Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jan Fedarcyk

Upon her retirement in 2012 Jan Fedarcyk was the only woman to lead the FBI’s prestigious New York Office as Assistant Director in Charge.

Fidelity, her first novel, draws upon her twenty-five years of experience as an FBI Special Agent.

Recently I asked Fedarcyk about what she was reading. Her reply:
The complicated challenges that America faces in the area of national security continues to drive my interest in non-fiction books that shed light on these issues. I tend to have at least two books that I alternate reading, and these can be historical or about current events that will define us for generations to come. Right now, I’m nearly finished with The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman and The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright.

Previously, I was absorbed by Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS and Spy Wars by Tennent H. Bagley. Even as someone with former government experience who understands the work of the intelligence community in countering threats, these books shed different insights on the pervasive threats posed by spies and terrorists. It’s no wonder that when I read fiction, I gravitate to the thriller genre!
Visit Jan Fedarcyk's website.

My Book, The Movie: Fidelity.

The Page 69 Test: Fidelity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2016

Meera Lester

Meera Lester is the author of nearly two dozen nonfiction books and the proprietress of the real Henny Penny Farmette, located in the San Francisco Bay area. Raising chickens and honeybees, she draws on her life at her farmette as the basis of her Henny Penny Farmette mysteries.

Lester's second Henny Penny Farmette mystery is The Murder of a Queen Bee.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading After the Storm, by Linda Castillo. I’m enamored of her extraordinary storytelling ability. She writes police procedural thrillers that include Her Last Breath, Pray for Silence, Sworn to Silence, and others. An added plus is that she populates them with believable characters—English and Amish. These books tick all the boxes for me—an engaging and believable protagonist, and equally worthy adversary, and the intense roller-coaster ride for the truth. The author seamlessly integrates what activities the police must do to find a killer while revealing the inner conflicts, suppressed emotions, and compassion of her sleuth.

As with other authors, reading informs my writing. My choices in reading run an eclectic gamut, from early Christian history and Celtic spirituality to cozy mysteries, thrillers, women’s fiction, and modern fables. I often re-read novels and nonfiction books as diverse as Hallucinating Foucault (by Patricia Duncker), The Palace (by Lisa St. Aubin de TerĂ¡n), and Anam Cara Eternal Echoes (by John O’Donohue). I’ve also spent many enjoyable hours reading poetry. In my twenties, I got hooked on Russian poets—a phase that encompassed more than a dozen years.

Diverse reading helps me create a culturally inclusive lens for my sleuth’s worldview. Abigail Mackenzie lives in a Las Flores, a small town in Northern California that borders Silicon Valley (populated from people from many different countries and cultures). I’ve loosely based many of her stories on stories on those I’ve heard from law enforcement members of my own family as well as my experiences working ambulance and helicopter runs when I was a respiratory therapist for many years working for a large county hospital that had six ICUs and an emergency room.
Visit Meera Lester's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

The Page 69 Test: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tabish Khair

Born and educated in a small town of India, Tabish Khair now lives in a village of Denmark. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and shortlisted for a number of international fiction prizes, including the prestigious Man Asian Booker and Encore Prize in UK, Khair is a poet and a novelist who claims to have “never written the same novel twice” and to “hold the world record for short-listings in fiction without a single win.”

His latest novel, to be released in the US on 26 October 2016, is Just Another Jihadi Jane. It tells the story of two British girls who run off to Syria to join the so-called ‘jihad’ and has already been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in the US.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Khair’s reply:
As I teach for a living, I often have to re-read books that are a bit like friends one has known since childhood: one is fond of them, but sometimes dreads listening to the same jokes and anecdotes yet once again. So I won’t list those.

However, one old novel I had never read in the past, but have almost finished reading now is John Fante’s Ask The Dust. I came to it through Charles Bukowski, whose novels are old friends one does not mind listening to once again. Bukowski ranked Fante (little known then, and only a bit better known today), and this novel by Fante, as a seminal influence. I finally got down to reading it this week, and I can see why Bukowski thought so highly of it: it has the same grittiness as Bukowski’s work, and a spare but finely honed writing style, which appeals to me as well. Depressing at times – Fante sees human nature as even more vile than Bukowski did – but a must-read.

I also just read Amitav Ghosh’s new study, The Great Derangement, which is about climate change and the surprising inability of fiction to narrate it. Highly readable, erudite and thought-provoking at the same time.

I am also starting on the Caribbean-British poet, Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation, which has just won the Forward Poetry Prize in UK and Hirsh Sawhney’s South Haven: A Novel, which is a poetic and irreverent coming-to-age story set in the US.
Visit Tabish Khair's website and learn more about Just Another Jihadi Jane.

The Page 69 Test: The Thing about Thugs.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kay Honeyman

Kay Honeyman grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended Baylor University, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters in English Language and Literature. Her first novel, The Fire Horse Girl, came out in January 2013. She currently teaches middle school and lives in Dallas, Texas.

Honeyman's new novel is Interference.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. I didn’t know this until after I finished the book, but it is the fourth of six books by contemporary authors reimagining Jane Austen’s six novels. All of the previous books have been written by British authors. Sittenfeld’s is the first by an American, and it tackles Pride and Prejudice. It was wonderful to see familiar characters placed in modern American society. I loved how Elizabeth Bennet translated into a New York magazine writer and Darcy into a surgeon from a wealthy family. The characters and story felt both connected to Austen’s work and, at the same time, very real in today’s world. I am a big believer in the capacity of Austen’s work to remain relevant. I’m always delighted when a writer recognizes and makes the most of that capacity.
Visit Kay Honeyman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Interference.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 17, 2016

J.R. Johansson

J.R. Johansson's books include Insomnia, Paranoia, Mania, Cut Me Free, and the newly released The Row.

Her books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. Johansson has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives in Utah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.

Recently I asked Johansson about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently lucky enough to be reading new/upcoming releases from some amazing authors I'll be going on tour with. The books are P.S. I Like You by Kasie West, I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil and the third and final book in Bree Despain's Into the Dark series: The Immortal Throne.

I only just started them, and they are vastly different books so I'm loving the variety! Plus, from many of their previous books they were already some of my favorite authors. These new books are definitely living up to my expectations!"
Visit J.R. Johansson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Row.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author who has written for several role-playing game companies. She currently works for the NHS in England as a clinical classifications specialist. She is the author of the Invisible Library series, including The Burning Page, The Masked City, and The Invisible Library.

Recently I asked Cogman about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m one of those people who always has several books on the go at once. It’s not a deliberate form of gluttony – it’s just that I may be reading different things at different points in the day, or I may be sidetracked by an entirely new book, or I may go to look up a reference in an older book and then find myself rereading large chunks of it. (It wasn’t my fault. I was sucked in. The book made me do it.)

Take today. I was trying to get a bit further into The Book of the Courtier by Castiglione (translated by Charles Singleton) – a book in which the author discusses the ideal “Perfect Courtier” (and Court Lady), and in doing so gives an informative and interesting description of the Italian Renaissance. Very worthy, very useful, very interesting.

However, this is also rather heavy going, and I ended up being sidetracked into a couple of volumes of the graphic novel Girl Genius series, by Phil and Kaja Foglio, which is a beautiful piece of work, and an excellent story – and often very funny. (For the curious, it’s also online.) And the problem with reading something like that is finding a good place to stop. You always want just one page more.

And then there’s the sudden advent of temptation, done with the best of motives. I couldn’t remember the specifics of a line from a particular short story* in the Stalky & Co collection by Kipling: I could only remember vaguely that I’d liked it at the time and thought that it was elegant. So I had to go and look that up, and I ended up rereading the entire short story, and it was only with difficulty that I stopped myself reading even more...

It’s not so much a question of “What are you reading?” Sometimes it’s more a question of “What aren’t you reading?” I am easily led astray by tempting books. And that probably isn’t going to change any time soon.

*For reference: the short story was "The United Idolators," and the line in question, describing a disagreement in the staff room, was: “The Reverend John did his best to pour water on the flames. Little Hartopp, perceiving that it was pure oil, threw in canfuls of his own, from the wings.”
Visit Genevieve Cogman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Masked City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Colin Gigl

Colin Gigl is a graduate of Trinity College with degrees in creative writing and computer science (no, he’s not quite sure how that happened, either). He currently works at a start-up in New York and lives with his wife in New Jersey.

The Ferryman Institute is Gigl's debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As is usually the case with me, I'm a bit all over the place. In terms of recently read books, I worked through Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J. E. Gordon. Elon Musk had recommended it, and being that it was a topic that always fascinated me anyway, I gave it a shot. It was actually very well written and surprisingly funny for what is (to my knowledge) a college textbook. However, I'm ashamed to admit that I don't remember as much as I would have liked. Moral of the story: don't ask me why things don't fall down.

On the fiction side of the world, I read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman not too long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven't read nearly as much Pratchett as I should (two books, not including the aforementioned), but I'm working on that. Gaiman I'm a bit better versed in. I loved how they wove religion into the story -- I have a particular weak spot for that sort of thing, which no doubt factors in to why I also loved Christopher Moore's Lamb as well. I find religion and their associated myths fascinating. Obviously, given the premise of my own book, I very much like twisting familiar stories into something new, and they do that in Omens with aplomb. It's also just wonderfully crafted. Great dialogue and absolutely overflowing with imagination.

Currently in my not-so-free time, I've been reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I'm only about a quarter in, but so far it has an absolutely stellar voice and is one of those books that is just a joy to read. Beatty has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase that I'm extremely envious of. I've lost track of how many times I've read a sentence and thought, "Damn, wish I'd written that." So, Paul, if you're reading this, can you distill that down and send me a bottle of it? I'd be extremely grateful.
Visit Colin Gigl's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Ferryman Institute.

The Page 69 Test: The Ferryman Institute.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

John Keyse-Walker

John Keyse-Walker practiced law for 30 years, representing business and individual clients, educational institutions and government entities. He is an avid salt- and freshwater angler, a tennis player, kayaker and an accomplished cook. He lives in Ohio with his wife.

Keyse-Walker's debut novel is Sun, Sand, Murder.

Last month I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Usually I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, often history, but my current reading list shows my true colors, as I am at various stages with three mysteries.

I just completed The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It is a rich read, wrapping political satire and a great spy mystery into one story. Add to that the first real telling of the emotional story of the Vietnamese refugees who resettled and tried to assimilate in the U.S. and it is easy to see why this book won a Pulitzer Prize, a Carnegie Medal, and an Edgar Award.

I am in the middle of reading Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning, latest in her Chief Inspector Ganache series set in Quebec. She is one of my favorite mystery writers because of the easy sophistication of her writing. With her, the reader gets more than the set-up and solution of a crime; you also get the smell of warm croissants and cafe au lait, the deep emotion of a good marriage, and the joy of a crisp sunny day after a heavy snowfall.

I try to read the occasional work from a small publisher or a self-published author. The Swamp Witch, by David G. Horton, is my current foray into this area. Set in rural Ohio, the story concerns a small-time drug dealer who becomes wrapped up in a murder investigation, with some supernatural experiences along the way. I love stories like this because they serve as a reminder that not every good story is on the New York Times bestsellers list, and there are writers out there yet to be discovered.
Visit John Keyse-Walker's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sun, Sand, Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Michelle Brafman

Michelle Brafman is the author of Washing the Dead. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Tablet, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Slate, Lilith Magazine, the minnesota review, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program and lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

Brafman's latest novel is Bertrand Court.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst is a witty, wise, big-hearted, page turner about a family’s struggle to raise an autistic child. Parkhurst lasers in on the questions that nag many parents: To what lengths will we go to help our children thrive? How do we sustain our equanimity and instincts when a child is suffering? I felt for every member of this family primarily because Parkhurst conveys their collective and individual challenges via a seamless braiding of three characters’ perspectives, each representing a different time period and point of view. No easy feat, but she pulls it off.

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor

I keep this anthology on my nightstand and read a short story or two when I find myself between books. I’ll reread a favorite like “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, “Friends” by Grace Paley, or Mary Gaitskill’s “The Girl on the Plane,” to name a few. I’ve also discovered many new gems like Julie Otsuka’s achingly gorgeous “Diem Perdidi.”

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani

When I stumbled upon The Garden of the Finzi Continis at my synagogue’s library, I grabbed it. I saw the film decades ago, but the stubborn hope and tragic fate of the socially exclusive Finzi-Contine family still haunts me. I remember how moved I was by their belief in their immunity from Mussolini’s anti-Semitic edicts.
Visit Michelle Brafman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bertrand Court.

The Page 69 Test: Bertrand Court.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 10, 2016

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published the novels Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

Livesey's newly released eighth novel is Mercury.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. First published in 1952 when it won the National Book Award, Invisible Man remains an exhilarating and deeply painful book. After a series of misadventures, the unnamed narrator is forced to leave the southern college he loves and move to New York. He works in a paint factory for a disastrous day, ends up enduring electric shock treatment and then becomes a spokesman for a movement called the Brotherhood. Over and over he finds himself manipulated by white men and sometimes by black men too. Some early critics called the novel surreal but Ellison said it was reality that was surreal. The novel is told mostly in brilliant extended scenes, and is often very funny.
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

--Marshal Zeringue