“The Caveman in the Backyard” By Christine Knowles. Independently published; $9.49; $3.99
A trio of time-traveling 21st century children discover camaraderie and adventure among the Paleolithic people when they pass through an opening in the Earth at the Murray Springs Clovis site and land in the Ice Age.
The quest for a prized spearhead adds intrigue to this novel for middle school readers, and children will relate to the real-time family dynamics of time travelers. There’s a lot of well-researched and smartly vetted information in the plot about the Clovis culture, prehistoric animals, and the science that has revealed this world to us. The message that there might be fewer differences than we think between us and our ancestors who lived 13,000 years ago tells children important things about the timelessness of humanity.
In addition to being a writer, author Christine Knowles edits an international journal of scientific research. She lives in Tucson.
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—Helene Woodhams “Gladys” By Trudy Weiss. Self-published. $16.99.
Family ties, domestic turmoil and difficult life before Dust Bowl Oklahoma inform this richly detailed historical novel, based on the oral history of the author’s family and the life story of her grandmother.
Since childhood, Gladys Simmons’ life has been marked by tragedy, backbreaking work and the cruelty of her brutal and anguished father. Fortunately, her life was blessed by two caring brothers and the kindness of strangers; with their support, she grows into a capable, empowered woman with a resilience she clearly did not inherit from her father. But, the author insinuates, who can really understand what is high in the bone? As a bonus, old family photos and her grandmother’s favorite recipes complete this debut novel by Tucsonan and retired teacher Trudy Weiss.
—Helene Woodhams “Out of the Crayon Box: Reflections on Teaching, Retirement, and Life” By Debra VanDeventer; independently published; $11.99, $3.99 Kindle.
“Timing is everything, plan far more than you think you need and expect the unexpected.” These are hard and fast teaching rules, says former elementary school teacher Debra VanDeventer. But as his clever and highly entertaining memoirs suggest, they really do double duty as a personal philosophy. After a rewarding 37-year career in the classroom, of which she shares touching memories and from which she actually retired twice (once in Indiana, then again after a few more years at the Manzanita School in Tucson), VanDeventer found the retirement to be a shock to his system. Letting go of her multitasking habits, adapting to a new rhythm of her days and following her happiness instead of a schedule was surprisingly difficult, but the Oro Valley resident is clearly as adept at learning as she was a teacher. One of the unexpected things she discovered about herself was her talent for creative non-fiction writing, and it’s on display here: Her retirement adventures are a delight to read.
—Helene Woodhams “Romero pools: a love story” By Alyssa Hall. Friesen Press. $31.99 hardcover; paperback $20.30; $9.99
Marin hadn’t planned on performing a backcountry rescue as she hiked the ridge above Romero Pools. But when Adam literally falls into her life, it turns out to be the lucky break she needs since her fiancé, Tyler, disappeared after their disastrous car accident.
Helping Adam limp down the mountain, Marin recounts how her disapproving parents were determined to thwart their romance and now, much to her bewilderment, she can’t find any trace of Tyler and doesn’t know if he survived the accident. Adam, a psychologist with endless resources, decides to investigate the mystery surrounding the tragedy of Marin’s Romeo and Juliet and uncovers secrets far darker than anyone had imagined.
Alyssa Hall, a Canadian snowbird and part-time resident of Oro Valley, layers her story of intrigue with a love letter to Tucson, incorporating favorite scenic destinations, landmarks, restaurants, and even Tucson’s El Tour into the story. It is his third book.
—Helene Woodhams “When Pigs Flew: The TFX Affair” By Chris Hansen. Able Baker Press. $28, $9.99 Kindle.
The Kennedy administration’s award of the coveted contract for the TFX (Tactical Fighter Experimental) fighter-bomber to the General Dynamics Corporation in 1962 – despite receiving a lower bid from the Boeing Corporation for what some considered a better-designed aircraft – sparked widespread debate in Congress. investigation.
The final report, says author Chris Hansen, was disappointingly opaque about alleged corruption, political shenanigans, corporate influence and Mafia connections. The aircraft, better known as the F-111, was itself highly controversial.
Hansen, a retired aerospace engineer who lives in Tucson, believes that, 60 years later, the full story of the TFX has yet to be fully understood. With this ambitious volume, equal parts aviation history, engineering and political exposition, he offers a detailed and thorough account of the matter as he understands it. At over 800 pages, this is not casual reading; the author suggests that readers use the table of contents as a navigational aid.
—Helene Woodhams “The Beloved Frontier: Humanity and Hope in a Contested Land” By Miriam Davidson. University of Arizona Press. $19.95 paperback.
The title of this book alone could attest to journalist Miriam Davidson’s personal and professional investment in our troubled US-Mexico border – her third book on the region.
Opening with a parable of a “special place” – rich and rich in biodiversity – that is corrupted by the greed of the empire, but manages to restore cultural and environmental harmony, Davidson immediately launches into “Gangland”. , examining the effects of the war on drugs in Mexico . Elucidating gang activity, it devotes a harrowing chapter to the murders of individual members of the press. It provides historical context for the drug trade that sparked such violence, and the complicity of the United States (read Operation Fast and Furious) in fueling it.
“Slavery” focuses on the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States, the detention and treatment of asylum seekers, the deaths of the estimated 10,000 migrants since the 1990s, efforts to identify human remains, the humanitarian aid in the desert and abuse of authority. Ending with some sense of hope, “The Peaceable Kingdom” discusses the movement of the sanctuary, the natural environment, and the beauty of the cross-border cultural community. The epilogue sets out specific recommendations for change. You’ll recognize local heroes and be reminded of Tucson’s drive to respond to human and environmental crises.
This is a comprehensive and eminently readable addition to Borderlands’ body of work.
—Christine Wald Hopkins “Pistolero” By Jeff Ridenour. Self-published. paperback $9.99; $0.99 Kindle.
Clues abound that this fourth mystery from Stu Fletcher, PI, isn’t meant to be the blackest black on the shelf… starting with the cover photo of a teddy bear sporting a badge and a gun . Jeff Ridenour writes that he wanted to write something lighthearted, but also confuse Scottsdale, which his 60s high school disagreed with.
In “Gunslinger,” set in 1969, Fletcher is called in from his California base in Scottsdale to investigate the murder of the owner of a mysterious bookstore. There’s money to be made, and he agrees, despite his reservations about the racist detective punching him. Nicknamed “Gunslinger” for his penchant for traffic stops, the detective was taken off the case because his girlfriend is a suspect.
A list of suspects is compiled and investigated, a host of attractive chicks are thrown in Fletcher’s path, betrayals occur, and a semi-innocent is sacrificed before the murder is solved.
Ridenour clearly enjoyed the little PI jaunt, which weaves together film noir and elements of mystery writing, and pokes fun at the snobbish, morally corrupted racist culture of 1960s Scottsdale.
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—Christine Wald Hopkins “My train is on time” By Marquez Price. Self-published. paperback $11.99; Kindle available.
Powerful in its economy and cultural acumen, this collection of poems speaks to a universal audience from the perspective of a young black man. A graduate in philosophy and sociology from the University of Arizona, 10 years in social work, Price is empathetic and thoughtful.
Personal and lucid, the poems range from short pieces of observation (“To be a carrier in the morning / and a witness later in the night, / was my lesson in living in the present”); although profiles (“Uncle Randle”: “…because of the dexterity of his right hand…/He taught me to look at both sides”); to longer tales, including the moving “My Brother’s Keeper” charting the life differences of childhood best friends: “…You’ve had the most quality time in a year like you haven’t ever had/with your father,/as each other’s cell mate in prison….”
It’s a collection you would give to someone who mistakenly believes they can’t relate to poetry.
And Márquez Price’s poetic train is definitely on time.
—Christine Wald Hopkins “Let’s talk about art!” Shared experiences in art and poetry » By Chuck Albanese and Ned Mackey. Foreword by “Big Jim” Griffith and Diana Madaras. Wheat brand. $29.95.
This collection of “ekphrases” by painter Chuck Albanese and poet Ned Mackey is a delight for the eyes and an adjustment for the imagination. To each of Albanese’s 28 paintings, Mackey provides a poetic response (the “ekphrasis”). Mackey, a retired English teacher from TUSD, then invites the reader to write a few as well.
Architect, retired professor and former dean of architecture at the University of Arizona, Albanese draws inspiration from life experiences for his evocative paintings: for decades he led painting trips to Greece and in Italy. Many of his watercolors and oils thus depict touching seaside or village scenes – boats; the men of the village in quiet contemplation or the afternoon cards or chess. The collection includes local urban and desert scenes.
Albanese’s most vivid paintings are of a religious nature. And one of them—“Our Lady of the Persecuted Christians”—provokes its richest artistic conversation: To the work of the Christian painter by the agnostic poet, Mackey writes: “Centered, Christ, wise beyond of his years/… already knowing the end of everything/ He blesses us anyway, believer or not. Handsome.
—Christine Wald Hopkins
Helene Woodhams is retired from the Pima County Public Library, where she was Literary Arts Librarian and coordinator of Southwest Books of the Year, the library’s annual literary review.
Christine Wald-Hopkins, a former educator and occasional essayist, was a long-time book reviewer for national, regional and local newspapers.
If you are a Southern Arizona author and would like your book considered for this column, send a copy to: Sara Brown, PO Box 26887, Tucson, AZ, 85726-6887. Give the price and contact name. Books must have been published within the year. Authors may not submit more than one book per calendar year.