Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic The Wire Recorders by Thomas A Levitt @ryderswriters

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Wire Recorder by Thomas A Levitt

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4 stars

I was attracted to this book because of the great title, the great cover, and the blurb that spoke of the 1951 campaign to root out communists in the US film industry, something that interests me greatly.  Mr Levitt writes well, and the book flowed along nicely.  I did like much of it, hence the 4 stars, although it was not the book I expected.

The anti-communist witch-hunt is dealt with in a brief fashion in the first ten per cent, after which the novel is about the life of Sophie Hearn, the daughter of Larry, who suffered under the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) campaign.  Running alongside Sophie’s story is that of Steve, whose parents were also involved; I found his early development one of the most compelling parts of the book, especially as it took place in a time when developmental disorders went unrecognised.

Mr Levitt creates the atmosphere of 1960s California so well, I would imagine from personal experience, and many of the incidental characters come alive immediately, particularly in their dialogue.

The reason I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I had hoped is that there was not much actual plot; it is more of a biographical account of Sophie’s life, with chapters dedicated to the social issues of the time.  Throughout, I kept waiting for some real conflict, or suspense; opportunities for drama were missed, with any problems (one character’s excessive use of marijuana, and, later, the logistics of a mixed race marriage) being resolved quickly and easily, within a page or two, almost as if the author had a checklist of issues to be mentioned.

I enjoyed reading Steve and Sophie’s experience at their student parties (and the ridiculous dialogue of the hippie idealists was extremely well done), but few of the scenarios tied together, events happening in isolation.  I wonder if there was perhaps too much material for one book; the author has dealt with not only the HUAC campaign, but also the newly permissive 1960s, sexism, drugs, the women’s lib movement, living in a commune, new teaching methods, racism, the difficulties of mixed race marriages, employment problems—all this is crammed into one medium-length novel, whereas any one of those subjects would make a great basis for a story all on its own.  This is a debut novel, and I know it can be a temptation to play all your cards straight away!

The bulk of the book is about Sophie running an experimental school, and her subsequent difficulties in finding a post in a ‘public’ school.  Sadly, I never got a sense of who Sophie was, though Steve was a rounded, three-dimensional character.

What kept me turning the pages was the writing style, which is extremely readable, the entertaining snapshots of particular aspects of the era, the fact that the author clearly knew his subject matter so well, and the excellent dialogue in the portraits of incidental characters.  In the last fifteen per cent, too, there is more of a coming together of Sophie and Steve’s lives, a little more suspense, and an explanation of why and how they were affected by what happened to their parents at the beginning of the book.

To sum up: as a fictional account of the sociological history of the era, this is a most fascinating book; for those who are looking for a plot-driven novel about the HUAC campaign and its affects, though, not so much.

Book description

Sophie Hearn grows up hearing about the House Un-American Activities Committee’s 1951 campaign to root out Communists in the film industry. Her father’s impassioned testimony in defense of the First Amendment—and his refusal to answer questions about his political associations—leave him blacklisted for years, destroying his promising screenwriting career and putting his family on the edge of financial ruin. Unsurprisingly, his daughter becomes politically aware at an early age.

The shadow of the blacklist follows Sophie to college and then into adulthood, affecting her politics, her career ambitions and her relationships. But it’s not until she reunites with Steve Elwood, a long-lost childhood friend, that she’s forced to face the full impact of her family’s past.

A powerful story about coming of age in California in the mid-twentieth century, The Wire Recorder explores how political paranoia, when allowed to spiral out of control, can leave a toxic residue that lasts for generations.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Last Meridian by @HefferonJoe #Noir #Crime

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Last Meridian by Joe Hefferon

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Lynn Killian left Chicago in 1948. She wanted a new life in a new place with a new name. With no particular plan in mind she headed west. Who she left behind would never really leave her. She would always wonder.

Fast forward sixteen years and Jimmy Filkins, a reporter captivated and preoccupied by the thought of his ongoing project. A story he desperately wants to write based on his interviews with Nina Ferrer, interior designer to Hollywood’s elite. Nina’s story, as she recounts it to Filkins, begins with murder and a telegram. That telegram changes her life forever. Her now teenaged son, who she left behind in Chicago all those years ago is in desperate trouble. The events set in motion culminated with Nina being incarcerated and the interviews with Filkins taking place in what was known locally as the LA County lock up.

Alongside Nina’s account and the flashbacks leading to her present situation, are the activities of several other key players and how they all converge. Nina’s husband, Arturo, and his shady contact, Morris Canfield. CS, the private investigator hired by Nina to help Steven, the boy accused of murder and, of course, Jimmy Filkins. Recounting the previous months helps Nina to come to terms with what her life has become.

Initially the structure threw me a little. Not sure why because I normally quite like flashbacks driving a story. Maybe because the sections were mostly short, the timeline seemed disjointed and I wasn’t able to engage enough. Anyway, I reread the first 10% or so and it became much clearer and easier to follow. The narrative continued to swing back and forth between past and present, timelines and characters, but I’m glad to say it wasn’t confusing any longer. I was more at ease with the writing style and could settle in to the story.

The setting is 1960s Hollywood and, along with the associated superficiality, the time and place is evident. Once I was over that first hurdle I enjoyed the story and the way Nina’s background unfolded. Her desperation to vindicate her son served to open her eyes to the people around her, who she thought she could trust, and made her realise how futile her life had become. Perhaps it could also become her salvation.

Nina grew on me, she’s strong and forthright. The supporting characters are also well-rounded. The prose tends towards the lyrical (if that’s the right word), with snappy dialogue, which seems in keeping with the narrative.

 

Book Description

A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.

Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.

Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.

About the author

Joe Hefferon

Retired law enforcement. Enjoying the process of creating a second career as a writer

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