New Booktapes Capture Listeners With History and Inspiration

If the mark of a rippingly good non-fiction book about conflict in the old West is human detail placed in sweeping landscape, Big Trouble is a big triumph.

Against a backdrop of mine owners versus angry union members, J. Anthony Lukas writes about the 1905 murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, who was mysteriously blown apart near his home in Caldwell, Idaho.

Cotter Smith reads the story with a kind of melancholy, afternoon-front-porch voice, rangy in tone, with quiet, understated ease.

In Caldwell, greed and political maneuvering over mining prevails, followed by conspiracy, then murder. Pinkerton detectives arrive.

Two men are initially accused as well as several unions leaders, including infamous "Big Bill" Haywood. Clarence Darrow is one of the defense attorneys when the case moves to Boise, and ensures its elevation to a dramatic show trial. The outcome is still puzzled over today.

Marrianne Williamson gained fame by publishing an interpretation of the popular religious guide, "A Course in Miracles." Here, she reads excerpts from her latest book about spiritual connection and renewal.

The Healing of America, focuses on the balancing act of yin and yang found in ancient Chinese philosophy. It is a call for the Americans to find national unity through "the restoration of our collective conscience, and turn it into political will."

At times sounding like the narrator of a serious, earnest documentary film, and other times like a politician who takes the high ground because she is leading in the polls, Williamson's message is nonetheless valuable.

She calls for a "redefinition of citizen activism in American democracy." Change thinking from materially based to spiritually based. Not included are the nuts and bolts of how to do this, but the message is insightful. stirring and full of hope.

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