Alan Cheuse en 'Night Heron' And 'The Director' Provide A Double Shot Of Intrigue I suppose it's preaching to the converted to announce that David Ignatius has done it again. But here he is, having written yet another deeply engaging spy thriller, rooted at that point where the intricacies of the intelligence community and the everyday world of civilians converge. Tue, 01 Jul 2014 17:34:13 +0000 Alan Cheuse 63663 at McMurtry Takes Aim At A Legend In 'Last Kind Words Saloon' In a prefatory note to <em>The Last Kind Words Saloon</em>, his first novel in five years, Western writer supreme Larry McMurtry states that he wants to create a "ballad in prose." And he borrows a line from great moviemaker John Ford: "When legend becomes fact, print the legend."<p>Set in the autumn of the 19th century, mainly in Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, McMurtry's slender book contains a multitude of familiar and unfamiliar Western characters, including some who do belong to legend as well as history: part-time lawman Wyatt Earp and gun-toting dentist Doc Holliday, back together again. Tue, 27 May 2014 21:05:00 +0000 Alan Cheuse 61532 at Everyday Life Is a Rich Mine Of Absurdity In 'American Innovations' Richard Ford talks about understanding voice in fiction as "the music of the story's intelligence." It's been a long while since I've read short fiction by a new writer who makes that idea seem so definitive. But here is <em>American Innovations</em>, the first collection by Rivka Galchen. She lives in New York City, attended medical school, writes for the New Yorker, and has already published one novel. Sun, 25 May 2014 18:48:58 +0000 Alan Cheuse 61386 at A Fractured Tale Of Time, War And A Really Big Diamond No book I've read all year underscores the distinctions between the long form and the short story more than the award-winning story writer Anthony Doerr's new novel <em>All the Light We Cannot See</em>.<p>The book takes place in Europe — in three locations, mainly — Hitler's Germany, Paris, and the walled seaside town of Saint-Malo in Brittany, from the mid-1930s to the roaring and murderous years of World War II. Sat, 17 May 2014 23:08:49 +0000 Alan Cheuse 60906 at In 'Paradise,' Finding Understanding In The Ruins Of Horror Over the course of his long and distinguished writing career, Peter Matthiessen — who died this past weekend at the age of 86 — chased numerous demons, from Florida outlaws to missionaries and mercenaries in South America. In his latest novel, which the ailing writer suggested would be his last, takes us back to a week-long conference held at Auschwitz in 1996. Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:54:26 +0000 Alan Cheuse 58004 at 'Frog Music' Sounds A Barbaric (But Invigorating) Yawp San Francisco in the summer of the 1876, between the Gold Rush and the smallpox epidemic, is the setting for Emma Donoghue's boisterous new novel, <em>Frog Music.</em><p>There's real frog music in these pages, the riveting cries of the creatures hunted by Jenny Bonnet, one of the two main characters. She's a pistol-packing, pants-wearing gal in a town where pants on women are one of the few cardinal sins, and she scratches out a living catching frogs and selling them to local restaurants.<p>As the book opens, Jenny comes rolling along a busy San Francisco street on a stolen bicycle. Tue, 01 Apr 2014 21:43:54 +0000 Alan Cheuse 57515 at A Lyrical Meditation On Grief In 'Falling Out Of Time' I am a mortal reader; I have my flaws. I don't usually enjoy prose poems or novels written in lines of poetry, and when I see character types with names in capital letters like the ones that appear in Israeli writer David Grossman's new <em>Falling Out of Time</em> — The Walking Man, the Net Mender, the Midwife, the Town Chronicler — I tend to prepare to pack up, close the book, and turn to something less allegorical.<p>But wow! Wed, 26 Mar 2014 07:03:17 +0000 Alan Cheuse 56996 at All Sides Of A Divorce, Told In Fresh, Lively 'Papers' The "woe that is in marriage," the subject of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in Chaucer's <em>Canterbury Tales</em>, is a great old subject. Susan Rieger's smart and wonderfully entertaining domestic comedy, with all its shifts of tone from the personal to the legal and a lot in between, takes up this old problem and makes it fresh and lively — and in some places so painful, because it has to do with a child torn between two parents, you don't want to go on. But you do. The power and canniness of this bittersweet work of epistolary fiction pulls you along. Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:31:11 +0000 Alan Cheuse 56474 at American Jazzmen Swing Overseas In 'Shanghai' The thing about historical novels is that above all else, they must stand as good fiction. If not, the reader's supposed trip back into the past isn't worth the time or the token. Wed, 19 Mar 2014 02:28:55 +0000 Alan Cheuse 56368 at Lorrie Moore's New 'Bark' Is Half Of A Good Book There are eight stories in Lorrie Moore's new collection, but only two of them really stand out. Moore's one of the country's most admired writers – and maybe I was so dazzled by the brilliance and power of the two longest stories in these pages that I couldn't read the other pieces — which I found either a little off-kilter or too subtly played — without feeling a certain amount of loss. But my possibly cock-eyed view of <em>Bark</em> is that it's a book, or at least half a book, that anyone who loves contemporary fiction should have a go at. Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:18:39 +0000 Alan Cheuse 55947 at