Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What is Eric Roston reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Eric Roston, author of The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat.

His entry begins:
Writers Read asked for book picks during the 30-hour span in which I absorbed John M. Barry's 500-page The Great Influenza, an epic synthesis of seven years of research. The writing is spare: He steps out of the way and lets the material tell the grisly tale of how 50 million to 100 million people succumbed to the inaptly named Spanish Flu in 1918-1919. I reported on the threat of a pandemic flu a couple of years ago, and the world's lack of preparedness on this front causes grave concern.[read on]
Visit Eric Roston's website and blog.

The Carbon Age, "based on three years of research, traces the dynamic, fundamental science that unifies seemingly disparate parts of our experience: Climate, energy, health, industry--the fastest way to learn the most about the world is through the carbon atom."

The Boston Globe included The Carbon Age in its list of the most-anticipated books of 2008, and the book has received endorsements from several prominent thinkers.

Watch Eric Roston on The Colbert Report.

Writers Read: Eric Roston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Frank Prochaska's "The Eagle and the Crown"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Eagle and the Crown: Americans and the British Monarchy by Frank Prochaska.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book tells the intriguing and paradoxical story of a nation that overthrew British rule only to become fascinated by the glamor of its royal family. Examining American attitudes toward British royalty from the Revolutionary period to the death of Princess Diana, The Eagle and the Crown penetrates the royal legacy in American politics, culture, and national self-image.

Frank Prochaska argues that the United States is not only beguiled by the British monarchy but has itself considered the idea of a presidency assuming many of the characteristics of a monarchy. He shows that America’s Founding Fathers created what Teddy Roosevelt later called an “elective king” in the office of the president, conferring quasi-regal status on the occupant of the Oval Office. Prochaska also contends that members of the British royal family who visit the United States have been key players in the emergence of America’s obsession with celebrity. America’s complex relationship with the British monarchy has for more than two hundred years been part of the nation’s conversation about itself, a conversation that Prochaska explores with wit and panache.
Read an excerpt from The Eagle and the Crown and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Frank Prochaska is lecturer and senior research scholar in the Department of History, Yale University. His books include Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy and Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit.

The Page 99 Test: The Eagle and the Crown.

--Marshal Zeringue

January Magazine: best crime fiction, 2008, part II

One title from January Magazine's list of the best crime fiction of 2008, part II:
The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin (Picador) 320 pages

The sequel to Goodwin’s Edgar Award-winning The Janissary Tree (2006), The Snake Stone is the second of his Istanbul novels to feature Yashim Togalu. Formerly a eunuch at the sultan’s court, Yashim has earned a reputation as a lala, or guardian, a man of discretion to whom people can turn in their time of need. When a French archaeologist throws himself on Yashim’s hospitality, and is then discovered horribly murdered, suspicion falls on Yashim himself -- but things are rarely what they seem in 19th-century Turkey. The plot is as pleasingly labyrinthine as its host city, employing history, archaeology and politics to flesh out a vibrant and meticulously detailed vision of the former Constantinople. Situated at the geographical crossing point between East and West, that city is a cultural melting pot that accommodates a bewildering variety of nationalities alongside its staple populations of Turks and Greeks. Goodwin, a historian, employs a rich and lyrical style perfectly suited to the stately pace, and The Snake Stone (originally released last year, but new in paperback for 2008) is very much a compelling page-turner, a literary thriller. The most gratifying aspect of it all is that the plot is not simply grafted onto a historical setting; the city is as much a character as anyone else in the novel, and the uncovering of its layers is integral to the investigation of the murder at hand. Beautifully written and exquisitely crafted, this is an exotic jewel with a keen respect for the tradition of the genre’s classic private-eye narratives. -- Declan Burke
Read about another title to make the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

My Book, The Movie: The Snake Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leighton Gage's "Buried Strangers," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage.

The entry begins:
The producers of Buried Strangers have finished packaging the film. Gage took the opportunity to interview one of his characters about the casting.

LG: Claudia Andrade, you’re going to be played by a relative unknown. How do you feel about that?

CA: I’m pissed off. Let me ask you a question. Did you have anything to do with it?

LG: The casting? No, I wasn’t consulted. I only wrote the book, and in Hollywood—

CA: I asked you a simple question. I didn’t ask for one of your long-winded explanations. Stop hogging my air time. Whose interview is this anyway?

LG: Yours. Sorry. Why are you pissed off?

