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

Monday, March 30, 2020

Patricia Marcantonio

Patricia Marcantonio was born in Pueblo, Colorado. She has won awards for her journalism, short stories and screenplays. Her children's book Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos has earned an Anne Izard Storyteller’s Choice Award and was named an Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Commended Title, and one of the Wilde Awards Best Collections to Share with recommendations from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She now lives in Idaho.

Marcantonio's first Felicity Carrol mystery is Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid's Tale so I had to continue the story in The Testaments. Atwood's writing instantly takes you into this brutal world of Gilead. Her female characters are amazing and interesting--women of hope and courage and yes, even Aunts. Atwood is such a powerful storyteller. I can hardly wait to see how the book ends.
Visit Patricia Marcantonio's website.

The Page 69 Test: Felicity Carrol and the Murderous Menace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Katy Simpson Smith

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and the novels The Story of Land and Sea and Free Men. Her writing has also appeared in The Oxford American, Granta, Literary Hub, Garden & Gun, Catapult, and Lenny. She lives in New Orleans, and currently serves as the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Literature at Millsaps College.

Smith's new novel is The Everlasting.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've been on Jean Giono kick recently -- I first read his strange environmental-mystery novel Hill in January, and was so struck by the voluptuous, uncanny sentences that I went on to read A King Alone, which also features unaccountable deaths and a larger-than-life landscape. The books, written eighteen years apart, share an experimentalism that is both bizarre and totally readable, and that moves nature to the foreground of human dramas. It's been almost a century since Hill was first published, but its message -- that the natural world has as many rights and moods, emotions and powers as humans -- feels perfectly suited to our own time of crisis.
Visit Katy Simpson Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Daisy Pearce

Daisy Pearce was born in Cornwall and grew up on a smallholding surrounded by hippies. She read Stephen King’s Cujo and The Hamlyn Book of Horror far too young and has been fascinated with the macabre ever since.

Pearce's new novel is The Silence.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Pearce's reply:
I’ve just finished reading This House Is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair in it’s original hardback form with the sinister cover. It’s a record of his time investigating the Enfield poltergeist in the late seventies. I’ve always been fascinated by the Enfield poltergeist story, and remember getting chills hearing the young girl’s voice suddenly deepen and sink into that of a gruff, bitter old man. This book is methodical, not telling a tale but recounting events - and here and there the cracks are visible where the girls’ story starts to fall apart. It’s illuminating in that sense, as you start to see beyond the sensationalism and the author’s credulity and realise that sometimes a yarn can spin itself out of control.
Follow Daisy Pearce on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His books include the story collection In the Season of Blood and Gold and the novels Fallen Land and The River of Kings. All three books were finalists for the Southern Book Prize.

Brown's new novel is Pride of Eden.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Brown's reply:
Lately, I've been a small tear reading nonfiction work that seems relevant to my new book, Pride of Eden -- at least philosophically. I think it started with James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America, which was related to another project I'm currently working on. I found the book absolutely fascinating, even prophetic of our current times. I was hungry for more of his work, so I picked up his newest book, A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature, which really resonated with me -- one of those books that makes you nod your again and again while you read it, as if to say: "Yes, yes, yes!" And seem to express and articulate a lot of the underlying currents in Pride of Eden. That book made mention of Rick Bass's The Lost Grizzlies and Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, so I tore through those next. Most recently, I finished Underland by Robert Macfarlane, and found myself transported into deep time and the deeps of the earth -- highly recommended!
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2020

J. Albert Mann

J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

Mann's latest novel published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers is The Degenerates.

Recently I asked Mann about what she was reading. Her reply:
Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner

Millie, Veronica, Grace, Nakita, and Izzy are not living their best lives and the blame lies mostly with the Patriarchy. Dumped, cheated, overlooked, underestimated, ignored, and omitted these six girls fight back. The results are both heart-breaking and hilarious. This merry group of girls proves once again that winning isn't everything, it's nothing... without your integrity, your conscience, and your friends. Loved every minute of this read.
Visit J. Albert Mann's website.

The Page 69 Test: What Every Girl Should Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2020

David Hofmeyr

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2013 he graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. The Between is Hofmeyr's second novel. His first book, Stone Rider, was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Branford Boase award for first-time novelists. He divides his time between writing and working as a strategist for Ogilvy & Mather.

