Between the lines: Spotlight shines on California books

08/05/2014 12:00 AM

08/04/2014 12:05 PM

Let’s lead with some California-centric titles and Northern California authors:

Todd Borg lives at one of the world’s great destinations – Lake Tahoe – and writes about the adventures of his P.I. character, former SFPD homicide inspector Owen McKenna, who also lives on the lake (of course). In the 12th title of the series, “Tahoe Ghost Boat,” McKenna goes up against a gang of killers to save the life of a teenage girl “with a $2 million price on her head” (Thriller Press, $17, 384 pages). For a list of Borg’s upcoming book signings, visit

“The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher” by Kim Bancroft (Heyday, $20, 384 pages; Sept. 30): Margolin of Berkeley is the publisher and founder of Heyday Books, the well-regarded house specializing in nonfiction (and some fiction) focused on all things California. One industry insider describes Heyday as “eclectic, quixotic and agile on its feet” – a reflection of the quirky Margolin himself. This is the first-person tell-all by an iconoclast who was named “a national treasure” by the National Endowment For the Humanities.

“Write, If You Live To Get There: Tracing Westward Expansion Through 120 Years of Family Letters,” compiled and edited by Mary K. Sonntag and Mary Jo Sonntag (World Association, $20, 433 pages): Mother and daughter inherited a trunk full of letters (and photos) written by relatives in the 19th century. Many are sad and moving, others are optimistic and heroic. Day-to-day life mixed with drama and adventure reveal a window in time that will never be repeated.

“Tiburcio: Love, Crime and Rebellion in Early California” by David Caraccio (CreateSpace, $19, 552 pages): Set in 1850s Monterey, young and idyllic Tiburcio Vasquez is transformed by a series of misadventures linked to the waves of arriving American gold-hunters and pioneers. Through bad circumstances, he is forced to choose the life of an outlaw, pursued by American lawmen. Caraccio is an online news editor at The Sacramento Bee.

“California Dreaming” by Paul J.P. Sandul (West Virginia University Press, $28, 218 pages; on sale Oct. 1): History professor Sandul examines the Golden State through the perspective of how – and if – it met its original “suburban ideal” in which “agrarian virtue existed” in harmony with business, a social scene, culture and the arts.

“Little Known Tales in San Francisco History” by Alton Pryor (Stagecoach, $12, 186 pages): This informative tour through one of the world’s great cities is both a history lesson and an ode to its institutions – from Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and novelist Jack London, to Alcatraz and Chinatown.

“Courage Matters” by R. Scott Mackey (CreateSpace, $10, 232 pages): Sacramento-based P.I. Ray Courage is hired by the “Stockbroker to the Stars” to check out one of the man’s employees. Simple enough, except for what soon follows – two murders, the discovery of a possible Ponzi scheme, and threats from a drug lord, a millionaire and the cops.

“Living in 1984” by Gregg Ward Matson (FastPencil, $25, 272 pages): The Elk Grove writer proposes an interesting thesis: “Modern America resembles life in George Orwell’s dystopia.” In the British novelist-essayist’s sci-fi novel “1984,” published in 1949, the chronically warring “superstate” of Oceania – run by a privileged few – spies on, persecutes and manipulates is citizens. “Thought crimes” are punishable, and a made-up language called Newspeak further adds to the oppression.

“Contempt of Court” by Ken Malovos (CreateSpace, $10, 230 pagaes): In this novel, life is good for Sacramento trial lawyer Mike Zorich, until an unexplained series of personal attacks that may be linked to a new case involving a prominent California wine family. Malovos is a veteran attorney who lives in Sacramento.

Man Booker nominees

The six judges for the prestigious Man Booker Prize have announced their longlist of nominees, plus its organizers have some startling news: Entrants are no longer restricted to “citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.” In short, the organizers have opened the contest to “novels from across the globe, as long as they are written in English.”

Four Americans are on the longlist. One of them is Karen Joy Fowler, the former UC Davis professor now living in Santa Cruz, with “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” (Plume, $16, 320 pages). Fowler’s surprise 2004 hit, “The Jane Austen Book Club,” spent 13 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was made into a movie. She has appeared for the Bee Book Club.

The shortlist of six titles will be announced Sept. 9, and the winner for best novel will be announced Oct. 14. The top prize is $50,000 British pounds, or about $84,400. More at www.themanbooker

Also on the list: “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour” by Joshua Ferris (U.S.A.)

“The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan

“The Blazing World” by Siri Hustvedt (U.S.A.)

“J” by Howard Jacobson

“The Wake” by Paul Kingsnorth

“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell

“The Lives of Others” by Neel Mukherjee

“Us” by David Nicholls

“The Dog” by Joseph O'Neill

“Orfeo” by Richard Powers (U.S.A.)

“How to be Both” by Ali Smith

“History of the Rain” by Niall Williams

Upcoming author apearances

Malcolm Brooks for “Painted Horses,” 6:30 p.m. Monday at Face in a Book, 4359 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-9401, www.getyourface The debut novel is set in the American West of the 1950s and is catching plenty of buzz. A Booklist review says, “Readers will rightly find … suggestions of Jim Harrison or Cormac McCarthy … and vintage Hemingway.” Brooks grew up in Placerville and Sacramento, and lives in Montana.

James Rollins for the 10th title in his “Sigma Force” series, “The Sixth Extinction.” The release party will be at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, 1256 Galleria Blvd., Roseville, (916) 788-4320. Rollins, who lives in El Dorado Hills, left his veterinary practice to write adventure novels that mix scientific principles with sci-fi and rough-and-tumble action. He’s a member of Authors United for Veterans (AUV), an organization that supports U.S. veterans of foreign wars. Details of a related fundraising drive are at his blog at

Nancy Herman for her historical novel “All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donner Party,” 4-8 p.m. Aug. 17. Her appearance is part of the Wine for Words fundraiser for the Placerville Main Library, 345 Fair Lane, (530) 621-5540. The evening will include wine-tasting, dinner and silent auction/raffle; $50. More at

Book Den sales

The Friends of the Sacramento Public Library regularly hosts book sales at the Book Den, 8250 Belvedere Ave., Sacramento; (916) 731-8493. Two events are upcoming, one on Saturday and another Aug. 16. For details and a calendar of upcoming sales, go to www.saclibfriends.



Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service