Briefing Books: The Beatles were fab, and so is this artwork

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If you're a local writer who has published fiction, nonfiction or poetry in the last year, send it to my attention at: Tony Norman, Book Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222. No manuscripts, textbooks, cookbooks or religious nuttery, please.

"The Beatles Were Fab (And They Were Funny)" by Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer & Stacy Innerst (Harcourt). An illustrated children's book about the Beatles is probably a no-brainer, so the angle taken is all-important in a project like this. Writers Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer hope the Fab Four's cheeky sense of humor will open a new window into a band the world has enjoyed for half a century. Their instincts are correct, but artist and longtime PG illustrator Stacy Innerst provides the special sauce in this delectable literary meal. The text supports its thesis that the Beatles were funny dudes, but the art, especially Mr. Innerst's caricatures of the band at various stages of its development, is nothing less than superb. This isn't just a book for children. "The Beatles Were Fab" is a work of art that is as casually transcendent as the band that inspired it. > Available everywhere., and

"The Headline Murders" by David W. Rees (Word Association). Lawyer, investigator and author David Rees is fascinated by the masks ordinary people and predators wear in public. In "The Headline Murders," his first novel, Mr. Rees asks what would happen if a man who does unspeakable things at the first opportunity also had enough money and charm to deflect suspicion. Could he get away with it for long? Mr. Rees pits Clifford Reavis, an unlikely private investigator against John Lee Simpson, a brilliant serial killer with very deep, very bloody pockets. Let's hope the killer isn't based on an actual Pittsburgh gazillionaire. >

"Goat Game: Thirteen Tales from the Afghan Frontier" by Wickliffe W. Walker (CreateSpace). Lt. Col. Wickliffe "Wick" Walker (U.S. Army, retired) understands Afghanistan better than any Westerner has a right to. That's why he's channeled his experience into a fictional Special Forces Officer who strides through these 13 interconnected stories about modern Afghanistan like a low-profile Lawrence of Arabia. Mr. Walker has written stories that do justice to the complexity and history of the Afghan people while attempting to convey what it was like to be an American soldier in an absurd war. > and

"The Hunley: The Civil War's Secret Weapon" by Larry C. Kerr (Melange Books). The H.L. Hunley was the world's first submarine, and the Confederates had it all to themselves. It sank a Union battleship and had the potential to tip the scales of war in the South's favor. It didn't because it sank off the waters of South Carolina in February 1864. What happened? Author Larry Kerr attempts to fill in the blanks with his fictional take on the fate of the ship's eight-man crew. You don't have to be a believer in the South's cause to be fascinated by this little known tidbit of American military history. > and

"Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North" by Mary Frailey Calland (Dog Ear Publishing). If you want to know what Pittsburgh was like in the 1860s, look no further than Mary Frailey Calland's "Consecrated Dust." It's all here: the mysterious explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal in Lawrenceville in 1862, the birth of the steel and iron industry, the immigrant experience and the disposition of Pittsburghers recoiling as reports about Antietam, the bloodiest battle of the war, rolled in. There are also four flawed but very interesting characters at the center of this narrative. Ms. Calland writes with a storyteller's ease and a historian's confidence. No one knows more about this town 150 years ago than she does. > and

"The Bookie's Daughter: A Memoir of Growing Up in a Crazy, Crime-Ridden Family" by Heather Abraham. As Tolstoy reminded us, every family is miserable in its own way. Heather Abraham of Jeannette not only concurs with the Russian master but also dishes freely about how miserable a family up to its eyeballs in felonies can be. "The Bookie's Daughter: A Memoir of Growing Up in a Crazy, Crime-Ridden Family" is a remarkably frank, (intentionally?) funny and lucid cautionary tale that recounts the best/worst years of her life. There are enough violent criminals and cops in her autobiography to put most crime and thriller writers to shame. At the center of this well-written narrative is Ms. Abraham's late father, Big Al, a character who could have walked straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel. In a just world, this would already be a movie. >, and Kindle.


Tony Norman: or Twitter @ TonyNormanPG; 412-263-1631.


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