CA: I’m pissed off because they went out and got Tommy Lee Jones for Silva, Leonardo DiCaprio for Hector, Ben Kingsley for Horst Bittler and then chose that (expletive deleted) Fernanda Torres to play me. What’s wrong with this picture?

LG: Ha! Well, to start with, Buried Stangers, the movie, is a picture about--[read on]
Leighton Gage has been a copywriter, an advertising creative director, a magazine editor, and a writer/producer/director of documentary films and industrial videos. Read an excerpt from Buried Strangers and learn more about the author and his work at Leighton Gage's website and his Crimespace page.

The Page 69 Test: Blood of the Wicked.

My Book, The Movie: Buried Strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue

January Magazine: best crime fiction, 2008, part I

One title from January Magazine's list of the best crime fiction of 2008, part I:
The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan (Morrow) 320 pages

I thought that John Burdett’s terrific books (Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts) about Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the only practicing Buddhist on the Bangkok police force, contained all I needed to know about the darker, sadder side of that popular tourist stop. But then I began to read Timothy Hallinan’s novels about American travel writer Poke Rafferty, starting with A Nail Through the Heart (2007), a moving thriller full of violence, depravity and love. Hallinan’s latest, The Fourth Watcher, is even better: the kind of book that makes you wonder, What more can he possibly do? This time, he mixes into the tale Poke’s long-missing father, Frank, and a half-sister he never knew he had; a Secret Service agent who could be the worst nightmare anyone ever had; a few honest and many more crooked Thai cops; and Colonel Chu, the head of a Chinese triad, who grabs Rafferty’s beautiful love interest, Rose, and their street-smart 9-year-old adopted daughter. Chu says he’ll kill them both unless he gets back what Frank Rafferty stole from him: a whole lot of rubies and the papers to launch a new life for himself in America. Poke believes him, and so will you. -- Dick Adler
Read about another title to make the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: John Llewellyn Probert's "Coffin Nails"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Coffin Nails by John Llewellyn Probert.

About the book, from the publisher:
THE FILM-MAKERS who unleash a curse from an ancient abbey . . . The teenager who murders the sister he never had ... The care-home whose attic harbours a monstrous secret ... A schoolbook of poetry that means death for its readers ... The witch's familiar unleashed by church organ music ...

Welcome to the sinister, scary, and sometimes outrageous world of John Llewellyn Probert. A place filled with troubled schoolchildren, overbearing theatre producers, brilliant surgeons, and nervous billionaires. Where a walk in the country can lead to a mansion filled with beautiful women, or a trap from which you can never escape. Where a picture on the wall of a primary school classroom can come to life with appalling consequences, and a rugby match can be the scene for a burned witch's revenge. Meet the parents who think they know what is best for their son--until he returns from the grave to show them otherwise. Learn about the girl who found solace in a burial chamber near Prague; and discover the real reason why West-End musicals succeed or fail.

Ash-Tree Press is proud to present award-winning author John Llewellyn Probert's Coffin Nails--eighteen tales designed to make you gasp with horror and shudder with delight: a volume so gripping that, as you read it, you may well fail to notice the twisted, taloned creature that escaped when you opened the book creeping up behind you to do its dreadful work. Once you've satisfied yourself that there is nothing there, please feel free to read the rest of the book. But remember--we never said that it was visible.
Read more about Coffin Nails at the publisher's website and John Llewellyn Probert's website.

John Llewellyn Probert has had over forty short stories published in both anthologies and periodicals including SciFantastic Nocturne, Fusing Horizons, Horror Express, Here & Now, Supernatural Tales, Dark Horizons and Thriller UK. His books include The Faculty of Terror, Coffin Nails, and Against the Darkness.

View the video introduction to Coffin Nails.

The Page 69 Test: Coffin Nails.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 29, 2008

Six books on American dramatists

Dominic Maxwell, stage editor and chief comedy critic for the Times (London), named a critic's chart on American dramatists.

One title on the list:
Three Uses of the Knife David Mamet

This passionate treatise on true and bogus drama is a must-read.
Read about another book on Maxwell's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Tony Spinosa’s "The Fourth Victim"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Fourth Victim by Tony Spinosa.

About the book, from the publisher:
A year after ex-NYPD detectives and former enemies Joe Serpe and Bob Healy teamed up to solve the murder of a retarded young man who worked at Joe’s company and prevented the Russian Mafia from infiltrating the home heating oil business on Long Island, they are faced with an even more heinous series of crimes. Five oil truck drivers have been robbed and shot to death, their lifeless bodies left to bleed out on the cold and loveless suburban streets. The killer should have chosen his victims more wisely, because the fourth victim, Rusty Monaco, was another retired NYPD detective, one who had saved Joe Serpe’s life while they were both still on the job.
The Fourth Victim is published by Bleak House Books and is available in three editions: Collectors Numbered, Cloth and Trade paper.

Learn more about the book and author at Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

Reed Farrel Coleman, Brooklyn born and raised, is the former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He has written ten novels in three series including two under his pen name Tony Spinosa. His eleventh novel, Tower, co-authored with Ken Bruen, will premier in Fall 2009. Coleman has been twice nominated for the Edgar Award, mystery fiction’s most prestigious honor. He has won the Shamus Award twice along with the Barry and Anthony Awards. He was the editor of the short story anthology Hardboiled Brooklyn. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, Damn Near Dead, Brooklyn Noir 3, and several other publications. Coleman is an adjunct lecturer in creative writing at Hofstra University and lives with his family on Long Island.

The Page 69 Test: Reed Farrel Coleman's Redemption Street.

The Page 69 Test: Reed Farrel Coleman's Empty Ever After.

My Book, the Movie: Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager Mystery Series.

The Page 99 Test: The Fourth Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Carrie Jones reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Carrie Jones, author of Girl, Hero, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape), Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, and the newly released Need.

Her entry begins:
I am reading Daphne and Chloe. It’s the version by Prestel with pictures by Chagall.

The good part about reading Daphne and Chloe is that it makes love seems so innocent and quirky in this touching way. It’s hard to be jaded when you read about the two of them falling in love, and the obstacles they face are so wild. It puts modern romance to shame. Plus, the sentences are so fantastic.[read on]
Carrie Jones graduated from Vermont College’s MFA program for writing. She has edited newspapers and poetry journals and has won awards from the Maine Press Association and also been awarded the Martin Dibner Fellowship as well as a Maine Literary Award.

The story of Need:
Zara collects phobias the way other high school girls collect lipsticks. Little wonder, since life’s been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother’s pretty much checked out. Now Zara’s living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays “safe.” Zara doesn’t think she’s in danger; she thinks her mother can’t deal.

Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn’t a figment of her imagination. He’s a pixie—and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He’s the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he’s trailing Zara.
Visit Carrie Jones' website.

Writers Read: Carrie Jones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pg. 69: Tom Harper's "The Lost Temple"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Lost Temple by Tom Harper.

About the book, from the publisher:
For three thousand years, the world’s most dangerous treasure has been lost. Now the code that reveals its hiding place is about to be broken ...

Greece, 1947. Europe is just beginning to heal after World War II, but the fighting in Greece continues as a civil war is waged. Sam Grant, a disgraced ex–Special Operations Executive soldier and an adventurer by trade, is lured back to the Mediterranean by a secret from his past: six years ago, a dying archaeologist entrusted him with his life’s work—a leather notebook full of unintelligible notes written in Ancient Greek. When the KGB show up looking for the notebook, Grant sets out to protect the discoveries that the archaeologist lost his life for—and to find out what could be so valuable that the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service want it as well.

With help from a brilliant Oxford professor and a beautiful Greek archaeologist with her own secrets to hide, Grant follows the notebook to a hidden cave on Crete, where a tablet of mysterious writing has lain hidden for thousands of years. Deciphered, it could lead to one of the greatest prizes in history. But the treasure is as dangerous as it is valuable.

Seeking the places where history and myth collide, following the trail left by Homer in his epic poems of heroic warriors, vengeful gods, and treasure beyond anything known to man, Grant is plunged into a labyrinth of ancient cults, forgotten mysteries, and lost civilizations. But time is running out.

The secrets of the distant past may hold the key to the newest threats of the modern world....
Read an excerpt from The Lost Temple and view the trailer at Tom Harper's website.

Tom Harper was born in 1977 and grew up in West Germany, Belgium, and America before returning to England to study history at Lincoln College, Oxford. His conclusion to the short story “Death by the Invisible Hand” was published in The Economist in 1997, and his novels have been translated into twelve languages.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Temple.

