The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3


For each of the past few years, I have compiled a list of books I have read over the previous 12 months, and posted thumbnails here. With any luck, you may find an idea or two to help you get through your Christmas shopping. . . . Part 1 appeared here yesterday, and here is Part 2 of 3 . . .

Kill Me, Darling — Every once in a while it doesn’t hurt to check out some really legitimate pulp fiction. That’s what we have here in this book by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane. The former has been completing unfinished works left by Spillane, who died in 2006. This one is based mostly in Miami, circa 1954, and it’s good Mike Hammer stuff with all the dialogue, the grit, the colour and the bodies.

The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson — It is entirely up to the reader to decide what kind of a hero Bo Jackson was, because there certainly are some scarecrows in his closet. And, yes, author Jeff Pearlman touches on a whole lot of them here. This is a truly in-depth look at Jackson’s rise from ill-tempered high schooler to two-sport star, Nike poster boy and beyond. And every turn of a page seems to provide the reader with even more interesting information. Bo, by the way, was not especially popular in his own locker rooms, and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis really didn’t have much use for him. Seriously!

The Late Show: Letterman, Leno, & the Network Battle for the Night — This book, written by Bill Carter, then a media reporter for The New York Times, was published in 1995. I have no idea why it took me so long to get to it. What a book! It tells in detail the story of perhaps the biggest gaffe in TV talk-show history — how NBC-TV lost David Letterman to CBS. I never will get the image out of my head of Jay Leno in what was basically a closet at NBC headquarters listening via phone to a meeting of the braintrust at which his future was being decided. Just a great, great read, even all these years later.

Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir — Jann Wenner, co-founder of the magazine Rolling Stone, lets it all hang out in a memoir that has to have set a record for name-dropping. After all, Wenner, often with family members, hung out with Mick and the Stones, Bono, John and Yoko, Paul McCartney, Michael Douglas, Bob Dylan and on and on, and he isn’t shy about it. While all of the hanging out and, yes, the drugs were happening, Rolling Stone grew from a rock-and-roll magazine into one that wasn’t afraid to tackle all kinds of issues, from AIDS to climate change to politics. Wenner writes in a rat-a-tat style, jumping from topic to topic in a matter of 300 or 400 words. That makes this an easy read, but there are times when that topic cries out for more words. Still, the man has led an interesting life, especially when you consider that he left Jane, his wife of almost 30 years, because he is gay.

The Marching Season — The assassin known as October almost got Michael Osbourne the first time around and now he’s back for more. But who hired October and turned him loose? Daniel Silva, the author of the more than 20 books featuring Gabriel Allon, has another readable spy novel right here.

1972: The Series That Changed Hockey Forever — Call it what you want, but the hockey series between Canada and Russia that occurred in September 1972 won’t ever be replicated. Veteran hockey writer Scott Morrison take us through the whole thing, from training camp to the homecoming following Game 8 in Moscow and an exhibition game in Prague. With full co-operation from many of the participants, there is lots here to digest. The one thing that stands out, though, is how much everyone involved with the Canadian team thought this series was going to be a walk in the park.

Not Dark Yet — Another in author Peter Robinson’s books that follow the career of Inspector Alan Banks, this one involves murders and a woman — suspect or not? — who was kidnapped by sex-trafficers as she, then 17, was leaving an orphanage to start her new life. Lots of twists and turns in this one. Not Dark Yet was published in 2021 and was the latest entry in the 28-book series.

Off The Record — Peter Mansbridge was in your living room for years as the anchor on CBC-TV’s The National. This is his story and it’s produced like a newscast in that it’s one story after another, some of them 10 or 12 paragraphs in length, others three or four pages. It all is quite entertaining, at least in part because Mansbridge was witness to so much recent history and the people who made it.

The Order — The Pope is dead. Was it a heart attack? Was it murder? Daniel Silva does it again with another enthralling novel featuring Israeli super agent Gabriel Allon. This is No. 20 in the series that follows Allon’s adventures. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.

Over My Dead Body — This is the fourth book by author Jeffrey Archer that follows the life and career of Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, who continues to try and bring down Miles Faulkner, a millionaire art collector who may or may not still be alive. Archer spun off these books from his seven-book series The Clifton Chronicles. They’re all quick reads and good fun.

Pack Saddles to Tete Jaune Cache — Published in 1962, James G. MacGregor’s book is a real gem. It was written after numerous conversations with James Shand-Harvey, who arrived in Edmonton from Scotland in August 1905 and went on to explore all parts of Alberta from there to Grande Prairie and Jasper. He was there when the surveyors were doing the ground work for the railroads. An absolutely amazing man who was known throughout the area as Shand, he was hunting and trapping and leading tourists onto Mount Robson and a whole lot more. If you have driven or been in the area from Edmonton to Jasper and can find a copy of this book, don’t miss it.

Pleasant Good Evening — A Memoir: My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportstalk — For the better part of 30 years, Dan Russell ruled the late night airwaves in B.C. While doing so, he kept a diary, program logs and audio tapes. He puts all of that and more to great use in this book, which chronicles his life and career on and off the airwaves. Yes, there is plenty in here on Brian Burke and the Vancouver Canucks, too. No, Russell doesn’t pull any punches. (Disclaimer: I was involved in the editing process with this book.)

Portrait of an Unknown Woman — This is No. 22 in author Daniel Silva’s series documenting the life and times of Gabriel Allon. Once a master Israeli spy, Allon now is retired and trying to focus on his other love — restoring classic paintings. All of that leads him into the world of art forgeries and the result is another masterful work by Silva. This is just an awesome read. Loved it.

The Queen’s Gambit — This book by Walter Tevis was published in 1983. It got new life in 2020 when Netflix used it as the basis for a seven-part miniseries of the same name that was most watchable. The book follows the life of Beth Harmon, who grew up in an orphanage. It is there in the basement that she discovered a janitor playing chess and a prodigy was born. Her road to the top wasn’t at all smooth, though, thanks to tranquilizers, booze and Russian chess players.

Part 2 of 3


The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3


The annual three-part Bookshelf feature is appearing here this week — sorry it’s a bit late this year, but COVID-19 has gotten in the way of getting things done in these parts. . . . Perhaps you will find a gift idea for someone on your Christmas list by perusing thumbnails of some of the books I have read in 2022. . . .

Alaska — Beginning with the days of the mastodon and moving on from there, author James Michener chronicles the history of Alaska. Oh, does he ever! This is a meticulously researched work that relates the area’s story through the eyes of various citizens. It’s thoroughly engrossing, but it’s epically long.

The Baseball 100 — We read to be entertained. Right? Well, author Joe Posnanski’s 880-page labour of love is the most entertaining baseball book I have ever read. In fact, it is perhaps the most entertaining sports-related book I have ever read. Period. Posnanski, a longtime baseball writer and obviously a huge fan, has rated his top 100 baseball players and written an essay on each one. Yes, there are statistics here, but the numbers don’t dominate. Rather, the stories do. It took me almost two months to read, because I would only read one or two chapters at a time. Why? Because it was so wonderful that I didn’t want it to end.

Behind the Superstars: The Business Side of Sports — Although Gerry Patterson wasn’t a lawyer — his background was in marketing and sales — he was one of Canada’s first player agents. This book was published in 1978, and it’s rather entertaining to read about contracts Patterson negotiated on behalf of Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Johnny Rodgers, Guy Lafleur and Rusty Staub. It really was a different world back in the day. Patterson died on Jan. 21, 2005. He was 71.

Better Off Dead — Jack Reacher is back for a 26th time and this time he’s in a small Arizona town, fighting to save his country from what may be a terrorist attack. Or is it just someone wanting to set off smoke bombs on July 4? This one is co-written by Lee Child and his younger brother, Andrew.

Black Ice — This is the 20th book by author Brad Thor that features Scot Harvath, a nice guy who tortures and/or kills the bad guys (in this case, Chinese and Russians) all for the greater American good. I have mentioned previously that a book needs a likeable hero in order to keep the reader interested and Harvath is just that. In Black Ice, Harvath is in Oslo, Norway, when he happens to see a man he had already killed. So what’s going on?

Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom — It’s hardly a secret that the newspaper industry has seen better days. Such as when Carl Bernstein got his start as a copy boy and dictationist at the Washington Star. This engaging book provides a neat look into the news room of a major daily newspaper in the days when everyone seemed to read one. Bernstein was there, in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s so he was witness to a whole lot of history. Of course, in time Bernstein moved on to the Washington Post, Nixon, All the President’s Men, and a whole lot more. But he got his start at the Star and that story is all right here.

The Dark Hours — No one writes cop mysteries better than Michael Connelly and his latest, published in November 2021, doesn’t disappoint. He is slowly transitioning this series from spotlighting veteran detective Harry Bosch to featuring Renée Ballard in the lead role. She works the late shift and loves it. In this one, Ballard is masking up amid the pandemic and deteriorating morale on the force, mainly because of the defund police movement, as she works murder and rape cases, always with Bosch there to help, of course.

The Fallen Angel — This is No. 12 in author Daniel Silva’s series of books that involve Gabriel Allon, an extremely likeable Israeli who, in truth, also is a rather effective assassin. He also is perhaps the world’s best art restorer. This book involves the death of a woman — was it really suicide? — in the Vatican, where Allon is restoring a masterpiece. Silva really knows his stuff when it comes to the Middle East and European history, making this another entertaining read.

The First Season: 1917-18 and the Birth of the NHL — Using newspaper archives, veteran hockey writer Bob Duff tells the intriguing story of the early days of the NHL and how it almost didn’t happen. There were teams added and teams subtracted and, yes, there were lawsuits, too. In fact, Eddie Livingstone, who was involved with most of the lawsuits, had a whole lot to do with the NHL surviving. . . . There also are all kinds of nuggets scattered throughout this book. I mean, who knew that Bert Lindsey of the Montreal Wanderers recorded the first goaltending victory in NHL history? And who knew that he was Ted Lindsey’s father? Great stuff.

Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series — Author Gary J. Smith was a young Canadian diplomat stationed in Moscow who ended up deeply involved in the planning and preparation for the eight-game series between Team Canada and the USSR in 1972. This really is a good look at all that went into the impossible task of trying to keep hockey and politics separate while politicians worked to bring the countries closer together. How involved was Smith in all of this? His press pass indicated that he was a member of the Soviet team. This really is an interesting read.

In Harm’s Way — Published in 2010, this is author Ridley Pearson’s fourth book that features Walt Fleming, the sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho. As usual, Pearson doesn’t disappoint. There are a lot of personalities and a number of twists and turns to keep a reader interested. For starters, Fleming is divorced — his wife had an affair with one of his deputies and the two now live together. Yes, there is tension in this book, too. Lots of it.

The Judge’s List: A Novel — It’s another highly readable thriller from the keyboard of the prolific John Grisham, with this one featuring a serial-killing judge who has been on the hunt for a long time. This book also features Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct, who was a main character in The Whistler. Stoltz is approached by a woman whose father was the judge’s second victim and the rest is Grisham at his best.

Part 1 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3


Here is Part 2 of my annual three-part Bookshelf, highlighting some of the books I read in 2021. Perhaps you will find an idea or two that will help you in our Christmas shopping.

The Cellist — Author Daniel Silva is back with his latest work of fiction involving Gabriel Allon, who splits his time between restoring works of art and being a secret agent man with Israeli intelligence. Silva wrote this one during the pandemic and while U.S. politics were redefining bizarre. In fact, he rewrote the last bit just to accommodate the goofiness that was going on in the U.S. It’s interesting how Silva refers to No. 45 without ever mentioning his name.

Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco — Kaleb Dahlgren is one of the survivors of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that claimed 16 lives. As the title indicates, this is Dahlgren’s story from childhood when he was diagnosed with diabetes through the bus tragedy and onto his attempt to return to hockey with U Sports’ York Lions. It really is incredible to read in Dahlgren’s words what he went through as he fought back from a serious brain injury after the accident. The book was written with help from veteran author Dan Robson.

The Dawn Patrol — Boone Daniels is a surfer — OK, a surf bum — and, on those occasions when he actually works, a private investigator. Don Winslow is an author who has a terrific way with words. (He also wrote Broken, which is included in Part 1.) Put them together and you get a thoroughly entertaining book. The characters are interesting, Winslow’s takes on the southern California lifestyle are piercing, and the dialogue is a treat. (See also The Gentlemen’s Hour later on in this list.)

Deacon King Kong — It’s New York City — actually, it’s a housing project in Brooklyn — in late 1969 and there is a shooting as the book’s central character, Sportcoat, takes an ear off a drug dealer. Author James McBride goes on to detail with tremendously entertaining dialogue and all kinds of social messaging the loves and lives of everyone who is impacted. Deacon King Kong? Sportcoat is a church deacon and a drinker who loves the neighbourhood’s home-brew (aka King Kong). This was one of The New York Times’ top 10 books for 2020, and with good reason.

The Defence — You would expect a lot of twists, turns and excitement from a story involving a recovering alcoholic who is a conman/scam artist-turned-lawyer and is defending the Russian Mafia’s top guy on a murder rap. Author Steve Cavanagh doesn’t disappoint in the book that introduced Eddie Flynn to readers.

Dragonfire — Suspend your belief for a few hours and dig into this chapter in the life of Alex Hawke, a likeable character created by author Ted Bell. This book involves a lot, including some of Hawke’s grandfather’s Second World War assignments, the potential assassination of FDR and the disappearance of Hawke’s grandson, Prince Henry.

The Dying Hour — This is the first in a trilogy of thrillers involving Jason Wade. He’s an intern in the newsroom at the Seattle Mirror, one newspaper in a three-paper town — hey, things used to be like that — and he’s eager because he wants a full-time gig. Author Rick Mofina knows his way around thrillers, and if you don’t mind a bit of blood, well, this one’s for you.

The Dynasty — Love them or hate them, you have to respect Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their terrific run. A dynasty? Without a doubt. With this book, author Jeff Benedict really does take you inside that dynasty — from the days leading up to Kraft’s purchase of the NFL franchise and how it almost ended up in Connecticut through Brady’s last season with the Patriots. Belichick’s single-mindedness will amaze you, as will the fact that, by the end, he and Brady hardly were communicating. Yes, this is quite a book!

Finding Murph: How Joe Murphy Went From Winning a Championship to Living Homeless in the Bush — Author Rick Westhead, a senior correspondent with TSN, has written a searing indictment of the NHL for its treatment, or lack of same, of ex-players who may have concussion-related ailments in their lives after hockey. He wraps all of that around the story of Joe Murphy, a former No. 1 draft pick and a Stanley Cup winner who was sleeping on the streets of Kenora, Ont., and in the bush around the community when Westhead and former NHL goaltender Trevor Kidd found him. This is a tough but necessary read if you have anything at all to do with hockey.

The Gentlemen’s Hour — This is the second book in which author Don Winslow features Boone Daniels, a surfer and private investigator who knows his way around the beaches and highways of the San Diego area. This entertaining read features murder, broken friendships, a fishy couple and a whole lot more. And, yes, because it’s Winslow doing the writing, there’s a Mexican cartel involved here, too.

Klondikers: Dawson City’s Stanley Cup Challenge and How a Nation Fell in Love with Hockey — There was a time when the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy, meaning anyone could issue a challenge to whichever team held the trophy. This, then, is the story of how a team from Dawson City, Yukon, challenged the Ottawa Hockey Club. But it’s more than that because it also tells the story of the Klondike gold rush and, at the same time, the birth and growth of hockey in Canada. Author Tim Falconer has written a wonderful book that should be in every sports fan’s library. Well done!

The Law of Innocence — This is the sixth of author Michael Connelly’s books to feature Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer. Yes, Harry Bosch, the star of so many other Connelly books, makes a cameo appearance. In this one, Haller is working as his own lawyer as he fights to beat a murder rap after the body of a former client is found in the trunk of one of his three Lincolns. Yes, we know how it will end, but it’s fun getting there.

Long Range — This is the 20th book in author C.J. Box’s series that follows Joe Pickett, a game warden based in Wyoming, and all that he has to deal with, including, in this instance, a new sheriff who is more than a little out of his element. The story is wrapped around a long-range shooting that may have been intended to kill a judge, but didn’t. The series may be 20 books old but it hasn’t lost a thing.

Murder By Milkshake — He worked at Vancouver radio station CKNW and was having an affair with the radio station’s receptionist . . . so he murdered his wife by milkshake. Seriously. Author Eve Lazarus’s chronicling of this story has to be read to be believed.

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World — The older I get the more interested I seem to get in history. Norman Webster, who died on Nov. 19, was a giant among Canadian journalists; he was an international correspondent and a national columnist and later editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette. He was there for a lot of history and writes about it with clarity, humour and passion in this collection of his work. Oh, and he also fired Conrad Black.

Part 2 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3 . . .


What follows is the third and final part of my annual Bookshelf piece, a Larsonthumbnail look at some of the books I have read in the past year. Hopefully, you will find something you want to read or to purchase as a gift. . . .

As for the 10 books that I most enjoyed this year, here they are, in alphabetical order . . .

The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport — by Rafi Kohan

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood, by Sam Wasson

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Maddow

Circe, by Madeline Miller

Gloves Off: 40 Years of Unfiltered Sports Writing, by Lowell Cohn

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

The Jordan Rules, by Sam Smith

The Rhythm Section, by Mark Burnell

The Splendid and the Vile: A Sage of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Bliz, by Erik Larson

The Wax-Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife — Brad Balukjian

And now here is Part 3 of 3, and thanks for reading . . .

The Neon Rain — This is No. 6 in author James Lee Burke’s terrific books that follow the exploits of Dave Robichaux, a Vietnam veteran who now is a police detective in New Orleans. In this one, Robichaux discovers the body of a young prostitute on a river bank and from there, well, he runs into all kinds of uglies. Burke’s writing carries these books to great heights; in fact, when he writes about bayou country and the heat and humidity, the sweat almost forms on your forehead and runs off the tip of your nose.


Nightwork — Douglas Grimes, a pilot grounded by an eye problem, now is a night clerk in a fleabag hotel, who doesn’t hold out much hope for the future. Until he stumbles on a body and $100,000. In time, he makes his way to Europe and the adventures begin. This book, by Irwin Shaw, isn’t loud and obnoxious, like you might think it would be. It just flows along, quietly and enjoyably.


Nine Innings — The Baltimore Orioles played the host Milwaukee Brewers in just another American League game on June 10, 1982. Author Daniel Okrent took that one game and dissected it, then used it to tell all kinds of baseball stories. Nine Innings was published in 1985, but it still is a marvellous read.


Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit — Matt McCarthy, an Ivy Leaguer out of Yale, was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 21st round of MLB’s 2002 draft. A southpaw pitcher, he played one year as a pro — he went to training camp with the Angels and was assigned to the Pioneer League’s Provo Angels. This book, published in 2009, is the story of that season. McCarthy tells it like it was, too, as testosterone- and adrenaline-fuelled young men spend a summer in Mormon country. There’s a cultural divide in the locker room, too, as the American players don’t mix with those from the Dominican Republic. McCarthy’s telling of the night Larry King — yes, that Larry King — and family were in the ballpark is worth the price of admission.


100 Things Roughriders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die — If you are a follower of the Saskatchewan Roughriders or just an average CFL fan, this book is for you. Author Rob Vanstone, the sports columnist at the Regina Leader-Post, has been following the Roughriders for more than 50 years, first as a young fan, most recently as a sports journalist. He is a walking, talking Roughriders encyclopedia — I know because I used to work with him — and he has gotten it all down between the covers of this book.


One Minute Out — In the ninth book in author Mark Greaney’s series that follows the Gray Man, an assassin who actually is a good guy, he is in hot pursuit of the Consortium, a world-wide organization that profits from sex trafficking. Good escapism.


Prince of Fire: This is No. 5 in author Daniel Silva’s series that follows the adventures of Gabriel Allon, who longs to be able to focus on being perhaps the world’s greatest restorer of classic art but, in truth, is an Israeli assassin. In order for something like this to work, you need a likeable leading man, and that’s the case in these books. Prince of Fire isn’t an exception. . . . I also read The English Assassin (2), The Confessor (3), A Death in Venice (No. 4), The Secret Servant (7), The Defector (9), The Heist (14), The Black Widow (16) and The New Girl (19). . . . The Confessor, which involves the Catholic Church, the Second World War and the Holocaust, was especially good.


Red Metal — Written by Mark Greaney and H. Ripley (Rip) Rawlings IV, this is strictly a war novel with a mine in Kenya at its core. It’s full of all kinds of action and all kinds of battles as the U.S. ends up in conflict with Russia while wondering if China is next on the list. This book isn’t boring. Not at all. Greaney is the author of The Grey Man books; Rawlings is a former United States Marine Corps infantry and reconnaissance officer.


Red Robinson: The Last Deejay — Red Robinson was a pioneer among North American disc jockeys, spinning the hits on Vancouver radio stations while still in high school. During the course of his career, he met a lot of celebrities — Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers and a whole lot more — as he emceed and promoted all kinds of shows. Unfortunately, author Robin Brunet spends too much time on Robinson’s career as an advertising executive and not enough on stories about Robinson and his starry friends.


The Rhythm Section — Stephanie Patrick lost her parents and a sister in the crash of a passenger jet that, as it turns out, wasn’t an accident. Author Mark Burnell takes Patrick on quite a journey and a few name changes and personalities, from the brink of a drug-induced death to a world of international intrigue, and it’s all oh, so readable. This book, Burnell’s first novel, was published in 1999, something that, considering where the story goes and where history took us after that year, no doubt will surprise the reader.


The Splendid and the Vile: A Sage of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz — What a slam-bang of a book this is! A work of non-fiction that relies a lot on diaries — did everyone in England keep a diary in the 1940s? — it follows Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the Germans, having taken France, launch a horrendous air attack on London and other British cities. By using the entries from a variety of diaries, author Erik Larson allows the reader to feel the intensity and the emotions of a country under siege. Brilliant! . . . This was the best book I read in 2020.


Tear It Down — It’s easy to read one of author Nick Petrie’s books that features ex-Marine Peter Ash and make comparisons to writer Lee Child and his creation, Jack Reacher. So let’s just say that if you like the Reacher books, you will enjoy Ash’s exploits. Tear It Down is the fourth in the Ash series and each one of them is good escapism.


Walking Shadow — This is No. 21 in author Robert B. Parker’s series featuring Spenser, a private detective with a crackling wit. Come for a mystery and stay for the repartee between Spenser, Hawk, the friend, bodyguard and confidante, and Susan Silverman, Spenser’s psychologist gal pal. If you are looking for a few hours of escapism, you can almost always count on Spenser and that’s the case here. It all starts with an actor being shot while onstage . . .


The Wax-Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife — Brad Balukjian opened a pack of Topps 1986 baseball cards, then spent the summer of 2015 trying to visit each of the 14 players whose cards he discovered. (Fourteen? The 15th card was a checklist.) This is the story of that summer. It was a terrific idea and Balukjian executes it to perfection — like a neatly turned 6-4-3 double play.


The Wild One — The fifth book in author Nick Petrie’s series that follows the adventures of longer Peter Ash takes the reader to Iceland and into horrific weather as he searches for a young boy who might have some key numbers embedded in his photographic memory. It’s been said before, like three titles earlier on this list, but if you’re a Jack Reacher fan, you’ll like this series, too.


Here’s what they call a buzzer-beater for you. I found time on Saturday to finish Al Strachan’s Hockey Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders. If you remember when the Hot Stove was appointment viewing during Saturday night’s second intermission on Hockey Night in Canada, you will enjoy this book. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but there are a lot of anecdotes about the ‘Original Insiders,’ along with a pile of behind-the-scenes stuff involving the show. Yes, Strachan, who was the star of the show whether you want to admit it or not, deals with his disappearance, too.

That’s it for another year. . . . Enjoy reading!

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3


With Christmas Day only a few shopping days away, here is the second of my three-part Bookshelf piece, an annual look at some of the books I have read over the previous 12 months. . . .


The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL — This is an irreverent, cheeky and humorous look at the history of professional hockey’s premier league. Written by Sean McIndoe, who is known as Down Goes Brown on social media channels, it also includes all kinds of interesting tidbits. I mean, who remembers that Teemu Selanne’s first signed NHL contract was with the Calgary Flames?


George Garrett: Intrepid Reporter — George Garrett, who retired 20 years ago, spent 43 years as a reporter with radio station CKNW in Vancouver. Through diligence and hard work, the native of Mortlach, Sask., became a legend of the big city airwaves. This is his story, as written by Garrett, but, more than that, it’s the story of a completely different media era. Garrett was at CKNW from the 1950s through the 1990s, when B.C. was a cauldron of major stories, and was on the scene covering many of them. This was in the days when there was competition among TV, radio and newspaper reporters, when major news created a real buzz. That was then; this is now.


Jail Blazers: How the Portland Trail Blazers Became the Bad Boys of Basketball — There was a time when the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the NBA’s dominant teams. But it all started to unravel as general manager Bob Whitsitt, armed with billionaire Paul Allen’s money, chose to build a team that featured as much talent as he could acquire and let the coaching staff sort it out. Character? Chemistry? What’s that? The result of this chemistry experiment is between the covers of this book that was written by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune. As you read this book, you will continually find yourself shaking your head and asking how anyone with experience in sports management would think something like this would work. The book does get dragged down in game-by-game details, but not in the off-court antics and dramatics.


K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches — I am a huge baseball fan, and this is a terrific addition to any library. Author Tyler Kepner is The New York Times’ baseball columnist, and he tells the stories of 10 pitches — curveball, cutter, fastball, knuckleball, sinker, slider, spitter, splitter et al — through archives and interviews with baseball people. This is baseball — and baseball’s history — at its very best. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this one.


The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West — This is a stunningly good book. John Branch, a New York Times writer who also wrote Boy On Ice: The Derek Boogaard Story, documents the lives of the Wrights, the Utah-based family whose men have come to dominate the world of rodeo, especially in saddle bronc. But this book is about so much more than cowboys competing in rodeos. It is about a family whose patriarch remembers the past while he lives in the present and wonders about the future. This book is just so, so good. I can’t recommend it enough.


Light It Up — Peter Ash, a former Marine, finds himself in the Denver area for the third of author Nick Petrie’s books in the series. Yes, that means money and marijuana and a whole lot more. This is good escapism.


The Long and Faraway Gone — After reading the terrific November Road, which appears later on this list, I went looking for more of Lou Berney’s writing and came upon this one. Oh, what joy! In this one, Berney writes of two people who are searching to find the past while wondering what is in the future. This is a book that really does wrap itself around you.


A Man Called Ove — Written by Fredrik Backman, who also wrote Beartown and Us Against You, both of which are terrific, this is the story of Ove, a lonely man whois moving toward life’s end following the death of his wife. It is a disheartening and delightful read, all at the same time. Like the other two books, this one provides a number of snapshots of real life, as it deals with the issues of day-to-day living.


Mightier Than the Sword — This is the fifth book in author Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, a sprawling saga that follows the lives of the Clifton and Barrington families. Yes, it is a terrific soap opera, but there are more than enough twists and turns, along with good people and bad guys (and gals), to keep a reader intrigued and involved. . . . Cometh The Hour — This is Book 6 of the seven-book series. It’s all good fun from a master storyteller. . . . The series concludes with This Was A Man. This is the stuff of which hit TV series like Dallas and Dynasty once were made.


The New Iberia Blues — This is book No. 22 in author James Lee Burke’s series about Dave Robicheaux, who now is a sheriff’s deputy in New Iberia, the parish seat of Iberia Parish, in Louisiana. The characters are as fresh in this 22nd book as in any that preceded it, and Burke can write. Oh, can he! But be forewarned . . . this one isn’t for the faint of heart.


November Road — This one made a number of “best of 2018” lists and with good reason. Using the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as something of a backdrop, author Lou Berney puts the reader in Frank Guidry’s hip pocket as he tries to stay alive. A fixer for the New Orleans mob, Guidry realizes his time is up, but he has no desire to go quietly.


The Other Woman — This is a spy novel and it is a good one. A really good one. Author Daniel Silva weaves quite a story around Gabriel Allon, who is the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, and his search for a mole. Before Allon is done, the U.S., British and Israeli intelligence services appear headed to splitsville. No spoilers here, but this book contains a wonderful plot element. Great stuff! Highly recommended. . . . Also recommended: House of Spies, The Kill Artist, and The Rembrandt Affair, three more books by Silva that I read in the last while, each of them featuring Gabriel Allon.


Tomorrow: Part 3 of 3.

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