A Perfect Shot
By: Robert Yocum
Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler
Nicholas “Duke” Ducheski’s life is not what he had imagined it would be. He was the hometown hero when he made the perfect shot leading his team to victory in the state high school basketball tournament. He was supposed to break away, go to college and have a life better than his father. But that was over twenty years ago. Now in his early forties, Duke’s working a dead end job at the same place his father labored day after day.
The majority of A Perfect Shot is set in the 1990’s when the steel mills were thriving in the Upper Ohio River Valley. Duke’s wife, Nina despises him, but will not give him a divorce. Their son, Timmy, was deprived of oxygen during birth and has lived his entire life in a convalescent home. Duke has no siblings and both parents are deceased. Aside from his childhood friends, Theodore “Moonie” Collier and Angelo Angelli who have stuck by in through thick and thin, he has no real life.
Yet “The Duke” still has a reputation in his small town. People remember his heroic moves on the basketball court and consider him a legend. Moonie and Angel convince him to ride on that success and follow his dream of opening a restaurant. So he collects whatever money he’s been able to save and opens Duke’s Place. That’s when troubles really begin.
Illegal gambling activities are run within the local establishments. Duke wants nothing to do with them. He knows enough about their operations since the chief enforcer of one of the organizations is his brother-in-law Tony DeMarco. But families have a powerful way of convincing others. Moonie has a gambling problem which gives Tony an advantage over his sister’s husband. Complicating the situation is Cara Wilbright, a divorcee and mother of two young children, with whom Duke is having an affair. She gives Tony more leverage, as threats to Cara and her children would be taken very seriously.
Several other characters portray significant roles in the story, which make for a well-rounded mystery/suspense novel. Page after page and chapter after chapter, just when it seems things can’t get any worse for Nicholas Ducheski, they do. Corruption, friendship, sacrifice, and true grit are the backbone for the novel. What price is the hero willing to pay for doing what is right and getting justice?
Robert Yocum does an excellent job of pulling the story together. He is currently president of Yocum Communications, a public relations and marketing firm in Westerville, Ohio, but worked as a crime and investigative reporter with the Columbus Dispatch from 1980-1991. This could make one wonder how much of the story is fiction and how much, if any, is based on fact.
A Perfect Shot can be found with the fiction books in the library; FIC YOC.
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
By: Sam Quinones
Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler
As a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Sam Quinones was working on a story about a small town in Mexico whose residents sold heroin in the United States. That was in 2009. The story consumed him and he continued to search deeper. Over a five-year period, he did hundreds of interviews with drug traffickers, law enforcement officials, dealers, addicts, parents, doctors, judges, DEA agents, nurses, and anyone with knowledge of the epidemic sweeping the American landscape. What he discovered became the basis for this book.
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic shows how a perfect storm of opportunity for Mexican entrepreneurs, misinformation in the medical community and prosperity in American households led to the problem the nation is facing today. The epidemic was fueled by dishonesty and greed.
In the Mexican village of Xalisco, Nayarit, young men saw drug dealing in the United States as a route to real economic progress. One of the men Quinones interviewed knew what he was doing was morally wrong. But he was attuned to the world’s unfairness. ‘Those who worked hard and honestly got left behind. Only those with power and money could insist on decent treatment.’ So he and the others did what they needed to do to survive.
Meanwhile Purdue Pharma was in the midst of a campaign to market OxyContin; its new and expensive miracle painkiller. OxyContin contains large doses of oxycodone, wrapped in a time release formula and has legitimate medical uses. It relieved the pain of many whose lives would have otherwise been pure torture. It was approved in 1995, about the same time medical professionals were accepting pain as the fifth vital sign. Many insurance companies were reimbursing for pills, but not for therapy that was strictly not medical. The new drug was marketed as non-addictive. Prescribing medication seemed like the obvious answer to chronic pain.
In Portsmouth, Ohio, David Proctor realized there was money to be made, lots of it, prescribing medication. The small town became the pill mill capital of America. OxyContin is molecularly similar to heroin. This opened the door for the Xalisco boys to expand their business of black tar heroin.
The perceived view of a typical drug addict was beginning to change as these new junkies were from white middle and upper middle class homes. They were from the rural heartland, and that is when elected officials took notice. The pendulum started to swing the other way and laws were changed. But in doing so there was not much consideration for those who might actually need the drugs. Folks who needed help with chronic pain reported trouble getting a prescription.
Quinones opened my eyes to an epidemic which is misunderstood, judged ignorantly, and until recently largely ignored. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic details how the problem has gotten out of hand with suggestions on dealing with it. As quoted in the book, “There’s an appropriate role for opiates in our healthcare system.”
It can be found in the nonfiction section of the library; 362.29 QUI. I highly recommend it.
By: Marie Benedict
Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler
Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless industrialist who amassed a fortune in the late 1800’s. His dealings in the steel industry along with investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges, and oil derricks made him the richest man in the world. As a boy, he emigrated from Scotland to the United States with his family. Settling in Pittsburg, Andrew had no qualms in doing whatever it took to get what he wanted. He was a shrewd businessman who eventually gave away almost ninety percent of his wealth. What turned this callous entrepreneur into the world's first true philanthropist?
Carnegie’s Maid is fiction, but Marie Benedict weaves a story of how the transformation could have occurred.
Clara Kelley was a young Irish immigrant who had the good fortune of getting an assignment as a lady’s maid to Andrew’s mother, Margaret Carnegie. Clara’s family was losing the farm in Ireland and she was put on a ship to America. The potato famine was over, but poverty was not. Whatever money she could earn would be sent back home. Their future depended on her. She became adept in her services to her mistress but was hiding a secret. Revealing it could jeopardize her job, so she was constantly cautious in the household.
The young Mr. Carnegie took a liking to Miss Kelley. He saw something in her beyond a servant. In their conversations he discovered she was educated, well read, and had a good mind for business. He shared his struggle how, as a poor immigrant, he did diligent research and educated himself on the ways of American business.
This was available to him at a private library accessible only to working boys of Pittsburgh. He maintained that the library had a tremendous impact on his life and his success. Clara challenged him with scenarios different from what he was accustomed.
Although many had come to America with nothing, Andrew had opportunities that Clara’s cousins in Slab Town did not. Theirs was a house made from salvaged wood and scrap metal. Jobs in the steel mills were dangerous and workers came home filled with soot, inside and out. This would have been Clara’s life in America, had fate not stepped in. The relationship between Andrew and Clara developed into more than that of employer and employee.
Benedict mixes fictional characters with historical figures to give the reader a glimpse into life in the late 19th century, for both the rich and the poor.
Andrew Carnegie’s real life generosity funded libraries, concert halls, a private research university, and a multitude of charitable organizations. Carnegie’s Maid envisions a life
that could have been, with cause for a dramatic alteration in a wealthy man’s attitude.
Marie Benedict’s novel can be found in the fiction section of the library; FIC BEN.