A two-book story arc in one volume — Cold Morning Shadow is a new novel by David A. Woodbury and a novel (new, innovative, original, possibly unique) celebration of language, friendship, love, and hope, available in quality paperback, 719 pages, $16 and in a Kindle edition, $4, at Amazon.com. The story is an upbeat family saga that begins as four teens in rural South Dakota are laying the cornerstones for lasting friendships in the late 1960s. Cyleine and her brother Lionel are an off-reservation Oglala Lakota sister-and-brother pair who befriend Wilton and his sister “Rockie,” post-European newcomers just moved from urban Virginia. One of the girls, whose heedlessly unfiltered utterances melt hearts and barriers, is imperturbable and obliviously alluring. The other, secretly daring and agonizingly sentimental, is a connoisseur of numbers and words. One of the boys is outwardly fierce but privately gentle, the other quietly observant and disastrously cautious. One of the four, a visionary, transforms the family business. One, who is deaf but not as helpless as it sounds at first, becomes penpals with President Nixon. One organizes stray thoughts, the family’s horses, and the people who matter most. And one, who wants to propose marriage but can’t find the words, is branded a deserter in Vietnam. The story dares ask, with optimism: What if everything that seems doomed turns out for the better instead? What if forbearance and human kindness prevail? What if disaster is not merely averted but vanquished? What’s wrong, after all, with a happy ending that is then the happy beginning of what is yet to come?
Fire, Wind & Yesterday by David A. Woodbury, quality paperback, 577 pages, $15 at Amazon, Kindle edition $4 — A 9th-century Russian peasant, fancying himself a physician, crosses the steppe together with a fugitive woman and two Greek holy men in pursuit of an elusive rendezvous. While the physician awakens to the Greeks’ advanced culture, the holy men discover the rudiments of what is now the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Clover Street News, a novel of youth, conceived and created by David A. Woodbury, quality paperback, 104 pages, $6 at Amazon, Kindle edition $1 — A 13-year-old girl earns a night in jail, the unexpected consequence of good intentions. She couldn’t have done it though, without help from a little brother, a computer, and a grouchy neighbor. And she wouldn’t have a lot to look forward to afterward without the support of an elderly neighbor with famous connections.
Tales to Warm Your Mind by David A. Woodbury, quality paperback, 175 pages, $9 at Amazon, Kindle edition $2 — Ten whimsically morbid short stories, which should be dedicated to those who have seen the extraordinary and have remained silent about it. In this collection: A train leaves the station and is never seen again, a boy falls in love with a face from 60 years before, an old woman trudges into her past, a child crawls into a place that is not suspected to exist and the entrance has disappeared behind him, and six more. The individual stories are offered for on-line reading as well at this page.
Babie Nayms by David A. Woodbury, quality paperback, 245 pages, $8.50 at Amazon, Kindle edition $3 — Thousands of suggested first names for whitish babies who don’t have strong ethnic or pseudo-ethnic roots — an entirely new, and irreverent, look at the phenomenon of naming babies with sections on contrived names, palindromes, surnames as given names, and, for the first time, no attempt to separate girls’ names from boys’ names.
Recommended reading: The Narrative of Henry Tufts by Henry Tufts, Jr., edited by Daniel Allie. Written by David Woodbury‘s fifth-great-grandfather (on the Woodbury side) and first published in 1807, this book is back in print after more than 200 years. Being the firsthand account of what Thomas Wentworth Higginson called “an uncommonly misspent life,” the Narrative is the, by turns, hilarious, distressing, moral, immoral, informative, misleading, and all-around unforgettable autobiography of Henry Tufts, thief, preacher, fortune-teller, charlatan, family man, ladies’ man, Indian doctor, prisoner, jailbreaker, soldier, deserter, and ethnological observer. Rich in outrageous anecdotes and fascinating historical detail, this book is sure to enthrall readers to this day. Edmund Pearson wrote that this is “probably the first extensive American criminal biography,” and T. W. Higginson described Henry Tufts as “a man whose virtues might doubtless have been very useful to us, had he possessed any, but whose great historical value lies, strange as it may seem, in his vices.” As his direct descendent, David Woodbury doesn’t feel half bad about his own occasional lapses into dissipation and wantonness. =The Narrative of Henry Tufts is available for Kindle and in quality paperback at Amazon.com.=
Let me also recommend Black Friday: An American Jihad. I was privileged to serve as editor for this novel. While it augurs an effect on the United States more eerie than a prolonged nightmare, Black Friday sets forth in convincing detail what a small enclave of Islamic extremists could do to bring about the collapse of the American ideal. Indeed, in this breakout novel by Greg J. Gardner, a cadre of terrorists brings about a transformation in this country that no one now anticipates. And yet, Gardner’s narrative of unfolding horrors is neither a condemnation of Islam nor anthem to America’s virtues. It is a play-by-play through several harrowing weeks in the tribulation of ordinary people who comprise the bedrock of America during the course of a continuing nationwide atrocity. Gripping, engrossing, and graphic without being grotesque, I can argue that Black Friday is precisely what would happen, from the White House to the newsrooms across the continent to the back roads around every town, when a few dozen well-trained, well-coordinated, and determined fanatics do what, in their perverse minds, God demands of them.
Recommended for her descendants, of whom I am one, but also for anyone interested in a historical snapshot of the 1880s: Kate Gardner’s 1884 Diary by Kate J. Gardner — In 1884, the year she turned 20, Kate Gardner, great-grandmother of David Woodbury, committed herself to keep a diary. She did so faithfully, and it happens to be the year she met her husband-to-be, Dan Miller. It is still in the family and is shared here publicly because it has much to recommend it historically as well as for her descendants. =Read it here.= [photo: Kate in 1926 with her son, Richard Ivan Miller and his year-old daughter, Dorothy Mae Miller, whose son is the author, David A. Woodbury]
Recommended: The Practice of the Presence of God by and about Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection — Conversations and letters from the 1660s to the 1690s conveying Brother Lawrence’s method, his “practice” of living continuously in the presence of God. This is transcribed from a 1941 booklet of 48 pages printed at that time by Forward Movement Publications. Evidently the booklet is no longer available. Other on-line transcriptions are available but no other retains the gentle language of this original translation from the French. =Read it here.=