Monday, February 22, 2021

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. After graduation from Michigan State University, he studied under Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey and Hans J. Morgenthau at the University of Chicago where he earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science. He received his J.D. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Buffa was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years and his Joseph Antonelli novels reflect that experience.

The New York Times called The Defense "an accomplished first novel" which "leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read it over again." The Judgment was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel of the year. The latest Joseph Antonelli novel is The Privilege.

D.W. Buffa lives in Northern California.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I first read The Great Gatsby by accident, when I was twenty-four, late one night at the end of my second year in graduate school, the night before I left to spend the summer in New York. I had finished packing my tattered second-hand suitcase and the small string tied cardboard box of books I was taking with me. With nothing left to do, I picked up a slim paperback edition, a copy of Gatsby, and started to read. It was, if I remember, a little after midnight when I started and a little after four in the morning when I finally finished it and knew immediately that I would one day read it again. And I have, at least half a dozen times, the last time just a few days ago. The astonishing thing is that each time is like reading something you have never read before. You remember that you have read it, you remember the story, you remember whole lines, but it still, somehow, comes as a surprise, the way Fitzgerald makes you feel that you know these people as well, or better, than anyone you have ever actually met.

It is like listening to a story told by one of your uncles about relatives you never knew, the story he tells you each time you see him and always manages to change, until finally you decide that he is only telling you things that someone had once told him, but because it is mostly a story made up of the fragments of other people’s now forgotten lives, because it does not concern itself with a too careful attention to the literal biographical facts, tells you something more important about who these people really were, what they thought and what they felt, and what, sometimes without quite realizing what they were doing or the effect it would have, what they did. It is that way with Gatsby, the novel that will tell you more about what America was like in the bright, dizzy days between the Great War and the Great Depression when money became the only thing anyone wanted and the only thing needed to make you what you had always wanted to be, when everyone danced through the Jazz Age, the phrase Fitzgerald invented, when life for those rich enough to afford it was a party that lasted all summer and summer, banishing the seasons, lasted all year.

Driven by the dream of the girl with whom he fell in love, Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, did everything he could to become what he thinks he has to be to have any chance with her. He buys a huge estate across the Long Island Sound from where Daisy, the girl with whom he had been engaged before he went away to the war, lives with her husband, Tom Buchanan who, like his wife, has always been used to a life of wealth and privilege. Every night, Gatsby looks across the water at the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, the green light that represents everything he hopes for, the justification for everything he has done. Hundreds of guests, invited and uninvited, come to the colossal parties given by Gatsby every weekend, and one of the rumors that circulate about their host, a rumor that tends to make him even more mysterious in the eyes of all those anonymous intruders, is that he once killed someone. It is a rumor that seems to discredit itself when they suddenly find themselves in the presence of his inimitable smile. “It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

Gatsby, who had nothing when he met Daisy, when he was a young soldier about to go to war, lied about where he had come from; he lied about everything, including his name. After the war, he became rich selling liquor when selling liquor was a crime, and became richer still by his involvement with the man who had fixed the l9l9 World Series, the thing that more than anything else taught Americans that nothing was sacred, that everything could be had – even the loyalty of baseball players, even the integrity of the game that America loved – for a price. Whether or not he had ever killed anyone, Gatsby was a liar and a thief, and yet, more than any of those who had been born into the wealthy, established families whose palatial estates lined the waters of the sound, Gatsby had a purpose in his life and a sense of honor. All the others, Tom and Daisy and their spoiled friends, lived their careless lives and let others try to put back together all the things they had broken. Daisy, driving Gatsby’s car, kills a woman who dashed into the street, the same woman who had been having an affair with Tom Buchanan. Gatsby, a passenger, lets everyone think he was driving. Daisy does not mind. The woman’s husband, deranged by grief, murders Gatsby in his pool. Tom Buchanan thinks he deserved it.

At the end, Daisy’s second cousin, Nick Carraway, who is telling the story, goes back to Gatsby’s enormous and abandoned house and wanders down to the shore.
I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
But Gatsby stays with us forever.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the author of The Warehouse, which has sold in more than 20 languages and been optioned for film by Ron Howard.

He also wrote the Ash McKenna series, which wrapped in July 2018 with Potter’s Field. Other entries include: New Yorked, which was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague.

A few months ago I asked Hart about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Devolution by Max Brooks, which is the best bigfoot novel I've ever read. It's also the only bigfoot novel I've ever read, but it's pretty incredible. I finished it in a day. I sat down after
breakfast to read it and was done by dinner. I think I skipped lunch. It's wildly smart and entertaining.

Right now I'm reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and it's intoxicating. Just ridiculously moody and atmospheric and beautiful. In contrast to Devolution, it's the kind of book I feel compelled to take my time with, so I can really savor the prose and the story.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Warehouse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Lisa Black

Lisa Black is the New York Times bestselling author of 14 suspense novels, including works that have been translated into six languages, optioned for film, and shortlisted for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award. She is also a certified Crime Scene Analyst and certified Latent Print Examiner, beginning her forensics career at the Coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and then the police department in Cape Coral, Florida. She has spoken to readers and writers at numerous conferences and is one of two Guests of Honor at 2020 Killer Nashville.

Her new novel is Every Kind of Wicked.

Recently I asked Black about what she was reading. Her reply:
My next book involves scammers and fraud, so I’ve been devouring books about con-men, grifters and cult leaders for well over a year. I read The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal, the story of Christian Gerhartsreiter. A German expat, he conned his way through the States for thirty years; during the last twelve he convinced uber-rich and not-wealthy Americans alike that he was a descendent of the John D. Rockefeller, with all the riches that family commands. Oh, and it turns out he also murdered a few people to do it.

Impeccably dressed and incredibly intelligent, Gerhartsreiter had been born in 1961, a slightly pampered boy who grew into a good-looking teenager, intelligent and charming. He might have been exceedingly full of himself, but what good-looking young man isn’t? He happened to meet an American couple on vacation, invited them to his parents’ for dinner, then used their names on an application to become an exchange student in the U.S. He actually showed up on their doorstep in 1985, but only after he’d floated through a few households and one identity--that of Christopher Chichester, film executive. As Chichester he rented a garage room from a somewhat dotty landlady, though he became expert at never letting the wealthy people he hung with see exactly where he lived. But after the landlady’s son and daughter-in-law mysteriously disappeared, he moved on to another coast and another name, becoming Christopher Crowe of Greenwich, Connecticut.

I’m always fascinated by grifters--how they can be such good actors, put so much attention and intelligence into their research, while so callous that they’ll take innocent people’s emotions, money and lives without the slightest shred of remorse. Unfortunately books can never really describe exactly how they manage to fool so many people. I think it’s impossible to put into words, and is a combination of many things--their ability to read people, their ability to absorb information that would make them incredibly successful in a legitimate occupation, and the tendency to accept people when they seem to belong where they are. Once he stepped inside the exclusive clubs and homes, no one thought to ask how he’d gotten there.
Visit Lisa Black's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Julian Stockwin

Julian Stockwin was sent at the age of fourteen to Indefatigable, a tough sea-training school. He joined the Royal Navy at fifteen before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, where he served for eight years in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. In Vietnam he saw active service in a carrier task force. After leaving the Navy (rated Petty Officer), Stockwin practiced as an educational psychologist. He lived for some time in Hong Kong, where he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve. He was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Stockwin's latest Thomas Kydd novel, To the Eastern Seas, is now available in the US.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Stockwin's reply:
These days nearly all my reading is non-fiction and work-related, that is, some aspect of the great age of fighting sail. When I do get some down time, so to speak, I particularly enjoy memoirs of merchant mariners who served before the time of the ‘box-boats’. In their days, before the shipping revolution brought about by containerisation, cargo handling was a very labour intensive – and skilled – business. Also, because cargo needed to be hoisted out, load by load, a ship could be weeks in port (modern container ships turn around in hours only). This meant that much of the life of these pre-box boat sailors would be familiar to Kydd. With time to kill, the crew went on the rantan ashore in foreign ports, often returning somewhat the worse for wear. It was still the age of natural fibre so there was a need for skilled splicing and old-fashioned seamanship. Modern ships have polypropylene or wire ropes that are never spliced but metal moulded together. And before the era of satellite communications, once in Neptune’s realm only the radio operator knew what was going on beyond the world of their ship. It made for a close-knit community.

One such book I enjoyed recently is Under a Yellow Sky is a colourful memoir from Simon Hall who went to sea at a time when the British fleet was still one of the greatest in the world and the Red Ensign a common sight in almost every large port. He writes of the shipboard camaraderie and wild jaunts ashore in exotic places. As he tramped around the backwaters of the world he discovered the magic of the sea and encountered people from across the whole spectrum of human behaviour. A maritime world now gone forever.
Visit Julian Stockwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 1, 2020

Laird Barron

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

His new novel is Worse Angels.

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

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

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

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

Q&A with Laird Barron.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tom Young

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

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

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

His new novel is Silver Wings, Iron Cross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 17, 2020

J. M. M. Nuanez

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Isla Morley

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

Morley's new novel is The Last Blue.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Martha Waters

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Serena Burdick

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue