Wednesday, December 29, 2021

William Boyle

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. He’s the author of five novels: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, an Amazon Best Book in 2019 and winner of the Prix Transfuge du meilleur polar étranger in France; City of Margins, a Washington Post Best Thriller and Mystery Book of 2020; and, most recently, Shoot the Moonlight Out. All are available from Pegasus Crime. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Recently I asked Boyle about what he was reading. His reply:
Without a doubt, the best book I read this year was Agota Kristof's The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie. I’d heard of this trilogy of novels somewhere along the line—I’d written down the titles in a notebook—but it must not have been a substantial lead because I didn’t follow through until recently. An absolute masterpiece. Can’t remember the last time I gulped down 500 pages so hungrily. The bones of a dark fable or fairy tale. Dissects the inhumanity of humankind, the ravages of war, the small lives lost in all the destruction, identity, memory, reality, truth, storytelling, borders, the depths of perversion and depravity and despair, and ways of surviving in a fucked-beyond-repair world. Grim, strange, jagged, haunting, elemental, full of real pain and heart and yearning. Prose that’s like drinking cold, clean water from a sacred spring. Just incredible. Should be said that this book features some of the most horrifying stuff I’ve ever read, and it’s all rendered in the most direct and detached language, which somehow makes it even more emotional and affecting. Fascinating to read this the same week I watched another Hungarian masterwork, Lili Horvát’s film Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, which also questions what happens to the fabric of reality in times of trauma (in that case, love is the source of trauma). Anyhow, this is one of the most challenging, moving, and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. Bummed it took me so long to find but thankful I found it now.
Visit William Boyle's website.

Q&A with William Boyle.

The Page 69 Test: Shoot the Moonlight Out.

My Book, The Movie: Shoot the Moonlight Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Kimberly Belle

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including the newly released My Darling Husband and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than in a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Belle's reply:
Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Any story set in the Netherlands is an automatic draw for me, and when I heard Woman on Fire centered around the high-stakes world of art theft, I was sold. Part thriller, part World War II epic, this novel follows a gutsy journalist as she chases a Nazi-looted masterpiece through the darkest and most dangerous streets of the international art world. Barr’s descriptions are top notch, making this a fast-paced stunner that’s as vivid as the painting it’s based on
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Darling Husband.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 19, 2021

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published in the spring. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally, America in the Twentieth Century.

Here is Buffa's take on Lawrence Durrell’s Justine:
Lawrence Durrell, quite on purpose, wrote Justine, the first of four novels that together became known as The Alexandria Quartet, like a “spiral staircase,” each step taken changing the perspective of how things are seen. “I have escaped to this island with a few books and the child — Melissa’s child,” he writes on the very first page. At night, when “the wind roars and the child sleeps quietly in the wooden cot,” he thinks about Justine and Nessim, Melissa and Balthazar and about the city, Alexandria. Alone with the child on the island, he will try to reorder reality, to show what was most significant.

He sees all this, he is determined to see all this, the way that each of us sees things in our own remembered past, not as the sequential events they were when they unfolded, but as we first come to learn about them; the way, for example, we learn, much later than it happened, a friend’s, or a lover’s, betrayal.

He will “record experiences, not in the order in which they took place — for that is history — but in the order in which they first became significant for me.” It is only here, on the island, “that I am at last able to re-enter, reinhabit the unburied city with my friends…. Here at least I am able to see their history and the city’s as one and the same phenomenon.”

Justine, the novel, is about Alexandria, the city, because Justine, the woman, is “only an extension of the spirit of the place.” With “five races, five languages,” and “more than five sexes.” Alexandria is different than other places. Everyone knows everyone, or knows something about everyone; everyone knows about Justine, married to Nessim, a man so rich that he cares nothing about money, and indeed is “possessed by a positive distaste for it.” Stranger still, Nessim “appeared to be quite faithful to Justine — an unheard of state of affairs.” Justine, however, is not faithful to him. Durrell does not approach her; she approaches him.

Durrell is not married, but shares his bed at regular intervals with Melissa, a dancing girl, of whom Purswarden, a well-known writer, said after watching her dance that he would propose marriage to her, “But she is so ignorant and her mind so deformed by poverty and bad luck that she would refuse out of incredulity.” The difference between the two women could not be greater, or more tragic. Melissa loved “my weaknesses because there she felt of use to me; Justine brushed all this aside as unworthy of her interest.”

Justine has so many theories about herself that it is never quite possible to trust her conclusions. She is always searching for something, something that will tell her what, and who, she really is. Durrell, her lover, is driven to the same search. It is the question, the central concern, of everyone who knows her, or tries to know her. Everyone wants her, and if she does not go so far as indiscriminate promiscuity it is only because before she gives her body she has already sufficiently imagined the act. Almost before their affair has begun, she remarks that, “This intimacy should go no further, for we have already exhausted all its possibilities in our respective imaginations.”

When Melissa tells Durrell that he is falling in love with Justine, he tells her that it is worse than that — “though I could not for the life of me have explained how or why.” He realizes later that it has something to do with “the curiously ingrown quality of love which I have come to recognize as peculiar to the city rather than ourselves.” Much of what he learns about Justine comes from a book, a diary, written by her first husband, Jacob Arnauti, a story of Alexandrian life seen by a foreigner in the early thirties. The author is engaged in research for a novel he wants to write. One of the characters, Claudia, is like Justine. “She gave herself to me with such contempt,” he writes, “that I was for the first time in my life surprised at the quality of her anxiety; it was as if she were desperate, swollen with disaster.”

