A Collection of Southwestern Tales — Past and Present

by Charles Anthony Alvarez(West Twins Publishing, $16.95)

As a Nogales native, U.S. Food and Drug Administration employee, and member of Santa Cruz County boards, Charles Anthony Alvarez knows his Southern Arizona. That he’s a self-described “drugstore cowboy” who enjoys history and reading Westerns can be seen in this book. The stories in “Collection of Southwestern Tales — Past and Present” take place in Southern Arizona. One, involving a mine-shaft incident, takes place in contemporary times. Others, such as a tale featuring a former-U.S. Cavalry scout whose family is killed by Apaches, are Westerns set in the 1880s.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades, Vol. 2: 1986-1989 and Vol. 3: 1990s

by Robert E, Zucker(BZB Publishing, Inc. $14.99 each)

They’ve been out a while now, but these written histories of Tucson’s local entertainment are worth a look, if for no better reason than to check out period hair and clothing styles. Author and publisher Robert E. Zucker grew up reporting on entertainment in Tucson: in the 1970s, he wrote for a publication by youth for youth, which soon morphed into Entertainment Magazine.

The three volumes of “Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades” are a compilation of stories, profiles, interviews, advertisements, and photos from the magazine. Through the years, you see clubs come and go, musicians evolve, bands group and regroup, audience tastes change. Linda Ronstadt’s there with Aaron Neville. Comedian Garry Shandling, too. KXCI and North Fourth Ave also make appearances.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Lost Restaurants of Tucson

by Rita Connelly(American Palate, $21.99)

It didn’t take many pages into this book on lost local eateries to send this old Tucsonan into reveries: scraping the family car at Johnie’s drive-in, the prom date dinner (plus au jus splashes on the dress) at the Tack Room, Sunday lunch with the folks at the Frampton-Stone Cafeteria; herding crying/sulking/pinching kids at Austin’s, Tia Elena, the Big A; playing grown-up at Scordato’s. Apparently you don’t have to be a foodie for restaurants to make memories.

Local food writer and critic Rita Connelly has produced an appreciative compendium of restaurants that have come and gone in the Old Pueblo. Setting it in historical context (in the 1800s you could eat at the Palace or the Shoo Fly), Connelly describes specific establishments, as she identifies familial and business relationships, culinary trends, and the effects of the economy on the fragile business of serving food. Her book is interesting, informative, and, yes, evocative.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Pantano Wash

by Conley Stone McAnally (Pharaoh Publishing, $4.99)

The line “[p]retty far from the right or left of old Route 66, depending on if you are going to or coming from California, is a small pueblo called Pantano Wash” captures the tone of this little novel by Conley Stone McAnally: meandering, unprepossessing, a little humorous. Wandering into this remote desert community, a collection of drifters gets seduced by Peggy’s famous pies and stay on to create a community at Billy’s RV park. When a misadventure with a stinking bear carcass makes national news, the community becomes threatened by secrets from one drifter’s past. In a place where folks can’t distinguish a New York from a Montana accent, drifters’ secrets are easily kept. McAnally’s other books include “Tales from Homer”and “Ashwood: Tales from the Porch.”

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Rei Wan The Outsider

by Jim Herman (James H. Herman, $21.99)

It’s easy, from a 21st-century perspective, to look back at the civil unrest of the Vietnam War period as clear-cut pro- or anti- war. We forget there was a middle ground, to act according to American ideals. In 1966, Arizonan Jim Herman, a 21-year-old college graduate disenchanted with American militarism, joined the Peace Corps, as a “Patriotic Soldier of Love.” In the first American Peace Corps contingent sent to Micronesia, this kid from Tucson spent two years on a typhoon corridor Pacific island about the size of two American football fields. “Rei Wan The Outsider” is both an intriguing account of his experiences—shark attack, typhoon ritual, elicit romantic temptation, and all — and an affecting meditation on what the modern world can learn from native people living in harmony with each other and nature.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Hiding in my Pajamas

by Becky Kueker (Outskirts Press, $9.95)

