As many know, DIESEL has always been a big fan of Don Winslow. It is a typical book industry puzzle that The Power of the Dog is not near-obligatory reading for nonfiction and fiction readers alike. It is an impeccably researched historical novel of the drug trade in the U.S. and Mexico. The Cartel brings the same brilliant writing, social analysis, and verisimilitude to the last twenty years of the drug wars.
Last night, Don Winslow came to our Brentwood store, completing his whirlwind national tour. It was the kind of evening booksellers and book readers dream about. His humor, his candor, his responsiveness set a great tone for encouraging a passionate, startling, deeply humane, and intelligent discussion with the audience.
We like well-attended events, we like book sales to support the author, event and bookstore. We love events where the magic happens. This was a magical evening. A victim of drug war zealotry and monomaniacal prosecution discussed his five years in a penitentiary. The scope of the political economy of drug buying and selling, along with that of the prison/industrial complex, were thoughtfully discussed.
The reviews for The Cartel have been strong. The ad Don Winslow took out in the Washington Post has been praised, though the politicians to which it was aimed have been completely silent. The El Chapo escape has brought some more attention to the book and its story of the escape of a similar drug kingpin. But the deeper societal and economic relationship between American drug users, the War on Drugs, and the American privatization of prisons for profit are only now hopefully being addressed by us individually and as a nation. That drugs are illegal and we voraciously consume them creates the cartels, the drug war and prison industrial complex. It's all a symbiotic system of massive cruelty and destructiveness. And we've been doing it for thirty years.
It was wonderful to have Don Winslow come to the store, and even more wonderful to have an audience that was so participatory and responsive that it became a transformative event for all of us who were there. It's what it all is about, and for.
John & all DIESELfolk
If you want to make me cry -- and I'm not talking a polite little sniffle, but floods of tears and shoulder-shaking near-hysterics -- tell a story about quiet heroism: small acts of sacrifice, those likely to go unnoticed, uncelebrated, unsung. Jami Attenberg's Saint Mazie -- unsurprisingly -- left me sobbing. Based on the story of a real woman profiled by Joseph Mitchell in The New Yorker (an essay you can read in the also excellent Up in the Old Hotel), Saint Mazie is written as the oral history of an overlooked hero of the Great Depression: the ticket-seller of a Manhattan movie house, whose affinity and empathy for the city's homeless leads to her life touching dozens of others. Despite the book's title, Attenberg ensures that the diary entries, letters, and interviews comprising the novel's narrative paint Mazie as no saint, but a complicated, conflicted woman who nevertheless attains a kind of apotheosis through her curiosity and compassion. -- Anna K.
In this tender and affecting novel, young Jack navigates the early years of WWII with his Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph, some carrier pigeons and an unlikely friend who teaches him the importance of love and family. As Jack and his friend become closer they hatch a plan that will change the course of both their lives, as well as those of several families seriously affected by the turbulent times.
I loved, loved, LOVED this book, and can't wait to hand-sell it for summer reading! -- Linda G.
When the aliens finally come knocking, they do so not as desperate refugees, lost E.T.s, or even marauding world-destroyers, but as intelligent, advanced beings who find Earth primitive but beautiful, and see humans as backwards, self-destructive, savages. In fact, we have practically nothing to offer to the various races who are stronger, smarter, more beautiful, or simply far wealthier. Nothing except ourselves. Earth is a prime tourist destination, and the concept of "sex sells" is unsurprisingly a universal concept. Kept in strict quarantine, humans turn to widespread prostitution as our only commodity: sexual, of course, but also artistic, cultural, and even putting our minds up for sale, so that alien tourists unable to survive in Earth's ecosystem, or who simply want the full human "immersion" experience, can take our bodies for a spin.
Yoss, a Cuban metal rocker, imagines a grim future, but writes with a fittingly energetic, imaginative brashness. His stories are wild and fun, even as hope is repeatedly shown to be a fool's errand. -- Chris P.
In the proud tradition of Irish literature, Kevin Barry's stories are dark, comic, sad, and exceedingly well written. There are so many collections of contemporary, realistic fiction being published that it's hard for any one to stand out; Barry's characters are so well drawn, and the language is so delightfully crafted, that Dark Lies the Island shines like a beacon. These characters are often painfully normal -- so much so that they pass through normal and come out the far side. They might be better described as being abnormal for fairy-tale characters. Dark Lies the Island is a tremendous follow-up to Barry's debut novel, City of Bohane, a refreshing, lyrical, gangland take on the post-apocalyptic genre. Barry is definitely a writer to know. -- Will K.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz defies that damnable cliche about history only being written by the victors. Too often a white-wash, the Victor's History may be the loudest, but it is far from the only one. Within the din, there are the voices of those who never so much lost as were lost along the way. In Dunbar-Ortiz's latest book, these voices cry out. Her greatest achievement as the author (and as a historian) is knowing when to recede into the background of her own book. The unhealed fractures of history -- whether they be compound breakages that rupture the skin or the nearly imperceptible wounds that lead to limps -- cannot be wished or washed away. An Indigenous People's History of the United States is a painfully vital book if we are ever to set things right. -- Brad J.
Celebrated artist Tom Killion has previously collaborated with renowned poet and naturalist, Gary Snyder, on books about Mount Tamalpais and the High Sierra. This third book celebrates the coast of California, "The edge where sea meets land, the coast, is where we face true wilderness." The book is full of Killion's simple and gorgeous wood and linocut prints. Alongside them he and Snyder provide us a deeper understanding of this land-sea edge through their own prose and that of other poets and writers, such as Robert Hass, Jaime de Angulo, William Everson, and Jane Hirshfield. Anyone who has spent five minutes along the California coast will find this beautiful coffee-table book hard to put down. -- Alan D.
Lottie is a lonely girl whose imagination and eccentric behavior often get her into trouble. She has one friend, but he has only a few weeks left to live. When her favorite apple tree opens its roots and sends her plummeting into the fairyland of New Albion, Lottie's only thought is to get back to her friend. When she learns that one of the sprites has a magical medicine for "otherwise incurable" afflictions, she becomes ever more determined to get back to the real world and put that medicine to good use. Unfortunately the king of the fairies is also sick, and he and his minions will stop at nothing to get that potion and destroy Lottie, who is much more important than she ever would've guessed. This book is an exciting magical adventure for kids aged 10 and up, but it also deals with some complex issues of political power and its abuse. These are not clean and pretty fairies, but more like the dangerous and vindictive sprites of folklore. -- Clare D.