By Charles Leerhsen
Simon & Schuster, $26
Part sports tale, part rescue mission, Crazy Good is Leerhsen’s attempt to revive the legend of Dan Patch, the 20th century’s first superstar athlete—who just happened to be a horse. With his no-nonsense prose, Leerhsen competently illuminates Dan’s life and racing career, the better part of which he spent in Savage. Yet the book is at its best when Leerhsen takes us out of the stable and into the streets, using Dan’s celebrity to explain the cultural forces at play at the turn of the last century. If you’ve ever wondered why one of the main thoroughfares at the state fairgrounds is named Dan Patch Avenue, this is the book for you. —ANDREW PUTZ
The Man in the Blizzard
By Bart Schneider
Three Rivers Press, $15
Using the Republican National Convention in St. Paul as his backdrop, author Bart Schneider spins the tale of Augie Boyer, a private investigator who comes to realize that the violin collector central to his latest investigation isn’t just dealing in vintage instruments: He’s a neo-Nazi with a plan to kill people—a plan whose targets, Boyer realizes, might very well include his own family members. Schneider, best known as the creator of the erstwhile Hungry Mind Review, peppers his novel with references to lots of contemporary hot-button issues, but the tone of the book is classic film noir. —ALLISON WICKLER
Wolves and Wishes
Listening to Martin Dosh’s music is like watching a close-up of the body’s inner workings—blood coursing through vessels, organs pulsing, everything performing a task but all toward the same end. There’s also something playful in the tunes, as though they’re being pounded out by Muppets. On his much-gushed-about fourth release, Dosh cuts loose with an inventive set of electronic keyboards, violins, clarinets, bells, horns, and distorted vocalizations. Unexpected transitions interrupt eclectic tempos, while Dosh’s specialty—percussion—provides an arrhythmic but unfailing heartbeat.
Aby Wolf has an American Idol–worthy voice that would likely win her a callback on the show, probably even from hard-to-please judge Simon Cowell. It’s rich, thick, soulful. You can even imagine her singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. It’s that stirring a sound. The songs on Wolf’s debut album rightfully showcase her pipes. She’s engaging enough musically, as on the rousing R&B–driven number “What U Waitin 4,” to almost make you overlook her writing chops. Her lyrics are gracious, tender, and often gazing well into the future, where she’ll likely be sitting pretty atop the charts.
UP AND AWAY
Planning one last North Shore trip this summer? These books can help. • Lake Superior’s Historic North Shore, by Deborah Morse-Kahn (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $16): From Duluth to Portage, a comprehensive look at local landmarks, scenic spots, eats, and shopping. • Camping the North Shore, by Andrew Slade (There and Back Books, $15): A guide to 23 area campsites, so experts and novices alike can commune with nature. • Shining Big Sea Water, by Norman K. Risjord (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17): Lake Superior’s history in detail.