Durrell comes across a line that seems to explain everything. Claudia — really Justine — admits that “I hunt everywhere for a life that is worth living…. The doctor I loved told me that I was a nymphomaniac.” The author would like to write a book about her, one “powerful enough to contain the elements of her...: It would have to be a “drama freed from the burden of form. I would set my own book free to dream.” Which, we now understand, is precisely what Lawrence Durrell is trying to do.

If everyone is fascinated by Justine it is perhaps, at least in part, because Justine is so fascinated with herself. She has reason to be. Clea, a friend of Durrell’s, tells him: “The true whore is man’s real darling — like Justine; she alone has the capacity to wound men.” But, then, Justine “cannot be justified or excused. She simply and magnificently is…. Like all amoral people she verges on the Goddess.”

Clea has little interest in love, and even less interest in men. The only experience that “marked” her was one with a woman, who, unsurprisingly, was Justine. Clea tells Durrell that Justine had been “raped by one of her relatives,” and “from this time forward she could obtain no satisfaction in love, unless she mentally recreated these incidents and so re-enacted them.” A line from Arnaud’s diary comes back to Durrell: “There is no pain compared to that of loving a woman who makes her body accessible to one and yet who is incapable of delivering her true self — because she does not know where to find it.”

Balthazar, another main character, makes his first appearance only when the story is nearly half over. He is “one of the keys to the city,” someone Durrell took “very much as he was in those days and now in my memory I feel that he is in need of a new revaluation. There was much that I did not understand then, much that I have since learned.” Balthazar, a physician who is often found in bed with a sailor, or some other man or boy whose name he never knew, understands the city in ways others do not. Alexandria “is really a city of incest — I mean that here the cult of Serapis was founded. For this etiolation of the heart and reins in love-making must make one turn inward upon one’s sister. The lover mirrors himself like Narcissus in his own family: there is no exit from the predicament.” Incest has a deeper meaning than what, on a first reading, this might suggest, and perhaps more meanings than one.

With women, with men, with her own haunted fantasies of violent abuse, Justine makes those who are brought within the sphere of her sexuality begin to change places, to become the very person they have betrayed. Nessim, betrayed by Justine, begins to love Melissa; while Melissa “would hunt in him for qualities which she imagined I must have found in his wife.” This is not as strange as it seems, or perhaps stranger than it seems: “One always falls in love with the love-choice of the person one loves.” Incest is everywhere. The four of them: Nessim and Melissa, Justine and Durrell, “were unrecognized complementaries of one another, inextricably bound together.” Nessim and Melissa, both of them betrayed, “talked now as a doomed brother and sister might…. In all their sympathy an unexpected shadow of desire stirred within them, a wraith merely, the stepchild of confession and release.”

Justine, at the end, finally leaves Nessim, but she does not run off with Durrell; she simply disappears. A world war is coming. When Clea gets a card from Justine, who is working on a kibbutz in Jerusalem, the story seems over, but there is an unresolved problem, not about Justine, but about Melissa, or rather, the child she has had with Nessim. There is an incestuous connection even in this. Justine had had a child of her own, years earlier, a child who had been kidnapped and never found. It all makes sense to Balthazar: “I look at it this way: by one of those fearful displacements of which only love seems capable the child Justine lost was given back by Nessim not to her but to Melissa.”

Melissa is in the hospital, and when she dies, Durrell promises to take the child if Nessim does not want her. And then, following the spiral staircase of the story, we are back where we started, the child sleeping peacefully in the wooden cot while Durrell, alone on the island, begins to write what he remembers about what Alexandria and its more than five sexes had been.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Meghan Holloway

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.

Holloway's latest thriller is Hiding Place.

Recently I asked the author about what she reading. Her reply:
My nightstand has held some great reads recently, and there are more in the queue. Here is what I have been reading in the last month:

The Searcher
I love Tana French’s writing style. Her descriptions are so rich and embodied that the settings take on a life of their own. The way she stages a scene, the depth and layers of her characters, and her use of dialogue is something I find endlessly inspiring.

The Magpie Murders
A friend recommended this book to me. I find Anthony Horowitz’s writing so clever and wry. He captures the overtones of Agatha Christie so perfectly that his stories feel like such classics. He writes a whodunnit perfectly.

State of Terror
Political thrillers are not normally something I seek out, but when I saw Louise Penny had written one with Hillary Clinton, I wanted to check it out. I love the Armand Gamache series, and while this has not held the charm of Three Pines, it is an entertaining read that feels like a juicy “insider” story.

The Best of Friends
The final story is a book club read, and it is a compelling one about secrets, grief, and the bonds between a mother and child. I am finding it doubly interesting knowing the author, Dr. Lucinda Berry, is a psychologist. I love in depth studies of characters who do the wrong thing for the right reason, and I was intrigued to see how she explores the ferocity of motherhood when I attempted to tackle the same dynamic in Hiding Place.

There are, of course, the other research books I am reading for my current work in progress along with Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food. Who else is ready for season two of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy?

What is on your Kindle or nightstand? Send some recommendations my way.
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hiding Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hiding Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 29, 2021

Darcie Wilde

Darcie Wilde is the award-winning author of the Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, a Regency-set historical mystery series inspired by the novels of Jane Austen.

The new book in the series is A Counterfeit Suitor.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Wilde's reply:
As I’m writing this, fall is turning to winter, a time of year that’s about burrowing under covers and being cozy, and for me, about reading favorites, whether that’s favorite authors, or favorite themes.

