Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tristan Donovan

Tristan Donovan is a British author and journalist. His books include Replay: The History of Video Games and Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World. His writing has appeared in BBC News Online, The Atlantic, The Times of London, Stuff, Wired, The Guardian, Eurogamer, and Kotaku, among other publications.

Donovan's newest book is It's All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Donovan's reply:
I’ve just finished reading Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things.

It’s a nonfiction book and examines how the web has gone from being this exciting, utopian beacon of hope to a nightmare of hate mobs, intrusive advertising, and domineering corporations like Google and Facebook invading our privacy.

Taplin does a good job of clearly charting how we ended up here. From the cynical attempts of tech companies to dismantle the protections of copyright law to how social media has undermined the quality and trustworthiness of news and empowered online hate mobs.

It’s familiar criticism, but no less powerful or important for that. However, Taplin’s remedies to the problems he identifies aren’t nearly as convincing - not least his call for the US to create a tax-funded broadcaster modelled on the BBC, which seems about as likely to catch on as chocolate teapots.

But sometimes it’s nice to read a book that reaffirms what you think is wrong with the world, right?
Visit Tristan Donovan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Jonathan Cott's There's a Mystery There: The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak. I was going to take it on my book tour with me, but it's too beautiful. Mr. Cott takes us on a rare tour of the inner workings of a complicated and profound artist. It will be waiting for me when I return. So I am packing Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, which couldn't have come at a better time. To think that a person of humor and purpose and values is actually serving as a United States senator in this crazy sideshow of our history gives me more hope and delight than I can express.
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Grief Cottage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2017

David Housewright

David Housewright is the Edgar Award and three-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of the Rushmore McKenzie and Holland Taylor novels as well as other tales of murder and mayhem in the Midwest.

His new novel is What the Dead Leave Behind.

Recently I asked Housewright about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve been reading Your Oasis on Flame Lake by Lorna Landvik I’m embarrassed to say that like a lot of guys, I was very dismissive of what many called “chick lit” even though I have read very little of it. But I read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and now realize that I have been missing out on some terrific writing. I’ll try to be less prejudiced in the future.
Visit David Housewright's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Leave Behind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2017

April Henry

April Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels Girl, Stolen and The Night She Disappeared and the thriller Face of Betrayal, co-authored with Lis Wiehl. She lives in Oregon.

Henry's new novel is Count All Her Bones, the sequel to Girl, Stolen.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just read a great book called Wildman by JC Geiger.

“Geiger” is German for violin, and JC Geiger plays the reader like an instrument in this marvelous first novel. The book is about Lance Hendricks, high school senior, who has a mantra he repeats any time he has doubts:
You are valedictorian.
You are the first-chair trumpet player.
You have a full-ride scholarship.
Miriam Seavers is in love with you.
Lance is driving 370 miles home to what promises to be the best night of his life, an epic graduation party where he will finally get to spend the night with Miriam. But then his ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the kind of place Lance, who is a worrier, thinks probably has meth labs and Bigfoot. Not only does he end up missing the party, Lance ends up stranded, waiting for his beloved Buick, which once belonged to his dad, to be fixed. And in a tiny town, Lance find himself outgrowing than the labels he has pasted on himself. The locals call him Wildman, and a girl named Dakota opens Lance’s eyes to the wider world - and to the fact that he’s more than he ever thought.

The writing is really marvelous in this book. I underlined so many parts, such as:
“Tow, he said, tasting the word’s weight. Three letters full of lost time.

Waiting for Dakota felt like warming up in the orchestra pit on opening night. Everyone tuning up their instruments. That awful, giddy flutter before a show.

All these words he'd been tossing out like candy from a parade float.

Lance pictured Bend High School's football coach/guidance counselor hunching over his computer with bent little arms like a Tyrannosaurus rex on a tricycle.
And the most amazing description of a first kiss:
He's holding this glass, moving so slow, so careful-but now their foreheads are nearly touching. Frozen time thaws to a rush and they're running downhill, the ground tipping forward, still tipping, and Lance's feet pedal air, and his stomach drops and he loses the Earth and presses his lips to her. Their mouths open to receive each other and everything is spilling, everything, everywhere.
Wildman is Geiger's debut novel. It's just been released.
Visit April Henry's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Girl, Stolen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sarah Creech

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Just yesterday I cracked open Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan—I was a little late to the Kwan trend when he first published Crazy Rich Asians. Of course, I’d heard of his debut just like everyone else, but I hadn’t yet made that far down on my reading list. I took a trip to New York City to visit my agent. While I was sitting in her office before a sushi lunch, she swept her arm back to her bookcase and said, “Choose whichever title you want.” The kid in the candy store cliché fits here: I immediately spotted Kwan’s book and I held out my hands and gestured with “gimmee” fingers. I read the book on the plane ride home and I was an immediate fan. I appreciate any author who transports me to an unexpected, highly original world. In this case, Kwan forces the reader to acknowledge the massive amount of wealth in Asia, and consequently, gross inequality on a global scale. And it’s more entertaining than any tabloid you could pick up at the grocery store. In this way, Kwan delivers much needed medicine in a spoon of honey.
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elizabeth J. Duncan

Elizabeth J. Duncan has just won the Bloody Words Light Mystery Award for Murder On the Hour (2016), published by Minotaur. The next book in the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, Murder Is for Keeps, has just been published. Duncan is also the author of a second series, Shakespeare in the Catskills mysteries (Crooked Lane Books).

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading two books at the moment: a police procedural, and an autobiography.

The Slaughter Man, by Tony Parsons is the second in the DC Max Wolfe series. It’s gritty, dark, and fast paced. While Wolfe investigates an unimaginably brutal crime involving the gruesome death of a well-to-do family, he’s raising his adorable five-year-old daughter, Scout. Parsons puts the reader at the heart of a serious crimes investigation, and in his protagonist has created a conflicted but dedicated detective whose love for his daughter rises above all else. They live in London’s Smithfield Market area, and Parsons captures the rhythm of the city beautifully.

Musicians in general, and rock stars in particular, lead interesting lives. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen is great reading – and I haven’t even got to the best bits. Springsteen’s honest yet sympathetic descriptions of his eccentric upbringing in a working class New Jersey family are engaging, and his recounting of the early gigs playing up and down the Jersey Shore are entertaining. He’s an excellent writer, as the lyrics of his songs demonstrate. The audio version of the book is narrated by Bruce himself, so I’ve ordered that from the library and I’ll switch over to that to learn about the glory days with the E Street Band. I like the idea of Bruce reading to me.
Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth J. Duncan and Dolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Alison Taylor

Alison Taylor is a Teaching Fellow at Bond University. In 2014, she received the Dean's Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Theses at the University of Queensland.

Her new book is Troubled Everyday: The Aesthetics of Violence and the Everyday in European Art Cinema.

Recently I asked Taylor about what she is reading. Her reply:
I’m gradually working my way through Michel Surya’s astonishingly detailed account of the life and writings of Georges Bataille (Georges Bataille: An Intellectual Biography). It’s a fantastic insight into a thinker I’ve always found intriguing (anyone who was judged too surreal for the surrealists is inevitably intriguing) and is filling in the gaps between the bits and pieces of Bataille’s own work that I’ve read over the years. While fascinating, it is a monster of a book, and not really conducive to long commutes, so while Bataille remains by my bedside, I have a less cumbersome book on the go.

Currently, this is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a beautifully composed mixture of memory and fantasy about one man’s experience of the Second World War. Vonnegut’s approach is one of graceful simplicity; the book reads like the world-weary sigh of someone who has seen too much, while still maintaining a sense of humour and humanity.

And, forever open is Amy Hungerford’s wonderful study of American literature, Postmodern Belief. This work examines the centrality and importance of belief for its own sake, rather than specifically tied to any one doctrine, in the works of great writers including Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg. McCarthy’s invocation of biblical prose across his works, and his imagery of the illiterate kid who carries a bible regardless towards the close of Blood Meridian are key examples. I say this book is forever open, because it’s the book I dip into before I write anything, and the book I return to when I have writer’s block. Beyond content, Hungerford possesses such a command over her material and argument that I hope such elegance will transmit to my own writing, even if only by osmosis.
Learn more about Troubled Everyday at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with The Alice Network. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Quinn and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson. A real classic of wartime literature: a squadron of RAF fighter pilots making their way first through the idyllic boredom of the "Phony War," and then being plunged headlong into the Battle of Britain. Tragedy and humor and spine-tingling action run side by side; Robinson pulls helpless laughter out of you with the high-jinks of his adrenaline-junkie young heroes, then turns the pace on a dime and has you mopping your eyes as the cruel odds of aerial battles against enemy Messerschmitts sends the irrepressible fliers you've come to love spiraling one by one to their deaths. Just a heart-breaker.

Portrait of a Conspiracy by Donna Russo Morin. My good friend Donna's first installment in the "Da Vinci's Disciples" series takes you on an irresistible headlong adventure: a ruthless assassination rocks Renaissance Florence to its core, and a secret sisterhood of women artists band together to save one of their own from the bloody reprisals. Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play; it's a deliciously heart-pounding tale with plenty of painterly details for an art-loving reader. I'm rereading this with huge pleasure, as her second in the series (The Competition) was just released.

The Conclave by Robert Harris. A sensationally gripping book covering the tense few days between the death of one pope and the election of another. Who will it be? Harris makes these quiet scenes of old men casting ballots in a locked room unbearably tense, and his hero--a thoughtful Italian cardinal with no desire to be Pope--is a humble, lovable Everyman we can all root for. Definitely making my year-end top-ten list.
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

The Page 69 Test: The Alice Network.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2017

Alan Drew

Alan Drew’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Gardens of Water, has been translated into ten languages and published in nearly two-dozen countries. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded a Teaching/Writing Fellowship. An Associate Professor of English at Villanova University where he directs the creative writing program, he lives near Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Drew's new novel is Shadow Man.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I run the literary festival at Villanova University, so in the spring I start reading books from authors I admire and might like to bring to campus. I’m currently reading, Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. This is a collection of short stories about Nigerian immigrants and their families, which is set both in America and Africa. There’s an element of magical realism here and stories which work as science fiction parables, but mostly these stories have moments of incredible emotional resonance and insight that often leave me incredibly moved.

I just finished teaching Jennifer Haigh’s Heat & Light, which is set in a central Pennsylvania town that is profoundly altered by natural gas fracking. Haigh is an incredible writer, with beautiful, richly nuanced sentences. But what really stands out here is her ability to enter into the points of view of 15+ characters, all with their own distinctive voice and narrative arc. A truly stunning feat of writing.

I’m doing some research for my next novel, which will be a follow up to Shadow Man. In the next book, I want to explore the intersection of a couple of developments in the Orange County of the 1980s: the growing Vietnamese refugee population and the rise of the skinhead neo-Nazi movement. I grew up next to the now closed El Toro marine air station. El Toro was the first landing point for many Vietnamese escaping the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War. The story of how the first wave of refugees escaped Saigon is harrowing and little told. But a book titled, The Lucky Few by Jan K. Herman chronicles this escape, focusing on the amazing story of the USS Kirk, a destroyer on which escaping Vietnamese military pilots landed their helicopters far out in the Pacific Ocean, unloading their families on the ship in hopes of a better life elsewhere.

Dipping into the door-stopper text book Forensic Science, An Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques 3rd Edition, edited by Stuart H. James and Jon J. Nordby. I need to understand how DNA evidence works, so it’s school for me.
Visit Alan Drew's website.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mark Powell

Mark Powell is the author of four previous novels, including The Sheltering. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and in 2014 was a Fulbright Fellow to Slovakia. In 2009, he received the Chaffin Award for contributions to Appalachian literature. He holds degrees from Yale Divinity School, the University of South Carolina, and The Citadel.

Powell lives in the mountains of North Carolina, where he teaches at Appalachian State University.

His new novel is Small Treasons.

Recently I asked Powell about what he was reading. His reply:
I always seem to be reading too many books, piling them on the nightstand or the floor, forgetting one, picking it back up. My side of the bed is my wife’s waking nightmare.

Right now, I’m finishing up a novel set primarily in Eastern Europe so a lot of what I’m reading is background on the region. Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain, Peter Conradi’s Who Lost Russia?, Tim Judah’s In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine, Misha Glenny’s giant history of the Balkans titled—wait for it—The Balkans.

I’m also rereading Denis Johnson. Along with Robert Stone, no one’s work has meant more to me not only as a writer but as a struggling, often-disbelieving religious believer. My favorites—though it’s akin to picking a favorite child—are Resuscitation of a Hanged Man and The Name of the World.

Two more recent reads, one old and one new: Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus is a nineteenth century novel (in the best sense) written in the twentieth century—a gorgeous book. David Joy’s The Weight of This World is a book both brutal and tender—what more could you ask for than that?

I’m also in a long-standing tussle with John Caputo’s The Weakness of God.
Learn more about Small Treasons.

The Page 69 Test: The Sheltering.

My Book, The Movie: The Sheltering.

--Marshal Zeringue