An engaging life story, as told through a whimsical collection of fatherly musings.

Letters to His Children from an Uncommon Attorney


In this debut memoir, a father reminisces about notable people and places in his eventful life.

The dying art of letter writing isn’t lost on Roberts, a British-born attorney who practiced law in Canada. His charmingly unconventional memoir takes the form of 83 “letters” to his four children, but this description hardly does them justice. Each is an artfully composed essay that not only reveals much about the author himself, but also often contains a pearl of worldly wisdom. Roberts begins with a series of missives about growing up in bomb-scarred England during World War II. In “A Child’s History of the Battle of Britain,” he describes how his ears were always alert for incoming aircraft—both the “powerful, friendly, protective sound” of the British Spitfire and the “deadly drone” of German warplanes. Although the author loosely groups the letters by subject, he also playfully hops from decade to decade and continent to continent. He writes of sipping café au lait in Paris in the1950s, meeting a native Haidu on the Queen Charlotte Islands in the ’70s and watching birds in Hong Kong in the ’80s. Perhaps the most captivating letters describe the author’s clients when he was a defense attorney in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Eddie Silver,” for example, was a small-time hustler who figured out an ingenious way to scam coins from public pay phones; “Real Carrier” was a schizophrenic French Canadian who decapitated a man and might have killed Roberts, too, if some cautious jailers hadn’t prevented the lawyer from entering his cell. Overall, the book is a pleasure to read thanks to the author’s genial prose and lively wit. Roberts is a gifted storyteller with an appreciation for eccentric personalities and life’s ironies. The book’s disjointed format, however, makes it difficult to assemble a complete profile of the author, as basic autobiographical data are scattered throughout. Roberts explains, somewhat apologetically, that he’s cursed with a “magpie mind” that’s constantly roving and easily tempted to stray. This trait may have irritated his schoolteachers, but here it makes for a meandering but thoroughly delightful memoir.

An engaging life story, as told through a whimsical collection of fatherly musings.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460233399

Page Count: 312

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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