Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum; Viking Books for Young Readers, $16.99 Ages 12 and up. 106 pages.
Award-winning writer Ann Bausum brings a historian’s quest for accuracy, a writer’s gift for narrative, a poet’s gift for color and beat, and a kind of righteous fury to this fascinating book about the steamy night in June 1969 when New York City police decided to raid the Stonewall Inn, an overpriced, Mafia-run bar in Greenwich Village that, until that night, was one of the few safe havens for gays in the city. The details of the raid and subsequent riot read almost like a thriller, as Bausum sorts out the chaos of what happened: Inspector Seymour Pine and his small force of officers were forced to retreat into the bar as the angry crowd outside threw coins and bricks and used a parking meter to batter down the only door. (Pine, who later in life regretted his role in the raid, was firm in not allowing his officers to fire their weapons and there were no serious injuries.) The raid served as a tipping point for what would become the gay rights movement, and this book’s publication comes in the 45th anniversary year of the first LGBT Pride March held to mark the one-year anniversary of Stonewall.
Along with a vivid play-by-play of what happened that night, Bausum offers an illuminating picture of the horrifying discrimination of that not-so-long ago era, when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness, when gay people were fired from their jobs or shunned by their families. Bausum goes on to explore later developments including the AIDS epidemic and the refusal of the Reagan or George H.W. Bush administrations to respond to the health crisis. – Jean Westmoore
Finders Keepers by Stephen King; Scribner (448 pages, $30)
This taut thriller, the second book in a trilogy featuring characters introduced in “Mr. Mercedes,” is dedicated to John D. MacDonald, the author of crime thrillers and one of King’s biggest influences. “Finders Keepers” opens with a chapter MacDonald could have written. An elderly man is woken from his sleep by three masked home invaders, who demand he turn over the large stash of cash he keeps locked away in a safe, along with a stack of notebooks containing the last two novels, never published, in the series of books that made him rich.
Two of the intruders are happy with the money. But the third, Morris, is furious at the old man for never completing the series that had so deeply affected his life. Morris saw himself in the writer’s best-known character, and he feels betrayed at the way the saga stopped: The fictional protagonist, a free spirit who lived by his own rules, wound up settling down in the suburbs and becoming an ad salesman. To Morris, a young man who has rejected society because he knows he’s too insane and insecure to ever fit in, that finale was the ultimate betrayal. That first chapter, which ends with a horrific bang, could easily stand alone as a short story (thematically, it is reminiscent of “Misery,” in which the loony Annie Wilkes kidnapped her favorite author after he was injured in an accident and forced him to rewrite a novel in which he killed off her favorite character). But “Misery” took place largely inside one house and featured a small cast of characters. “Finders Keepers” is much more complex, jumping back and forth in time to follow Morris, who is sent away to prison for a crime, and Pete Saubers, a boy who finds the stolen notebooks without realizing their worth.
– Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald