Briefing Books: 'The Emerald Mile,' an epic Grand Canyon story; 'Pops: The Willie Stargell Story'; and more


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Books arrive by the bin every week in response to our call for published fiction, nonfiction and poetry by local authors. Because of the sheer volume, only books published in 2012 and 2013 can be considered. If you have a book that fits this criteria, send to: Tony Norman, Book Editor, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd of the Allies. Pittsburgh 15222. No PDFs or idle threats, please.


• "The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon" by Kevin Fedarko (Scribner). Pittsburgh native (and former PG intern) Kevin Fedarko has written the definitive account of a nearly mythic boat ride on the snowmelt-swollen Colorado River in 1983 by the three man crew of the Emerald Mile. While much of the river was being evacuated, Kenton Grua, the Emerald Mile's captain was determined to navigate his dory down the entire 277-mile stretch of a raging river littered with boat wrecks. If he succeeded, he would be forever known as the captain of the fastest boat ever propelled through the Grand Canyon.

Mr. Fedarko, a former staff writer for Time and a regular contributor to Outside and Esquire, is a freelance journalist who lives in New Mexico, where he works as a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park. Mr. Fedarko used his experience as a whitewater rafting river guide to fashion a detail-rich, often sprawling account of that river that encompasses centuries of legend and history. In "The Emerald Mile," Mr. Fedarko provides a comprehensive description of Kenton Grua's mission, but the book is at its heart an engrossing meditation on the eternal struggle between man and nature. > Available everywhere and in every format.

• "Pops: The Willie Stargell Story" by Richard "Pete" Peterson, foreword by Bill Mazeroski (Triumph Books). There's a reason a 12-foot bronze statue of Willie Stargell stands vigil outside PNC Park, looking poised to hit another fast ball into the stratosphere. As the embodiment of the Pirates' hopes and dreams for 21 years, that's what Willie "Pops" Stargell did. Author Richard "Pete" Peterson, a regular contributor to the PG, puts the slugger's career into vivid relief by opening this well-written and researched tome with Pops' death in April 2001 and the public's reaction to it. Mr. Peterson chronicles Willie Stargell's rise through the ranks, including his relationship with his team mentor Roberto Clemente. Pops helped lead the Pirates to two World Series Championships. He was also a seven-time All-Star, the 1979 World Series and National League MVP and a Baseball Hall of Famer on the first ballot. There has not been a player as beloved as Pops Stargell since. This book explains why.

• "Allegheny City: A History of Pittsburgh's North Side" by Dan Rooney and Carol Peterson (University of Pittsburgh Press). Steelers owner Dan Rooney is a lifelong resident of the North Side. The former U.S. ambassador to Ireland collaborated with Carol Peterson, a house historian and Lawrenceville-based preservationist, on "Allegheny City: A History of Pittsburgh's North Side." The authors trace the neighborhood's beginnings from the 18th century to the present. The neighborhood's proximity to the Allegheny and Ohio rivers made it a bustling locus of commerce and the site of many Gilded Age mansions, some of which remain. Racketeers prospered on the North Side during the 1920s and 1930s. The authors also examine the fight over the building of Route 65 through Manchester and the battle to save St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church when Interstate 279 was built.

• "The Voting Machine: A Temo McCarthy Mystery" by Dmitri Ragano. In 2011, Dmitri Ragano self-published "Employee of the Year," a well-told tale about a murder at a telemarketing firm. The Allderdice graduate and savvy Internet pro also wrote an essay about his self-publishing for the PG's Next Page: "Do-it-yourself publishing has been around for a while," he wrote. "But this is bigger than that. This is about critical mass of new ideas coming together at the right time." His novel garnered genuine praise and readers and Mr. Ragano is gathering steam. Temo McCarthy, the amiable but troubled protagonist of the first novel, returns in "The Voting Machine," a political thriller about the murder of two activists from opposite ends of the political spectrum as they exercise their right to vote. Mr. Ragano, who lives in Irvine, Calif., has crafted an even more elaborate tale. Temo McCarthy may be a reluctant hero, but he has staying power thanks to Mr. Ragano's talent for coming up with unbelievable character arcs and plot twists that always feel believable. That's why he's on the fast track to becoming one of the genre's finest talents. > Available in paperback from Amazon and in ebook form for Kindle and Nook; www.dmitriragano.com.

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Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631; on Twitter @TonyNormanPG.


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