There are as many local published books as there are stars in the skies, so we have to draw the line somewhere, folks. If you've had a work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry published in 2012 or 2013, please send to: Tony Norman, PG Book Editor, 34 Blvd of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Books that are actually readable are preferred. If you publish three or four books a year, don't bother.
• "Hemlock Grove" by Brian McGreevy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The fictional community of Hemlock Grove, Pa., is the setting for Brian McGreevy's debut novel, released in March 2012 -- and the acclaimed series released exclusively on Netflix last month. The Charleroi native knows that werewolves and vampires aren't everyone's cup of blood, so he does his best to inject the horror genre with some long overdue freshness. The result is an exploration of the dark side that is gruesome, meditative and very well-written. As the head writer and executive producer of the Netflix series, Mr. McGreevy is in a position to move horror archetypes from the literary ghetto of high school where they've been exiled in recent years back to the grown-up world of psychological dread where they belong.
• "The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious: A Memoir" by Lori Jakiela (Illumis). Let's face it. Not every book written by a Pittsburgher is brilliant. But Lori Jakiela's painfully funny memoir "The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious" is so good you'll wonder why the Trafford resident and Chatham University professor isn't the literary toast of the entire country by now. This is a book about taking care of a dying mother, a writing teacher's lament about the next generation and a sideways love story.
Part of the unabashed fun of reading this book is seeing familiar landmarks through the eyes of an exceptionally talented local writer who is only one New York Times book review away from a national reputation. While this memoir may not be the last word on the volatile subject of mother/daughter relationships, it is fair to assume it is already among the most honest and best written this decade. Reading Lori Jakiela's memoir should be on every Pittsburgher's bucket list. > Available everywhere. www.ljwritesbooks.com.
• "My Son, Billy" by Bill Mays Sr. and Marc E. Virostek (Word Association). Billy Mays' famous catch phrase "but wait, there's more" could be the mantra of this book -- a father's affectionate tribute to one of the most effective TV infomercial pitchmen ever. Billy Mays, who grew up in McKees Rocks, died in 2009 at 52. Immediately there were rumors about the infomercial king's death that his father set out to disprove. "My Son, Billy" is Bill Mays Sr.'s celebration of his son's rise from working-class life in Pittsburgh to a mansion in Odessa, Fla. It is full of photos of Billy Mays at various stages of his life and is unapologetically pro-Billy. Don't pick up "My Son, Billy" expecting anything like a critical expose. This is the testament of a loving, grieving father about the premature death of the son the world knew by his thumbs-up gesture and his irrepressible smile. As an added bonus, it turns out that author Bill Mays Sr. (who looks a lot like the singer Kenny Rogers) is a bit of a character himself. He makes a good case that no one ever embodied the capitalist work ethic better than the late Billy Mays Jr. > Available on Amazon and Kindle.
• "Religion and Reaction: The Secular Political Challenge to the Religious Right" by Susan B. Hansen (Rowman & Littlefield). Political science professor Susan Hansen, who retired from University of Pittsburgh last year after three decades of distinguished work, is committed to what she calls the "American model" of a secular state and religious people. Ms. Hansen's erudite and well-researched critique of the authoritarian overreach of the religious right doubles as a primer on the tactics of its civil libertarian-minded opposition. The coalition against the Religious Right includes the Christian Left, Jews, feminists, gay rights advocates and the nation's growing number of unbelievers that Ms. Hansen calls "Seculars." This is an up-to-date chronicle of how the Seculars turned the tide against the once dominant religious majority. > Available at Amazon and Kindle; www.rowmanlittlefield.com.
Tony Norman: email@example.com; 412-263-1631; on Twitter: @TonyNormanPG. First Published May 19, 2013 4:00 AM