Recently I asked Hofmeyr about what he was reading. His reply:
The Institute
Steven King

King is the master of storytelling. Accept no substitutes. I have long been a fan of his work. One of his most provocative early short stories, "The Long Walk" was inspiration for my first novel, Stone Rider. His writing is clever. Edgy. Familiar. And utterly compelling. The Institute is no exception. All his skills are on display here. King weaves friendship, resilience and terror into every sentence. Thrilling, chilling and fascinating in equal measure, The Institute tells the story of an unusual kidnapping. Twelve-year-old super smart Luke Ellis, who can move things with his mind, is abducted and taken to a facility deep in the woods of Maine. Here, alongside other kids with Telekinesis and Telepathic gifts, Luke is subjected to a host of weird experiments. This is a book I wish I’d written. It’s everything I love and King floors me with how blithely his prose reads. It’s vintage King, set in modern times – with echoes of Trump and caging children at borders and a world that can sometimes feel deranged. And it’s a blinder. Run to a bookstore and buy a copy today. It’s brilliant. Also, annoyingly, it makes me want to re-write vast swathes of my new book The Between, which shares many of the whacked out crazy themes of The Institute.
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Between.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Bridget Tyler

Bridget Tyler grew up in Berkeley, California. She went on to attend NYU, living in New York and London before completing her degree and moving to Los Angeles to work in the film and television industry as an executive and writer. She now lives in Oregon with her husband, who is a robotics professor at Oregon State University, and her daughter.

Tyler's new novel is The Survivor, a sequel to The Pioneer.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading is part of honing your creative skills as a writer - it's almost as important a part of my day as writing is. I'm just lucky I have a kindle, my TBR stack might bury my alive otherwise. I'm just starting The Night Country by Melissa Albert, which I'm been waiting anxiously for since I blew through The Hazel Wood in two days. I love how audacious Albert is about just diving into her story and parsing out refresher details about book one when they make sense. Having just finished writing a sequel I have deep respect for how effortless she makes that look.

I'm finishing Strong Poison by Dorthy L Sayers, which is delicious and surprising in every way. Lord Peter Wimsey is a dry, witty character but the emotional depth and really heart wrenching emotion that Sayers manages to evoke in his ethical and emotional struggle with crime solving is really extraordinary. I addicted to this series and I've been reading them along side other stand alone choices for a while.

I'm also reading Hope Dies, which is a compilation of issues 50-55 of the Star Wars comic book series from author Kieron Gillen as well as Star Wars Annual 4 from Cullen Bunn. I stumbled on this series while at Disneyland with my daughter this past year, and I really excited to find such a cool new exploration of the Star Wars galaxy that I hadn't found before. I'm a born and raised Star Wars fan and I've read and watched most of what's out there, so it's really exciting to find new stories in the universe that I love.

Octavia E Butlers's Fledgling is next on my list. I can't wait to dive in!
Visit Bridget Tyler's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Survivor.

The Page 69 Test: The Survivor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Susann Cokal

Susann Cokal is a moody historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and sometime professor of creative writing and modern literature. She lives in a creepy old farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia, with seven cats, a big dog, a spouse, and some peacocks that supposedly belong to a neighbor.

Cokal's first young adult novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received several national awards, including a silver medal from the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award series. Her books for adults, Mirabilis and Breath and Bones, received some nice notice too.

Cokal's new novel is Mermaid Moon.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply: 
I tend to read several books at once, as I suppose we all do—for pleasure and for research, and for adults and teens. I keep different ones in different rooms so I always have something to pick up and read. The living room has mostly light reads, though I’ll read for research there too; there’s a lot of cultural history in my little study / writing room; and in the bedroom I have novels all over. It’s almost literally what’s called a memory palace, in that I compartmentalize genres and topics so they’re associated with specific points in space. It helps my brain click into the storylines or research lines (and a post-concussive brain needs all the help it can get to keep ideas organized).

By the way, I used literally in the correct sense above.

When I’m in a state of urgent, giddy amour fou with a particular book, I carry it everywhere. I can dip in when I get a chance, or I just have it with me so I can derive comfort like a child with a blanket, or a lover with a lock of hair. When I can, I’ll read it without a pause for breath or bathroom all in a rush. That happened to me most recently with Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which is a wonderfully funny, wistful, hopeful book about second chances and reasons to live. Loved it. Read and reread it and some of his others in that full flush of in-love-ness. Also watched the movie; Rose Byrne is so good as Annie.

Right now I’m enamored of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which is wickedly clever and offers a few manifestos for women in and out of relationships—although they admittedly come through a problematic character, the Gone Girl herself. I flagged her sections on the trope of the Cool Girl in modern dating. Dead on. (I was single for many, many, many years, now miraculously happy in marriage.) She inspired me to eat a Moon Pie because it’s one of the things Cool Girls do to show they’re fun to hang around with—one of the things she says are actually pleasurable. And it was pretty good.

My next fiction reads, in their order in my bedside stack—all of them begun, all of them great for different reasons, just waiting for Gone Girl to go to her end—Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar (has a wonderful sense of how it feels to be incapacitated by injury); Downtown, a Betsy-Tacy story by Maud Hart Lovelace (a signed copy I bought myself for my birthday); I, Claudia, by Mary McCoy (interesting re-telling of I, Claudius in a gossipy high school). I’m also excited about Andrew Sean Greer’s Less and (Guilty pleasure? Not guilty!) Judith Krantz’s memoirs. Her novels were the ones we passed around secretly in high school, and I do love a good writerly memoir.

And for research, I’m reading for two projects. First I’ll mention Women in Frankish Society. It may be almost as dry as it sounds, but it’s also fascinating. I don’t know that much about the Dark Ages (yet), but I’ve long been intrigued by the legend of Saint Radegonde and the Grand’Goule, a dragon that terrorized Poitiers, France, and its nuns. I studied in Poitiers for a year in college, and I’m finally writing a novel about the place and the Goule.

For a different novel, I’m reading about Los Alamos and the Cold War. That’s the town and era in which I went to high school, and the terror I felt about living in the town that invented the Atomic Bomb and kept the arms race going was palpable, like my terror about climate change now. I can get the experience of going to high school there down because I have a good memory, but for some historical information I’m researching my own teen years. So, naturally, Trinity’s Children: Living Along America’s Nuclear Highway, by Ted Bartimus and Scott McCartney; Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iversen; and The Valley Girl’s Guide to Life, because in the midst of Cold War terrors there was that faddish embrace of vapidity. And every story needs some vapor.

So there’s almost half my stack and I’ve exceeded my space limit.
Visit Susann Cokal's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mermaid Moon.

My Book, The Movie: Mermaid Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 13, 2020

Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases.

Margolin's new novel is A Reasonable Doubt, his third book in the series featuring Robin Lockwood, ex-MMA fighter and Yale law school graduate.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Margolin's reply:
I just discovered the Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries by Colin Cotterill. They are set in Communist Laos in the nineteen seventies and the detective is the seventy-year-old national coroner. I've read The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth. The writing is brilliant, the mysteries are intriguing and the characters are unique, plus there are a lot of laughs.

I also re-read War and Peace, for the fourth time after a trip to Russia. This is one of my all-time favorites and it is still a fabulous read.

Finally, I am re-reading classic mysteries. The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen, my all-time favorite mystery writer, and It Walks by Night, by John Dickson Carr, the master of the Locked Room puzzle.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. The Hunger made NPR’s list of the 100 Best Horror Stories, was named one of the best novels of 2018 by the Observer, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books (and more), and was nominated for a Stoker and Locus Award for best horror novel.

The Taker, her debut novel, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist, was nominated for a Goodreads Readers Choice award, and has been published in over 10 languages. It is the first in an award-winning trilogy that includes The Reckoning and The Descent.

Katsu's new novel is The Deep.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My most interesting recent read is The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. It feels familiar at the start, in a cozy, comfortable your-favorite-bathrobe kind of way. A young woman going through a bad patch is informed, out of the blue, that she is the last of a noble European family. She will inherit everything if she travels to the family estate high in the Alps. She soon finds she’s stranded and that the family has a lot of secrets. Still comfy? From there it goes in a direction that is inevitable and yet quite daring. Only a writer as strong and fearless as Trussoni could pull it off. A must-read for fans of the Gothic, or anyone who likes a great story. The Ancestor comes out April 7.

