Saturday, May 18, 2019

Meghan Holloway

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.​​

She now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

Holloway's new novel is Once More Unto the Breach.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just turned in my 2020 release to my publisher, and I am giving myself a bit of a break before I dive into my next work in progress. Of course, much of this break will be spent reading research books for my next project, but I am also putting aside time to reread some of my favorites and catch up on books that have been lingering in my ‘To Be Read’ pile.

The books I am rereading include Atonement, All the Light We Cannot See, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

Ian McEwan’s intellectual and literary style always takes my breath away. The postmodern era brought metafiction to prominence, and I am intrigued by works that both tell a story and explore the art of storytelling. But even more than the style, I love the theme of redemption in Atonement. It is the core theme of Once More Unto the Breach as well. We all carry regrets with us, we all live under the shadow of our mistakes, and I am always engrossed by stories that are unflinching in their exploration of those mistakes.

What I love about Anthony Doerr’s hauntingly brilliant masterpiece is that every sliver of backstory you learn adds a deeper level of understanding to the unfolding narrative. I aimed for that same layering in Once More Unto the Breach, with each perspective and every flashback giving the reader deeper insight into the characters and their relationship to one another. In All the Light We Cannot See, the storytelling is as captivating as the plot, and I find Doerr’s lyricism utterly inspiring.

With a protagonist who is a Great War veteran, I knew I had to portray shell shock authentically, and Erich Maria Remarque’s book is one I always come back to for insight into the emotional wounds of war. All Quiet on the Western Front is a bleakly and gut-wrenchingly beautiful saga that is a detailed depiction of a generation utterly ravaged by a war that was on a scale never before seen. The wounding and the detachment of the Lost Generation is so viscerally shown in this book. To my mind, it is the best war story in existence. And like all true war stories, it is a vehement anti-war tome.

I am also catching up on some phenomenal nonfiction and fiction. Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis is a brilliant, harrowing piece of nonfiction that reads like a spy thriller. A.J. Baime’s The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World is an engrossing read about the man thrust into a position of leadership at one of the most tumultuous, pivotal points in history. Jane Healey’s The Beantown Girls is a vivid story of sisterhood, love, and sacrifice that centers around a little-known group of inspiring women in WWII. The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox is a beautiful gothic mystery and romance with a wonderful cast of characters and an engaging plot.

While a large portion of my reading revolves around the World Wars, I love a riveting read, nonfiction or fiction, regardless of time period. If you have any recommendations for great reads, send them my way. What has kept you relentlessly turning the pages into the wee hours of the morning lately?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Istagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

The Page 69 Test: Once More Unto the Breach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Leah Hager Cohen

Leah Hager Cohen was born in Manhattan and raised at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens and later in Nyack, New York. She attended Hampshire College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The author of five novels and five works of nonfiction, she is the Barrett Professor of Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross.

Cohen's new novel is Strangers and Cousins.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished A Simple Story, the 1923 novel by the Nobel Laureate S. Y. Agnon. Should I be embarrassed to say that I’d never even heard of Agnon until recently?

Any simplicity here is deceptive; the title should be taken with a wink. Although the story, set in the fictional Polish town of Szybusz at the turn of the 20th century, unfolds as if a familiar tale (think star-crossed lovers) in a familiar setting (think Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The Fools of Chelm or Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman), it’s anything but.

The experience of reading this book was wonderfully disorienting, as my expectations were repeatedly challenged and ultimately confounded. I might have finished in a huff if not for the excellent afterward by Hillel Halkin, who also translated the novel from the original Hebrew. As it is, I’m left with a complex aftertaste that makes me want to re-read the novel – but even better, leaves me contemplating notions of individuality and community, and how they fit together, and how life should be lived, what we, any of us, are here for.
Visit Leah Hager Cohen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the vintage-glam spy thriller trilogy The Amberlough Dossier (Tor), as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny.

A graduate of the Clarion and Alpha writers’ workshops, Donnelly has also served as on-site staff at the latter, mentoring amazing teens who will someday take over the world of SFF. She is currently a guest lecturer in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College and a teacher at the Catapult Classes in New York City.

Recently I asked Donnelly about what she was reading. Her reply:
Back in 2012, one of my Clarion instructors mentioned The Talented Mr. Ripley in workshop. The name was vaguely familiar, but only as a received pop culture artifact. But she talked about it in such glowing terms I thought, I guess I’d better read this.

And I tried. But I bounced off it like a superball.

Years passed. My tastes changed. My own writing, and my understanding of other authors’ craft, improved. And, after a bout with another thriller many blurbs and reviews hailed as “Ripleyesque,” which I found equal parts un-put-downable and deeply frustrating on a couple of craft levels, I thought, maybe I should try Ripley again.

I tore through it this time. Whenever I set it aside to do something else, I was back on the sofa within half an hour. Patricia Highsmith makes every moment of that book feel like a potential turning point in Tom Ripley’s hectic, high-stakes scam. None of the characters is a hero or a villain; the book is a masterclass in winning reader empathy through characterization and context.

Recently, after looking at some pages for a proposed new project, my editor said they reminded her of Highsmith, and asked if I could lean even harder on that tone, those characters, that voice. I had pitched the project as Perfume: The Story of a Murderer meets Brian Fuller’s Hannibal, in the style of Donna Tartt. But as soon as she said “Highsmith,” I knew she was right.

So I’ve lately finished Strangers on a Train, her debut, and Ripley Under Ground. Next is Ripley’s Game. She has such a particular way of presenting her characters’ situations through a lens that invites the reader to adopt a peculiar code privileging personal aesthetic over public morality. Of presenting elevated aesthetics as the highest achievement, an end worth any number of unsavory means.

Supporting this on every page is her lush imagery—setting, art, culture, food, people. She paints pictures of the luxe life, yes, but her skill is apparent even in small, intimate moments. In Strangers on a Train, she describes Anne at work over her illustrations: “When she dabbled her paintbrush fast in a glass of water, the sound was like laughter.” Oof! The gorgeous specificity! If you’ve ever painted in watercolor, you know that sound, and you know she’s dead-on.

The more I read of her work, the less I’m sure I’ll be able to carry off amorality with quite so much elegance. But wow, she really makes me want to try.
Visit Lara Elena Donnelly's website.

My Book, The Movie: Amberlough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Jack McDevitt

Jack McDevitt is an American science fiction author. He has won multiple awards including the International UPC Science Fiction award for Ships in the Night, a Nebula for Seeker, a Campbell Award for Omega, and the Robert Heinlein Lifetime Achievement Award. He has over 20 novels available in print, ebook and audio. He resides in Georgia with his lovely wife, Maureen.

McDevitt's new book is Octavia Gone, the latest Alex Benedict novel.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America caught my attention during one of the author’s appearances on “Morning Joe.” Meacham seems to have a clear perspective on what’s been happening in the United States. And he has won a Pulitzer Prize. In The Soul of America he discusses various dark times, some far worse than this current era, and argues that ultimately it’s up to the citizenry to stand up for what is right. If we can do that, we will get through into the daylight. It may take time, but it is essential that we refuse to despair.

The Churchill Factor, by Boris Johnson, moves into similar territory, using the former British prime minister to demonstrate that one man can move the world. When Churchill assumed office, in 1940, the Germans were winning everywhere. The French were surrendering, the Nazis were moving into Poland. Hitler was offering the British a deal. Back off, he was saying, and everything will be okay. Everyone in the upper levels of the British government wanted to accept his terms. Other than Churchill. He insisted they keep fighting, and he managed eventually to persuade FDR to bring the US into the war. Had he not accomplished all that, 1945 would have been a far darker year.

A Devil’s Chaplain, by Richard Dawkins. This is a collection of essays on assorted subjects by the famed evolutionary biologist. He argues that positions should be based on evidence. He goes in multiple directions. What does evolution actually mean? If every mother were to hold hands with her mother, and we took it back generations, allowing one yard for each mother, in less than 300 miles, we’ll be holding hands with chimpanzees.

I’m also reading H. L. Mencken’s Prejudices, the first volume in the Library of America collection. A brilliant journalist , Mencken took on conformity in American culture and any other target that annoyed him.

