Briefing Books: The Fannie Mae fail, a Pittsburgh private eye, Tarsus Saul's sojourn and more

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By now you know the drill, folks. Please send local books published in the past year to my attention: Tony Norman, Book Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd of the Allies. Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222. I move my lips when I read, so, please, be patient.

"The Fateful History of Fannie Mae: New Deal Birth to Mortgage Crisis Fall" by James Hagerty (The History Press). Pittsburgh-based Wall Street Journal reporter James R. "Bob" Hagerty has penned an exhaustive, but clearly written history of Fannie Mae from its roots as a minor program initiated during the New Deal to its near meltdown during the housing market collapse of 2008. Scrupulously reported and generously illustrated, this relatively slim volume will be one of the first places future historians and journalists will use to sort out the mess and ascribe blame. > or

"The Dutch Uncle" by Ed Kelemen. New Florence resident and retired police officer Ed Kelemen writes a weekly column for the Blairsvile Dispatch when he's not crafting the latest installment of his Pittsburgh-based private detective P.T. O'Connor. "The Dutch Uncle" is the first in a series of novels about a wise-cracking yinzer who has to figure out how the corpse of a crime boss's stooge ended up in the trunk of his car and rescue the kidnapped daughter of his adoptive uncle before her inept abductors hurt her. Mr. Kelemen has a lot of balls in the air with this one. >

"Ambushed" by Wil Tustin (Authorhouse). Wil Tustin used to teach economics, but his lifelong passion has been the ministry of the Apostle Paul and the early Christians. "Ambushed," Mr. Tustin's fictionalized account of how Saul of Tarsus found his way from the Damascus Road to his first missionary sojourn with Barnabas, has already generated a large following. This isn't the typical biblical knockoff. Mr. Tustin has researched both the subject and the era well. No wonder his recent book signing at a local department store sold out. >

"The Stonehenge Scrolls" by Karen Postellon Robbins (MuseItUp Publishing). Did Irish stone carvers design and build Stonehenge? Writer K.P. Robbins explores the possibility in her first novel "The Stonehenge Scrolls," a tale of prehistoric ambition in the British Isles. So what happens when a blogger tries to unlock Stonehenge's secrets by interpreting a series of 11 scrolls containing the keys to one of the world's most mysterious sites? > Available as ebook-only from, Amazon and Nook

"Breathing the West: Great Basin Poems" by Liane Ellison Norman (Bottom Dog Press). Author and peace activist Liane Ellison Norman has been a Pittsburgh resident for 45 years, but she grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Montana where her parents, a Forest Service ecologist and a school teacher, taught her to revere nature. "Breathing the West" is Ms. Norman's deeply observed meditation on her formative years in that expansive and breathtaking wilderness of Utah with her parents and three younger sisters. She includes well-chosen observations from her father's journals and a few photos, but her own poetic musings paint a vivid enough picture to carry us through. >

"Blood Money: Tales From Two Continents" by Scott Mastro (Savant). Author and musician Scott Mastro likes to write short stories that change tones and national identities the way some folks change shoes. Wine, women and song thread through many of Mr. Mastro's stories, but he's determined to find a higher meaning to life than the bacchanalian excess his characters are willing to settle for. There's a thin line between sexiness and absurdity and Mr. Mastro is determined to find it. >,

"Ghosts of Bars and Christmas Past" by Lou Vitti (Word Association Publishing). Pittsburgh seems to be a place where even lawyers talk like homicide cops in homegrown literature. Author Lou Vitti's fictional lawyer Lou DiAngelo fits this pattern. This is a tale about a man with a lot of talent and tremendous appetites. There's murder, food lust, a cool half million in missing cash and lots of cocaine. Mr. Vitti wants to convince us that lawyers have all the fun. >

"The Pastor's Wife Considers Pinball: Poems" by Nola Garrett (Mayapple Press). Like the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, poet Nola Garrett wrestles with angels (and demons) in public. This collection of spiritually informed poetry runs the gamut from free to highly structured verse that never skimps on humor or vivid imagery. All poems are good for the soul, but this collection is unusually fine. > or


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


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