In this new feature, we offer a summary of recent books about Alabama, people with Alabama ties, and/or written by Alabama authors. Let us know about any books you’ve read recently that meet those criteria by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Better Than Them: The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist, by S. McEachin Otts; NewSouth Books, Fall 2014; 176 pages, $23.95
In 1965, S.M. “Mac” Otts’ grandmother gave him an admonition that he would never forget. Those words – “You are better than them. Don’t forget it” – shaped the life of the 18-year-old Otts. In this memoir, he reflects on how he outgrew his racist upbringing, and how returning to his Black Belt hometown helped him understand a racially divided world. The book is a statement about how life is lived, celebrated and understood.
Alabama Scoundrels: Outlaws, Pirates, Bandits and Bushwhackers, by Kelly Kazek and Wil Elrick; The History Press, June 2014; 128 pages; $19.99
This book brings to life more than two dozen of the most infamous lawbreakers to set foot on Alabama soil. Most of the characters date to the 19th century, when Alabama was still a young, sparse state and chasing criminals could be a treacherous affair. Some of the outlaws managed to elude justice, forever disappearing into history, but others faced violent ends, often at the end of a noose or a gun barrel.
F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work: The Making of The Great Gatsby, by Horst H. Kruse; University of Alabama Press, Fall 2014; 168 pages, $39.95
The Great Gatsby, a tale of America during the Jazz Age, is one of America’s best-known works and has been studied in great detail, but scholars and readers have continued to speculate about Fitzgerald’s sources of inspiration. The essays in this new work examine fresh facts that illuminate the experiences and source materials upon which Fitzgerald, who lived briefly in Montgomery with his wife, Montgomery native Zelda Sayre, based his masterpiece.
Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, by Rick Bragg; HarperCollins, October 2014, 512 pages, $27.99
Noted Southern storyteller (and Alabama native) Bragg tracks down “the Killer,” who galvanized the world with hit records like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.” The book, based on Bragg’s interviews with Lewis over a two-year period, recounts Lewis’ modest upbringing, the wild nights on the road and the redemption of his sunset years. The book is filled with Lewis’ own words and framed by Bragg’s rich narrative.