The Ghost writes on. Wonderfully.

WITH THESE HANDS

The final volume in a series of four posthumous titles (Beyond the Great Snow Mountains, 1999, etc.) collecting tales never before published in book form, many in genres we don’t associate with the Western writer.

L’Amour (1908–88) came from pioneer stock and traced his family back to 1600. Before committing fully to a writing career in his mid-’30s, he led a vastly adventurous life. He sailed around the globe, was shipwrecked in the West Indies and stranded in the Mojave Desert, worked as a miner, lumberjack, cattle skinner, carnival barker, elephant handler, and a boxer (winning 51 of 59 fights); during WWII, he served as an officer in the Transportation Corps. Included herein is the ferocious boxing saga “Gloves for a Tiger,” the second short story he sold. Also here are the wrap-ups for a number of early series clearly from his pulp days, although no provenance is given for any story. (Those interested can turn to louislamour.com for more information.) L’Amour is still finding his voice in many of these fictions, which echo genre styles of the day. For instance, in “Corpse on the Carpet,” his lengthy LA thriller about detective-to-be Kip Morgan: “She was sitting just around the curve of the bar, a gorgeous package of a girl, all done up in a gray tailored suit.” It’s pulp, but it’s catchy pulp; flurries like “I’d thrown my Sunday punch and all I got was rebound” keep readers lost in a hardboiled, lobster-bright time-warp filled with phrasings now as formal and stately as harpsichord notes from an 18th-century drawing room (“I whipped my right up into his solar plexus”). The lone Western, “Six-Gun Stampede,” is voiced in that “Anyways, I’m just fixin’ dinner” coziness. Far stronger is the title story, a Jack London–ish man-against-nature classic, telling of an oil company executive crashing in the Arctic wastes.

The Ghost writes on. Wonderfully.

Pub Date: May 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-553-80273-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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