Western History & Genealogy Blog

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New Books in Western History: Week in Reviews (5.26.09)

Last week's newspaper book sections offered a number of new titles related to the American West, including a biography of one of the region's premier explorers, a study of the region's most notorious prison, and two books on baseball, life, and loss. 

In the Denver Post, Roger K. Miller reviews Martha Sandweiss's Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line, a biography of Clarence King, the adventurer, geologist, and leader of expeditions to the American West. Born into privilege and celebrated in elite circles, King lived a double life as James Todd, a black Pullman porter with an African-American wife, Ada, and five children. A copy of Passing Strange is already in the Western History & Genealogy's print collection, and circulating copies are available at the Central Library and other DPL branches.

Also in the Post is a review of Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America, the latest work by S.L. Price, a Sports Illustrated feature writer, who profiles the life of Mike Coolbaugh. Working as the first base coach of a Tulsa-based Double A baseball team in the Colorado Rockies system, Coolbaugh was killed by a hit in a 2007 game in Little Rock, Arkansas. Steve Weinberg notes that Price's features are justly celebrated, but this, his third book, is "the first you could call timeless nonfiction literature." Copies of Heart of the Game are on order.

The San Francisco Chronicle includes a review of Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, a book by David Ward and Gene Kassebaum. Martin Rubin finds the book "so exhaustive as history and analysis that it is well worthwhile." A copy of Alcatraz has just been received in the Western History & Genealogy Department.

Dave Cullen's Columbine is a Washington Post Critic's Pick, after Gary A. Krist's favorable review a month ago in the same paper. Krist describes Cullen's work as an "exhaustive and supremely level-headed examination," and "arresting" for concluding most every widespread notion about the event is wrong. An especially interesting review of the book, written by Joan Walsh, then Cullen's editor at Salon.com, also appeared last month. A copy of Columbine is already part of the Department's print collection, and circulating copies are also available at the Central Library and other DPL branches.

Salon also carries an interview with Mark Obmascik, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former Denver Post reporter, on his new book Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled -- and Knuckleheaded -- Quest for the Rocky Mountain High, chronicling his obsession with scaling 14ers.

And, finally, the New York Times Sunday Book Review features a review of Michael D'Antonio's Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, a figure of lasting infamy in a New York City borough. Michael Shapiro praises D'Antonio's portrait as sympathetic to a degree likely to startle, and notes the move, paralleled by the relocation of the New York Giants to San Francisco, extended the western frontier of major league baseball some 1,300 miles past its last outpost in Kansas City. A copy of Forever Blue is already in the Western History & Genealogy Department's print collection, and circulating copies are available at the Central Library.


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