A lyrical, keenly observed addition to the top shelf of British nature writing.

GALLOWAY

LIFE IN A VANISHING LANDSCAPE

A Scottish farmer paints an intimate portrait of his home turf.

“I’m too late to know the old world, and too early to forget it,” writes Laurie. “I’m stuck in the middle and I’m scarred by the loss of wide places and lonely, calling birds.” Galloway, a small region of southwestern Scotland that ends in the Solway Firth, was once a region of grass and rock, lately covered up with commercial tree farms. That forestation has had material effects on two of Laurie’s prime subjects: It has ruined the grassy habitat of the curlew, a migratory shorebird, and it has deprived the ancient Riggits breed of cattle, “prized for their ability to graze on rough forage and then transform those thistles into high-quality meat.” Readers will learn just about all there is to know about both animals in the course of this appealing chronicle, organized to follow a farmer’s year, with month-by-month chapters and a lagniappe to honor the summer solstice. The education parallels Laurie’s own: He learns by doing and by talking to the fast-disappearing old-timers, their crofts turned into retirement cottages for wealthy people from south of the border. Some of what he learns turns out to be invaluable, some not quite so much, as when an old gamekeeper swears by the presence of a phantom: “Craigie herons aren’t magical or special beyond the realm of other birds; they just don’t exist.” Laurie’s narrative is a celebration of farming and the rural life, hard as it may be. “Owning and working land is no automatic joy,” he writes. “There’s no escape from undone chores and the smell of shit on your boots.” More than anything else, the book is also a requiem, as when Laurie laments that “things collapse at such a rate that soon we’ll look back on all the names we had for birds and wonder why we ever needed them.”

A lyrical, keenly observed addition to the top shelf of British nature writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-500-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

THE DEFENSE LAWYER

THE BARRY SLOTNICK STORY

The Patterson publishing machine clanks its way into the nonfiction aisles in this lumbering courtroom drama.

Barry Slotnick made a considerable fortune and reputation as a defense attorney who had a long list of controversial clients, including mob boss John Gotti and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. An “urbane lawyer known for his twenty-five-hundred-dollar Fioravanti suits, he was not unacquainted with violence,” write Patterson and Wallace. One of his early cases, indeed, involved a group of Jewish Defense League members who allegedly blew up a Broadway producer’s office, killing a woman who worked there. Slotnick’s defense was a standard confuse-the-jury ploy, but it worked. He put similar tactics to work in his defense of Bernhard Goetz, the “subway shooter” whose trial made international news. The authors open after that trial had concluded in yet another Slotnick win, and with a sensational incident: He was attacked by a masked man who beat him with a baseball bat. The evidence is sketchy, but it seems to place the attack in the hands of organized crime—perhaps even Gotti himself. No matter: Slotnick, “who saw himself as the foe of the all-powerful government” and “liberty’s last champion,” was soon back to representing clients including Radovan Karadžić, the murderous Bosnian Serb who was eventually imprisoned for having committed genocide; Dewi Sukarno, the widow of Indonesia’s similarly bloodstained president, “arrested for slashing the face of a fellow socialite with a broken champagne glass at a party in Aspen”; and Melania Trump, who had chosen Slotnick “to handle her prenup.” In the hands of a John Grisham, the story might have come to life, but while Patterson does a serviceable if cliché-ridden job of recounting Slotnick’s career, he fails to give readers much reason to admire the man.

For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49437-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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