Dwight Allen

With a protagonist named Peter Sackrider, it's got to be good, right? Well, not necessarily.

The Green Suit is what experimental fiction is all about. Author Dwight Allen, bored with the conventions of mainstream narrative fiction, embarks upon a project to complete a work of 274 pages with absolutely no plot and no growth of the central character. With consummate skill, Allen cuts off each-well, what are they? They're not chapters exactly, and they're not short stories; ah, here we go, the press release calls them "pieces"-he cuts off each piece just as some interesting conflict with an engaging character threatens to foil his design. There is even some suspense toward the end when it seems that Allen just might pull it off.

Sackrider's neighborhood in Louisville is reminiscent of the Row at Burden's Landing in All the King's Men, by that other Kentucky-born author, Robert Penn Warren. And the Sackrider family bears a resemblance to Faulkner's Compsons - replete with an African-American maid who narrates one of the pieces, as does Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury - but the Sackriders are a little more modern and a lot less edgy.

All of Allen's characters are compelling, and deftly drawn, he just never takes them anywhere; it's difficult to make any progress with a central character who's mired in pointlessness and self-absorption from beginning to end.-T.R. Wright

John Bengtson
Santa Monica Press

The rest of the title is Discovering Hollywood through the Films of Buster Keaton, and don't be fooled: this book is exactly what is says. It's not a biography of Keaton, a summary or dissertation on his work, or even a history of Hollywood during Keaton. Instead, Bengtson has gone through almost every scene in every short and movie by Keaton and figured out where it was shot. It might not seem like much, but wait...

First off, it's undeniably an amazing bit of Buster Keaton history and fun to find out where he shot his pictures, his favorite locations and styles. Bergtson also peppers the pictures with facts about location past and present, as well as how Keaton staged some of his shots, stunts, and some of his feelings based on other memorabilia.

Second, it's a revealing glimpse into early Hollywood, its style and geography, when it was still a rural enough town to have horse paths and undeveloped hills.

Third, Bergtson's detective work is fascinating in and of itself; tracking down locations based on maps, photographs, digital stills of Keaton's films, friends and family, chance whatever, just to put out this nigh-complete tome on the subject.

It's a three-fold work; the only readers it may disappoint are those who are looking to find out more about Buster and his works (beyond location). But Silent Echoes doesn't really purport be that. Instead, with its blend of film history, Hollywood and Keaton, and research the book is like no other; may there be more like it.-Rob Bricken

Lisa Reardon
Random House

It's speeding down the road, coming closer, sun glinting off the hood, chrome sparkling, engine purring. Finally, the Merc is upon you, its driver smiling behind the wheel. You climb in and fasten your seatbelt, beginning your journey with the Merc's owner, Mary Culpepper. In Lisa Reardon's second novel, Blameless, readers buckle in and crash into Mary's life of chaos and emotion.

Simplicity marks the surface - dinner every Sunday with her mother, playing softball for the local bar team, driving a school bus. After a few miles in the Merc however, passengers see there is much more. Seven years after her ex-husband, Carl, left her for her best friend, Amy - voicing his preference for "spicy Hungarian goulash" (referring to Amy) over "macaroni and cheese" (Mary) - Mary is alone with only the company of her cat, Frank. However, after a season of watching him from the stands, Mary jumps into a steamy affair with the very married number 34 from the Sizemore Septic softball team, an intriguing man named John who, according to Mary, "makes everything alright."

Along this journey, Mary discovers many things about herself. Cruising along in the Merc, readers discover, through Mary, the ability to find solace in one's own company, the comfort of friends, the imperfections of family, and the exuberance of reckless abandon. Riding alongside Mary we feel the bumps in the road she travels, jolt with the sudden potholes and then finally fly across the smooth pavement with rediscovered control and freedom. Reardon envelops readers in Mary's life, through the highs, lows, and numerous bowls of chili with wonderful, simple language and a flowing storyline, taking us on a ride that ends all too soon.-Christina Dwiggins