Here are the remaining titles from the Williamsburg Regional Library’s staff book group meeting. Our theme was works that involved winter settings.
Cela’s first choice was unusual. Robert Masello’s Blood and Ice is a tale that blends historical fiction, horror, adventure, science, and vampires. A contemporary South Pole researcher and journalist discovers a man and woman chained and embedded in the ice. As they unthaw, he is shocked to discover that they are not only alive, but veterans, a soldier and a nurse, from the Crimean War. Alternating between the historical events that led Sinclair and Eleanor to their icy entombment and the contemporary story, Masello weaves his story with plenty of atmosphere and a surprisingly languid pace.
She also brought Jean Shepherd’s classic A Christmas Story, the work excerpted from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash that has been adapted into the holiday movie favorite. Cela shared some fascinating details about the story’s history, in particular that it was originally published in a 1965 issue of Playboy–an odd starting point for a film that’s a family classic! Shepherd’s work still resonates because he captures so many classic moments: childhood dares; the bellowing father brought to humility; the fascination with that one perfect present; the fear of visiting the department store Santa; and so on. It’s a wonderful tale in which even those deeply familiar with the movie will find new and funny details.
Connie’s contribution was Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad. As a child, Ollestad suffered through the abuse of a stepfather and the adrenaline-junkie passions of his surfing and skiing father, who had his son following suit as soon as he could walk. Ollestad senior was a fascinating man, a child actor who appeared in the classic Cheaper by the Dozen and later became a CIA agent and an inveterate adventure seeker. On a flight from LA to Big Bear City in California, the father, his girlfriend, their pilot, and 11-year-old Norman went down, killing all but the child and the girlfriend instantly. While most contemporary parents wouldn’t approve, Norman credits his father’s constant challenges for his survival that day, as he made a harrowing descent down a Sierra mountain.
My contribution to the meeting was Rannulph Fiennes’ superb account of the Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen expeditions, The Race to the Pole. I’ve written about that work in this space previously, and refer you to that post for more information.
Finally, Melissa completed our meeting with two more selections. One of the thing’s that I love about thematic meetings is that a work like Linda Howard’s Ice would not sustain a meeting where everyone read that book. But many readers love romantic suspense, and a thematic meeting allows them to share a title that others will want to read as well. Ice concerns a soldier on leave who is sent out into a storm by his sheriff father to check on a woman who has fallen out of contact. There is a history of misunderstanding between the soldier and Lolly Helton, the woman whom he seeks, and his search for her leads to adventure and a distinct thawing of the iciness between them.
Melissa’s other choice was Barry Grant’s The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes, in which the famous detective is revived in the present day from an icy tomb in a Swiss glacier and soon pressed back into service, with retired journalist James Wilson as his crime fighting partner. Full of loving references to the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, this book is a fun return to the Holmes legend, and the first in a forthcoming series.
What books would you have brought to our wintery meeting? Share them in the comments!