Sunday Book Reviews – 5/13/18

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin R.C. Gutzman, J.D., Ph.D. (2007, Regnery)

I appreciate when a book provides me with information that bolsters my carefully researched, considered and argument-honed opinions.  I appreciate more any book that challenges my existing opinions using reason and fact.  This book falls into the second category.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: the P.I.G. books are painfully designed.  Their layout is constructed to call to mind the popular “Dummies” and “Idiot’s Guide” series of books, with the expectation of exposing unsuspecting readers to valuable information rarely provided in contemporary schools.  And, while all of them attempt to cover weighty subjects in an approachable format, the books provide far greater detail than the majority of casual readers would expect.

The P.I.G. books seem like they were written with first or second-year collegiate students as their target audience.  This addition to the set is focused exclusively on the Constitution, its development, and the interpretations and permutations to which it has been subjected by the judiciary.

If you have a copy of the Federalist Papers on hand but no Anti-Federalist Papers, this book will inspire you to go purchase and read that related book… and it will leave you annoyed that publishers have not kept available for easy reference the ratification debates from the various states.

The Constitution is a beautiful, simple document.  The work that went into it is anything but, and the supporting history helps to explain why brilliant legal scholars who cling firmly to originalist principles still manage to disagree with each other.  The book will not make you a Constitutional scholar, but it provides illuminating starting guideposts for those who wish to become one.


Gun In Cheek, Son of Gun In Cheek, and Six-Gun In Cheek by Bill Pronzini (2017, Dover)

Thankfully, these books are back in print.  They’ve been missed.

These books are designed for anyone who has ever smiled at a particularly poor sentence construction or word choice in a professionally written story.  They are billed as affectionate guides to the worst in mystery and western fiction, but Pronzini describes the works within as “alternative classics”, the literary equivalent of movies where the zipper can be seen in the monster suit and pie plates double as U.F.O.s.

Pronzini, a Grand Master of mystery fiction and a veteran western writer, has an encyclopedic knowledge of those genres, reading hundreds of stories every year and retaining the details of the overwhelming majority of them.  He puts that knowledge to good use here, selecting gems of questionable writing from across decades and presenting them to the reader alongside histories of the writers, publishers and editors who brought the stories to the public.

Pronzini gently mocks the writing, but not, usually, the writers.  This is especially notable in the original Gun in Cheek because many of the examples of terrible writing come from the best writers in the field.

Because of their relative prominence as genres, Gun in Cheek and Son of Gun in Cheek have both seen multiple printings since their first appearances in the 1980s, while Six-Gun in Cheek, the Western guide, had only one printing, in 1997, and has been difficult to find (my prized copy was a gift from Bill Pronzini, in appreciation for helping him locate some copies of his early mysteries.)  I’ll give you a few excerpts… if these leave you laughing or intrigued, I urge you to purchase these titles.

Every person on that street was staring at the suddenly changed Rake Martin and his way-too-big smile, while the sadistic sound of the wind groaned over his sarcasm.

Like a flashing reflection, the Deuce of Diamonds ramrod made his strike like a hawk in full flight.

Darkness like the inside of a black bull at the bottom of a well at midnight swooped down.

High in the noonday sky, a lonely coyote circled.


About the opinions in this article…

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.