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Extra! Extra! Late breaking news from the publishing industry. And it's not good news. In a recent issue of New York magazine reporter Jessica Grose tells the story of the growth of a subgenre of fiction that's beating out all other contenders in the race to sell books. Grose calls the subgenre "smutty books." When it comes to sales, smutty books lead the pack with annual sales of $1.358 billion. Christian and inspirational books, comes in a weak second at $759 million. Lots of people buy mysteries, but its publishers report $682 million, followed by Science Fiction at $559 million.
I was very happy to receive "Walking the Rails," by Ethel Erickson Radner (available at iUniverse.com; barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com, $13.95 paper; $23.95 hardcover; $3.99 e-book). It's always interesting to read a memoir by someone you know because you normally find out that you didn't know as much about the person as you thought. Ethel Radner, nee Erickson, grew up a block from where I spent my youth.
Gary Boelhower, a St. Scholastica theology professor, writes on a variety of topics, his first wife, his daughter's wedding, his gayness, his grandmother "ground down by the hard soil of two failed farms." His poetry is unfailingly concrete and he breathes life into the most mundane of topics.
Ever since I read "The Education of Henry Adams," I've thought of its author, the great-grandson of our second president and grandson of John Quincy Adams, as a sanctimonious little prig. Reading his "St. Michel and Chartres" didn't alter my opinions. I guess I was only partially right. I've finished "Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life," by Natalie Dykstra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26) and have come to know Henry and his wife "Clover" in a more complete light.
Back in the 1950s adolescents looking for exciting reading about the facts of life, etc., turned to a series of books by muckraking journalists Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. Books like "Manhattan Confidential," "Chicago Confidential" and even "Midwest Confidential," which exposed all sorts of sin in the nearby Twin Cities and notorious streets like Washington Avenue. These books couldn't hold a candle to a new scholarly book called "Island of Vice," by Richard Zacks (Doubleday, $27.95).
The Dale family -- Mom, Dad, son Zak, daughter Chloe and Lars the dog -- come together for a typical American supper: Zak stepped through the front door of his home at 6:03. Virtually on time. "Wash up, we're at the table," his mother called out. Zak went into the bathroom and decided to use soap instead of just water, since his hands were dirty from dribbling a basketball. His hand washing attempt turned the soap a dull gray, left streaks of mud in the white porcelain basin and imprinted several dirty handprints on the beige towels.
Tom Nash seemingly has it made. He's a retired British spy. He lives on the Cote D'Azur, the French Riviera, hobnobs with artists and writers and expatriates like Gerald and Sara Murphy. His reckless days as a secret agent seem well behind him, and he's so confident that he's out of the woods he leaves his Beretta revolver locked up in a desk drawer. Then one night someone tries to kill him. Who might that be? It's 1935 and the world is working its way to another war, with Nazis and Communists and everything in between plying their spycraft in the most unlikely places.
A 19-year-old rural River Falls man's death after an unprotected trench collapsed at a Spring Valley job site last November has resulted in a series of fines totaling $137,000 against Gordy's Pump Services, W9463 690th Ave., River Falls. Gordy's has two weeks to appeal and contest the fines that were handed out by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The five fines were for safety violations, including two that were called "willful." OSHA inspected the job site after James Tilson, a 2010 Prescott High school graduate, had died in the Nov.
"The superb landscape...is a rich regalia. We found all the farmers busily employed in gathering, grinding, and expressing the juice of their apples; the crop of which they say is rather above mediocrity. "The average wheat crop they add, is about 15 bushels to the acre from their fallow land -- often 20 & from that to 25. The principal export from Norwalk & Fairfield is horses and cattle -- salted beef & pork, lumber & Indian corn, to the West Indies -- and in small degree wheat and flour." Doesn't the above sort of sound like the report from a rural county agent? Not so.
I hail from Whitehall where there's a large settlement of Amish who moved in forty-odd years ago. My father first worried about their presence because he was a businessman on Main Street and he said, "All they'll buy is salt and black thread." He was wrong, of course, but I always think of him when I see young Amish brides at the IGA buying TV dinners and their husbands letting go their agricultural traces to become painters, carpenters and roofers (good ones, too). Years ago my widowed father lost a leg and we hired Rachel, "a fallen away" Amish girl to be his housekeeper.