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    In his own words

    The Rev. Martin Luther King’s time at Boston University proved pivotal.
    The Rev. Martin Luther King’s time at Boston University proved pivotal.

    In his own words

    Cornel West, in his fiery introduction to “The Radical King” (Beacon), calls the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a “spiritual giant.” West, whose parents took him to hear King speak when he was 10 years old, is editor of this new collection of King’s speeches and writings.

    In one essay, first published in 1958, King calls his studies at Boston University School of Theology an important stage in his “intellectual pilgrimage to nonviolence.” King, who received his doctoral degree there in 1955, writes that his studies convinced him that “nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”

    That same year King rose to national prominence when he, as pastor of a local church, led the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. King writes that he didn’t suggest or start the protest for racial justice. He adds, “I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman.”

    Uncommon bonds

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    Who better to tell stories about subcultures than comic artists, who are a subculture unto themselves? This is the creative genius behind “SubCultures: A Comics Anthology” (Ninth Art), published last fall. Nine of the contributors will converge on Cambridge Library Tuesday evening at 6:30 for a show-and-tell about their comics. (The subcultures they depict include ham radio operators, steampunk fans, and people who speak Esperanto.) Editor Whit Taylor and publisher Dan Mazur, comics artists themselves, will be joined by E.J. Barnes, Holly Foltz, Anna Mudd, Dave Ortega, Maria Photinakis, Liz Prince, and Nick Thorkelson.

    Championing writers

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    Historical novelist William Martin’s next book will follow a group of men from Massachusetts who endure a 6-month voyage to California during the Gold Rush. “The Mother Lode,” to be published by Forge in 2016, will be his 11th novel and his 6th to feature Peter Fallon, a Boston dealer in rare books.

    It also will bring Martin full circle, giving him an opportunity to draw on research he did about 40 years ago. That’s when the Massachusetts resident headed West to make his mark in Hollywood. He wrote a script called “The Mother Lode.” It won him a prestigious screenwriting fellowship and earned a mention on the front page of Variety, but it didn’t sell.

    Martin returned East and wrote his first novel, “Back Bay” (Grand Central). It made a big splash and has been in print now for most of 35 years.

    On Jan. 25, he’ll speak at the annual book party thrown by the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union. “It’s an important advocacy group for writers,” he told me in an e-mail. “And in today’s world, writers can’t have too many friends or too many advocates.”

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    The party, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Cambridge Family Y, celebrates books by local members of the writers union published during 2014 and will feature not only Martin’s keynote address at 3:30 but short readings by six authors. Suggested donation is $10.

    Coming out

     “Leaving Before the Rains Come” by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin)

     “Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story”by Thanassis Cambanis (Simon & Schuster)

     “Guantánamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems (Little, Brown)

    Pick of the Week

    Lysbeth Abrams of Eight Cousins in Falmouth recommends “Everlasting Lane” by Andrew Lovett (Melville House): “Peter is 9 years old when his father dies and his mother moves them back to a house where they once lived. When Peter and two friends discover what appears to be a hidden room in the house, he realizes that there is a secret that his mother is keeping from him.”

    Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.