Between the Lines: Getting to know the Boss, ‘Album By Album’

Ryan White, who has twice been honored by the Society For Features Journalism, spent “four months of 15-hour days in my basement, digging in and listening” to Bruce Springsteen songs, he said.

The result is the new “Springsteen: Album by Album,” part biography and part examination of the Boss’ 18 studio albums ranging from his 1973 debut, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”, to this year’s “High Hopes” (Sterling, $28, 288 pages).

Helping “immensely” with the research was White’s friend, journalist-critic Peter Ames Carlin, author of 2012’s “Bruce,” the authorized biography of Springsteen.

“Peter gave me access to all his archives from the biography,” said White from his home in Portland, Ore. “He was the first person in 25 years to crack the code and (get to) talk with Bruce.” Carlin wrote the introduction to “Album by Album.”

Prior to the book project, White, a former music writer for The Oregonian (and current contributor to The Bee), had seen Springsteen in concert “about 10 times,” he said.

He approached Springsteen “as a cultural figure who brought a lot of authority to everything he did. I looked at (the project) as a chance to explore him through his albums and the (fans’) reactions to them, and trace his path from scraggly Jersey Shore rat with a bad beard to this granite-jawed avatar of American-ness that he has become. “

“Album by Album” is a portrait of the artist as drawn from his body of work. In it, White analyzes lyrics, their reference points and how the albums fit into American culture.

“He is, inarguably, one of the great album artists,” White said. “He’s worked really hard to have something important to say. He’s made music that’s very useful to people, and that’s part of why he has such a passionate following.”

White “made passes” at talking with Springsteen, but hit a wall. However, if he had two minutes with the Boss, what would he say?

“I might just say ‘thanks’ because of the inspiration I took away,” he said. “There’s that line at the end of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ (1978): ‘Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop / I’ll be on that hill with everything I got.’

“(Meaning) if this is what I want to do, then I’m going to make it work. I wrote as good a book as I could possibly write, and now I’m going to figure out what the next one is going to be.”

Bee archives expanding

Digital archives of The Sacramento Bee from 1984 to the present have been available from the Sacramento Public Library since 1999. Now the library has reached further into the past to offer the public The Bee’s archive of stories from 1900 through 1983. All you need for access is a library card; go to

Because of the huge amount of material, those older archives will be introduced in increments. Papers from 1940 to 1959 are now available, to be followed by the issues from 1960 to 1969 (July 2015), 1970 to 1979 (July 2016), 1980 to 1983 (July 2017) and 1900 to 1939 (July 2018).

The new digital archive will offer exact images of each page of The Bee for every day it was published, along with a “keyword” search function.

“This will be a most useful online resources for local history research, helping patrons explore the histories of their homes, families and communities,” said Amanda Graham, archivist of the library’s Sacramento Room historical collections.

The Central Library will continue to offer microfilm access to Bee issues from the 1857 founding of the newspaper through 1899. The library is at 828 I St.; (916) 264-2700,

New Scott adventure

Folsom historical novelist Amanda Scott has another in her series of romantic adventures, this one titled “Border Nights,” set in early 15th century Scotland. The first entry, “Moonlight Raider,” features two main characters who were real-life ancestors of poet-author Sir Walter Scott, and, the author says, “also of yours truly” (Forever, $8, 400 pages). Scott is a meticulous researcher known for her historical and geographic accuracy. Visit her at

Seminar on memoirs

Learn how to write a holiday-themed memoir, and get some tips on holiday entertaining and food-and-wine pairings, at upcoming events sponsored by the Book-In-Hand Roadshow. The “roadshow” is an ongoing series of seminars that focus on the process of writing, marketing, editing and publishing. It’s hosted by Jennifer Basye Sander, co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Getting Published,” and Ingrid Lundquist, author of “Results-Driven Event Planning.” For details and to register for “Holiday Memories: How To Create a Family Memoir This Thanksgiving,” go to or call (916) 719-1776.

Little gray cells at work

The recently released “The Monogram Murders” by Sophie Hannah is gathering major momentum (William Morrow, $26, 320 pages). With the blessing of late mystery novelist Agatha Christie’s estate, Hannah continues the adventures of Christie’s most enduring character, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The dapper investigator appeared in 33 of her novels and numerous short stories, from his introduction in 1920 to his “death” from heart disease in 1975’s “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case.”

Hannah’s pastiche, set in London in the 1920s, is narrated by a new character, Scotland Yard inspector Edward Catchpool. He works with Poirot to solve a string of murders, each connected by monogrammed gold cufflinks left at the crime scenes.

Writing in Publishers Weekly magazine, Hannah explains she is not resurrecting Poirot or updating him. Simply put, “I have invented a case for Poirot to solve and a sidekick to help him. I’ve provided murders, suspects, motives, clues, twists, and I’ve even thrown in a posh London hotel and an English village for good measure. I’ve set up a knotty problem and invited Poirot in to solve it. That’s it – nothing more.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Hannah has a built-in fan base: Dame Christie sold more than 2 billion books, and David Suchet famously played Poirot in the PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery” series from 1989 to 2013.

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.


If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to Questions? Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.