Maze of Blood

Marly Youmans (Mercer University Press)

This is one of the strangest books I have read in a long while, and also one of the best. It is a novel based on the life of Texas writer Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian and many other memorable characters. Spoiler alert: Youmans’s protagonist, Conall Weaver, commits suicide at the outset, just as Howard did (at age 30), and the story proceeds in reverse chronology. Does this sound daunting? It isn’t at all, if you read with a child’s willingness to be astonished and a grown-up’s hard-won hope that somehow our tangled lives are part of a larger Story, the outlines of which we glimpse even now.

Tipping Point

David Poyer (St. Martin's)

When literary folk talk about American fiction of the past several decades, you will rarely if ever hear David Poyer’s name mentioned. But for my money, he’s one of our most consistently interesting novelists. He’s best known for his Tales of the Modern Navy, featuring the recurring character Dan Lenson; Tipping Point is the 15th installment in the series. Poyer combines a deep knowledge of all things seaworthy (including the latest technology) with a grasp of geopolitics, insight into the human heart, and a philosophic temperament. Try this book—you may be hooked.

Transformations in Biblical Literary Traditions

Edited by D. H. Williams and Phillip J. Donnelly (Baylor University Press)

It took me a while to catch up with this 2014 volume, a collection of essays in tribute to Baylor literature professor David Lyle Jeffrey, but I’m very glad that I did. As befitting a scholar of such wide-ranging interests, the subjects range from Paradise Lost to studies of literature and religion in China (where Jeffrey has spent a good deal of time), and the lineup of contributors is stellar: Dennis Danielson, Sarah-Jane Murray, Stephen Prickett, Ralph C. Wood, Mark Noll, Eleonore Stump, and Liu Yi-Qing, to mention only a few. Pure gold.

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