Kentuckian's new wartime novel garners praise

ctruman@herald-leader.comJuly 23, 2012 

UnCommonwealth, a weekly feature about the things that make our state unique, intriguing and fun, returns today after a 10-year absence. It will usually appear on Mondays in the City & Region section.

Kentuckian David R. Gillham, Transylvania University Class of 1979, has written City of Women (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $25.95), which has become one of the summer's most highly praised books — before it has even been officially released.

The novel, about a soldier's woman trying to navigate the treacherous political waves of Nazi Germany while pining for her Jewish former lover, is already a favorite at and other sites, where it is routinely garnering ratings of 4-plus stars out of five.

Jenny Colvin at the blog Reading Envy writes: "There is somewhat awkward sex in this book, including a lot going on in movie theaters, but it all makes sense when one scene at the beginning comes back around in an unexpected way."

You know you want to see how that works out. Plus, you can't read Gone Girl forever.

The book will be released on Aug. 7.

Gillham lives in Massachusetts.

Feudin' fever

Hatfields and McCoys fever continues.

On Thursday, the History channel's surprise hit miniseries about the legendary 19th-century feud between families in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia nabbed a near-leading 16 nominations.

Also, Globe Pequot publishers says that sales of Lisa Alther's new book, Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys — The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance, are hearty indeed.

"The book certainly surpassed our expectations both editorial and financially," said James Javo of Globe Pequot. "And, of course, the mini series helped, as we knew it would when we learned that it was in the works.

"The feud forms an integral part of American history — but at the same time has so many entangled threads, which prompted us to commission the family trees for inside the jacket — that we knew that a television show, even six hours long, couldn't capture the full complexity of the saga," Javo said.

Alther's book's family trees were most helpful in reading and keeping up with characters, and the book has a nice dry wit.

So far, Alther's book has sold 65,000 copies, and Javo said it's still "moving nicely."

The miniseries, which was broadcast May 28 to 30 on History, pulled in 13.9 million, 13.1 million and 14.3 million viewers on successive nights, setting off a nationwide Hatfield-McCoy frenzy.

The DVD of the series will go on sale July 31.

There's even a Hatfield-McCoy cocktail. Bloody Kentucky Spicy Cocktail Drink Mix is being marketed in Kentucky Restaurant Journal as "Something Even the Hatfields & McCoys Could Agree On." Who knew the feud was about tomato-based happy-hour potions?

The drink mix — which looks like the True Blood cocktail on HBO's vampire series — is advertised as being "great with vodka, even better with bourbon."

More information is available at

Gray, Paul on 'Newsroom'

Hey, Kentucky: Newsroom showrunner Aaron Sorkin is thinking of you: On the third episode of the HBO series, broadcast July 8, the state got two shout-outs.

One was to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. The series is set in 2010, when Paul was elected, and it includes a chronicle of the rise of the Tea Party movement, of which Paul is an outspoken member, and an abrasive fictional TV news anchor's drive to bring it down — or explain its big-money origins fully to viewers, depending which way your political pendulum swings.

The series also mentions Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, although not by name. An aide tells the anchor on the election-night broadcast that he might want to mention that Lexington has elected its first openly gay mayor.

This happens at minute 43 out of 65, if you want to skip the rest. Critics are split on whether you might want to do just that. It's a bit draggy, with earnest civics-lesson monologues, and the romantic relationships are flat. But Jane Fonda is dynamite. Think Ned Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Network.

Send column ideas to Cheryl Truman: or (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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