Four Books for Your Fall Reading ListRobin & Ruby

As summer begins to give way to fall, it is time to start thinking about curling up with a good book and letting the author take you on a journey.

Here are four new works that can help you escape —

and the good news is they are all available at the Lavender Library.

Robin and Ruby
Reviewed by Starley Wagner
Where were you in the early 1980s? Siblings Robin and Ruby were coming of age in New Jersey and New York as the AIDS pandemic was beginning to take hold of the nation, and their lives.

Both characters are average, decent middle-class people, the backbone of America, dealing with the social issues of the times, most of which are still going strong today: homophobia, racism, the cocaine craze, divorce and sadly, AIDS.

Robin, a gay man just starting college, is and always has been utterly sure of and comfortable with his sexual orientation, appealing qualities that make him immediately likable and sympathetic. Nineteen-year-old sister Ruby is more difficult to warm to as she complains, for example, of having to move from a sleepy New Jersey suburb to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, an address coveted the world over.

However, Ruby’s experiences at a weekend house party strengthens the story as she witnesses the astonishing ugliness of binge drinking, cocaine abuse and other self-indulgences.

Counter balance is provided through Robin’s long time friend George as he journeys towards a solid sexual identity, and comes out to the public and his family, all of which is portrayed with dignity, compassion and intelligence.

The most powerful moments come from Robin, however. Anyone older than 30 knows how it feels to worry about the potential consequences of innocent but ignorant youthful behaviors from their past. When Robin ponders whether his two dozen or so sexual encounters in the pre-AIDS era will eventually lead to illness or worse, it is terrifying.

Not only because we empathize with him personally, but because we know with certainty of the horrors yet to come for so much of humanity.

Rumble Tumble & Captains OutrageousCaptains Outrageous
Reviewed by Gerald Ooley

These two books are the fifth and sixth in author Joe R. Lansdale’s so far series of seven novels featuring a mix-matched set of heroes.

White/black, Democrat/Republican, straight/gay, Oscar/Felix — except for their mutual love and respect Hap and Leonard are opposite ends of the magnet.

These two stories read like sequels and I recommend you digest them in order from their printing press births.

If you enjoy quick and funny dialogue mixed with sex of every variety and shade of vanity and kink, interlaced with murder, adventure, violence and mayhem, then this read is for you.

To coin Mr. Lansdale – maybe – get your self down to the Lavender Library, become a member and read. Begin with Rumble Tumble and Captains Outrageous or if available Savage Season, the beginning of this escapade.

Then do yourself and me a favor and ask the Librarian to order the seventh and last book Vanilla Ride.

Walking Through Walls Walking Through Walls
Reviewed by Starley Wagner

Have any odd babysitters as a child? In this memoir, author Phillip Smith begins his account of growing up in 1960’s Miami by describing how at age six, his decidedly eccentric and exotic (and therefore to us fascinating) parents would leave him at bars while they were away on weekends.

In these settings Smith was not only known and cared for, he was content and confident in his ability to conduct himself as a gentleman. “What better baby sitter than a bartender and an open tab?” he asks the reader.

The quite incredible story of his upbringing and two loving parents is delivered with humor and candor. Mother was a beautiful, fashionable society queen. Father was an interior decorator to the elite, but also a powerful psychic healer who regularly communicated with the dead and – every teenager’s worst nightmare – could read minds!

Smith’s life is so filled with wacky characters and events the word screenplay just naturally comes to mind.

While many in the 1960s sought out spirituality and alternative lifestyles, Smith wanted desperately to have “normal” parents and a conventional existence leading to teenage experimentation that testifies to the resilience of the human body and mind.

For example, he voluntarily allowed a psychiatrist to strap him to a chair and administer electric shocks in an attempt to cure him of his sexual attraction to men.

You’ll laugh your way through this interesting and frequently hard to believe tale as it reveals just how diverse our life experiences can be. Despite Smith’s unusual youth, or perhaps because of it, he grew up to be, among other things, a managing editor of GQ Magazine, a normal and successful life by almost anyone’s measure. Rumble Tumble

Borrow these books, or any of thousands of other titles, from the Lavender Library, 1414 N St or visit them online at


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