Wednesday, February 27, 2019

John Wall

John Wall has a BA from Ohio State University, worked as a journalist at Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan, the Toledo Blade, Insight magazine and the Altoona Mirror. At the Mirror he also was a syndicated movie critic for Thomson Newspapers.

In 1994 Wall left journalism to become a writer-editor at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and later worked as director of media relations at Juniata College, a tiny liberal arts college in rural central Pennsylvania. He's now retired and lives in Altoona, Pa. and is mulling over ideas for his next project.

Wall's latest book is Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wall's reply:
Typically I switch my reading between non-fiction biographies, histories and crime fiction (with the occasional spy thriller thrown in for momentum). Lately, I've taken to re-reading books already in my collection because I'm running out of bookshelf space.

The newest title is Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann, an involving investigation into a turn-of-the-20th century crime against the Osage nation in Oklahoma. Grann details how the ruling elite systematically murdered Native Americans to steal lucrative oil leases. Trivia fans will recognize that the Oklahoma town of Pawhuska, where several stories are set, is where "Pioneer Woman " Ree Drummond lives.

Ghettoside. Jill Leovy, a former reporter for the L.A. Times, takes the reader deep into a single murder case in gang territory, South Central Los Angeles. The case focuses on the murder of the son of an LA cop and the investigators who try and solve the murder. Levy goes beyond the murder book by astutely analyzing the reasons why metropolitan crime statistics may not be totally accurate.

Dancing in the Dark. Morris Dickstein writes an involving and quirky cultural analysis of the songs, books, films and stage shows of the Great Depression years into the 1940s. Dickstein covers the greatest hits: Steinbeck, Astaire, Gershwin. But he also gives more obscure authors their dues and folds in the influence of designers.

Mystery Train. Rock critic Greil Marcus' essential book is a book I re-read every few years. Marcus weaves an intricate analysis of how the American melting-pot is reflected in the work of musicians Elvis, Robert Johnson, Sly Stone, Randy Newman and the Band. If you must read one book about music, this is it.

Deep Freeze and Twisted Prey. Former reporter John Sandford has two distinct and entertaining detectives. Deep Freeze's cop is Virgil Flowers, who seems inspired by Justified's (and Elmore Leonard's) Raylan Givens. The Flowers novels are funnier and are usually placed in small Minnesota towns. The Prey novels feature Lucas Davenport, a harder-edged detective whose work is focused in the Twin Cities. Sly humor is sprinkled between Davenport's merciless hunt for his "prey."

The Other Woman. Daniel Silva struck gold with his art-restorer/assassin/spy hero Gabriel Allon. This latest installment brings in some "ancient" history. Allon must trace the effect British spy Kim Philby has had on British intelligence agencies, while also dealing with Israel's currently tenuous hold on issues in the Middle East.
Learn more about Streamliner, and visit John Wall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue