Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison published twenty-six children's books before turning to adult novels with the "Mara" series of Celtic historical mysteries set in 16th century Ireland.

Her latest novel is Beyond Absolution, the third book in the Reverend Mother Mystery Series.

Recently I asked Harrison about what she was reading. The author's reply:
Currently I am reading Hilary Mantel’s book on the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. It’s not at all as well-known as her Wolf Hall and its sequel, but oddly I find myself enjoying it very much, more so, I think, than her more famous work. I was led to it by an article about Hilary Mantel that I read, in the Guardian, I think, which describes how this, her first novel, was written almost accidentally. She had intended to write a non-fiction book about the French Revolution, had done a tremendous amount of research, filing cabinets full of tantalizing snippets of information, and, no doubt, books, with post-it notes or cards stuck into relevant pages, lying around on tables and desk.

And then, suddenly, her non-fiction book turned into fiction. The three main characters of her research, Robespierre, Danton and Camille began to come alive for her; began to talk; had, in her mind’s eye, childhoods that modelled their future actions; had developed relationships with men and women that were to have consequences. Somewhere or other, Hilary Mantel says that she has to take chances with that. Knowing that she will never know whether she is right, or not, she has to put forward a plausible character, someone who will fit in with the known information. And so far into the book she has won me over completely and I will never be able to consider these three men in any other way than in the way in which she had painted them.

So why am I enjoying it so much more than Wolf Hall? I think that it is because, with Wolf Hall, I know too much about that early Tudor period. I have a couple of shelves full of books on that time, have read virtually all the biographies written about Henry VIII and quite a lot of those written about his numerous wives. And as for the other players on the stage, well, I’ve read about Thomas Cromwell, and I’ve several biographies about Thomas More and my vision of these two men does not gel with the vision put forward by Hilary Mantel. And I know quite a lot about Anne Boleyn, from early girlhood to her tragic end, and somehow my Anne Boleyn is not Hilary Mantel’s Anne Boleyn. So, to a certain extent, despite its fame, despite its obvious merits, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring up the Bodies, is spoilt for me and I did not really enjoy either book.

But when it comes to the French Revolution, I know shamefully little and so Hilary Mantel has woven her spell over me and I accept her vision and for ever those three men will be for me the ones that I have watched through her eyes, during childhood, adolescence, manhood and death. A splendid book and one to give me courage to research and to recreate in my ‘Reverend Mother’ series: A Shameful Murder, A Shocking Assassination and Beyond Absolution, the men and women who took part in the trouble-filled years of the early 1920s, during the emergence of Ireland as a Free State.
Visit Cora Harrison's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cross of Vengeance.

My Book, The Movie: Beyond Absolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dave Zeltserman

Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. His crime, mystery and horror fiction has won top praise and has been translated into six languages.

His novels Small Crimes and Pariah were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year. Small Crimes topped National Public Radio's list of best crime and mystery novels of 2008 and is being made into a feature film.

Stone's new novel is Crazed, the second Morris Black thriller.

Recently I asked Zeltserman about what he was reading. The author's reply:
I've been reading John Lutz's Quinn series out of order, and the last book I finished was the second book in this series, In for the Kill. Lutz has a breezy witty style, and he's a masterful crime thriller writer, and I'm reading these books both because they're a lot of fun, and also to study them. I think a lot of crime thriller writers could improve their craft studying Lutz.

Right now I'm about 50 pages from finishing up Loren Estleman's American Detective. Like Lutz, Estleman is a masterful writer, and I'm a big fan of both his Claudius Lyons Nero Wolfe pastiche stories and his Amos Walker PI novels. Also like Lutz, I read Estleman's books both because I enjoy the hell out of them and also to study his writing.

I've also got H. P. Lovecraft's complete works loaded on my kindle, and I've been working my way through it, and just finished The Shadow over Innsmouth, which is probably one of the better Lovecraft works.
Visit Dave Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Crazed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alys Clare

Alys Clare lives in the English countryside, where her novels are set. She went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent.

Clare's new novel is The Devil's Cup.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
This question has come at an opportune moment, since I’ve just been enjoying a short break from writing and have caught up with a great deal of reading. One of my early mentors used to say that a writer needs to breathe in as well as breathe out, and ever since in the course of my 28 years as a professional writer, I’ve tried to have regular breathing-in breaks in my work schedule.

I’ve read quite a stack of recent best-sellers, as another good piece of advice for writers is to stay aware of what’s doing well. With the exception of Ruth Hogan’s charming and delightfully idiosyncratic The Keeper of Lost Things, however, I’ve been disappointed, since the rave reviews clearly saw something in the fast-paced and often shallow thrillers and psychological mysteries that clearly I was missing. With relief, then, I went back to a tried and tested favourite and re-read Ruth Rendell’s Going Wrong. (I should perhaps point out here that my summer reading hasn’t been restricted to authors called Ruth and this was purely a coincidence).

Going Wrong was written in 1998, at a time when Ruth Rendell was at the height of her powers. On the face of it, it’s simply the story of a very good-looking man who falls for a rather ordinary girl when they are young and whose love for her endures when hers fades away as they both grow to maturity. But in the hands of a master of the psychological intricacies of human beings, what a tale develops. Ruth Rendell had a rare ability for going into the minds of superficially ordinary, socially functioning people and, by taking the reader in there with her, making it steadily and alarmingly clear how far from normal these people are. Guy Curran is such a man, and his obsession for Leonora, as we see it from the vantage point of his own mind, is perfectly sane and reasonable; there's always a logical explanation for those aspects of her behaviour that don't conform to what Guy wants, and he will find it even if it takes him all night.

But Guy, we soon realise, is a person with serious problems. But so is Leonora. And why is she so irresistible? Dowdy, unfashionable, greasy hair and no make up, capricious, feeble... unless you are Guy or Leonora’s somewhat compliant fiancĂ©, it’s impossible to say. But it’s precisely such questions as these, prompted by the intimacy and credibility of the skewed mental worlds into which the reader is drawn, that make classic Ruth Rendell such a joy to read.

If I may be allowed to extend the question to include what I’m listening to, I’m a latecomer to the delights of audio books. My summers are spent in a cottage on the edge of a Breton forest where it’s very, very dark at night and there are no sounds except those emanating from the natural world, and I’ve discovered that a good ghost story has about ten times the impact when narrated by a skilled reader. E. F. Benson’s Ghost Stories, selected and read by Mark Gatiss, was my first selection, and there’s one about a strange creature shaped like a huge slug that haunts a wood that really freaked me out. Later I went on to Thin Air and Dark Matter, both by Michelle Paver, the first read by Daniel Weyman and the second by Jeremy Northam. Both books concern hauntings in wild, inhospitable and desolate places, inimical to human life; both were so well-read by their respective narrators that at times, lying perfectly safe and secure in a comfy bed with my sleeping husband beside me, the utter darkness of the Breton night got to me - but it wasn’t, of course, the darkness - and I had to press the pause putting on my headphones and put the story aside till daylight.
Learn more about The Devil's Cup at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Cup.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scott Reintgen

Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.

Reintgen's latest novel is Nyxia.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m always reading several books at a time. Right now, I’m halfway through Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb. I’ll humble brag and say that I picked the series back up after sitting down for drinks with Robin and a handful of other authors at San Diego Comic Con. She is such a delight, and her writing always casts a spell over me. It’s such traditional fantasy, and follows a character in Fitz who we know is worth following.

I’m also reading Dear Martin by Nic Stone. It’s a brilliant and quick read about a young man wrestling with racial injustice by writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It doesn’t release until October 17th, getting to read it early is just one of the many perks of being an author with Random House.

And last but not least, I’ve started edging my way (finally) into Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It’s received such praise and I’m eager to have time for it.
Visit Scott Reintgen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nyxia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lisa Berne

Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer book at fourteen, and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a teacher, and a grant writer — and is now an author of historical romance.

Berne's latest novel is The Laird Takes a Bride.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m slowly making my way through Jane Austen’s Letters, a great thick volume which is so interesting — so funny — so revelatory — and also such an important contrapuntal to her fiction, that I’m in no rush to finish it. I’ve long felt that a true understanding of Austen’s work depends on having at least a passing familiarity with her life and times, and her letters provide tremendous illumination — particularly so as she left behind no diary or journal and remains, essentially, a mysterious person.

I’m also reading Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night and really enjoying it for a variety of reasons. One is the sheer exuberance of discovering a new-to-me author and a narrative style which is enthralling. Another is that it provides a glimpse into 19th-century Paris — a very exotic and seductive world. And third, as someone who writes a variant of historical fiction, I’m intrigued by Chee’s approach to the genre. For example, he recently said on Twitter:

“Projecting the present into the past can make the real history invisible, and hopefully that history is what interests you more.”

That has a lot of resonance for me, both as a reader and as a writer.
Visit Lisa Berne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Laird Takes a Bride.

The Page 69 Test: The Laird Takes a Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Robin Merrow MacCready

Robin Merrow MacCready is the author of Buried, recipient of the Edgar Award for Best YA novel. She teaches reading and writing to middle school students, and lives in Maine with her family.

MacCready's latest YA novel is A Lie for a Lie.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading list is a combination of books for kids and whatever my current writing project requires. At school I’m reading Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. This book is set in the sixties and is partially based on the author’s life, though obviously (and hysterically) exaggerated. There’s nobody who does cringeworthy growing pains better than Gantos. It’s a great read aloud and has won numerous awards, including the 2012 Newbery for best Children’s Book.

