Word is that the novel B-More Careful, by Shannon Holmes (Meow Meow Productions, 282 pages, $14.95 softbound) has been selling well, spreading an impression of Baltimore up the coast and down, and inland. Baltimoreans unlikely to read prose that in past would have been bleeped six or eight times a page might, however, better understand this contemporary city, were they to give the book a try.
B-More is several things, all of them action-packed: a gunfire wallow (well, so is much of TV), a woman's point of view and a vivid picture of people living on the edge, to whom extended schooling, civic participation and careers inside the law are, at present, largely irrelevant. Landmarks in this Baltimore are Volcano's, O'Dell's, Eldorado, Paradox -- and, above all, the drug traffic. A reader unfamiliar with such terms as hoe, knock, blunt, game, hooptie and dirty will infer their meaning from the context.
Holmes is good at conveying emotion without lessening pace. But realism, in her B-more, equates with violence. The majority's many, many self-restrained, law-abiding citizens are bypassed. And this city still awaits its Alice Walker, its Ralph Ellison.
Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester -- these are the subject of Counties of Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, by Elaine Bunting and Patricia D'Amario (Tidewater, 156 pages, $19.95). A series book, it catalogs geography, history, natural resources, schools, churches, places of interest, businesses, interesting individuals, fun facts, "not-so-fun facts" (the authors admit that local crabmeat has become "extremely expensive.") Kids can learn, reading Counties; grownups can marvel -- each group held by the lively directness of the narrative. This is an almanac with wings.
At Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, 235 bird species? Brookview is "the smallest municipality in Maryland." This way to Queponco Railway Station. Or to Frogeye, Widgeon, Nescongo or Tizzard Island. If there's Bay Bridge congestion this summer, blame Bunting and D'Amario.
James H. Bready writes a monthly column on regional books. Previously he worked as a reporter, editorial writer and book editor for The Evening Sun.