legs and eye patches? Makes sense to me!). Sometimes Lichtenheld's explanations make so much sense, I wonder if it could be true, like reasoning that pirate boots are always doubled over because they're usually stolen and don't fit right.

Everything I Know About Pirates (ages 4-8) is a book that kids should read themselves, because you'll probably annoy them if you try to read it aloud and stop every couple of lines to compose yourself. Instead, shake your grownup head seriously and say that book's full of nonsense. You can always sneak a peek after the kids are in bed asleep; trust me, your youngsters will appreciate it all the more.

James Neal Webb buckles his swash in Nashville.

Today's average 10-year-old is a lot different from you or me at that age; heck, they're different from when my own kids were 10, and that hasn't been too long ago. Children today are worldly wise and verbally sophisticated, but one thing remains unchanged: they're still kids. Tom Lichtenheld understands this. He respects his audience, […]
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Jonathan Lethem's newest novel, Girl in Landscape, has drawn comparisons to works as disparate as John Ford's The Searchers and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Though there's truth to this, the author of As She Climbed Across the Table has ventured into unchartered territory with this latest book.

I read the book in one night. Granted, I'm a pretty fast reader, but I don't read that fast unless I'm really enthralled, so I guess you could say I liked it. Girl in Landscape is an inventive twist on the pioneer theme, and its plot turns on the strengths and weaknesses of its characters yes, sort of like John Ford's The Searchers, although I found myself comparing it more to William Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident. And while Pella Marsh, our heroine, undergoes a sexual awakening, Lolita never experienced such side effects. Then again, Lolita wasn't a science fiction novel (at least I don't think it was). Where Lethem really succeeds, and where the comparison to the classic western is valid, is the way in which pioneering of any sort whether it be in the old west or on a planet light years from Earth strips away the veneer of civilization and returns us to survival mode.

Survival is what Pella Marsh and her family have in mind when they emigrate from an environmentally devastated Earth to the Planet of the Archbuilders, but they end up trading one kind of despair for another. You don't need a history of the 21st century to figure out why Pella's family is leaving having to go to the beach covered in a transparent plastic cone tells you all you need to know. Pella's inept politician father hasn't got a clue what he's doing, but then, neither does anyone else on this world, long abandoned by a super-race of aliens and populated only by their seemingly dim-witted descendants. The only player in this little drama who has control of his environment is, naturally, the villain; Efram Nugent looms large in this book, much like Lee Marvin's Liberty Valence loomed large in another John Ford picture. Pella is both drawn to and repelled by him. And I'm not even going to mention the house-deer.

I really admire writers who do a lot with a little; that is to say, writers who construct their worlds with a minimum of prose, revealing just enough to drive the story, but leaving even more to the imagination.

Jonathan Lethem's newest novel, Girl in Landscape, has drawn comparisons to works as disparate as John Ford's The Searchers and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Though there's truth to this, the author of As She Climbed Across the Table has ventured into unchartered territory with this latest book. I read the book in one night. Granted, I'm […]
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Early on in Stephen King's new novel, Bag of Bones, the narrator—a suspense novelist living in New England—compares himself to his contemporaries and comes up wanting. While Mike Noonan was never a Grisham, Clancy, or Ludlum, he's done all right, just so long as he never publishes at the same time as Mary Higgins Clark, the 900-pound gorilla of his particular genre: "the Lovely Young Woman on Her Own Meets Fascinating Stranger," as he terms it. The one writer that Noonan never refers to, either at the beginning or anywhere else in the book, is Stephen King, an interesting omission considering that Bag of Bones is a crafty look into the world of modern publishing.

Apart from that, Bag of Bones is many things; it's a chilling ghost story, an intricate thriller, a mystery, and an almost painful psychological portrait. Mike Noonan, the aforementioned suspense writer, is in the grip, literally, of a four-year writer's block following the sudden death of his wife, Jo. When he sits at his computer and boots up WordPerfect, he gets physically ill. If this weren't enough, he has nightmares about Jo, and about Sara Laughs, his summer house in rural Maine. He is also troubled by the suspicion that his wife may have been having an affair before her death.

In an effort to confront these demons within him, he moves back to Sara Laughs only to find that they are very real, and that the summer house is haunted by several spirits, including Jo. While trying to understand what is happening around him, he meets Mattie and Kyra Devore, a young widow and her toddler daughter. In doing so, he runs afoul of Max Devore, Mattie's multi-millionaire father-in-law, who is determined to gain custody of Kyra. All of these plot lines crisscross-cross throughout the book and converge on one point Sara Laughs in a shattering conclusion that is both tragic and breathtaking.

Already drawing comparisons to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, Bag of Bones also recalls Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House, as well as the movie Poltergeist. It goes without saying that it is a chilling tale.

Mike Noonan compares himself to Grisham, Clancy and Ludlum, though he never evinces the desire to reach their level of achievement. King is at their level, but I can't help but think that he wants to move beyond them, to the literary acceptance of, say, a John Irving or John Updike. Certainly Bag of Bones is a giant step in that direction. Is this his best novel? No, I think that's yet to come.

James Neal Webb lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Early on in Stephen King's new novel, Bag of Bones, the narrator—a suspense novelist living in New England—compares himself to his contemporaries and comes up wanting. While Mike Noonan was never a Grisham, Clancy, or Ludlum, he's done all right, just so long as he never publishes at the same time as Mary Higgins Clark, […]

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