Monday, October 31, 2016

Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and Norton awards.

Her latest novel is Seriously Shifted.

Recently I asked Connolly about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been trying to make a dent in my enormous TBR pile lately. Here are some F/SF picks I’ve particularly enjoyed.

Will McIntosh, Burning Midnight. A super fun story of an alternate America where magical spheres are hidden all around, in the city, in nature, etc. Collect two of a kind and you gain a superpower. Of course, it’s entirely possible these superpowers have a price.... Recommended for fans of Ready Player One.

Curtis Chen, Waypoint Kangaroo. Spies in Space. Need I say more? Poor Kangaroo is just trying to take a vacation—well, he’s been forced to take a vacation—and then everything starts going wrong. Espionage, danger, and pocket-sized black holes, all on a galactic cruise ship.

Laura Gayle, Orcas Intrigue – A delightful paranormal mystery set on picturesque, rainy Orcas Island. Cam has a bad habit of, well, disappearing whenever things get too scary. But if she’s going to solve what happened to the last caretaker before her—and maybe find a little romance along the way—she might have to figure out how to stay put.
Visit Tina Connolly's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Seriously Wicked.

The Page 69 Test: Seriously Wicked.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl is a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories and a journalist. She is the co-author (with Cynthia Ward) of Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine, Strange Horizons, and numerous other magazines and anthologies.

Shawl's new novel is Everfair.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Shawl's reply:
I generally read more than one book at a time. For purely escapist pleasure I’ll pick up work by Trollope or Gaskell or another British Victorian, but at the moment you’ve caught me in the midst of overlapping perusal of two science fiction texts. Because I’m a science fiction writer myself these sorts of books tend to bring out my critical faculties rather than relaxing them.

I’m on the last chapter of David Levine’s debut novel, Arabella of Mars. Combining steampunkish elements such as a highly complicated version of the 18th- and 19th-centuries’ notorious, fraudulent “chessplaying automaton” with wooden ships sailing gale-force winds through an interplanetary atmosphere, Levine manages to simultaneously invoke C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoomian adventures. An audacious heroine--my favorite type--occupies the center of this busy, busy canvas. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

Meanwhile, I’ve just started an anthology of contemporary Chinese short science fiction called Invisible Planets, edited and translated by award-winning Chinese American author Ken Liu. So far I’ve only read the first story, “The Year of the Rat,” by Chen Qiufan. I quite enjoyed it. It kept surprising me--a piquant tale of young recruits to a campaign reminiscent of the Mao-era slaughter of sparrows. But the rats these young men trap and kill are genetically engineered pets who’ve evolved to be a bit too independent for their breeders’ comfort. “The Year of the Rat” is very different from the science fiction I’ve become accustomed to as a reviewer and editor, and if the rest of the book meets the standards this story sets, I’m going to be thrilled with the joy of discovery--that prized sensation known to science fiction aficionados as “sensawunda.”
Visit Nisi Shawl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ed Lin

Ed Lin is the author of several books and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and both were widely praised. Both also won the Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award, and was followed by in One Red Bastard 2012 and Ghost Month in 2014. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards.

Lin's new novel is Incensed.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Lin's reply:
Joseph T. "Cap" Shaw was the editor of Black Mask during its best years but mystery wasn't the only genre he was into. Shaw's anthology of Western stories, Spurs West, was published in 1951 (one year before he died), and it included "Deep Winter," a great short story by Ernest Haycox, an author I'd never heard of.

Haycox was famous in his day. He was all over the slicks--the well-paying magazines. John Ford's film Stagecoach was based on one of his stories and another Ernest, Hemingway, was a big fan.

In the course of my research, I found that "Deep Winter" was part of a series of shorts Haycox had written about a frontier town. Originally it was the fifth of six stories, the sixth of which was never published, possibly because the editors of Collier's weren't ready for a Jewish hero.

Look up Haycox online and marvel at his output. How the hell did Haycox write that much without a word processor? I wanted to read more of his work but I knew I had to read the other four stories in that series first.

Easier said than done, of course. I didn't want to buy up the back issues of Collier's and end up with more oversized magazines for my toddler son to yank off the shelves. Luckily for me, all the stories were republished in book collections that were mostly out of print but fairly easily obtained.

I found the first story "Some Were Brave," renamed as "Land Rush," in Stagecoach, itself renamed from By Rope and Lead.

The second story, "Dark Land Waiting," and the fourth story, "Faithfully, Judith" (helpfully renamed "Prairie Town"), are in Rawhide Range.

The third story, "The Claim Jumpers," is in Prairie Guns.

Of course, the fifth story, "Deep Winter," is in the aforementioned Spurs West, which doesn't show up too often, but it's cheap when it does.

When I had all the books in my possession I read them all and savored the simple and knowing way Haycox describes people:

"Wind struck harder as soon as the train pulled away, driving her back to the wall of the small station house, pressing her clothes on her body until she felt indecently exposed."

"He was a spare young man with black hair and gray eyes and he kept his eyes on the cigarette forming in his fingers."

If you've never read a Western story, give these five a shot. They might expand your range.

I don't know Sameer Pandya but we have friends in common. I've just read his book The Blind Writer and I loved it. It's a collection of five short stories and a novella published by the University of Hawai'i Press. There's a wonderful understatement and restraint in his language, giving them an almost subliminal quality. One experiences them, rather than being conscious of reading them. The novella, of which the book takes its title, is the strongest of them. I hope that indicates that Pandya has a novel on his hard drive, ready to break out.
Visit Ed Lin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hannah Pittard

Hannah Pittard is the author, most recently, of the novel Listen to Me, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice, a Washington Post Best Summer Thriller, an Entertainment Weekly Seriously Scary Summer Read, a Millions Most Anticipated Book, a Lit Hub Buzz Book, and a Refinery 29 Best Book So Far.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Pittard's reply:
My reading life is all over the place right now. On my nightstand are The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Nancy Jo Sales’ American Girls, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, all of which I’m actively reading. But the book I want to say something about is that one I've only just finished and have therefore already (and somewhat wistfully) re-shelved. This is Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel. It’s the story of Angel, an impetuous young woman (we meet her in the last year of Queen Victoria’s reign) who is determined to become an admired and famous writer. She does become a famous author but she is never admired, at least not by critics, whose approbation she both scorns and craves. The story follows Angel from her teens to her death and her arc is both gut-wrenchingly sad and heartbreakingly hilarious. On nearly every page, I found myself dog-earing or underlining passages I hope to return to again and again. But here is one, towards the end, that is nearly perfect in its distillation of Angel’s interiority:

“Perhaps she saw nothing as it was, everything as it should have be, though doubtless never had been; thought she retained whatever her hands had once touched: fame, love, money. Like a fortune-teller in reverse, he knew what she had been, and could tell what she had had by her assumption that it was all there still."
Visit Hannah Pittard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sharon Farrow

Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Farrow has been a freelance writer since her twenties. Her first novel was released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Farrow currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.

In her former life, Farrow turned her hand to a variety of endeavors from principal investigator on an archaeological site, college history instructor, caterer’s assistant, and dancing in a giant dog costume for a non-profit company (it’s a long story). Although Farrow has lived in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, she calls Michigan home, specifically the beautiful coastline of Lake Michigan. Indeed, she is so enamored of the sand dunes, orchards and beaches of western Michigan, she set The Berry Basket mysteries in a town very similar to the one she is lucky to live in.

Farrow’s new novel is Dying For Strawberries.

Recently I asked the author what she was reading. Her reply:
As a longtime fan of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, I was thrilled when Harris launched a new series set in the paranormal world first featured in Sookie’s hometown of Bon Ton, Louisiana. This time Harris has a new setting – Midnight, Texas – and a new cast of characters, each with a gift or secret as alarming as Sookie’s.

Over the summer, I read the first two books in Harris’s Midnight, Texas series: Midnight Crossroad and Day Shift. I’ve just finished Night Shift, her third installment. If you love Sookie and her coterie of vampires, shapeshifters, and shamans, you’ll find the new series a ‘must read’. As a Halloween baby, I’m fond of reading about things that go bump in the night. But even if I had never picked up a paranormal mystery before, I would have been entertained by all three Midnight, Texas books. And take note that her mysteries are never overshadowed by the paranormal elements, but rather are enhanced by them.

One thing Harris does that differs from both her Aurora Teagarden and Sookie Stackhouse books is that this latest series does not feature a main protagonist. Instead a close-knit group of paranormal misfits share the spotlight. And the spotlight reveals a number of fascinating secrets. Best of all, Sookie gets a shout out.
Visit Sharon Farrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying For Strawberries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jan Fedarcyk

Upon her retirement in 2012 Jan Fedarcyk was the only woman to lead the FBI’s prestigious New York Office as Assistant Director in Charge.

Fidelity, her first novel, draws upon her twenty-five years of experience as an FBI Special Agent.

Recently I asked Fedarcyk about what she was reading. Her reply:
The complicated challenges that America faces in the area of national security continues to drive my interest in non-fiction books that shed light on these issues. I tend to have at least two books that I alternate reading, and these can be historical or about current events that will define us for generations to come. Right now, I’m nearly finished with The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman and The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright.

Previously, I was absorbed by Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS and Spy Wars by Tennent H. Bagley. Even as someone with former government experience who understands the work of the intelligence community in countering threats, these books shed different insights on the pervasive threats posed by spies and terrorists. It’s no wonder that when I read fiction, I gravitate to the thriller genre!
Visit Jan Fedarcyk's website.

My Book, The Movie: Fidelity.

The Page 69 Test: Fidelity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2016

Meera Lester

Meera Lester is the author of nearly two dozen nonfiction books and the proprietress of the real Henny Penny Farmette, located in the San Francisco Bay area. Raising chickens and honeybees, she draws on her life at her farmette as the basis of her Henny Penny Farmette mysteries.

Lester's second Henny Penny Farmette mystery is The Murder of a Queen Bee.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading After the Storm, by Linda Castillo. I’m enamored of her extraordinary storytelling ability. She writes police procedural thrillers that include Her Last Breath, Pray for Silence, Sworn to Silence, and others. An added plus is that she populates them with believable characters—English and Amish. These books tick all the boxes for me—an engaging and believable protagonist, and equally worthy adversary, and the intense roller-coaster ride for the truth. The author seamlessly integrates what activities the police must do to find a killer while revealing the inner conflicts, suppressed emotions, and compassion of her sleuth.

As with other authors, reading informs my writing. My choices in reading run an eclectic gamut, from early Christian history and Celtic spirituality to cozy mysteries, thrillers, women’s fiction, and modern fables. I often re-read novels and nonfiction books as diverse as Hallucinating Foucault (by Patricia Duncker), The Palace (by Lisa St. Aubin de Ter├ín), and Anam Cara Eternal Echoes (by John O’Donohue). I’ve also spent many enjoyable hours reading poetry. In my twenties, I got hooked on Russian poets—a phase that encompassed more than a dozen years.

Diverse reading helps me create a culturally inclusive lens for my sleuth’s worldview. Abigail Mackenzie lives in a Las Flores, a small town in Northern California that borders Silicon Valley (populated from people from many different countries and cultures). I’ve loosely based many of her stories on stories on those I’ve heard from law enforcement members of my own family as well as my experiences working ambulance and helicopter runs when I was a respiratory therapist for many years working for a large county hospital that had six ICUs and an emergency room.
Visit Meera Lester's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

The Page 69 Test: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tabish Khair

Born and educated in a small town of India, Tabish Khair now lives in a village of Denmark. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and shortlisted for a number of international fiction prizes, including the prestigious Man Asian Booker and Encore Prize in UK, Khair is a poet and a novelist who claims to have “never written the same novel twice” and to “hold the world record for short-listings in fiction without a single win.”

His latest novel, to be released in the US on 26 October 2016, is Just Another Jihadi Jane. It tells the story of two British girls who run off to Syria to join the so-called ‘jihad’ and has already been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in the US.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Khair’s reply:
As I teach for a living, I often have to re-read books that are a bit like friends one has known since childhood: one is fond of them, but sometimes dreads listening to the same jokes and anecdotes yet once again. So I won’t list those.

However, one old novel I had never read in the past, but have almost finished reading now is John Fante’s Ask The Dust. I came to it through Charles Bukowski, whose novels are old friends one does not mind listening to once again. Bukowski ranked Fante (little known then, and only a bit better known today), and this novel by Fante, as a seminal influence. I finally got down to reading it this week, and I can see why Bukowski thought so highly of it: it has the same grittiness as Bukowski’s work, and a spare but finely honed writing style, which appeals to me as well. Depressing at times – Fante sees human nature as even more vile than Bukowski did – but a must-read.

I also just read Amitav Ghosh’s new study, The Great Derangement, which is about climate change and the surprising inability of fiction to narrate it. Highly readable, erudite and thought-provoking at the same time.

I am also starting on the Caribbean-British poet, Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation, which has just won the Forward Poetry Prize in UK and Hirsh Sawhney’s South Haven: A Novel, which is a poetic and irreverent coming-to-age story set in the US.
Visit Tabish Khair's website and learn more about Just Another Jihadi Jane.

The Page 69 Test: The Thing about Thugs.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kay Honeyman

Kay Honeyman grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended Baylor University, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters in English Language and Literature. Her first novel, The Fire Horse Girl, came out in January 2013. She currently teaches middle school and lives in Dallas, Texas.

Honeyman's new novel is Interference.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. I didn’t know this until after I finished the book, but it is the fourth of six books by contemporary authors reimagining Jane Austen’s six novels. All of the previous books have been written by British authors. Sittenfeld’s is the first by an American, and it tackles Pride and Prejudice. It was wonderful to see familiar characters placed in modern American society. I loved how Elizabeth Bennet translated into a New York magazine writer and Darcy into a surgeon from a wealthy family. The characters and story felt both connected to Austen’s work and, at the same time, very real in today’s world. I am a big believer in the capacity of Austen’s work to remain relevant. I’m always delighted when a writer recognizes and makes the most of that capacity.
Visit Kay Honeyman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Interference.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 17, 2016

J.R. Johansson

J.R. Johansson's books include Insomnia, Paranoia, Mania, Cut Me Free, and the newly released The Row.

Her books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. Johansson has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives in Utah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.

Recently I asked Johansson about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently lucky enough to be reading new/upcoming releases from some amazing authors I'll be going on tour with. The books are P.S. I Like You by Kasie West, I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil and the third and final book in Bree Despain's Into the Dark series: The Immortal Throne.

I only just started them, and they are vastly different books so I'm loving the variety! Plus, from many of their previous books they were already some of my favorite authors. These new books are definitely living up to my expectations!"
Visit J.R. Johansson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Row.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Genevieve Cogman

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author who has written for several role-playing game companies. She currently works for the NHS in England as a clinical classifications specialist. She is the author of the Invisible Library series, including The Burning Page, The Masked City, and The Invisible Library.

Recently I asked Cogman about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m one of those people who always has several books on the go at once. It’s not a deliberate form of gluttony – it’s just that I may be reading different things at different points in the day, or I may be sidetracked by an entirely new book, or I may go to look up a reference in an older book and then find myself rereading large chunks of it. (It wasn’t my fault. I was sucked in. The book made me do it.)

Take today. I was trying to get a bit further into The Book of the Courtier by Castiglione (translated by Charles Singleton) – a book in which the author discusses the ideal “Perfect Courtier” (and Court Lady), and in doing so gives an informative and interesting description of the Italian Renaissance. Very worthy, very useful, very interesting.

However, this is also rather heavy going, and I ended up being sidetracked into a couple of volumes of the graphic novel Girl Genius series, by Phil and Kaja Foglio, which is a beautiful piece of work, and an excellent story – and often very funny. (For the curious, it’s also online.) And the problem with reading something like that is finding a good place to stop. You always want just one page more.

And then there’s the sudden advent of temptation, done with the best of motives. I couldn’t remember the specifics of a line from a particular short story* in the Stalky & Co collection by Kipling: I could only remember vaguely that I’d liked it at the time and thought that it was elegant. So I had to go and look that up, and I ended up rereading the entire short story, and it was only with difficulty that I stopped myself reading even more...

It’s not so much a question of “What are you reading?” Sometimes it’s more a question of “What aren’t you reading?” I am easily led astray by tempting books. And that probably isn’t going to change any time soon.

*For reference: the short story was "The United Idolators," and the line in question, describing a disagreement in the staff room, was: “The Reverend John did his best to pour water on the flames. Little Hartopp, perceiving that it was pure oil, threw in canfuls of his own, from the wings.”
Visit Genevieve Cogman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Masked City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Colin Gigl

Colin Gigl is a graduate of Trinity College with degrees in creative writing and computer science (no, he’s not quite sure how that happened, either). He currently works at a start-up in New York and lives with his wife in New Jersey.

The Ferryman Institute is Gigl's debut novel.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
As is usually the case with me, I'm a bit all over the place. In terms of recently read books, I worked through Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J. E. Gordon. Elon Musk had recommended it, and being that it was a topic that always fascinated me anyway, I gave it a shot. It was actually very well written and surprisingly funny for what is (to my knowledge) a college textbook. However, I'm ashamed to admit that I don't remember as much as I would have liked. Moral of the story: don't ask me why things don't fall down.

On the fiction side of the world, I read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman not too long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven't read nearly as much Pratchett as I should (two books, not including the aforementioned), but I'm working on that. Gaiman I'm a bit better versed in. I loved how they wove religion into the story -- I have a particular weak spot for that sort of thing, which no doubt factors in to why I also loved Christopher Moore's Lamb as well. I find religion and their associated myths fascinating. Obviously, given the premise of my own book, I very much like twisting familiar stories into something new, and they do that in Omens with aplomb. It's also just wonderfully crafted. Great dialogue and absolutely overflowing with imagination.

Currently in my not-so-free time, I've been reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I'm only about a quarter in, but so far it has an absolutely stellar voice and is one of those books that is just a joy to read. Beatty has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase that I'm extremely envious of. I've lost track of how many times I've read a sentence and thought, "Damn, wish I'd written that." So, Paul, if you're reading this, can you distill that down and send me a bottle of it? I'd be extremely grateful.
Visit Colin Gigl's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Ferryman Institute.

The Page 69 Test: The Ferryman Institute.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

John Keyse-Walker

John Keyse-Walker practiced law for 30 years, representing business and individual clients, educational institutions and government entities. He is an avid salt- and freshwater angler, a tennis player, kayaker and an accomplished cook. He lives in Ohio with his wife.

Keyse-Walker's debut novel is Sun, Sand, Murder.

Last month I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Usually I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, often history, but my current reading list shows my true colors, as I am at various stages with three mysteries.

I just completed The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It is a rich read, wrapping political satire and a great spy mystery into one story. Add to that the first real telling of the emotional story of the Vietnamese refugees who resettled and tried to assimilate in the U.S. and it is easy to see why this book won a Pulitzer Prize, a Carnegie Medal, and an Edgar Award.

I am in the middle of reading Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning, latest in her Chief Inspector Ganache series set in Quebec. She is one of my favorite mystery writers because of the easy sophistication of her writing. With her, the reader gets more than the set-up and solution of a crime; you also get the smell of warm croissants and cafe au lait, the deep emotion of a good marriage, and the joy of a crisp sunny day after a heavy snowfall.

I try to read the occasional work from a small publisher or a self-published author. The Swamp Witch, by David G. Horton, is my current foray into this area. Set in rural Ohio, the story concerns a small-time drug dealer who becomes wrapped up in a murder investigation, with some supernatural experiences along the way. I love stories like this because they serve as a reminder that not every good story is on the New York Times bestsellers list, and there are writers out there yet to be discovered.
Visit John Keyse-Walker's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sun, Sand, Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Michelle Brafman

Michelle Brafman is the author of Washing the Dead. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Tablet, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Slate, Lilith Magazine, the minnesota review, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program and lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

Brafman's latest novel is Bertrand Court.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst is a witty, wise, big-hearted, page turner about a family’s struggle to raise an autistic child. Parkhurst lasers in on the questions that nag many parents: To what lengths will we go to help our children thrive? How do we sustain our equanimity and instincts when a child is suffering? I felt for every member of this family primarily because Parkhurst conveys their collective and individual challenges via a seamless braiding of three characters’ perspectives, each representing a different time period and point of view. No easy feat, but she pulls it off.

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor

I keep this anthology on my nightstand and read a short story or two when I find myself between books. I’ll reread a favorite like “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, “Friends” by Grace Paley, or Mary Gaitskill’s “The Girl on the Plane,” to name a few. I’ve also discovered many new gems like Julie Otsuka’s achingly gorgeous “Diem Perdidi.”

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani

When I stumbled upon The Garden of the Finzi Continis at my synagogue’s library, I grabbed it. I saw the film decades ago, but the stubborn hope and tragic fate of the socially exclusive Finzi-Contine family still haunts me. I remember how moved I was by their belief in their immunity from Mussolini’s anti-Semitic edicts.
Visit Michelle Brafman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bertrand Court.

The Page 69 Test: Bertrand Court.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 10, 2016

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published the novels Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

Livesey's newly released eighth novel is Mercury.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. First published in 1952 when it won the National Book Award, Invisible Man remains an exhilarating and deeply painful book. After a series of misadventures, the unnamed narrator is forced to leave the southern college he loves and move to New York. He works in a paint factory for a disastrous day, ends up enduring electric shock treatment and then becomes a spokesman for a movement called the Brotherhood. Over and over he finds himself manipulated by white men and sometimes by black men too. Some early critics called the novel surreal but Ellison said it was reality that was surreal. The novel is told mostly in brilliant extended scenes, and is often very funny.
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Frances Brody

Death of an Avid Reader is the sixth in Frances Brody’s 1920s series featuring Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth.

Last month I asked the author about what she was reading. Brody's reply:
What I'm reading links to where I am presently staying: New Orleans, Louisiana. I came here for Bouchercon, a huge crime writing convention that takes place over a long weekend. The novels I chose were Attica Locke's The Cutting Season and James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown.

Attica Locke's title refers to the cutting season for sugar cane. Her story is set in a grand mansion once occupied by a plantation owning family who have now moved out and run the place as a visitor attraction under the management of Caren, a smart, attractive African American woman with a young daughter. Caren's late mother was cook to the owners and her ancestors worked on the plantation. This is a rich and exquisitely written novel with beautifully drawn characters, involving a mystery from the past and conflict and heartache in the present. I loved this book and it will stay with me for a long time.

I'm not quite halfway through The Tin Roof Blowdown, which is set around the time of Hurricane Katrina. It's powerfully descriptive and intensely evocative. I'm glad to be able to see some of the settings as I walk around the city.
Visit Frances Brody's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying in the Wool.

The Page 69 Test: A Woman Unknown.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on a Summer's Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lis Wiehl

Lis Wiehl, author of The Candidate: A Newsmaker Novel is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels. She is a Harvard Law School graduate and has served as a federal prosecutor in the state of Washington and as a tenured faculty member at The University Washington School of Law. She is currently a popular legal analyst and commentator for the Fox News Channel.

Recently I asked Wiehl about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently read Atonement by Ian McEwan (I know, I’m a little behind the curve here) and it continues to haunt me.

It’s a combination of sheer page-turning narrative and vital, heartbreaking characters, with a complicated moral dilemma at its core. A young girl’s romantic jealousy causes her to take a seemingly minor action that has far-reaching implications for the other characters in the book, and ultimately for her.

McEwan’s World War II battle descriptions are so vivid that I found myself holding my breath at times.

In the end, McEwan pulls off a surprise that no reader can see coming. This is great writing on every level.
Visit Lis Wiehl's website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Candidate.

The Page 69 Test: The Candidate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 6, 2016

David O. Stewart

David O. Stewart is the author of several works of history, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which have been awarded the Washington Writing Award and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize. His Fraser and Cook mystery novels are The Lincoln Deception, The Wilson Deception, and the newly released The Babe Ruth Deception.

Recently I asked Stewart about what he was reading. His reply:
An unanticipated benefit of parenthood comes when your grown children start recommending interesting books to you.

Some years back, a son living in California urged me to read Wallace Stegner’s Pulitzer-winning novel, Angle of Repose. But I didn’t know much about Stegner and the title sounded pokey, so I let it slide. Big mistake. I ran down the book recently, and found that it’s terrific.

Stegner’s lyrical language movingly describes complex characters in difficult situations. The story involves a mining engineer’s odyssey through the post-Civil War West. Now mining engineering sounds pretty sleep-inducing at first, it affords a wonderful window on Americans’ race to exploit new lands (and water). Writing about the 1880s, Stegner captures the moral quandaries that surround economic development in today’s world of climate change.

Angle of Repose embodies its own ambiguity. Stegner reproduced, verbatim, about forty letters from Mary Halleck Foote, a writer married to a mining engineer in the old West, who served as the inspiration for his story. So, is the book fiction or non-fiction? Did he unfairly appropriate the work of another? Interesting questions.

My other son recently recommended Don Winslow’s novel The Power of the Dog, the first installment of a series exploring the violent world of Mexican drug trafficking, where misguided public policies intertwine with private greed. Book Two of the series, The Cartel, won wide acclaim last year, but, well, I needed to begin at the beginning.

The Power of the Dog is compulsively readable, full of the inside skinny on the drug trade that has haunted the Americas for two generations. I’m taking a breather from Winslow for now, but am definitely hooked for the next installment.

To prepare for a recent trip to Russia, I dug up David Remnick’s Lenin’s Tomb, a powerful journalistic account of the fall of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1992. Through those tumultuous years, when the Soviet system fell apart, Remnick brings us into the kitchens and offices of some who strained to save the system despite its internal rot and others who hoped to build something new and fine in its place. That neither group succeeded doesn’t make their stories any less fascinating.
Learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Wilson Deception.

The Page 69 Test: The Wilson Deception.

My Book, The Movie: The Babe Ruth Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue