Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Local Book Roundup: Pot Brownies, Homicide, and Bondage

By Anneli Rufus
Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 12:43 PM

As we near the end of this year in which America went broke, got high, and watched J.D. Salinger (and Gary Coleman) die, let's celebrate the East Bay's literary contributions to 2010.

Despite the dire fate of Proposition 19, Emeryville-based Ten Speed Press (now part of Random House) brings us Baked! 35 Marijuana Munchies to Make and Bake. Authors Chris Stone (whose previous Ten Speed books include Spliffigami and Bongology) and Gordon Lewis offer instructions for every meal — from flaky pot-spiked scones and stoners' strawberry jam to magical marijuana-stuffed meatloaf and artisanal "Toker's Treacle Tartlets," and beyond.

Berkeley-based Cleis Press has the erotica angle all tied up (heh) with a hot jet of new releases for a sexy new year, including Best Bondage Erotica 2011 (edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel), Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 (edited by Kathleen Warnock), and Hide and Seek: Erotic Tales of Voyeurs and Exhibitionists (edited by Alison Tyler and Rachel Kramer Bussel). Among the latter's 21 tales is "Operatic Ecstasy," which examines what can happen when you attend the opera without wearing underwear, especially when that opera is appropriately enough titled The Magic Flute: "Now Edward wanted to hear those dirty words drop from her lovely lips in public, where almost anyone walking by could hear. The thought of it brought him close to the breaking point."

Through her involvement in AnySoldier.com, which helps civilians help members of the US military, Clayton resident Nicole Arbelo became intensely interested in military working dogs and their handlers. Her book K9 Heroes; Together We Protect, Defend, and Conquer As One is a richly illustrated collection of true stories about these "four-legged soldiers" that are trained to scout, search, sniff out explosives, and aid in rescues, and work as sentries, attack dogs, and guards. Many stories of their courage and loyalty have emerged from Afghanistan and Iraq. Arbelo posts news about military working dogs, police dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs on her Facebook page.

Along with new books by local superstars Michael Pollan and Yiyun Li, a lot of other East Bay magic was made.

In his new true-crime page-turner, Most Wanted Killer, prolific Contra Costa County author Robert Scott covers the case of homicidal hottie Jesse James Hollywood, who was raised with every privilege but became a sleazy drug dealer whose orders led to at least one death — after which he lived for many years in luxury, albeit on the lam. Scott has yet another 2010 true-crimer: This one, Blood Frenzy, covers the case of lethally sore loser David Gerard, who burned one would-be ex to death and exterminated others before clubbing one woman multiple times in the head with a hammer, breaking loose a fist-sized chunk of her skull. He left her for dead, but she lived, defying doctors' predictions. Scott's book is a heartfelt testament to her courage.

If you're still on an East Bay true-crime jag after that, check out John Glatt's Lost and Found: The True Story of Jaycee Lee Dugard and the Abduction that Shocked the World.

Piedmont author Nina Lesowitz brought us another adventure in inspiration with The Courage Companion: How to Live Life with True Power. Like Lesowitz's previous book, Living Life as a Thank You, this one was coauthored with Mary Beth Sammons, and it presents true survival stories from the frontlines of fear and adversity.

Oakland native Leola Butler based her book Trapped by a Dream: When Fates Collide on the experiences of her husband, ex-Marine Boots Butler, who led a team that rescued a young Russian girl who had been drugged and abducted and forced into the Amsterdam sex trade. The rescue was one of many operations performed by Somewhere Out There, a Washington State-based nonprofit that specializes in the recovery of missing, kidnapped, and exploited children. Its mission statement reads: "Our goal is the recovery, or finality that will either bring joy to the family, or the closure to their horrendous living nightmare. ... We believe that the very children we search for, via their families, are hiring us personally. Our investigators are made up of mostly experienced former military personnel. ... We use state of the art equipment and some of the most powerful search engines in the computer systems of the world."

A frontier woman and her lightning-wielding horse keep the Wild West safe in Dust Devil, Berkeley author Anne Isaacs' new book for readers aged five to nine. A companion volume to the award winning Swamp Angel, it's illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky, who used oil paints on wood veneer for an American-primitive effect.

From a little-girl Harrod's coat with carved wooden buttons to a black cocktail dress that sparks a friend's philandering husband to make a move on her (and then throw up), garments drive the bittersweet personal vignettes comprising Summer Brenner's new collection My Life in Clothes. The Berkeley author's previous book, YA novel Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, was selected for a 2010 Richmond Historic Preservation award.

Two Native American slaves of gold-rush icon John Sutter risked their lives to rescue the stranded Donner Party in that tragic snowed-out winter of 1846-7, only to be shot in the back and cannibalized by the very pioneers they were attempting to rescue, according to Scott Lankford in Tahoe Beheath the Surface: The Hidden Stories of America's Largest Mountain Lake. Published by Berkeley's Heyday, this intriguing volume examines the history, myths, and legends surrounding that lovely getaway. Did Tahoe-based mobsters have a hand in killing JFK? Lankford reminds us that someone named Jack Ruby worked at the Cal-Neva resort, where — according to some theorists — Marilyn Monroe was drugged mere days before her famous death. During the railroad-building days, Tahoe-area Chinese laborers were terrorized by a white-supremacist group calling itself the 601 ("six feet under, zero trial, one bullet"). And more about Sutter: Neither he nor his famous white foreman John Marshall actually found those first gold nuggets in the sawmil, according to Lankford: "The men who truly found the gold, in short, were Sutter's Indian slaves."

Deep breathing, awareness exercises, and ten-minute yoga routines are among the helpful strategies proposed for pregnant women and new moms in Cassandra Vieten's handy handbook Mindful Motherhood, published by Oakland's New Harbinger Publications. Yes, you can do Downward-Facing Dog while pregnant. The illustration proves it.

Shopping for something to read during that ski trip, solitary New Year's weekend, or while marooned anywhere in the next few months by the rain? Support your local authors and publishers.

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