The One: The Life and Music of James Brown
by RJ Smith
(Gotham Books, 464 pages, $27.50)
The upbeat was James Brown’s heartbeat, his tie to the earth and to the past. L.A. author (and contributor to this magazine) RJ Smith is steeped in the singer’s story—the violence of slavery, of the culture, of Brown’s father and the mother who left him. Brown’s raw shamanic power, his brute and wayward will, leap off every page to grab the reader. Smith never loses the beat.
by Ashley Ream
(William Morrow, 320 pages, $15)
Clementine is lost. On the brink of suicide (despite a successful career as a painter), she goes searching for the father who left when she was in third grade, combing Encino, Studio City, Sunset Boulevard, Cedars-Sinai. Clementine’s rush hour landscape picks up speed as she seeks salvation. Ream’s L.A. is corner-for-corner familiar, from the changing light to the wild-and-crazy neighbors.
The Next Right Thing
by Dan Barden
(The Dial Press, 304 pages, $26)
In Laguna Beach unhappiness is “not an option.” Randy Chal-mers, a former cop who’s turned home builder, suffers a setback when his AA sponsor and good friend Terry, 15 years sober, OD’s in a Santa Ana motel room. Randy upends his own precarious life to find out why. In the face of rage, paranoia, and pornography, all kinds of love rise from the ashes of recovery in the hopeful prose.