Becky Kueker couldn’t have selected a better title to represent her experience in retirement. A principal in a high-powered architectural firm and married to a successful financial planner, Kueker with her husband had project-managed the bejesus out of the practicalities of their retirement. That included their savings, investments, house-downsizing, retirement schedule and an affordable, desirable retirement-home location (near good golf).What they hadn’t projected was what daily life in the affordable, desirable, retirement-home on the golf course would be like. That brings us to the image of a professional woman with nothing to do but binge-watch Netflix, nibble on chocolate, and not change out of pajamas. It’s no spoiler to say she got past that period. Billed as “somewhere between a memoir and a how-to,” ”Hiding in my Pajamas” includes quotations from experts with her candid narrative. She could have left out the advice to “you,” the reader, however. Her own story, along with her friends’ stories, makes her point.

— Christine Wald-Hopkins

Trouble at the Circle Cross

by Ted Beltz


Eagle Trail Press, $17.99)

While riding fence, a local cowboy discovers a body with obvious grizzly wounds. But there are many bends on the winding trail and what looks like a simple bear attack turns into much more when the coroner finds a chunk of lead buried in the victim’s spine. The case appears to be solved after a long-buried secret is uncovered, but the confession leads to another death and corpses start stacking up like cordwood. Beautiful scenery and colorful cowboy anecdotes fill the pages of this high-country mystery as the hands of the Circle Cross Ranch and the local deputy work to find the killers.

Tucson author Beltz recently published a sequel, ”High Country Justice.”

— Vicki Ann Duraine

Unfinished Business

by Geoff McLeod(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $12.95)

When a Phoenix police officer is run down during a traffic stop, his son, Greg, vows vengeance. Evidence of corruption and cover-up begins in Colorado Springs where Greg becomes entangled with a comely coed he rescues from a seedy bar. But is she a victim or the first link to his father’s murder?

Filled with tough Marines, molls, drug runners and showdowns, this is McLeod’s second novel.

— Vicki Ann Duraine

The Absurd Naturalist

by Gene Twaronite, (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $9.95)

Dragon Daily News: Stories of Imagination for Children of All Ages

by Gene Twaronite. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $9.95)

With a twinkle in his eye and a clever turn of phrase, Gene Twaronite expounds on the natural world and our, at times, unnatural role in it. His subjects meander all over the great outdoors, ranging from “Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Garden” (because it sets us up for failure and brings out the worst in us) and “Toad Throwing” (a natural outcome of lawn-mowing in New Hampshire) to his rumination on paying off the national debt by creating a Grand Canyon Disneyland. The collection reflects 30 years of articles written for journals and newspapers; of special interest to Southern Arizonans are the challenging lessons the author learned in his desert garden:“…javelina eat mostly on the run, like a marauding pack of teenagers in a food court, hastily tearing off chunks of plant flesh…leaving bits and pieces in their wake.” His observations will not turn a brown thumb green, but they invite a smile.

Twaronite is the author of five books, three of them for children and young adults. His most recent offering, “Dragon Daily News,” is a collection of fanciful short stories written for kids up through the middle grades. A former science teacher, landscaper, and contributor to “Highlights for Children” magazine, Twaronite lives in Tucson.

—Helene Woodhams

Wings of the W.A.S.P.

by R.L. Clayton. (Createspace Independent Publishing. $14.99; 7.99 digital.)

During World War II, WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots) flew domestic missions, freeing up male pilots for combat and service duty. It was a valuable wartime contribution, but the female flyers in R. L. Clayton’s eye-opening historical novel were not welcome by the military brass at the Marana Airfield. When an attempt to sabotage a WASP by causing a mid-air incident goes horribly wrong — and a cover-up at the highest levels ensues — Sgt. Joe Clark risks everything to set the historical record straight and put his own demons to rest. Clayton, who lives in Tucson, was inspired by his mother’s war-time experiences as a WASP.

—Helene Woodhams

Sugar and Dirt: Memoirs of a Tortoise

by Fernando Prol. (Wheatmark, $11.95)

Fernando Prol offers a bildungsroman that traces a young man’s journey from his childhood experiences as a refugee from Castro’s Cuba through his fondly-remembered school days in Maryland, the tragic loss of his mother, his fall from grace resulting from a series of youthful bad choices and his ultimate redemption. The structure of the novel is somewhat bewildering – it is presented as the posthumous autobiography of “FP,” edited by a relative-by-marriage who did not know the memoirist well, but who was entreated by FP’s widow to bring order out of the confusion of random poems, unrelated thoughts and missing chapters. There are some fine moments—as in the section in which FP attempts to reconcile his troubled relationship with his father. Prol, who himself was a refugee from Cuba in 1961, lives in Tucson.

—Helene Woodhams

Dunbar: The Neighborhood, the School, and the People 1940-1965.

by Aloma J. Barnes. (Wheatmark, $25.95)

In May, 1912, three months after Arizona became the 48th state, its legislature amended the 1909 territorial school code to make segregation mandatory. In integrated Tucson, a makeshift facility was hurriedly created from an undertaker’s parlor to accommodate the children who were suddenly without a school to attend; six years later, in 1918, a new, two-room school was constructed on North Second Street. Named for a poet, the school became the lyrical heart of the culturally and ethnically diverse community that surrounded it. With the school as its centerpiece, author Aloma J. Byrnes offers an intriguing and well-sourced account of the growth of the Dunbar neighborhood, where she has lived for many years. In a volume overflowing with personal reminiscences and anecdotes from residents and former Dunbar students, she identifies the important personalities and events that shaped the community and provides the historical context, beginning with Jim Crow-era Tucson and moving on through integration. Highlights, such as the spring training accommodations the neighborhood offered Negro baseball players like Satchel Paige, who were unwelcome at the city’s hotels, make this an enlightening read. An extensive bibliography is included.

—Helene Woodhams

Grace in the Desert: Poems and Lyrics Celebrating Tucson

by don-E Merson. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. $25 paper; 3.99 Kindle)

The author of this collection of poetry and song is an unabashed lover of Tucson and the Southwest deserts. Praising everything about the city that is spectacular, and everything that is ordinary--from the expanse of the mountain ranges and the inevitability of a monsoon cloudscape to the woman selling newspapers in a median on Valencia Road--Merson is clearly smitten with the charms of the Old Pueblo; with this illustrated volume he invites the reader to join his celebration. The author, who creates software, is a transplant from the Washington D.C. area now living, it appears contentedly, in Tucson.

—Helene Woodhams

Damn Shoes and Other Talking Tales: A Selection of True Narratives About People Who Directly and Indirectly Experience Communication Disorders

by Daniel R. Boone, PhD. (Forman Publishing Group, $15.97)

Speech, language and voice disorders arise from a variety of causes, and the resulting difficulties in communication can have a profound effect on both the speaker and the listener. In this anecdotal collection of cases, drawn from a 58-year career as a clinical speech-language pathologist, the author outlines the physical causes of pathology (aphasia, dementia, neurological impairment, etc.), their verbal manifestations, and his own interactions with the patients who suffered from them. Interspersed are recollections of his early career, his growth in the profession, and his, at times, deeply personal experiences—his mother is the subject of one of the patient narratives. Daniel R Boone is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona; he lives in Tucson.

—Helene Woodhams

If you are a Southern Arizona author and would like your book to be considered for this column, please send a copy to: Inger Sandal, 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Give the price and a contact name. Books will be donated to Pima Community College West Campus library. Most of the books are available locally at Mostly Books or Antigone’s. There is a backlog of submissions.