Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson

The title of this book was intriguing, since I have frequently asked people, “What was the best thing before sliced bread?” Add to that the blurbs and an author I never heard of, and I could not resist.

Don Robertson, who died in 1999, wrote about 18 novels, including three involving the same character as this one – Morris Bird III. Even though this would be considered young adult fiction today, nothing on the book cover indicates the target age group.

The first 166 pages were typical YA fiction. I was reminded of Jean Shepherd and his radio show on WOR in New York in the 60s. Many a night I lay awake listening to him recount stories of his “Old man,” Schultz, and life in Gary, Indiana in the 40s.

Then the whole tenor of the novel changed with the explosion of the East Ohio Gas Company’s natural gas tanks. I had never heard of this disaster, and a few seconds on Google revealed how accurate the narrative was.

A couple of times I almost abandoned the book, but little teasers by Robertson about the impending disaster kept me going. Once the explosion occurred, it was like the down-hill on a roller coaster – there was no getting off then. I Googled Morris’ name but nothing but the book came up. I so wanted him to be real.

I still don’t know what was the best thing before sliced bread, but I sure am glad I read this book.

--Chiron, 5/24/08

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