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A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard

Titan Books, 443 pages, 2019

New Haven resident and Middletown native Alice Blanchard’s previous books have earned more than their fair share of awards and praise. Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times wrote, “Blanchard writes so well that even her quiet descriptions of desolate towns and lonely people are good enough to rattle the rafters.” There are definitely more than a few rafters rattled in Blanchard’s latest offering, her first in nearly a decade. It follows Kate Wolfe, an accomplished child psychologist, who must confront the truth about her sister’s murder with the help of a mysterious, troubled child and a retired detective. Blanchard’s rapid-fire prose makes for easy reading, but her ambition is to strike deeper with her words than your average page-turner. As she writes on her website, she aims “to write fiction that marries the sweeping scope of the thriller with the more personal epiphanies of the short story.” — Erik Ofgang

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Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures by Adina Hoffman

Yale University Press, 264 pages, 2019

Ben Hecht wore many hats. As a screenwriter, he won the first Academy Award for Best Story in 1929 for the silent crime film Underworld before earning the same award in 1936 for The Scoundrel. Hecht also wrote the screenplay for the 1932 classic Scarface, produced by Howard Hughes. Hoffman, an award-winning essayist and biographer who splits her time between New Haven and Jerusalem, writes that “scriptwriting was just one of Hecht’s occupations — to say nothing of his preoccupations.” Hecht applied his unique genius to journalism, literature, theater, film and politics. The Holocaust profoundly changed Hecht, Hoffman writes, turning him into a Jewish radical. He felt the world “sat by with criminal passivity as the Nazis slaughtered millions of Jews.” Upon hearing the news of Hecht’s death in 1964, Connecticut’s own leading lady Katharine Hepburn wrote to Hecht’s wife: “Oh how dreadfully sad to have Ben disappear. He seemed as permanent as the Statue of Liberty.” — Mike Wollschlager

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Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick by David Frye

Scribner, 320 pages, 2018

One can hardly escape the debate over walls. It seems like they are going up everywhere, or at least being discussed. In fact, Frye reports there are some 70 border walls worldwide. This might sound unusual to modern ears, but as Frye argues, it is very much in line with the history of human civilization. Frye, an archaeologist and professor of ancient and medieval history at Eastern Connecticut State University, says that walls allowed settlements to evolve into cities whose citizens were free to devote energies to pursuits of art, learning and commerce. But as city dwellers became more removed from the dangers beyond the wall, their societies became soft, setting themselves up for eventual doom. In this “Second Age of Walls,” the question of the effectiveness and impact of walls remains an open one. — Albie Yuravich

This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Got a question or comment? Email, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.