--Marshal Zeringue

January Magazine: best nonfiction, 2008

From January Magazine's compilation of the best nonfiction of 2008:
Full-Court Quest by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith (University of Oklahoma Press) 479 pages

Full-Court Quest is a delightful surprise. The story of a woman’s basketball team that started in an Indian boarding school and rose to take their place as Montana’s first basketball champions, playing at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Full-Court Quest has everything. A story you’re not likely to have heard before, authors Peavy and Smith did heavy detective work uncovering layer upon layer to reveal an important piece of women’s history; of native American history and even of the type of spirit for which the West became known. Peavy and Smith tell their chosen tale well, sprinkling us lightly across a narrative that, nonetheless, never loses any of its real life grit. And this was just the duo of authors to bring us this unforgettable story. Peavy and Smith have been collaborating on works of women’s history for three decades. They are the authors of ten books together, including Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement, Pioneer Women and Frontier House. A wonderful story splendidly told. It deserves the widest following imaginable.
--Sienna Powers
Read about another title to make the grade.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pg. 99: Jacalyn Duffin's "Medical Miracles"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World by Jacalyn Duffin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Modern culture tends to separate medicine and miracles, but their histories are closely intertwined. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes saints through canonization based on evidence that they worked miracles, as signs of their proximity to God. Physician-historian Jacalyn Duffin has examined Vatican sources on 1400 miracles from six continents and spanning four centuries. Overwhelmingly the miracles cited in canonizations between 1588 and 1999 are healings, and the majority entail medical care and physician testimony.

These remarkable records contain intimate stories of illness, prayer, and treatment, as told by people who rarely leave traces: peasants and illiterates, men and women, old and young. A woman's breast tumor melts away; a man's wounds knit; a lame girl suddenly walks; a dead baby revives. Suspicious of wishful thinking or naive enthusiasm, skeptical clergy shaped the inquiries to identify recoveries that remain unexplained by the best doctors of the era. The tales of healing are supplemented with substantial testimony from these physicians.

Some elements of the miracles change through time. Duffin shows that doctors increase in number; new technologies are embraced quickly; diagnoses shift with altered capabilities. But other aspects of the miracles are stable. The narratives follow a dramatic structure, shaped by the formal questions asked of each witness and by perennial reactions to illness and healing. In this history, medicine and religion emerge as parallel endeavors aimed at deriving meaningful signs from particular instances of human distress -- signs to explain, alleviate, and console in confrontation with suffering and mortality.

A lively, sweeping analysis of a fascinating set of records, this book also poses an exciting methodological challenge to historians: miracle stories are a vital source not only on the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people, but also on medical science and its practitioners.
Jacalyn Duffin, physician and historian, holds the Hannah Chair for the History of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario.

Learn more about Medical Miracles at the Oxford University Press website.

Duffin's History of Medicine: A Scandalously Short Introduction made Sherwin B. Nuland's suggested list of five books about medicine or dissection.

The Page 99 Test: Medical Miracles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Secret agents featured in series: 5 best

Jeffrey T. Richelson, author of A Century of Spies and Defusing Armageddon: Inside NEST, America's Secret Nuclear Bomb Squad, named a five best list of books for the Wall Street Journal. His subject: secret agents featured in series.

One title on the list:
by Ian Fleming
Macmillan, 1955

A little-appreciated aspect of Ian Fleming's James Bond series is that many of the books are mysteries as well as adventures -- and "Moonraker" is a wonderful mystery as well as a standard Bond tale of good versus evil. As the story progresses, the reader knows who the villain is but not what evil he has in mind. The story begins when Bond is asked by "M," the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, to undertake a personal mission: to determine whether a member of M's club is cheating at cards. The suspected cheat is Hugo Drax, a mysterious millionaire, who is ostensibly financing an advanced ballistic missile for the defense of Britain, his adopted country. A card-cheating scandal might do more damage than simply ruining his reputation. Gradually we learn who Drax really is and where his loyalties really lie. His terrible plans for the residents of London are also revealed. But 007's courage and resourcefulness guarantee that those plans are never realized.
Read about Number One on Richelson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Mac Montandon reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Mac Montandon, author of the newly released Jetpack Dreams: One Man's Up and Down (But Mostly Down) Search for the Greatest Invention That Never Was.

His entry begins:
I've been reading Apples and Oranges, a memoir about her often difficult relationship with her brother by the journalist Marie Brenner. I saw the book on a couple of end-of-year Best Of lists and it looked interesting so I picked it up. It is quite good and well done -- the writing is sharp and the dynamics of the relationships are nuanced and familiar to anyone who has had strained familial experiences, which is everyone, really. I am additionally interested in Brenner's book as I'm thinking about...[read on]
Watch the Jetpack Dreams trailer and read an excerpt from the book at the official website.

Among the praise for Jetpack Dreams:
"Reading this book is as fun as zooming through the sky with a rocket on your back. And better yet, you won't break your collarbone doing it."
— A.J. Jacobs, Author of The Know-it-All and The Year of Living Biblically

"Jetpack Dreams is a delightful and engrossing story of the quest for one of humankind's greatest technological fantasies—to strap on a device and fly like a bird."
— Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make Magazine and founder of
Writers Read: Mac Montandon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pg. 69: Kelley Armstrong's "Living with the Dead"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Living with the Dead by Kelley Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
They’re smart, sexy, and supernatural. They’re the men and women of the Otherworld—a realm of witches, ghosts, and werewolves who live unseen among us. Only now a reckless killer has torn down the wall, trapping one very human woman in the supernatural cross fire.

Robyn Peltier moved to Los Angeles after her young husband’s sudden death, trying to put some distance between herself and her memories. Though she’s still grieving, the challenges of her new life as the PR consultant to Portia Kane—the world’s most famous celebutante wannabe—can sometimes be amusing, even distracting. But when her client is gunned down in the back room of a nightclub, Robyn is suddenly on the run as the prime suspect in the murder. And as more bodies pile up around her, it seems like only Hope Adams, Robyn’s best friend, and Hope’s somewhat spooky boyfriend Karl are on Robyn’s side. Hope Adams follows the kinds of stories whose headlines scream from supermarket checkout lines. But the difference is that Hope’s stories are even weirder—and they’re all true. Though determined to help Robyn, Hope knows it’s only a matter of time before her friend is caught. But it’s not the police Hope is worried about. For Robyn has gotten herself in the middle of a turf war between two powerful Otherworld cabals who’ll spill any amount of blood—human and inhuman—to protect what they consider theirs for all eternity. And the only way Hope can keep her friend alive is by letting her enter a world she’s safer knowing nothing about.
Read an excerpt from Living with the Dead, and learn more about the author and her work at Kelley Armstrong's website.

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the internationally bestselling The Otherworld series and other works.

The Page 69 Test: No Humans Involved.

The Page 69 Test: Living with the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lydia Millet's "How the Dead Dream," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Lydia Millet's How the Dead Dream.

The entry begins:
The book tells about a businessman, a young real estate developer named T, who runs over a coyote in his car, begins to lose people he loves, and then spins out and starts breaking into zoos to be near animals that are on the brink of extinction. From the pantheon of available faces and styles, I see T as Christian Bale. I like the blank and cold yet soulful handsomeness of Bale's face -- perfect for this character and for the mood of the piece.

There's a mother character, T's mother, fraying and graying at the edges and a little WASPY despite being Catholic, who's suddenly abandoned by her gay husband and begins to disintegrate.[read on]
Read an excerpt from How the Dead Dream. Learn more about the author and her writing at the How the Dead Dream publisher's website and Lydia Millet's website and Facebook page.

Lydia Millet is the author of Omnivores, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, My Happy Life, a winner of the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, Everyone’s Pretty, and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart.

The Page 69 Test: How the Dead Dream.

My Book, The Movie: How the Dead Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Literary Top 10: David Peace

The British author David Peace is well known for his novels GB84 and The Damned Utd. His latest book is Tokyo Year Zero. In 2003 he was named as a Best of Young British Novelists by Granta.

From his Literary Top 10 at Pulp.Net:
Author I’d like to nominate for the Nobel Prize for literature:

There should be no prizes, least of all this one. But, if it has to go to someone, it should go to either John le Carré or Ian Rankin.

Deceased author I’d most like to resurrect:

Edgar Allan Poe – to find out how he bleeding died and to warn him what Lou Reed was doing to his work.
Learn more about Peace's Literary Top 10.

