Albert of Adelaide

By Howard L. Anderson

(Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 240 pages)

Who is this author?

Few authors have a resume as diverse as Howard Anderson’s. In Vietnam, he flew helicopters; in Alaska, he worked on fishing boats; in Pittsburgh, he toiled in steel mills; in Houston he drove trucks and in Hollywood, he (like everyone else) wrote scripts. Then he chucked all that and got a law degree, went to work as a legal counsel for the New Mexico Organized Crime Commission and now  is a defense attorney there, representing Mexicans charged with crimes in the United States. “Albert of Adelaide” is his debut novel. He’s 69 and has never been to Australia.

What is this book about?

You’ve probably been itching to read a good book about an orphaned platypus and marsupials on the march, and here’s your chance.

Albert, who is duck-billed, fur-clad, web-footed and alone in the world, busts out of a zoo in Adelaide and begins a quest for the fabled Old Australia, a place Down Under full of peace and liberty, where animals are still in charge … but sadly, may no longer exist. Stranded in the bone-dry desert, this water-dweller is facing calamity when a fire-setting, sardine-munching wombat rescues him, takes him to a marsupials-only bar run by a kangaroo and burns the joint down. And they’re off on a very unusual adventure, which also includes dingos, bandicoots and a prize-fighting Tasmanian devil. Crikey!

Whatever else you may think about the land its inhabitants call Oz, you’ve got to give them credit for coming up with great animal names.

 Why you’ll like it:

This is not exactly “Charlotte’s Web” or “Watership Down,” but if you are into stories about animals who display human attributes, “Albert of Adelaide” may be just your cup of Foster’s. Some books of this nature are pretty grim: see “Animal Farm,” for example. But this one has the saving grace of being amusing. This is a novelty of a novel about friends and heroes of the furry persuasion, with plenty of lessons for human readers who have a taste for whimsy.

What others are saying:

“If Larry McMurtry had written “Wind in the Willows” he might have come up with something almost as wonderful and moving as Howard Anderson’s “Albert of Adelaide.” This is a novel that defies analysis and summaries. Trust me. Just read it,” says Mary Doria Russell, bestselling author of “The Sparrow and Doc.”

“This debut novel from a 69-year-old New Mexico lawyer is rich in commentary on weighty themes: power, fear, prejudice, and the fluid nature of good and evil. Most of all, Albert is a charming and compelling hero with the strength to honor his convictions while inventing a new life for himself. Readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with shades of social/political commentary will appreciate this,” says Library Journal.

“Memorable . . . lively . . . quick to satisfy with old-fashioned pleasures: action, adventure, fast friends, and unlikely heroes,” says Publishers Weekly.

“The novel reads like “Siddhartha” transplanted to the Australian outback. Or like “Lonesome Dove” recast for a platypus, wombats and dingoes. Or like the novelization of a Pixar animated feature with way more blood and alcohol than usual,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

“Albert” is waiting to be discovered at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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