The books we love coming out this week include new titles from Sergio Olguín, Timothy Brennan, and Libby Hubscher.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Frankel (High Noon) delivers a vivid chronicle about the classic 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy, the only X-rated movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Frankel covers the film’s main contributors: James Leo Hurlihy, whose 1965 novel was the basis for the movie; director John Schlesinger, who took a chance on a novel “so bleak, troubling and sexually raw no ordinary film studio would go near it”; formerly blacklisted screenwriter Waldo Salt; actors Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman (whom Frankel interviewed); and casting director Marion Dougherty, who convinced Schlesinger to take a chance on then-unknown Voight. Frankel offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes, notably about the challenges of filming in New York City during a garbage strike, and in Texas, where the film crew needed protection from a den of rattlesnakes. Frankel also renders the social upheaval of the era—the Stonewall riots, antiwar protests, racial unrest—and the window between the collapse of old Hollywood’s heavy censorship and the rise of the profit-oriented blockbusters when Midnight Cowboy was made. This enthralling account of a boundary-breaking film is catnip for film buffs.
Former Italian senator and prosecutor Carofiglio (A Fine Line) takes a break from his Guido Guerrieri crime series with this poignant and moving father/son story. Antonio, an Italian 18-year-old whose parents are separated, is largely estranged from his father; he suffers bouts of epilepsy and, having endured years of failed treatments, is told by a specialist in Marseilles that he may be able to be cured. First, though, the doctor must test how Antonio’s brain reacts to stress. To that end, Antonio is ordered to not sleep for two days, and he spends the 48 hours awake in the city, accompanied by his father. He asks his dad about a scar, which leads to a how-I-met-your-mother story, and a dazzling episode, set in a jazz club, has Antonio marveling at his father playing piano on stage. Then the pair talk about mathematics and magical thinking, and after they visit a porno shop his father recounts visiting a brothel. They eventually get invited to a party where Antonio has a transformative experience. The father and son’s odyssey through the gritty streets of Marseilles is laced with many memorable details, such as the single-file pack of dogs that reminds Antonio of the Abbey Road cover, and Carofiglio shines with vivid descriptions of Antonio’s epilepsy fits (“I had a bedspread that was light blue, almost sky blue. All at once that pale, relaxing colour grew threatening...and went right through me with a violence that was unreal”). Antonio’s catalog of intimate experiences, whether painful, pleasurable, or bittersweet, make for an enchanting coming-of-age tale.
Ruden (The Face of Water) wrestles fresh meaning from Christianity’s sacred texts in her startling new translation of the four Gospels. Working from the original Greek text and within the context of the ancient Greco-Roman-Jewish era, Ruden strives to rescue a “defensively hermetic” text from “under the muffling, alien weight of later Christian institutions.” The result makes the familiar unfamiliar and intriguing. Faith and believe are translated as “trust”; one does not repent but “changes purpose”; disciples is rendered as “students”; and Jesus is not crucified but “hung on the stakes.” When Jesus comes to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead, Ruden uses the affecting formulation that Jesus “howls within.” Ruden also appealingly modernizes many scenes, such as Pilate, after having Jesus whipped, saying, “Look at this guy.” Thousands of her word choices differ from common translations, and footnotes provide essential pithy explanations of her reasoning, as do a lengthy introduction and a “discursive glossary” of key terms. This audacious translation is essential reading for anyone who thinks they already know the Gospels.
It’s possible to create a workplace environment in which “everyone can collaborate and respect one another’s individuality,” advises CEO coach Scott (Radical Candor) in this timely guide for leaders struggling to address workplace inequity. Workplace injustice, Scott writes, “is actually six different problems: bias, prejudice, bullying, discrimination, verbal harassment, and physical violations.” In explaining each, she uses examples of bad experiences (her own and others’) and lays out the steps for building toward “just work,” a play on words meaning the space to focus on business, and an equitable environment. Scott explains the difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying, and offers appropriate responses for each: one effective way to deal with to bias, she writes, is to “use an ‘I’ statement to invite the person to see things from your perspective.” Scott includes success stories of organizations doing it right, such as OpenTable, whose CEO “made improving gender diversity a priority.” Scott refuses to let readers off the hook: “It’s simple, even if it’s not easy,” she insists, and “we can’t afford to screw around.” Urgent and actionable, this passionate manifesto will be a welcome addition to any leader’s desk.
Verdon’s brilliant seventh mystery featuring retired NYPD homicide detective Dave Gurney (after 2018’s White River Burning) showcases a nifty impossible crime variant. Gurney’s former partner, Mike Morgan, who once saved his life, is now the police chief of the affluent village of Larchfield, N.Y., where Gurney now lives and crime is low. Then an intruder slashes the throat of Angus Russell, Larchfield’s main power player, in his home. The killer’s identity appears to be obvious, as the fingerprints of Billy Tate, a local ex-con who threatened Russell, are found in Russell’s bedroom, but it’s impossible for Tate to be guilty. The night before, Tate was pronounced dead after being struck by lightning and falling from the roof of a church he was vandalizing in front of multiple witnesses, including Morgan. Gurney joins the inquiry, which gets even weirder after a video shows Tate breaking out of the coffin where his body was stored. The surprises keep coming as the plot builds to an impressive reveal. Verdon has never been better at crafting a bizarre setup and resolving it in a satisfactory way.
The cunning and taut lines in the irreverently funny latest from Addonizio (Mortal Trash) reveal a poet teetering on the edge of existential ennui. The collection opens with the humorous poem “Night in the Castle,” in which an artist’s grant has afforded the poet speaker palatial accommodations and she is carried away by grandiose flights of fancy: “I want to stay here & poison the king next/ I want to be a feared and beloved queen ordering up fresh linens &/ beheadings.” Elsewhere, Addonizio responds to Walt Whitman’s contention in “Song of Myself” that he might prefer to live among animals, declaring that animal life is probably not as idyllic as he imagines: “I know you like grass but it’s no fun to be a pricey pre-hamburger/ ruminating with no TV.” A true master of the bon mot, she declares in “Telepathy,” “Men like to say they’re not mind readers, but the ones I’m drawn to aren’t/ readers at all.” Several moments in these poems suggest a universal despair and loneliness that feels in keeping with the present moment, but Addonizio’s incredible comedic timing and brilliance at subverting the reader’s expectations ensures the mood is never too dark for long. These poems are brilliant reflections from the high priestess of the confessional.
Early in Noor’s impressive second whodunit featuring Insp. Mislan Latif of Kuala Lumpur’s Special Investigations Unit (after 2020’s 21 Immortals), Mislan and his loyal assistant, Det. Sgt. Johan Kamarudin, are called to a crime scene on the Duta–Ulu Klang Expressway. Two business executives have been found shot to death inside a locked Mercedes, which came to rest on the road’s divider in light traffic. Since the car’s doors and windows are locked, a murder-suicide is the obvious explanation for the fatalities. With no apparent motive for the crime, Mislan suspects the truth is more complicated, and begins considering how a third person could have been inside the Mercedes to commit two murders while leaving the automobile sealed after escaping. Mislan’s boss advises him to tread carefully, because one of the victims had some contact with the city’s anti-corruption commission. That someone later tries to frame the inspector for graft complicates his investigation. The combination of clever plotting and portrayal of life in Malaysia is a winner. Noor brilliantly integrates an unusual impossible crime into a gritty procedural story line.
Neeley (The Language of Global Success), a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, shows in this much-needed survey that the seismic shift from in-person to virtual workplaces has been long underway and is here to stay. While Neely cites many benefits of remote work (increased productivity among them), she also shows that there are considerable drawbacks, including employee isolation, lack of synchronization and the ability to have shared goals, and problems with bonding and trust. To combat these challenges, she offers employers and managers research-based guidance, tackling common issues such as how to best use digital tools (cloud-based apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams “require virtually no investment in infrastructure”), assess productivity, manage global teams across different cultures, and identify when remote working fails. Among the examples of companies who have made successful transitions to remote work, Neeley cites Unilever’s formation of agile teams and petrochemical company Tek’s move to add “respect for others and their cultural differences” to their annual employee evaluation criteria. A supremely helpful guide for addressing topics covered in each chapter rounds things out. Significant and timely, Neeley’s guidance will provide vital information to those struggling to work and lead in the virtual workplace.
Early in this superior crime novel from Ned Kelly Award–winner Fox (Hades), Blair Harbour chooses not to report the battered, distraught teenage girl who robbed the L.A. gas station where Blair works and stole her car. Recently paroled after a murder conviction, Blair feels sympathy for the poor kid. The next day, Blair’s former cellmate, Sneak, shows up to beg for help in finding her missing daughter, who happens to be the young thief. Meanwhile, Det. Jessica Sanchez becomes a pariah in the LAPD after a grateful citizen bequeaths her a Brentwood mansion for outstanding performance. Blair and Sneak’s quest brings them into the orbit of Ada Maverick, a stone-cold crime boss who’s willing to help them in their search for her own reasons, just as Jessica begins to realize that there was something hinky about the case that sent Blair to prison. Vividly drawn characters and striking individual scenes, such as Jessica’s visit to a dealer in murderabilia (killers’ personal artifacts) or Blair watching M13 gangsters happily play with her pet gopher, help make this brutal but ultimately hopeful tale of desperate women a standout. It deserves a wide audience.