Saturday, December 31, 2016

Michele Hauf

Award-winning author Michele Hauf has published over 80 novels in historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, as well as writing action/adventure as Alex Archer and erotica as Michele Renae.

Hauf's new novel is A Venetian Vampire.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I generally have at least half a dozen books going at one time. In hardback I'm reading:

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike. Set in a future Paris, yet Versailles is owned by a corporation that still lives the 17th century lifestyle (yes, even with the poufy wigs and gowns) yet mixes well with robots. Glitter is a drug, and it's making for a fun read. Fiction.

Making Life Easy by Christiane Northrup M.D. I read everything she writes. She's very wise. Non-Fic.

On the Kindle I'm reading:

The Art Thief by Noah Charney. Because I'm also writing about art forgery and theft at the moment. Fiction.

Sex on Earth: A Celebration of Animal Reproduction by Jules Howard. I love natural history. Can never get enough of reading about any kind of animal, mineral, or plant. Seriously. Non-fic.

Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales. See reason above. Non-fic.

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose. A very lyrical writer who tends to write about things that interest me. Fiction.
Visit Michele Hauf's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Venetian Vampire.

The Page 69 Test: A Venetian Vampire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2016

T. C. LoTempio

T. C. LoTempio is the author of the nationally bestselling Nick and Nora mystery series. When she’s not writing books, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.

LoTempio's latest novel is Crime and Catnip.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading tastes are varied. One week I’ll choose a cozy mystery, a thriller the next, or maybe even a true crime novel. I’m also a big fan of biographies, particularly historical ones that feature King Henry VIII and his wives. One book I recently read was Anne Boleyn: The Final 24 Hours by Marcella Mayfair. Anne Boleyn has always been my favorite of Henry’s wives so I was most anxious to read this book. The story is told in a minute by minute countdown which ends with her walk to the scaffold, and it describes the actions and thoughts of the leading players in Anne’s life: Thomas Cramer, Jane Seymour, Lady Mary, Thomas Wyatt, and, of course, Henry VIII!

Another excellent biography I just finished was A Fine Romance, Candice Bergen’s follow up to her first memoir, Knock Wood. I’ve been a longtime fan of hers since Murphy Brown, so I was anxious to read this one. Ms. Bergen talked not only about her career and Murphy Brown, but about her marriage to Louis Malle, how she coped after his death, and about her relationship with her daughter. I closed the book and even though I’ve never met her, I feel like Candice Bergen is one of my best friends.
Visit T.C. LoTempio's website.

My Book, The Movie: Crime and Catnip.

The Page 69 Test: Crime and Catnip.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Eileen Rendahl

Eileen Rendahl is the national-bestselling and award-winning author of the Messenger series and four Chick Lit novels. Her alter ego, Eileen Carr, writes romantic suspense. Her other alter ego, Kristi Abbott, writes cozy mysteries.

Rendahl's latest novel is Cover Me in Darkness.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Kate Moretti, The Vanishing Year

I just finished this one. I’d seen it on a couple of lists of psychological thrillers to read so I already had it on my own list of things to read when I went to a domestic suspense panel at BoucherCon in New Orleans and heard Kate speak. It moved up a few notches on my list then! She was smart and funny and irreverent. Then I ended up having dinner and drinks with her (it’s a long story that involves French 75s and a pair of wedge sandals and very kind authors making sure I didn’t fall down and got some food in my stomach to sop up the gin and champagne) and it moved even higher up on my TBR list.

I’m so glad it did! It’s a great book. It reminded me of some of my favorite suspense books and movies. Rebecca, Gaslight, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. It had that thick atmosphere of impending danger and intrigue plus Kate put in twists I never saw coming at times when I didn’t expect them. Great book.

Anna Quindlen, Miller’s Valley

I nearly always like Quindlen’s books so I was going to give it a whirl no matter what. She didn’t disappoint me. Not one bit. This is a carefully drawn portrait of a place and the people in it and what it means to have that particular set of people in that specific place at that exact moment in time. It was beautiful and heartbreaking by turns. Quindlen has a way of settling deep into the character whose point of view she’s in that makes me see the world in completely new ways. Then, at the end, a mystery that you didn’t even know was there gets solved and you see how everything was building toward that all the time. Brilliant.

Catriona McPherson, The Reek of Red Herrings

This one is going to be at the top of my TBR pile. I don’t even have it yet! I’ll be going to a booksigning where Catriona will be speaking and signing on Thursday and then I’ll have it in my hot little hands. I know it will displace everything else that’s waiting in that stack. I love this series. I love the language and the characters and the deep dive into another place and time. It’s the best historical fiction out there.
Visit Eileen Rendahl's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cover Me in Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Anne Korkeakivi

Anne Korkeakivi is the author of the novels An Unexpected Guest (2012) and Shining Sea (2016), both from Little, Brown.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Korkeakivi's reply:
My reading of late has been much influenced by recent circumstance, both personal and public. Most of the time I live as an expat, under the shadow of a mountain in Switzerland, far from any literary establishment. I read constantly, but not strictly the most current books or ones published in North America.

This autumn, though I’ve been on book tour in the U.S. I’ve spent a lot of time in North American bookstores and around other authors. It’s difficult for me to walk away from either without a new book in hand. At the Miami Book Fair, for example, I came away with three books, including poet Ishion Hutchinson’s House of Lords and Commons. Spanning millennia, thoughts, images, and seas, this collection has made me want to dust off my Ancient Greek texts from college and re-read T.S. Eliot.

I got to Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett swiftly, for the practical reason that both have variously been compared to my own new novel. In Homegoing, Gyasi employs a particularly brave writerly technique, as each chapter introduces a new voice, not to be revisited, while the story traces two diverging branches of a Ghanian family over three centuries. The Southern Californian family in Commonwealth also splinters, in this case over a half-century and because of adultery. Generational tales—there’s something in the water.

In the days immediately after the election, however, I needed some classic American fiction. First, I revisited On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros about a young Latina coming of age in Chicago. Next, I re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, about an independent woman of color in the Deep South with three husbands and three lives. The Cisneros is so profoundly its own hybrid of story, vignette, and poetry that it will always be fresh; the Hurston is enduring.

I return to Switzerland soon and have been trying to keep out of bookstores now, so I can manage to get my suitcase on the airplane. Three books are already packed: Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life: Stories by Ronna Wineberg; News of the World by Paulette Jiles; and Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa.

Bookstores in the U.S. are so tempting, though. Even in the airport.
Visit Anne Korkeakivi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2016

C.S. Quinn

CS Quinn is a bestselling author and journalist for The Times, The Guardian and The Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to journalism and fiction, her background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council.

Combining historical research with far-flung travel experiences helped her create The Thief Taker series.

Quinn's new book is Dark Stars, the third book in the series.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading the script of Nell Gwynn by Jessica Swale, an award-winning play performed at the Globe Theatre. I only wish I could have seen the play, but in lieu the script makes fantastic reading. I’m in awe of what’s been done with the courtly characters and hoping to take inspiration for my next book.
Visit C. S. Quinn’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Stars.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Elizabeth Gunn

Elizabeth Gunn is from Minnesota but has lived everywhere else since graduation from college. She married during a season of work in Yellowstone Park and raised her children in Helena, Montana. After selling the inn-keeping business they built there, Gunn and her husband traveled extensively, aboard a sailboat in Mexico, in an RV all over North America, and by bus tours throughout Europe when they lived in Barcelona, Spain, for a year.

Gunn's latest Sarah Burke novel is Denny's Law.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Three things, as usual. I like to have one big ongoing project, and right now it’s the Library of America’s four-volume set called “The Civil War, told by those who lived it.” Beautifully produced, as always, a pleasure to the hand and eye as well as the brain. I’m near the end of volume one. It’s a stunner.

The second: I’m re-reading the Nick Adams stories. Still think they’re some of Hemingway’s best work. Just finished “Big Two-Hearted River.” I can taste the trout.

Thirdly, I usually read most of The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books and the New Yorker, to feel a little in touch with a world I don’t travel to much anymore.
Visit Elizabeth Gunn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Denny's Law.

The Page 69 Test: Denny's Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dominic Janes

Dominic Janes is professor of modern history at Keele University, United Kingdom. He has most recently published Picturing the Closet (Oxford University Press), Visions of Queer Martyrdom and Oscar Wilde Prefigured: Queer Fashioning and British Caricature, 1750-1900 (both from University of Chicago Press).

Recently I asked Janes about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm reading Simon Goldhill’s A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion, and the Bensons in Victorian Britain. The patriarch of the family, Edward White Benson, presided over a household in which not only all of his children, but also his wife, were involved in various ways in aspects of same-sex desire. From the sharing of beds to the publication of coded novels the members of the Benson family wrestled with the complexities of emotional and sexual desires that were widely reviled and misunderstood at the time. This situation was made all the more difficult by Edward Benson’s job. From 1883 to 1896 he was archbishop of Canterbury and, therefore, one of the most prominent and respectable subjects of Queen Victoria at a time when the British Empire was at its height.

Furthermore, it is not only with the benefit of hindsight and careful historical research that the queerness of the Benson family has become apparent. Innuendo also circulated at the time even about the person of the archbishop himself as I explored in my study of queer Christianity in Britain, Visions of Queer Martyrdom. For instance, in 1883 the famous British satirical magazine Punch published a skit on a House of Lords debate
New Archbishop present. Looks Aesthetic. Got his speech ready. Intended when he came down to deliver it, but so nervous couldn’t get it off.

“Pity your Grace should have had all this trouble,” I say (always like to be polite to an Archbishop); “sure great loss to the world so much eloquence, argument, and common sense.”

“Don’t think it will be lost,” said his Grace sweetly. “Preaching shortly on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; shall be able to use up a good many of the passages.” His Grace ought to carry a lily or a sunflower.
Lilies and sunflowers were, at this time, popularly associated with one particular aesthete: Oscar Wilde.
Learn more about Oscar Wilde Prefigured at the University of Chicago Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

K.B. Wagers

K.B. Wagers lives and runs in the shadow of Pikes Peak. She loves flipping tires and lifting heavy things. She's especially proud of her second-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and her three Tough Mudder completions. When not writing she can be found wrangling cats with her husband, or trying to keep up with her teenage son.

Wagers's new novel is After the Crown.

Recently I asked Wagers about what she was reading. Her reply:
I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to read this year, so rather than focus on my pitiful recently read list I pulled in some books that are at the top of my list to add to two books I read and loved in 2016.

Hamilton: The Revolution, also known as the Hamiltome, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I just finished reading this the other day and it’s such a fantastic companion for anyone who’s obsessed with the Broadway musical. With fantastic pictures and insight into LMM’s process as well as a timeline that follows the show from its birth to its appearance on Broadway, the Hamiltome gives you such a lovely look into a musical that will have a long lasting impact on history and pop culture.

Salt: A History, by Mark Kurlansky

Any time someone asks me for my favorite history or biographical novel this is the one I suggest. It gets a laugh, but once that dies down I can go on and on about how fascinating the subject of salt is. For me personally it’s one of the biggest problems we’ll have to solve if we’re going to be at all serious about leaving earth and traveling out into the stars.

The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley’s collection of articles was by far my favorite non-fiction read of 2016 and I keep throwing it at people like the scene in The Heat where Melissa McCarthy throws the book at the criminal. *laughs* “Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Successful Writer" is such a great thing for writers to read. Hurley talks about persistence, rejections, and why the skill of coming back to the keyboard is so much more important than being a "good" writer.

"Taking Responsibility for Writing Problematic Stories" is this great essay about owning up when you mess up, and being aware that it’s going to happen if you challenge yourself by writing outside of your comfort zone.

"We Have Always Fought" which is in my top five favorite essays of all time, is a reminder that women in positions of power, authority, and battle are not anomalies in our world, no matter how much society tries to get us to believe that they are.

On Basilisk Station, by David Weber

I stumbled onto David Weber’s Horatio Hornblower tribute more than ten years ago and fell in love with Honor Harrington. The first book in the series will always be my favorite. It’s a wonderful blend of political intrigue, space battles, interpersonal conflicts, and some of the best bromance moments (I don’t have another term for those “awwwww” moments in books that aren’t romantic but are definitely tripping your heart-strings.) in science fiction.

The Places that Scare You, by Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön’s book on living fearlessly through troubled times is a book I come back to again and again. Her soothing advice and easy writing style makes it feel like you’re settling in for a drink with an old friend—one who’s not only going to hug you and tell you everything is okay, but who will slap you upside the head and tell you to set some more sunshine and stop worrying so much.
Visit K.B. Wagers's website.

The Page 69 Test: After the Crown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2016

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Peter Godfrey-Smith is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York), and Professor of History and Philosophy of Science (half-time) at the University of Sydney.

His books include Theory and Reality, Philosophy of Biology, and the newly released Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Godfrey-Smith's reply:
Around the election I read political books – Vance's Hillbilly Elegy just before it, and Worth’s A Rage for Order just after. Worth's is a tremendously sad and very important book.

I am now finishing Mark Lilla’s The Shipwrecked Mind and also John Kaag’s American Philosophy: A Love Story.

After those, I will dive into The Encounter: Amazon Beaming. This is Petru Popescu’s write-up of the experiences of Loren McIntyre, an American photographer who spent time with the Mayoruna people in the Amazon, in 1969. I was led to the Amazon by Simon McBurney’s stunning one-man sonic adventure, The Encounter, a theatre piece based on Popescu’s book.
Visit Peter Godfrey-Smith's website.

The Page 99 Test: Philosophy of Biology.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Alex Beam

Alex Beam has been a columnist for The Boston Globe since 1987. He previously served as the Moscow bureau chief for Business Week. His books include three works of nonfiction: American Crucifixion, Gracefully Insane, and A Great Idea at the Time; the latter two were New York Times Notable Books.

Beam's new book is The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Beam's reply:
I'm currently reading Maria Semple's Today Will be Different, hoping that it will be as flat-out fantastic as Where'd You Go, Bernadette? I'm about half way through, and I'm not quite sure yet. Semple is a delightfully sharp-tongued writer.

Each evening I read a tiny bit of the one-volume version of Robert Skidelsky's three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes. It's superb, and has none of the shortcomings you might expect: no economic jargon, no dull accounts of endless international conferences. Skidelsky has a wonderful subject, a cynosure of the British academic, social, literary and political elite, and he works brilliantly with his material. A real treat.
Visit Alex Beam's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Feud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2016

R.M. Meluch

R.M. Meluch is an American SF writer, and published the first of her Tour of the Merrimack series of military SF/space opera novels in 2005.

Her novel's include Jerusalem Fire.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Meluch's reply:
Right now, I'm reading Terry Prachett. He makes me laugh my ass off, and his is such a singular voice I don't need to worry about subconscious lifting (that's a special dread of mine.) Our writing styles couldn't be more different. Sir Terry left this world too soon.
Visit R.M. Meluch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jerusalem Fire.

Coffee with a Canine: Rebecca Meluch & Jeremiah.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 16, 2016

John Clarkson

John Clarkson is the author of several thrillers and crime novels published in the late 90's, and the early 00's. During the day, he ran a boutique advertising firm, then a private marketing and advertising consulting firm. He has worked directly with corporate clients such as NewPower, Chase Manhattan and E*Trade Financial where he helped create the notorious E*Trade Baby.

Clarkson's latest novel is Bronx Requiem.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m often compared to Lee Child, who was gracious enough to give a blurb for Among Thieves, the first in my new series featuring James Beck. The second, Bronx Requiem, came out in November. So, I always read that latest Reacher novel. Ripped through Night School in two sessions. Had some quibbles with it, but always enjoy spending time with Jack Reacher. I’ve never mentioned this in public, but my first novel, And Justice for One, published a couple of years before the first Reacher novel, featured Jack Devlin as the protagonist. Six-five, two-hundred-thirty pound, ex-Military Police, who could kick just about anybody’s ass (and by the way, like Reacher, also had with an older brother a bit bigger). But don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying Jack Devlin inspired Jack Reacher. Jack Devlin came out of the same cloth as John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, Richard Stark’s Parker – all big, tough guy, heroes.

For another reason, I decided to dip back into the work of another master, Elmore Leonard. I suppose I’ve been meaning to do that since Mr. Leonard passed away. I read one of his more obscure novels, Touch, written back in 1987. A book he had a very difficult time getting published. Here’s something interesting about that book. It features one of the most touching, endearing, and thrilling love scenes I’ve ever read. It goes on for pages. From there I ripped through The Moonshine Wars. Fabulous to see how Leonard handles settings and creates a milieu. That teed me up for his book of short stories: Fire in the Hole, which is fascinating to me because you see the origin stories of movies that were made from his works, and the TV series featuring one of the coolest tough guys of all – deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.

Just today, I started The North Water a period piece by Ian McGuire. It has one of the most riveting openings of any book I’ve read. And what talent McGuire displays writing about the most horrific brutalities with poetic prose. Often times, I’m sorely disappointed by writers in my genre. I can see right through the lack of verisimilitude, hackneyed characters, awkward prose. Not McGuire. A completely original work.

One last item. In the non-fiction arena, I often dip into Shawn Coyne’s daunting masterpiece on editing The Story Grid to sharpen my understanding of story mechanics. Lots to say about that, but want to end now and read until I sleep.
Visit John Clakson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bronx Requiem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gail Oust

Gail Oust's fourth Spice Shop mystery is Curried Away.

Her other books include the Bunco Babes mystery series.

Recently I asked Oust about what she was reading. Her reply:
My default setting when it comes to reading is always the mystery genre. Although I write cozies, I tend to favor suspense. I'm currently reading Sandra Brown's Mean Streak, which I suppose technically can be considered romantic suspense. I picked this book from my to-be-read pile because of the glowing recommendation of a friend who mentioned the many plot twists. As a writer, I also admire Ms. Brown's deft use of multiple points of view to give her story more depth.

When I decide on a change from mystery, I browse the bestseller lists or book club selections to stay more well-rounded. I recently read A Man Called Ove by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, and enjoyed it immensely. I loved how skillfully Backman could turn a curmudgeon into lovable then back again while always remaining true to the character.
Visit Gail Oust's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rosemary and Crime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Kelly Luce

Kelly Luce is the author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (A Strange Object, 2013), which won Foreword Review’s Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, and the novel Pull Me Under (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). She grew up in Brookfield, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in cognitive science, she moved to Japan, where she lived and worked for three years. Her work has been recognized by fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, Sozopol Fiction Seminars, Ragdale Foundation, the Kerouac Project, and Jentel Arts, and has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Salon, O, the Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, and other publications. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin in 2015 and lives in Santa Cruz, CA. She is a Contributing Editor for Electric Literature and a 2016-17 fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, where she is working on her next novel.

Recently I asked Luce about what she was reading. Her reply:
One book I read recently that I won't soon forget is Odie Lindsey's We Come to our Senses. You could call these war stories, but that would be selling them short. Lindsey writes about female veterans, closeted soldiers, and the dark side of combat and coming home. The stories will claw at your heart, as they are full of deep-black humor and intelligent, unusual observations. For anyone who likes Vonnegut, this is a must-read.

The other unforgettable, one-of-a-kind book I read recently is a novel by the Icelandic writer Sjón. It's called Moonstone, the Boy Who Never Was. It's a lyrical, spare, story about volcanoes and love and mystery by one of Iceland's greatest literary celebrities. I try to make sure every third or fourth book I read is in translation. It's important, now more than ever, to expose ourselves to other cultures and viewpoints and aesthetics. I found that the world became a lot fuller when I stopped limiting myself to books written in English or published only in the U.S. or UK.
Visit Kelly Luce's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 12, 2016

April Ayers Lawson

April Ayers Lawson is the recipient of the 2011 George Plimpton Award for Fiction, as well as a 2015 writing fellowship from the Corporation of Yaddo. “Virgin” was named a 2011 favorite short story of the year by Flavorwire magazine and anthologized in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review (Penguin, 2016). Lawson’s fiction has appeared in the Norwegian version of Granta, Oxford American, Vice, ZYZYYVA, Crazyhorse, and Five Chapters, among others. She has lectured in the creative writing department at Emory University, and is the 2016-17 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Lawson's new book is Virgin and Other Stories.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Incantations Of Daniel Johnston, illustrated by Ricardo Cavolo, written by Scott McClanahan

Reading this graphic novel about the life of the very troubled and demon-haunted musician Daniel Johnston—the first graphic novel I’ve read—felt like a religious experience; and contemplating why Scott McClanahan cursing and dooming you near the end feels like a kind of salvation is in itself worth the price (which at 13.50 is amazingly low for this singular and arresting art object). McClanahan’s lines are thought bombs. Example: “And Daniel knew only this: If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” This ability to say things in such a simple yet explosive way makes you feel like he’s telling you things you should’ve already known—meaning this book throbs with truth. The vibrant illustrations coupled with such prose makes for heartbreaking, funny and spirit-nurturing entertainment. I already plan to give a copy to someone as a gift.

Zodiac B, Travis Smith

Like The Incantations Of Daniel Johnston, this publication is also an art object—a set of 15 tarot-like cards that each on one side feature a prose poem by Travis Smith and on the other a beautiful astrological illustration by Chelsea Granger. Ninepin Press’s description of this chapbook in cards reads: “In 1922, a council of astronomers ratified the eighty-eight constellations we know today, leaving many others to fall into obscurity. Now, with prose poems dedicated to Felis, Bufo, Globus, Aerostaticus, and a dozen other discarded figures, Travis Smith presents Zodiac B, a cosmography of the obsolete, the forgotten, and the lost.” With lines like, “You are like a drawing of a cat done from memory by someone who’d seen more rats than cats” and “Look outside the radial lines of want that bisect you like so much insensate meat” the poems feel as accessible as they do enticingly mystifying. Also at Ninepin’s website you can find out which sign from Zodiac B you were born under.

My Immaculate Assassin, David Huddle

If you had the power to kill anyone—including corrupt politicians and tyrannical rulers—without getting caught, would you use it? In My Immaculate Assassin, by David Huddle, characters are presented with this possibility through the development of a system that allows them to from a computer execute someone without leaving a trace of violence. That they decide to execute the people they believe should be dead raises complex and disturbingly timely moral questions in a narrative that is as much a love story as a thriller. The exploration of attraction, intimacy, bonding, power, and the problem of how to stop evil without participating in it is something every reader can relate to. After he’s been presented with the opportunity to decide who dies, the protagonist’s girlfriend says to him, “You know, I think you’ll pick one of the obvious candidates. A serial killer. A terrorist. A child-molester. A confessed rapist. Somebody already in prison. Khalid Shiekh Mohammed—there’s a guy who’s proud of his role in 9/11. Pick him and we won’t have to go through the spectacle of his trial. There are guys on death row you’d be doing a favor by picking. There are people begging for suicide assistance. There’s a lady in New Mexico who’s put an ad on craigslist asking for somebody to put her out of her misery. ‘You will be richly rewarded,’ her ad says.”

Ugly Girls, Lindsay Hunter

“He had tried to kill a girl, but she had gotten away after stabbing him, leaping a fence and rushing in the sliding glass door of an elderly couple’s home, stark naked but for one sock, gash like a wide mouth in her neck, grinning blood.” –from Ugly Girls

As I began this book, what first struck me was Hunter’s ability to write prose that feels so alive it is at times crackling with electricity, and as I continued my amazement turned to her ability to so naturally inhabit a diverse cast of characters. She is as adept at writing from the perspective of an ugly and undesired teenage girl as at writing from the perspective of a beautiful one, as convincing in her portrayal of a middle-aged prison guard stepfather as she is in her portrayal of an ex-convict sex offender. They are human in the grand sense—as in they are powerful and pathetic, soulful and petty, trapped in their bodies and hungry for transcendence and transformation (and often without fully knowing it, without knowing what they are throwing themselves at to try to get it). After I finished, I tried to remember if I’ve read anyone else who respects their characters at the same level Hunter does; and what I mean really is that in this story everyone is more than who they seem to be and equally dangerous to the people around them. A sense of their being, at the most basic level, emanates from them, equalizes them all in that way; and while some writers, when they write about the lower class, do it with a sympathy that bleeds into condescension—with a kind of, See, I really do think everyone is equal and can feel sorry for them vibe—Hunter’s exceptional and complex moral vision and spiritual intelligence keeps this story free of it. In the story “Good Old Neon,” (something else I’ve been reading again) David Foster Wallace writes,
The truth is you already know what it's like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.
Lindsay Hunter’s characters have this feeling to them, of being bigger than what we can fully see, of containing universes. With Lindsay Hunter, it’s for real.
Learn more about Virgin and Other Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams is the author of several books, including Kraken and Cape Wind, and is a lifelong equestrienne.

Her latest book, The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion, is now available in paperback.

Recently I asked Williams about what she was reading. Her reply:
After last winter's whirlwind author's tour, and before the paperback of The Horse was released a few weeks ago, I decided to spend some time "in between" books. So I could read anything I chose. I loved Mary Beard's SPQR, a highly readable overview of Roman history, read a pile of books on the history of France's Provence region as an aftermath to a trip my husband and I took, and even went back and read Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague. It's a wonderful experience to open a book and know that all you have to get out of the experience is pure enjoyment and satisfaction.
Visit Wendy Williams's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Horse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Karen Harper

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper is a former high-school and college English teacher. Winner of the 2005 Mary Higgins Clark Award for her outstanding novel, Dark Angel, Harper is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, historical novels, and a series of historical mysteries.

Harper's new novel is Chasing Shadows.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I mostly binge read for pleasure between writing my own books and I avoid similar genre books while I’m writing. That said, my current reading is somewhat a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Since I write contemporary suspense, as in my new South Shores series, and historical novels set in England, I sometimes research ideas and settings for one genre while writing in another.

My reading list right now includes a book on how to write. I may have written over 60 novels, but I’m always willing to learn from others. Elizabeth George, an American who writes great psychological suspense has written a very interesting book called Write Away: One Novelist’s approach to Fiction and the Writing Life. I’ve found it very thought-provoking and love the boldness of an American using British settings, since I do that also.

I must admit I’m always looking for new topics, so I’ve been reading a bit more nonfiction: To Marry An English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. I liked this well-illustrated book so much that I bought it. It’s a history of the rich and famous of the Victorian and Edwardian ages, a topic I’ll be using soon.

And along that line, I’m reading the autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt, who did marry an English lord. He received a fortune from her family, and she received a title. One thing about reading someone’s autobiography, though, is that you have to realize the author may slant the past or try to excuse themselves, so you need to read with that in mind. But I love the “I was there” point of view and use it in my historicals, which I call faction.

Lastly (besides proofreading galleys of my own work) I’m reading a novel set in a South Florida, The Island by Heather Graham. She’s a friend who lives in South Florida where we wintered for 30 years. Mira Books has combined one of my Florida suspense novels with one of hers, and I had missed The Island when it first came out. My Below the Surface is combined with her novel in a two-novel book titled Still Waters—and you may have heard they run deep.

I also read two newspapers a day and keep up with magazines, always looking for ideas for my own books. “Ripped from the headlines…Truth is stranger than fiction.” Writers do read.
Visit Karen Harper's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Bonds.

The Page 69 Test: Chasing Shadows.

--Marshal Zeringue