Speaking of Gothic novels, if that’s your jam then you will also want to pick up Andrew Pyper’s The Residence when it comes out in September. It takes the true facts of the Franklin Pierce presidency and gives it a supernatural slant. He creates a wonderfully eerie atmosphere. No wonder the book’s been picked up for television already.

Another read I can’t stop talking about is The Ship of Dreams by Gareth Russell, a non-fiction book about the Titanic. It came out after I turned in the manuscript for The Deep, which I was pretty unhappy about because Russell was able to find a lot of tiny yet important details that had eluded me. He also does a great job putting the tragedy into historical context. Highly recommended for all Titanic fans or anyone who admires well-done historical research.
Visit Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 9, 2020

Michael Zapata

Michael Zapata is a founding editor of the award-winning MAKE Literary Magazine. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction; the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program award; and a Pushcart Nomination. As an educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing drop out students. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and has lived in New Orleans, Italy, and Ecuador. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.

Zapata's new novel is The Lost Book of Adana Moreau.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

In November 2019, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming won the National Book Award for translated literature. If anything, this is one indication that a certain type of strange and mad literature, with all its vast interiority and mind-bending possibility, is still vital in the data drowned 21st century. In Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, there is the Professor, “one of the three most important moss experts in the entire world,” his embittered daughter, a proto-fascist biker gang, immigrants, and, yes, Baron Wenckheim himself, an exiled 19th century-like tragic-romantic returning to his childhood home in Hungary to see once again the girl he loved, more or less, from a distance as a boy. Of course, there are others, a fully realized town, a choral vortex of town residents, limning the abyss. Reading this book is both an act of literary faith and like entering a labyrinth with no possible return. Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is an absurd, singular, and acute joy to read.
Visit Michael Zapata's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Marty Ambrose

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College, Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction. Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels.

A few years ago, Ambrose had the opportunity to take a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction. Her first book in a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth. Ambrose’s second novel, A Shadowed Fate, begins where the first novel ends with Claire on an “odyssey” through Italy to find the fate of her daughter, Allegra, whom she now believes might have survived; her narrative plays out with Byron’s memoir from 1821, and Allegra’s own story.

Recently I asked Ambrose about what she was reading. Her reply:
I hate to admit this, but as a historical mystery author I didn’t choose the novel which I’m currently reading because of the genre. It was the cover. I spied The Indigo Girl in my local independent bookstore and found myself entranced by the cover art’s dreamy blend of blue colors around the lone figure of a woman in eighteenth-century dress—without a face. Just a blank space where the woman’s features would be drawn. Why so cryptic? Then, I read the blurb about the protagonist: sixteen-year old, Eliza Lucas Pickney, who takes over running her family’s plantations in 1739 and becomes a local legend for introducing indigo farming to South Carolina. I was hooked. And the book hasn’t disappointed me. The author has a delicate narrative style that fits the age of the heroine, giving such a complex portrait of Eliza who is stubborn, compassionate, and adventurous—compelling at every turn, especially in her relationship with the slave who teaches her how to raise indigo. And I’ve become obsessed by the entire production of creating indigo dye; it is a complex brewing process and the color doesn’t appear until the fabric is soaked, then exposed to air (it changes from chartreuse to blue). It’s almost like a magical alchemy. I couldn’t learn enough about indigo and started researching it myself, which is always the hallmark of a great historical novel: it makes me want to dig for more historical details. Back to the cover, I did find out why the woman on the cover has no face. I had the good fortune to hear the author give a presentation, and she revealed at the end of her talk that there were no portraits of Eliza so, rather than fabricate her appearance, the author wanted to keep it as a mystery—an enigma similar to indigo itself.
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Shadowed Fate.

My Book, The Movie: A Shadowed Fate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Katrin Schumann

Katrin Schumann is the author of the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestseller The Forgotten Hours. Born in Freiburg, Germany, she lives in Boston and Key West.

Schumann's new novel is This Terrible Beauty.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
To be honest, I'm in the middle of reading four books right now because I'm doing research for my next novel. It's hard for me to really enjoy an immersive reading experience when I'm in research mode. However, I read Rick Moody's atmospheric novel, The Ice Storm, about the 1970s recently and was utterly engrossed and transported. It's definitely the kind of book I'll read again: full of incredible period details, but also thoughtful about the human condition and deeply moving.

Before going on vacation I picked a book out of my bookshelves that I read about 20 years ago--Barbara Gowdy's The Romantic. It's a fascinating read because you know what's going to happen at the very beginning of the story, and yet you have to keep turning the pages to find out how it happens and why. Those are my favorite kind of books, when I want to live inside the character's heads.
Visit Katrin Schumann's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

William Boyle

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. His books include: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and is nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; and A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Boyle's new novel is City of Margins.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Boyle's reply:
My new novel, City of Margins, comes out on the same day as books by three of my favorite writers: Lee Durkee’s The Last Taxi Driver; Michael Farris Smith’s Blackwood; and Scott Phillips’s That Left Turn at Albuquerque. I’ve read advance copies of The Last Taxi Driver and Blackwood, and they’re both masterpieces; I’ll be first in line for the new Phillips the day it comes out.

I’ve been on a little bit of a Muriel Spark tear the last couple of weeks; it started with The Driver’s Seat and has continued with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Robinson. She’s one of those writers that I just sort of missed, and I’m thankful to find her now. I reread one of my all-time favorite novels last week, Jean Rhys’s After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie; I find such comfort in reading Rhys. I started Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen, a book I saw Liberty Hardy talking about, and it’s incredible. I picked up Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille, recently reissued by Penguin, and I’m excited to dig in. I’m currently teaching and rereading Leah Carroll’s masterful true crime memoir, Down City.

As for recent books, I was blown away by French writer Hannelore Cayre’s The Godmother (translated by Stephanie Smee). And Melissa Anne Peterson’s Vera Violet is my favorite read of the year so far—it’s gritty, raw, mesmerizing.
Visit William Boyle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 2, 2020

Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber is a former attorney, incurable wanderer, and yoga enthusiast. Originally from Galesburg, Illinois, she is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law. She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and son. Her first novel, Truth Be Told (2017, originally published as Are You Sleeping), has been adapted as a series for Apple TV+ by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company.

Barber's new novel is Follow Me.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading For the Best by Vanessa Lillie (releasing September 8), and I’m struggling to put it down. I love an unreliable narrator and—thus far at least—the narrator of For the Best seems as unreliable as they come. She wakes up one morning after getting blackout drunk to discover that a colleague was murdered … and her wallet was found next to the body. I loved Lillie’s debut Little Voices, and so I’m eagerly awaiting the twists she’s included in this one!

I recently read Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little (releasing February 25), and I absolutely loved it. The story takes place on a movie set on an isolated island, and I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peeks into life in the entertainment industry. Add in the suspense from the mysterious “accidents” on set and a suspicious death, and the snarky, sarcastic narrator, and I was totally hooked!

I also recently read Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald and totally recommend it! A lightning strike survivor discovers that memories are fallible, identities are fungible, and she can’t trust anyone—including herself. I loved the nuanced and dubiously trustworthy characters, dual timelines revealing decades of secrets, and a tension-packed plot, and I found it utterly addictive.
Visit Kathleen Barber's website.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Brian Platzer

Brian Platzer is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Bed-Stuy Is Burning and The Body Politic (both Atria/Simon & Schuster) as well as the forthcoming parenting book Taking the Stress Out of Homework (Avery/Penguin Random House).

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Platzer's reply:
At the moment, I’ve been reading Kudos, the third novel in Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy. Cusk is a genius at finding language for thoughts and emotions I’ve felt but couldn’t articulate. I spend so much time trying to make my plots feel inevitable--to make every character's action have a clear consequence to the desires or actions of every other character. I think about what my characters want, how they go about getting it, and how their decisions affect those of their friends and family. Cusk's magic is to make plot almost entirely unnecessary. With character, anecdote, and voice alone, she reaches a deeper truth than almost any other writer working today.
Visit Brian Platzer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue