(story)time: Revolver by Duane Swierczynski

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As I mentioned in my last book post, I’ve been working my way through Nancy Pearl’s book recommendations lately. I just finished Revolver by Duane Swierczynski on Friday evening. If I was the kind of person who had the time to read a book in one sitting, this would have been that book. I love a good crime / mystery novel, and this one had several overlapping stories that spanned three generations of a family and more than seventy years of a city, from prohibition to the present day in Philadelphia.

Like The Turner House, this book jumped back and forth through time, chapter by chapter, focusing on 1965 / 1995 / 2015. The centerpiece is the unsolved murder of two cops while they were having a drink at a corner bar. One white cop, one black cop, gunned down in the prime of their careers, both leaving behind wives and teenaged sons. Twenty-five years later, the son of the white cop – now an officer as well – is in the middle of another high-profile case while also privately stalking a man he suspected was responsible for his father’s death. Twenty-five years after that, his granddaughter takes on the cold case herself, and uncovers hidden family secrets that reach back into the bootlegging days of the city.

In the author’s acknowledgements, he talks of being fascinated about police/citizen relations, the desegregation of police forces, the changes in cities and crime and police practices over the past century. He states that he started writing the book before the events in Ferguson, MO happened, but as those events unfolded here, he incorporated them into the story as well.

Last year I read the book Race, Place and Suburban Policing: Too Close for Comfort, by Andrea Boyles – a friend and co-worker of my friend, Brooke. (Many of you know Brooke well.) Brooke invited me to attend a Stand Against Racism talk with a panel of local authors. Boyles was one of them, and I checked out her book soon after hearing her speak at the event. Revolver, as fiction, touches on so much of the research shared in Race, Place  – in much the same way as The Turner House felt like a fictional continuation of the stories in The Warmth of Other Suns. Revolver examines the role of race throughout the book – within the police department, in interactions between police and citizens, where resources are focused, how race factors into an investigation, how members of a family reveal (or hide) secrets from one another. Excellent read – I’m looking forward to reading more of Swierczynski’s work.

new stair happy dance

I know I’m bouncing back and forth, but I thought I’d show you the stair details for the project. I’m really excited about having this new stair inside the house because the current outdoor stair is a joke.

But, because NOTHING is simple on this project, this stair has required a lot of detailing and finessing. The framing for it is tricky, and so is the railing. I want the finished look to be very crisp and clean, so complicated, yet simple. This could me my life theme. Or maybe simple, yet complicated. I need to mull that over a bit more.

Stair

(Again, sorry these images look blurry, click for a crisper view.) Simple railing, tube steel, (I’d like to paint it white), horizontal cables, a simple wood cap on top. On the dining room side I want a credenza / sideboard at the guardrail, so I had the idea to use the railing as the base for this piece. It would match the finish of the kitchen cabinets, and give us some storage for table linens and vases near the table, plus a place to put flowers or a spread of food.

The railing goes down the center of the stair, switching back at the landing, and on the outer side of the lower run, we can’t put a railing to match for a couple of reasons – it would interfere with the entry door swing unless we widen the stair (and every inch counts here), plus it would overlap the guardrail above, and look really cluttered. So we’re hoping to work with our general contractor (who happens to also be a master cabinet maker) to make some sort of perforated wood panel from the edge of the dining room floor down to the den floor – it will let some light in, and be a cool feature at the entrance, but still screen the direct view down into the den from the entrance. I think we have some neat opportunities there.

And no more outdoor stairs!

(story)time: The Turner House by Angela Fourney

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I heard this bit on Morning Edition earlier this year, and immediately took note. I had loaded up my 2016 bookbag with nonfiction titles, most of them centering around the issues of race and racism in this country. Important reads, and tough ones. I still have several books on my library hold list, so these titles are in high demand. Post-election season has left my mind spinning, and I’ve been really working on turning off my brain to the best of my ability at bedtime. I needed a couple of good fiction reads, and then this interview came along.

Librarian Nancy Pearl had several under-the-radar recommendations for good books, and I immediately populated my hold list with them. The Turner House, by Angela Fourney, was the first title to show up. Angela Fourney’s writing is impressive, and it was interesting to see her connection to the University of Iowa as well.

At its heart, this is a story about a family, but it’s also about the death of a city (and the legacy of the family home). The Turners left the south during the Great Migration, landing in East Detroit, raising thirteen children in a modest family home on Yarrow Street. On the first page spread, the generations of Turners are spelled out over many decades. In the story, we meet each child, unique, complex, but deftly woven into this very American story. At the center is the family home, too many stairs for the elderly matriarch, too much upkeep for the children busy with their own lives, too isolated by the abandonment of the neighbors, white-flight, redlining, race riots, drug wars, the mortgage crisis, predatory lending. Having recently read The Warmth of Other Suns, The Turner House felt like a natural extension of this story of movement and change within our country and our cities. I could escape within the fictionalized family’s stories, but it still felt like an important story to read.

It is a universal story, it is my parents’ story, it is our story. My goal for this year is to read more books like this. I think it is essential that we all broaden and deepen our bookshelves this year. Thank goodness for librarians, especially the Nancy Pearls of the world. Start with her, and with your favorite indie bookseller, and fill your nightstand with our stories. I’m working my way through Pearl’s list as we speak, and it does not disappoint.