It’s no secret that streaming videos have eased (or, in some cases, exacerbated) the strain of pandemic lockdowns, but the lost art of reading also is enjoying a revival in quarantine.
Nevada authors, meanwhile, have been creating and writing, vocations that were solitary pursuits long before the bug cut us off from the madding crowds. Their recent efforts – in nonfiction and fiction, including thrillers, sci-fi/horror and comic compilations – have hit local shelves and web links just in time for the gifting season.
Many of the titles below are in stock at Sundance Books and Music or at Barnes and Noble. Others are just a click away on authors’ websites. Several popular writers have added another volume to their series’ based on recurring characters and Nevada locations.
Mysteries and thrillers
“The Dying Time” by Bernard Schopen delivers a thrilling and contemplative addition to his Jack Ross series of mysteries. Ross has settled into his old age as well as anyone can. He jogs. He eats right. He naps. He no longer involves himself with the actions or the people that have developed into a “nasty notoriety.” Well, that can’t last. Ross finds himself involved in a plot stretching back decades, and it’s not long before old habits come to the surface. At the same time, Schopen’s Ross explores the process of aging and whether we can ever truly bury the past.
“Tahoe Hit” is Todd Borg’s latest entry in his addictive Owen McKenna thrillers, all available at Sundance. “Tahoe Hit” involves a shady hedge fund founder’s secret past and folks who know the truth dying in inexplicable ways up at Lake Tahoe. Borg has penned 18 McKenna novels so far, all set in the beauty and mystery of the mountain lake.
“The Marjuana Murders” is Reno author Mark Bacon’s third installment in his Nostalgia City mystery series, featuring the anxiety-ridden ex-cop-turned-cabbie Lyle Demming and not-girlfriend Kate Sorensen. The duo — who work at a theme park dedicated to recreating a perfect 1970s’ vibe — investigate a deadly smuggling operation as politicians consider legalizing weed. Bacon’s previous novels, “Death in Nostalgia City” and “Desert Kill Switch” also revolve around life in the theme park, murder, mystery and locations in Nevada and Arizona. “Death in Nostalgia City” was recommended in 2019 for book clubs by the American Library Association and was an award winner at the San Francisco Book Festival.
Mustangs and the Nevada wilderness
“Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them” by Terri Farley is the popular author of children’s books young adult fiction is tribute to courageous young people who are trying to stop wild horse round-ups and the deaths of wild horses killed in the helicopter chases or funneled into the illegal food chain. Farley and photographer Melissa Farlow invite readers into the world of mustangs in all its beauty, and profile the young people leading the charge to keep horses wild and free.
“Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness”by Michael Branch combines natural history, humor, and personal narrative. The book is an intimate exploration of Nevada’s Great Basin Desert, the wild and extreme land of high desert caliche and juniper, of pronghorn antelope and mountain lions, where wildfires and snowstorms threaten in equal measure. Shifting between pastoral passages on the beauty found in the desert and humorous tales of the humility of being a father, “Raising Wild” offers an intimate and lyrical portrait of a landscape where mountain lions and ground squirrels can threaten in equal measure.
Quirky cartoons and a bad tourist
“25 Years of Pickles” is Brian Crane’s latest collection of his nationally-syndicated comic strips populated by grandparents Earl and Opal Pickles, their precocious grandson, Nelson and a host of quirky family members and friends. The family’s dog and cat are often the most level-headed of the bunch. Crane’s other “Pickles” collections also are available.
“Bad Tourist: Misadventures in Love and Travel” by Suzanne Roberts is both a memoir in travel essays and an anti-guidebook. Roberts takes readers across four continents to fifteen countries, showing us hapless Americans what not to do when traveling. She encounters lightning and landslides, sharks and piranha-infested waters, a nightclub drugging, burning bodies, and brief affairs as she searches for the love of her life and finally herself.
