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In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft

W. Scott Poole. Soft Skull, $17.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59376-647-4

Historian Poole (Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror) turns his scholarly attention to H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) in this highly readable, informal biography, which also surveys the iconic horror writer's place in today's popular culture. Acknowledging the work done on Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi and other critics in recent decades, Poole takes pains to point out where his views differ from theirs. In particular, Poole stresses the importance of the women in Lovecraft's life, notably his mother, Sarah, and his wife, Sonia, to whom he was effectively married for only two years. Sarah may have had a detrimental psychological influence on her son, Poole concedes, but "at every opportunity, she let his imagination run in its wildest directions," encouraging his pursuit of such hobbies as chemistry and astronomy. In addition to putting in a good word for Sonia, Poole cites an anecdote that will be unfamiliar even to those steeped in Lovecraft lore: a document among Sonia's papers at the John Hay Library in Providence, R.I., suggests that Lovecraft enjoyed watching his wife dance to a recording of "Danse Macabre," the Camille Saint-Saëns tone poem. For Lovecraft neophytes wanting to learn more about the man and his work, this is a fine starting point. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Once a Pulp Man: The Secret Life of Judson P. Philips as Hugh Pentecost

Audrey Parente. Bold Venture, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-523863-69-3

Only fans of Judson S. Philips (1903–1989), the author of crafty fair-play whodunits featuring New York City hotel manager Pierre Chambrun, will have much interest in Parente's uneven, sometimes repetitive biography, which doesn't attempt to be an objective treatment of its subject. MWA Grand Master Philips wrote hundreds of short stories, novellas, and serialized stories for pulp magazines such as Argosy and Black Mask, as well as radio scripts both under his own name and as Pentecost, although he kept that alias a secret for more than a decade. Parente (Pulp Noir), who worked for Philips as an assistant when he ran a summer stock theater in Connecticut, views him as a "creative, prolific, humorous, cheerful, cynical, flirtatious dynamo." She interviewed him extensively and used his recollections, supplemented by her own memories and other interviews, to recreate his life story. Readers should be prepared for some awkward prose ("When I got to Judson Philips' home, I stood only 5-foot-2, my hair was long and blonde"). (Feb.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program

Shirley Babashoff, with Chris Epting. Santa Monica, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5958-0087-9

In light of the recent Russian doping scandal, Babashoff, a former Olympic medal–winning swimmer, reveals in her timely memoir how the East German government turned their female swimmers into elite athletes with an experimental drug program. Her narrative deftly recounts her humble California beginnings, with her strict parents pushing her to triumph in a series of amateur meets and Olympic trials. Babashoff, assisted by veteran writer Epting, covers some painful terrain about her father molesting her for years, a crime he was eventually arrested for after similarly assaulting several neighborhood girls. Once the acclaimed swimmer gets on the big Olympic stage in 1972 and 1976, she witnesses the horror of the Munich massacre, the glory of gold medal–winner Mark Spitz, and the evolution of the muscular East German female swimmers, who were groomed in the lab to smash world records. "It's like swimming against aliens," Babashoff tells skeptical reporters, who doubt that the women's new Charles Atlas bodies are the result of doping. Unforgettable and brave, Babashoff's whistle-blowing memoir poses a host of disturbing questions about Olympic regulations, performance-enhancing drugs, anti-doping agencies, media arrogance, winning cleanly, and life after competition. (July)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Ted Strong Jr.: The Untold Story of an Original Globetrotter and Negro League All-Star

Sherman L. Jenkins. Rowman & Littlefield, $38 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4422-6727-5

Jenkins, president of a digital media company, provides an accessible telling of the fascinating life of Ted Strong Jr., who in the 1930s played with the Kansas City Monarchs in baseball's Negro Leagues and then with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team of the 1940s. His father also played in the Negro Leagues, as did one of his younger brothers. The narrative focuses on the physical attributes that allowed Strong to dominate and touches on the obstacles that kept him from greater heights, including not being selected to join his contemporaries Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Buck O'Neil in integrating major-league baseball. Strong joined the Globetrotters in its infancy and helped create the showmanship known as "shadow-ball" that carries on today. Jenkins gives a wide-angle view instead of using a microscopic lens; he does little to highlight Strong's unsettled personal life or his extraordinary numbers or achievements. Most of the story comes from interviews with members of Strong's family, providing a solid look at a pioneering black athlete. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Experience of Beauty: Seven Essays and a Dialogue

Harry Underwood. McGill%E2%80%93Queen's University Press, $29.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-7735-4801-5

In this essay collection, Underwood aims to define beauty as a functional experience that shapes people's daily lives, as well as a philosophical concept with meaning that can enrich human development. He believes that subjectivity muddles beauty as an experience, rendering it hard for people to know it when they see it. "Our sense of beauty," he writes, "reflects what we have already managed to make of ourselves... and it will in turn contribute to shaping us." Throughout these essays, Underwood ruminates over art as an expression of beauty. He also examines how Nietzsche and Plato, despite their differences across time and thought, both contended that beauty transcended mere pleasure because it facilitated self-transformation. He finishes his study with a review of beauty as expressed by Marcel Proust, followed by a discussion of the idea of inner beauty. "Beauty enhances life not as an ornament but as an inspiration," he notes, summing up the theme of his book. Underwood's writing is clear, even whimsical at times, and despite the somewhat esoteric subject matter, this book should appeal to sophisticated readers with an interest in philosophy. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Stolen Child: A Mother's Journey to Rescue Her Son from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Laurie Gough. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $21.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-4597-3591-0

Veteran travel writer Gough (Kite Strings of the Southern Cross) recounts a different kind of journey that began when her 10-year-old son experienced the sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Quinn had been a healthy, carefree boy, but signs of OCD surfaced after several months of deep grief following the death of his grandfather, with whom he had been very close. Gough details behaviors and beliefs that soon made it impossible for Quinn to attend school or live as he previously had: tapping his knees and twisting his head in symmetry rituals, clenching his fists to hold magic bubbles that were essential to his obsession with winning a race at the 2024 Olympics, and other rituals he believed would bring his grandfather back to life. The family sought help from doctors, and Quinn began treatment with a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Gough characterizes OCD as an insatiable monster that gets hungrier the more one gives in to it. With help from family and friends, Quinn confronts this inner bully. This moving story is highly recommended as a beacon of hope for those experiencing OCD and their loved ones. Agent: Martha Webb, McDermid Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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One Story, One Song

Richard Wagamese. Douglas & McIntyre (PGW/Perseus, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-77162-080-2

In this collection of brief essays, Wagamese (Medicine Walk), an Ojibwe journalist, author, and poet, reflects on matters including climate change, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, growing up as a First Nations boy in Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s, homelessness, alcohol addiction, and simple pleasures such as walking in the woods with his dog. All of the reflections have a conversational and folksy tone to them, and the more politically and socially charged ones skillfully avoids the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies such messages. Even when dealing with dispiriting topics, Wagamese expresses hopefulness without sounding naive. The book is loosely divided into four sections based on the four cardinal directions and points on the traditional Native medicine wheel: east for humility, south for trust, west for introspection, and north for wisdom. The way Wagamese uses these divisions feels arbitrary; the book's sections overlap considerably in both content and sentiment. However, the eloquence that has made Wagamese one of Canada's foremost First Nations storytellers and writers largely quiets any qualms one might have about the book's structure. This is an uplifting collection that readers will peruse thoughtfully and revisit many times. John Pearce and Chris Casuccio, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The "Red" Kelly Story

Leonard Kelly, with L. Waxy Gregoire and David M. Dupuis. ECW Press (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-77041-315-3

National Hockey League legend Kelly offers his own account of a remarkable career, which included eight Stanley Cup wins during his 20 years on the ice, followed by another decade coaching. Kelly played defense for the Detroit Red Wings from 1947 to 1959 and offense for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1959 to 1967. He also served as a member of Parliament while playing for the Leafs. This is a heartwarming story of a dedicated player who was raised on tobacco farm near Port Dover, Ontario, and his rise to NHL fame. The Red Wings only paid him $6,000 a season, including performance bonuses, but Kelly's farm work kept him fed and in top condition. Readers who crave racy revelations of off-ice life won't find them in this memoir of a devout Catholic and family man. But Kelly's play-by-play recollection of games is dynamic, and he offers some no-holds-barred views of the internecine politics of the business. Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, who was both caustic and wealthy, is a perfect foil to Kelly's stoicism. This is a must-read for devotees of vintage NHL hockey. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Miniscapes: Create Your Own Terrarium

Clea Cregan. Hardie Grant (Chronicle, dist.), $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-74379-140-0

Urban dwellers with a green thumb will be wise to pick up a copy of Cregan's delightful guide to DIY terrariums. Easier to care for than most bonsai, more contained than a regular houseplant, terrariums can solve a multitude of problems for people who don't have much space or light. Australian gardener Cregan, who makes custom terrariums for a living, presents the subject in a crisp, fun style, with plenty of information and ideas to get novices started. Seasoned terrarium gardeners can probably skip the early instructional part of the book, but will still find plenty of inspiration in Cregan's tiny landscapes. Especially fascinating is the use of small toys and figures to create scenes in the terrariums. Animals such as deer can be used to give the grouping a woodland look; aliens and cartoon characters can be used for more whimsy. The pictures and instructions are clear and easy to follow, and materials are easily sourced. Air plants and succulents come in many more colors than new gardeners probably realize, and creating a colorful container of plants in the home can be as easy or involved as the gardener wishes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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No Day Shall Erase You: The Story of 9/11 as Told at the National September 11 Memorial Museum

Edited by Alice M. Greenwald. Skira Rizzoli, $45 (226p) ISBN 978-0-8478-4947-5

Published to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, this official companion to the National September 11 Memorial Museum—located where the Twin Towers once proudly stood—transports readers back to that dark day and the ensuing weeks, months, and years. An engraving of a line from Virgil's Aeneid, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time," forged in steel recovered from the site of the attacks, is the centerpiece of a 140-foot-long, 34-foot-high concrete wall that separates the museum's public space from a repository of victims' remains not open to the public. As of the 15th anniversary, 40% of the victims had not yet been identified, despite "extraordinary efforts" to do so. The book presents the efforts to memorialize those victims in the museum and the behind-the-scenes strategies at work in, for example, presenting disturbing subject matter or archiving dust (considered by many survivors to be sacred). Vivid photos and several insightful essays by museum staff complement text written respectfully and with understated authority by Greenwald, the memorial and museum's director and executive vice president for exhibitions, collections, and education. The book is a tribute to those who died on 9/11 as well as a powerful exploration of collective memory. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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