And a very happy Free For All birthday to James Tiptree, Jr., also known as Alice B. Sheldon!
Bradley was born on this day in 1915 in an upper-class suburb of Chicago. Her father Herbert, was a lawyer and naturalist, and her mother Mary Hastings Bradley, was a prolific fiction and travel writer. As a result, Mary had to opportunity to travel extensively from a young age. Between trips to Africa, she attended several schools in Chicago, Lausanne (Switzerland), and New York. At the age of 19 she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College to marry William Davey, her first husband–a move that was largely driven by feelings of familial duty rather than love–became a graphic artist, a painter, and art critic for the Chicago Sun.
In 1942, following her divorce from Davey, she joined the United States Army Air Forces and worked in the Army Air Forces photo-intelligence group, rising all the way to the rank of major. In 1945 she married her second husband, Huntington D. Sheldon, and following her demobilization, the two set up a small business together, and Alice began publishing her short stories in magazines around the country. Although she and her husband were both invited to join the CIA, Alice worked for the institution for only three years before resigning and returning to college. She susequently graduated from American University in 1959, and earned her doctorate at George Washington University in Experimental Psychology in 1967. She also continued her science-fiction writing James Tiptree Jr., in order to protect her academic reputation. The name “Tiptree” came from a branded jar of marmalade, and the “Jr.” was her husband’s idea. In an interview, she said: “A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.”
Tiptree’s work is marked by her lifelong feminism. She worked across genres, forms, and styles, producing everything from space opera to hard science fiction. It was only in 1977 that it was announced that James Tiptree, Jr. and Alice Bradley were one and the same person. The James Tiptree Jr. Award, created by Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy in 1991, is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.
And, as ever, what better way to celebrate than with more books! Here are just a few of the titles that meandered onto our shelves this week:
Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago: In 1929, thirty-year-old gangster Al Capone ruled both Chicago’s underworld and its corrupt government. To a public who scorned Prohibition, “Scarface” became a local hero and national celebrity. But after the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre transformed Capone into “Public Enemy Number One,” the federal government found an unlikely new hero in a twenty-seven-year-old Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness. Chosen to head the legendary law enforcement team known as “The Untouchables,” Ness set his sights on crippling Capone’s criminal empire. Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz utilized decades of primary source research—including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves, and have crafted a compelling and engrossing history out of their epic fight for the streets of Chicago. Fans of Sara Parestsky’s work will no doubt be intrigued to hear that she contributed a blurb for this book, calling it “an extraordinary achievement. The writing is riveting, the research impeccable—including material never published before—and the history of a city and a country teetering on the brink of total lawlessness is a sober warning for our own age.”
The Sea Queen: Fans of Linnea Hartsuyker’s The Half-Drowned King will be all aboard for this riveting sequel. Six years have passed, and Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn. But fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises. Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother. As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free. Their choices will have repercussions not only for them, but for Norwegian history as a whole. Critics have been loving this series from its beginnings, and Library Journal gave this book a super review, noting “Hartsuyker is a wonderfully descriptive writer equally adept at penning truly horrifying battle scenes as depicting life in ninth-century Norway. Fans of History Channel’s Vikings should find this novel equally compelling.”
The Reservoir Tapes: If you’ve not read Jon McGregor’s Booker-Prize-nominated Reservoir 13, we first, highly suggest that you do that. And then pick up this book, which returns readers to the world of that same English village, and the community that is trying to grapple with the loss of one of its own. A teenage girl has gone missing. The whole community has been called upon to join the search. And now an interviewer arrives, intent on capturing the community’s unstable stories about life in the weeks and months before Becky Shaw vanished. Each villager has a memory to share or a secret to conceal, a connection to Becky that they are trying to make or break. With each interview, a fractured portrait of Becky emerges at the edges of our vision―a girl swimming, climbing, and smearing dirt onto a scared boy’s face, images to be cherished and challenged as the search for her goes on, and the deep ties that bind and strangle these villagers together become clear. This book adds stunning detail to the world that McGregor created in his first book, and the Los Angeles Times called it “scary stuff, this book, pounding as it does again and again with the insistent menace of people who go missing. But as the chapters accumulate, you begin to build a mental and emotional map of what’s left behind: a wounded town, fully specific enough to be engrossing but also slyly universal enough to make one consider their own common ground.”
Our House: Louise Candlish is a wizard at creating nightmares out of the most familiar scenarios, and this newest release puts all her talents on display. When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern coparenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down. Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses. This book has been getting starred reviews across the board, with Booklist calling it a “twisty domestic thriller that features everything readers enjoy about the genre: dark secrets, unreliable narrators, a fast-moving plot, and a terrifyingly plausible premise. This could be summer’s breakout hit.”
Bone on Bone: Pulitzer-prize-winning author Julia Keller is back with another installment in her Bell Elkins series. After a three-year prison sentence, Bell Elkins is back in Acker’s Gap. And she finds herself in the white-hot center of a complicated and deadly case — even as she comes to terms with one last, devastating secret of her own. A prominent local family has fallen victim to the same sickness that infects the whole region: drug addiction. With mother against father, child against parent, and tensions that lead inexorably to tragedy, they are trapped in a grim, hopeless struggle with nowhere to turn. Bell has lost her job as prosecutor — but not her affection for her ragtag, hard-luck hometown. Teamed up with former Deputy Jake Oakes, who battles his own demons as he adjusts to life as a paraplegic, and aided by the new prosecutor, Rhonda Lovejoy, Bell tackles a case as poignant as it is perilous, as heartbreaking as it is challenging. This is series with a devoted following, and this installment itself has been winning over readers’ hearts and minds. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and noted “This thoughtful, painfully empathetic story will long linger in the reader’s memory.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!