Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nevermore: Wyatt Earp, Nathan Beford Forrest, King Edward VII, Kurt Vonnegut, and Brandon Sanderson

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry is his first novel in five years.  The saloon of the title is owned by Virgil and Warren Earp.  Their brother, Wyatt, and his buddy Doc Holliday are on hand, having finished a brief stint in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Other historical notables drop by, including Quannah Parker and Buffalo Bill, but the book reads more like a farce than a western.  Part of the plot involves an English lord who turns up with his mistress and entourage and teams up with Charlie Goodnight to start an enormous cattle ranch. Our reviewer said, “It’s funny but it’s not Lonesome Dove. I could imagine it as a Broadway musical.”  It’s a quick read, and it is recommended—just be aware this isn’t a book to judge by its cover.

Next up was a nonfiction book about the Civil War.  The River Was Dyed with Blood:  Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow was written by Brian Steel Wills, a former professor at the University of Virginia at Wise, and is teaching at Kennesaw State University.  Forrest was a self-made man, a self-taught commander, and a fascinating character.  This book focuses on the events at Fort Pillow, where Forrest’s troops killed most of the Union soldiers, including those attempting to surrender.  Our reader says that Forrest could easily be described as both a saint and a devil, depending on who was doing the describing.  The book is quite readable.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut was praised by our next reviewer who found it very interesting, especially if you like science fiction. A young man named Joshua decides he wants to write about the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  He decides to interview one of the scientists responsible, and his quest leads him to an island and a new religion which boasts that it is based on lies. This is considered one of Vonnegut’s best, a satirical, funny, and absurd look at religion, politics, and society.

The Heir Apparent:  A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley is, as the title indicates, a life of Britain’s King Edward VII, who began his rather short reign after the death of his mother Queen Victoria.  Our reader said it could have been subtitled “How NOT to Raise a Child.”  Bertie, as he was called, spent most of his adult life with very little to do, as his mother felt he was not mature enough to handle anything of importance.  That included anything to do with government duties. He ascended the throne at the age of 59 and reigned for less than a decade, but according to some he set the standard for the modern monarchy.  Of course, to many he’s primarily known for his womanizing, high living, gambling, and fashion. This biography is well done, being both enlightening and entertaining.

Finally, a new member is reading the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. Set in a world covered in ash, a tyrant has ruled for a thousand years.  He created a world with vast class divisions, from the nobility to the lowly skaa who serve as slaves.  As the series begins, a half-skaa Kelsior has survived the Dark Lord’s most brutal prison and is now scheming for a way to bring him down.  Our reviewer described it as an epic fantasy and a “keeper kind of a book.”  He hasn’t finished it yet but is finding it interesting so far. There are three books in the basic series but Sanderson has recently written a book set in the same world, but three hundred years later.

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