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Watt Key


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The award‑winning novelist’s latest follows the adventures of a 13‑year‑old boy who heads out alone into the swamps and marshes surrounding his home in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Setting off in his new boat, Sam navigates through the murky waterways in search of a mysterious body that authorities have been unable to locate. What starts out as a quest for fame turns into a fight for survival, as Sam finds himself becoming more and more entangled in the intrigues of the swamp—and the life of a lone boy he discovers eking out a sorry existence in a deserted fish camp. Key specializes in southern fiction geared toward school‑aged youth.

‑ Kimberly White

Bob Porter

Soul Jazz


Porter’s Soul Jazz seeks to fill what he, as a fan and music producer, perceived as a gap in 20th century jazz history. He defines Soul Jazz in the preface as “music of the organ groups, funky piano trios, and tenor sax men of the fifties, sixties and early seventies.” Since he worked with a lot of the musicians he chronicles, Porter blends research with reminiscence. There’s a good (accelerated) history of jazz post‑World War II, some political commentary and a skillful interweaving of the stars (e.g., Grover Washington Jr. and Ramsey Lewis) with their producers and promoters.

‑ Bruce Collier

Michael Tisserand

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White


Cartoonist George Herriman created one of the first superstars of the comics—the androgynous, grammatically challenged feline Krazy Kat. My experience with Krazy and her associates Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pup was limited to animated cartoons. Apparently these were pale versions of an undiluted original. Drawing on newspaper archives, birth records and memoirs, Tisserand establishes connections between Herriman’s art and his life, the centerpiece of which was that Herriman, a mixed-race child of New Orleans, “passed” as a white man, enjoying social access and opportunities he would never have otherwise. No wonder Ignatz loved throwing bricks at everyone.

‑ Bruce Collier
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