So far, John C. Boland goes his scheming way unmolested. But around the corner of a street or building something waits - to jump out at him. That something, for the author of half a dozen thrillers by now, is the blare of reader favor.
It used to be a long wait between good suspense novels with a Maryland setting; now, any year brings several. So a novelist has to offer more, and in his latest, "The Margin" (St. Martin's Press. 232 pages. $21.95), Mr. Boland does that: Besides rugged Bay sailing, sleek Shore weekending, corporate headquarters in Timonium, an apartment overlooking the Harbor and an inn near Libertytown, he tours investment banking.
The lucidity of his short-selling, Treasury bills and public floats reflects Mr. Boland's earlier years on the staff of The Sun and then Barron's. In his novels, the real setting tends to be high finance, where scruples sometimes occur but worklife mainly pits the shrewd against the shrewder.
Harry Wollenschaft, it seems, is a high roller building condos on Smith Island. The islanders are angry, his investors are shady - somebody keeps trying to bump him off. Enter Richard Welles, one of three ongoing Boland death-defiers (Donald McCarry, Ben McCarthy). Welles packs no gun; he just reads other people, speaks in great sentences and is there at the right place, the critical moment.
Above all, in any such yarn, there must be menace. Welles has a previously damaged wife and Wollenschaft a 10-year-old daughter, also in unrelenting danger. By strain's end, "The Margin" has required corporate crises, many Baltimoreans, overmuch violence - but few reader hours. Were there author shares, publicly traded, John Boland would be well worth a fling.
First Light Frost
In October, golden-crowned kinglets come, the fringed gentians along Chimney Branch are shutting down for the year, the long-tailed salamanders disappear. Jack Wennerstrom of Randallstown, ever on the lookout, thinks back to the 1835 cent he found in April - there in Soldiers Delight, the Natural Environment Area at Ward's Chapel and Deer Park roads in Baltimore County.
Many who relish nature write down their sightings; so sharp is Mr. Wennerstrom's eye, so burnished his style, that his "Soldiers Delight Journal: Exploring a Globally Rare Ecosystem" (University of Pittsburgh Press. 248 pages. $16.95/paper) may have the perverse effect of attracting too much notice. People go for a walk, take Rover along, ignore law and unleash him ...
Henry David Thoreau would have admired this wild serpentine ** grassland, and this book.
He Who Contemplates
Stephen Vicchio is a 40-something, a Maryland Professor of the Year, a philosophy teacher at the College of Notre Dame, an adept at the 650-word personal essay. Collectible in print, such essays.
The 63 topics in "The I of the Beholder" (Cathedral Foundation Press. 232 pages. $16.95/paper), his latest collection, range from the groupness of Jewish suffering to the friend's cake, cooling outdoors, that a bird icinged; from relations with his stepson to the first day of autumn. Mr. Vicchio is also a reader; his prefatory quotations often zing. And his lament for The Evening Sun is literature.
Sundays at the Stadium
For many a Baltimorean, the century peaked between 1947 and 1983 - the Colt years. Football fans aren't notorious for reading, but a new book can both relive great touchdowns and narrate scenes hushed up at the time. Vince Bagli (old-faithful broadcaster) and Norman Macht (honored sports author) having pulled recollections out of two dozen of the old heroes, for "Sundays at 2.00 With the Baltimore Colts" (Tidewater Press. 252 pages; scores, rosters, index. $17.95/paper), Sundays without the Colts will now be better.
$ No, that much worse.
James H. Bready wrote for The Evening Sun for many years as a reporter and book editor. He writes a monthly column on Maryland books.