Now, I have a confession. I have a deep and abiding love for “deal with the devil” stories. I don’t know why, but it’s been a life-long fascination. So, I was delighted to find two new books that take the deal as the premise, and both of them excellent.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab begins with the classic premise that you should be very, very careful what you wish for. Addie wishes for time, and gets it, but it comes in the form of a highly problematic immortality. She also, like the clever peasant in the fairy tale, thinks she can outsmart the darkness she’s tied herself to. And maybe she will. Eventually.

Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars also features a literal deal with a literal devil, or at least a demon. It also geeks out on violins, music, and all kinds of food. It’s also about love, found family, and acceptance. Oh, and there’s a family of intergalactic refugees who run a doughnut shop in L.A. (as one does when one is an intergalactic refugee). This is one of those books that really should not have worked, but it does, and it does so beautifully.

John le Carré also writes about deals with devils. His are not literal, but his very human spies, and those near them do make plenty of bargains and compromises they will come to regret. LeCarre died last year, but he left behind one last novel. Silverview by John le Carré is as much about family, love and reinvention as it is about spies. It’s not le Carré’s absolute best, but it is full of what I love about his books — that is his ability to show such deeply human characters caught up in events that they can’t control, and might never fully understand.
Visit Darcie Wilde's website.

Q&A with Darcie Wilde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 20, 2021

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published in the spring. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally, America in the Twentieth Century.

Here is Buffa's take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter:
The uninstructed reader, that is to say, all of us raised in the age of television and celebrity, may wonder on first reading The Scarlet Letter how adultery, however much some might think it wrong, could have been made a crime, and not just a minor crime, but an offense punishable by death. The reason for our confusion is that while we were taught that the English colonists who first settled New England came to escape religious persecution, we were not told that they came to practice a religious persecution of their own.

The Puritans who founded Salem braved the hazards of a three month voyage across the Atlantic, and then braved life in an uncharted wilderness, because they knew, knew with every fiber of their being, that everything they did, everything they had to do, was commanded by God. These were people, Hawthorne tells us, “among whom religion and law were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful.” That was why they were waiting outside the jail for Hester Prynne, convicted of adultery, to be taken to the scaffold. That was why the women in the crowd were angry with what they thought the leniency of men.

“‘At the very least,’ said one, ‘they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.’” A young wife, holding a child by the hand, insisted that “‘let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.’” Another woman, “the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self-constituted judges,” gave voice to what most of them felt when she said Hester Prynne should die. “‘Is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scriptures, and the statute-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thank themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!’”

Holding her three-month-old daughter, Hester Prynne steps out of the jail, and with “a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed,” looks around at her neighbors and townspeople. On the breast of her gown, “in fine red cloth,” with “fantastic flourishes of gold thread,” and a “gorgeous luxuriance of fancy,” blazed the scarlet letter, signifying her crime. Everyone was “astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped.”

And thus begins The Scarlet Letter, perhaps the greatest American novel ever written. Hester Prynne’s husband who, two years earlier, had stayed behind in England to put his affairs in order, was presumed lost at sea. The question was who the child’s father had been, and on that question Hester Prynne preserves a complete, unbroken silence. Her secret, however, is shared with you, the reader, who from the beginning knows everything, and knows it in a way you have seldom known anything before, and all because Hawthorne has achieved what Ford Madox Ford would later say every serious author should aim at in a style: “something so unobtrusive and so quiet - and so beautiful if possible - that the reader should not know he is reading, and be conscious only that he is living in the life of the book….”

The mystery of The Scarlet Letter goes much deeper than the identity of the child’s father. The father is the young Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, who had come from “one of the great English universities, bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest-land.” Standing on the scaffold with Hester Prynne, he instructs her “‘to speak out the name of they fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer!’” He urges her, and there is no doubt he means it, to “‘Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him…. What can thy silence do for him, except to tempt him - yea, corrupt him, as it were - to add hypocrisy to sin?’”

“‘Never!’” she replies, with a fierce, determined look.

Hester keeps her secret. She will bear her shame alone. The question is why? She does not have to stay. She can leave, return to Europe and live a normal life. No one will stop her. But she stays. Hawthorne tells us that the place had “given color” to her life, “a fatality…a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom.” There is another reason. Arthur Dimmesdale was here, “one with whom she deemed herself connected in a union, that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final judgment, and make that their marriage altar, for a joint futurity of endless retribution.”

In his own way, Arthur Dimmesdale suffers more than she. Time after time he resolves to tell the congregation that he is “utterly a pollution and a lie!” And he does! He tells them that he is “the worst of sinners, an abomination, a thing of unimaginable iniquity.” And what happens? - They revere him all the more. “He had spoken the very truth, and transformed it into the veriest falsehood.” But “he loved the truth, and loathed the lie, as few men ever did. Therefore, above all things, he loathed his miserable self.”

And Hester Prynne? Her suffering has a different effect. The life of an outcast has allowed her - forced her, if you will - to assume “a freedom of speculation, then common enough on the other side of the Atlantic, but which our forefathers, had they known of it, would have held to be a deadlier crime than that stigmatized by the scarlet letter.” Like Eve, Hester Prynne has learned to think, and, her mind liberated by her isolation, she makes a bold suggestion to Arthur Dimmesdale when they meet by chance one day in the forest. Go back to Europe, she tells him. “‘There is happiness to be enjoyed! There is good to be done! Exchange this false life for a true one….’” He lacks the courage, but Hester is unafraid. “The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread.” Their love, “aroused from a deathlike slumber,” brightens their eyes and settles the question: they will leave Salem together.

But later, when Arthur Dimmesdale is all alone, he confronts the reality of what he has done. What few today would think worth troubling themselves about, the young Reverend Dimmesdale thinks the only thing worth consideration. “It was an age,” Hawthorne tells us, “when what we call talent had far less consideration than now, but the massive materials which produce stability and dignity of character, a good deal more.” Days after meeting Hester in the forest, days after agreeing that would leave their sin, and their country, behind, Arthur Dimmesdale preaches his last sermon.

When he finishes, and the procession has left the church, he turns toward the scaffold and, pale and tottering, calls Hester and their daughter to join him. Announcing to the “‘People of New England’” that her scarlet letter “‘is but the shadow of what he bears on his own breast,’” he tears away “the ministerial band from before his breast,” and tells Hester that God has proved his mercy, “‘by giving me this burning torture to bear upon my breast.’”

As he lay dying, Hester asks: “‘Shall we not spend our immortal life together? Surely, surely, we have ransomed one another with all this woe?’”

He tells her that it is not to be, because when “‘we forgot our God, - when we violated our reverence each for the other’s soul - it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet hereafter in an everlasting and pure reunion.’”

After Arthur Dimmesdale’s death, most of those who had witnessed it said that they had seen a scarlet letter, ‘imprinted on the flesh.” Some thought he had inflicted it on himself; others thought that someone working for the Devil had made it appear. Still others thought it had been produced by the remorse growing from within, “and at last magnifying Heaven’s dreadful judgment by the visible presence of the letter.”

Hester’s daughter lived, a young woman, in another land, but Hester never leaves. She becomes a source of counsel, especially for women, telling them “of her firm belief, that, at some brighter period, when the world should have grown ripe for it, in Heaven’s own time, a new truth would be revealed, in order to establish the whole relation between men and women on a surer ground of mutual happiness.”

And yet, we somehow know that Hester Prynne had known that unrevealed truth all along, known it from the moment she met Arthur Dimmesdale and they together conceived a child, and, knowing that, knew something else as well, that Arthur Dimmesdale had been wrong and that they would “meet hereafter in an everlasting and pure reunion.” The just and merciful God whose existence they had never doubted would make sure of it.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Kerry Anne King

Kerry Anne King is the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Closer Home, I Wish You Happy, Whisper Me ThisEverything You Are, and A Borrowed Life. Licensed as both an RN and a mental-health counselor, she draws on her experience working in the medical and mental-health fields to explore themes of loss, grief, and transformation—but always with a dose of hope and humor. King lives in a little house in the big woods of the Inland Northwest. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer.

King's latest novel is Other People's Things

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. King's reply:
I love to read across genres (including cereal boxes if that’s what happens to be in front of me) so it’s no big surprise that Other People’s Things borrows from all of my favorite genres: psychological suspense, mystery, fantasy, magical realism, and literary fiction! I’ve been reading a lot lately so all I’m going to give you only the short list of books I’ve recently adores.

I finally read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, a book that lit me up with surprise and delight. He writes about people with incredible insight and compassion and humor, for one thing. For another, every time I thought I knew where the story was going it took a detour into the wonderfully unexpected. Absolute brilliance.

And then I stumbled over my new favorite mystery series since I discovered Amelia Peabody. The first book in the series is The Thursday Murder Club, the second is The Man Who Died Twice, and I’ll be first in line to pre-order book three. Richard Osman totally knocked it out of the park with character, setting, plot, and excellent writing. I kept wanting to read passages out loud to somebody as I went along. The story is set in a retirement community, and the sleuths are in their seventies and eighties. Because of their age, they are underestimated by the younger people around them but they are devious and intelligent and funny and highly capable. I did not solve the mystery before it was revealed, which I loved, and the book is filled with humor, pathos, and compassionate insights into human nature and aging.

I pretty much inhaled the All Souls Trilogy – a series I don’t know how I missed earlier because these books have everything I love in a fantasy. I was instantly drawn into the world of the story and its complex and conflicted characters. Of course you can’t go wrong when a plot revolves around the quest for a magical book, has a main character struggling to come to terms with her power, and includes star crossed lovers, especially when the writing is gorgeous and compelling.

There are so many more that I’ve loved – The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman, Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece and....I know, I know. I’m stopping there. But I’m so eternally grateful that the world is full of fabulous books and that I get to read them!
Visit Kerry Anne King's website.

Writers Read: Kerry Anne King (October 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Everything You Are.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowed Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 23, 2021

David R. Slayton

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado and writes the books he always wanted to read. His debut, White Trash Warlock, was published in October 2020 by Blackstone Publishing.

Slayton's latest novel is Trailer Park Trickster, the sequel to White Trash Warlock.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Slayton's reply:
The pandemic has me reading a lot of comfort reads. I’ve been revisiting Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate and Terry Pratchett’s books, especially the ones with Granny Weatherwax like Witches Abroad. It’s not all light stuff though.

Tough times make me crave escape, and great characters are especially welcome. I’ve been diving into C.S. Poe’s Magic and Steam series and Gregory Ashe’s gritty detective novels. They’ve been collaborating lately and I recommend A Friend in the Dark. They do such an amazing job of making New York feel like a character.

I’m also craving more urban fantasy in the vein of K.D. Edwards’ Tarot Sequence. Thankfully the third book, The Hourglass Throne, is due out soon! He does a masterful job of mixing wit and action with a bit more edge than my stuff.

When I’m writing I try to read nonfiction to keep learning new things while avoiding the influence of other authors’ voices so I’ve been working my way through Caitlin Doughty’s books on audio. I’m almost finished with From Here to Eternity and it’s been comforting to ponder our society’s relationship with dying and questioning my own feelings and fears around it.
Visit David R. Slayton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trailer Park Trickster.

