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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, October 31, 1999

Fall Is a Time Of Changing Titles On Library Shelves.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Most people look forward to the changing leaves and the arrival of cooler weather, but book people always anticipate the new books that start coming by the boxfull in late September. In early August, Publisher's Weekly lists the fall announcements, and that issue is eagerly anticipated by librarians. Many of today's recommendations are fall fiction titles are on my "must read" list. Others have been highly recommended by friends, informants and co-workers. All are available from your public library.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende (HarperCollins, 1999).

A favorite author of mine has a brand new novel that critics are hailing as one of her best. Allende's sixth work of fiction is similar to some of her earlier works: the scope is broad, the characters are multi-generational and multi-ethnic, and the protagonist is an unconventional woman who overcomes great obstacles to succeed. Set in the mid-1800s, the story follows the fortunes of Eliza Sommers, Chilean by birth but adopted by a British spinster and her bachelor brother who find her abandoned on their doorstep. When Eliza grows up she falls in love with an unsuitable man and follows him to California where he has gone to seek his fortune in the gold rush. If you are a fan of Allende's earlier works you will want to contact your library about this wonderful epic.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf (Knopf, 1999).

Recently nominated for the National Book Award, this story set in the high plains of eastern Colorado ". conjures up an entire community, and ineluctably immerses the reader in its dramas" according to the New York Times Book Review. A colleague I spoke to was about halfway through the book and reported that it was slow getting to know the characters, they seemed remote at first, but as the book progresses they come together. You will have to join me on the hold list for one of the library copies, but the wait should be worthwhile for those who enjoy literary fiction.

Walkin' the Dog by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown, 1999).

Ex-con Socrates Fortlow is back. In this second installment he struggles to rebuild his life with a girlfriend, a steady job, and a two-legged dog, but his efforts are complicated by the police, who make him their prime suspect in every crime within six blocks. Fortlow is one of the most unusual and sympathetic fictional characters around. If you haven't read Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned which is the first Socrates Fortlow story, you should do so before you read this one.

Gumbo Limbo by Tom Corcoran (St. Martin's, 1999).

In this second installment from a new writer, part-time Key West crime-scene photographer Alex Rutledge has his vacation cut short when an old navy buddy arrives in town and promptly disappears. Those who like the work of John D. MacDonald (author of the Travis McGee series) will probably enjoy this fast-paced crime thriller with an interesting cast of characters.

Chains of Command by William J. Caunitz (Dutton, 1999).

Another cop-thriller from the master of the genre according to my informant Ted Devries who is an avid reader. This time a female deputy police commissioner investigates the murder of a policeman suspected of working with Dominican drug dealers, which leads to the threatened exposure of explosive secrets. Recommended for those who don't mind strong language, and graphic descriptions.

Life Skills by Kate Ford (St. Martin's, 1999).

A single woman who quits her job when she is passed over for promotion, answers an ad that soon finds herself working on a rickety old hotel boat, dealing with fussy guests and an irritating ex-boyfriend, while cruising England's scenic canals. Those of you who need to unwind with light romantic fiction at the end of a hectic day will find this excursion just the ticket.

The Lost Glass Plates of Wilfred Eng by Thomas Orton (Counterpoint, 1999).

After reading a review several months ago I thought I would read this book when it came out. Then last week I found it on the new book shelf, grabbed it and took it home. The story takes place on the West Coast and revolves around a struggling art historian with a troubled personal life who discovers some old photographic plates from the 1870s which reveal a scandalous love affair between a Chinese-American photographer, Wilfred Eng, and the wife of his patron. A debut novel which promises to be intriguing and engaging.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.