Baum on Books

In doing research for other books, journalist Phil Keith, with his co-author Tom Clavin, kept coming across footnote references to a relatively obscure but legendary war hero, an American born in 1895 whose father had been the son of a former slave. Their interest was piqued, and what followed was further research. And a new collaboration, “All Blood Runs Red.”

On the acknowledgment page to his new novel, “The Nickel Boys,” Colson Whitehead writes that in the summer of 2004, he learned about a 111-year-old reform school in Marianna, Florida – the Dozier School for Boys. It had been the subject of a recent Tampa Bay Times report, following discoveries by students at the University of South Florida of secret gravesites at the school. 

It’s hard to believe that Eve Karlin’s “City of Liars and Thieves: Love, Death, and Manhattan’s First Great Murder Mystery” is her first novel. The Author’s Note, alone, could stand as exemplary of how to incorporate research into historical fiction.

The genre is hot – the unreliable protagonist psychological thriller. Think “Gone Girl,” “The Girl on the Train,” “The Woman in the Window.” And now on the best-seller list, “An Anonymous Girl.” Typically, this genre follows a smart and sensitive young woman who soon finds herself in danger, a sympathetic but troubled soul who unwittingly endangers others as she tries to sort out what’s real and what’s the product of her admitted neurotic fantasies.

In 1995 a Harvard-educated mathematics prodigy who went on to study and teach at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, sent an anarchist manifesto to The New York Times and The Washington Post called “Industrial Society and Its Future.” He wrote that if it were not published immediately, he would continue to send bombs to those he perceived as the enemies of nature and humanity.

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