A Family Feud Turns Fatal in Parker’s In Cold Pursuit
By Eilene Zimmerman
Fallbrook author T. Jefferson Parker’s latest murder mystery, In Cold Pursuit (Hyperion, $23.95), begins with the clubbing death of a wealthy 84-year-old man. It’s wildly karmic that Sergeant Tom McMichael is on the rotation that night to handle the investigation. The victim? Pete Braga, tuna fisherman, owner of a successful car dealership and a man deeply entrenched in San Diego city politics. The kicker? Decades earlier Braga’s grandfather shot and killed McMichael’s grandfather, an act that sparked a generational family feud.
This is the backdrop against which McMichael must track down a killer. As if the longstanding hostility isn’t enough, the recently divorced cop begins an affair with Braga’s beautiful nurse, who soon becomes the main suspect. Parker does an excellent job of weaving disparate elements together as the investigation widens to include the Ford dealership, the granddaughter, the Catholic diocese and many others.
Although he has been called a “tough-guy” writer, most of the characters in Parker’s book are exceedingly human and sincere; it would be hard to find a reader who didn’t have a soft spot for McMichael—honest, lonely and devoted to his young son. The writing is fast-paced but literate, with dead-on descriptions, such as “Da Rocha smiled like a man with a razor in his boot.” That line alone is worth the book’s pricetag.
In Kafka’s Last Love (Basic Books, $30), former Sun Up San Diego cohost Kathi Diamant has written a biography of the Polish-born Dora Diamant (no relation), with whom Franz Kafka spent the last, agonized year of his life before dying of tuberculosis. Although the book is ostensibly about Dora, the first third is largely a biography of Kafka through Dora’s eyes. Here we get a rare glimpse of the writer—often thought of as brilliant but grim—in love, happy and passionate about everything from the written word to a glass of beer.
After Kafka’s death, Dora eventually pushes on to become an actress, marry, have a child and survive the Nazis. Despite Diamant’s narrative assurances that Dora was extraordinary—she often quotes those who knew and admired her—what makes Dora merit a 350-page book is her connection to Kafka. Diamant keeps us intrigued throughout, using Dora’s life as a porthole through which to view the cultural and political history of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
Diamant heads the Kafka Project at San Diego State University and spent 15 years immersed in Dora’s story.
Also Out from Local Authors
American Expressionism: Art and Social Change, 1920-1950 (Abrams, $60): This beautiful new book by cultural historian (and professor emeritus at UCSD) Bram Dijkstra is the story of American Expressionism, a movement that began in the 1920s and ended shortly after World War II. Dijkstra argues that the conservative government and corporate interests of the day deliberately sought to suppress this group of artists, largely first-generation Americans. Their art, which conveyed a deep concern with social problems of the era, was at odds with the government’s goal of keeping a lid on socially active idealism.
Sitting Shiva (Foxrock Books, $12.95): San Diego–based cartoonist Elliot Feldman’s first novel begins with Morris Fish, a small-time gangster found dead in a Detroit motel room. Fish’s son, Charlie, spends the traditional week of Jewish mourning—known as shiva—trying to piece it all together. It’s a darkly funny story; unfortunately, Feldman’s characters have an adolescent-like need to speak profanely. He has also packed the book with coarse, ugly descriptions like “the fat man hawked out a stream of tobacco juice.”
Jackpot Trail: Indian Gaming in Southern California (Sunbelt, $12.95): San Diegans David J. Valley and Diana Lindsay have written an unusual guidebook—one that not only gives readers information about Southern California’s 22 gaming casinos but also includes a history of the tribes affiliated with each casino. The authors take a look at how the industry has evolved, from small bingo parlors to glitzy resorts.