Finally I’ve dived into Harlan Ellison’s story collection, Strange Wine. I doubt there are any readers of this blog who aren’t familiar with Harlan’s dazzling fiction.
Visit Jack McDevitt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Octavia Gone.

The Page 69 Test: Octavia Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 10, 2019

Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born-and-bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons—especially fall in Chapel Hill, where she attended college, and summer in Beaufort, where she and her family spend every free moment. The author of The Secret of Southern Charm, Slightly South of Simple, Dear Carolina, and Lies and Other Acts of Love, Harvey is also the founder of the popular interior design blog Design Chic.

Her new novel is The Southern Side of Paradise.

Recently I asked Harvey about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am currently reading I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán. It is an insightful and very timely book about a woman whose best friend dies suddenly—of an accidental opioid overdose. In the aftermath of her friend Jenny’s death, Penelope begins to question everything: her career, her marriage, and her relationships with her brother and father. Instead of burying her head in the sand, she decides to face her troubles head on. She and her husband Sanjay make a pact to be brutally honest with each other and ask for the changes they need to make their marriage better. But, as is so often the case, honesty comes with unexpected consequences. It’s a fast-paced read with beautifully drawn characters and a fresh plot. I can’t put it down!

I’m also reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. I must be the only person in the world who hasn’t read her books yet, but they are such a great reminder, especially as I head out on a six-week book tour, that our path and our definition of success is for us to decide. It’s easy to get caught up in worries about what everyone else is going to think about your work, but, as Brown reminds us, what ultimately matters is what we think. My science brain loves that this is a book based on Brown’s years of research. It’s a fascinating read!
Visit Kristy Woodson Harvey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Southern Side of Paradise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Timothy Jay Smith

Timothy Jay Smith has traveled the world collecting stories and characters for his novels and screenplays which have received high praise. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. He won the Paris Prize for Fiction for his first book, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. Smith was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, "Stolen Memories." His screenplays have won numerous international competitions. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.

Smith's latest novel is The Fourth Courier.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The Fourth Courier, my novel set in Poland, was only released a few weeks ago, but I’m already well into my research for a new novel. Set in Istanbul, it’s the story of a gay Syrian refugee who gets recruited by the CIA to go deep undercover to carry out a dangerous mission. I know Istanbul less well than other locations in my novels, so I’m working my way through a small library of books set there.

In fiction, I like to read the kind of books that I write, and the two novels I just finished were relatively fast-paced stories, but not all action, which had depth and could even be accused of verging on literary. They were Joseph Kanon’s Istanbul Passage and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. Also like my own work, both stories were set against the backdrop of a bigger picture issue, so they were enlightening at the same time.

With scenes of Jews hunkered down on rickety ships destined for Israel, Kanon describes the chaos that ensued for many people immediately after the end of WWII. They’re also a metaphor for the chaos in the diplomatic and espionage circles in which his story plays out.

In his thin and brilliant novel, Hamid tells a different refugee story, of a young couple fleeing war in an unnamed country that has all the trappings of Syria. His novel is exceptionally clever for a device he uses, and all I will say is: the doors. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

So now I have embarked on somewhat drier reading territory. I have Orhan Pamuk’s memoir, Istanbul, to work my way through. He obsesses on details, though I will admit, his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, which he created as a companion to his novel of the same name, is so obsessed with minutiae of an obsessive love affair that if there were such a thing as installation literature, like there’s installation art, he would define the genre.

Far more adventurous is the non-fiction Midnight at the Pera Palace by Charles King, the title referring to the bar favored by spies and diplomats between the two world wars. It’s great for capturing an era, which isn’t the era I’m writing about, but the circumstances haven’t altogether changed. Istanbul is still a center of intrigue.

