Five Short Shots from Verde Valley

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1986. Anchor. ISBN 978-0-385-49081-8

I haven’t read sci-fi/fantasy for quite awhile. Nearly the only fantasy writer I’ve read in the past thirty years was the brilliant Ursula LeGuin. There’s been so much talk about this book, given the dystopia and dysfunction brought to America courtesy of the Orange Headed Buffoon, with more than a few commentators pointing out that Atwood’s take on misogyny propelled by religion was and still is spot on. They are right. That’s all I need to say. Excellent story, plot, and pacing. 5 stars out of 5.



This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (2019. Atria. ISBN 978-1-4767-4930-3.

Fair warning: Though the cover proclaims the author as the man who penned Ordinary Grace, my favorite by fair of Krueger’s works, this is not that. The story, one of four orphans, including a Native American adolescent, is engaging to be sure. But the juxtaposition of the two white protagonist brothers in a Native American boarding school in the 1930s, to me, is a copout. Why not write the tale from the perspective of Mose, the aforementioned Native American, the actual sort of fellow who suffered at the hands of the boarding house system? I wrote Esther’s Race, a story of an African American meth addict, in the first person just to force myself, as a writer, to explore what it might feel like to be embedded in a culture not my own. Doesn’t mean this isn’t a decent read but it wasn’t nearly as compelling as it might have been. 4 stars out of 5.

The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson (1987. Borealis Books. ISBN 978-0-87351-206-0)

I bought this book because I was interested in learning more about Olson’s connections to organized crime. Given he grew up in north Minneapolis, the same locale that notorious mob boss and bootlegger Kid Cann called home, I was hoping this volume would explore the rumors of that connection, along with the violet machine gun death of muckraking journalist, Walter Liggett. But the author pretty much sticks to the DFL mantra, one shared by my uncle Willard, that Olson was essentially, for all his faults, a good man who should have been a U.S. Senator. That said, it’s a complete biography of most of the man’s achievements, if a bit short on the information I was looking for. 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5.

Stopping the Presses by Marda Liggett Wodbury (1998. Minnesota. ISBN 0-8-8166-2929-3)

This is the opposite of the Floyd B. Olson book. This is the story of murdered journalist Walter Liggett as recalled and researched by his daughter, Marda. Marda approaches her father’s story and death as any journalist should; from a distance. The shocking machine gun murder of Liggett, which took place in front of his wife and daughter and was suspected to be ordered and carried out by Kid Cann or his henchmen (either because Liggett kept attacking Gov. Olson, alleging Olson had ties to Cann or because Liggett was relentless in his attacks on bootleggers and mobsters, including Cann), was never really solved to Marda’s satisfaction but she does an admiral job of postulating who might have had a hand in the assassination of her father. An unknown and well written gem of Minnesota history. 4 stars out of 5.

The World Has Changed (2010. The New Press. ISBN 978-1-59558-705-3)

For any writer with a social conscience, or for those Alice Walker fans who want the inside scoop, this series of conversations between Walker and interviewers and other writers and scholars is the ticket. My only complaint is that there is a bit of redundancy in that topics are repeated, as are Walker’s responses, and the collection could have been edited a bit better to tighten that up. All in all, a worthy read. 4 stars out of 5.

That’s it! On to some new territory.



About Mark

I'm a reformed lawyer and author.
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