Tag Archives: novel

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I don’t normally read a lot of nonfiction, except memoirs (which I love), but this book was highly recommended by a friend, so I gave it a shot. Plus, I was intrigued by the book-cover descriptions that referred to the book as a nonfiction novel – which made me think of Capote’s In Cold Blood or something like that – and hopefully not some dry textbook that, while most likely educational and probably edifying to my soul, might be just plain boring.

And, thankfully, I was right, and my friend’s recommendation was spot on.

Yes, Erik Larson offers extensive research to recreate the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, bookending his account a few years before and after this major event in American history. And, yes, this story alone is worthy of an entire book by an author or Larson’s talent. But he did more; he made it fascinating. I was learning (gasp!) and was also thoroughly entertained at the same time.

The story deals with, along with many other topics, genius. The first is Daniel Burnham, the architect who builds the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. And the other is H.H. Holmes, evil but no less a genius, one of the first known serial killers in the United States (with a “murder castle” of horrors) who exploits the fair to find his victims. (There’s a third smaller but still important plotline about Patrick Eugene Prendergast who assassinates popular mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. before the fair is through). We also meet a lot of other geniuses throughout the book from Frederick Olmstead, George R. Davis, G. Brown Goode, Francis David Millet, Ferris (famous Ferris Wheel designer) to Kodak to Buffalo Bill Cody and many, many more, who all helped pulled off this historic event.

There’s not much more to say without spoiling the book, except that I found the first half of the book more educational and the second half of the book more entertaining (and much easier to read). If I have one complaint (a big one), it’s that Larson didn’t discuss Frank Geyer enough – Geyer is the genius detective, from the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency, whose relentless determination in getting his man led to an epic cross-country investigation that ends the book with a much bigger bang than I ever expected. Geyer deserves his own book!

Nonetheless, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is an excellent read that makes learning fun.

Books by Frank Mundo

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Pieces of Happily Ever After: an Interview with Author Irene Zutell

This past week the headlines were dominated by a story of an acclaimed American actress who was blindsided by her husband’s infidelity. The mass media, ignoring important issues like the healthcare debate in Washington, focused its efforts instead on uncovering every possible detail of this salacious story.

But what if it was the other way around? What if the famous American starlet, an absolute bombshell — beautiful, talented and rich — had an affair with and ended up marrying the cheating husband of the average American woman? And what if, in this story, the media cast the actress, not as a home-wrecker, but a determined, professional woman fulfilling her destiny of living happily ever after?

Well, this is the true story that inspired the new novel Pieces of Happily Ever After by acclaimed author Irene Zutell, whose neighbor was caught up in a similar media flurry when she was left by her husband for a beautiful A-list actress (find out who in the interview below). After failed attempts at urging her neighbor to share her story in print, Zutell, a former People magazine writer and author of the critically-acclaimed roman à clef, They’re Not Your Friends, decided to explore the issue herself in her fiction.  

Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell at LA Books ExaminerIn the book, we meet Alice Hirsch, wife of a Hollywood entertainment lawyer Alex Hirsch, who is suddenly caught up in a major tabloid sex scandal involving her husband and his new client, box-office queen Rose Maris. Unfortunately for Alice, this is just one of the many challenges suddenly plaguing the former New Yorker as tries to navigate her way back to happiness in the suburbs of Los Angeles —  including a mother with Alzheimer’s, her precocious 5-year-old daughter, the sudden reappearance of a college sweetheart, a charming paparazzo who wants more than just pictures, and a host of divorcees and other odd characters who make Pieces of Happily Ever After a funny and thoughtful page-turner that both readers and reviewers are calling addictive.
Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell is the first official selection of the new SheKnows Book Club from SheKnows.com and is available now in bookstores and online. To learn more about Irene Zutell, visit her official website.

I recently had the chance to interview the author about her work and her life. Please take a few more minutes and check out the interview at LA Books Examiner.

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Jackson and Jenks, Master Magicians: Interview with actor and author Dan Frischman

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend with your kids, get out of the rain and head down to Barnes & Nobles at The Grove in Los Angeles this Saturday, February 6th, 2 p.m., for a free magic show and book signing you and your kids can enjoy together.

Actor and author Dan Frischman (“Head of the Class,” “Kenan & Kel”) performs a free half-hour magic show and signs his book Jackson and Jenks, Master Magicians at Barnes & Noble (The Grove) 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. 2 p.m. (323) 525-0270.

About the Book:
Jackson and Jenks, Master Magicians by Dan Frischman at LA Books ExaminerBest friends Darren Jackson and Jamie Jenks are struggling to become a famous 15-year-old magic duo. The only problem: their tricks always fail, and they sadly lay claim to being the worst magicians ever. But that’s about to change when a trip to a thrift shop leads them to a mysterious force which turns Jamie into a real magician. What follows are the hilarious and magical adventures of Jackson and Jenks, Master Magicians, a book your pre-teens and teens will really enjoy.

You can order copies of Jackson and Jenks, Master Magicians here. To learn more about author and actor Dan Frischman, visit his website: www.danfrischman.com.

I had the chance recently to talk to Dan Frischman about his book and his life. Please take a few more minutes to read the interview at LA Books Examiner.

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