Sunday, December 08, 2019

The five best books about interstellar arrivals

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St. Andrews Universities and has a Ph.D. in astronomy. He stopped working as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency to become a full-time writer. Revelation Space and Pushing Ice were shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Revelation Space, Absolution Gap, Diamond Dogs, and Century Rain were shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Award, and Chasm City won the British Science Fiction Award.

At the Guardian Reynolds tagged five of the best books about interstellar arrivals, including:
A significant triumph in recent astronomy has been the detection of gravitational waves, finally achieved by an international consortium using immensely precise (and huge) laser interferometers. But the work to reach this discovery began a century ago, and encompasses a huge cast of heroes and dreamers – and its share of failure. In Black Hole Blues astrophysicist Janna Levin has written the definitive account of this grand quest, and it’s as insightful about the human protagonists in this story as it is about the mind-bending physics of black holes and warped spacetime.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Steve Robinson's "The Penmaker's Wife"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Penmaker's Wife by Steve Robinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Victorian England, a mother is on the run from her past—and the truth about what she did.

Birmingham, 1880. Angelica Chastain has fled from London with her young son, William. She promises him a better life, far away from the terrors they left behind.

Securing a job as a governess, Angelica captures the attention of wealthy widower Stanley Hampton. Soon they marry and the successful future Angelica envisaged for William starts to fall into place.

But the past will not let Angelica go. As the people in her husband’s circle, once captivated by her charm, begin to question her motives, it becomes clear that forgetting where she came from—and who she ran from—is impossible.

When tragedy threatens to expose her and destroy everything she’s built for herself and William, how far will she go to keep her secrets safe? And when does the love for one’s child tip over into dangerous obsession?

Alias Grace meets Peaky Blinders in this tale of obsession, ambition and murder in Victorian England.
Visit Steve Robinson's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Steve Robinson.

My Book, The Movie: The Penmaker's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Penmaker's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Coffee with a Canine: Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona.

The author, on how she and Ffiona were united:
I freelanced for many years. When I finally got a fulltime job I knew I could handle taking care of a pet. I grew up with big dogs, but I was living in a building with a 25 lb. size limit on pets. Despite having fostered dogs and fundraised for shelters, I wanted a puppy and I couldn't risk a rescue that grew larger than 25 lbs. I looked for a breed that had a big dog personality in a little dog body. I found....[read on]
About Firkins's new book Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, from the publisher:
In this charming debut about first love and second chances, a young girl gets caught between the boy next door and a playboy. Perfect for fans of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Mansfield, Massachusetts, is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburban mothers and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. She’s got her own plans, and they don’t include any prince charming.

But as she dives into schoolwork and getting a scholarship for college, Edie finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys strumming for her attention: First, there’s Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love, who’s sweet and smart and ... already has a girlfriend. Then there’s Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player who’s totally off limits—even if his kisses are chemically addictive.

Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help herself from being caught between them. Now, she just has to make sure it isn’t her heart that breaks in the process.
Visit Jacqueline Firkins's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jacqueline Firkins & Ffiona.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sean Grass's "The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative: Autobiography, Sensation, and the Literary Marketplace by Sean Grass.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the first half of the nineteenth century autobiography became, for the first time, an explicitly commercial genre. Drawing together quantitative data on the Victorian book market, insights from the business ledgers of Victorian publishers and close readings of mid-century novels, Sean Grass demonstrates the close links between these genres and broader Victorian textual and material cultures. This book offers fresh perspectives on major works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade, while also featuring archival research that reveals the volume, diversity, and marketability of Victorian autobiographical texts for the first time. Grass presents life-writing not as a stand-alone genre, but as an integral part of a broader movement of literary, cultural, legal and economic practices through which the Victorians transformed identity into a textual object of capitalist exchange.
Learn more about The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Commodification of Identity in Victorian Narrative.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten dark stories of children in peril

Zach Vasquez is a native of Los Angeles, California. He writes fiction and criticism.

At CrimeReads he tagged ten top novels and films "that put children up against the outsized terrors of the adult world," including:
The Death of Sweet Mister, by Daniel Woodrell (2001)

Next to Winter’s Bone (which could just as easily have taken this spot), The Death of Sweet Mister is Daniel Woodrell’s—the hardboiled laureate of the Ozarks—finest novel to-date. The story focuses on 13-year-old Shug Atkins, a lonely, overweight, and embittered youth living with his gorgeous, alcoholic mother Glenda and his maybe-father, the abusive and unhinged Red, who moves in and out of their lives at random, seemingly just to torment them. When Glenda starts an affair with a cool city slicker, it sets off a chain of events that lead to murder, torture and something far, far worse.

The Death of Sweet Mister is bildungsroman filtered through pitch-black noir and Greek tragedy. Of all the stories presented here, it is ultimately the most devastating in its depiction of the corruption of youth and death of childhood innocence.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 06, 2019

What is Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, author of Don't Tell the Nazis.

Her entry begins:
At the moment I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's latest, Talking to Strangers, and am really enjoying it. I just finished reading A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman. It's a novel about an idealistic American of Afghan heritage who decides to do research in a remote Afghan village that has become famous because of a memoir written by an American doctor who had spent time in the area. Parveen is certain that her presence will do the locals some good, but...[read on]
About Don't Tell the Nazis, from the publisher:
The year is 1941. Krystia lives in a small Ukrainian village under the cruel — sometimes violent — occupation of the Soviets. So when the Nazis march into town to liberate them, many of Krystia's neighbors welcome the troops with celebrations, hoping for a better life.

But conditions don't improve as expected. Krystia's friend Dolik and the other Jewish people in town warn that their new occupiers may only bring darker days.

The worst begins to happen when the Nazis blame the Jews for murders they didn't commit. As the Nazis force Jews into a ghetto, Krystia does what she can to help Dolik and his family. But what they really need is a place to hide. Faced with unimaginable tyranny and cruelty, will Krystia risk everything to protect her friends and neighbors?
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Making Bombs for Hitler.

The Page 69 Test: Making Bombs for Hitler.

My Book, The Movie: Stolen Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Stolen Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Tell the Nazis.

Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sara Driscoll's "No Man's Land"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: No Man's Land by Sara Driscoll.

About the book, from the publisher:
Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue dog are on the trail of a killer hiding where others fear to tread…

For Meg Jennings and her K-9 companion, Hawk, exploring the ruins of a deserted building is an exciting way to sharpen their skills without the life-or-death stakes they face as part of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team. But deep in the echoing rooms of an abandoned asylum, Hawk finds the body of an elderly woman. The victim couldn’t have made her way into the derelict building on her own. Before forty-eight hours pass, Meg learns of more cases of elders found dead in neglected urban structures.

There’s not enough evidence to link the deaths—yet. But Meg scents a pattern, and when she gets word of another senior gone missing, she and Hawk don’t hesitate. Meg is sure a murderer is hunting the elderly, and she can prove it if she can just find a connection. It will take the expert coordination of her whole team, along with help from Clay McCord and Todd Webb, to uncover the means, let alone a motive. And to stop someone who has operated in the dark for so long, Meg will need to risk more than she has to give...
Learn more about the FBI K-9 Novels.

Coffee with a Canine: M. Ann Vanderlaan & her dogs.

The Page 69 Test: Lone Wolf.

The Page 69 Test: Storm Rising.

The Page 69 Test: No Man's Land.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top British science fiction classics

At the Waterstones blog, Mark Skinner tagged ten top titles from the Golden Age of British Sci-Fi, including:
Edwin Abbott

Flatland takes place in a world where only length and breadth exist and where a mysterious visitor in three dimensions threatens to forever to collapse the natives’ conception of themselves. A waspish parody of Victorian society clad in a lively futuristic fable, Flatland broke new ground for the fledgling sci-fi genre.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Kimberly Gabriel's "Every Stolen Breath," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel.

The entry begins:
When I wrote Every Stolen Breath, the scenes played out in my head in a very cinematic fashion and I pictured actors playing each of these roles. However, because I don’t watch a lot of television, almost all of the actors I had cast would be too old to play my teen characters. Many of my answers include the younger teen version of the actors I listed below.

Lia, my main character: For Lia, I pictured a teen version of Jessica Chastain with whitish blonde hair. While writing, I would often think of Chastain’s portrayal of Maya in Zero Dark Thirty as a smart, serious woman with an unstoppable drive, which is very similar to Lia’s character in Every Stolen Breath. Chloë Grace Moretz might be perfect for Lia.

Ryan, the mysterious boy who may or may not have been responsible for her father’s death: I pictured a younger (more vulnerable) version of...[read on]
Visit Kimberly Gabriel's website.

My Book, The Movie: Every Stolen Breath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books for fans of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"

Erin Mayer is a writer and editor specializing in personal essays and musings about face creams that probably won’t cure her anxiety (but hey, it’s worth a shot). Her work has appeared on Bustle, Literary Hub, Man Repeller, Book Riot, and more. She spends her free time drafting tweets she never finishes and reading in front of the television.

At Read it Forward she tagged ten books to read if you love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, including:
The Chelsea Girls
Fiona Davis

For a look at the New York arts’ scene in the ‘40s through the ‘60s, check out The Chelsea Girls. It follows the friendship between Hazel Riley and Maxine Mead, a playwright and actress, as they inhabit the famous Chelsea Hotel and attempt to land a show on Broadway over the backdrop of the Red Scare.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Chelsea Girls.

The Page 69 Test: The Chelsea Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Camilla Townsend's "Fifth Sun"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend.

About the book, from the publisher:
In November 1519, Hernando Cortés walked along a causeway leading to the capital of the Aztec kingdom and came face to face with Moctezuma. That story--and the story of what happened afterwards--has been told many times, but always following the narrative offered by the Spaniards. After all, we have been taught, it was the Europeans who held the pens. But the Native Americans were intrigued by the Roman alphabet and, unbeknownst to the newcomers, they used it to write detailed histories in their own language of Nahuatl. Until recently, these sources remained obscure, only partially translated, and rarely consulted by scholars.

For the first time, in Fifth Sun, the history of the Aztecs is offered in all its complexity based solely on the texts written by the indigenous people themselves. Camilla Townsend presents an accessible and humanized depiction of these native Mexicans, rather than seeing them as the exotic, bloody figures of European stereotypes. The conquest, in this work, is neither an apocalyptic moment, nor an origin story launching Mexicans into existence. The Mexica people had a history of their own long before the Europeans arrived and did not simply capitulate to Spanish culture and colonization. Instead, they realigned their political allegiances, accommodated new obligations, adopted new technologies, and endured.

This engaging revisionist history of the Aztecs, told through their own words, explores the experience of a once-powerful people facing the trauma of conquest and finding ways to survive, offering an empathetic interpretation for experts and non-specialists alike.
Learn more about Fifth Sun at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about comedy

Louis Barfe is expert on all aspects of the entertainment industry. He is the author of Where Have All The Good Times Gone? The Rise and Fall of the Record Industry (2004), Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment (2008) and The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson (2012).

His new book is Happiness and Tears: The Ken Dodd Story.

At the Guardian he tagged a (UK-centric) top ten list of books about comedy. One title on the list:
The Late Shift by Bill Carter (1994)

This book, by a New York Times correspondent, is an engrossing and hilarious account of the squabbles and politics involved in choosing a successor to Johnny Carson as host of a chatshow that was also the US’s leading showcase for standup comedy. It was a showcase that on one occasion sat Richard Pryor next to Rod Hull and Emu, so how could you fault it?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

What is Peter Riva reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Peter Riva, author of Kidnapped on Safari: A Thriller.

His entry begins:
I thoroughly enjoyed This Is Not America: Stories by Jordi Puntí. First off, translations are always suspect. Cadence can get destroyed. Seeing Puntí’s reputation for cadence (tested by public readings for which his work is known to play well), this translation was likely to fall short. It does not. The cadence is fluid, intelligent, words carefully placed, and a joy to read aloud. Cadence here is critical for the flow of the words and impact on the psyche of the reader—absorbing the deeper message meant to be simple but impactful.

At first I was puzzled by the title as it links so firmly to the David Bowie song of the same name. Frankly, the book can be interpreted in the same musical vein and, of course (because Puntí is that brilliant), without. There is no doubt that...[read on]
About Kidnapped on Safari, from the publisher:
The third book in the Mbuno & Pero series pulls terror from headlines to create a gripping international thriller for readers of John LeCarre, Daniel Silva, and Iris Johansen.

Expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar are filming on Lake Rudolf in Northern Kenya, East Africa, when they receive news that Mbuno’s son, himself an expert guide, has been kidnapped while on a safari five hundred miles away in Tanzania. After gathering the clues and resources needed to trek through the wilderness, they trace the kidnappers back to an illegal logging operation clear-cutting national park forests, manned by sinister Boko Haram mercenaries. There, they find not only Mbuno's son but also a shocking revelation that has terrifying and far-reaching consequences.

Relying on Mbuno’s legendary bush skills, the pair must overcome the danger both from inside and outside the camp to bring Mbuno’s son out alive. In doing so, Mbuno and Pero discover that kidnapping and deforestation are only the beginning of the terrorist group's aspirations, and they realize a threat that would herald an even more dangerous outcome for Tanzania—a coup. A rescue might just risk the entire stability of the region.

Exciting and expertly plotted using facts ripped from news’ headlines, Kidnapped on Safari is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in deepest, darkest, Machiavellian, East Africa.
Visit Peter Riva's website.

Writers Read: Peter Riva.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Declan Burke's "The Lammisters"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lammisters by Declan Burke.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hollywood, 1923. Having ascended into the pantheon of America’s Most Wanted by dispatching his mortal foes to the holding pens where Cecil B. DeMille keeps his expendable extras, Irish bootlegger Rusty McGrew goes on the lam with the shimmering goddess Vanessa Hopgood, her enraptured swain Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, and Edward ‘Bugs’ Dooley, the hapless motion picture playwright who has stepped through the looking-glass into his very own Jazz Age adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Delighting in rapid-fire dialogue, subversive genre-bending and metafictional digressions, The Lammisters is a comic novel that will likely be declared a wholly original comedy classic by anyone who has yet to read Flann O’Brien, Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse or Laurence Sterne.
Learn more about the book and author at Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

The Page 69 Test: Absolute Zero Cool.

My Book, The Movie: Absolute Zero Cool.

The Page 99 Test:: The Big O (Irish edition).

The Page 99 Test: The Big O.

Writers Read: Declan Burke.

My Book, The Movie: The Lammisters.

The Page 69 Test: The Lammisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Gareth Russell's "The Ship of Dreams"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell.

About the book, from the publisher:
In April 1912, six notable people were among those privileged to experience the height of luxury—first class passage on “the ship of dreams,” the RMs Titanic: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes; son of the British Empire, Tommy Andrews; American captain of industry John Thayer and his son Jack; Jewish-American immigrant Ida Straus; and American model and movie star Dorothy Gibson. Within a week of setting sail, they were all caught up in the horrifying disaster of the Titanic’s sinking, one of the biggest news stories of the century. Today, we can see their stories and the Titanic’s voyage as the beginning of the end of the established hierarchy of the Edwardian era.

Writing in his elegant signature prose and using previously unpublished sources, deck plans, journal entries, and surviving artifacts, Gareth Russell peers through the portholes of these first-class travelers to immerse us in a time of unprecedented change in British and American history. Through their intertwining lives, he examines social, technological, political, and economic forces such as the nuances of the British class system, the explosion of competition in the shipping trade, the birth of the movie industry, the Irish Home Rule Crisis, and the Jewish-American immigrant experience while also recounting their intimate stories of bravery, tragedy, and selflessness.

Masterful in its superb grasp of the forces of history, gripping in its moment-by-moment account of the sinking, revelatory in discounting long-held myths, and lavishly illustrated with color and black and white photographs, this absorbing, accessible, and authoritative account of the Titanic’s life and death is destined to become the definitive book on the subject.
Follow Gareth Russell on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Ship of Dreams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books for fans of Atwood's "The Testaments"

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged seven books to read if you loved The Testaments, including:
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Gilead’s beginnings are not just rooted in patriarchy, but in a global health crisis: plummeting fertility rates force people into extreme panic, during which a fringe group seizes control. Station Eleven also begins with a health crisis, but a different one: an flu pandemic that ravages most of modern society, forcing the world into a version of the Dark Ages where people search for pockets of the civilization they once knew. This literary page-turner follows a group of actors as they perform Shakespeare twenty years after the collapse of modernity. When a dangerous prophet threatens the peaceful existence they’ve managed to carve out for themselves, the survivors have a choice to make that could determine their survival.
Read about another book on the list.

Station Eleven is among Maggie Stiefvater's five fantasy books about artists & the magic of creativity, Mark Skinner's five top literary dystopias, Claudia Gray's five essential books about plagues and pandemics, K Chess's five top fictional books inside of real books, Rebecca Kauffman's ten top musical novels, Nathan Englander’s ten favorite books, M.L. Rio’s five top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Anne Corlett's five top books with different takes on the apocalypse, Christopher Priest’s five top sci-fi books that make use of music, and Anne Charnock's five favorite books with fictitious works of art.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Steve Robinson's "The Penmaker's Wife," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Penmaker's Wife by Steve Robinson.

The entry begins:
I’ve had several social media discussions about this over the years with my earlier books, about who might play the characters if a TV or film adaptation was made. It’s always fun to imagine such things. The main character in The Penmaker’s Wife is a femme fatale called Angelica Chastain. I chose the surname for its French origins because Angelica was born in France, although she moved to England when she was quite young. The person I would choose to play her in the movie, shares the same surname, and perhaps this also helped to guide my choice. The actress is Jessica Chastain. She always seems to exude such confidence in her roles on screen, and is often portrayed as a strong woman who knows exactly what she wants. That’s the kind of character I was looking for when I imagined Angelica.

Another key character in the book is called Effie Wilmington-Reed, whom I see as Angelica’s opposite in many ways — a young and naive ‘English rose’ type of character that I can see someone like...[read on]
Visit Steve Robinson's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Steve Robinson.

My Book, The Movie: The Penmaker's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top London novels by writers of color

J.R. Ramakrishnan is a writer and editor. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Electric Literature, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK] and Mixed Company.

At Electric Lit Ramakrishnan tagged seven novels that celebrates the 40% of Londoners who aren't white, including:
The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo

The lead character of Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe is Zuleika, the daughter of Sudanese immigrants who’ve made good in London, A.D. 211. After the ingestion of traditional English Literature at school, reading a novel of olden days London not centered on whiteness thrilled me when it was first published in 2001. Yes, there were black people in Roman London—the novel emerged from Evaristo’s residency and research at the Museum of London. This city is an outpost of another empire. The brilliant realignment of historical perception aside, Evaristo tells a gripping and hilarious story of Zuleika’s boredom, which is soon alleviated when Emperor Septimius Severus arrives in town and the two begin an affair—all in verse. I adore how Evaristo imagines the then-and-now topographies of London. She writes of “the humid jungle at Bayswater,” “mud huts by the Serpentine,” and “grasslands” of Mayfair. The contemporary also creeps in with “Wild@Heart, the trendy ‘flower boutique’ / on Cannon Street.” Zuleika and her crew’s partying ways will be familiar to anyone who’s been out on the town in London. Evaristo—whose debut, Lara, also in verse and based on her own British Nigerian family—should have won all the prizes back then. Her latest Girl, Woman, Other shared the 2019 Booker Prize.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Arthur I. Miller's "The Artist in the Machine"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI-Powered Creativity by Arthur I. Miller.

About the book, from the publisher:
An authority on creativity introduces us to AI-powered computers that are creating art, literature, and music that may well surpass the creations of humans.

Today's computers are composing music that sounds “more Bach than Bach,” turning photographs into paintings in the style of Van Gogh's Starry Night, and even writing screenplays. But are computers truly creative—or are they merely tools to be used by musicians, artists, and writers? In this book, Arthur I. Miller takes us on a tour of creativity in the age of machines.

Miller, an authority on creativity, identifies the key factors essential to the creative process, from “the need for introspection” to “the ability to discover the key problem.” He talks to people on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, encountering computers that mimic the brain and machines that have defeated champions in chess, Jeopardy!, and Go. In the central part of the book, Miller explores the riches of computer-created art, introducing us to artists and computer scientists who have, among much else, unleashed an artificial neural network to create a nightmarish, multi-eyed dog-cat; taught AI to imagine; developed a robot that paints; created algorithms for poetry; and produced the world's first computer-composed musical, Beyond the Fence, staged by Android Lloyd Webber and friends.

But, Miller writes, in order to be truly creative, machines will need to step into the world. He probes the nature of consciousness and speaks to researchers trying to develop emotions and consciousness in computers. Miller argues that computers can already be as creative as humans—and someday will surpass us. But this is not a dystopian account; Miller celebrates the creative possibilities of artificial intelligence in art, music, and literature.
Visit Arthur I. Miller's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Artist in the Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books Joseph Kanon recommends

Joseph Kanon is the internationally bestselling novelist whose titles include: Los Alamos, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel; The Good German, which was made into a film starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett; The Prodigal Spy; Alibi, which earned Kanon the Hammett Award of the International Association of Crime Writers; Leaving Berlin and The Defectors. He is also a recipient of The Anne Frank Human Writers Award for his writings on the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Kanon's new novel is The Accomplice.

At The Week magazine he recommended six books, including:
Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (1988).

Readers familiar only with Furst's popular between-the-wars Paris novels will be pleasantly surprised by this lesser-known but even richer work, set in the Balkans on the brink of war and featuring a young Bulgarian who's recruited by Moscow after he witnesses his brother's murder by local fascists. Full of the author's signature smoky atmosphere and conflicted loyalties, it's early but already vintage Furst.
Read about another entry on the list.

Night Soldiers is among Dwyer Murphy's ten top spy thrillers featuring Russia versus the West.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 02, 2019

What is Steve Robinson reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Steve Robinson, author of The Penmaker's Wife.

His entry begins:
I’m currently reading a book by Margaret Atwood, because when writing the blurb for my latest book, The Penmaker’s Wife, my publisher described it as ‘Alias Grace meets Peaky Blinders in this tale of obsession, ambition and murder in Victorian England.’ I hadn’t read Alias Grace before, any more than I had watched Peaky Blinders, so I had to find out why the comparison had been made. I’m very much enjoying Atwood’s semi-factual story about the life of the young Irish immigrant, Grace Marks, as she gives her account of the events that led to her trial and conviction for murder in 1843. It’s clear to me now why...[read on]
About The Penmaker's Wife, from the publisher:
In Victorian England, a mother is on the run from her past—and the truth about what she did.

Birmingham, 1880. Angelica Chastain has fled from London with her young son, William. She promises him a better life, far away from the terrors they left behind.

Securing a job as a governess, Angelica captures the attention of wealthy widower Stanley Hampton. Soon they marry and the successful future Angelica envisaged for William starts to fall into place.

But the past will not let Angelica go. As the people in her husband’s circle, once captivated by her charm, begin to question her motives, it becomes clear that forgetting where she came from—and who she ran from—is impossible.

When tragedy threatens to expose her and destroy everything she’s built for herself and William, how far will she go to keep her secrets safe? And when does the love for one’s child tip over into dangerous obsession?

Alias Grace meets Peaky Blinders in this tale of obsession, ambition and murder in Victorian England.
Visit Steve Robinson's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Steve Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven New Orleans books that go beyond Mardi Gras

J.R. Ramakrishnan is a writer and editor.

Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Electric Literature, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK] and Mixed Company.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books set in New Orleans that go beyond Mardi Gras, including:
The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

In The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom offers the story of her family’s home—and a view into a city that is rarely seen by outsiders. Her tour begins by swerving away from the usual New Orleans landmarks like the French Quarter (though she later returns to this with both the extra-piercing gaze of both a native and a returnee who’s lived around the world) via the Chef Menteur Highway to New Orleans East. Broom writes: “By bringing you to here, to the Yellow House, I have gone against my learnings. You know this house not all that comfortable for other people my mother was always saying.” As readers, we can count ourselves lucky she did—and did so with such exacting reporting on the histories of her family and city in especially elegant prose. The National Book Award judges agreed—Broom’s memoir made the organization’s 2019 nonfiction shortlist.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ann Howard Creel's "Mercy Road"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mercy Road by Ann Howard Creel.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by the true story of the World War I American Women’s Hospital, Mercy Road is a novel about love, courage, and a female ambulance driver who risks everything.

In 1917, after Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground, taking her father with it, she must find a way to support her mother and younger brother. If she doesn’t succeed, they will all be impoverished. Job opportunities are scarce, but then a daring possibility arises: the American Women’s Hospital needs ambulance drivers to join a trailblazing, all-female team of doctors and nurses bound for war-torn France.

On the front lines, Arlene and her fellow ambulance drivers work day and night to aid injured soldiers and civilians. In between dangerous ambulance runs, Arlene reunites with a childhood friend, Jimmy Tucker, now a soldier, who opens her heart like no one before. But she has also caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a charismatic army captain who harbors a dark, treacherous secret.

To expose Brohammer means risking her family’s future and the promise of love. Arlene must make a choice: stay in the safety of silence or take the greatest chance of her life.
Visit Ann Howard Creel's website.

The Page 69 Test: The River Widow.

My Book, The Movie: Mercy Road.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Cynthia A. Kierner's "Inventing Disaster"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from the Jamestown Colony to the Johnstown Flood by Cynthia A. Kierner.

About the book, from the publisher:
When hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and other disasters strike, we count our losses, search for causes, commiserate with victims, and initiate relief efforts. Amply illustrated and expansively researched, Inventing Disaster explains the origins and development of this predictable, even ritualized, culture of calamity over three centuries, exploring its roots in the revolutions in science, information, and emotion that were part of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe and America.

Beginning with the collapse of the early seventeenth-century Jamestown colony, ending with the deadly Johnstown flood of 1889, and highlighting fires, epidemics, earthquakes, and exploding steamboats along the way, Cynthia A. Kierner tells horrific stories of culturally significant calamities and their victims and charts efforts to explain, prevent, and relieve disaster-related losses. Although how we interpret and respond to disasters has changed in some ways since the nineteenth century, Kierner demonstrates that, for better or worse, the intellectual, economic, and political environments of earlier eras forged our own twenty-first-century approach to disaster, shaping the stories we tell, the precautions we ponder, and the remedies we prescribe for disaster-ravaged communities.
Learn more about Inventing Disaster at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Inventing Disaster.

--Marshal Zeringue