I have found some interesting reading this summer, and if you’re looking for “a really good book,” you’ll have no problem.
Let’s begin with “Cronkite.” I had been a faithful admirer of “the most trusted man in America” for a long time so put in a reserve for the new biography by Douglas Brinkley, an excellent writer and an excellent researcher. He leaves no stone unturned; the book is over 800 pages long, and about the only fact I didn’t learn was where Cronkite got his manicures – if he got manicures.
But I was fascinated, following him from his birthplace in St. Joseph, Mo., to his death. His path to fame was easy to understand. He had dropped out of college after his sophomore year, but that never seemed to be a detriment. His love for journalism and reporting the news was paramount. And his preparation for his assignments was fantastic. I was intrigued by his amazing knowledge of space flight as he covered our entry into space exploration; even men and women in that world were impressed by the knowledge he had garnered and understood.
It was Cronkite we watched when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and we stayed with him through all those awful days that ended in Arlington National Cemetery.
It seems that it was Cronkite’s summation of the Vietnam War that ended it. When he returned after spending time there, he reported he found a “stalemate.” President Johnson allegedly said that if Cronkite was turned off, so was the country. When the reporter told us at the conclusion of his broadcasts and telecasts, “And that’s the way it is” we believed that was the way it was.
We didn’t know that he was “prima donna-ish,” and I was surprised at his feelings about and relationships with Ed Murrow, Bob Schieffer and others in that mighty pantheon of television stars. His was a good marriage and — but enough. There are other books to talk about, so “The End” to “Cronkite.”
“The Queen’s Lover” is by Francine du Plessix Gray, who has given us a beautifully written story about a love affair between Marie Antoinette and a Swedish aristocrat, Count Axel von Fersen. And it’s not just a story about a romance: It is an outstanding history lesson about the period of the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the time after when the hope for liberty spread through much of the world, including the count’s Sweden. Life at court, how trysts were managed, how plans to get the royal family to safety were botched and much more are there in this fiction/history mix.
“Garden of Beasts”— yes, that’s the title of a book I highly recommend — not “In the Garden,” which we’ve already written about. This is a book by Jeffrey Deaver, who can write! Paul Schumann is a hit man (who only kills really bad people) who gets into trouble and can only be saved from long incarceration if he accepts a job to kill Ernst, one of Hitler’s powerful officials. This is a story of danger with twist after twist, with fear of betrayal fairly prevalent, set in 1936, the year our Jesse Owens prevailed so gloriously at the Olympics, which were held in Berlin that year. The characters are very good at their jobs — including the members of the American delegation. You won’t want to put the book down,I promise.
Daniel Silva has brought Gabriel Allon, his beautiful wife and his longtime associates back to us in “The Fallen Angel.” This time, also, a great deal of the story takes place in the Vatican, where the master restorer is working on a famous work of art by Caravaggio. The body of a beautiful woman is found beneath the great dome.
Is the woman’s fall accidental, suicidal or murder? That is the question. And quite a reprehensible plot is uncovered as an answer is sought. A large part of the story also takes place in Israel, and the reader gets a real tour of Jerusalem, along with a picture of what it’s like in a city sacred to three major religions — the tensions, the secrets, the plots. I didn’t learn as much about art restoration in this Silva, but I certainly learned about antiquities and their desirability. It’s Daniel Silva; what more do you want?
One last book this time. Its title is “Enfold Me,” its author is a former Fort Wayne resident, Steven Greenberg. It, too, is set in Israel — a different Israel: There was a massive earthquake, then an Iranian attack — and now we read about a Hamas-controlled Northern Liberated Palestine.
The protagonist is Daniel Blum, a scientist who had sent his family out of the country, and he and a compatriot uncover a secret with potential, life-changing results. The author has a gift with language. There are similes and word choices that will give you pause as you read this dark novel.
I cannot write more about it, anymore than I could review any of Blake Sebring’s books. Friendship and admiration may affect one’s judgment.