The Page 69 Test: Trailer Park Trickster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published in the spring. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in series that an attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally, America in the Twentieth Century.

Here is Buffa's take on Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
When someone suggested that Thomas Jefferson had borrowed some of the language of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson replied, in what remains the classic defense against a charge of plagiarism, that his responsibility had been “to be correct, not original.” Lincoln thought the Declaration not just correct, but should become our “civic religion,” taught to children so early that it would become a permanent part of their character. Mention the year 1776, we immediately think of the Declaration, but 1776 was also the year in which two of the most important books ever written were published, both of them, like the Declaration, connected with the American experiment.

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, demonstrated, once and for all, that the desire for acquisition, if left free of governmental, or religious, restriction would lead to a constant increase in the wealth of the community. Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire demonstrated how the greatest empire the world has ever seen was destroyed by a religion that taught that the only thing important was not what happened here, on earth, but what happened after death. Everyone has heard of the Declaration of Independence, even if they have never read it; and everyone knows that Adam Smith has something to do with the basic principles of capitalism, but Edward Gibbon? Who but a handful of demented scholars would take the trouble to wade through seven volumes, close to four thousand pages, in the edition of J.B.Bury, published in 1896?

Winston Churchill, for one. When he was a young lieutenant in the British army, dreaming of a political career, he read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Theodore Roosevelt did the same thing, and so did John F. Kennedy, who was in all probability the last American president to read it. What did Churchill and Kennedy learn from it? Among other things, the grandeur of the English language, something that becomes obvious the moment you read the first paragraph:
In the second century of the Christian Era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle, but powerful, influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence. The Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this and of the two succeeding chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their empire, and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall: a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth.
Like everything Gibbon wrote, this was not put on paper until he had first written, and re-written, it in his mind; not a few words, not a sentence or two, but the whole, remarkable, perfectly well-balanced, long paragraph; and then, having put it on paper, he wrote it, and rewrote it, again. You can see Churchill, sitting inside the barracks in India during the midday heat, reading Gibbon’s words, learning, and making his own, the cadence, the rhythms, of the best English ever written in a work of history. You can see, years later, a young Jack Kennedy, following Churchill’s example, learning the power language can have.

The Decline and Fall begins with the peak of the Roman Empire; it does not begin with, nor does it concern itself with, the peak of the Roman republic. There is nothing about the founding of Rome, nothing about the Roman republic, nothing about how Julius Caesar took power, nothing about how and why he was killed. It is not a history of Rome; it is an inquiry into what caused the Roman Empire to fall from the pinnacle of its achievement, the rule of one hundred twenty million people, “the most numerous society that has ever been united under the same system of government.” The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire begins with Augustus.

After the victory at Actium, Rome was under an imperial government, “an absolute monarchy disguised by the form of a commonwealth.” Augustus understood “that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom.” Provided with bread and public entertainment, the people of Rome did not mind, and perhaps did not notice, that they had lost more than their independence. “This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated.”

The rule of Augustus was, in all its essentials, absolute; absolute in a sense it is difficult for us to understand. The separation of church and state did not exist. Government was more than the making and enforcing the rules of secular existence; government was control over what every citizen was taught, and required, to believe. Augustus was not just head of state; Augustus, and the emperors who followed him, was Supreme Pontiff and Censor. “By the former he acquired the management of the religion, by the latter a legal inspection over the manners and fortunes of the Roman people.”

In a single sentence, Gibbon explains the state of religious belief: “The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.” This changed when, instead of the martial virtues that had made Rome great, Rome became addicted to private pleasure and private wealth. Life became meaningless, everyone a slave, if a willing slave, to Augustus and then to his successors. In a reaction to the helplessness of their condition, greater and greater numbers of Roman citizens embraced a faith, a religion, that gave them something worth dying for. Christianity became Rome’s fatal weakness.

With their “intolerant zeal” and their doctrine of a future life, the number of Christians spread rapidly, and with that, the decline and fall of Rome had begun. It is an interesting question when Gibbon thought the Roman empire finally came to an end. The seventh, and concluding volume, ends with the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1461 A.D., but Gibbon ended the first half of his work with the conquest of Rome by the barbarians a thousand years earlier, in 476 A.D. In the most serious sense the fall of the Roman Empire happened a century earlier, with the death of the Emperor Julian. More than half of the second volume, more than three hundred pages, of The Decline and Fall is devoted to Julian. Julian held power for only twenty-two months, but in that short space of time he almost succeeded in destroying Christianity and restoring the ancient gods of Rome.

Gibbon has a real appreciation for how remarkable Julian was, but he mistakes what Julian professed for what Julian believed. He thinks that Julian had “a devout and sincere attachment to the gods of Athens and Rome,” and that this “constituted the ruling passion of Julian….” It did not. Julian believed that only the restoration of the gods of Rome would bring the Romans back to their belief in the importance, the supreme importance, of Roman greatness, a belief that Christianity had started to destroy. Julian’s own belief was what Plato and Aristotle believed: that there is an unchanging order in the world and that the gods were, all of them, imaginary.

Gibbon had a sense of this when he described what happened after Julian was killed in battle: “The philosophers expressed a very reasonable wish that a disciple of Plato might have reposed amidst the groves of the academy: while the solders exclaimed in bolder accents that the ashes of Julian should have mingled with those of Caesar, in the field of Mars, and among the ancient monuments of Roman virtue.”

Julian’s ashes were buried, and so was Julian’s name. Julian, who had he lived would have been the greatest emperor Rome ever had, became Julian the Apostate, an enemy of triumphant Christianity; a name no one was allowed to mention, and for more than a thousand years, until Edward Gibbon wrote his history, no one dared to praise.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Vicki Delany

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than forty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Tea by the Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane Books, the Catskill Resort mysteries for Penguin Random House, and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates) for Crooked Lane.

