A glance at what VCU faculty and graduates are writing these days, beginning with …
A dangerous game
Baldacci (B.A.’83; H.L.D.’01) sets “The 6:20 Man: A Thriller,” the most recent addition to his bestselling oeuvre, in the world of high finance, a milieu ripe for a story of power, corruption and murder. Travis Devine is a worker bee just starting out in the industry, with aspirations to the stratospheric wealth and privilege he sees from afar as he rides the 6:20 train to work each morning. When his ex-girlfriend is found dead, the cops show up — and so do threats to reveal secrets from his past in the U.S. Army, unless he agrees to be a mole for a shadowy investigation into his firm. His unwilling undercover work gets him entrée into the monied world of privilege he longs to join, but what he sees isn’t pretty. As if that weren’t enough, it turns out that Devine could be the killer’s next victim.
Slavery and social rebirth
Michael Lawrence Dickinson
Dickinson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of history at VCU, chronicles how enslaved people rebuilt culture and community amid oppression and cruelty while shaping our country in “Almost Dead: Slavery and Social Rebirth in the Black Urban Atlantic, 1680-1807.” Starting in the colonies through the end of the British Atlantic slave trade, he tells the stories of individuals such as Jeffrey Brace and brings the issue into the present by interviewing Brace’s descendants.
Ingrassia, Ph.D., traces the notion of “domestic captives” — white Britons in confinement, be they soldiers, child laborers or women, even in the ruling class (as “property” of rich white men) — in “Domestic Captivity and the British Subject, 1660-1750,” drawing parallels with the concurrent slave trade that appears in popular fiction and prompting a new interpretation that puts this subtext into sharp focus.
An ex-pirate gone straight
Mellette (B.F.A.’85), a veteran of O.G. girl-power vehicle “Xena: Warrior Princess,” features two strong women in her YA space opera, “Kiya and the Morian Treasure,” that passes the Bechdel test par excellence. Kiya is an ex-pirate gone straight, now schlepping people between planets; her passenger is a galactic official’s daughter. They fight off attackers en route, plus secure hidden riches and peace in the cosmos. Easy-peasy.
Ostensibly for kids
Jonathan Tune and Eleanor Doughty
K, a frog, and little brother J (a tadpole, natch) take a trip in “K’s Car Can Go Anywhere!: A Graphic Novel.” As they careen through the countryside, no obstacle can stop them — literally, as the car adapts to unlikely challenges. Ostensibly for kids, Tune (B.F.A.’13) and Doughty (B.F.A.’13) encourage a spirit of inventiveness, adventure and appreciation for life’s little pleasures.