Tag Archives: Younger Than That Now

The Superhero

The Side-Yard Superhero by Rick D. Niece (Synergy Books, $17.95)

“Used to dream in that small town/ Another born romantic that’s me…”   John Mellencamp, “Small Town”

Automythography – A work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact.   Rick D. Niece

Rick D. Niece made a promise to a childhood friend, and while the central premise of his book The Side-Yard Superhero revolves around his visit later in life to his ailing former companion in which he fulfills that promise, the book is more about the simplicity and human decency found in the everyday experiences of small-town America.

Niece, president of College of the Ozarks, constructs his tale almost as if he pulled the old John Irving trick and started with the ending of the story and then moved backward to the first sentence.   In between is the story of Niece’s childhood in DeGraff, Ohio.

As a boy, Niece secures a paper route and, in so doing, interacts with virtually everyone in his hometown.   This includes the unforgettable Bernie Jones, who – stricken with cerebral palsy – eagerly awaits Niece’s arrival on his bicycle each day from his wheelchair in the yard along the side of the house.

The reader encounters church socials, trick or treating, and Boy Scout award ceremonies.   Even the carnival comes to town and, you guessed it, Rickie takes Bernie.

Think Mitch Albom, and you have the idea of the type of storytelling you will experience in Side-Yard.   The book occasionally slips into sentimentality, but it is largely free of it, because the book has a more comprehensive story to tell than just the relationship between its two characters.   The verse which is interspersed between chapters is usually effective and works better than anticipated.

Without giving away too much of the story, this reviewer is left to wonder if hope really can keep a person alive; if history will ultimately judge America on how it treats its old, sick, and weak; and what in the world this country would be like if we were ever to lose our small towns.

Some stories need to be told, and some writers have a story they just have to tell.   This is the case with Rick D. Niece’s The Side-Yard Superhero.

Recommended.

This review was written by Dave Moyer, educator and author of the novel Life and Life Only.   He is currently working on his follow-up book, Younger Than That Now.   Mr. Moyer also writes reviews for the New York Journal of Books.   (A review copy was provided by Smith Publicity.)

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Another Book Giveaway!

One of our most popular recent book reviews was of Life and Life Only, a novel by Dave Moyer about life, baseball and Bob Dylan (Is there anything else?).   If you have not read our review yet, we encourage you to enter the search terms “tangled up in blue” in the Search It! box on the right.   A good time is guaranteed for all.

Thanks to the generosity of the author, we have two new autographed copies of Life and Life Only to give away!   As always, there are easy-to-follow contest rules.   In order to enter this contest once, just send an e-mail to us at Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   In order to submit a second entry, tell us what Bob Dylan or baseball has meant to you in your life.   If you’re not a fan of either, feel free to tell us so and what takes the place of baseball or Mr. Dylan in your own life (hint: we are nearing Valentines Day).   No pressure, just have fun with it.

You have until midnight PST on Sunday, February 14, 2010 – that’s St. Valentine’s Day – to submit your entry.   In order to enter, you must live within the continental United States.   Prior winners at this site are again eligible to win.

Thanks again to Dave Moyer who is rumored to be a scholar and a gentleman!

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Tangled Up in Blue

It is often said that music serves as the soundtrack of our lives.   So how about setting a sports-related story to the words and music of Bob Dylan?   This is the interesting premise for the story Life and Life Only by first-time novelist Dave Moyer.   Life is the story of Dan Mason, a 92 miles-per-hour fastball pitcher in high school who turns down a major league contract in order to attend college at the University of Georgia.   Mason gambles that the MLB will be there waiting for him after he completes a successful pitching career with the Bulldogs.   What he doesn’t expect – although secretly has wished for – is to meet a perfect Southern belle.   Mason, in fact, meets and marries Anne Jean Simpson whose beauty is obvious to all.

Of course, there’s a danger in getting exactly what you want out of life, and the reader will wonder what’s less likely, that Mason will make the big leagues or remain married to Anne Jean?   Let’s just say that life throws a few curveballs Mason’s way, which is why he must come to terms with disappointment and loss.   What makes the telling of the story fun is to see the events in Mason’s life set in space and time by Dylan’s music.   And, to some extent, Dylan serves as a source of strength for Mason, because Dan attends Dylan concerts as a means of rejuvenating and recharging his life and his faith.

Yes, there’s a touch of the spiritual in this tale, although Moyer handles it so tactfully that it is not going to bother the non-church going reader.   Near the end, something happens that can be viewed as either a near miracle or as something simply meant to happen.   Perhaps, in Bob Dylan’s words, it’s a simple twist of fate.

I hesitate to divulge any more of the plot lines.   (Sometimes less is more; sometimes it is better to say of a review that “nothing was revealed.”)   I’ll just add that it’s not too late to order this book for Christmas from Amazon for anyone on your list who is a Boomer, a rabid Dylan fan, a Byrds or Joni Mitchell fan, a sports fan, a baseball player, teacher or human being.

Good work by Moyer with this semi-autobiographical tale (“I like to say that all of it is true and none of it is true…”), which is why we’re looking forward to the sequel, Younger Than That Now.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the author. Published by iUniverse.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Life and Life Only, a novel by Dave Moyer.

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