Sunday, October 22, 2017

Linda Gordon

Linda Gordon, winner of two Bancroft Prizes and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, is the author of The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and the coauthor of Feminism Unfinished. She is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University and lives in New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Gordon's reply:
I’m loving Yuri Slezkine’s The House of Government, one of an unfortunately small and quirky category of history books that I enjoy, a book that takes a piece of the background and makes it the foreground, the plot, the interpretation and everything else. It’s a biography of a building, possibly the largest apartment building in Europe, built in Moscow in 1931 to house Communist big-wigs. It provided 505 furnished apartments, and all the services of a small town—cafeteria, grocery, medical clinic, bank, gym, etc. , not to mention a theater seating 1300 and a cinema seating 1500. In 1935 it had 2,655 residents. The story begins with portraits of the pre-Bolshevik young revolutionaries—often teenagers high on utopian dreams revealed in remarkably intimate letters and diaries, then proceeds to introduce the Stalin-era functionaries replete with their gossip and power struggles, and ends with tragedy, when some 800 of them were imprisoned or killed in Stalin’s purges. (Disclosure: I was once an historian of Russia.)

Because I’m interested in non-standard ways of writing history, another genre I enjoy is mystery/spy novels, either fictionalizing true stories and/or mixing real with imaginary characters. Several years ago I was gripped by the novel HHhH, standing for Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich, or Himmler's brain is called Heydrich, by Laurent Binet and translated from the French. Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi Obergruppenführer, aka “the butcher of Prague,” led the plan to murder all the Jews, gays, disabled people, etc.  Another practitioner of that genre is Joseph Kanon, whose Los Alamos concerns the espionage going on as physicists rushed madly to build an atomic bomb. We meet J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the project, and many of his co-workers, often refugees from Nazidom, as well as a fictional hero and, of course, a love affair.
Visit Linda Gordon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

Paul Halpern

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of fifteen popular science books, including Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog.

Halpern's new book is The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading, and greatly enjoying, The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, which had been recommended to me by many people.  It is fabulously written, full of many profound insights about the nature of time and the brevity of life.  I’m finding Mann’s description of a sanatorium (health spa for patients with tuberculosis and other illnesses) in the Swiss Alps fascinating because of the connection with my own book.  Feynman’s first wife Arline had tuberculosis and sadly died at a young age in a sanatorium.  With his incredibly rich descriptive prose, it is no wonder that Mann won the Nobel Prize.  Plus, he was a friend and colleague of Einstein in Princeton, which makes his life story even more interesting.
Visit The Quantum Labyrinth website.

My Book, The Movie: The Quantum Labyrinth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Abeer Hoque

Abeer Y. Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. She has published a book of travel photographs and poems called The Long Way Home, and a book of linked stories, photographs and poems called The Lovers and the Leavers. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has received several other fellowships and grants. Her writing and photography have been published in Guernica, Outlook Traveller, Wasafiri, ZYZZYVA, India Today, and The Daily Star. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco.

Hoque's latest book is Olive Witch: A Memoir.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have been on a Booker Long List reading kick this summer/fall. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, was an often brutal, sometimes beautiful genre-mashing slave narrative. Reading the novel, it’s impossible not to draw parallels between pre-Civil-War times and the Great Migration and Jim Crow and Civil Rights and now 2017, the year of white supremacy in the White House.

I loved Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire (also from the Booker long list), with its sharp and finely drawn scenes, precise and clever dialogue, and a plot that vibrates with increasing intensity. The novel stretches from family ties and community to the wider sweep of global terrorism, religion and radicalism, immigration and nativism, and what we do for love and war.

I picked up Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, because the author is of Nigerian descent, and it’s just been optioned for an HBO series. I’m excited that a story with Nigerian/pan-African characters and folklore will hit the screens in a big way. I found the writing and characterization a bit uneven and choppy, but it’s a thrilling plot, wildly inventive, mythic, and feminist. I’m looking forward to its TV adaptation.

I was riveted by Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Starting from our earliest human ancestors, going into the present day and beyond, Sapiens is irreverent, indicting, entertaining, and informative. If you’re tender about things like religion or capitalism or even human rights, you won’t get a break, but it’s rollicking and relevant.

And my most recent reading foray was volume one of Margaret Atwood’s comic book, Angel Catbird, a collaboration between the much beloved prize winning literary author (I’m a huge fan of her novels) and an illustrator and colorist. Angel Catbird is a bit standard in terms of plot and structure, but sprinkles lessons for cat owners here and there, and my favourite bit – a half-cat creature of Anishinaabe descent, a First Nations people.
Learn more about the book and author at Abeer Y. Hoque's website.

The Page 99 Test: Olive Witch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tracey Neithercott

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

Neithercott's new novel is Gray Wolf Island.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually read five to 10 books each month, but September has been odd. With massive day job deadlines and my debut novel about to release, I’ve been slowly making my way through only one: Laura Ruby’s middle grade novel, York.

I fell in love with Ruby’s writing in Bone Gap, her 2015 Printz Award–winning and National Book Award–nominated YA novel. When I heard she was writing another book, I knew I needed to read it. And when I learned what it was about—a puzzle of sorts in which three kids search for a treasure in an alternate New York—I knew I needed to read it right now.

Middle grade isn’t my go-to genre (though I admit I do need to read more of it!), but I’m loving York so far. Ruby is a master at creating quirky, well-rounded characters. I also appreciate the level of intelligence in the story—the next time someone tells me children’s books need to be dumbed down for kids, I’m going to hand them York (and then a giant stack of more middle grade and young adult novels). I can’t wait to find out how the book’s trio solves the cleverly crafted clues to find the treasure.
Visit Tracey Neithercott's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gray Wolf Island.

The Page 69 Test: Gray Wolf Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sarah Porter

Sarah Porter is the author of the Lost Voices Trilogy (Lost Voices, Waking Storms, The Twice Lost) in addition to Vassa in the Night—all for the teen audience.

Her new novel is When I Cast Your Shadow.

Recently I asked Porter about what she was reading. Porter's reply:
For the last few years I’ve been working intermittently on an historical novel set in 1816. The amount of research it takes to understand the period is truly intimidating, and most of my reading now is focused on that era. I see a lot of historical fiction that takes great care with the dresses and carriages, but gives the characters completely modern outlooks. I’m trying to grasp how people of that era actually thought about the issues confronting them. Free speech was still a contested ideal in England, with journalists clapped in the stocks for criticizing the regent. The deceased Mary Wollstonecraft was fervently hated for asserting that women might possess something resembling humanity. And even radicals thought that organizing working-class people was simply too dangerous to risk.

Recently I’ve been reading Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes. My characters are intellectuals and poets, o Shelley and his friends offer a great window into the ideas they would have been discussing. It’s a fascinating but very long biography, published in 1975. I sometimes find it painfully sexist—Mary Shelley’s mind was “curiously masculine,” really? But overall it’s providing a lot of insight into the attitudes of the era. After the Shelley bio, I have a volume of Byron’s letters waiting. There’s a particular tone to 19th century snark that I’m trying to capture, and Byron’s snark was the best of his time!

Now and then I can’t resist taking a break from research. I recently finished Brittany Cavallaro’s The Last of August, a mystery in which the descendants of Watson and Holmes team up to find Charlotte Holmes’s missing uncle. It’s dark, brutal, scathing, and yet still full of charm and wit. And Ann Leckie’s Provenance just came out. I’m not made of stone and I won’t be able to hold back from reading it for long!
Visit Sarah Porter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sarah Bailey

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Bailey's first novel is The Dark Lake.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading pile has been dominated by Australian authors of late and I feel fortunate to have been on some memorable journeys with some incredible characters.

Sam, the young protagonist in Ben Hobson’s To Become a Whale was a beautiful young soul and his coming of age tale set against the harsh Australian landscape was very vivid. I spent the majority of the book wishing that I could adopt him.

I have also recently enjoyed Kylie Ladd’s The Way Back which was a really interesting twist on the thriller genre, exploring the impact a kidnapping has on the family of the young girl taken, rather than purely focusing on the drama of her abduction. The characters were all wonderfully drawn and incredibly engaging.

I always have a few crime thrillers on the go and have just re-read Michael Robotham’s Watching You which is a great little ride and part of his wonderful series featuring the psychologist Joe O’Loughlin.

I’m currently reading a Camilla Lackberg thriller The Lost Boy, set in icy Sweden. Ironically, I picked this up on a holiday in sunny Queensland – it’s especially nice to read about somewhere cold when you are somewhere warm! I always enjoy Lackberg’s mix of crime and human drama.
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

My Book, The Movie: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

David Biespiel

David Biespiel was born in 1964 and grew up in Houston, Texas.  He is a poet, literary critic, columnist, and contributing writer at The Rumpus, American Poetry ReviewPolitico, New RepublicPartisan, Slate, Poetry, and The New York Times, among other publications.

He is the author of ten books, most recently The Education of a Young PoetA Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction, and The Book of Men and Women, which was chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry.

Recently I asked Biespiel about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m reading Men, Women, and Other Anticlimaxes by Anatole Broyard. It’s collection of pieces by the late New York Times book critic about, as the title tells, men and women in different stages of their lives. Broyard’s style is terrifically easy, complimentary, without neurosis. He can handle the bucolic and the mean streets with an undisturbed acquaintance with their complexities and simplicities. I’m also reading the June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo, translated by Jeffery Yang. The poems are hit and miss really, by my tastes, but the subject matter about the struggle for human rights in China, about the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 wonderfully thrusts language and meaning into the widest civic sphere a poet can.
Visit David Biespiel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash is the New York Times best selling author of the novels The Last BalladA Land More Kind Than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Cash's reply:
I just finished Scott McClanahan's gorgeous and dangerous new novel The Sarah Book. It's the first person account of a young father going through the breakdown of his marriage, a breakdown that is primarily fueled by his own uncontrollable urges and proclivity toward chaos. Much has been made of the hillbilly since JD Vance's elegy, but McClanahan's novel proves that Vance's book isn't the last word on the culture, nor is it the most eloquent or powerful or insightful. While many of the socio-economic struggles of Appalachia can be traced back to regional isolation and an economy shackled to dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, there is no better way to unravel the psychology of a region than to throw yourself into McClanahan's novel, which, much like the culture itself, I have no explanation for.
Visit Wiley Cash's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Land More Kind Than Home.

My Book, The Movie: This Dark Road to Mercy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2017

Meryl Gordon

Meryl Gordon is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mrs. Astor Regrets and Phantom of Fifth Avenue, a Wall Street Journal bestseller. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair. She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on “elder abuse” and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.

Gordon's new book is Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
This happens to be a season when several friends have published books, all very different, and I have been enthusiastically devouring them. Julie Glass's new book, A House Among the Trees, is so beautifully written that I found myself stopping to re-read every sentence, about a famous but secretive children's book author and what happens to those near and dear when he dies.

Linda Fairstein's latest mystery, Deadfall, has great New York City details and she keeps the plot moving.

Betsy Carter's new novel about German immigrants in America in the 1940's, We Were Strangers Once, is wonderfully evocative of an era.
Visit Meryl Gordon's website.

Meryl Gordon's five best chronicles of high society.

The Page 99 Test: The Phantom of Fifth Avenue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lydia Kang

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang's novels include Control, Catalyst, and the newly released A Beautiful Poison.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Kang's reply:
I usually have a few things going at the same time. I used to be a serial reader and wouldn’t pick up a book until the last one was done, but due to a cramped schedule that’s out the window. I find that I DNF more often, and I’m usually reading for research as well as for pleasure, depending on the time of the day.

Right now for research, I’m reading Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York, by Catherine Elizabeth Havens, a ten year old girl who wrote between 1849-1850 in New York City. My current WIP in set there, and nothing beats a day-to-day account to understand the language, location, and cultural mores were.

For fun, I’m reading Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. I read both YA, adult nonfiction, and fiction, and this is one I’ve had a long while but haven’t cracked. I’ve only just started it, but the opening line is “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” I’m hooked! It’s won a lot of praise, which makes me both nervous and excited—will it be as good as I hope it will be? I’m about 20% in, and so far, it’s amazing.
Visit Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

The Page 69 Test: Catalyst.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Zack McDermott

Zack McDermott has worked as a public defender for The Legal Aid Society of New York. His work has appeared on This American Life, Morning Edition, Gawker, and Deadspin, among others.

McDermott's new book is Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. McDermott's reply:
For the third time, Kent Russell’s I’m Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son. Kent is definitely in my top three favorite living writers. When I read him, I think, “I am sure I’ll never be that good.” The New York Times said he “has more than a little in common with the late David Foster Wallace.” Who can live up to that? Kent. His essays are weird, hilarious, kind of dark, with plenty of soul. The man has a fascinating brain – I’ve given his book to so many people as a gift.
Visit Zack McDermott's website.

The Page 99 Test: Gorilla and the Bird.

My Book, The Movie: Gorilla and the Bird.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 2, 2017

Peter Zheutlin

Peter Zheutlin is the author of Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride and Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway, a New York Times best seller.

His new book is Rescued: What Second Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living With Purpose, Loving With Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things.

Recently I asked Zheutlin about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now I am reading Elissa Altman’s food memoir, Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire and the Art of Simple Cooking, which is based on her James Beard-award winning blog of the same name. My wife, Judy Gelman, is a food writer and she suggested I contact Elissa because Elissa and her partner, Susan, share their lives with rescue dogs. I interviewed Elissa for my new book Rescued: What Second Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living with Purpose, Loving with Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things. Elissa’s writing is funny, unpretentious and keenly observant. I interviewed her for Rescued before reading her book and am not surprised at how insightful and thoughtful it is.

This month my book group, a bunch of sixty-something guys who have been meeting for more than twenty-five years, is discussing The Sympathizer by Viet Tranh Nguyen, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The first chapter takes off like a runaway train and it never falters. It ranks up there with my favorite book of all time, William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner.

I also recently read both of Amor Towles' novels, Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. Towles’s characters are rendered so precisely, and his writing is so smart, that every sentence was like popping a piece of exquisite chocolate in your mouth. I kept thinking, “wow, I wish I could write half as well.” His writing harkens back to other eras…F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton come to mind.
Visit Peter Zheutlin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Zheutlin & Albie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Terrence McCauley

Terrence P. McCauley is an award-winning writer of crime fiction and thrillers.

His new book, the third novel in his University Series, is A Conspiracy of Ravens.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. McCauley's reply:
I usually read two books at once. One fiction and one non-fiction. It helps diffuse my intake so I don't accidentally adopt the style of the fiction writer I'm reading. The non-fiction book I'm currently reading is The Plot to Seize the White House: The Shocking True Story of the Conspiracy to Overthrow FDR by Jules Archer. It's a fascinating true story about a movement in the country to remove FDR after his election and replace him with U.S. Marine General Smedley Butler, a war hero. What's most interesting about the story is that Butler revealed the plot himself. It's a great read.

My fiction choice this month is The Looking Glass War by John le Carré. I'm trying to read all of the Smiley books before I read his new one and I'm enjoying it immensely. I've tried to read the book several times before, but I've always lost interest in the early going. But this, my third attempt, has me hooked. Le Carré's prose is beautiful, but his style takes some getting used to. I suppose a book has to find you at the right time for it to click with a reader and, for me, this one is clicking on all cylinders. If you like le Carré, you'll love this one.
Visit Terrence McCauley's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Conspiracy of Ravens.

The Page 69 Test: A Conspiracy of Ravens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 30, 2017

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen critically acclaimed novels, including the newly released Lie to Me.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Ellison's reply:
I am knee-deep in a book that is very oddly timed for me. I’ve just released a new novel that has a huge Parisian component, and I did several events with a delightful author named Eleanor Brown on my tour. In preparation for the event, I went to familiarize myself with her new book. What a delight!

A Paris All Your Own is a compilation of essays by highly-successful female authors who’ve all written books set in the City of Light. I’ve so enjoyed walking in their footsteps, seeing all the different secret spots, feeling the soft river air on my skin, smelling the fragrant bread, cheese, and wine. The timing was impeccable for me. It took me back to the origin story of my own novel just as I was out on tour – what could be better?

Highly recommended!
Visit J.T. Ellison's website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Lie to Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sujatha Fernandes

Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney. She taught at the City University of New York for a decade and holds a visiting position at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Her research combines social theory and political economy with in-depth, engaged ethnography of global social and labor movements. Her first book, Cuba Represent! looks at the forms of cultural struggle that arose in post-Soviet Cuban society. Her second book, Who Can Stop the Drums? explores the spaces for political agency opened up for barrio-based social movements by a hybrid post-neoliberal state under radical left wing leader Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In her third book Close to the Edge, she explores whether the musical subculture of hip hop could create and sustain a new global cultural movement.

Fernandes's latest book is Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Among my favorite books I’ve read this year is Lisa Ko’s book The Leavers about a Chinese migrant in New York City who mysteriously disappears one day, leaving her son to be adopted by a white family in New Jersey. I thought that the book superbly described so many different worlds, from immigrant New York, to white suburban Jersey, and an industrialized Fuzhou. I also loved the descriptions of music in the novel, which helped evoke so much about the struggles of the main protagonist. It reminded me of a few other recent books about migrant workers I have read this year, including Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways and Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life. Migrant workers are not a common topic in literary writing. We need more of these stories.

I was thrilled to read Arundhati Roy’s masterpiece The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The book takes unusual and feisty protagonists in New Delhi and brings them together in a way that is electric. I found myself reading sentences over and over for their sheer brilliance and beauty. Roy’s experiences with social justice struggles in Kashmir and among the Naxalite groups in North India over the last two decades show through in the book, and illuminate every page.

In non-fiction, I really enjoyed Teju Cole’s book Known and Strange Things. The book is a series of Cole’s collected essays on the locations one encounters through travel, and how our experiences of place are shaped by art, music, literature and photography. As an acclaimed photographer, Cole offers sardonic and wry observations about social photography platforms like Instagram, where he says trillions of banal photos a year are taken of sunsets, girlfriends, and meals. What does this mean for the art of photography and how can it be subverted? The book is very thought-provoking and asks the big and crucial questions.
Visit Sujatha Fernandes's website.

The Page 99 Test: Who Can Stop the Drums?.

The Page 99 Test: Curated Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brad Abraham

Brad Abraham is the author of Magicians Impossible, creator of the Mixtape comic book series, screenwriter of the films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, writer on the television series The Canada Crew, Now You Know, I Love Mummy, and RoboCop Prime Directives, and a journalist whose work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Abraham's reply:
When I was writing Magicians Impossible I was very conscious about not reading any books about, or indeed any media involving magic. It’s why I only saw Marvel’s Doctor Strange when it arrived on Netflix this summer, safely after delivering my book to the publisher. But all through the writing of it, I was building a list of titles with a mind to reading them once my book was sitting on bookstore shelves. Right now I’m about three-quarters of the way through Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician and have been enjoying the dive into another writer’s take on magic, mystery, secret societies, and my adopted home of New York City. What’s been really fascinating about Maxwell’s book is how she drew from a lot of the same mythologies I did when plotting my book; magical barriers, powerful objects, warring magical clans, heists, and so many wheels within wheels. I like the books I read to be surprising and so far The Last Magician has more than fit that bill.

Another I just finished is a non-fiction art book, and part of Taschen’s All-American Ads series. This one was the volume looking at the advertising of the 1930s and, while hefty (they all are) is one I got through in relatively short order. I’ve been mulling a project set in that decade, and one of the reasons I glommed onto the Taschen books is, for me anyway, the research aspect. So much of writing is visual, but when you’re writing out of your own time-frame there are questions. What did people wear? What did they drive? What did they eat and drink, how did they travel, what toys did they own and cherish? The Taschen Ads series is a great resource for any writer, and you’ll be surprised what ideas will be sparked just by looking at an ad for Bromo-Seltzer from 1934.

Third, I just saw It in theaters on the weekend and have begun re-reading, well, It – a book I first read way back in 1989 (the year the movie version takes place in). Back then, I was the age of the kids of the Loser’s Club. 27 years later I’m the age they’d be as adults now. This will be my first time reading it as an adult and I can’t wait to see how that goes. Books are timeless; we’re the ones who change. The ones who grow up and grow old, while those characters remain forever in amber. There’s something almost beautiful about that; even in a tale as dark and unsettling as this one.
Visit Brad Abraham's website.

The Page 69 Test: Magicians Impossible.

--Marshal Zeringue

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