Monday, June 1, 2020

Laird Barron

Laird Barron, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories; Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.

His new novel is Worse Angels.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Barron's reply:
My reading list features numerous manuscripts and review copies of work slated to appear in coming months.

Stephen Graham Jones excels in multiple genres, but none more so than horror. Night of the Mannequins is slated for an autumn 2020 release. Not the first time he’s paid homage to the slasher genre, but it might be his best stab at it yet. Jones combines the mundane and the uncanny to great effect, defusing moments of almost unbearable tension with wry humor. He’s performed this balancing act for years and keeps getting better.

I also recently finished The Skeleton Melodies by Clint Smith. This collection of horror and weird fiction stories nicely ups the game from his 2014 debut, Ghoul Jaw and Other Stories. A resident of the US, Smith nonetheless has a gift for language and story that reminds me of my favorite weird fiction authors across the pond, namely William Conrad, Frank Duffy, and Joel Lane. The Skeleton Melodies is good work in its own right, however I admit to a trace of nostalgia. Smith’s affable and easy tone changes on a dime; monsters lurk in the shadows. He writes pulp of a literary sensibility that I relished in 1980s anthologies by editors such as David Hartwell and Karl Edward Wagner.

Turning to a novel already out in the wild, Hilary Davidson’s One Small Sacrifice is the inaugural title in her new mystery series featuring a police detective and a war photographer. Davidson grounds the more dramatic elements of One Small Sacrifice in scenes of domestic tranquility. Perhaps owing to her experience as a travel writer, she has a knack for colorful detail that imbues both her setting of NYC and the cast of characters with a sense of realism and warm familiarity.
Visit Laird Barron's website.

Q&A with Laird Barron.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tom Young

Tom Young served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Air National Guard. He has also flown combat missions to Bosnia and Kosovo, and additional missions to Latin America, the horn of Africa, and the Far East. In all, Young logged nearly 5,000 hours as a flight engineer on the C-5 Galaxy and the C-130 Hercules, while flying to almost forty countries. Military honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. Young retired from the Air Guard in 2013 after more than twenty years of service.

In civilian life he spent ten years as a writer and editor with the broadcast division of the Associated Press, and currently he works as an airline pilot based at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. Young holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Young’s well-received military adventure novels include The Mullah’s Storm, Silent Enemy, The Renegades, The Warriors, and Sand and Fire.

His new novel is Silver Wings, Iron Cross.

Recently I asked Young about what he was reading. His reply:
This year brings the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II—a fitting moment to read about the war, its causes, and its legacies. And we seem to need it: Too many people know too little about the most significant event of the 20th Century—an event that still shapes our world. A couple of years ago, a survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation turned up disturbing results: Six in ten respondents didn’t know which countries the U.S. fought during World War II.

We can look to the Allied victory for inspiration, as well. During this Covid-19 pandemic, it helps to recall we’ve faced worse things. Then, as now, entire populations were asked to make sacrifices. Then, as now, young people found their plans for education and careers interrupted by events beyond their control. Then, as now, brave and innovative people sought ways to overcome a threat that at times seemed insurmountable.

So, I’ve made it a goal this year to read up on World War II—and to offer a challenge. I’m asking folks to read at least two books about WWII. On social media, I’m promoting a hashtag: #WWIIBookChallenge. Your two books could be anything—a historical novel, a nonfiction book, or a veteran’s memoir. Naturally, I would like one of them to be my new novel, Silver Wings, Iron Cross. But the larger point is to read something. And I’ll bet that once you start, you won’t stop with just two books.

My own reading this year began with a classic: The Winds of War, by Herman Wouk. It’s a magnificent epic that follows a Navy family from the war’s beginnings in Europe through the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wouk continued the epic with another volume, War and Remembrance. That’s next on my list. I’ve always been a fan of the great WWII novelists who were veterans of that war—a list that includes Wouk, Norman Mailer, and James Jones.

My reading has also included a more recent work, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. It’s a wonderful tale based on a true story about a rare happy ending in one of the darkest phases in world history.

I invite anyone who joins me in the #WWIIBookChallenge to check in with me on social media. I’d love to hear what you’re reading. We owe much to the Greatest Generation. The best way to honor them is to know what they did.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas W. Young's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2020

J. M. M. Nuanez

J. M. M. Nuanez's debut middle grade novel, Birdie and Me, was published in February 2020 by Penguin Random House.

In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and build miniature things. She's a committed fan of cats, pizza, and YouTube.

I asked Nuanez about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

As a writer of middle grade fiction, I’m always trying to read a mixture of old and new books aimed at kids in upper elementary school and middle school. Mason Buttle was one I’d had on my list for a long time – I’d first heard about it a couple of months before it came out in January 2018 – and wasn’t able to get around until this spring...and oh how I wish I’d read it sooner! Rarely does a literary voice (in children’s literature or otherwise) so grab me and hold on long, long after I finish it. The narrator and hero of the book, Mason, is bursting with heart, courage and wisdom. He is dealing with a truly difficult situation, and nothing is sugar-coated, and yet he is so full of optimism. As I got further along in the book I found myself thinking that perhaps I, too, should be more optimistic in times of hardship – for insistence, right now during this confusing and frustrating time of Covid-19. Mason Buttle is such a wonderful read, one I know I will buy for my permanent collection so that I can return to it again and again in the future.
Visit J. M. M. Nuanez's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Isla Morley

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and five tortoises.

Morley's new novel is The Last Blue.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m on a short story and essay kick right now, switching between two books each night, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro and This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Everything Alice Munro writes is flawless, and here she again distills the complexity of human relationships in blindingly insightful short stories where small, almost imperceptible micro domestic dramas amplify the tension of huge interior shifts. Ann Patchett’s essays are similarly perceptive, and “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life” is condensed, amen-worthy writing advice at its finest. Both books feature stories that explore the theme of marriage with the kind of honesty, nuance and layering you expect from these writers, and having just reached the twenty-five year milestone in my marriage, they are a means to reflect on my own experience. My new novel is about improbable love and the nature of belonging, so it’s no surprise that these two books have become companions in an ongoing study of the human heart.
Visit Isla Morley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Martha Waters

Martha Waters was born and raised in sunny South Florida and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her lifelong love of England and romantic comedies inspired the writing of To Have and to Hoax, which is her first novel.

Recently I asked Waters about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to bounce around a lot in my reading – I’m a children’s librarian, so I read a lot of kids’ and teen books to stay on top of my job, but I write historical romantic comedies for adults, so I also read a lot of contemporary rom-coms and historical romance. I also dabble some in adult literary fiction and nonfiction. Recently, I’ve been immersed in:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – a book about the aftermath of an apocalyptic global pandemic might seem like an odd reading choice as we live through a global pandemic, but this had been on my to-read list for years, and now felt like a curiously appropriate time to finally tackle it. I found it both deeply moving and incredibly unsettling all at once; I finished it feeling incredibly impressed by Mandel’s skill as a writer, but also wanting to not think about it too hard, given the present moment we’re living through.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory – this was a nice palate cleanser after Station Eleven. It’s a romantic comedy about a relationship between a lawyer and a U.S. senator who are trying to navigate the complications of dating in the public eye, and it was exactly the sort of fun, fluffy read that I was looking for, to take my mind off the state of the world. It doesn’t come out until June, but I’m glad I read it now; it did wonders for my mood this weekend.
Visit Martha Waters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Serena Burdick

Serena Burdick is the Toronto Star, Publishers Weekly and international bestselling author of The Girls with No Names, now out in the US, Canada and Australia. It is forthcoming in Portugal, Spain, Lithuania and Russia. She is the 2017 International Book Award Winner for Historical Fiction for her novel Girl in the Afternoon. Burdick studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence, holds a Bachelors of Arts from Brooklyn College in English literature and an Associates of Arts from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in theater. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Recently I asked Burdick about what she was reading. Her reply:
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

A book of original brilliance. A letter from a son to his mother, a mother who cannot read and therefore will never hear her son’s words, which give those words a freedom one rarely has when confronting the ones who loved and tormented us the most. Vuong speaks truths so deep and painful and beautiful it tears at your heart, his prose unfolding with unprecedented skill in a language all his own. The story, while simple and real, the telling of childhood and a coming of age, is also complex with ideas about who we are, what we mean to each other, and how we move forward as unique selves while carrying the burdens and scars of our ancestors.
Visit Serena Burdick's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls with No Names.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Amy Engel

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series.

A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Engel's new novel is The Familiar Dark.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve always been a big reader, but the pandemic and subsequent quarantine has given me even more time to dive into books. I recently finished Long Bright River by Liz Moore. I’m drawn to stories with a strong sense of place and this book, set in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, oozes with authentic atmosphere. Long Bright River is billed as a mystery, and the main character’s search for both a serial killer and her missing sister does propel the story forward. But at its heart this is a book about family, poverty, and the life-altering impact of addiction. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.

The book I’m currently reading actually hasn’t been published yet. We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin will be released on August 11, 2020. If you’re a fan of well-written, character-driven mysteries, you’re going to want to put it on your to-be-read list right now. Set in small town Texas, the novel employs a series of distinct voices to unravel a decade old cold case and a more recent crime. The book is full of gorgeous writing, interesting and unique characters, and will keep you guessing until the very end. Highly recommended!
Visit Amy Engel's website.

See Engel's list of five top novels in the complicated literature of daughters and mothers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Jack Heath

Jack Heath is the award-winning author of more than thirty thrillers, including Hangman (for adults) and 300 Minutes of Danger (for children). His novels have been translated into seven languages and adapted for film.

Heath's new novel is The Truth App.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Heath's reply:
I'm reading Either Side of Midnight by Ben Stevenson. It's a crime novel in which a late night TV show host kills himself live on air, and his twin brother enlists the help of a disgraced documentary filmmaker to prove that the host was somehow murdered.

The book hasn't come out yet, but I got an early copy because Ben Stevenson happens to be my literary agent. He's also an infuriatingly good writer. His debut novel, Green Light (about the same documentary filmmaker) pulled the rug out from under me so many times that I started to get carpet burn. Either Side of Midnight is shaping up the same way.

What I like most about the book is the emotional complexity of the male relationships in it. The hero's interactions with his stiff father and his comatose brother are layered with meaning, more than you usually get from male characters in a crime novel (or most other genres). Jack Reacher, for example, does have a dead brother, but he would never feel irrationally responsible for his brother's demise, and that guilt would certainly not metastasize as an eating disorder. The tension this novel can squeeze out of a single slice of birthday cake is extraordinary.

Don't tell Ben I said any of this, though. He might quit his day job, and I really need to have a good agent.
Visit Jack Heath's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2020

Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the UK, and the US. Rainbirds, her first novel, has been published in eleven different languages.

Her new novel is The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

Recently I asked Goenawan about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao.

The novel opens with Gwendolyn, still in comma, trying to retrace her memories. She is the sole survivor of a poisoning incident that wiped up her entire family and their circle of friends, some of the wealthiest Chinese Indonesian families. From the beginning, we know that the culprit was none other than her sister, Estella.

With such an impactful opening, I knew I couldn’t miss this book. Rather than a thriller, I would say it’s more of a family drama. The story itself is page-turning and Tiffany writes well, but what touched me the most is how relatable everything is. As an Indonesian-born Singaporean Chinese, I see so many familiar scenes in the book—good and bad, though mostly bad—which makes me ponder about my identity. Highly recommended!
Visit Clarissa Goenawan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero is a West Point graduate and former Army officer who has studied, practiced, and taught leadership for more than twenty-five years. His client list includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, CEO Conference Europe, the CIA, the Young Presidents Organization, Forbes, among many others. He has appeared on CNN, The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and CNBC and has spoken to audiences around the world on leadership, leader development and ethics. He lives in Philadelphia.

Ruggero's new novel is Blame the Dead.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ruggero's reply:
Ernie Pyle in England by Ernie Pyle

The down-home, just-us-folks style that made Pyle one of the most famous correspondents of World War Two is everywhere apparent in this collection of columns, all written before Pearl Harbor, when England stood alone against Hitler. Pyle had a talent for painting pictures of the common people on whose heads the war fell. What strikes me now, reading this alongside more recently written accounts of the period, is how much Pyle sanitized things. In all his months traveling throughout besieged England and especially bomb-smashed London, he seems to meet no one other than plucky, defiant civilians who are uniformly happy to do their part and offer nothing but praise for isolationist America. Yet subsequent studies show that some people took advantage of the chaos to commit crimes, and certainly there had to be some English man or woman, somewhere, who was miffed that America was letting England fight on alone against the Nazis. Pyle was too sophisticated an observer to miss the tawdry side of England during the Blitz, which makes me wonder if he was just delivering what he knew his newspaper audiences at home wanted to read, or maybe what the censors would allow through.

Long Bright River: A Novel by Liz Moore

Moore’s best-selling novel is set in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia hard-hit by the opioid crisis that also happens to be where both my parents and the protagonists of my book Blame the Dead grew up. I knew I was in the company of a great writer in the first few pages when she hits the reader with a couple of lists (I won’t spoil it for you). These are as simple, clever and wildly effective as the metaphor Tim O’Brien uses to construct his brilliant The Things They Carried. I cared about Moore’s protagonist, Mickey, a Philadelphia cop whose life is upended by the chaos around her. And while I’ve never been a cop and don’t claim to know any more about real police procedures than anyone else who watches TV, several times I found myself wanting to yell at Mickey, “Don’t do that!” like some crazy person in the back row at a scary movie.

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall

I picked up this book as an antidote to the bleakness of Moore’s Long, Bright River. Try to picture a city-savvy writer and his family adopting a rescue burro in rural Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania. Having trouble conjuring that image? So did I. Fortunately, McDougall’s writing is so vivid that you’re soon rooting for his success. When McDougall is told that the donkey, Sherman, needs a job, he settles on marathon-length races in the mountains of Colorado. McDougall is a runner, though not a marathoner (which is an entirely different religion), he has never been an animal trainer, has never driven a horse trailer, has never competed at altitude—the list of all the reasons he’s unqualified go on and on. All of which just makes the story both funny and compelling. My favorite parts were about the physiological benefits to humans of animal contact. I knew this instinctively, as evidenced by all the time I spend petting and walking our dogs, but it was nice to read about the science behind it.
Visit Ed Ruggero's website.

--Marshal Zeringue