Reviews by David Steinberg

“The Millionaire and the Bard – Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio” by Andrea Mays (Simon & Schuster). This is a great read whether you love Shakespeare’s plays, whether you’re looking for a terrific true detective book or just want something engrossing to read this summer.

It is really three books in one. Chronologically, it is a book about how John Heminges and Henry Condell –  companions, fellow actors and business partners of Shakespeare, gathered copies of Shakespeare’s plays and manuscripts. They edited and published copies of them in 1623, seven years after the Bard died, as the First Folio. it was intended as a memorial to their friend. Little did they know how valuable, in a literary and a financial sense, the original copies of the First Folio would become over centuries.

Secondly, it is a story about America’s most secretive, most persistent, collector of Shakespeariana – the self-effacing bibliophile Henry Folger. Of humble origins, he attended Amherst College and rose to become a top executive of Standard Oil of New York. Folger and his wife had no children. They lived in a rented house in Brooklyn, N.Y. They did have plenty of money. The couple used their wealth to buy First Folios from the late 19th century through the first third of the 20th century. The Folgers quietly warehoused their purchases.

The third story in this volume is about how the Folgers paid for and oversaw the construction of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The private research library opened on April 23, 1932, which was Shakespeare’s 368th birthday. Today it holds the largest Shakespeare collection in the world.

“The Folger,” the author writes, “has grown into one of the greatest private libraries in the world. Even for scholars with no interest in Shakespeare or English literature, the Folger Liibrary is a repository of indispensable materials  – books, manuscripts, broadsides, objects, musical instruments, arrows, and more – for the study of music, art law, science, economics and politics of Europe during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I.”

Today, almost 75 years after its opening, Mays writes, the library still has not catalogued the entire Folger collection. That speaks to the vastness of materials the Folgers collected.

Reading the book makes you want to see a play by Shakespeare. If you’re in Albuquerque, look no farther than Civic Plaza. Starting Thursday, June 11 and running through July 5, you can see “Julius Caeser” and “The Taming of the Shrew” in repertory.

“The Sniper and the Wolf – A Sniper Elite Novel” by Scott McEwen with Thomas Koloniar” (Touchstone). Do you like your action novels  operating nonstop? You’ve come to the right book. The sniper of the title is American Gil Shannon and his target, the Wolf, is Kovalenko, a Chechen terrorist sniper who wants to knock off Shannon on his way to blowing up a pipeline in the Caucasus.

Shannon isn’t acting along. On his side is – believe it or not – a Russian, Maj. Ivan Dragunov, who also wants to kill Kovalenko. Strange bedfellows? Why not.

This shoot-‘em-up is a primer on modern hand-held weaponry. It’s a lesson on secret communications between Shannon, his boss in Washington, D.C., and the American president. It’s an insider look at behind-the-scenes forces that want to control the CIA.

There is one particular chapter that is hard to believe: Soon, our man Shannon has an audience with Vladimir Putin.

McEwen, the book’s principal author, cowrote the bestseller “American Sniper.”

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