This compelling novel weaves together the stories of two orphans from different time periods. A little Irish girl, Niamh, is living in the tenements of New York City with her family when a fire leaves her an orphan. She is taken to the midwest by the Children’s Aid Society on an orphan train and placed in a home. With her name changed to Dorothy, this little girl is shipped from home to home before finding someone that really wants her to live with them and fill the loss of their little girl, Vivian.. Into this storyline another present day orphan, Molly, is also shipped around to foster homes. She is caught stealing a library book and must do community service hours. Her boyfriend suggests that she might be able to help with an organization project for a ninety year old lady, Vivian. The unexpected friendship of these two suffering women, one young and one old, and their courageous journey is a remarkable story of perseverance, and tells the historic story of the many children who rode the Orphan Trains from 1856-1930.
In Taking Eve, Johansen weaves an intricate plot around her character Eve Duncan, her family and her searches for her lost daughter, Bonnie. As her adopted daughter, Jane, is planning to fly home to visit her parents, Eve and Joe Quinn—she is distraught when her beloved dog, Toby is suddenly desperately ill. Flying to mysterious Summer Island where an old friend rehabilitates dogs, she hopes to find an answer before Toby dies. Shock! Toby has been poisoned. Jane is afraid that she was distracted to expose Eve to danger–, but Jane is shot before she can leave the island. Eve has a visitation from her long-ago kidnapped and now dead daughter Bonnie—with grim forebodings. As Joe has gone to testify in court, Eve, hears the news about Jane and departs for the airport—but she disappears. Who is the target? Is Jane in more danger or is it a diabolic plan to kidnap Eve? Eve’s work reconstructing skulls of lost children puts her in contact with dark strangers—A tale with a hair-raising ending is the beginning of a trilogy. Hunting Eve continues the suspense.
A millionaire outsider has bought 100,00 acres of Maine woods with the hope of establishing a new National Park.The outsider, Betty Morse has made enemies of loggers, hunters and other locals whose lives will be affected by her plans. When several moose are found senselessly slaughtered on her land, game warden Mike Bowditch is called to the scene of the crime–the worst wildlife crime in Maine history. Due to past disagreements with his superiors, Bowditch has been exiled by the warden service to the remote eastern woods of Maine, and he is soon relegated to menial tasks in the investigation, even though he was first on the scene. When a murder takes place, Bowditch continues the investigation on his own. Massacre Pond is a riveting mystery, with memorable characters and an author who brings to life the Maine woods and scenery. This is the fourth book in the series featuring main character Mike Bowditch, beginning with The Poachers Son. Each entry in the series involves careful plotting, interesting characters and situations that illustrate the conflicts between development and preserving the environment. If you enjoy this series, you might enjoy C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series, about a game warden in Wyoming. Both series should be read in order–start Box’s series with Open Season.
by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director, Manhattan Public Library
In anticipation of the Kansas Book Festival, scheduled in Topeka on September 7, it’s time to consider a few well-known Kansas writers.
Fans of western and historical fiction will be familiar with the works of Don Coldsmith. Born in Iola, Kansas, Coldsmith trained as a family doctor, practicing medicine in Emporia until 1988, when he decided to concentrate on his writing full-time. Coldsmith’s most popular work was the “Spanish Bit Saga.” This series of 28 novels chronicles the moment in history when the horse was introduced to the Plains Indians by Spanish explorers. The adventures and experiences of the explorers’ Spanish-Indian descendants make up the bulk of the Spanish Bit series in titles including “Trail of the Spanish Bit,” and “Follow the Wind.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge hailed from Independence, and was a former high school English and Drama teacher in Columbus, Kansas. With his portraits of small-town life and settings rooted in the American heartland, Inge became known as the “Playwright of the Midwest.” Several of Inge’s plays, including “Come Back Little Sheba,” “Picnic,” and “Bus Stop,” were made into motion pictures.
Love a good mystery? Rex Stout moved with his family to Kansas as an infant. He went on to finish high school in Topeka and attended the University of Kansas. Stout created the popular character Nero Wolfe in 1934, and subsequently published dozens of titles featuring the corpulent detective. Titles include “Might as Well be Dead,” “Please Pass the Guilt,” and “The Hand in the Glove.”
Manhattan’s own Damon Runyon was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of New York City’s Broadway. Twenty Runyon stories became motion pictures. The best known was “Guys and Dolls,” but other movies based on Runyon stories included “Pocketful of Miracles” with Bette Davis, and “Little Miss Marker,” the movie that made Shirley Temple. Sample some of Runyon’s finest in “A Treasury of Damon Runyon.”
Is there any writer as recognizably Kansan as William Allen White? White was a native of Emporia, newspaper editor, author, and between 1896 and his death, the iconic spokesman for Middle America. White won the Pulitzer Prize for both journalism and biography, and is the namesake of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award. In addition to his own award-winning autobiography, White wrote biographies of Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge. White also wrote poetry (“Poetry of William Allen White”), fiction (“The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me,” and “In Our Town”) and political and social commentary (“Forty Years on Main Street”).
You may remember him from News Hour on PBS, but Wichita native Jim Lehrer is also an accomplished novelist. Lehrer’s One-Eyed Mack series, beginning with “Kick the Can,” offers a humorous look at Middle American politics. Other stand-alone novels include “Eureka,” a laugh-out-loud story of a Kansas insurance agent and his midlife crisis, and “Oh, Johnny,” a coming-of-age story that takes us through the Pacific War to professional baseball.
Photographer, musician, writer and film director Gordon Parks came of age in Ft. Scott, Kansas. While best remembered for his photographic essays that appeared in “Life magazine,” Parks also wrote “The Learning Tree,” the story of an African-American boy in 1920s rural Kansas who witnesses a murder. In addition, Parks wrote poetry and memoirs.
There are many other writers with Kansas connections. Edgar Lee Masters, author of “Spoon River Anthology,” was born and lived briefly in Garnett, Kansas. Harlem Renaissance writer, Langston Hughes, while born in Joplin, Missouri, was raised by his grandmother in Lawrence. Romance novelist Julie Garwood (“Sweet Talk,” “The Ideal Man”) lives in Leawood, Kansas. Toward the end of his life, Beat writer William Burroughs (“Naked Lunch”) lived in Lawrence. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, but moved to Chicago as an infant.
Kansans also abound in the realm of fictional characters. Dennis the Menace lived in Wichita, Matt Dillon was marshal of Dodge City, Dorothy Gale lived on a farm in Kansas with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, and Mary Ann Summers of Gilligan’s Island hailed from Winfield. Don’t forget Clark Kent, and Manhattan’s own Johnny Kaw. OK, so Clark Kent was actually born on the planet Krypton, but his adopted home was Smallville, Kansas, of all places.
Ellen Branford headed to small town Beacon, Maine, to hand deliver a letter to her Grandmother’s high school sweetheart. A simple day trip turns into a week long adventure. It starts off with Roy Cummings pulling Ellen out of the bay, after she fell through a rotting dock. The kiss Roy received, after his heroic act, was the beginning of trouble for them both. Ellen, a successful lawyer in Manhattan, was to be married in only three months to a very prominent man planning to run for political office.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café is a heartwarming, day dreaming, at the beach, fun book. I felt like I was in the salt air, as I read it. The outcome was predictable, but it sure was fun getting there. You will meet a few quirky characters with some twists to the plot.
In this fast-paced thriller, Sarah and her daughter Zoe are living in Oklahoma where Sarah is employed as a Skip Tracer–a person who tracks people who don’t want to be located. Since the night her sister was murdered and Sarah was forced to flee from the killer with her sister’s infant, Sarah has become an expert at leaving no trace of herself or Zoe for others to follow–until Zoe is in a school bus accident and Sarah is called to the Emergency Room. There, tests reveal that Sarah is not Zoe’s biological mother and the two are forced to flee. Running for their lives from police, the FBI and killers, Sarah and Zoe desperately seek to find a safe place to hide from their pursuers, and Sarah is determined to protect Zoe at any cost. She is forced ask for help from a U.S. Marshall who aided her escape with Zoe in the past. Will Sarah’s knowledge of how people can disappear without a trace be enough to save them? Edgar Award-winning author Gardiner has created an intense story filled with action, plot twists and surprises at every turn. The Shadow Tracer is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy action driven thrillers, such as those by authors Lisa Gardner or Sandra Brown.