Delany's new Catskill Resort mystery is Deadly Summer Nights.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Delany's reply:
I normally like a good bit of variety in my reading but for some reason this has been my summer of psychological suspense.

I picked up The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris because I’d heard a lot of high praise about it, and I was not disappointed. It’s set in the modern American publishing world, and what writer doesn’t want to know the insides of the business they are so dependent upon yet so distant from. At first the plot seems predictable – Woman One meets Woman Two who she expects to be her ally at work but it doesn’t quite turn out that way – and then it takes a very unexpected turn. I loved the plot, the characters, and the writing, but I also loved that it gave me some insight into lives I’m not familiar with. I’m a white Canadian woman living in a rural part of Canada, so there are not (as in none) many Black people in my personal life.

A long time ago, I was a keen reader of British author Robert Goddard. He’s been called “the master of the triple cross” because of his complicated plots and unexpected twists. Somehow, he fell off my radar about fifteen years ago. His name cropped up recently when I saw the title of his newest book, The Fine Art of Invisible Detection. It’s about a Japanese woman who works as an assistant to a private detective. When he’s killed, she takes up his latest case. Sounds pretty predictable but it’s full of the trademark Goddard twists. As long as I was reading Goddard, I went back to see what he’d done lately that I’d missed and found several books.

I particularly liked Fault Line, from 2012. The book travels back and forth in time, following the protagonist as his life is entwined with the neighbouring rich family. Twists and turns, and secrets, plenty of secrets, both past and present.

I have to add, that I wonder why modern thrillers have such mundane, totally interchangeable titles. Fault Line could be the title of a hundred other books (and it probably is). The Other Black Girl and The Fine Art of Invisible Detection stood out for me initially precisely because of the originality of their titles.

Another mundane title is The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James, although a book I also enjoyed. Who doesn’t love a true gothic novel – mysterious isolated house, strange children, the friendless and family less governess, the handsome brooding man of the house, the dour housekeeper with her warnings, and (maybe) a resident ghost who does not mean the governess well. Perfect summer fare.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen.

The Page 69 Test: A Scandal in Scarlet.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in a Teacup.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 24, 2021

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa's latest novel is The Privilege.

Here is Buffa's take on Dostoevsky’s The Idiot:
We have all heard, though usually in a bad movie or in a bad book, that your whole life flashes before your eyes in the moment you are about to die. But what really happens, what does someone really think about, in the moments before death? Is it about the past, about the life that is about to end, or is it, strange as it may seem at first, about the future? In one of the great, if largely forgotten, Russian novels of the 19th Century, Fyodor Dostoevsky describes what went through the mind of a man moments before his execution. He describes what had actually happened to him when, in l849, he was arrested with thirty others for crimes against the state and taken to St. Petersburg to be shot.

Dostoevsky stood there, his hands tied behind his back, while the firing squad was assembled and everything made ready. The soldiers took their positions and, at the order, aimed their rifles, the commander raised his arm ready to give the order to fire. And then…nothing, not a sound, until the firing squad was ordered to lower their rifles and the prisoners were informed that their death sentences had been commuted to exile in Siberia.

There is a marvelous line uttered by the marvelous Dr. Johnson in the l8th century: “Tell a man he is to be executed in the morning, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Tell a man, a man who will become one of the world’s great writers, that as soon as the firing squad is ready he will be shot to death, it produces a sensitivity, an insight into the meaning of existence, that twenty years later will allow him to write The Idiot and to create in Prince Lyov Nikolayevich Myshkin a character unique in world literature, a young man everyone thinks an idiot and everyone knows is wise.

Dostoevsky has Myshkin tell Dostoevsky’s own story, the story of a man who with others is led to the scaffold to be shot for “political offenses,” and then, fifteen or twenty minutes later, given a reprieve. “Yet in the interval between those two sentences…he passed in the fullest conviction that he would die in a few minutes.” The condemned, according to Myshkin, “remembered it all with extraordinary distinctness.” He remembered how they were all led out to the courtyard, how they were tied up, how the priest came to each of them in turn with a cross, how, with only a few minutes left, he still felt that he had “so many lives left in those few minutes that there was no need yet to think of the last moment,” but what was really “dreadful” was the “continual thought, ‘What if I were not to die! What if I could go back to life - what eternity! I would turn every minute into an age; I would lose nothing. I would count every minute as it passed. I would not waste one!’ He said that this idea turned to such a fury at last that he longed to be shot quickly.”

It did not happen. The condemned man did not treat every moment as an age. He discovered that it was impossible to live like that. Myshkin, for his part, “somehow can’t believe” that it cannot be done; he believes that it should. Someone asks if he thinks he “will live more wisely than anyone?” “Yes,” he replies, “I have thought that too sometimes.” And then admits that he has “lived less than others” and “knows less of life than anyone.”

Just returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for a long, debilitating illness, Prince Myshkin has neither wealth nor any immediate family. None of his distant relatives want anything to do with him until, inheriting a fortune, they cannot get enough of him. His intense emotional nature, his willingness to speak his mind honestly, openly and without regret, is dismissed as nothing more than the inexperience of youth. When he remarks that children “understand everything,” and can give “exceedingly good advice,” it is all the proof needed that he is, himself, still a child. A child they quickly come to like when he explains that he had been ill, so ill that he “really was almost like an idiot;” a child a few of them begin to suspect more grown up than the others around them when he adds, “But can I be an idiot now, when I am able to see for myself that people look upon me as an idiot?”

Everything in The Idiot is, one way or the other, connected with the absolute importance of every moment of time. Everything of real importance, everything right and true, is known, or rather felt, immediately; everything else, all the ordered duplicity of civilized society, the misguided conventions of a world filled with corruption. No one understands this better than Nastasya Filippovna, a woman of astonishing beauty who does not hide her disdain for all the poor fools willing to sell their souls to have her.

“Everyone is possessed with such greed nowadays,” she announces with a glittering smile to a gathering in which Myshkin sits as a kind of disinterested observer; “they are all so overwhelmed by the idea of money that they seem to have gone mad.” In front of everyone, she tells Gavril Ardalionovitch, who wants to marry her for the money she has acquired through her relations with other men, that he is a “shameless fellow! I’m a shameless woman, but you are worse.” And then, turning to Prince Myshkin, whom she has only just met, asks with all the pride and contempt of which she is capable, “Would you take me as I am, with nothing?” Myshkin does not hesitate. “I will, Nastaya Filippovna.”

Some think Myshkin like Don Quixote, a fool, an idiot, willing to idolize a fallen woman and worship her as the incarnation of pure beauty. Others have the vague feeling of something they had once been taught, the lost memory of what Christian love was meant to be. Taking Myshkin at his word, Nastasya Filippovna dismisses his offer, and does it in a way that suggests a depth of feeling, a knowledge of her own fatal flaw, that only Myshkin understands.

“You may not be afraid, but I should be afraid of ruining you, and of your reproaching me with it afterwards.”

She turns to a villainous character, Rogozhin, so desperately in love with her he would rather see her dead than with anyone else, and asks him for a hundred thousand rubles. She throws it into the fire and with hatred in her eyes tells Gavril Ardalionovitch, who wanted to marry her for her money, that he can have it all if he can get it out before it burns. And then, just before she leaves, she tells Myshkin he should marry someone else, the young girl Aglaia Epanchin, instead of her.

The frenetic, half-crazed conversation of Nastasya Filippovna, the strange, demented confessions of what she thinks about herself and everyone else, is not some brief digression, a single stand alone psychological study of a woman in distress; it is what goes on through six hundred closely printed pages. One intense conversation after another, one long disquisition on what some tortured soul wants the world to know and then, later on, what someone else decides he or she has to say, do not just move the action forward; they are the action of the story, action that holds the reader in its grip from the first page to the last. There is a reason why Friedrich Nietzsche thought Dostoevsky without equal in the ability to lay bare the deeper workings of the human soul and the twisted imaginings of the human mind.

Aglaia Epanchin, the youngest of three sisters, is so beautiful, Myshkin tells her, “that one is afraid to look at you.” She treats him as if he really is an idiot, mocking him, behind his back and to his face, but still tells him things she would never have told anyone else. After a young man, dying of consumption, tries to shoot himself in front of people he knows despise him for his poverty and radical ideas, but fails because he forgot to load the gun, she admits to Myshkin that she had “thirty times…dreamed of poisoning myself, when I was only thirteen, and writing it all in a letter to my parents. And I, too, thought how I would lie in my coffin, and they would weep over me, and blame themselves for having been too cruel to me…. Why are you smiling?”

Aglaia “asked rapid questions, talked quickly, but sometimes seemed confused, and often did not finish her sentences.” She was in love with him, but the question was whether she would have been if he had not been “looked upon by every one as an idiot.” That her family was upset by her feeling about him was a joy to her. What she felt and why she felt it was a mystery, what Dostoevsky calls, “the fantastic strangeness of the human heart.”

Prince Myshkin may be an idiot, but he is still a prince, a member of the Russian aristocracy, and, through inheritance, a wealthy man. Aglaia’s family invites the most important people they know to meet him. Most of the people who come to meet Myshkin are “empty-headed people who were themselves unaware, however, that much of their superiority was mere veneer, for which they were not responsible indeed, as they had adopted it unconsciously and by inheritance.” Myshkin tries to explain to them what they are lacking, and how serious their ignorance.

There is no “idea binding mankind together today,” he insists. The belief in progress, in western ideas of material improvement, in the greatest good of the greatest number, is nothing but a vast charade. “And don’t try to frighten me with your prosperity, your wealth, the infrequency of famine, and the rapidity of the means of communication. There is more wealth, but there is less strength. There is no uniting idea; everything has grown softer….”

Myshkin is not talking about national greatness or national power; he is talking about the Russian, and perhaps not just the Russian, soul. There is “a spiritual agony, a spiritual thirst, a craving for something higher,” that has to be satisfied. Myshkin, who like Dostoevsky himself, suffers from epilepsy, finds that meaning, that lesson, in what happens, not when he is facing his own imminent death, but what happens to his mind and heart when, during an epileptic fit, he feels “the direct sensation of existence in the most intense degree.” In that one moment, “worth the whole of life,” he seems “somehow to understand the extraordinary saying that ‘there shall be no more time.’”

Lyon Nikolayevich Myshkin did not believe what everyone else believed; he did not believe in what the world thinks important. He believed in the importance, and the integrity, of the human soul. Myshkin was an idiot. Would that more of us were fools like him.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Louise Guy

Louise Guy has enjoyed working in marketing, recruitment and film production, all which have helped steer her towards her current, and most loved, role – writer.

Her passion for writing women's fiction is a result of her love of reading, writing and exploring women's emotions and relationships. Women succeeding through hard work, overcoming adversity or just by owning their choices and decisions is something to celebrate, and Guy loves the challenge of incorporating their strengths in these situations into fiction.

Originally from Melbourne, a trip around Australia led Guy and her husband to Queensland's stunning Sunshine Coast where they now live with their two sons, gorgeous fluff ball of a cat and an abundance of visiting wildlife - the kangaroos and wallabies the most welcome, the snakes the least.

Guy's novels include Her Last Hope.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Guy's reply:
I usually have two books on the go, one on audio and the other on my kindle. I’ve just finished The Marriage by K L Slater and Her Last Words by Kim Kelly.

Full of lies and deception, I’m always drawn into the worlds K L Slater creates, and The Marriage was no exception. Why on earth would you marry your son’s killer? That’s the story's premise and one that kept me ruminating throughout as to what the real motive could be. Full of twists and turns, this story kept me guessing right up until the end, which is why I love this author’s works. When I read a K L Slater I find myself totally engrossed in the story when I’m reading but also when I’m going about my normal day, sifting through the what ifs? And could that person be responsible for this, and a million other questions.

I have also just finished the audiobook of Kim Kelly’s Her Last Words. Set in Australia, this story is full of contrasting emotions. From love to grief, from betrayal to hope. The characters are wonderfully relatable, and as a secondary storyline, the insights and commentary on the publishing industry were hilarious. This was my first Kim Kelly book and it was the narrator, Caroline Lee, that had my try this author. I saw a Facebook post recently where somebody said they could “listen to Caroline Lee narrate the phone book” and I agree. Her narration takes a story to a whole other level.
Visit Louise Guy's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living.

My Book, The Movie: A Life Worth Living.

Q&A with Louise Guy (November 2020).

My Book, The Movie: A Winning Betrayal.

The Page 69 Test: A Winning Betrayal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2021

Avery Bishop

Avery Bishop is the pseudonym for a USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen novels including the newly released One Year Gone.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Bishop's reply:
Like many writers, I'm often reading several books at the same time, and I often like to read in many different genres. Usually I'm reading a book on my Kindle, an ebook on my phone, a hardcover or paperback, and listening to an audiobook when I'm driving or shopping or walking the dog.

On my Kindle: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. A short novel, not even 45,000 words, but it's dark and gritty and has a lyrical quality to its prose. I'm currently halfway through and really enjoying it.

On my phone: The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado. A thriller about an FBI agent who got away from a serial killer when she was just a girl, and now the killer is back and targeting her. I'm only a few chapters in and so far I'm enjoying it. (Usually the books I read on my phone lean toward the thriller end of the spectrum: fast-paced with short chapters that I can leave for a few days and jump back in at any time.)

Hardcover: The Push by Ashley Audrain. I just started this one but am already loving it. The prose is tight and smooth and compulsive. I'm a huge fan of second person POV (see A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan), and this novel uses it well, though it's more the narrator utilizing it as she speaks to her ex-husband as opposed to the second-person narration by the protagonist.

Paperback: Unclean Jobs For Women and Girls: Stories by Alissa Nutting. I love short story collections but often take my time with them, reading a story here and there as opposed to consuming a collection within a few days. Nutting's stories are quirky and dark and very entertaining.

Audiobook: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, read by Jim Dale. I've been slowly moving through the whole Harry Potter series. For a time I'd taken a break and am now trying to finish. The books are fun, of course, but I'm finding this one to be a bit bloated. However, an audiobook narrator can make or break the entire experience, and fortunately Jim Dale is an amazing narrator so I'm happy to be along for the ride.

As an aside, I'm trying to read more translated works, especially thrillers. A few weeks ago I read Heatwave by Victor Jestin. It's billed as a novel but it's only 25,000 words long. Still, it holds quite a punch, and the writing is great. In terms of the story, the 17-year-old narrator is on vacation with his family and one night he comes across another boy his age who's asphyxiated by the ropes on a swingset. The narrator, feeling culpability for some reason, decides to hide the body, and as you can imagine, things spiral out of control from there. (It's no surprise it's being compared to Albert Camus's The Stranger.)

A few other translated works on my TBR pile include Central Park by Guillaume Musso, Confessions by Kanae Minato, and The Others by Sarah Blau.
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson is the author of Brass Lives and eight previous Tom Harper mysteries, seven highly acclaimed novels in the Richard Nottingham series, and two Simon Westow mysteries. He is also a well-known music journalist. He lives in his beloved Leeds.

Recently I asked Nickson about what he was reading. His reply:
I tend to have a few books on the go at once. As a rule (though not always) it’s non-fiction downstairs, and a novel for bedtime.

Currently, I have Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell on the couch. I’d loved the Hilary Mantel trilogy and the TV series of Wolf Hall. This gives the real man, yet it also emphasizes the difference between fiction and biography: a good novel can take you deeper into the person than most biographies that are shackled by facts. The further you go back in time, the truer that becomes, and with someone like Cromwell, where much of his early life is shadowy…well, he was made for the novelist. Still, it’s a fascinating book and portrait of a man.

I also have Sailor Song by Gerry Smyth, a book of and about sea shanties. I’ve had a fascination with folk song for much of my life, and I’ve used it in books. Shanties come under the folk song umbrella, although I know little about them. Once I’ve read this, I hope I’ll know a little more. On first glance, some great illustrations, too.

Upstairs, it’s re-reading The Cartel by Don Winslow, the second in his Border trilogy. A big, masterful book. With these, he really found his voice, and takes us into a world so few of us know. Once I’ve finished that, next on deck is Love, the new one by Roddy Doyle, one of my favourite novelists. It’s impossible to read his dialogue and not hear it in an Irish accent, which is a remarkable achievement.
Visit Chris Nickson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue