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I have ancestors who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century, so I'm always on the lookout for books, movies or plays about that fabled place. My interest lies in artistic recreations of a time long past, creations like Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," and movies like "Plymouth Adventure," where to my dismay I learned that Governor William Bradford's wife almost had an affair with the Mayflower's captain.
"October 27, 1940, Sunday -- Went to chapel all day as usual. Our big meeting next Sunday. Gwilym Rees will be preaching. "October 29, 1940, Tuesday -- Went to school. My feet fit easier into the shoes than they did yesterday, as I have corn remove on and I hope they will succeed. I am going to take them off Thursday night probably. Did a lot of homework. "November 3, 1940, Sunday -- Big meeting today. G. Rees gave three beautiful sermons.
Sometimes an author doesn't realize he's got a good thing going and plunges on ahead when he might well have done better had he looked back. Popular Minnesota author Jon Hassler's first adult novel was "Staggerford," which drew rave reviews from the New York Times. Unfortunately Hassler killed off one of his most attractive heroes, Miles Pruitt, at novel's end.
I often receive books that make me think of old friends and relatives no longer here to enjoy them. Whenever I receive a book by Jerry Apps, the Madison retired professor who writes novels and non-fiction about farms and farming, I think of my father, a frustrated farmer who would have enjoyed Apps immensely.
After a quarter century of book reviewing, I guess it's time for me to admit that until recently, I never read a novel by bestselling author John Grisham. That's partly because most of the reviewers who worked for me put dibs on his novels before they came out and so what was I to do? I no longer have that excuse, so I recently dove into Grisham's latest, "The Racketeer" (Doubleday, $28.95) which at this writing sits atop the New York Times Bestseller list. It didn't take long to figure out Grisham's popularity with the public. He's a fast-paced storyteller, he seems to always be on
"Thirty Rooms to Hide In," by Luke Longstreet Sullivan (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95) has a subtitle that sort of grabs you: "Insanity, Addiction, and Rock 'n' Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic." Who's insane at the Mayo Clinic? And who's addicted? That would be a prestigious Mayo orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Roger Sullivan. As for rock 'n' roll, that would be the surgeon's older children that play in a rock group around southeastern Minnesota.
The holiday season is upon us and the search for appropriate gifts has begun. In our family the children get top priority and upper Midwestern publishers have been burning the midnight oil to give gift givers a wide variety of choices. Here's a sampling of new books for kids from nine to 90. Roberts author Korinn Hawkins is out with another book for kids. It's entitled, "Our Home, The Earth," photos by Samantha Cole and Corey Hawkins. It's a real charmer and a good way to begin teaching kids early how to respect the planet they live on.
When I was a kid one of the biggest deals of the year was when the Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus came to town. It was a mid-sized circus, nothing like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, which always stopped in Eau Claire.
The University of Minnesota Press's Fesler-Lampert Heritage Book Series is a rare and wonderful bird indeed. It describes its mission as attempting "to republish significant out-of-print books that contribute to our understanding and appreciation of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest." Over the years I've enjoyed many of these reprints of books I missed in years past thanks to the generous assistance of the John K.
Today let us begin with two very productive upper Midwestern writers who continue to write about our neighborhoods with relish and sometimes very dramatic substance. First, there's Jerry Apps, a retired University of Wisconsin professor who's written 30 books of fiction and non-fiction. In the past, Apps has used his own life experiences as a farm boy and later county agent as the basis for such novels as "In a Pickle," a funny whodunit about a Wisconsin pickle factory that ends up being a repository for a local preacher.