Thursday, October 6, 2016

David O. Stewart

David O. Stewart is the author of several works of history, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which have been awarded the Washington Writing Award and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize. His Fraser and Cook mystery novels are The Lincoln Deception, The Wilson Deception, and the newly released The Babe Ruth Deception.

Recently I asked Stewart about what he was reading. His reply:
An unanticipated benefit of parenthood comes when your grown children start recommending interesting books to you.

Some years back, a son living in California urged me to read Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer-winning novel, Angle of Repose. But I didn’t know much about Stegner and the title sounded pokey, so I let it slide. Big mistake. I ran down the book recently, and found that it’s terrific.

Stegner’s lyrical language movingly describes complex characters in difficult situations. The story involves a mining engineer’s odyssey through the post-Civil War West. Now mining engineering sounds pretty sleep-inducing at first, it affords a wonderful window on Americans’ race to exploit new lands (and water). Writing about the 1880s, Stegner captures the moral quandaries that surround economic development in today’s world of climate change.

Angle of Repose embodies its own ambiguity. Stegner reproduced, verbatim, about forty letters from Mary Halleck Foote, a writer married to a mining engineer in the old West, who served as the inspiration for his story. So, is the book fiction or non-fiction? Did he unfairly appropriate the work of another? Interesting questions.

My other son recently recommended Don Winslow’s novel The Power of the Dog, the first installment of a series exploring the violent world of Mexican drug trafficking, where misguided public policies intertwine with private greed. Book Two of the series, The Cartel, won wide acclaim last year, but, well, I needed to begin at the beginning.

The Power of the Dog is compulsively readable, full of the inside skinny on the drug trade that has haunted the Americas for two generations. I’m taking a breather from Winslow for now, but am definitely hooked for the next installment.

To prepare for a recent trip to Russia, I dug up David Remnick’s Lenin’s Tomb, a powerful journalistic account of the fall of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1992. Through those tumultuous years, when the Soviet system fell apart, Remnick brings us into the kitchens and offices of some who strained to save the system despite its internal rot and others who hoped to build something new and fine in its place. That neither group succeeded doesn’t make their stories any less fascinating.
Learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Wilson Deception.

The Page 69 Test: The Wilson Deception.

My Book, The Movie: The Babe Ruth Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue