Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Erik Storey

Erik Storey is a former ranch hand, wilderness guide, dogsled musher, and hunter. He spent his childhood summers on his great-grandfather’s homestead or in a remote cabin in Colorado’s Flat Tops wilderness.

Nothing Short of Dying is his first novel.

Recently I asked Storey about what he was reading. His reply:
I currently have three books going. Two non-fiction for research, and one fiction for fun.

The first is The Survival Doctor's Complete Handbook, by James Hubbard, MD. This is a fascinating read. The doc writes in plain English, in a style that’s fun to follow, and explains everything from putting a dislocated joint back into place, to helping with childbirth and treating a sucking chest wound. This information could come in handy both while I’m out in the boonies, or for a character in the next book.

The other non-fiction book is My Friend the Mercenary, by James Brabazon. It’s a memoir about a war-torn West Africa and one of Africa’s most notorious mercenaries. This is a rough read, but hugely informative. I’m reading it to provide texture and detail for the backstory of my main character, Clyde Barr.

The fiction book on my nightstand is Vanished, by Joseph Finder. It is simply amazing. The main character, Nick Heller, is someone I’d follow through many, many books. Not only is this book well-written and clever, but it is funny and fun.
Visit Erik Storey's website.

My Book, The Movie: Nothing Short of Dying.

The Page 69 Test: Nothing Short of Dying.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2016

Anastasia Aukeman

Anastasia Aukeman is an art historian and curator who teaches at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She has contributed essays to numerous exhibition catalogues and written articles and reviews for Art in America, Art on Paper, and ARTnews, among other publications.

Her book is Welcome to Painterland: Bruce Conner and the Rat Bastard Protective Association.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Like most New Yorkers, July and August are the months that I catch up on back issues of the New Yorker. I turn first to anything Andy Borowitz has written, because he is hilarious. Then I look for anything written by my friends, so that I can feel jealous of their success in being published in my favorite magazine. Finally, I skim the shows, readings, and performances that I missed last spring.

I’ve been lazily preparing for a Bruce Conner symposium I’m participating in at the Museum of Modern Art in September by reading the essays in the excellent exhibition catalogue Bruce Conner: It’s All True. I love exhibition catalogues and am also reading Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, the companion to a great show at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

I tend to gravitate toward novels by female authors. I just finished reading a re-issue of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is an imagining of the tragic backstory of Rochester’s wife in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. His wife, you might remember, in Brontë’s telling, was simply the madwoman in his attic who had to die in order for Rochester to find happiness with Jane Eyre. I have on order A Place of Greater Safety by the incomparable Hilary Mantel. I read the first two of her trilogy (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) and saw the brilliant Broadway theater production of Wolf Hall in New York. I have been awaiting this third and final installment for three years.

Yesterday I bought Dave Eggers’ sixth novel, Heroes of the Frontier, at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts and plan to begin reading it today. Dave Eggers and Hilary Mantel are the two authors I read in hardcover. I just can’t wait for their books to come out in paperback and the line for their newest work at the New York Public Library is always a month long.

Todd Gitlin’s The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage from 1993 was just re-issued and I bought it after hearing an interview with the author on National Public Radio in July. I’m interested in knowing more about that era. Daniel Cohen, philosopher-in-residence at Colby College in Maine and the brother of my dear friend Paula, recommends Why the World Does Not Exist by Markus Gabriel and also Why the World Does Exist by Jim Holt. I’m not sure I’ll get to these, but I’m inclined to take his advice after listening to his TED talk, “For Argument’s Sake.” Finally, I will be re-reading E.B. White’s Here is New York, because it reminds me what I love about NYC, because it lifted my spirits post-9/11, and because I require all my freshman students at Parsons School of Design to read it in the first weeks of the fall semester.
Learn more about Welcome to Painterland at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wendy Sand Eckel

Degrees in criminology and social work, followed by years of clinical practice, helped Wendy Sand Eckel explore her fascination with how relationships impact motivation, desire, and inhibition. Combined with her passion for words and meaning, writing mystery is a dream realized. She lives in Maryland where she enjoys family and friends, pets, and living near the Chesapeake Bay.

Eckel's new novel is Death at the Day Lily Café.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Although I write mystery, I’m an eclectic reader. I love a tale well told in any genre. And beautiful writing stimulates my own creative drive. In the past year I’ve read some fabulous novels, such as The Goldfinch, All the Light We Cannot See, even a reread of The Poisonwood Bible. I also love nonfiction when told as a story and Ashley’s War and Dead Wake definitely met that requirement. Another book that really stuck with me is Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot.

There are good books. And then there are books you can’t put down. Books that keep you up into the late hours of the night or cause you to remain in bed longer than you should. Or both. This was one of those books for me.

In What Alice Forgot, Moriarty weaves a compelling story about a harried, compulsive mother who is so stressed she is snapping at her children and close to the breaking point in her marriage. But after being struck by a car while scolding the teenage drivers ahead of her, she loses the memory of the most recent years of her life. When she wakes up in the hospital, her mind is back at the time in her life when she was a happy go lucky mom and madly in love with her husband. All the years that followed are forgotten. But her family and friends remember everything.

The plot twists and turns Moriarty intertwines into the story are brilliant. And it has one of the key ingredients for me to love a book: it makes me feel. While reading, I want to experience joy, love, worry, hope, and what I like to call the ‘aha!’ moment. That sense when an author describes something I’ve felt or experienced but never had put into words.

When writing, I focus on entertaining my readers. The dreams I conjure while crafting a novel are that just maybe a reader will find a phrase so compelling they dog ear the page. And maybe when they reach the end they will be left with a warm, fulfilled feeling, one leaving them with the desire to let that ambience linger a while before starting the next book.

What Alice Forgot did that for me.
Visit Wendy Sand Eckel's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Murder at Barclay Meadow.

The Page 69 Test: Death at the Day Lily Café.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Barbara J. Taylor

Barbara J. Taylor lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania, home of the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country. She has an MFA in creative writing from Wilkes University and teaches English in the Pocono Mountain School District.

She is the author of Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night and All Waiting Is Long.

Recently I asked Taylor about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles about the American eugenics movement and found it fascinating. While researching my novel, All Waiting Is Long, I kept coming across medical books written by the American Eugenics Society in the 20s and 30s. Since my novel opens at the Good Shepherd Infant Asylum, a catholic home for unwed pregnant girls, I delved into eugenics as it pertained to women deemed morally unfit. In reading Cohen’s book, I realized just how broad and insidious the American eugenics movement was, and to a certain extent, still is, in our country. As recently as the early 2000s, women in prisons were offered shortened sentences if they agreed to be sterilized. At a time when men are still trying to legislate women’s bodies, Imbeciles is a must read.
Learn more about All Waiting Is Long, and visit Barbara J. Taylor's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lydia Pyne

Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian, interested in the history of science and material culture. She has degrees in history and anthropology and a PhD in history and philosophy of science from Arizona State University. Her field and archival work has ranged from South Africa, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Iran, as well as the American Southwest.

Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Nautilus, The Appendix, as well as The Public Domain Review; she is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Pyne lives in Austin, where she is an avid rock climber and mountain biker. Her new book is Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I find that I read many books simultaneously, leaving them scattered around the house. Every place to sit and read has a book next to it. Overall, I enjoying reading a mix of fiction and nonfiction and, looking through the books on my bookshelves, I think that the list of what I’m currently reading definitely reflects my eclectic taste and reading habits.

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

I recently finished Svetlana Alexievich’s brilliantly poignant oral history of post-Soviet society. This book is one of the most powerful that I’ve ever read – Alexievich’s unique style of weaving together multiple individual monologues creates an incredible oral history.

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time by Maria Konnikova

The Confidence Game has been on my “to read” list for several months now and I’m excited to finally be diving into it. I love Konnikova’s synthesis of “the con” and the stories she uses – everything from Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds.

The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller

Müller’s most recent novel is set in the final part of the Ceausescu regime in Romania. It traces the story of four people going about their everyday lives, where one of them is informing on the others to the government. Müller’s use of allegory and metaphor make the short novel feel like one’s reading a matryoshka doll – that what one is really reading are just layer on layers of meaning.

Burning Bright and The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck and am currently rereading his novellas. (The Pearl is one of my favorite pieces of literature and one that I’ve reread many times.) Burning Bright feels like it’s a very different type of Steinbeck novella, since it was written to be a theatrical performance.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

I think I’ve joined the rest of the world that saw Season 1 of The Expanse and, as I wait for Season 2 to come out, I am reading the books the series is based on.
Visit Lydia Pyne's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Lost World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bill Crider

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Crider's newly released 23rd Dan Rhodes Mystery is Survivors Will Be Shot Again.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
What am I reading? I’m glad you asked. I’m reading the January 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Why am I reading it? Because I was looking through a stack of paperbacks, and there it was. It’s a digest magazine, so I don’t know what it was doing in the stack.

The fact that it was there is not the only reason I’m reading it, though, or even the main one. The real reason is that I read the entire issue back in 1958 when I bought it off the rack in The Corner Book Store in Mexia, Texas, and I wanted to see if I remembered any of the stories and to see how they held up for me.

Let me tell you about two of them. The first is “Remembrance and Reflection” by Mark Clifton. I didn’t remember the story, but what I did remember is that it’s the fourth and final story in a group based on a couplet from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man: “Remembrance and reflection how allied! / What thin partitions sense from thought divide!” The three previous stories had appeared in a different magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, and I don’t know why the fourth one turned up in F&SF. I’m sure that would be a good story in itself. What I do know is that while I wasn’t at all familiar with Alexander Pope when I started reading the stories, I did like the couplet. I memorized it at the time, and I’ve thought of it often in the years since. The story, like the others in the series, is about a personnel director who works for a company called Computer Research and who finds himself hiring people with psychic powers. In this final story he discovers that he can’t quite sort out his thinking about those powers and about science and fit his thoughts into new framework. His life is changed, and he suffers some considerable loss. He has two things left, however: remembrance and reflection, the things that can’t be taken away.

The other story is by Theodore Sturgeon. It’s “A Touch of Strange,” and it’s a somewhat famous story if only for the title, which fits so much of Sturgeon’s work and which became the title of one collection of his stories. It’s about love, a theme that’s typical of Sturgeon, too. And there are mer-people. Or maybe not. There’s never any doubt about where the story’s going, but the telling of it is sweet and evocative and more complicated than you might expect. It’s no wonder that the magazine’s editor, Anthony Boucher, says in his introduction that Sturgeon’s work is “about the best science-fantasy being written today.”

There are a good many other stories in the magazine, all of them of interest for various reasons. “The 24,000 Mile Field Goal,” for example, is about an interplanetary football bowl game between universities on Earth and Mars in which one of the coaches is a giant computer that’s fed information on punched tape. And the teams are running the single wing. I love stuff like that. I’m really glad I ran across this old magazine and decided to take a nostalgic trip back to my past.
Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, Half in Love with Artful Death, and Between the Living and the Dead.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes and Seepy Benton on the big screen.

The Page 69 Test: Survivors Will Be Shot Again.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kodi Scheer

Kodi Scheer teaches writing at the University of Michigan, where she earned her MFA. She was awarded the Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. As a fellow of the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, she traveled to Bulgaria to engage with an international community of writers, translators, and readers. Her stories have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, The Florida Review, Quarterly West, and Bellevue Literary Review.

Scheer's new novel is Midair.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm re-reading Tampa by Alissa Nutting. It contains so many elements that I love--dark humor, high stakes, and an interesting but deeply flawed narrator. You hate Celeste because she preys on young boys, yet you keep turning the pages because you see glimmers of her humanity. She doesn't have control over these abhorrent thoughts, nor can she control the constant arousal. In some ways, Celeste is the embodiment of that proverb, "There but for the grace of God (go I)." What would happen if we acted on our darkest thoughts? I shudder to think...
Visit Kodi Scheer's website.

My Book, The Movie: Midair by Kodi Scheer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Barry Hankins

Barry Hankins is Professor of History at Baylor University, as well as a Resident Scholar with the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). His publications include Baptists in America: A History and Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: A Documentary Reader. Hankins's biography Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America: Fundamentalist Warrior, Evangelical Prophet was awarded the 2009 John Pollock Award for Christian Biography.

Hankins's new book is Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Well, it’s summer, so it’s novels, non-academic history, sports, and travel books. These are often oriented to the American southwest. Since I’ve been coming to northern New Mexico for almost four decades, I finally got around to reading John Nichols’s The Milagro Bean Field War. I saw the Robert Redford movie many years ago but never realized Nichols lives in Taos (I’m not even sure I knew it was a book). My stepson picked up a signed copy at a Taos bookstore when he and his wife were here in Taos with my wife and me in late June. I immediately moved it to the head of my summer reading list. (Last year it was Hampton Sides’s biography of Kit Carson, also set in and around Taos.)

I try to read a P.D. James novel every summer. So, the other day I started reading Devices and Desires, which I picked up at a used bookstore in Waco before we came west. My bad. I’ve already read it. There’s a Habitat for Humanity ReStore across the street here in Taos, so my wife and I are going there to see if I can find another used James that I haven’t read.

I’m a former college basketball player and high school coach (that’s how I funded my dissertation), so I like to read sports non-fiction. Michael Lewis (Moneyball, Blindside) is my favorite sports author (although he writes about non-sports subjects as well) and I also read his The Big Short right after I saw the movie. My son recently gave me a copy of David Halberstam’s Breaks of the Game about the Portland Trail Blazers of the late 1970s (Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Coach Dr. Jack Ramsey, etc.) I brought it with me along with a book about the University of Michigan’s football stadium (Forty Years in the Big House) that my mother in Flint, MI gave to me. But, I haven’t gotten to them yet. They got squeezed out by a beanfield.

Finally, my eldest stepson turned me on to Bill Bryson when he gave me Notes from a Small Island last Christmas—the one about Bryson’s hike across England. This summer I read his In a Sunburned Country about Australia. My former dissertation advisor, “Crocodile” Bob Linder, at Kansas State has been working on Australian Christianity for roughly 30 years. I’ve met some of his Australian colleagues, and I previously spent a few days in country while in college in the mid-1970s when I was traveling with a basketball team to New Guinea, of all places. Apparently, according to Bryson, Australia is as fascinating and inexplicable as my former advisor has always claimed.
Learn more about Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mary Robinette Kowal

Hugo-award winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal is a novelist and professional puppeteer.

Her new novel is Ghost Talkers.

Recently I asked Kowal about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently reading Carrying the Fire, which is the autobiography of Michael Collins. He flew the command module for the first lunar landing. I picked it up as research for my next novel (yes, it'll still be alternate history, just SF this time) and it is seriously compelling reading.

Collins is funny and at the same time can get across the terror and majesty of spaceflight. Even though I obviously know that they survive the moon landing, he still manages to have me on the edge of my seat. Plus, he has a beautiful grasp of language, so the entire book is effortless reading. Even when he gets deep into the technical stuff, he manages to make it comprehensible or pokes fun at how ridiculous the jargon is. It's the sort of book that makes you want to meet the author. I'm eating it the way I eat novels.

If you have any interest in spaceflight, or heck, just in how people react to extraordinary circumstances, pick it up.
Visit Mary Robinette Kowal's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Glamour in Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tom Bullough

Tom Bullough grew up on a hill farm in Wales, where he still lives. He has worked as a sawmiller, a music promotor in Zimbabwe, a tractor driver, and a contributor to various titles in the Rough Guides series. At present he is a Visiting Fellow at the University of South Wales. Addlands is his fourth novel, the first to be published in the United States.

Recently I asked Bullough about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm reading several books at once, as usual, but the last I opened – this morning, while waiting for an X-ray – was The Adventures and Vagaries of Twm Shon Catti by T. J. Llewelyn Prichard, said to be the first Welsh novel (or in any case the first written in the English language). Variously revised in the hope of an English readership, this is the original 1828 version: zesty, smutty, chaotic, with some of the satiric edge you might find in, say, James Hogg. I can't say I've read a lot of it yet, and I can't say I expect it to become a lot more coherent, but Twm himself ('the Welsh Robin Hood') seems a fine sort of trickster, and since Llewelyn Prichard was born in Trallong, just across the valley from where I live, I really have no excuse not to persist. Llewelyn Prichard was an itinerant alcoholic actor turned bookseller who lost his nose either in a duel or, more likely, due to syphilis, and instead wore a wax one attached to a pair of spectacles. In 1862 he passed out into his living room fire and was burnt to death.

The last book I finished, not counting The House Beneath the Water by Francis Brett Young (1884-1954), which I skimmed because it was rubbish, was Elizabeth Clarke's 1969 novel The Valley: a lovely, tender evocation of life in the mid-Wales mountains during the early parts of the 20th century. I have to have read it at least six times now and still, every time, I find something new to steal.
Visit Tom Bullough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Joel Selvin

Joel Selvin is an award-winning journalist who has covered pop music for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1970. Selvin is the author of many books about popular music, including the bestselling Summer of Love and coauthor, with Sammy Hagar, of the number-one New York Times bestseller, Red. His new book is Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day.

Recently I asked Selvin about what he was reading. His reply:
I read tons of murder mysteries -- always have -- and it is said that the terse, harsh style of the genre sometimes influences my writing. I have re-discovered Donald Westlake, whose light touch belies the intensely plotted stories.

I am also quite taken these days with Don Winslow, who is one of the bravest makers of sentences I have run across in a long time.

As for music writers, I admire many, chief among them Nick Tosches, Peter Guralnick, Geoffrey O'Brien and David Ritz. I also find a lot of good writing in daily newspaper sports sections, although I hardly qualify as a sports fan.
Visit Joel Selvin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lara Vapnyar

Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.

Her new novel is Still Here.

Recently I asked Vapnyar about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently reread Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, marveling at how modern it felt. It was written more than two hundred years ago! Some books just don’t get old. The novel is enjoyable on every level, but this time I had a special pleasure reading it from the perspective of a writer and a teacher of writing. Since this is one of Austen’s earlier work, it’s easier to see how she was shaping her method. One of her signature tools is to let her most idiotic or obnoxious characters (like Steele sisters or Robert Ferrars) talk forever with little or no reaction from the other characters so that we, readers, find ourselves right there in the scene and this unbearable character is addressing us directly, and we can’t escape his or hers obnoxiousness and start identifying with the main characters in a very powerful way.

Another signature Austen tool is her ability to ground romance in reality without making it less romantic. Here is how she describes the marital bliss of Elinor and Edward: “They had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and rather better pasturage for their cows.” Elinor and Edward are truly happy together, but that doesn’t mean that happiness will magically fix their financial situation. They live in the real world, and in the real world people are concerned with well-being of their cows. And the fact that they care about “better pasturage” doesn’t mean that they are any less in love.

Those cows at the end of Sense and Sensibility would always have a very special place in my heart.
Visit Lara Vapnyar's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Eowyn Ivey

Eowyn Ivey's debut The Snow Child was a finalist for the Pulitzer and an international bestseller. Her new novel is To the Bright Edge of the World.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Ivey's reply:
I'm always juggling a half dozen books and audio books at one time, especially right after I finish writing and editing my own novels. It feels so good to be able to read other people's stories without the distraction of my own work! I just recently finished The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra. Though they are two very different novels, told in very different ways, I found them both strange and haunting.

One of the perks of being an author is that publishers send me advanced reader copies to consider endorsing. My favorite debut coming out soon is The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach. To quote my own blurb, it's a "grittier, Eastern European, more grown-up The Fault in Our Stars" and features one of the most compelling narrators I've ever come across.

As if I can't find enough to read on my own, my 17-year-old daughter is always recommending books to me. She had me read Mrs. Dalloway recently, a Virginia Woolf I hadn't gotten to. And I read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere at her insistence. I so enjoyed it! Now I'm listening to his View from the Cheap Seats, recording done by the author. It's a bit of a drive from our house to town, but I look forward to it because I can listen to the next chapters. It's fascinating, both as a reader and a writer, to hear how his stories and career have evolved.

Next up are novels by two of my favorite authors -- Barkskins by Annie Proulx and LaRose by Louise Erdrich.
Visit Eowyn Ivey's website and blog.

Writers Read: Eowyn Ivey (February 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Colin Cotterill

Born in London, Colin Cotterill has worked as teacher in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before he started training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand. He’s won the Dilys and a CWA Dagger, and has been a finalist for several other awards.

Cotterill's latest Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery is I Shot the Buddha.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
By now, fans of this site will know that I don’t find a lot of time for novels. In fact I haven’t read anything intentionally fictional all year. I don’t dislike reading. I just lack the motivation to open a book and then the inspiration to get beyond the first paragraph. It has something to do with my upbringing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t read. I’m still trying to make up for all those lost years of free education in England when I was too busy chasing balls and girls to take learning seriously. So, when I have time to read it’s invariably non-fiction and, more recently, relevant to research I’m doing for the Dr. Siri books.

The book currently on my bedside table is The Animal Connection which sounds like a Disney Christmas book but is actually a thoroughly depressing memoir of an ex-wild animal trafficker called Jean-Yves Domalain. I promise you when you get to the end of it you’ll never take the kids to a zoo again. It’s one of those remarkable “I can’t believe they got away with it” stories that tells you exactly how an exotic animal makes it to a pet shop in Paris and how many fall by the wayside.

It’s not something you’d read unless you really had to. And I had to. The next Siri will be looking at Laos as an open market for endangered animals. My challenge will be to write it in such a way that my readers don’t slash their wrists before the final chapter.
Visit Colin Cotterill's website.

The Page 69 Test: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

My Book, The Movie: Killed at the Whim of a Hat.

The Page 69 Test: The Axe Factor.

The Page 69 Test: I Shot the Buddha.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mignon Ballard

Mignon Franklin Ballard, an accomplished mystery writer, lives in Calhoun, Georgia.

She is the author of several acclaimed mysteries, including her series featuring revered first grade teacher, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, set during the years of World War II. The newest novel in the series is Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel.

Recently I asked Ballard about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have just finished reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It was a selection of my book club and I have delayed reading it because I knew it was about depression and suicide and I really didn’t want to go there. I was surprised, however, at the humor in it – especially in the beginning. The writing is absolutely beautiful and it’s a quick read. It pulls the reader into the life of the main character, a young woman who is both brilliant and talented with everything to live for, yet she spirals helplessly into depression and madness as the tragic author did. Sylvia Plath was only a few years older than I am and I could identify with the description she gave of a young woman’s life, dress, and expectations during the fifties. Also, her struggles to become published were all too familiar to me. The book left me feeling sad, but grateful that I could see the light at the end of my tunnel.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mignon Ballard's website.

My Book, The Movie: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause.

The Page 69 Test: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause.

The Page 69 Test: Miss Dimple Suspects.

The Page 69 Test: Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Heather Young

After a decade practicing law and another raising kids, Heather Young decided to finally write the novel she’d always talked about writing. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and the Tin House Writers Workshop, all of which helped her stop writing like a lawyer. She lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband and two teenaged children. When she’s not writing she’s biking, hiking, neglecting potted plants, and reading books by other people that she wishes she’d written.

Young's debut novel is The Lost Girls.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I love multigenerational stories about families, especially when they explore the relationships among mothers, daughters, and sisters. This year has offered a feast of them! Some of my favorites so far:

Modern Girls, by Jennifer S. Brown

This is a rich and often wrenching tale of two women living in the Jewish immigrant community of New York's lower East Side in 1935 whose unwanted pregnancies expose exactly how far they are from being "modern girls." Rose, the mother of five, is ready to leave childbearing behind and return to the political activism of her youth when she feels the familiar nausea once again. Her daughter Dottie, gifted with a head for numbers, has just been promoted to head bookkeeper when a single night of passion narrows her world in an instant. Modern Girls vividly realizes the crowded, striving conclave of New York’s Jewish immigrants in the 1930s, and never flinches in describing the difficult decisions these two women face. It’s a moving and thought-provoking read.

June, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

This split-narrative novel from the author of Bittersweet weaves the story of a doomed 1955 love affair between a dashing movie star and June, a local girl in a small Ohio town, and that of June’s granddaughter, who suddenly inherits June’s decaying home and the movie star’s entire fortune. When the movie star’s two Hollywood A-list daughters show up demanding a DNA test, the three “sisters” comb through June’s belongings in search of the truth. Told partly from the point of view of the lonely, sentient house itself, it’s a tale of heartbreak and the redemptive power of family that’s full of unexpected twists and reveals.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

In her second book, The Language of Flowers author Vanessa Diffenbaugh describes with empathy and honesty the complicated love that binds a young unwed mother and the two children she struggles to raise even as she herself tries (and fails, at least at first) to grow up. Set in a forgotten, impoverished community of illegal immigrants near San Francisco, the book puts its flawed protagonist through the wringer, but it’s ultimately about hope, second chances, and finding strength you didn’t know you had. I loved it.
Visit Heather Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 1, 2016

James Abel

James Abel is the pseudonym for Bob Reiss, an accomplished author and journalist who has written extensively on the Arctic. He lives and works in New York City.

Abel's new novel is Cold Silence.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Sometimes I return to old favorites for inspiration, and these days, that's the case. Don Winslow's California Fire and Life manages to move a thrilling story with blinding appropriate speed, without sacrificing depth.

Robert Timberg's Blue-Eyed Boy reminds us of the hideous cost of the wars that the US has undertaken, and hopefully makes us think twice about undertaking more.

Michael Connelly and Alan Furst are two annual favorites, Furst for his astounding ability to set historical scenes, in The Polish Officer. Connelly in his calm way of pacing thrillers, controlling the tension like a jockey rides a horse, as he unleashes Nine Dragons.
Visit James Abel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Protocol Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Protocol Zero.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue