Friday, December 15, 2017

Steven Cooper

Steven Cooper is a former investigative reporter. His work has earned him multiple Emmy Awards and nominations, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow award, and numerous honors from the Associated Press. He taught for five years in the English department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Cooper has lived a bit like a nomad, working TV gigs in New England, Arizona and Florida, and following stories around the globe.

Cooper's new novel, his fourth, is Desert Remains.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading James Ziskin’s Cast the First Stone, his latest in the Ellie Stone mystery series. It’s a gorgeous book. Ziskin eloquently evokes 1960’s Hollywood and the quiet scandals that run like fault lines beneath the surface of the movie town’s glitter. In Ziskin’s novel, grime eclipses glamour masterfully and the result is a beautiful exposé of the underbelly. A budding movie star disappears, a producer is murdered, and the hush-hush of it all is deafening. Crisp dialogue, rich characters, and an expert sense of place together make you smell the sultry rain of a Los Angeles night and the languid mist by the sea, while pulling you into the desperation of people whose motives are complex and deeply flawed. Ziskin’s fourth novel in the Ellie Stone series, Heart of Stone won both the 2017 Anthony and Macavity awards. Those accolades come as no surprise as I race toward the finish of Cast the First Stone.

Candice Millard’s River of Doubt had me savoring every page. With every chapter comes a new ripple in the adventure with tension so tight it felt like an elastic band stretching the length of the Amazon. Her characters come to life; they’re big and bold and their minds are almost too expansive for the story. But Millard expertly fits them on her palette as she explores their broad personalities. Also at the end of her paintbrush: detailed and exotic scenery, immersive and beckoning. I should probably mention here that River of Doubt is not a novel. It’s a work of non-fiction that chronicles Theodore Roosevelt’s ill-advised and nearly catastrophic exploration of an uncharted tributary in the Amazon. I don’t know if this a compliment to an expert researcher and storyteller like Millard, but River of Doubt is non-fiction that reads like a beautiful if not epic novel. The overwhelming arc in this story is an arc of doubt. Will they make it? Who will die? Who will survive? Are they heroes or fools? The reader is always reminded that, at a certain point, there will be no turning back. I was hooked. The stories within the stories of these robust characters are deeply layered. Their conflicts with each other and with the forces of nature around them make the adventure a physical and psychological tour de force.

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Say No More made me want more, a lot more, of Jane Ryland. Ryland, Ryan’s series protagonist, is a television producer/reporter in Boston who ends up the reluctant witness to a brazen hit-and-run, the tentacles of which reach deeper into the city’s underworld than she imagines. She, meanwhile, must answer to her TV bosses who are waiting for her exposé on college campus sexual assaults, an investigation that takes her down a dangerous and shadowy road of its own. And then, of course, there’s the murder of a young college lecturer that Jane’s cop boyfriend is investigating. Jane zips from crime scene to courthouse to secret rendezvous with victims. You never quite know where she’s going. That’s the beauty of Ryan’s craft. She keeps you guessing. The pace is relentless. If you want to know how an Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark award winner does it, this is a book for you. As a former television reporter, I can relate to the story. As a fellow crime writer, I enjoyed getting lost in this gripping novel.
Visit Steven Cooper's website.

My Book, The Movie: Desert Remains.

--Marshal Zeringue