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Ask a Book Question (#58): Books for Fans of Deadwood

Poornima writes in:My husband recently stumbled across an HBO series called Deadwood in the library. It's a television series set in the Black Hills (Sioux Country - Dakotas and Wyoming) around 1876 and features a whole assortment of historically famous/notorious characters including Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane.I was wondering if you or your readers could direct us to some good historical fiction set in the period that captures the essence of Deadwood and the frontier spirit. It's quite a fascinating aspect of American history.Your interest in historical fiction in the same line as HBO's Deadwood brings Larry McMurtry to mind first. I'd be very surprised if David Milch, Deadwood's creator, hadn't read McMurtry. McMurtry's historical fiction about the American West - Lonesome Dove, Anything for Billy, The Streets of Laredo - is wonderful, and besides sharing Deadwood's historical milieu, it also shares its tone, that wonderful mix of emotional intensity, brutality, tenderness and humor.The book of McMurtry's that has the most explicit overlap with Deadwood is Buffalo Girls. This novel intertwines the stories of several different figures whose lives coincide with the winding down of the Wild West. Calamity Jane - so wonderfully portrayed by Robin Weigert in Deadwood - is one of these characters. McMurtry's stuff is historically responsible but it is also, as was Deadwood, clearly enchanted with the old West and interested in its mythic, larger-than-life personalities. Anything For Billy, which takes Billy the Kid as its protagonist, tells his life from the perspective of an Eastern businessman/writer of dime-novels.Willa Cather's novels too might be of interest. Quite a lot of them are also set at moments of shift from wildness and lawlessness to "civilization" in various parts of North America. Death Comes to the Archbishop, one of my favorites, describes the settling of what is now New Mexico by French Catholic missionaries. Cather also offers fictionalized legends of the American West - Kit Carson figures in Death, for example. I also really like Shadows on the Rock, which is about the settling of Quebec. Cather's work is a bit more lyrical and literary than McMurtry's but, depending on your mood, they can be more satisfying for this.I also have two cinematic recommendations: One is an indie Western called The Ballad of Little Jo. It tells the story of a wealthy nineteenth-century society woman who flees the East and her family, disguises herself as a man and lives as a cowboy in the West. That's if you’re interested in other artistic depictions of women in the West.A final recommendation is HBO's Rome. I know that historically this is rather far afield but, apparently, David Milch originally imagined what became Deadwood as set in Rome at the time of Caesar. Such a show, however - Rome - was already in production when he pitched his idea and so he shifted the setting to nineteenth century Dakota territory. Though not Deadwood's equal (I think Deadwood possibly the finest television show ever made), Rome shares something of Deadwood's interest in lawlessness, or a different version of law - a more Hobbesian vision of human society in which power and aggression and ambition have more of a role to play.Also recommended by The Millions for fans of Deadwood:The Ox Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg ClarkMost of the books by Cormac McCarthyWelcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow (mood: brutal)Charles Portis' wonderful True Grit (mood: deadpan)Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (mood: dreamlike)Oakley Hall's Warlock
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Ask a Book Question (#57): The Greatest Magazine Ever?

It's been a while since we've done an "Ask a Book Question" at The Millions, but Kirk from Texas left a good one in the comments of a recent post:You write a lot about your obsession with The New Yorker... Can you tell those of us that are unfamiliar with the publication more about it, and why you like it so much.I love The New Yorker for many reasons. I prefer to know a little about a lot of things rather than a lot about a few, and so I find the wide range of topics the magazine takes on is appealing. It's a surprising unpredictable magazine. I also like that the magazine has history, and that it has stayed true to itself by changing only incrementally over the years and for the most part taking pains to make sure any changes made sense. Generally speaking, The New Yorker is guaranteed to provide me with at least one transcendent reading experience per month, often more than that, and very few clunkers. It is exceedingly rare that I quit reading an article halfway through. By that measure alone it beats any other magazine I've ever picked up.I could go on about The New Yorker for pages, but instead, I thought I'd let some others spill some ink on their love for the magazine. We'll start with Emily Gordon, who heads up Emdashes, a blog devoted to a single magazine. I'll let you guess which one.When I tell people I write a blog about The New Yorker, they're either excited and ask for the url, or freaked out. The people in the second group get that funny look so familiar to elementary-school students and poets, and say with withering irony, "Wow, you must really LOVE it." Being an unfashionable enthusiast and advocate of the New Sincerity, I answer simply that I do.In his email asking for my thoughts about the magazine, Max called me "the Web's pre-eminent NYer expert." I wish! I'm reminded every time I go to a New Yorker-themed event--especially on the Upper West Side--that there are far more fanatical and expert readers out there, and they usually have a couple decades of subscribership on me, too. In my paying work life, I'm a magazine editor and a book and media critic, so that's the spirit in which I write the blog. At the same time, I sometimes feel like a roving preacher from a quirky sect, with all the attendant longing for clarity and community, and possibly some of the narrow-mindedness and naivete, too. Meanwhile, perhaps also like an evangelist, I get to experience moments, collectively and alone, of overpowering delight and that spooky but real phenomenon called "flow." (Also, the blogosphere being what it is, moments of derision, bafflement, and the sound of stone silence.) Man, I sound like Garrison Keillor. My real point is, I've made a lot of wonderful friends who feel the way I do, and despite moments of overextended self-doubt, I'm grateful for all of this.But back to the reason for reading it in the first place. I read Walter Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library" recently, and wrote down this line: "Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories." That's probably at the heart of it. I'm a third-generation New Yorker reader, and the magazine's writers and artists are essential to both sides of family language and lore. When I was at the Daniel Alarcon and Zadie Smith reading at the most recent New Yorker Festival, in a beautiful church-like space called the Angel Orensanz Foundation, I had the strange thought that I was in the only church my parents (who are long-divorced atheists) would ever have attended. I got a little teary thinking about them, in the Church of The New Yorker with its Chastian or Steinbergian heaven, and hey, I was the one who said I was an evangelist. "This isn't a magazine--it's a movement." Harold Ross said that.So what do I preach? That the magazine, far from a bastion of elitism and snobbery, is the site of the most hardworking and stirring journalism available in English, about essential subjects like New Orleans, the global environmental crisis, American poverty, education, and the war in Iraq. Some people will never agree; they think the whole thing is foolish. "Tell me why your project is so compelling or should be to someone like me who DESPISES the culture of writing that the NEW YORKER inspires and finds literary glomming to be complete bullshit," an acerbic fellow blogger once wrote me, sneeringly. He thinks the publishing-industrial complex needs taking down, not celebrating. I defended myself in the lengthy email exchange, but afterward I felt like my soul had been slapped to the floor, as in that scene in Amelie. I was so outraged but so suddenly unsure of my mission that I thought of shutting down the site entirely, taking my ball and going home, as my friend Tom would say; it's a little like the way I felt when I heard, just recently, that a New Yorker film critic (for the Goings on About Town listings, which contain some of the sharpest and wittiest writing in the magazine) refers to me as "the New Yorker groupie." Ow.On the other hand, there are lots of worse things to be. Steve Martin wrote in the magazine this week that he sometimes feels nostalgic for the "high spirits and high jinks" of his early career, "before I turned professional, before comedy became serious." Maybe The New Yorker, too, is best viewed from one's childhood coffee table, before it becomes a media outlet, a buzz-worthy blog topic, an online brand, a symbol of what one has, in some senses, lost: the life of Pauline Kael; the grandparents who understood fewer and fewer of the cartoons and became sorrowful about it; the vast possibilities of a future full of limitless writing and reading opportunities. But for now, I've got a way of broadcasting my--let's face it--devotion. Want to be saved? Subscribe. I'm only half kidding.Millions contributor Garth also weighed in with his thoughts on the magazine:I was trying to explain to a friend the other weekend why The New Yorker is the greatest magazine in the history of American magazine journalism. I can think of a few reasons.First, I love The New Yorker for the assumptions it makes about its readership. It assumes that we are bright, literate, patient, and curious about the world. (Okay, it also assumes that we're well-off and liberal, but that's less important). It assumes that I, who loathed biology in high school, will be fascinated and moved by 8,000 words on the redwoods...and lo and behold, I am. Rather than tailoring itself to the marketplace, which is how we now think of the publishing place, The New Yorker recognizes that it CREATES its marketplace. Which is why I hate to see it stoop to puff-pieces on Cate Blanchett or Mariah Carey.Second, I find the history of The New Yorker, and its attendant myths, endlessly fascinating. One example: Jamaica Kincaid was doing odd-jobs for editor William Shawn when he decided that she should write for the magazine. She and George Trow and Ian Frazier became an inseparable, and eccentric triumvirate. Later, she married Mr. Shawn's son Allen.Third, The New Yorker has subsidized a staggering (surprising) number of canonical writers. E.B. White? New Yorker. J.D. Salinger? New Yorker. The Fire Next Time? First ran in the New Yorker. Silent Spring? Likewise. Eichmann in Jerusalem? You guessed it. Oliver Sacks, Joseph Mitchell, Alistair Reid, Janet Malcolm, Calvin Trillin, Philip Gourevich, Pauline Kael, A.J. Liebling, James Thurber, William Steig, the Addams Family, John Cheever, Saul Steinberg... Among the current writers, Elizabeth Kolbert, Georges Packer and Saunders, Nick Paumgarten (the new Ian Frazier), Peter Schjeldahl, Mark Singer, and James Wood (as of last month), are all doing work that may still entertain and instruct years from now. This is not even to mention the art.Each week, The New Yorker delivers a multi-course meal (about four-hours worth) of reporting, opinion, reviews, cartoons, and humorous "casuals" to my door. Sometimes the meal is mediocre, but it's always sustaining.And finally, Millions contributor Noah brings us home:I don't have a subscription, though I once did. It started sort of piling up on me, making me feel like an arch procrastinator. I'd like to renew but I haven't gotten around to it yet. But one thing about The New Yorker: you can pick up an issue, be it this week's, last week's, or one from 1987, and it always reads. This is surely a testament to the quality of the writing, but also to the editorial sensibilities that drive the magazine. My most memorable New Yorker article was about Rafael Perez, disgraced and incarcerated LAPD officer, who testified for the state in the prosecution of numerous other LA cops who were part of the Rampart Crash unit, a renegade police outfit that committed numerous crimes. Denzel Washington's character in the movie Training Day was based on Perez. Perez has also been rumored to have had a hand in the murder of Biggie Smalls. Great article. The cartoons are fun too.
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Ask a Book Question: The 56th in a Series (A Remainder Reminder)

Neil writes in with this question:I'm trying to remember the name of a new book I've recently read about and I can't quite put my finger on it. I think the general concept was that it was about a guy who was in an accident and when he wakes up, he has no memory of his life or who he is. Once the company that caused his accident pays him damages, he hires a bunch of actors to essentially play his family and friends. I think it's a British book. Does this sound familiar? Would love to remember the name.As luck would have it, the book you describe was reviewed here at The Millions by Andrew back in February. It's Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Of the book's high concept hook, Andrew wrote:You'd think all of this would be implausible, but the rendering is so painstakingly detailed that every time you think, "but what about...?", you find that McCarthy is one step ahead of you. He's already worked out the logical leaps. And once you wrap your mind around the notion that money can buy any service, somehow the improbable becomes possible.For more on Remainder, check out its page at The Complete Review, chock full of links to commentary on the book.Thanks for writing, Neil!
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Ask a Book Question: The 55th in a Series (Future Blue Chips)

Ron writes in with this question:The recent issue of Firsts magazine has an article on today's "blue chip" authors for book collectors: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald. It made me wonder who writing today will be a blue chip author in the future. In the next 10 or 15 years, who will have books selling at the astronomical prices many great first editions books command?I find old books fascinating, but I'm no book collector. It requires a fortitude and attention to detail that I simply don't possess. However, I was able to pass this question along to an expert, book shop owner Nigel who runs the fascinating book collecting blog, Bookride. Here's what Nigel had to say:Predicting which authors will be collected in the future is a good game but slightly risky.In the past people have tried to suggest authors worthy of financial investment and often got it sadly wrong. E.g. a few years ago Louis de Bernieres was being tipped as a highly collectable author. His prices did indeed shoot up in value so that at one point fine firsts of Captain Corelli were worth as much as $2000, but it is now readily buyable at less than half that. It could be because there has been a move against authors associated with Magic Realism, but also because the book is readily available and copies just keep turning up. The lesson is that however good a writer is - if there are too many copies of his or her works (and not enough collectors) the book will not prove a good bet. Supply and demand. That being said let me try and suggest a few writers.Of the serious American novelists you should be OK with Don DeLillo, Brett Easton Ellis (especially the UK hardback first of American Psycho), Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, William Gibson, Toni Morrison, limited editions of Vollmann, signed stuff by Hunter Thompson. Of the mass market authors, I cannot see Stephen King falling into desuetude but you need to stick to the early stuff, thriller writers like Michael Connelly, Pelecanos, Lee Child, Laurie King, Ian Rankin are happening and may continue to resonate. The big money is now in photobooks, children's literature (Rowling, Pullman, Dahl) and artist's books (Koons, Hirst, Warhol, Emin, Prince). Photographer Robert Frank's The Americans has more than trebled in value this century now selling for $10000+ in great condition, same goes for some of the young Japanese photographers. Condition is, as always, paramount.The Irish poets like Heaney, Muldoon, Mahon and Michael Longley are a goodish bet. I like Harold Pinter and think he will rise in value - other Nobel Prize Winners might do well like Gao Xingjian and Jose Saramago. South American writers are a little played out with the brilliant exception of Roberto Bolano (who, perversely, said that most writers who won Nobel prizes were "jerks"). Another great collectible iconoclast is the French enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq. US poet Philip Levine will hopefully be seriously collected, possibly Patti Smith and amongst the Brit poets I would back James Fenton.A litany of Brit writers like Ian Mcewan, Hanif Kureishi, Julian Barnes and Irvine Welsh are unlikely to flatline and in the "world music" category dig Haruki Murakami, Aime Cesaire, Khaled Hosseini, and Naguib Mahfouz. Of older writers I think Flann O'Brien might well increase in value - his work is said to give clues to the real meaning of [the TV show] 'Lost'...Thanks Nigel! If any book collecting types have thoughts to share, please do so in the comments.Bonus Link: Finding First Editions - An "Ask a Book Question" from years past.
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Ask a Book Question: The 54th in a Series (Hunting for Short Stories)

"Troubled in Tacoma" writes in with this plea:I find myself becoming increasingly upset about the fact that I can't figure out where someone is publishing their new short stories. For example, just today I came across George Saunders' new story, "Puppy" in the New Yorker. I was happy that I was able to come across it, but I was also upset by the fact that I came across it by sheer luck. I would love to know where and when writers are publishing. The best I do now is check out the latest issues of the literary journals and magazines that publish short stories. I also try to find writers' websites to see if they post when they are publishing. I have also emailed writers a few times and asked them directly (I emailed Tom Kealey at one point to ask when his short story "Coyote Thieves" was coming out. He responded to me quickly and graciously.) I am all out of other ideas. I was hoping you might have some more advice. Maybe you know some websites that track when and where writers publish? I know you had a similar question about five months ago concerning book tours. I really wish there was something called IWDB (Internet Writers Database). I would join immediately. I would buy a lifetime subscription.I would, too. Unfortunately, as with many other aspects of the literary world, the ecosystem of literary magazines is hopelessly decentralized. Making matters worse, literary magazines tend to have very short lifespans. Beyond the bigger name magazines, it's hard to even know what's out there. To the best of my knowledge, there are various library indexes that track stories and reference sites, like The Locus Index to Science Fiction, devoted to genre stories, but as far as I know, none of these would afford a reader a forward-looking view of what is coming out from various writers. (If there are librarians or readers out there who are better informed on the topic, please share your advice in the comments.)Beyond that, your makeshift efforts are probably the best bet. What I would do if I were you is identify the magazines and writers I'd like to track. Many will have mailing lists that will notify members of upcoming publications, others might have regularly updated sites with RSS feeds that you might subscribe to (here's how). In this way, you should be able to impose a little order on the helter skelter world of short stories to learn about new stories via email and RSS.Anybody else have ideas?
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Ask a Book Question: The 53rd in a Series (A Pair of Kings)

Mike writes in with this question:I am a big Stephen King reader, and I am ready to read Desperation and The Regulators. I have heard these two books have the same characters with different storylines. Which was released first, and which is better to read first to enhance the overall stories? All I can find for release dates is that they both came out in 1996. Any help would be greatly appreciated.The prolific Stephen King has been involved in a number of publishing experiments over the years and these two books were one of them. Desperation and The Regulators were released simultaneously in 1996, one under King's name and one under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. The books cover the same cast of characters, as Mike mentions, and they have been described as "mirror novels." Desperation takes place in a desolate Nevada town, while The Regulators is set in fictional small-town Ohio. In both books, the characters are faced with an evil spirit called Tak that can possess living things, including people. As to which one should be read first, I've seen nothing to suggest one over the other; however, when the books were initially released the covers, with art by Mark Ryden, were interlocking. The Regulators is on the left of the two, implying, to me anyway, that it should be read first.
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Ask a Book Question: The 52nd in a Series (Paris Reading)

Judy writes in looking for something to read on an upcoming trip abroad:I am going to Paris for a week in April. I want to read at least a couple novels set in Paris before I go. I want them to be contemporary (as in written recently) by a French author but translated into English. Any suggestions?I've read a number of novels set in Paris, and I've read some contemporary French fiction, but I can't recall having read any contemporary French fiction set in Paris. So, to help me find an answer to this one, I turned to the Complete Review, my favorite spot for learning about contemporary literature in translation. After pouring over the French language selections there, I came up with a few of possibilities, but I would encourage those with more knowledge in this area than me to please share some recommendations in the comments.Here's what I've got. Though not technically contemporary, the book that ended up at the top of my list was Raymond Queneau's Zazie in the Metro. Here's the book description: "Impish, foul-mouthed Zazie arrives in Paris from the country to stay with Gabriel, her female-impersonator uncle. All she really wants to do is ride the metro, but finding it shut because of a strike, Zazie looks for other means of amusement and is soon caught up in a comic adventure that becomes wilder and more manic by the minute." I thought this book would work well because it sounds like a light read and because the main character is a newcomer to Paris and thus will bring an outsider's point of view that may be appreciated by a visitor to the city. The Last Days, meanwhile, is a fictionalized tale of Queneau's own arrival in Paris from the countryside as a student in the 1920s. Queneau's The Flight of Icarus is set in Paris even further back, in the 1890s, and is about a French author, who has lost the main character of his book, Icarus, and is searching for him.Moving on to more recent books, Daniel Pennac's "Malaussene Saga" is a series of comic mystery novels set in the Belleville quarter of Paris and follows Benjamin Malaussene, a professional "scapegoat" who takes the blame for all sorts of problems. The books are quite popular and by all accounts very entertaining. Based on what I know about the series, I suspect the books would likely make good airplane reading. The five-book series begins with The Scapegoat and continues with The Fairy Gunmother, Write to Kill, Monsieur Malaussene, and Passion Fruit. If you are looking for a more serious thriller, Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas may fit the bill. PW says, "A bestseller in France, Vargas's U.S. debut presents a riveting blend of biothriller and historical cryptology: it takes a close look at the threat of bubonic plague to modern-day Paris."Finally, perhaps you will want to delve into a novel that provides a picture of Paris that most visitors likely do not see, a book that takes on one of the main challenges facing France today, the influx of immigrants and the difficulties of integrating them into French society. The riots that erupted in the poor suburbs of France brought this issue to international attention last year. In Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow Faiza Guene, whose parents were Algerian immigrants and who grew up in a housing project outside Paris, delivers a story set in those projects that follows a teenage girl named Doria. PW says of the book, "Throughout, the strictures of patriarchal Muslim culture clash with a nascent feminist freedom and Doria's exuberant, sophisticated teen talk. This small novel reads like a quiet celebration within a chaotic ghetto."If anyone can shed some additional light on these titles or has better suggestions, please share in the comments! Thanks for writing, Judy, and have a great trip!I should have also mentioned: Emre's recent post about some contemporary French fiction he read.
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Ask a Book Question: The 51st in a Series (How Hagar Got Its Name)

Nancy wrote in with this question about All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones:I am listening to this book on CD and in the past week I have driven over a 1000 miles just to keep listening. It is a wonderful book. I am wondering what the significance of the title is? Since I can't page back and see if I missed something, I ordered the book today. I have heard Aunt Hagar mentioned several times, but I need a little help.The "Aunt Hagar" Jones is referring to is Hagar from the Bible, Genesis to be exact. As the story goes, Abraham's wife Sarah was unable to bear children and so she presented him with Hagar, her slave, and with Abraham Hagar had Ishmael.I'll let Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley take it from here, as he went in depth on the title in his review of the book.God then permits Sarah to bear a son, Isaac, but Sarah is angered when she sees the boys together and demands that Abraham "cast out this slave woman with her son." This he does, but he is distressed, so God tells him: "As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring." The nation that ensued, many people believe, is Africa itself, hence blacks are "all Aunt Hagar's children."The story of Hagar has long been told in black churches and is the stuff of music as well. In the early 1920s, W.C. Handy wrote "Aunt Hagar's Blues," which includes the lines: "Just hear Aunt Hagar's chilun harmonizin' to that old mournful tune!/ It's like choir from on high broke loose!/ If the devil brought it, the good Lord sent it right down to me,/ Let the congregation join while I sing those lovin' Aunt Hagar's Blues!" The song has been recorded many times, perhaps most notably by Louis Armstrong on his album devoted to Handy's music. It's easy to imagine that Jones listened to that performance more than once as he wrote these superb stories.Aunt Hagar is present here both as the symbolic mother of all African Americans and as the embodiment of black womanhood. In the title story, a young black man is murdered, and a friend of his mother says: "One more colored boy outa their hair. It's a shame before God, the way they do all Aunt Hagar's children."Thanks for the question, Nancy!
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Ask a Book Question: The 50th in a Series (Hurricane Kids Sequel)

Cheryl writes in with this question: My 72 year old father's favorite book is The Hurricane Kids on the Lost Islands by Oskar Lebeck and Gaylord DuBois. He read it as a teen. I was able to find it in a used book store a few years ago and gave it to him as a Christmas present. He was very touched. At the end of this book, the authors mention a sequel to the book titled The Hurricane Kids in the Canyon of Cliff Dwellers. I have searched and searched and have never been able to find this book. Was it ever published? If not, does anyone know what happened? I'm just curious. If the book exists... I would love to find it and if it isn't too expensive... I'd like to give it to my Dad. Unfortunately, it appears as though a sequel to Hurricane Kids never made it. Sometimes referred to as a "King Kong clone" the original Hurricane Kids was an adventure tale from 1941, very much in keeping with the adventure stories and comics of the era. However, in my searches at (which will almost invariably list any book you might be looking for) and the Library of Congress site the promised sequel never turned up. I also found a reference in William Barton's story "Off on a Starship" from a 2003 science fiction collectionto a sequel sending the "Hurricane Kids" to "the Land of the Cave Dwellers," but that title turned out to be a dead end as well. Still, there may be some other books out there that might interest your father. Oskar Lebeck, though he co-wrote Hurricane Kids, was best known as an editor of comics at Dell in the 1940s and 50s. Prior to that he was a stage designer and book illustrator. He would also write children's books, and co-create a popular science fiction comic called Twin Earths, which surmised an alien planet that orbited opposite ours, always hidden by the sun. DuBois, meanwhile, was first hired by Lebeck at Dell but would go on to become better known as the writer of the Tarzan comic for 25 years. Apparently, the "Hurricane Kids" also appeared as a comic in Dell's magazine Popular Comics; note the mention on this cover from 1941. But what is most likely to interest your father is two other books that Lebeck and DuBois wrote together. I wasn't able to ascertain exactly what these books are about, but the titles certainly speak of more adventure: Stratosphere Jim and His Flying Fortress and Rex, King of the Deep. Thanks for the question, Cheryl!
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Ask a Book Question: The 49th in a Series (A Miniature Story)

Molly writes in with this question:I'm hoping you remember a short story from the New Yorker published, I think, in 2006. Of course I don't remember the author or title, or the date of publication (spring? fall? no idea). But the story was about a minaturist who worked for a king, he made intricate replicas of the castle with accurate reproductions of drapes, paintings, furniture, etc. An exquisite craftsman, he grew bored and made minatures of his minatures. Eventually he mastered his art when he broke through the barrier of the visible, the ultimate in his craft. By then, he had many apprentices, and he was so beloved that they humored him in what they considered the pursuit of a senile old man. Ring any bells?The story is called "In the Reign of Harad IV," and it is available on the New Yorker Web site. The story is by Steven Millhauser, and it appeared in the April 10th, 2006 issue. Molly does a good job of describing the story, and I remembered it pretty well, too, I think because it departs from the typical New Yorker story. Unlike the usual realism of New Yorker stories, "The Reign" is characterized by its magical elements and fable-like style. Millhauser is best know for his Pulitzer-winning novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer. Most recently, Millhauser published The King in the Tree in 2003.