Unnatural events and cozy mysteries
“The Beasts,” the third thriller by retired Reno Channel 2 anchorman Bill Brown, features local cops and Native Americans working to track a demonic spirit in Chicago. Brown’s first novel, “Blood Mountain,” begins with the discovery of the bones of a race of giants in ancient Lovelock Cave and his second, “The Alien,” involves a UFO that exploded over the Nevada desert. All three are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A Dodgy Death: Kat McCoy Lake Country No. 1” by Jacqueline M. Green is the first cozy mystery in her new Kate McCoy Lake Country series. McCoy’s visit to England takes a sharp turn involving vanished art and the demise of her elderly aunt. Green also pens the Yoga Mat cozy mystery series. Her latest short story, “Savasana for a Santa: A Christmas Short Story” also is available for 99 cents on Kindle.
Hemingway’s ‘antifa’ inspiration
“American Commander in Spain” (new in paperback) by Warren Lerude and Marion Merriman is the story of Robert Hale Merriman, who was the first commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. The book is based on Merriman and Marion’s diaries and personal correspondence, Marion’s own service at his side in Spain, as well as Lerude’s extensive research and interviews with people who knew Merriman and Marion, government records, and contemporary news reports.
The critically-acclaimed work is the biography of a remarkable man who combined his idealism with life-risking action to fight the fascism in a conflict that became a prologue to World War II. It’s the real-life story of the young American idealist who is believed to be have been the inspiration for the character of Robert Jordan in Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
Honoring thy father
“Fly By: A Daughter’s Journey from Tragedy to Tribute” by Diana Lee Brown is a story about the strength and resilience of the human spirit to heal after the ambiguous loss of a loved one. Brown was 5 when her father, a military pilot, was declared missing in action during the Korean War. His remains were never found.
“Fly By” is the story of the Lake Tahoe author’s struggle to feel connected to her father’s love, to keep his memory alive, and eventually to honor his life and sacrifice. Brown transformed her family’s tragedy into a tribute to her father by also making the best of her own life – moving through the grief to the healthy, happy, and productive life her father would have wanted for her.
Her memoir was named Most Inspirational Book of the Year at the California IRWIN Awards in 2019.
Born to be wild
“Walking with Mustangs: and Other Wild Animal Tales” by Lloyd Shanks opens with stories from the author’s childhood and the genesis of his love of horses. It recounts his interactions with wild mustangs in Reno and some history of the herds in the New World. The rest of the tales are short stories involving other animals in the wild, told from the animals’ point of view.
Shanks, a former Hidden Valley resident, became an “accidental horse whisperer” among the wild herd that visits neighbors’ properties in that part of town. The book is part memoir, sprinkled with western history and natural history, and part fantasy and fiction. Taken together, the book is a record of the trek the author’s heart has taken over many years.
A courtroom and a coder
“A Woman of Two Minds” by Bourne Morris puts Kit Mackenzie, a brilliant young CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, on trial for the murder of her mother. Was it self-defense or homicide? After the prosecutor discovers a secret brain operation in her past, he believes Kit has a strong motive. His discovery begins one of the most unusual trials in American history. Media from all over the world descend on the courtroom to cover a story they find too astonishing to believe. Mackenzie must depend on her renowned attorney and the insights of a skilled neuro-scientist in the fight to prove her innocence and gain the acceptance of a man she has always wanted.
“The Heavy Side” by Ben Rogers happens at the intersection of Silicon Valley tech and the cocaine trade. The Tahoe-based protagonist writes code for a drug-sale app and founds an illegal empire. What could possibly go wrong? The cartels and the DEA heat things up as our hero, Vik, discovers the real price of easy money and breaking bad.
Short stories and a novella
“You Would Have Told Me Not To” by Christopher Coake encompasses short stories (and one novella) which arrive in the midst of the #Metoo movement. They examine the fallout from failed relationships between men and women, relationships that have crumbled under the weight of betrayal, misplaced hopes, illness—and in particular, from masculinity at its most toxic and misguided. These tales ask contemporary questions: how do ex-spouses learn to live again in proximity to one another; how do we make peace with our bodies and their own worst impulses; how do we learn to turn and face, full-on, the worst mistakes of our younger selves?
Rockin’ with the rockhounds
“Rockhounding Nevada” by Gary Warren and revised by William A. Kappele is a must-have book for anyone interested in collecting rocks, minerals, fossils, and gems in the Silver State.
Up to date with GPS coordinates for more than 100 collecting locales, it covers popular and widely known fee-dig operations as well as four-wheel-drive adventures into the desert and long winding drives through the mountains.