The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis; Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux ($17.99)
This gorgeous book from the 2012 winner of the Hans Christian Andersen award for Illustration is a triumph of storytelling as it celebrates the life story of the aviation pioneer and author of 1943 classic “The Little Prince.” As with all of Peter Sis’ work, this is both art object and story, combining a thoughtful exploration of a man’s life with an intriguing mix of illustrations, some with an almost family album layout of drawings framed by text in tiny type to fill in the details of Saint-Exupery’s life. Illustrations range from the stylized (a map of his air mail stops presented in the shape of a plane silhouetted against the night sky) to a vast, almost comic expanse of sand scattered with airplane parts for the 1935 crash that left pilot and mechanic wandering in the Libyan Desert for days; the German invasion of France as a blotted watercolor of red over a line of tanks; to the whimsical (Antoine’s friend’s advice to fly from France to Spain following “the face of the landscape” is followed by a double page of a biplane in the air over a vast stony landscape of faces carved into stone. Exupery was born in 1900 and his life story is the story of flight and the story of war-ravaged Europe. Sis ponders, through text and picture, the immensity of the universe and man’s place in it in this lovely treatment of Saint-Exupery, who disappeared on a flight over France in 1944.
– Jean Westmoore
South, America by Rod Davis; New South Books, 260 pages ($24.95)
Rod Davis’ hero in “South, America: A Jack Prine Novel” is a former Dallas television weekend anchor freelancing as a writer and private investigator in New Orleans. By the way, don’t miss the comma in the title. That pause is important.
In his personal life, Jack Prine is largely aimless but looking for a new start. He has come to the right place.
“Here, you watched for a while and then you found the best thing to do,” Prine, the narrator, says of the Big Easy. “It didn’t have to involve rules of law.”
The plot is straightforward:
Prine discovers a body, meets the victim’s sister, and together, while romance flourishes, they try to find her brother’s killer and preserve a multimillion-dollar inheritance.
Throw in some voodoo, the mob, race relations in the pre-Katrina South (the book is set in 2000), as well as some classic and modern art, and you have a recipe for a good page-turner.
Davis sets a lively pace.
“I put on a freshly laundered white shirt and some dark trousers and went to meet a beautiful woman with a dead brother and a troubled mind,” Prine says of Elle, the sister.
He’s white, she’s black, and people notice as they travel from New Orleans to Alabama and then the Mississippi Delta, once called the most Southern place on earth.
There, on top of an observation tower near the big river, Prine meets the most interesting character in the book: Big Red, a mob enforcer, who later becomes an ally.
“Damn. Never seen the Old Man from a perch like this before,” says Big Red, who then proceeds to use his fists to punctuate his conversation with Prine.
In creating Prine, Davis appears to draw from his own background. Davis was an Army lieutenant, like Prine, and he worked as a journalist in the Dallas area, including as editor of “American Way” magazine and a senior writer for “D” magazine. He also has been a travel editor and a food editor and is currently director of the Veterans Support Office for the Texas A&M University System.
Davis’ first book was a nonfiction look at voodoo, published in the late 1990s. His first novel, “Corina’s Way,” received good reviews after it was published in 2003.
From the book’s ending, it’s clear that Davis plans more adventures for at least some of his characters.