Two-fisted prose, ghosts and planet smashers

Northern California writers, as always, are keeping the candles burning and the literature churning, and this summer is no exception. Several local literary practitioners have new books available to feed the late summer reading bill, including former Sacramento poet laureate Bob Stanley.

Stanley, who served in the laureate role from 2009 until last year, has just published Miracle Shine, his first book-length publication (CW Books/WordTech Communications, $18).

Miracle Shine is sure to delight even casual readers of poetry, with poems that ponder the origin of local names (“Roseville, CA”), delight in food on wheels (“The Taco Truck”), and both badmouth and venerate the banjo (“Instrument of Lies” and “The Banjo Justifications”). Stanley's got a gentle but direct sense of humor, perhaps best illustrated by a truly Sacramento-esque poem, “Enough Beer,” that describes all the work that goes into a good beer before concluding, “Lord, it needs me.”

There's also an elegy for the late Sacramento poet and teacher Quinton Duval (“In an Ordinary Winter”), a two-fisted prose poem about teaching that's oh-so-true (“Ernest Hemingway Teaches Freshman Composition”) and a heartbreaking poem about a homeless veteran (“Intersection”). Miracle Shine demonstrates why Stanley was a good choice as Sacramento's official poet.

Another Sacramento poet exercises her prose muscles this summer. Zoe Keithley, author of 2009's Crow Song (Roan Press, $12) has gathered three award-winning short stories into 3/Chicago (11:59 Press, 99 cents), available only as a Kindle e-book. 3/Chicago's triptych of stories is set in the windy city, Keithley's hometown, but the tales are certainly universal. In the gentle, funny “The Second Marriage of Albert Li Wu,” a widowed Chinese immigrant struggles with loneliness, a “housekeeper” who's not all she seems to be and the ghost of his departed wife. In “The Only Thanks I Wanted,” a would-be good Samaritan gets more than he bargained for, and in “Annie Doesn't Mean Any Harm,” the residents of a nursing home teach a bullying aide that what goes around, comes around. In the ever-expanding category of Kindle one-shots, 3/Chicago is up to snuff.

And for a satisfying poolside read, NorCal thriller/science fiction author Jeff Carlson has offed our area once again with his latest novel, Interrupt (47North, $14.95). Here, Carlson takes two separate strands of serious science—the cycles of solar storms and what we're learning from biological anthropology about our Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal forebears—to once again destroy the world, with special attention to the Sacred City. When violent solar storms first debilitate the world's superpowers with electromagnetic pulse bursts, sending us back to the Iron Age, then turn us into warring factions of cave people and Neanderthals (hello, Stone Age!), the only hope of restoring order lies with a handful of military and scientific experts holed up in an underground bunker at Beale Air Force Base.

Once again, Carlson has trashed the planet in a fashion that's worth staying up all night to read—and isn't that what summer's all about?