WEEKENDER: Library Bylines – The Scottish Prisoner and other books

Diana Gabaldon wrote her first novel to learn how to write a novel but clearly she didn’t need the practice.

Diana Gabaldon wrote her first novel to learn how to write a novel but clearly she didn’t need the practice.

The remarkable success of that book, Outlander, the six others in the series and the spinoff Lord John series, have made Gabaldon a best-selling author and the queen of slightly racy, kind of schlocky, and thoroughly enjoyable time-travel- historical fiction.

The Scottish Prisoner bridges the two series, bringing together Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey in an uneasy partnership that takes them to an Ireland of peat bogs, crumbling castles, ancient betrayals and mystery.

James Howard Kunstler, on the other hand, came to his first novel as a well-established and highly respected non-fiction writer.  His bestseller, The Long Emergency, is a passionate warning about the destructiveness of modern industrial practices.  This sensibility found its way into World Made by Hand, an enthusiastically reviewed and received novel of a dystopian future, wherein oil-based culture has collapsed and the world struggles to survive the disease and famine that plagues it, as it re-learns the survival skills of the pre-industrial ages.

The Witch of Hebron is the second novel in what one assumes is going to be a long-running series.  Kunstler’s gift is in taking big ideas and transforming them into dynamic personal stories within an imagined world that is entirely plausible.

Harlan Coben’s Miracle Cure is a newish release for fans of this writer of medical thrillers and he may just have hooked a new generation of readers with his first Young Adult novel, Shelter.  Both books are characterized by suspenseful and wryly-humoured writing.

Son of Stone is the latest release of Stuart Woods.

With 44 novels to his name, Woods has found a formula that works and clearly has an enviable readership. This one loses me with the introduction of main character, Stone Barrington and former lover and wealthy socialite, Arrington Calder.

Sorry, I just can’t get past the names.  But if tales of wealthy, practically perfect people solving improbable mysteries appeals, then this will be a good fit.

Cressida Cowell has also figured out a formula for success but hurray for her and other authors who write engaging, compelling books for kids.

Cowell’s ninth book in her How To Train Your Dragon series continues to entertain her seven years and older readers, with raucous and rollicking tales, liberally spiced with adventure and Cowell’s delightful illustrations and maps.

Young readers, or perhaps their parents, will appreciate Alberta writer David A. Duncan’s Dude, Where’s Your Helmet, a non-preachy picture book promoting safe cycling practices.  This is the first in, what may be, a series of books promoting outdoor sports for children.

And adults seeking thoughtful non-fiction reads might consider The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker or Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders by Teresa Gowan.

Pinker’s book is an exhaustively researched argument for his premise that violence, especially in western culture, is on the decline.

Gowan explores homelessness in San Francisco in a challenging, wide-ranging discussion that explodes some of the myths surrounding poverty and steers clear of romanticizing or demonizing those living on the harsh edges of the urban landscape.

– Submitted by Leslie Davidson