Saturday, April 27, 2024

Seraphina Nova Glass

Seraphina Nova Glass is an Edgar Award-nominated author. Her fifth and latest book is The Vacancy in Room 10.

Named a New York Times Book Review Summer Read and an Amazon Editor’s Pick in Mystery & Thrillers, her last book, On A Quiet Street, earned her #1 bestselling status in the Thriller category on Amazon. It was also hailed by Bustle as one of “10 Must-Read Books” and one of “10 Top Thrillers To Read On Your Summer Vacation” in the Boston Globe.

Publishers Weekly has named her “a writer to watch” and Emmy-nominated producer Michael Terence quoted her writing as “page-turning and cinematic.”

Glass is currently working on her sixth novel, The Oleanders, and is also an Assistant professor and Playwright-In-Residence at the University of Texas, Arlington.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Glass's reply:
I think everyone expects me to answer this question with a thriller title, but I haven’t read a thriller in a long while. My go-to in the past was often literary fiction, but these days I have fallen in love with personal development books like The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle and The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success by Deepak Chopra. These books that have taught me to find the present moment and live in gratitude are the reads I spend my time with as of late and they have been transformative.

I’ve also recently read Malcolm Gladwell, Vishen Lakhiani, BrenĂ© Brown, and I’m currently re-reading You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza.
Visit Seraphina Nova Glass's website.

Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass.

My Book, The Movie: The Vacancy in Room 10.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Samantha M. Bailey

Samantha M. Bailey is the USA Today, Amazon Charts, and #1 international bestselling author of Woman on the Edge, Watch Out for Her, and A Friend in the Dark.

Her novels have sold in twelve countries. She lives in Toronto, where she can usually be found tapping away at her computer or curled up on her couch with a book. Bailey is currently working on her next domestic suspense, set to publish in March 2025.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Bailey's reply:
One of the best things about being an author is when I’m asked to blurb upcoming books from writers I love and admire. One of these exceptional authors is Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, whose latest suspense, Till Death Do Us Part, releases on August 13th . I just finished devouring it, and it’s outstanding. Set in the wine-soaked Napa Valley, this masterful novel ignites in the first paragraph, catching fire until the explosive conclusion. It’s brilliantly written, bravely weaving in issues of family, identity, love, and loss. Through every genius twist and turn, Flynn had me in a chokehold, unable to put the book down until I ripped through every delicious page. Seductive, addictive, and penetrating, this domestic thriller will set you ablaze. I highly recommend it, along with Flynn’s equally scorching, bestselling adult debut, The Girls Are All So Nice Here.
Visit Samantha M. Bailey's website.

Q&A with Samantha M. Bailey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jo Perry

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry. In 2019, Perry was the first female writer invited to speak at the venerable Men of Mystery Event. Her short story, "The Kick The Bucket Tour" made the Distinguished Mystery Stories of 2018 list in The Best Mystery Stories.

Perry lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

Her new novel is The World Entire.

Recently I asked Perry about what she was reading. Her reply:
These are a few of the books I’m reading, all from independent publishers–U.K.’s Head Shot and Fahrenheit Press and Run Amok Crime in the U.S.

Matt Phillips’s latest, A Good Rush of Blood (Run Amok Crime) delineates delicate, complicated and sharp-edged persons and places in a stark, sexy thriller about family estrangement and liberation, trust and betrayal, and the search for the mirage we call freedom in a world as unnourishing and beautiful as the desert Phillips conjures to life. It’s no surprise that AGROB is a 2024 Thriller Award finalist. Phillips also has an excellent podcast, Roughneck Dispatch.
…Creeley managed to punch the address into her map app while she kept her eyes on the big rig in front of her. She had forty-five minutes to go and as she tossed the phone aside, she saw the looming fingers of the turbines up ahead. Their frames were illuminated by the blinking red signal lights along their top––momentary warnings for helicopters. Like eyes in the night. The sight took her back to the night she hopped the train west and rode it until it headed north. She remembered sliding through a dark sandy night, past the looming San Jacinto peak. She saw the mountain now, a jagged pyramid reaching so high that she couldn’t see the peak from her drivers’ seat. She remembered watching the mountain recede and, after a long time, vanish…
According to Mark by H.B. O’Neill (Fahrenheit Press) is an anatomy of Robert-ness. Disoriented and dissolving after a shattering break-up, Robert guides the reader through his life as Mark Twain guides him–– via signs and whispers––through his.

According to Mark demonstrates that consciousness is both liberation and captivity, and that humanness under pressure and the identity-squeeze of isolation and brokenness terrorize and exhilarate. Robert’s precision-calibrated, mood-shifting, rising and plunging narrative proves that nothing is more insistent, convincing, or powerful than the dazzling darkness that is our fearful awareness of ourselves.
And now Mark Twain is whispering in my ear.

And he’s reminding me of what he’s told me numerous times before, what he’s been telling me almost every day since the day that Rebecca told me that she. . .with him...

And Mark Twain’s argument is powerful, convincing and insistent tonight.

“Suicide is the only sane thing the young or old ever do in this life.”
Hacker (Fahrenheit Press) is the third in Duncan MacMaster’s inventive mystery series, which––though it exhibits a dearth of “elite ninja killers” ––has an irresistible hero, Jake Mooney––a courageous, semi-pudgy finally-successful hack writer whose slyness––like his creator’s––is born of brilliance.

Hacker is fast, inventive and seriously funny. Mooney sometimes feels “weirdly fictional like [he] only [lives] on the pages of some other hack” while he is a visiting lecturer on a quiet, idyllic private college campus where shit happens and then keeps happening: A spectacular murder-by-arrow that lofts the victim’s eyeball into Jake’s until-then- garnish-free Coke, a to-the-death-wrestling match inside a moribund water park’s frozen water slide, audacious cons, arsons, and the bombing of a bakery owned by a beloved Black family. Mooney–bruised, tired, and often “running for [his] life and [from] blood loss” –is ready for anyone and anything not because he has a method or a schtick–but because he’s observant, practical, improvisational, is allergic to bullshit and is “always grateful for a sandwich.” MacMaster’s delicious take-down of “elite” colleges includes one of the best explanations of what makes writing good I’ve ever read.

A Punch To The Heart, a collection of Andrew Humphrey’s short crime fiction (Head Shot Press) gets my heart going. I’ve just begun reading and my reaction is Wow. Humphrey’s prose is sure, unforgiving, and supernaturally lean, and the stories are machines for unmasking the Immutable Catastrophic Thing–in us or in someone else–perhaps six small words–that transform a life-story into a crime-story:

From “Anyway”:
‘Affairs? No. Not on my part.’ Not for want of trying, I think. And Julie, he says.

I falter and he sits up straight, pushing the pad to one side.

Take your time, Phillip.

‘Yes, Julie did . . . see someone else for a while.’ Six words. Jesus.

I’ll need the details. Names. Dates.

May as well run a blade across my balls, I think, but I smile and speak some words in a certain order. Each word a nail, each sentence a hammer. ‘But we’re fine now,’ I say eventually. ‘Water under the bridge and all that.’

He stops writing and looks at me…
And from “Bad Milk”:

“I go for a walk in the grounds before anyone else can collar me. It’s early evening and the light is draining from a clear sky. It’s spring. The air is soft and warm. It’s been a good day to bury one’s only brother.”
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

The Page 69 Test: The World Entire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Edward Ashton

Edward Ashton is the author of the novels Mal Goes to War, Antimatter Blues, Mickey7 (now a motion picture directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Robert Pattinson), Three Days in April, and The End of Ordinary. He lives in upstate New York in a cabin in the woods (not that Cabin in the Woods) with his wife, a nine pound killing machine named Maggie, and the world’s only purebred ratrantula, where he writes—mostly fiction, occasionally fact—under the watchful eyes of a giant woodpecker and a rotating cast of barred owls. In his free time, he enjoys cancer research, teaching quantum physics to sullen graduate students, and whittling.

Recently I asked Ashton about what he was reading. His reply:
I've been spending a lot of time on airplanes recently. Downside? Deep vein thrombosis. Upside? Lots of reading time! Travel is stressful, though, so I tend towards comfort reads when I'm flying. For me, that often means re-reading books that I first grew to love when I was a child.

On my most recent trip, for example, I brought along City, by Clifford D. Simak. This book is a classic--I mean, all of Simak's books are, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It's a collection of eight separate but interrelated stories chronicling the decline and fall of man and the rise of doggish civilization over thousands of years, told through the eyes of the Webster family and their associated dogs, robots, martians, and other assorted hangers-on. Each tale is preceded by a snippet of scholarly discourse among doggish scholars arguing over whether the stories are meant to be taken literally or figuratively, and whether "man" is meant to refer to an actual creature that once lived, or is simply a part of dogs' origin myths. As someone who loves dogs, scholarly discourse, and Simak in roughly equal measure, this book is pretty much tailor-made for me.

When I'm not on the road and I'm able to read things that actually require me to pay close attention, I tend to bounce between newer SF and the wackier edge of contemporary fiction. An example of the former is Corporate Gunslinger, by Doug Engstrom. This overlooked gem from a few years back takes modern capitalism to its logical endpoint, at which any problems you might have with our corporate overlords can only be addressed by facing a customer service representative with guns drawn at twenty paces. The book follows the career of one such representative, a debt-drowned theater major who takes a gig as a professional duelist to avoid being literally repossessed by her creditors. This book has tons of action, a fair amount of violence, and a surprisingly touching ending.

On the contemporary side, I just finished Tim O'Brien's new book, America Fantastica. I first met O'Brien through Going After Cacciato when I was in college, and I believe I've read everything he's ever written in the interim. There are certain elements that you find in every O'Brien book--a deeply traumatized protagonist, wacky side-characters, a plot that often flirts with and sometimes crosses over into surrealism, and a biting critique of society in general and American culture in particular--and this one has all of those in spades. I described it to one of my friends as probably the most Tim O'Brien book that Tim O'Brien has ever Tim O'Brien-ed, and I stand by that assessment. It's funny and poignant and cringe-inducing by turns, and I could not put it down.
Visit Edward Ashton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mickey7.

Q&A with Edward Ashton.

The Page 69 Test: Antimatter Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Mal Goes to War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2024

D.W. Buffa

D.W. Buffa's latest novel is Lunatic Carnival, the tenth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published 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, most recently, America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Here is Buffa's take on Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
When someone told Friedrich Nietzsche that he had not understood a single word of Zarathustra, Nietzsche replied that “this was perfectly in order: having understood six sentences from it - that is, to have really experienced them - would raise one to a higher level of existence than ‘modern’ men could attain.” It was no better with those who claimed they understood what he had written. “Whoever thought he had understood something of me, had made up something out of me after his own image.” Nietzsche did not expect to be understood. “The time for me hasn’t come yet: some are born posthumously.” The confidence that he would eventually be understood was, at least in part, based on how he could write. After reading him, he insisted, “One simply can no longer endure other books, least of all philosophical works.” The right reader, someone “related to me in the height of his aspiration will experience veritable ecstasies of learning: for I have come from heights that no bird has ever reached in flight, I know abysses into which no foot ever strayed.”

What had Nietzsche learned from the heights he had reached and the depths he had explored? What had he written that no one then living could understand? That Europe, that is to say, the West, was being destroyed by its own history, or, rather, by what had become a wholesale dependence on what history - history with a capital H - was understood to mean. This was because of Hegel, who had tried to make sense out of all the wars and revolutions, all the chaos and misery, of human history, by showing that, instead of a ‘tale told by an idiot signifying nothing,’ history was really the struggle, the conflict, that, through the final stage of the French Revolution and the emergence of Napoleon, had brought history to an end. Everyone would now have equal rights and the promise of a comfortable existence.

Hegel thought this a triumph; Nietzsche thought it the end of civilization and the beginning of the age of barbarians. The end of history meant the “last man,” the man who has no aspirations, who spends his days acquiring wealth and his evenings seeking entertainment, the man always in a hurry, never satisfied, who thinks nothing more important than to live as long as possible the only life he has known. The end of history meant that everyone would live like an American.

History, Hegel’s History, had somehow to be replaced with a different understanding. In one of the first things he wrote, The Use And Abuse Of History, Nietzsche took aim at the catastrophic consequences of trying to judge the past from the point of view of the present. There is a line, more than one, that Nietzsche wrote that is impossible to forget. Nietzsche writes in a way that no one, certainly no philosopher, had written before, or that anyone has written since. When he criticizes the attempt of the present to judge the past, he does not simply say that the contemporary understanding of history is incorrect, he thunders, “Who compels you to sit in judgment?” You have to stand higher than those who came before you if you are going to judge them, but instead of standing higher, “you merely came after them.” When the present judges the past, “it only brings the past down to its own level.”

The kind of history Nietzsche was attacking is, we need to remind ourselves, the kind that is taught everywhere today, that kind that judges the past by what the present thinks important. Everything about the past, including especially those whose names are still famous, is examined to see how close, or how far, they were from what we believe, or, rather, know with absolute certainty, is morally right or morally wrong. For most of our present day historians, and others who try to teach about the past, this means equal rights for everyone and the absence of every kind of prejudice. Everyone today agrees that slavery is wrong; anyone who owned a slave in the past must have been a monster and a villain, even if, or perhaps especially if, they were, like Thomas Jefferson, devoted to the cause of human freedom and tried, in their lifetime, to abolish slavery in the states where they lived.

Nietzsche understood this, and condemned it for its obvious tendency to discredit any kind of human greatness. Instead of trying to diminish what a Caesar, or an Alcibiades, or a Julian, had done, to name three great men Nietzsche singled out, history should tell their stories. History should become, in a phrase he used, “monumental history.” What was important was the possibility of human beings who could become again great creators, men and women with the power to do great things. If you read the history of great men or great events, then, and only then, is there a chance that you will try to do something great yourself.

This concern with history and the various ways of understanding it, led Nietzsche to go back in history to the Greeks and how they understood the world. This attempt changed everything. Europe, the West, had not been advancing toward a higher civilization for the last two thousand years, as Hegel had insisted. It had been, with rare exceptions like the Renaissance, in a continual state of decline, a free fall from the height of the Greek experience. The Greeks had lived within a limited horizon, a closed universe, the sun, the stars, fixed in place; the earth, at the center, the home of the human being who, in the best case, developed his own specific excellence, his reason, to contemplate and understand the world in which he lived. Everyone is connected to everyone else in a city that honors those who have contributed to its greatness, a city in which no one thinks life worth living when they are no longer able to do their own, proper, work as a citizen. Rome, first as a republic, then as an empire, lost much of what Athens had. There was nothing like the same freedom of the citizen or the independence of human thought, but there was still the same belief that the world was the only important place for both gods and men.

Modern science changed all this. The world was no longer the only place there was. The earth was now seen as just one of an uncountable number of planets in a universe of no determinate size. Instead of dominant creatures whose lives were, or could be, of eternal fame, we were nothing but the temporary spectators of our own ephemeral dreams, unless of course we shared the belief in a heaven where, after death, we lived forever. The Christian belief, however, had vanished, even, and perhaps especially, among those who claimed it for themselves. The morning prayer, according to Nietzsche, had been replaced by the morning paper. There was no more reverence for the unchanging, the eternal, only an endless desire for whatever was changing, whatever was new.

The question was what could be done? How, as someone who studied Nietzsche with more than the eye of a scholar once put it, could antiquity be retrieved from the emptiness of modernity? Nietzsche’s answer was the “eternal return of the same.” He mentioned it first in that early writing of his, The Use And Abuse Of History, in a passing reference to Pythagoras, but that passing reference is the beginning, the foundation, of what would become the central teaching Nietzsche wanted to leave the world. According to the Pythagoreans, when an identical constellation of the heavenly bodies occur, identical events - down to individual, minute details - must repeat themselves on earth as well. Everything that happens, happens again. Julius Caesar will again be murdered, Christopher Columbus will again discover America, everything repeated, over and over again, the eternal return of the same endless repetition. What I am writing now I have written timeless times before, and will write timeless times again. Nietzsche develops this thought through the most important of his later writings, including especially Zarathustra, which he considered his greatest work.

The eternal return of the same changes everything. The world becomes again what it once was, the closed world of the ancient Greeks. Instead of infinity, endless time and endless space, the world is limited to the time of each of its same time repetitions, and the human being is again the central character in the comedy and tragedy of the world’s constantly replayed drama. Existence is no longer meaningless. This was Nietzsche’s great achievement, his message to the present and the future as to how the past should be understood. No one took it seriously, perhaps because no one really understood it. Nietzsche was aware of this. He did not expect anyone to believe what he was teaching. He did expect that, in time, perhaps another century or so, others, a few others, would discover, or rediscover, what he had written, and know how to read him the way he meant to be read. They would understand, as none of his contemporaries could, the real meaning of that marvelously seductive, and daringly mysterious, suggestion that he was one of those extraordinarily rare human beings who have been born posthumously.
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.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

Third Reading: Naguib Mahfouz’s novels of ancient Egypt.

Third Reading: Main Street.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part I.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part II.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Verlin Darrow

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Darrow is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Darrow ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Darrow's new novel is The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Darrow's reply:
I’m currently reading Other Plans by Caimh McDonnell, an Irish comedian turned author. This is his latest and I’ve read them all, beginning with the Dublin Trilogy, which is actually four comic crime novels. He’s one of my favorite authors, rivaling Donald E. Westlake. A minor character in his first book was so well-loved that he started another series with this colorful figure. The plotting is tight, the characters are fascinating, the setting interests me, and I laugh out loud while I’m reading. What more could ask for?

Recently, I finished Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg, a complex police/fire fighter procedural with a keen sense of place—the dry canyons north of LA. I found it hard to put down as I continuously wanted to know what came next.

Lastly, I reread my first mystery—Blood and Wisdom—for the first time in years. I still liked it a lot, but I could see that I should’ve simplified the plot and some of the humor was off the mark. Oh well.

As you can gather, I favor genre novels. I actually think that a great deal of the literary works taught in schools are poorly written. (I know, I know. I’m a barbarian). But why should the reader have to work so hard?
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

--Marshal Zeringue