More from the Left Coast

December 14, 2004 | 6 books mentioned

Rodger Jacobs, author of the book Christopher Walken and the Tuna Fish Sandwich and Other L.A. Stories, shares with us the best books he read this year.

coverBest books I’ve read this year? Well, I’m still going to stand behind Michelle Huneven’s Jamesland even though I had some minor quibbles with it. Next to that I would have to go with the stunning debut novel by Canadian journalist Robert Hough, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark. I can think of no other contemporary writer — with the obvious exception of Ron Hansen with Hitler’s Niece and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — who has mastered the historical novel in such a vibrant and highly engrossing style. coverIt’s a lengthy tome (440 pages) and by the time you have read the last page you feel that you have lived Mabel Stark’s life side-by-side with this amazing yet deeply troubled woman. The book is so evocative that I still — almost a year after having read it — have sense memories attached to the novel, the scents attached to circus life, the wet hay during sudden storm bursts, the kerosene lamp in Mabel’s railroad car. This was such a master work that I am anxious to see if Hough can follow it up or if, sadly, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime book like Leonard Gardner’s Fat City or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The book is that damn good.

Thanks for that. That bit about “once-in-a-lifetime books” at the end made me think. Many a VH1 special is devoted to the musical one-hit wonder, but what about the literary variety? Who’s on that list? And what do these authors have in common? Hmmm… food for thought.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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