I’m also reading Took by Mary Downing Hahn. I’m not far in, but it promises to be creepy story of family, fear, and change.

My current work-in-progress takes place in the mid-19th century, so I’m reading and researching about that time. American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever is a fascinating read about Concord, Massachusetts and the very creative cluster of artists that lived there during that time. The Alcotts, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were friends and neighbors in Concord during a time when they produced some of their best works. It was so beautifully written that I didn’t want it to end!
Visit Robin Merrow MacCready's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Lie for a Lie.

The Page 69 Test: A Lie For A Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.

His books include Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Songs of Willow Frost, and the new novel Love and Other Consolation Prizes.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ford's reply:
I just finished The Burning Women of Far Cry by Rick DeMarinis.

Darkly comic and masterfully written, this is one of those books that defies categorization. Like a richer, funnier, more textured version of Confederacy of Dunces, with a bit of Thomas McGuane and Tom Robbins thrown into the mix. It’s your classic, coming-of-age tale, like the journey of Holden Caufield, but in a warped, hilarious, blue-collar Twilight Zone.

I absolutely loved this book and am saddened that it’s been out of print for 30 years.

But, there is an Indiegogo campaign to give it new life.
Visit Jamie Ford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

Temple Mathews

Temple Mathews, a graduate of the University of Washington and a producer at the American Film Institute, has written dozens of half-hour animation TV episodes and several animated and live action features and direct-to-DVD and video films. His credits include the Walt Disney animated feature films Return to Neverland and The Little Mermaid 2 and the MGM feature film Picture This!

Mathews's new novel is Bad Girl Gone.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne.

I found it compelling and was able to slip into the writer's fantasy land quite easily. The lead characters are immoral, yet intriguing and I was really happy how the book ended, sans the usual hoisted by their own petard kind of thing.
Visit Temple Mathews's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bad Girl Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Bad Girl Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 14, 2017

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His new book, the latest Stewart Hoag mystery, is The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Recently I asked Handler about what he was reading. His reply:
As the warm, lazy afternoons of summer have begun to wind down I’ve been finding myself hungering for a big, juicy, old-fashioned novel to lose myself in on my garden bench. Something other than my usual rat-a-tat hard-boiled crime fare.

And so right now I’m totally immersed in re-reading Frank Conroy’s enthralling 530-page saga Body and Soul, which was published in 1993. Body and Soul, a sweeping period novel that starts out in New York City in the 1940s, is the story of an earnest, lonely six-year-old urchin named Claude Rawlings who happens to be a child prodigy on the piano. In fact, Claude, who lives in a dingy basement apartment with his single mother, a cab driver, is about to grow up to become one of the classical music world’s greatest pianists and composers.

Body and Soul is more than a fascinating page-turner. Conroy manages to take us inside Claude’s mind with such incredible insight that we are actually able to get an inkling of how composers do what they do. People often ask me how a writer writes. Me, I’ve always wondered how a composer composes. Where does the music come from? What is Claude hearing? What is going on inside of his head? Conroy is able to take us there. It’s truly fascinating.

And Conroy was a truly fascinating man. Before he wrote Body and Soul, which is his one and only novel, he was best known for his brilliant 1967 childhood memoir Stop-Time, which I keep it on my bookshelf right next to The Catcher in the Rye. The man knew music. He was an accomplished jazz pianist who sat in with the likes of Charlie Mingus. And he knew writing – he was the director of the famed Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa for 18 years until his death in 2005 at the age of 69.

If you’ve never read Stop-Time you simply must. It’s a genuine classic. If you’ve never read Body and Soul you’re missing out on a truly major reading experience. And if the name Frank Conroy is new to you, well, all I can say is that you need Frank Conroy in your life. Please, just trust me on this one.
Learn more about the book and author at David Handler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kelly Simmons

Kelly Simmons is the author of Standing Still, The Bird House, One More Day, and The Fifth of July.

Recently I asked Simmons about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am a scaredy-cat, a bad sleeper, a person who thinks the sound of cats jumping off sofas and the sound of armed men climbing in windows is precisely the same. So I read thrillers by day and try to read lighter things by night -- humorous memoirs, character-driven literary fiction, etc.

But every once in a while, I find a book that kind of works for me round the clock. What a joy! To be a little on edge -- while laughing occasionally and enjoying the characters.

A book I just finished, about an immigrant family tangled up with their Wall Street employer -- filled me with dread, worry and tension --- yet I loved the characters, and understood their decisions both good and bad -- as I was soothed by their tender justifications.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. It's getting a great deal of praise, but for me the highest praise is this -- I enjoyed it every hour of the day.
Visit Kelly Simmons's website.

--Marshal Zeringue