Friday, July 20, 2018

Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the author of the Ash McKenna series which wraps up this month 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. He also co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Hart's reply:
I recently finished There There by Tommy Orange, which is about a dozen Native Americans living in Oakland and converging on a powwow. Some of them are planning to rob it but it’s not a heist novel—it’s more about the Native American experience in this country, and it’s really thoughtful and beautifully-written and just slams you right in the heart.

I just started The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. I read the first 150 pages before bed last night and then woke up at 2 in the morning after having a nightmare, so it’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tremblay. Tense, harrowing stuff.

I’ll go for the hat trick and tell you what I’m reading next, too: Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. It’s won a bunch of awards and I met Kellye and she was super cool so I’ve been meaning to get to it. I will never say no to a good PI novel.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: Potter's Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Randi Hutter Epstein

Randi Hutter Epstein is a medical writer, lecturer at Yale University, Writer in Residence at Yale Medical School, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank (2010) and the new book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Epstein's reply:
I have a stack of books on my night table that balloon until my husband complains when I flail my arm and they go flying off in a noisy avalanche in the middle of the night. Then I have to prune—weeding out the ones I’m not really reading at the moment and putting them back on the bookshelf. I read a mix of non-fiction and fiction, saving the novels for bedtime reading. That’s so I can drift off to sleep mulling over the lives of the imaginary characters rather than worry about the minutiae of my own forthcoming schedule.

I recently pulled out a weathered copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov [image, left] that I bought and read in 1981. Dostoyevsky is the perfect antidote whenever I feel that I overthink about overthinking. (Am I thinking too much? Worrying too much?) No, his characters overthink. But this time around, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in 19th century Russia and also reading my pseudo-intellectual notes in the margins along with the lines I underlined when I read the book as a sophomore in college.

I also just finished Allegra Huston’s Say My Name, which is called “erotic fiction,” but it’s just a grand love story with a self-assured female protagonist. Huston knows how to plant a mystery and then seduce you to keep turning those pages. Rather than doze off, I stayed up late reading this one.

Just the other day, I came across a Roald Dahl book that I’ve never seen before on a table of used books sold by a New York City neighbor. I was grabbed by the title, Esio Trot. That’s “tortoise” backwards. When my family purchased our Russian tortoise about 20 years ago, my son (then in kindergarten) told me that he remembers how to spell “tortoise” because, as he said: “it’s esiotrot backwards.” I’m not sure the logic, but apparently Dahl was on the same wavelength. The book is a delightful tale of a lonely old man and his love for his downstairs neighbor. And yes, there’s a tortoise in it too. No spoiler alerts here. You’ll have to find your own copy. And our tortoise is still doing well.

My recent non-fiction is Anthony Donoghue’s Statistics and the Media which is one of the few statistics books to explain the basics without all the hifalutin jargon. This should be used in college courses and kept by the side of all science writers. I’m glad I have my copy. Yes it’s statistics and yes it’s a fun read. He weaves in examples from the media.
Visit Randi Hutter Epstein's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Randi Hutter Epstein, Ellie and Dexter.

The Page 99 Test: Aroused.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Zoje Stage

Zoje Stage lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Baby Teeth is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I admit that even though I'd heard so many superlatives in regard to this book, it took a while before I was convinced to read it because the setting of a town that's obsessed with hockey didn't resonate with me. Once I started it though, I realized it was an effective device to explore some very timely issues. Perhaps because I grew up in Pittsburgh, where sports are an obsession, some aspects of the novel felt overdone and a bit stale – particularly the repetitive explanations of just how important hockey was to Beartown as a whole. However, I really enjoyed this book, and the thing I appreciated most was the breathing room. The story took its time, and along the way gave depth and detail to a breadth of different and uniquely sympathetic characters. As a writer of suspense, I often feel the pressure to give every part of my stories an urgency, and this novel was a reminder of the value of letting a story breathe and unfold in an unhurried way.

I'm currently reading The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir. I was interested in this book because of its intersection between a mega-religious family and reality TV. I'm familiar with some of these types of shows in real life, and always wonder to what degree the children are molded to behave a certain way – with extra pressure because of the cameras – when in fact they may hold different beliefs or life goals that contradict their parents and the footage that we're shown. This story very much taps into that, exploring how financial greed can be the true guiding compass, and how a teenage girl tries to salvage her own identity while living a life that's designed to be scripted.
Visit Zoje Stage's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lisa Jensen

Lisa Jensen is the author of the novels Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, Alias Hook, and The Witch From the Sea, proprietress of the entertainment blog, Lisa Jensen Online Express, and longtime film critic for the alt weekly, Good Times, in Santa Cruz, CA.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Jensen's reply:
Right this minute, I'm in the thick of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. It's the epic tales of Thor, Odin, Loki and the gang, streamlined to their essence, and retold in Gaiman's droll voice. He infuses each god and goddess with human foibles, and renders magical stories of gods, giants, and dwarves with life-sized precision. Great fun!

I also recently finished The Master of Verona, by David Blixt, which merges the historical realities of life in the Renaissance Italian city-states with what you might call the origin stories of some of Shakespeare's most famous plays in Italian settings. Since my next novel (the one after Beast) is set in the Italian Renaissance, and also has a Shakespearean element, I thought I could just skim through Blixt's book and pick up some period color. Ha! I got sucked into this wild ride with its non-stop action from beginning to end!
Visit Lisa Jensen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 16, 2018

Alex White

Alex White was born and raised in the American south. He takes photos, writes music, and spends hours on YouTube watching other people blacksmith. He values challenging and subversive writing, but he’ll settle for a good time.

White lives in the shadow of Huntsville, Alabama’s rockets with his wife, son, two dogs and a cat named Grim. Favored pastimes include Legos and racecars. He takes his whiskey neat and his espresso black.

White's new novel is A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
At this moment, I'm re-reading Heather Kaczynski's Dare Mighty Things, the story of Cassandra Gupta, a young NASA intern that gets selected for humanity's first interstellar mission. They take her to a compound along with twenty-five other college-age kids and have them compete in a series of mysterious challenges. The administrators promptly begin playing mind games with the participants, eliminating them one by one, until only a few remain.

I enjoy this work for Kaczynski's lightning-quick prose and perfect readability. For a book about space travel, the writer could've gone into way too much detail or tried to lose the reader in a minefield of technicalities. Dare Mighty Things is accessible, and has no problem explaining some of its more abstract concepts. Pair that with a paranoia-inducing set of psychological and intellectual challenges, and the intensity is undeniable!
Visit Alex White's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

The Page 69 Test: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Scott Reintgen

Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. He strongly believes that every student who steps into his classroom has the right to see themselves, vibrant and victorious and on the page. It’s his hope to encourage a future full of diverse writers. As he’s fond of reminding his students, “You have a story to tell and you’re the only one who can tell it.”

Reintgen's new novel is Nyxia Unleashed.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I've actually just returned from the beach and thankfully I got a lot of reading done. The first book I tackled was The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. It's a breathtaking and brutal world that centers around the concept of fifth seasons-- or regular apocalyptic events that threaten to wipe out humanity. Jemisin's world building is transcendent. I'm also reading Circe by Madeline Miller. I'm not sure I've ever encountered such beautiful prose. Miller reimagines the infamous Circe and tells the entire story from her godlike and lonely perspective. I'm also guilty of having a book open in every room of the house, which means I've started Genesis by Brendan Reichs, Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova, Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, and The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards.

As an author, I fully believe that our best work is collaborative. So I do read for fun, but I'm also always looking for new tricks and tools to add to my own arsenal. In The Last Sun, Edwards uses a "home base" set up that I adopted for the first half of my sequel, Nyxia Unleashed. And the entire Broken Earth series is a playground for Jemisin to toy with narrative voice. Reading her stories was like permission for me to go try my own playful voice out, so I did. We always learn to write more honestly by reading the work of other authors, it's that simple. I know that Nyxia and Nyxia Unleashed would be nowhere near as strong in their storytelling without all of these open books around my house.
Visit Scott Reintgen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nyxia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2018

Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G L Carriger). Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, and Supernatural Society series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen New York Times bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

Carriger's new novel is Competence.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently finished two books, pretty different from each other, and here they are.

Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane

This is a charming twisted retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and a real tear-jerker. It's as if Lane took Robin McKinley's Beauty and combined it with The Song of Achilles. There's an element of the Hunchback of Notre Dame thrown in there for good measure. If you're a fan of alternate fairy stories, true love at all costs, and the ultimate melodrama of self-sacrifice then this book is for you. Definitely destined to became a favorite of mine.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

This particular novella was a mix of Sherlock Holmes (only way better written than Doyle and with female main characters), McCaffery's The Ship Who... series, and Feist & Wurts's Daughter of the Empire series. Bodard is a master of artfully invested world building. She turns this story into a lyrical journey into space, as if the words themselves are overlaid with the serenity of a tea ceremony. Reading it felt restful and ritualized.
Visit Gail Carriger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Prudence.

My Book, The Movie: Prudence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2018

James Brydon

James Brydon grew up in North Shropshire, England, and studied English at Oxford. For over a decade, he has worked as a cryptic crossword setter. Under the name Picaroon, he sets two puzzles a month in the Guardian, and he compiles for the Spectator, the Times (London), and the fiendish Listener puzzle, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as the films of Akira Kurosawa and the six-fold symmetry of snowflakes. He is fluent in French and Serbian, is currently polishing his German, and can hold a conversation in passable Chinese. He lives in St. Albans, England, with his wife and daughter.

Brydon's debut novel is The Moment Before Drowning.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry is without doubt the most striking, original and haunting book I’ve read recently. These interlinked yet fragmentary stories from the Soviet-Polish war present, as one of the narrators puts it, “a chronicle of […] humdrum evil doings” from a conflict steeped in violence: beheadings, slit throats, the numberless and nameless dead strewing the battlefields.

The book’s shifting narrators correspond to different sides of Babel’s character. There is the bespectacled, intellectual journalist horrified by the slaughter, but also a Bolshevik taking pleasure in the protracted killing of his master, who he tramples to death for over an hour. Babel unsettlingly interrogates the moral values we ascribe to acts of violence. When the journalist is incapable of shooting a soldier whose “stomach had been torn out”, he provokes the contempt and fury of another soldier: “You four-eyed lot have as much pity for us as a cat has for a mouse.”

Instead of the sempiternal clich├ęs of hope and the human spirit, Babel produces an enigmatic, vivid, poetic description of what he has witnessed. Lurking in the background is a sly, almost undetectable humour, because “only the wise man rends the veil of existence with laughter.” Red Cavalry is equal to the task of representing the disturbing brutality of the 20th century, of which Babel, executed by the Soviet police, was himself a victim. Ultimately, he resembles the painter Pan Apolek, who depicted figures of Scripture with the faces of the maimed and sinful peasants he lived among: I can only marvel at his “art, his dark invention.”
Learn more about The Moment Before Drowning at the Akashic Books website.

The Page 69 Test: The Moment Before Drowning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

J. D. Horn

J. D. Horn was raised in rural Tennessee, and has since carried a bit of its red clay in him while traveling the world, from Hollywood, to Paris, to Tokyo. He studied comparative literature as an undergrad, focusing on French and Russian in particular. He also holds an MBA in international business and worked as a financial analyst before becoming a novelist. He has race bibs from two full marathons and about thirty half marathons. Though knocked out by an injury, he’s working on making a comeback.

Horn’s books have now been translated into Russian, Romanian, Polish, German, Spanish, Italian, and French, with a Turkish version of The Line in the works. He is a long-time animal rights advocate, animal lover, and non-proselytizing vegetarian. He, his spouse, Rich, and their rescue Chihuahua, Kirby Seamus, split their time between Central Oregon, San Francisco, and Palm Springs.

Horn's new novel is The Book of the Unwinding.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann

The unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor lies at the center of this epic recounting of the early days of Hollywood. I have a couple of ideas for stories involving the early and golden ages of Hollywood knocking around in my head, so for me this complex well-researched, and perfectly paced book lies between leisure reading and research. If you’re interested in true crime, this one is a winner.

The Boy They Tried to Hide by Shane Dunphy

I came across this book through Glynn Washington’s “Spooked” podcast. (Washington produces a few different podcasts, all of them brilliant.) The Boy They Tried to Hide is an intriguing (and purportedly true) story of a former social worker who is pulled into the mystery of what happened to a boy named Thomas, and whether Thomas ever really existed or was a figment of another young boy’s imagination. The Thomas portion of the tale is a disappointingly short percentage of the entire book. Dunphy weaves this strand together with two others, an account of his efforts to learn what happened to a young man with learning disabilities who died in prison under suspicious circumstances, and encounters with a predatory abuser of women who has an ax to grind with Dunphy. Despite the three different elements, the narrative—right down to inclusion of transcripts of therapy sessions—ends up being about Dunphy himself. Could have been, maybe should have been, three different books. Still, it’s written well enough that I’m still reading.

Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Quartet by Ann Cleeves

This book combines a mystery with a fairytale-like opening, well-drawn characters, a secluded edge-of-the-world setting, and a plot twist I did not see coming (and that’s pretty darned rare). I will definitely continue with this series. I’m considering making a genre leap from horror to mystery for my next project and have begun reading well-reviewed mysteries in the hope of learning how it’s done.

The Demons of King Solomon, Aaron J. French editor

A somewhat self-serving selection as I have a story in this anthology, but I’ve been reading it as I was curious what the other contributors had written. The collection, based on the seventy-two demons mentioned in the grimoire known as the “Lesser Key of Solomon,” also includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Richard Chizmar, and others.
Visit J.D. Horn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: J.D. Horn & Kirby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

Loka Ashwood

Loka Ashwood is an environmental and rural sociologist at Auburn University. She works with communities to research issues that pertain to agriculture, cancer clusters, land loss, and pollution. Her new book is For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government Is Losing the Trust of Rural America.

Recently I asked Ashwood about what she was reading. Her reply:
While I grew up in the Midwest, I have spent the bulk of the last ten years of my life doing research or living in the South. Accordingly, I thought it high time early this year to invest myself more heavily in its lauded literature. I started with Jean Toomer’s Cane, as good of a place as I could begin, although little did I know it at the time. I then moved on to William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but stumbled with the abrupt switches between vantages, and the steely eyed view of death and mourning. I’m now just beginning Absalom, Absalom!, which I have taken too more readily. By chance, I picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God at an airport bookstore, and devoured the text over the course of my flight to and fro. Like Dorthy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, the book’s protagonist riveted me.

From more of a writer and less of a reader vantage, I am attempting to better understand why certain memoirs have stuck with me. I am revisiting Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man. I had long forgotten that Bragg grew up in Calhoun County, Alabama, which neighbors Cleburne County, where I find myself doing much work currently.

I have so much more reading to look forward to. Suggestions are most welcome and appreciated!
Visit Loka Ashwood's website.

--Marshal Zeringue