Monthly Archives: May 2015

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Rock With Wings’: Anne Hillerman Continues the Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn Navajo Tribal Police Series Begun by Her Father Tony Hillerman

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Rock With Wings': Anne Hillerman Continues the Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn Navajo Tribal Police Series Begun by Her Father Tony Hillerman

The publication of Anne Hillerman’s “Rock With Wings” (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 336 pages, $27.99) is wonderful news for fans of Tony Hillerman’s  Navajo Police series featuring Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.

Anne Hillerman is Tony’s daughter and is an outstanding author in her own right, and the research she did (see below in author’s note for more about this) shows in this police procedural featuring Chee, his wife, Bernadette Manuelito, Leaphorn and their fascinating family and friends.

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases.
Doing a good deed for a relative who’s starting a tour bus service in Monument Valley offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

I was reminded of the 1988 Dirty Harry movie “The Dead Pool”, the last of the series featuring Clint Eastwood as SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan, which dealt with a movie production plagued by mysterious deaths,  in the scenes in Monument Valley, where a motion picture is being filmed. Both movies are horror films.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.
There’s more than enough action for a fan of the late, great Tony Hillerman in “Rock With Wings.” Leaphorn doesn’t play a major role in the novel, since he’s recovering from line-of-duty gunshot wounds, but his presence is felt by Bernie and Jim. Thanks, Anne, for continuing the outstanding series created by your dad, a decorated World War II veteran and a member of the Greatest Generation!

About the author
Anne Hillerman, daughter of best-selling mystery writer Tony Hillerman, continued  her father’s Navajo detective series with “Spider Woman’s Daughter,” published  Oct. 1, 2013 (HarperCollins.) The book follows the adventures of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito as they track a would-be cop killer, travel to Chaco Canyon on the trail of a murderer, and discover intrigue in the world of ancient Indian art and artifacts.

She is the author eight non-fiction books including “Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.” She and photographer Don Strel made numerous road trips to photograph and write about the landscapes beloved by New Mexico’s best known mystery writer. Working on that book inspired her novel.

“In the process of researching Tony Hillerman’s Landscape, I re-read all of the Chee/Leaphorn mysteries, paying close attention to the settings. I ran into mud, dust storms, rez dogs, snow and those pricelessly beautiful days Tony Hillerman wrote about for more than 35 years,” Anne said. “I loved nearly every minute of it. My personal highlights included New Mexico’s Bisti badlands, the mysterious landscape near Ship Rock and vast, empty Chaco Canyon.”

Anne, the eldest of Tony and Marie Hillerman’s six children, came to New Mexico as a child and enjoys living in the Southwest. Her other major non-fiction projects include “Gardens of Santa Fe,” with features photos of Santa Fe’s finest gardens and interviews with their creators, and “Santa Fe Flavors: Best Restaurants and Recipes.”

Both received top honors at the New Mexico Book Awards. She worked for many years as a journalist, receiving awards for her writing from the New Mexico Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. When she isn’t working, Anne likes to ski, garden and experiment with new recipes in the kitchen. She is a founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe, N.M.

for more on Tony Hillerman (1925-2008)


Book Review: ‘A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope’: Tom Brokaw’s ‘Cancer Year’ Journal Offers Model for Explaining How to Face Death

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Book Review: 'A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope': Tom Brokaw's 'Cancer Year' Journal Offers Model for  Explaining How to Face Death
I’m always on the lookout for books that make it easier — there’s no easy way — for people to explain to others what’s going on when a person is told he/she has a very serious illness. Art Buchwald’s 2006 memoir “Too Soon to Say Goodbye” (Random House) is an excellent example and a friend just sent me this book (more about this later in the review). The graphic novel and later feature film “American Splendor” by Cleveland OH VA worker Harvey Pekar is another good one to read and get more than a laugh or two along with sage advice.

The latest book in this vein — no pun intended, although people visiting doctors had better be aware of veins and arteries — is Tom Brokaw’s “A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope” (Random House,  240 pages, $27.00).By any definition, Tom Brokaw, born in South Dakota in 1940, has led a fortunate life, with a strong, loving marriage, a wonderful family, many friends and a journalism career culminating in 22 years as the respected anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

All this changed  in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.” Another way of looking at it is capsulized in the Yiddish proverb “Man plans, God laughs.”

Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.

Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

If you’re wondering — as I am at this stage of my life — how to explain to friends and your  family the what you’re experiencing, “A Lucky Life Interrupted” will be of immeasurable help. We all have to craft our own stories, but Brokaw’s book offers a guide.

Brokaw’s book was relevant to my situation since his cancer is treatable but incurable. My ailments don’t even offer that degree of hope. There’s no curing — or even effectively treating — Stage 4 kidney failure or congestive heart failure. Buchwald (1925-2007), a Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent for The Washington Post, died of kidney failure, so I’m looking forward to reading about how he faced it.  For more about Buchwald,

Thanks, Tom Brokaw, for a book that will offer comfort at a time when many of us need it most.  And thanks, Joe Honick, for sending me Buchwald’s memoir!

About the Author
Tom Brokaw is the author of six bestsellers: The Greatest Generation, The Greatest Generation Speaks, An Album of Memories, Boom!, The Time of Our Lives, and A Long Way from Home. A native of South Dakota, he graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in political science. He began his journalism career in Omaha and Atlanta before joining NBC News in 1966. Brokaw was the White House correspondent for NBC News during Watergate, and from 1976 to 1981 he anchored Today on NBC. He was the sole anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw from 1983 to 2005. He continues to report for NBC News, producing long-form documentaries and providing expertise during breaking news events. Brokaw has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including two DuPonts, three Peabody Awards, and several Emmys, including one for lifetime achievement. In 2014, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He lives in New York and Montana.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Compulsion’: Retelling of Leopold-Loeb Murder Case Back in Print

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Compulsion': Retelling of Leopold-Loeb Murder Case Back in Print

The senseless thrill killing of 14-year old Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold (1904-1971) and Richard Loeb (1905-1936) in Chicago in 1924 was the heavily publicized “Crime of the Century” in Chicago’s Roaring Twenties. Acclaimed lawyer Clarence Darrow was retained to defend the two University of Chicago students and he managed to convince a jury to sentence the two to life in prison rather than executing them. Loeb was killed in prison and Leopold was  released on parole in 1958.

Meyer Levin, a contemporary of the two upper-class Jewish young men, but from a decidedly different Jewish background, fictionalized the story in his 1956 novel, “Compulsion”,  published by Simon & Schuster. It was made into a movie of the same name, but the novel has long been out of print.

Marcia Clark, prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, contributes a foreword to the handsome trade paperback edition (Fig Tree Books, LLC, 480 pages, Amazon Digital Services,  $15.95). She writes that “Before In Cold Blood, before The Executioner’s Song, Meyer Levin’s Compulsion was the standard-bearer for what we think of as the nonfiction novel….Though this trial took place in 1924, the book raises issues pertaining to society and our justice system—such as popular biases, groupthink, and the inherent, perhaps unfixable, flaws in our legal system—that are as much in evidence today as they were back then.”

Gabriel Levin, the author’s son, contributes the introduction to this outstanding novel. His father in the book is represented by reporter Sid Silver, who is also the narrator. Sid comes from a decidedly lower class Eastern European Jewish background, from Chicago’s West Side, while Judd Steiner and Artie Straus are the sons of wealthy German Jews on Chicago’s South Side, near the University of Chicago. The victim, Paulie Kessler, was from the same background as Steiner and Straus.

Obsessed with Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman, both boys decide to prove they are above the laws of man by arbitrarily choosing and murdering a Jewish boy in their neighborhood. They want to commit the perfect crime.

“Compulsion” is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. It will bring to mind classic Russian psychological novels; it was a groundbreaking novel in 1956 and it stands up superbly today.

About the Author, and the Foreword and Introduction contributors
Meyer Levin (1905 – 1981) was called by the Los Angeles Times “the most significant American Jewish writer of his times.” Norman Mailer referred to him as “one of the best American writers working in the realistic tradition.” Throughout his 60 years of professional work, Levin was a constant innovator, reinventing himself and stretching his literary style with remarkable versatility.

When Levin died in 1981 he left behind a remarkable and diverse body of work that not only reflected the incredible life he led but chronicled the development of the entire Jewish consciousness during the 20th century.

Marcia Clark began practicing law as a criminal defense attorney. She became a prosecutor in the L.A. District Attorney’s Office in 1981, and spent ten years in the Special Trials Unit where she handled a number of high profile cases prior to the O.J. Simpson case, including the prosecution of stalker/murderer Robert Bardo, whose conviction for the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer resulted in legislation that offered victims better protection from stalkers as well as increased punishment for the offenders.

She has published three novels which feature Los Angeles Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight – Guilt by Association, Guilt by Degrees, and Killer Ambition and is currently at work on her fourth novel.

Gabriel Levin has published five collections of poetry, most recently Coming Forth By Day (Carcanet, 2014) and a collection of essays The Dune’s Twisted Edge: Journeys in the Levant (The University of Chicago Press, 2013). He has as well published several collections of translation, including a selection of Yehuda Halevi’s poetry, Poems from the Diwan (Anvil, 2002). He lives in Jerusalem.
For more on the Leopold-Loeb case: