Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Andrea MacPherson's "Beyond the Blue," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Andrea MacPherson's Beyond the Blue.

MacPherson's entry opens:
I’ve always thought about novels in a cinematic way: pan to the long, lingering sun-bleached fields. Tight focus on the way the loom whirs and spins, how the hand is acutely aware of the possibility of danger. But, in most cases, I don’t think about the characters as actors. Why? Because I imagine them as the characters they are — who they appear to be on the page.

So, I've thought a lot about who might play my characters in Beyond the Blue. First, it takes place in Dundee, Scotland in 1918. I need actors who might be chameleons, able to slip into eras and countries with ease. Then, who resembles them the most, in appearance, yes, but also in spirit? I have a relatively large cast, so my mind was whirring. [read on]
Andrea MacPherson is the author of four books: two novels, When She Was Electric (Raincoast, 2003) and Beyond the Blue (Random House, 2007) and two poetry collections, Natural Disasters (Palimpsest Press, 2007) and Away (Signature Editions, 2008).

Read an excerpt from Beyond the Blue and learn more about MacPherson's work at her official website.

The Page 69 Test: Beyond the Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Beyond the Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is Simon Levack reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Simon Levack, author of the acclaimed Aztec Mystery series featuring Yaotl, Montezuma's chief minister's slave who becomes a sleuth.

Part of his entry:
I recently read David Lindsay's extraordinary philosophical fantasy (or proto-science fiction) novel A Voyage to Arcturus -- an imaginative tour de force in which a man searches for the meaning of life in one fantastical landscape after another. Makes CS Lewis and even Tolkien look like amateurs. The fact that it only sold a few hundred copies when first published just underlines what a brave and original book it is. [read on]
There are presently four volumes in the Aztec Mystery series that crime fiction expert J. Kingston Pierce calls "historically compelling" and which has earned numerous accolades, including winning a CWA Debut Dagger Award.

Learn more about Simon Levack and his writing at his website and his blog.

Check out Jeri Westerton’s recent interview with Levack.

Read a sample chapter from Tribute of Death, the fourth volume in the Yaotl series.

Writers Read: Simon Levack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Peter Pouncey's "Rules for Old Men Waiting"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Peter Pouncey's Rules for Old Men Waiting.

About the book, from the publisher:
A brief, lyrical novel with a powerful emotional charge, Rules for Old Men Waiting is about three wars of the twentieth century and an ever-deepening marriage. In a house on the Cape “older than the Republic,” Robert MacIver, a historian who long ago played rugby for Scotland, creates a list of rules by which to live out his last days. The most important rule, to “tell a story to its end,” spurs the old Scot on to invent a strange and gripping tale of men in the trenches of the First World War.

Drawn from a depth of knowledge and imagination, MacIver conjures the implacable, clear-sighted artist Private Callum; the private’s nemesis Sergeant Braddis, with his pincerlike nails; Lieutenant Simon Dodds, who takes on Braddis; and Private Charlie Alston, who is ensnared in this story of inhumanity and betrayal but brings it to a close.

This invented tale of the Great War prompts MacIver’s own memories of his role in World War II and of Vietnam, where his son, David served. Both the stories and the memories alike are lit by the vivid presence of Margaret, his wife. As Hearts and Minds director Peter Davis writes, “Pouncey has wrought an almost inconceivable amount of beauty from pain, loss, and war, and I think he has been able to do this because every page is imbued with the love story at the heart of his astonishing novel.”
Among the praise for Rules for Old Men Waiting:
“A deeply sensual, moving, thrilling novel that calls for a second and third reading – it is that rich.”
–Frank McCourt

“This is a wonderful novel of a man’s experience, and it touches every chord: a wholeness to which each incident crucially contributes so that wars and loves and losses, and mortality itself, are lived by the reader. The book is charged with the excitement of intelligent existence – and distinguished, above all, by its great humanity.”
–Shirley Hazzard

“A stunning piece of work, beautifully composed and finished. It’s very much its own thing, but in its reach, intelligence, and power it recalls Lampedusa’s The Leopard and Marai’s Embers, along with something of Norman MacLean. Old Men belongs on that same shelf.”
–Ward Just

“A tender, beautifully expressed rumination on love and loss by a highly intelligent and marvelously brave old man.”
–Louis Begley

“Mr. Pouncey writes with enough style and elegance to bring envy into the heart of many a good novelist.”
–Norman Mailer

"[A] wonderful tale about a historian who has recently lost his wife and is nearing the end of his days in a farm house on Cape Cod. He sets out to write a novel about World War I in hopes of helping him understand his own role in World War II and the loss of his son in Vietnam. It is beautifully written and fully engaging."
Joseph S. Nye
Read an excerpt from Rules for Old Men Waiting and learn more about the novel at the Random House website.

Peter Pouncey was born in Tsingtao, China, of English parents. At the end of World War II, after several dislocations and separations, the family reassembled in England, and Pouncey was educated there in boarding schools and at Oxford. He is a classicist, former dean of Columbia College, and president emeritus of Amherst College.

The Page 99 Test: Rules for Old Men Waiting.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jon Kukla's "Mr. Jefferson's Women"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jon Kukla's Mr. Jefferson's Women.

About the book, from the author's website:

A pioneering study of Thomas Jefferson’s relationships with women in his personal life and in American society and politics. The author of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote the words “all men are created equal,” was surprisingly hostile toward women. In eight chapters based on fresh research in little-used sources, Jon Kukla offers the first comprehensive study of Jefferson and women since the controversies of his presidency.

Educated with other boys at a neighborhood boarding school, young Jefferson learned early that homemaking was the realm of his mother and six sisters. From adolescence through maturity, his views about domesticity scarcely wavered, while his discomfort around women brought a succession of embarrassments as he sought to control his emotions. After Rebecca Burwell declined his awkward proposal of marriage, Jefferson reacted first with despondence, then with predatory misogyny, and finally with the attempted seduction of Elizabeth Moore Walker, the wife of a boyhood friend. His marriage at twenty-nine to Martha Wayles Skelton brought a decade of genuine happiness, but ended in despair with her death from complications of childbirth. In Paris a few years later, Maria Cosway rekindled his capacity for romantic friendship but ultimately disappointed his hopes. Against the background of these relationships, Kukla offers a fresh and cogent account of Jefferson’s liaison with Sally Hemings.

Jefferson’s individual relationships with these women are examined in depth in five chapters. Abigail Adams, the women of Paris, and the wife of a British ambassador figure in the first of two closing chapters that examine Jefferson’s attitudes toward women in public life. In the last chapter, Kukla draws connections between Jefferson’s life experiences and his role in defining the subordination of women in law, culture, and education during and after the American Revolution.

Among the early praise for Mr. Jefferson's Women:

"Jon Kukla's sensitive portrayal of Jefferson's relationships with the women in his life leads to new insights not only about his infatuations and loves but also about his attitudes toward women in general -- attitudes that influenced his political writings and his presidency. Clearly, there is much to be learned by applying the questions and techniques of women's history to the study of 'great white men.'"
--Mary Beth
Norton, author of Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society

"Jon Kukla has crafted a persuasive, insightful and eminently readable interpretation of Jefferson’s poignant and occasionally mystifying relationships with women. He has captured surprising sides of his personality – sometimes masculinely conventional but often endearing. Yet Jefferson appears less beguiling than what we might expect from the inventive master of Monticello."
--Bertram Wyatt-Brown, author of The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760’s –1880’s

"In this lithe and lively survey, Jon Kukla carries the conversation forward in a most inviting way. How did Jefferson experience romantic love? And what can we know about his impulses? Mr. Jefferson’s Women is for those who do not shy from addressing delicate issues of early American politics and culture."
--Andrew Burstein, author of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello

"Jon Kukla provides a compelling, insightful portrait of Thomas Jefferson’s intimate life, tracing the fear of women’s power that increasingly defined the Virginian’s relationships. Kukla brilliantly links Jefferson’s personal anxieties about the disruptive influence of women on him to Jefferson’s endorsement of political and legal restrains upon those he called “the weaker sex” throughout his lifetime. This is a book that every admirer and critic of Thomas Jefferson must read."
--Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence

"This highly insightful study ... investigates Thomas Jefferson's relationships with women, from Elizabeth Moore Walker, the married neighbor with whom Jefferson may have had an affair, to Sally Hemings, the slave whose children he purportedly fathered. One of the most fascinating chapters examines the young Jefferson's failed attempts to woo a classmate's sister, Rebecca Burwell, whose rejection of his marriage proposal may have incited the misogyny found throughout his writings. Perhaps the least satisfying section studies Jefferson's relationship with his wife, Martha: since Jefferson destroyed their private correspondence after she died, Kukla's re-creation of their relationship is necessarily sketchy. The conclusion moves to a larger argument concerning Jefferson's thinking about women as citizens. Kukla shows that Jefferson was much less open to women's political participation and education than were contemporary Enlightenment thinkers, and his definition of America as a white male polity was rooted in his personal discomfort with women. This is one of the most discerning and provocative studies of Jefferson in years."
--Publishers Weekly

"It is hard to dislike a book that, like this one, starts off with a discussion of how J. Peterman Company shirts are related to Thomas Jefferson. Kukla ... not only knows his subject well but writes in a fluid and sparkling style.... Kukla's research is impeccable, and his voluminous notes are a treasure trove."
--Library Journal

"After a stormy scholarly conference about Thomas Jefferson's long affair with his slave Sally Hemings, Virginia historian Kukla ... looked for a book about Jefferson's relations with women in general, assuming that it already existed. Instead, he ended up writing it, and his conclusions are dismaying. Kukla asserts that after belle Rebecca Burwell rejected his proposal when he was 20, Jefferson demonstrated throughout his adult life predatory urges toward women, a fear of disruptive female influences (exacerbated by the alarming conduct of women during the French Revolution) and a distasteful endorsement of the master-slave model for male-female relations. Despite his friendship with Abigail ("Remember the Ladies") Adams, Jefferson remained adamant about excluding women from the liberties of the new American republic.... Closing with a grim litany of his subject's consistent opposition to "any departure from an exclusively domestic role as republican wives and mothers," Kukla concludes that "Jefferson's personal aversion to and fear of women in public life shaped American laws and traditions in ways that echo into the twenty-first century. Necessary reading — but an awful revelation of a great man's failings."
--Kirkus Reviews

Read an excerpt from Mr. Jefferson's Women and learn more about the book and author at Jon Kukla's website.

Jon Kukla is the author of A Wilderness So Immense. He received his B.A. from Carthage College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. From 1973 through 1990 he directed historical research and publishing at the Library of Virginia. From 1992 to 1998 he was curator and then director of the Historic New Orleans Collection. From 2000 to 2007 he was director of Red Hill – The Patrick Henry National Memorial in Charlotte County, Virginia.

The Page 69 Test: Mr. Jefferson's Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pg. 99: Daniel Solove's "The Future of Reputation"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Daniel Solove's The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet.

About the book, from the official website:
What information about you is available on the Internet?

What if it’s wrong, humiliating, or true but regrettable?

Will it ever go away?

Teeming with chatrooms, online discussion groups, and blogs, the Internet offers previously unimagined opportunities for personal expression and communication. But there’s a dark side to the story. A trail of information fragments about us is forever preserved on the Internet, instantly available in a Google search. A permanent chronicle of our private lives — often of dubious reliability and sometimes totally false — will follow us wherever we go, accessible to friends, strangers, dates, employers, neighbors, relatives, and anyone else who cares to look. This engrossing book, brimming with amazing examples of gossip, slander, and rumor on the Internet, explores the profound implications of the online collision between free speech and privacy.

Daniel Solove, an authority on information privacy law, offers a fascinating account of how the Internet is transforming gossip, the way we shame others, and our ability to protect our own reputations. Focusing on blogs, Internet communities, cyber mobs, and other current trends, he shows that, ironically, the unconstrained flow of information on the Internet may impede opportunities for self-development and freedom. Longstanding notions of privacy need review, the author contends: unless we establish a balance among privacy, free speech, and anonymity, we may discover that the freedom of the Internet makes us less free.

Among the early praise for The Future of Reputation:
"In the future, we may all be famous for fifteen minutes, but the Internet can preserve that fame -- or infamy -- forever. We might do well to consider, with Solove, what we lose when we give up our privacy, and what aspects of freedom to communicate are worth preserving."
--Barnes & Noble Review

"Beneath Solove's legal suggestions rests a keen insight about the extent to which the Internet changes basic questions about privacy."
--MIT's Technology Review

"[The Future of Reputation] paints a grim picture of the myriad ways in which the web is being misused, sometimes knowingly and sometimes not, to make people miserable."
--Terry Teachout, Commentary

"I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a fun read that also manages to be a scholarly work on cyberlaw.... I can’t emphasize enough how important Solove’s project is. In an era of knee-jerk libertarianism and First Amendment absolutism, Solove demonstrates that there are some baseline norms and laws that should govern the spread of personally identifiable information, gossip, and rumors. Against the conventional wisdom that would declare the net ungovernable, Solove offers hope that a gossip-saturated blogosphere can become a more fair, decent, and perhaps even public-minded place."
--Frank Pasquale,

"The book is very easy to read, it flows and takes on a life of its own. I could not put it down.... Daniel J. Solove is rapidly becoming to privacy what Lawrence Lessig is to copyright and the public domain."
--Taran Rampersad,

"A timely, vivid, and illuminating book that will change the way you think about privacy, reputation, and speech on the Internet. Daniel Solove tells a series of fascinating and frightening stories about how blogs, social network sites, and other websites are spreading gossip and rumors about people's private lives. He offers a fresh and thought-provoking analysis of a series of wide-ranging new problems and develops useful suggestions about what we can do about these challenges."
--Paul M. Schwartz, Berkeley Law School

"Do the traditional legal protections of de­fa­mation law and privacy provide much recourse in a new era in which millions of persons on blog sites and social-networking sites can pass on gossip, malicious hearsay and fictionalized anecdotes? ... [W]ith re­cognized credentials in privacy and free-speech issues, [Solove] is an ideal schol­ar to offer the first anal­ysis of this phenomenon. His new book ... offers in­triguing anecdotes and asks the right questions."
--Privacy Journal

"As the Internet is erasing the distinction between spoken and written gossip, the future of personal reputation is one of our most vexing social challenges. In this illuminating book, filled with memorable cautionary tales, Daniel Solove incisively analyzes the technological and legal challenges and offers moderate, sensible solutions for navigating the shoals of the blogosphere."
--Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Unwanted Gaze

"No one has thought more about the effects of the information age on privacy than Daniel Solove."
--Bruce Schneier, author of Beyond Fear

Read an excerpt from The Future of Reputation and learn more about the book and author at Daniel Solove's website, the Concurring Opinions blog, and the Yale University Press website.

Solove is an Associate Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. His other publications include The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age (2004) and Information Privacy Law (2006).

The Page 99 Test: The Future of Reputation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What is Viviana Zelizer reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Viviana A. Zelizer, Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and author of publications including The Social Meaning of Money, Pricing the Priceless Child, Morals and Markets, and The Purchase of Intimacy.

One book she mentioned:
Charles Tilly’s Credit and Blame, forthcoming by Princeton University Press. The book pushes beyond Tilly’s marvelous, widely-read previous book Why? to show how people assign moral values, negative and positive to other people’s actions. What are we doing when we blame someone for anything from a personal slight to a physical disaster such as Katrina?
Details are not available yet for Credit and Blame, but earlier this year Tilly applied the Page 99 test to Why?

Read more about The Purchase of Intimacy at the Princeton University Press website and learn more about Viviana Zelizer's research at her faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Purchase of Intimacy.

Writers Read: Viviana A. Zelizer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Chandra Prasad's "On Borrowed Wings"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Chandra Prasad's On Borrowed Wings.

About the book, from the publisher:

Adele Pietra has heard her mother say that her destiny is carved in the same brilliantly hued granite her father and brother cleave from the Stony Creek mine: she is to marry a quarryman. But when Adele's brother, Charles, dies in a mining accident, Adele sees the chance to change her life. Enrolling at Yale as Charles, Adele assumes his identity -- and gender -- as a way to leave behind her mother's expectations and the limitations of her provincial Connecticut town.

To her own surprise, hair chopped and chest bound, Adele falls in naturally with a lively crew of undergraduates: the Jewish Harry Persky with his slick Manhattan know-how, the quiet and mysterious legacy student Phineas, and the lanky, charismatic Wick. And in many ways, Adele faces her freshman year at Yale as would any undergraduate boy: she dreads invasive PE examinations and looks forward to dances, experiments with cigarettes and reads the classics. Through her work with a questionable eugenics professor and her friendship with a local Italian family, Adele confronts her class and ethnicity as never before, all the while fearing that both her crush on Wick and her mother's well-meaning interventions will put an end to her delicate masquerade.

One part social history, one part coming-of-age tale, On Borrowed Wings is an impeccably researched first novel that transports us to 1930s Yale, showing us around through the eyes of an unlikely, appealing female narrator.

Among the praise for the novel:
"In Adele, Chandra Prasad has created an inspired and timeless heroine whose intelligence, imagination, and determination has you rooting for her from the very first page. Prasad's powerful prose matches the vital, urgent vigor of youth, particularly the bond of friendship. Her novel combines drama and a strong sense of place that provides both a lesson in history and a fine read."
--Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

"Authentically and beguilingly, with admirable daring and wit, Chandra Prasad has written a modern fairy tale that transports her readers to a very particular era and place. She reminds us, importantly, about which things in our world remain constant -- and which have changed so swiftly in so little time."
--Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over

"On Borrowed Wings is an intriguing and moving debut. Prasad writes with the skill and confidence of an already seasoned author."
--Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban

"Written in spare, elegant prose, this gem of a book is both rhetorically and dramatically compelling. It is, in short, a finely crafted page-turner."
-- Jake Halpern, commentator on NPR's All Things Considered and author of Fame Junkies

"In Chandra Prasad's compelling debut novel, Adele Pietra, a poor yet ambitious girl from a Connecticut granite quarry town in the 1930s, assumes the identity of her deceased brother and attends Yale University. Throughout this page turner, Adele faces the normal challenges of freshman year that any undergraduate would: meeting buddies, falling in love, keeping up with schoolwork; except she also carries the burden of keeping her true identity concealed. Prasad develops each character beautifully and we soon begin to think of the intrepid heroine's friends as our own. This coming of age story is a great read and I look forward to reading more of the writer's work in the future."
-- Melissa Kagan, Lifetime TV
Read an excerpt from On Borrowed Wings, and learn more about the book at the publisher’s website.

Chandra Prasad has written several books, including Death of a Circus, which Tom Perrotta says is “narrated with Dickensian verve, a keen eye for historical detail, and lots of heart.” She is the originator and editor of — as well as a contributor to — Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience, which was published to international acclaim by W.W. Norton.

Visit Chandra Prasad's website.

The Page 69 Test: On Borrowed Wings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books: how to succeed in business

Cathie Black, author of the recently published Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), named a five best list of books for how to succeed in business for Opinion Journal.

One title from her list:
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Choreographer Twyla Tharp's study of creativity isn't just engaging reading -- it's an antidote to writer's block, stalled projects set against hard deadlines or any life situation where you need a jolt of out-of-the-box thinking. The book, a sleeper success, has been embraced by many corporations for management study. Tharp has taken her message on the lecture circuit as well, with stops that have included Georgia Pacific, NASA and my own magazine group at Hearst, where she was inspiring as she talked about the correlations between choreography and real-life problem solving. "Action will wake you," she advises, because "once the blood gets moving, ideas will come." My favorite lines are about the importance of naïveté, which she sees as a great advantage. Tharp renames it "forever the child" or "the ability to not know." She writes: "You do not know that failure can hurt, or even that you can fail." Not a bad state of mind, in work and in life.
Read about Number One on Black's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pg. 99: Terryl Givens' "People of Paradox"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens.

About the book, from Oxford University Press:
In People of Paradox, Terryl Givens traces the rise and development of Mormon culture from the days of Joseph Smith in upstate New York, through Brigham Young's founding of the Territory of Deseret on the shores of Great Salt Lake, to the spread of the Latter-Day Saints around the globe.

Throughout the last century and a half, Givens notes, distinctive traditions have emerged among the Latter-Day Saints, shaped by dynamic tensions -- or paradoxes -- that give Mormon cultural expression much of its vitality. Here is a religion shaped by a rigid authoritarian hierarchy and radical individualism; by prophetic certainty and a celebration of learning and intellectual investigation; by existence in exile and a yearning for integration and acceptance by the larger world. Givens divides Mormon history into two periods, separated by the renunciation of polygamy in 1890. In each, he explores the life of the mind, the emphasis on education, the importance of architecture and urban planning (so apparent in Salt Lake City and Mormon temples around the world), and Mormon accomplishments in music and dance, theater, film, literature, and the visual arts. He situates such cultural practices in the context of the society of the larger nation and, in more recent years, the world. Today, he observes, only fourteen percent of Mormon believers live in the United States.

Mormonism has never been more prominent in public life. But there is a rich inner life beneath the public surface, one deftly captured in this sympathetic, nuanced account by a leading authority on Mormon history and thought.
Among the praise for People of Paradox:

"Terryl Givens provides an elegant introduction to some of the central tenets, practices, and psychic investments of the Mormon faith. Linking Mormon teachings about agency, authority, salvation, and revelation to broader impulses in Christian and American theology and aesthetics, Givens comprehensively explores both the distinctiveness of Mormon cultural production and its continuities with wider religious currents. He describes the contradictions and persistent problems that arise, as they do in all faiths, within the lived experience of Mormonism. An outstanding work of intellectual and cultural studies, People of Paradox represents a creative and singular contribution to the burgeoning scholarship on the Mormon tradition."
--Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, author of Religion and Society in Frontier California

"Givens's proposal that Mormon belief be conceived as a series of paradoxes rather than a set of fixed principles is one of the most significant advances in Mormon thought in a generation. It puts Mormon culture in a brilliant new light. Moreover, by displacing the standard themes from their usual position at center stage and exploring Mormon cultural expression instead, he gives us a fresh, new history of the Latter-day Saints. This book is filled with treasures."
--Richard Bushman, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

"Terryl Givens takes readers on a fascinating tour of the remarkable achievements of Mormon culture; its distinctive contributions to art, literature, music, theater, science, and to the life of the mind. Eventually, one realizes that this is not only a book about Mormon culture, but that it makes a substantial contribution to that culture."
--Rodney Stark, author of The Rise of Mormonism

Learn more about People of Paradox at the Oxford University Press website.

Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and James A. Bostwick Chair of English, University of Richmond. His other books on Mormonism and American religious culture include The Latter-Day Saint Experience in America, By the Hand of Mormon, and Viper on the Hearth.

The Page 99 Test: People of Paradox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pg. 69: Sophie Hannah's "Little Face"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Sophie Hannah's Little Face.

About the book, from the author's website:
When Alice Fancourt returns home after having been out for the first time without her two-week-old daughter Florence, she insists that the baby she finds at home, in the care of her husband David, is not their daughter but a child she has never seen before. David denies it, claiming that the baby is Florence and that Alice has gone mad. Is she crazy, or is David lying, and if so, why would he do such a thing? And where is the real Florence? Alice has no proof, but she needs the police to believe her, and quickly. While they wait for the DNA test that will settle the matter, valuable time is being lost, and David’s behaviour towards Alice becomes increasingly threatening and sinister. Can Alice make the police listen to her before it's too late?
Among the praise for Little Face:

"This may well turn out to be the detective novel of the year. A terrifying mystery of manipulation, counter-manipulation and, finally, astounding revelation. It's a haunting story told with bewitching skill."
—Gerald Kaufman, The Scotsman

"Fascinating and original ... beautifully written ... outstandingly chilling"

"Quite brilliant"’
The Times (London)

Little Face is a wonderful work, a brilliant use of mirrors and the writer's magic. Chilling, tantalizing, and ultimately fair and deeply satisfying.”
—Barbara D'Amato, Death of a Thousand Cuts

“Hannah adapts to crime fiction with arresting aplomb: her characters are vivid, the novel’s challenging double narrative is handled with flair, and its denouement is ingenious.”
Sunday Times (London)
Read an excerpt from Little Face and learn more about the novel at Sophie Hannah's website.

Sophie Hannah is a bestselling poet and novelist who regularly performs her work both in the U.K. and abroad.

The Page 69 Test: Hurting Distance.

The Page 69 Test: Little Face.

--Marshal Zeringue

Allen Wyler's "Deadly Errors," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Allen Wyler's Deadly Errors.

Wyler shared some insights about his creative process before he got to naming particular actors he would like to see in a film adaptation of his novel:
Apparently, after listening to how other writers build their stories, I do mine backasswards. Meaning, instead of building the story around the character I start with the core idea and then figure out the ending, then work backwards outlining a series of scenes that logically lead up to the climax. Once this is done, I decide the actual location for each scene and photograph them with my digital camera so I can view the picture as I write.

Once this stage is reached, I ask, “Now, what about the characters?” I visualize actors who fit my characters’ physical attributes and then I begin creating their quirks and mannerisms.

So basically, I don’t do the film-to-book thing (or vice versa) until I’m ready to leave the outline stage and actually start writing. Only then do I develop each scene as I see the film play out. [read on]
Deadly Errors has been translated into several European languages. Originally published as a hardcover, it will be re-release in April 2008 as a mass market paperback.

Allen Wyler is a neurosurgeon and author. His other thriller is Dead Head.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Head.

My Book, The Movie: Deadly Errors.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Ted McClelland reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Ted McClelland, author of Horseplayers: Life at the Track, a memoir of a year spent at the races, and the forthcoming The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes.

One title mentioned in McClelland's entry:
Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour. I’ve always wondered what happened the moment World War I ended. Joseph E. Persico did, too, and wrote a book about it. Amazingly, many of the combatants kept fighting until the last minute, even though the armistice had been signed hours before. The final American casualty, Pvt. Henry Gunther, charged a German machine gun at 10:59 a.m., even as his sergeant urged him to keep his head down. For work, I’m reading memoirs and diaries of War of 1812 soldiers, research for a book I’m planning to write on that conflict, which is approaching its bicentennial, and which was fought mostly around the Great Lakes. [read on]
Learn more about TedMcCelland and his writing.

The Page 99 Test: Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

Writers Read: Ted McClelland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wesley Stace's top 10 ventriloquism books

Wesley Stace, a celebrated musician and songwriter who performs under the name John Wesley Harding, is the author of two novels, Misfortune and the recently-released by George (which appeared at the Page 69 Test).

About by George, from the publisher:
In the illustrious history of the theatrical Fishers, there are two Georges. One is a peculiar but endearing 11-year-old, raised in the seedy world of `70s boarding houses and backstages, now packed off to school for the first time; the other, a garrulous ventriloquist's dummy who belonged to George's grandfather, a favorite traveling act of the British troops in World War II. The two Georges know nothing of each other — until events conspire to unite them in a search to uncover the family's deepest secrets.

While the dummy lays dusty, silent, and abandoned, his young namesake sets out to learn about his dead grandfather's past as a world-famous ventriloquist, his magical powers, and their family's curious history. Weaving the boy's tale and the puppet's 'memoirs,' by George unveils the fascinating Fisher family — its weak men, its dominant women, its disgruntled boys, and its shocking and dramatic secrets. At once bitingly funny and exquisitely tender, Stace's novel is the unforgettable journey of two young boys separated by years but driven by the same desires: to find a voice, and to be loved.

Stace has now selected a "top 10 ventriloquism books" list for the Guardian, including:
Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism by Steven Connor

Ventriloquism? The image that springs to mind is a dummy on a man's knee. But Dumbstruck, a serious work of scholarship, neatly written and provocatively argued, shows us the murky history of the dissociated or thrown voice, from The Oracle of Delphi, past the Bible's Witch of Endor, right up to trashy Anthony Hopkins vehicle, Magic. Despite the iconic cover photo of Michael Redgrave and wooden friend from Dead of Night, you'll find little on the dummy: the real story of ventriloquism is played out by the time Archie Andrews turns up.
Check out the novel on Stace's list that made him "wonder why there wasn't a novel where ventriloquism spoke for itself."

Read an excerpt from by George and more about the novel at Wesley Stace's website and his MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: by George.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pg. 99: Richard Halpern's "Norman Rockwell"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Richard Halpern's Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence.

About the book, from the publisher:

Norman Rockwell’s scenes of everyday small-town life are among the most indelible images in all of twentieth-century art. While opinions of Rockwell vary from uncritical admiration to sneering contempt, those who love him and those who dismiss him do agree on one thing: his art embodies a distinctively American style of innocence.

In this sure-to-be controversial book, Richard Halpern argues that this sense of innocence arises from our reluctance — and also Rockwell’s — to acknowledge the often disturbing dimensions of his works. Rockwell’s paintings frequently teem with perverse acts of voyeurism and desire but contrive to keep these acts invisible — or rather, hidden in plain sight, available for unacknowledged pleasure but easily denied by the viewer.

Rockwell emerges in this book, then, as a deviously brilliant artist, a remorseless diagnostician of the innocence in which we bathe ourselves, and a continuing, unexpected influence on contemporary artists. Far from a banal painter of the ordinary, Halpern argues, Rockwell is someone we have not yet dared to see for the complex creature he is: a wholesome pervert, a knowing innocent, and a kitschy genius.

Provocative but judicious, witty but deeply informed, Norman Rockwell is a book rich in suggestive propositions and eye-opening details — one that will change forever the way we think about this American icon and his works.

Read an excerpt from Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence.

Listen to Halpern parse the "innocence industry" on NPR.

Richard Halpern is Sir William Osler Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. His books include Shakespeare's Perfume: Sodomy and Sublimity in the Sonnets, Wilde, Freud and Lacan, Shakespeare Among the Moderns, and The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Genealogy of Capital.

The Page 99 Test: Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Brian Francis Slattery's "Spaceman Blues"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Brian Francis Slattery's Spaceman Blues.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Manuel Rodrigo de Guzmán González disappears, Wendell Apogee decides to find out where he has gone and why. But in order to figure out what happened to Manuel, Wendell must contend with parties, cockfights, and chases; an underground city whose people live in houses suspended from cavern ceilings; urban weirdos and alien assassins; immigrants, the black market, flight, riots, and religious cults.

Painted in browns and grays and sparked by sudden fires, Spaceman Blues is a literary retro-pulp science-fiction-mystery-superhero novel, the debut of a true voice of the future, and a cult classic in the making.
Among the praise for the novel:

"What a breathless, mad, tornado of words! When it shakes itself awake the earth trembles and the helpless reader is dragged gladly into its light. I haven't had this much fun with a book in years."
--Harlan Ellison

"Slattery's debut is a kaleidoscopic celebration of the immigrant experience ... Pynchon crossed with Steinbeck, painted by Dali: Impossible to summarize, swinging from the surreal to the hyper-real, a brilliantly handled, tumultuous yarn."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Call it what you want; surrealist, transrealist, post-modern, absurdist, slipstream, fabulist, literary fantastic ... whatever, there's no word that does justice to Spaceman Blues. A few here might remember me mentioning a promise to review what I thought was one of the most original novels of the year. Well, here it is."
--Adam Balm, Ain't It Cool News

"For fans of the surreal odyssey of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man [and] Plan 9 from Outer Space ... A-."
--Simon Vozick-Levinson, Entertainment Weekly

"Spaceman Blues plunges us into the not-so-dire, nearly-dystopian future that we're living in at this moment.... For readers who love the language, who read for the sheer joy of having words zip through their brains like el-trains through the sleazy neighborhoods of New York, well, Spaceman Blues is the ticket. You will not need to check your brain at the door, though you might need to check it afterward. It's still there, I assure you. It's just been changed."
--The Agony Column

"Early reviews of Spaceman Blues threw around the names of Pynchon, Doctorow, and Dick as stylistic touchstones. But Slattery should really be considered alongside NYC homeboys like Lethem and Shteyngart, the former for his loving tweaks of vintage pulp (see Motherless Brooklyn), the latter for his sharp immigrant comedy (see Absurdistan).... he's written a breezy, funny, formally playful book that, as apocalyptic novels go, is a helluva cheerier beach read than Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and so visual it cries out for a film treatment."
--Will Hermes, The Village Voice

"Spaceman Blues is a welcome Band-Aid for those still mourning the loss of Kurt Vonnegut and his uniquely wacky, satirical brand of sci-fi. There's also a touch of Paul Auster's flair for genre blending and New York mythologizing.... A strange and whimsical mash note to the city, Slattery's apocalyptome proves that this newcomer is as thoughtful and irreverent as doomsayers come."
--Drew Toal, Time Out New York

Read an excerpt from Spaceman Blues and learn more about book and author at Brian Francis Slattery's website.

Slattery is an editor, writer, and occasional musician living in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Page 69 Test: Spaceman Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pg. 99: "Interred With Their Bones"

The latest feature at the Page 99 Test: Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred With Their Bones.

About the book, from the publisher:
A long-lost work of Shakespeare, newly found. A killer who stages the Bard’s extravagant murders as flesh-and-blood realities. A desperate race to find literary gold, and just to stay alive....

On the eve of the Globe’s production of Hamlet, Shakespeare scholar and theater director Kate Stanley’s eccentric mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a mysterious box, claiming to have made a groundbreaking discovery. But before she can reveal it to Kate, the Globe burns to the ground and Roz is found dead . . . murdered precisely in the manner of Hamlet’s father. Inside the box Kate finds the first piece in a Shakespearean puzzle, setting her on a deadly, high-stakes treasure hunt.

From London to Harvard to the American West, Kate races to evade a killer and decipher a tantalizing string of clues, hidden in the words of Shakespeare, that may unlock literary history’s greatest secret. At once suspenseful and elegantly written, Interred with Their Bones is poised to become the next bestselling literary adventure in the tradition of The Thirteenth Tale and The Historian.
Among the early praise for Interred With Their Bones:
"Plot twists worthy of The Da Vinci Code dominate this agile first novel from Carrell (The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox), a thriller involving a lost Shakespeare play, The History of Cardenio. On a June day in 2004, at London's rebuilt Globe theater, Rosalind Howard, flamboyantly eccentric Harvard Professor of Shakespeare, gives her friend Katharine Stanley, who's directing a production of Hamlet at the Globe, a small gold-wrapped box. That evening, a fire damages the Globe, where Roz is found murdered in the same manner as Hamlet's father. Roz's mysterious gift, which contains a Victorian mourning brooch decorated with flowers associated with Ophelia, propels Kate on a wild and wide-ranging quest that takes her to Utah; Arizona; Washington, D.C.; and back to London. Every step of the way, as the bodies pile up, Kate narrowly escapes becoming the next murder victim. From Shakespeare conferences to desert mines, from the present to the past, this spirited and action-packed novel delivers constant excitement."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Carrell effortlessly incorporates a mind-boggling amount of Elizabethan scholarship into the twist and turns of her plot.... [O]n the grounds of pure ingenuity Interred With Their Bones is an entertaining achievement."
--Houston Chronicle

"Carrell, the author of the much-praised nonfiction book The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox, has proven that she knows how to write a fast-paced, highly entertaining novel. Erudite and complex, Interred with Their Bones draws readers into an allusive labyrinth embellished with the words and plots from the plays of the "upstart Crow," as one contemporary dubbed the Bard. Here is a novel that will appeal to mystery-thriller fans as well as Shakespeare aficionados."
--Tim Davis, BookPage

"With an obvious nod to The Da Vinci Code, Jennifer Lee Carrell has written a two-tiered academic action yarn in which the murder mystery rests on a literary question: Who was William Shakespeare? With strong characters and a swerving plot, Carrell gives us a fairly comprehensive background to the ongoing and lively academic debate. It is an exciting, entertaining and surprisingly educational read just itching to make its big screen debut."
--Associated Press

Read excerpts from the novel and learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Lee Carrell's website and MySpace page.

Jennifer Lee Carrell has won three awards for distinction in undergraduate teaching at Harvard, where she taught in the History and Literature Program and directed Shakespeare for the Hyperion Theatre Company. She is the author of The Speckled Monster, a work of historical nonfiction about battling smallpox at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Page 99 Test: Interred With Their Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 22, 2007

What is Jason Fagone reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Jason Fagone, author of Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream.

Two books tagged in his entry:
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder: flawless. A long profile of an American doctor, Paul Farmer, who built a hospital and a health system in a remote part of Haiti and changed the way we think about treating the poor. Really, I had never read anything by Kidder, and I don't know why. So concise, engrossing, exact, powerful ... beyond the pull of the Farmer tale, this amazing story of a modern saint, I was just blown away by the craft, probably because I had just finished a long reporting project about infectious disease, running into all these problems trying to explain the science -- figuring out what I needed to explain in detail, what I could get away with describing vaguely, issues I imagined were inherent to the job of writing about science -- and then I read this book and it seemed like Kidder was writing around all of those same problems. Or through them. Just gliding on by with grace and elegance.

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder: okay, same deal. Wow. [read on]
About Horsemen of the Esophagus, from the publisher:
“To be up on stage, shoving food in your face, beats everyday existence for most people.” —David “Coondog” O’Karma, competitive eater

“Hungry” Charles Hardy. Ed “Cookie” Jarvis. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. Will such names one day be looked back upon as the pioneers of a new manifestation of the irrepressible American appetite for competition, money, fame, and self-transformation? They will if the promoters of the newly emerging sport of competitive eating have their way. In Horsemen of the Esophagus, Jason Fagone reports on the year he spent in the belly of this awakening beast.

Fagone’s trek takes him to 27 eating contests on two continents, from the World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship in Venice Beach, California, to Nagoya, Japan, where he pursues an interview with the legendary Takeru Kobayashi, perhaps the most prodigious eater in the world today, and to the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, the sport’s annual grand finale, where Kobayashi has eaten more than 50 dogs in 12 minutes. Along the way, Fagone discovers an absurd, sometimes troubling subculture on the make, ready to bust out of its county fair and neighborhood-fat-guys niche and grab a juicy piece of the big-time television sports/Vegas spectacle jackpot.

Fagone meets promoters like George Shea, the P. T. Barnum of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (aka IFOCE, “the governing body of all stomach-centric sport”) and enters the lives of three “gurgitators”: David “Coondog” O’Karma, a fiftyish, six-two house painter from Ohio who’s “not ready to become invisible”; Bill “El Wingador” Simmons, the Philly Wing Bowl legend who is shooting for a fifth chicken-eating championship despite the fact that it may be killing him; and Tim “Eater X” Janus, a lean young Wall Street trader who takes a seriously scientific and athletic approach to the pursuit of ingesting mountains of food in record-breaking times. Each in his own way feels as if he has lost or not yet found something essential in life, and each is driven by the desperate hope that through consumption he may yet find redemption, that even in the junkiest of America’s junk culture, true nourishment might be found. After all, as it says on the official IFOCE seal: In Voro Veritas (In Gorging, Truth).

With forays into the gastrointestinal mechanics of the alimentary canal (“it’s what unbuilds the world to build you,” but, hey, you can skip that part if you like), the techniques and tricks of the experienced gurgitators (pouring a little club soda on top of high-carb foods makes them easier to swallow), and the historical roots of the competitive eating phenomenon, Horsemen of the Esophagus gives the French something else to dislike about America. And it gives the rest of us food for thought about the bizarre and unlikely places the American Dream can sometimes lead.
Visit Jason Fagone's website and MySpace page, and learn more about competitive eating from his book and his article in Slate, "Dog Bites Man: The past and future of competitive eating injuries, from death by cheese to the dreaded ruptured stomach."

Writers Read: Jason Fagone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kate Colquhoun's top 10 unusual cookbooks

In his recent Writers Read entry, Ken Albala wrote:
For serious reading I am about to start Kate Colquhoun's Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking. She wrote a splendid review of my own new Beans in the Telegraph last week, and I literally bumped into her at the Oxford Symposium this weekend. My instinctive reaction upon seeing her was to deliver a kiss -- and she is gorgeous. I anticipate that the book will be just as enchanting.
Colquhoun liked Albala's book so much that it came in at #5 on the "top 10 unusual cookbooks" list she compiled for the Guardian.

Another title to make the list:
The New English Kitchen, Rose Prince

In her Daily Telegraph columns, Prince shows us weekly how we can change the world by changing the way we think and the choices we make about our food. As we become increasingly alarmed about sustainability, the ethics, sources and safety of our food, we need people like her to help us navigate the minefield of contradictory advice. Her book is all about thrift, sometimes about frugality, always about clear thinking and full of inspiring and tasty recipes. The greatest honour you can show your food is not to waste it. Prince shows us how.
Read about another favorite of Colquhoun's that is "stuffed with appalling recipes [for such dishes as] mussels in chocolate, garlic ice cream and smoked cat."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton.

About the book -- a National Book Award finalist -- from the publisher:
Average Americans Were the True Framers of the Constitution

Woody Holton upends what we think we know of the Constitution’s origins by telling the history of the average Americans who challenged the framers of the Constitution and forced on them the revisions that produced the document we now venerate. The framers who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 were determined to reverse America’s post–Revolutionary War slide into democracy. They believed too many middling Americans exercised too much influence over state and national policies. That the framers were only partially successful in curtailing citizen rights is due to the reaction, sometimes violent, of unruly average Americans.

If not to protect civil liberties and the freedom of the people, what motivated the framers? In Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, Holton provides the startling discovery that the primary purpose of the Constitution was, simply put, to make America more attractive to investment. And the linchpin to that endeavor was taking power away from the states and ultimately away from the people. In an eye-opening interpretation of the Constitution, Holton captures how the same class of Americans that produced Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts (and rebellions in damn near every other state) produced the Constitution we now revere.
Among the early praise for the book:
"Holton demonstrates a lucid and systematic dismantling of the myths surrounding the making of our national government. His succinct account persuasively revives the economic interpretation of the Constitution in terms well-suited for our times, and it will surely become the essential work for students of the founding era. The Constitution enabled the ascent of the United States to great political and economic power, Holton makes plain, but at a profound cost to democracy. If Americans today find our national politicians entrenched in office, out of touch with their constituents, and responsive to lobbyists for the rich, they will understand why after reading this compelling book."
—Robert A. Gross, James L. And Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History, University of Connecticut, and author of The Minutemen and Their World

"Woody Holton reframes the coming of the Constitution, revealing the rich debate Americans conducted over the cause of capital in the new land. In this account, real people—farmers, soldiers, taxpayers, speculators, creditors and entrepreneurs—replace images of the Founders, and intimate issues like tax fairness, economic effects, and electoral accountability matter far more than abstractions. The result is a new and compelling history."
—Christine Desan, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"Woody Holton invites us to revise most of what we think we know about the origins of the United States Constitution. In this account the Founding Fathers do not appear as selfless philosophers journeying to Philadelphia to explore competing theories of republican government. Rather, Holton describes them as deeply anxious men, determined to contain a surge of popular democracy that seemed to threaten their financial interests. In this brilliantly researched study Holton thus revives an economic interpretation of the Constitution and in the process reminds us that ordinary American farmers after the Revolution imagined a strikingly different nation from the one that the Founders gave us."
—T.H. Breen, Director, Center for Historical Studies, Northwestern University

"Here is a book that helps answer the puzzle of how in 1787 the framers of the Constitution curbed what they considered ‘the excess of democracy’ in the states and at the same time accommodated democratic pressures. Using a vast array of little appreciated contemporary sources, Holton constructs a fresh, sinewy argument that unfolds with a mounting sense of excitement. The result is a tough, realistic way of thinking about the founders. Unruly Americans is a brilliant book, rich with insights into the American Revolution and the Constitution."
—Alfred Young, author of Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution

"Move over, Founding Fathers. It turns out that average Americans from the ‘unruly mob’ had more to do with insuring the personal liberties we Americans now hold dear than did the Framers we so revere. Woody Holton’s fascinating and energetic new book makes us take a fresh look at the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The populist underpinnings of our Republic are real, and this has clear implications for the role that citizens ought to play today in reforming American democracy. Holton’s lesson: If the establishment won’t change the system, the people can. They’ve done it from the beginning."
—Larry J. Sabato, Director, Center for Politics, University of Virginia
Read an excerpt and learn more about Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution at the publisher's website.

Woody Holton is an associate professor of history at the University of Richmond and the author of the award-winning book Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia.

The Page 69 Test: Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Louise Penny's "A Fatal Grace," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace.

The author spelled out some casting options for her acclaimed Three Pines mystery series if they are adapted for the movies. Part of her entry:
The pivotal role in the Three Pines series, and certainly in A Fatal Grace, is Chief Inspector Gamache, a man in his mid-fifties, large and comfortable. His body speaks of engrossing reads by the fireplace, of café au laits and croissants, and quiet walks through Parc Mont Royal with his beloved wife and dog. His power comes from his stillness, his calm, his great presence. When he walks into a room people know the leader has arrived. He is kind, content and compassionate.

So you can see how George Clooney might be miscasting. Actually, while I was writing it I had two actors, or perhaps more characters, in mind. One was....[read on]
Louise Penny's first Three Pines mystery, Still Life, won the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada and the New Blood Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association. In the United States, it received the Dilys Award for the book that the members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association most enjoyed selling over the past year. It was named one of the Kirkus Reviews' top ten mysteries of 2006 and received the most votes for the best mystery of the year from the online community DorothyL. The Cruelest Month, the third novel in the series, is out now in the U.K. and Canada and scheduled for release in the U.S. in early 2008.

Read more about Louise Penny and her books at her website.

The Page 69 Test: Still Life.

My Book, The Movie: A Fatal Grace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark Lamster's "Spalding's World Tour"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe - And Made it America's Game.

About the book, from the publisher:
In October of 1888, Albert Goodwill Spalding — baseball star, sporting-goods magnate, promotional genius, serial fabulist — departed Chicago on a trip that would take him and two baseball teams on a journey clear around the globe. Their mission, closely followed in the American and international press, had two (secret) goals: to fix the game in the American consciousness as the purest expression of the national spirit, and to seed markets for Spalding's products near and far. In the process, these first cultural ambassadors played before kings and queens, visited the Coliseumand the Eiffel Tower, and took pot shots with their baseballs at the great Sphinx in Egypt. This expedition to lands both exotic and familiar is chronicled with dash and wit in Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour, a book filled with larger-than-life characters often competing harder for love and money off the baseball diamond than for runs on it. Getting themselves into scrapes and narrowly escaping international incident all around the globe, these innocents abroad gave the world an early peek at the American century just around the corner. For anyone interested in the history of the game — or the history of brand marketing — Spalding's World Tour hits the sweet spot.
Among the praise for Spalding's World Tour:
“In this rollicking account of professional baseball's formative years, Lamster recreates Spalding's six-month barnstorming tour around the world. As Lamster sees it, Spalding, baseball and late-19th-century America were made for one another: all were “surging,” “audacious,” “on the make.” Joining Spalding were several of baseball's founding fathers, including Cap Anson, the White Stockings' combustible team captain, and Ned Hanlon, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most influential managers in the game's history. (The traveling shows also featured a hot-air-balloon acrobat and an African-American mascot.) Lamster's attention to on- and off-the-field details is as rigorous as Spalding's itinerary. [He] incorporates a wonderful cast of supporting characters-Mark Twain toasts the returning players at a celebratory dinner at Delmonico's - and looks at early strife between owners and players. The tour itself was not a financial success; more than anything, it was a promotional event. And as Lamster shows, Spalding and the game of baseball were the beneficiaries.”
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

“In 1888 [Albert Spalding] led a group of professional baseball players on a tour around the world.... This wild expedition is the subject of Mark Lamster's wonderful 'Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure That Took Baseball Around the Globe -- and Made It America's Game.... The book is an account of a bizarre journey filled with event, often comic, all fascinating. Lamster presents the story in engaging, witty prose, accompanied by excellent photographs and larded with period press accounts in all their purple glory.”
Boston Globe

"Mark Lamster's Spalding's World Tour does justice to Spalding's complex character and provides a sense of what the world was like when American ballplayers staged a contest to see who could hit the Sphinx in the eye with a baseball and sang their favorite song: 'We are the Howling Wolves / And this is our night to howl / And we howl thus: Wooo!'"
Bill Littlefield, NPR

“Lamster draws on a host of journalistic accounts, published memoirs and diaries to convey the players' impressions of foreign lands, the shipboard banter, their misadventures at ports of call, as well as the logistical roadblocks to planning and promoting a round-the-world tour in the days before the Pacific cable.... Lamster's book reintroduces a fascinating and long-overlooked chapter in baseball history to fans and historians and offers a glimpse at an early chapter in baseball's long march to globalization.”
Washington Post

“Spalding’s jaunt was an early example of the globalization of sports (the Olympics weren’t far behind) .... thorough and detailed.”
The New Yorker

“This engagingly written history of Spalding's 1988 baseball world tour is both evocative and entertaining. I'm not generally drawn in by 19th century history, but this book had me hooked from start to finish.”
Sports Illustrated (

“A riveting story of baseball and the man, Albert Goodwill Spalding, who brought it into the 20th century and made a fortune in the process.”

“A wonderfully entertaining book.”
Rob Neyer, ESPN
Read an excerpt from Spalding's World Tour and an author's note, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Spalding's World Tour.

--Marshal Zeringue