I’ve saved the best for last. Certainly the most lighthearted. When someone learned that my new novel involved a gay character in Istanbul, he suggested I read something by Mehmet Murat Somer. (Who? I hadn’t heard of him either.) It turns out, he’s the author of the Turkish Delight detective novels featuring a drag queen Audrey-Hepburn-lookalike who’s also an amateur sleuth. I’m halfway through The Serenity Murders. Who knew that anyplace in Turkey could be so campy?
Visit Timothy Jay Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 6, 2019

Kristin Fields

Kristin Fields grew up in Queens, which she likes to think of as a small town next to a big city. Fields studied writing at Hofstra University, where she was awarded the Eugene Schneider Award for Short Fiction. After college, she found herself working on a historic farm, as a high school English teacher, designing museum education programs, and is currently leading an initiative to bring gardens to New York City public schools. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Fields's new novel is A Lily in the Light.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m deep into writing my next book, which is set in Queens/the 1960s during the height of drug culture. My main character, thirteen year old Gia, really loves nature and wildlife, and is particularly interested in the ecosystems surrounding Jamaica Bay where she lives, so I’ve been reading a lot about heroin, marshes, and historical reference books on Queens at the time.

I often find that the fiction I’m reading reflects what I’m trying to capture in my writing. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane has crept onto my nightstand, as has The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. Mystic River follows three childhood friends after one is abducted and returned into adulthood, where one of their daughters is murdered. The Murmur of Bees is the story of a baby found abandoned under a bridge, covered in bees, set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and influenza of 1918.

They seem inherently different; Dennis Lehane has this heartbreaking way of capturing setting in its realist form while Sofia Segovia plays with magic. Merging that mirror-like capture of place, while also finding the unique, almost magical elements of it is certainly the goal for my current work in progress.
Visit Kristin Fields's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Lily in the Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Caitlin Starling

Caitlin Starling is a writer and spreadsheet-wrangler who lives near Portland, Oregon. Equipped with an anthropology degree and an unhealthy interest in the dark and macabre, she writes horror-tinged speculative fiction of all flavors. Her first novel, The Luminous Dead, tells the story of a caver on a foreign planet who finds herself trapped, with only her wits and the unreliable voice on her radio to help her back to the surface.

Recently I asked Starling about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Kameron Hurley’s (frankly astounding) The Light Brigade. It’s about the horrors of war and capitalism, the malleability of perception, time, and causality, and (ultimately) hope for a better future. It is brutal and incisive and glorious and painful, and I want everybody who is able to read it to give it a try.

Other recent delights:

The Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum - a YA novel about friendships and love so tight and under such challenging circumstances that they can become symbiotic to the worst (and best) degree. It’s told by way of microfiction, each chapter its own mini-thesis.

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann - This isn’t out yet (it releases from Angry Robot on June 18), but you should absolutely preorder it. It’s got everything I could ever ask for: cosmic horror, artificial divinity, and a deep exploration of the nature of individuality and the soul.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins - This book! This book! I don’t want to tell you too much (it’s best experienced with no expectations), but just know that it is life-changingly incredible and very, very weird. I still wake up in the middle of the night staring up at the ceiling and going, Wow, that book happened. (It is pretty violent, though, and a particular warning if you’re squeamish about pet death).

Finally, if you’ve read my book The Luminous Dead and are itching for more caving and danger, but in a more nonfictional form, I can’t recommend The Blind Descent by James M. Tabor enough. It’s accessible and full of highly distressing cave facts (for instance: did you know supercaves can have hurricane force winds, and that those winds can be the first sign that a cave is massive?), and covers expeditions in North America and eastern Europe to find the deepest cave in the world.

On the horizon, I have another Kameron Hurley book (The Stars Are Legion), G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen, and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, along with several memoirs and nonfiction books I have waiting on the shelves.
Visit Caitlin Starling's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Luminous Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 3, 2019

Todd Strasser

Todd Strasser is the internationally best-selling author of more than one hundred books for children and teens, including Fallout and The Beast of Cretacea, as well as the classics The Wave and Give a Boy a Gun, which are taught in classrooms around the world.

Strasser's new novel is Summer of '69.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The Library Book by Susan Orlean. This is a remarkable book about an unremarkable subject, a library. More specifically, the Los Angeles Public Library. Orlean has an uncanny ability to make just about anything she writes about feel fascinating. Her description of the fire that damaged or destroyed nearly a million items is utterly engrossing.

P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. This British humorist, who also lived for a time in the United States, is the author of some of the funniest novels (Thank You, Jeeves) I’ve ever read. He was also remarkably prolific. So it was fascinating to get a glimpse of the writer behind it all.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Not my usual read, but adorable and hard to put down.
Visit Todd Strasser's website.

My Book, The Movie: Summer of '69.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

August Norman

Originally from central Indiana, thriller and mystery author August Norman has called Los Angeles home for two decades, writing for and/or appearing in movies, television, stage productions, web series, and even, commercial advertising. A lover and champion of crime fiction, Norman is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and Sisters In Crime (National and LA), and regularly attends the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.

Norman's first Caitlin Bergman thriller is Come and Get Me.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
In general, I reach for a mix of crime fiction, true crime, literary fiction, and non-fiction, though often delve into sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and romance. Basically, I read everything, especially if referred by a friend. My current bookshelves include: Doyle, Christie, Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald, Connelly, Coben, Crais, Cormac McCarthy, Laurie R King, Sue Grafton, Meg Gardiner, Michael Koryta, Elmore Leonard, T. Jefferson Parker, Robert Parker, Dennis Lehane, J.A. Jance, Stephen King, Walter Mosley, Gillian Flynn, Kathy Reichs…plus a whole bunch of debut fiction. Let’s just say, I recently took ten books to a swap designed to thin my sagging shelves, and came back with fifteen more.

So far, 2019’s reading list has been a whirlwind of great and diverse reads. The next installment in my Caitlin Bergman series (Crooked Lane, Spring 2020) has required a good deal of research. Of the many non-fiction sources I’ve consulted, my favorite has been the study from 1954 that defined the term ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ by observing a flying saucer cult from within when their apocalyptic predictions failed to come true. Authored by Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World is a fascinating look at why people hold true to their beliefs, even when visibly disproven by logic. While the study concentrated on religion, it’s easy to see the same patterns play out in the rest of our world ... cough, cough, flat earth, cough, politics.

Beyond research, the publishing of my debut novel introduced me to established authors (though new to me), who were kind enough to contribute blurbs.

In the world of crime fiction, I gobbled up Lisa Brackmann’s Black Swan Rising. Readers who love a good thriller, not just plucked from the headlines, but predicted from current events, should get a copy now.

I started with the fifth book in Gwen Florio’s Lola Wicks mystery series, Under the Shadows, and can’t wait to go back for the rest. Besides her realistic look at trauma-related addiction and her vivid painting of places like Montana and Utah, her character Lola is a hard-charging reporter, unafraid to put herself in the middle of the action ... which come to think of it, is similar to my own heroine, Caitlin Bergman ... and Lisa Brackmann’s Casey Cheng. What can I say? I have a type.

Best-selling author Steena Holmes’ novel The Forgotten Ones pulled me in and made me cry, so now I’ll be tearing through her whole catalog ... as well as those of David Bell, Lydia Kang, Christine Carbo, Barbara Nickless, Simon Gervais, and Thomas Shawver.

Finally, I’ve also read two debut novels from the class of 2019, The War in our Hearts by Eva Seyler, and Past Presence by Nicole Bross. The first, a historical drama set in WWI, the second, a modern mystery with a touch of supernatural. Both introduced me to strong literary voices with great futures to come – and a need for a few more shelves.
Visit August Norman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Come and Get Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dave Patterson

Dave Patterson is an award-winning writer, musician and high school English teacher. He received his MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of English and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.

His new novel is Soon the Light Will Be Perfect.

Recently I asked Patterson about what he was reading. His reply:
I like to have a balance of fiction, nonfiction, and craft books going at all times--leaning harder on fiction.

I just finished up Wildlife by Richard Ford. I’m a huge Ford fan. Like a zealot. The short story collection, Rock Springs, and the novel, The Sportswriter, were game changers for me in my twenties. Paul Dano recently co-wrote and directed a film adaptation of Ford’s 1990 novel. I had the opportunity to watch the film and hear Ford discuss the process of writing Wildlife and seeing it turned into a movie. It was fascinating. I immediately went out and bought a fresh copy of the novel. It’s brilliant. Wildlife is taut, as alive as a forest fire.

I’m also reading Naked by David Sedaris. I know. I know. You’re thinking, Shouldn’t you have read that book a long time ago? Absolutely. But somehow I skipped over this collection of essays. Sedaris delivers like no other. He’s a true gift. His craft is so refined it almost seems invisible. I love trying to parse out why one of his essays works so well. On approaching Sedaris, I have to first let an essay seduce me with its mystical spell--just enjoy the ride--then I step back and start teasing out the craft.

For my writing book, I’ve been letting Several Short Sentences About Writing work over my mind. What a book. It’s dismantling my preconceptions about writing in a beautiful way. Verlyn Klinkenborg has constructed the book in a mash-up of free verse meets craft essay. I highly recommend it to anyone obsessed with writing sentences.
Visit Dave Patterson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Soon the Light Will Be Perfect.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Claire Needell

Claire Needell is the author of The First True Thing and The Word for Yes and is a contributor to the New York Times and a former middle school teacher.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Needell's reply:
About a month ago, I found myself telling everyone in my writers’ group to read Iris Murdoch. I hadn’t actually read Murdoch in years, but in my late twenties I read pretty much everything she wrote. Her books stuck in my mind as novels that have a bit of Everything—interesting historical detail, incisive philosophical ponderings, viciously motivated narcissists. Sex, suspense, flawless pacing and a sense of the absurd. This is the impossible mix that is an Iris Murdoch novel.

Having heard myself say this over and over again for weeks (and noting the nodding tolerance of my audience), I decided to go back to an early Murdoch novel The Flight from the Enchanter, a lovely edition of which I happened to have in my living room for show (It has a colorful 1971 dust jacket, but is a worthless library edition that I must have bought somewhere in London in the nineties). I found, however, that every time I opened the book I felt itchy and started to sneeze, so I had to buy the novel on Amazon after a couple of chapters.

And she is Everything! There’s a vaguely feminist character carrying on a love affair with a pair of Polish brothers! A suffragette coup of a stodgy board meeting, a villain who’s villainy involves the usurpation of a political/literary journal—the importance of which is unknown to all involved! Characters are followed through back alleys into underground labyrinths in which people...develop blackmail photos, and threaten adversaries with toxic chemicals. And all of it is breathless, except for when it’s profound.

So, that’s what I’m reading. A bit of sorcery from a master.
Visit Claire Needell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 25, 2019

David Quantick

David Quantick is an author, television writer and radio broadcaster. As well as All My Colors, he wrote the surreal thriller The Mule (“the Da Vinci Code with better grammar” – The Independent) and the comic scifi novel Sparks (“excellent” – Neil Gaiman). He also wrote the critically-acclaimed TV drama Snodgrass, currently being developed into a feature film, and Dickens In Rome, a new play for Northern Stage.

Quantick has won several broadcast awards, including an Emmy as part of the writing team on Veep.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Quantick's reply:
I’m in a random selection of books right now. I bought Rex Warner’s The Aerodrome, which is a Penguin paperback from the 1930s and is a kind of parable about the rise of fascism (I have a slightly dubious obsession with Nazi counterfactuals like The Man In The High Castle and, in a different vein, Norman Spinrad’s astonishing, hilarious The Iron Dream). It’s quite eccentric and not at all manly, which I like.

I just finished David Stubbs’ Mars by 1980, a history of electronic music from Stockhausen to the Aphex Twin, which means that everything I read is now soundtracks by bleeps and clanks and makes my life a lot more interesting, like I am being pursued by faulty robots.

And I have just finished It, by Stephen King, which is not only one of the best King novels - being both a perfect evocation of lost youth and also totally scary – but also, I realised, a continuation of the kind of story invented by E Nesbit, taken on by Enid Blyton, carried on by the Scooby-Doo stories, and beautifully pastiched in Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. It has inspired me.
Visit David Quantick's website.

The Page 69 Test: All My Colors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.

Her new novel, Before She Was Found, is a gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town.

Recently I asked Gudenkauf about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I’m reading an advanced reading copy of The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan. This atmospheric thriller follows Jo as she returns to her childhood home and tries to rebuild a relationship with her estranged mother. After a skull is found in the lake behind the house, Jo is forced to face the confront the truth the mysterious disappearance of her beloved nanny decades earlier. The Nanny has everything I’m looking for in a thriller: unreliable narrators, family secrets and plenty of suspense.
Visit Heather Gudenkauf's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf and Maxine.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & Lolo.

--Marshal Zeringue