Category Archives: Books

Revolting Developments

Engelbrecht book

A group called Youth for Peace and Democracy has some words for Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, both of whom are rattling the sabers for more and bigger wars in the Middle East.

“We are the most disillusioned youth in history. You can’t kid us. The nations value their gold more than their sons. Again they rearm for war and youth marches to death while their elders cheer. You talk always of peace. There is no peace. Wall Street booms to the tune of European war preparations. The Dance of Death is on and prosperity returns to America on the promise of another World War.

You say we can’t keep out? Who will fight you next World War? We, the American youth? We protest. We don’t want your white crosses! We don’t want your wreaths and tears on Armistice Day or your two minutes of impatient silence! We don’t want your medals and your long eulogies for the murders we shall commit! We don’t even want the bonus! We want Peace and Democracy!”

There’s only one caveat. These words were said in 1937. They appear in a book called Revolt Against War by H.C. Engelbrecht, who adds, “More or less openly [financial and industrial leaders] have used the state for their own purposes—to erect tariff walls behind which they could increase profits, to protect monopolies by the right kind of regulation, to subsidize semi-public enterprises on a lavish scale, to bail out unprofitable undertakings by public ownership.”

Does anything really change all that much in America?


Catch That Block!


Catch and Release
By Lawrence Block (Hard Case Crime 2014)
Hard Case Crime are alchemists of crime fiction, not just locating and reprinting great works by some of the best writers in that blood soaked genre, but adding scholarly notes and alluring retro packaging that often beats the cover design of the original editions. Continue reading

I Read the Book But I Never Could See the Movie


The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See—Unseen Masterpieces by the World’s Greatest Directors

By Simon Braund, General Editor (Cassell Ilustrated, 2014)

A cleverly conceived and beautifully executed book of what-ifs, The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See chronicles dozens of film projects that caused such a stir or whet so many appetites or seemed so ideal in concept that it’s hard to believe the movies never actually got seen. Continue reading

Your Tender Touch and Your… Kiss?


Nothin’ to Lose—The Making of Kiss 1972-1975 (It/HarperCollins 2013)

The hefty paperback edition of this 2013 oral history of the band Kiss arrives just in time for a summer that features a Kiss tour (alongside Def Leppard, due in Hartford Aug. 10). The book’s remarkable for humanizing this kabuki cartoon of a band, for making us care about Kiss’ never-humble beginnings, and for getting comments not just from the four original members (two of whom left the act eons ago) but from a wide range of other rockers ready to attest that they’d never seen anything like Kiss (particularly in the early days when Kiss was an opening act that could spoil the audience’s appetite for the headliners). Continue reading

Replaying Possum


Walt Kelly’s Pogo—The Complete Dell Comics: Volume One (Hermes Press, 2014)

A number of the greatest comic strip artists in the history of that undervalued medium have hailed from Connecticut. Walt Kelly—who began his cartooning career as a high school student in Bridgeport—may be the greatest of them all. But Kelly’s key characters Pogo Possum, Albert the Alligator, Beauregard Dog and other denizens of the Okefenokee swamp began their lives not in comics section of the daily newspaper but in the pages of Animal comic books. Continue reading

Farewell to a (Rare) Bookseller


Elaine Sargeant, the face (and voice) of Whitlock Farm Booksellers, one of the state’s most beloved and oldest used book venues, died last Thursday. She had been battling health issues for years, a battle she kept well hidden from customers at the barn, where she held court for more than 30 years as the book buyer and unofficial shop greeter. That is, Elaine’s unmistakable smoky voice—the voice of an eccentric but always entertaining aunt, it seemed, or perhaps, as her name suggests, a female master sergeant—would offer a greeting to every customer who walked in the shop door. She had a certain genius for pointing you in a direction that would, inevitably, uncover literary treasures you hadn’t known you wanted until you walked in the shop.

I have written about Whitlock’s many times over the years, but I have a special fondness for my memories of Elaine Sargeant. She watched my son grow up over the years, pointing him toward the books he would like when he was a toddler and, on each visit afterwards, finding new age-appropriate treasures for him, too. I was taken aback today, when I entered the shop and Elaine wasn’t there and then nearly floored when I found out she’d died after a brief final illness.

A fitting tribute to Elaine Sargeant would be to head out to Whitlock’s this weekend and browse among the literary treasures there. They are all affordably priced and most were acquired and put on the shelves by the always astute and perspicacious Elaine Sargeant.

Whitlock Farm Booksellers, 20 Sperry Road, Bethany CT, 203-393-1240,