Saturday, September 24, 2011
Review: Thumbs up from Beldar for James Hime's novel about 9/11, "Three Thousand Bridges"
There's considerable truth to the cliché that inside of every lawyer lurks a wanna-be novelist. Indeed, it's true even of tax and real estate lawyers. The surprise is when a lawyer actually manages to write a readable novel — much less a compelling and intensely authentic one!
But the proof that can happen is "Three Thousand Bridges," a new novel by Jim Hime — with whom I worked when he was a very capable young tax and real estate partner, and I was a trial department associate, at Baker Botts in the 1980s.
I'd been pondering buying a Kindle for some time, and when I learned (via Facebook, from another Baker Botts alum) that Jim's new book is being released only as an e-book, my curiosity about both book and gadget crossed the tipping point, and "Three Thousand Bridges" became my first Kindle purchase through Amazon.com.
(Of the Kindle, I'll say this: I like it better than I thought I would, and getting used to it was easier than I expected. The good things about it — price; capacity; ease of content delivery; spectacular battery life; and superb text legibility on a screen that doesn't tire your eyes — are very good indeed. In other ways, it very much reminds me of an Apple Macintosh computer circa 1986: its technology and interface both seem reasonably elegant but seriously dated. I suspect the Kindle is better adapted for the simple and singular task of serious and sustained reading than an iPad or other comparable device, but I haven't owned one of those yet, so I'm just guessing based on my limited experience trying to read other novels on my very-good-quality desktop LCD monitor. Reading on the Kindle beats that by a wide margin.)
Hime is, and writes like, a native Texan who's also grown wise in the ways of the world outside the Lone Star State. "Three Thousand Bridges" weaves a tale that incorporates some very powerful and poignant recent history of our state and our country. Here's an accurate blurb from biographer Hershel Parker, as reprinted on Hime's website:
The mystery writer James Hime made his mark with The Night of the Dance (an Edgar finalist) and Scared Money, both heralded by other novelists and reviewers for memorable characters, taut prose, and a comedic take on how things and people work. Hime nailed dialects as if no one else had ever listened to Texans talk, and readers settled back to await more adventures of Jeremiah Spur and Clyde Thomas. Adventures will follow, we are assured, but Three Thousand Bridges is of a different order of achievement, not a mystery novel but a novel with mysteries. Its unlikely and at first unlikable hero, a Viet Nam veteran, is the outrageous and outraging Texas oil supply man, Cole Simms — a belated cousin, we recognize, of Mark Twain's Pap Finn. In sculpted prose, pacing his revelations, Hime traces his bedeviled hero's journey across the South just after 9/11, toward Ground Zero and toward self-insight. Hime, who escaped from the South Tower of the World Trade Center with a printout of The Night of the Dance after witnessing the crash of American Flight 11 into the North Tower, has created a classic narrative of transforming American experiences, personal and national. After its wide initial popularity, I predict, Three Thousand Bridges will endure in college classrooms as a powerful, accessible testimony about an unthinkable time.
And I enjoyed, and agree with, Arden Ward's review of the book and interview with Hime, which includes some marvelous facts and factoids like these (bracketed portions in original):
Hime was halfway through his descent, on floor 35 or 36 he recalls, when the building rocked violently — "Almost enough to knock you off your feet," he remembers. Still, he kept walking, finally reaching the street.
"That was the first time I saw the gaping hole in 1WTC [the north tower of the World Trade Center] and the fire blazing out of 2WTC at just about the level we had been at maybe 30 minutes earlier." ...
Hime began wondering about his father, who hadn’t known he was in New York City at the time of the attack. "I was fascinated by the premise of what it would have been like to be a father whose son goes missing in New York City on that day. Suppose that no one knew why he was there to begin with, and you wake up on the morning of 12 September and know only that he was missing. What would you do?"
It's pretty much impossible to write about Texas without bumping into stereotypes and clichés. My favorite thing about this book, I think, is the way Hime embraces those — and then proceeds to bend and twist them to one degree or another, in ways that turn out to be quite funny. "Three Thousand Bridges" gets the Beldar Stamp of Texas Authenticity. It's a danged good book, and I'm proud of my friend for writing it.
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(1) ColoComment made the following comment | Sep 24, 2011 6:32:24 PM | Permalink
Your review (and the high praise of other reviewers on Amazon.com) persuaded me to buy Himes's ebook. If it's as good as you say, it's 'way cheap at the $2.99 price. I've also requested his earlier books at my library....
By the way, you can download the Kindle app to your pc and/or laptop and read your selections on your desktop/laptop screen. That also works, I think, for smart phones and tablets, but I don't have either of those so I cannot say for sure.
All of the devices can sync, so that you can pick up your reading on your pc where you left off on your Kindle. Very cool stuff.
It's a pretty wonderful world we live in, isn't it?
(2) ColoComment made the following comment | Sep 24, 2011 6:34:29 PM | Permalink
Ooops: Hime's, not Himes's.
(I hate typos. Especially when they're my own.)
Thanks for your kind words, both here and in your email. They were a nice surprise to wake up to on a Sunday morning (first day of the work week here in the Arabian Gulf region). I look forward to reading more of your blog and staying in touch.
(4) ech made the following comment | Sep 27, 2011 11:08:04 AM | Permalink
I'm part of a two-Kindle family, the wife and I both having one. I have a first-gen one and love it. It is particularly good if you travel quite a bit - easy to carry on a plane, long battery life, easy on the eye. While tablets have some advantages in being multitaskers, the Kindle is much better for reading than a tablet or smartphone. I have the Kindle app for my Droid (and PC) and it works well, but is not as easy on the eye as the Kindle.
Good to see that Mr. Hime is surfing on the eBook tidal wave that is sweeping away book publishing as we know it. I'll be looking at buying his book tonight.
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