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Selections Made by: Long Island Arts Critic, Jeb Ladouceur

Syndicated Arts Critic, Jeb Ladouceur, has announced his choices for 2015 books of the year. The ‘Pinnacle Prize’ selections are made in four categories – Most Historically Noteworthy (in any genre) – Best Memoir – Best Biography – and Best Novel. In the national competition, winning authors may be residents of any of the fifty States, though choices are weighted in favor of Long Island writers over the age of 18. Three local authors, Werner Reich, and Lynne Kramer & Jane Mincer (collaborators), prevailed in this year’s charter contest. An original Long Island Authors’ Circle member, Ladouceur is a novelist, theater critic, and retired journalist. He lives in Smithtown, L.I. 



“Go Set a Watchman”

Harper Lee – 288 pages – Harper Collins


In ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ discovered and published some 55 years after ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Scout Finch (grown-up and calling herself Jean Louise in this so-called sequel) has come home to Alabama from New York. She’s visiting her ailing father, Atticus. But alas, Jean Louise finds that her formerly sainted daddy’s become a trash-talking … Klan-sympathizing … bigot!

Now the prodigal daughter must wrestle with issues both personal and sociological as she tries to make sense of this altered Atticus. How dare he refer to the NAACP as an opportunistic bunch of paid lawyers “…standing around like buzzards,” waiting to capitalize on their people? And she proceeds to lecture the sickly man in lengthy diatribes. What’s happened is that the once-charmingly down-to-earth ‘Scout’ has become infused with big city, know-it-all, activism.

From a writing standpoint, ‘Watchman,’ despite four months atop the sales charts, is such an inferior book that one wonders if it could possibly have been written by the author of ‘Mockingbird.’ And therein lies ‘Watchman’s’ noteworthiness; the only logical conclusion is that it couldn’t!



“The Death Camp Magicians”

Werner Reich (with W.V. Rauscher) – 183 pages – Haversat 1878 Press


When Werner Reich was liberated from Auschwitz at age 17, after four years on the run or interred by the Nazis, he weighed 60 pounds. The story of his arrest, imprisonment, and endurance, ‘The Death Camp Magicians,’ is the most compelling book in any genre that one is likely ever to read. The handsome volume takes its title from card tricks young Werner learned while imprisoned in, of all places, a fascist concentration camp!

In this disturbing, but inspiring book, many aspects of Werner Reich’s persona shine through; principal among them are his candor, courage, and uncanny sense of humor.

Following his victory over unthinkable atrocities (after reading this memoir you will never again take for granted, a flush toilet, the very toes on your feet, or a crust of bread) Werner eventually came to America, earned a college degree, and refined his skills as an author and public speaker. He and his wife Eva live on Long Island, where Reich prepares from memory the mesmerizing lectures for which the indomitable Holocaust survivor is internationally renowned.



“The Wright Brothers”

David McCullough – 320 pages – Simon & Schuster


A quick inventory of my personal library reveals that it contains ten volumes devoted to the Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio. These books, dealing with the two stoic men who first took to the air in controlled, powered flight during the chill December of 1903, are like a large family of children … some of the volumes are humble and unassuming, some handsome and downright fascinating, and others principally mimic their several siblings up on the shelf.

But as is to be expected in any extensive clan, one volume in my ‘Wright Brothers’ collection has emerged and now rises high above the others. It’s the baby of the family … but it has quickly set the standard by which all future Wright biographies might well be judged.

A resident of Boston, with no discernible Long Island roots, David McCullough has written easily the best biography brought to the attention of this reviewer in 2015. McCullough is one of literature’s most decorated authors, and in every respect he is deserving of ‘Pinnacle Prize’ recognition.



“The Brockhurst File”

Lynne Adair Kramer & Jane Dillof Mincer – 315 pages - Wellsmith


The plot of this novel is plenty interesting, but where the book really shines is in its clear explanation of matrimonial and family law as it applies to the fiction’s story. Also, judges, court officers, and even private detectives (some straight shooters … some unscrupulous) are amazingly well drawn, and the reader is never at a loss to understand how they dovetail in our legal system. This is fascinating stuff right from two expert lawyers’ mouths.

‘The Brockhurst File’ puts one in mind of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ in legalese drag … with a clever touch of ‘Downton Abbey’ … more than a trace of John Grisham-style ruthlessness … and of course, that Ludlumesque title, all thrown in.

Lynne Adair Kramer and Jane Dillof Mincer are longtime North Shore Long Island residents (Fort Salonga) and Ms. Kramer has owned and operated the largest firm of women attorneys on The Island for more than thirty years. Kramer & Mincer have scored with this solid debut novel, and are welcome additions to the literary scene.


Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of eleven novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His newest book, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s website is: www.JebsBooks.com 

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