Fresno Growing Up – A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985 by Stephen H. Provost (Craven Street Books, $24.95, 230 pages)
Anyone who grew up in Fresno, California, or who has lived there for a period of years, should enjoy perusing and reading the coffee table book Fresno Growing Up. This is a 230 page biography of the Raisin Capital of the World accompanied by beautiful color and black and white photographs. The first two-thirds of the book is strong as it fondly examines restaurants and movie theaters that used to exist, the once prominent Fulton Mall downtown (similar to Sacramento’s K Street Mall), TV and radio personalities, and the offerings for adults and children in Roeding Park.
Fresno also provides a detailed look at the past noteworthy music scene. Stephen Provost’s argument that Fresno gave birth to “the Bakersfield Sound” in country music is not fully convincing, but worth considering.
The book flounders in its third section which focuses on sports. Readers who are not fans of bowling, baseball, college football, boxing or hockey will find that it stretches on for far too long. This space might have been better devoted to the history of dramatic arts in the area, bookstores that once flourished (like the Upstart Crow Book Store), family businesses, etc. And the growth of greater Fresno-Clovis from west to east, and south to north might have been visibly charted. Still, this work might serve as a template for future efforts looking at the modern history of Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Chico and Bakersfield.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Note: The finished product I received contained a large number of typos. Hopefully, these will be caught and corrected in future printings.
A preview-review of Going to the Bad: A Lily Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland, which will be released on August 7, 2012.
A Bad Day’s Work: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland (Touchstone; $14.99; 268 pages)
After reading Nora McFarland’s second Lilly Hawkins mystery, Hot, Shot, and Bothered, I was curious about the characters and their alliances. Rather than rehashing the background for the series here, I suggest you check out the review posted previously on this site.
In this debut book, Lilly has a sense of urgency associated with getting the breaking story while assuring her place on the news team. She is caught up in her own drama and dives furiously into an assignment in foggy Bakersfield, CA. Making the most of being a TV news camera person, a shooter, is uppermost in Lilly’s mind. As you might imagine, there’s a whole other scenario playing out behind the main story – a decent fellow is gunned down while driving a truck full of cargo. Moreover, the cargo has vanished but no one is sure what it was! There are private security guards, sheriff’s deputies and a wealthy businessman who create a murky view of the facts in the story. To make matters even more confusing, Lilly’s co-workers are not exactly who she thinks they are.
The action takes place over the span of one day. Author McFarland packs the day with a remarkable volume of action that includes car chases, hiding from the authorities and a gang attack. While action plays a key role in the story, it is the development of Lilly’s relationships with her co-workers that brings the story to life. She must decide who is on her side and who is blocking her career path. Several past mishaps with camera equipment and a black tape of the crime scene investigation are leading the newsroom management to wonder about Lilly’s abilities and commitment to her profession. Lilly’s past includes the loss of her father and estrangement from her mother. These traumas contribute to the plot. Needless to say, there’s no boredom in this book!
McFarland’s style is consistent over the two mysteries. Let’s hope she adds to the Lilly Hawkins series with the same attention to heart and action present in the first two books.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Packed full of adrenaline and attitude, A Bad Day’s Work is a roller-coaster ride… Don’t miss it!” Lisa Scottoline
Hot, Shot, and Bothered: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland (Touchstone, $14.99, 304 pages)
Get ready for a new type of spunky girl mystery! This second appearance of Lilly Hawkins, a TV news shooter for the local Bakersfield, California TV station, proves to be a summer stunner. Lilly is a very honest person, sort of. That’s to say she’s honest with herself about who she is now and who she was in the past. She’s not so honest about her intentions when it comes to her boss at the station or the local police and sheriff. A drowning death that she’s sent to video tape seems fishy to Lilly. It is one of the two concurrent mysteries that sustain the reader’s interest. Layered over the drowning is a breathtaking wildfire that may just consume the evidence at the location of the drowning. Who set the fire and why was Jessica Egan murdered?
McFarland sets the scene with plenty of realistic action. She has been behind the camera in Lilly’s shoes as a shooter for the news media. To McFarland’s credit, the details are helpful and she has resisted the urge to bury the reader in techno speak. One element that was lacking would have proven helpful for this reviewer. A simple graphic/map showing the general vicinity where the action takes place could have provided a sense of the movement in the story. Author Lisa Black’s thriller Trail of Blood that is set in Cleveland, Ohio contains one and it was an integral part of enjoying the book.
The characters in Hot, Shot, and Bothered are brought into the tale in a general locale, not exactly in Bakersfield, California, but nearby. As they are matched up with each other, for example the grocer and the lady mayor, the stakes are raised. McFarland is very adept at revealing her characters’ motivations at her own pace. She makes Lilly work under super pressure to cover the growing fire and satisfy her nagging doubts about the drowning.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Hot, Shot, and Bothered was released on August 2, 2011. “Funny, smart and honest. Packed full of adrenaline and attitude. Don’t miss it!” Lisa Scottoline