Read Ali Karim's interview with David Peace at The Rap Sheet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pg. 99: Ariela J. Gross's "What Blood Won't Tell"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America by Ariela J. Gross.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is race something we know when we see it? In 1857, Alexina Morrison, a slave in Louisiana, ran away from her master and surrendered herself to the parish jail for protection. Blue-eyed and blond, Morrison successfully convinced white society that she was one of them. When she sued for her freedom, witnesses assured the jury that she was white, and that they would have known if she had a drop of African blood. Morrison’s court trial—and many others over the last 150 years—involved high stakes: freedom, property, and civil rights. And they all turned on the question of racial identity.

Over the past two centuries, individuals and groups (among them Mexican Americans, Indians, Asian immigrants, and Melungeons) have fought to establish their whiteness in order to lay claim to full citizenship in local courtrooms, administrative and legislative hearings, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Morrison’s case, these trials have often turned less on legal definitions of race as percentages of blood or ancestry than on the way people presented themselves to society and demonstrated their moral and civic character.

Unearthing the legal history of racial identity, Ariela Gross’s book examines the paradoxical and often circular relationship of race and the perceived capacity for citizenship in American society. This book reminds us that the imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality.
Read an excerpt from What Blood Won't Tell, and learn more about the book and author at Ariela Gross's website.

Ariela J. Gross is John B. & Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law & History at the Gould School of Law, University of Southern California.

The Page 99 Test: What Blood Won't Tell.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Ken Kuhlken reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Ken Kuhlken, author of the Hickey Family Mysteries.

His entry begins:
The past couple months, my reading has been limited to research of one kind and another. The novel I’m working on takes the detective I write about back to his first investigation. In the mid-1920s, Tom Hickey’s a young man, when he learns that an old friend (and surrogate father) has been killed. The murder looks racially inspired and may be connected somehow to the Angelus Temple, whose founder, Aimee Semple McPherson, is currently on trial. She’s accused of fraudulently claiming she was kidnapped.

Sister Aimee’s autobiography, This Is That, is fascinating but tough to read unless one happens to be a follower of hers who wants to absorb her every word. It’s long and appears unedited. But it exposes the thoughts and obsessions of a remarkable character whose charisma, brilliance, creativity and personal power single-handedly launched a world-wide revival.[read on]
Visit Ken Kuhlken's website and blog.

Ken Kuhlken's stories have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines, and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

His novels include Midheaven, chosen as finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel, The Loud Adios (Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Best First PI Novel, 1989), The Venus Deal and The Angel Gang, all Tom Hickey mysteries, The Do-Re-Mi, a Tom and Clifford Hickey mystery honored as January Magazine best book of 2006 and as a finalist for the 2006 Shamus Award, and The Vagabond Virgins featuring Alvaro Hickey.

The Page 99 Test: The Do-Re-Mi.

Writers Read: Ken Kuhlken.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top art books, 2008

Jed Perl, art critic for The New Republic, looked back on the year in essay collections and art books and named his favorites.

One title he liked:
Kirsten Hoving's Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars offers a remarkable new perspective on an essential American master, revealing the scientific seriousness that supported Cornell's poetic fancies.
Read more about Perl's favorite art books of 2008.

Learn more about Joseph Cornell and Astronomy at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Joseph Cornell and Astronomy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s "The Lord-Protector's Daughter"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Lord-Protector's Daughter by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Lord-Protector’s Daughter is a standalone fantasy novel that takes place in Tempre, the capital city of Lanachrona on Corus, the world of Modesitt’s Corean Chronicles.

Mykella, the eldest daughter of the Lord-Protector of Lanachrona, discovers that someone is diverting significant sums of money from her father’s treasury. One of the ancient soarers appears to Mykella, telling her that she must go to the antique stone Table in the cellars of the Palace and find her Talent in order to save her land and her world.

From there, matters become more perilous. There are attempts to remove Mykella and her sisters from Tempre by marrying them off to lords in neighboring lands, and fatal and near fatal accidents occur to members of her family and trusted retainers. While Mykella develops a solid idea of who stands behind it all, every attempted solution is used to discredit her. How can she save their father and land?
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website and his blog.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre.

My Book, The Movie: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Flash.

The Page 69 Test: The Lord-Protector's Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Time Out Chicago: top 10 books of 2008

A few books that appeared here on the blog made Time Out Chicago's top ten books of 2008 list, including:
Captives, by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Spiegel & Grau, $24.95.

No novel we read this year quite caught the zeitgeist of liberal thinking in the mid-2000s like Hasak-Lowy’s debut. And few made us laugh as hard.

All About Lulu, by Jonathan Evison. Soft Skull, $14.95.

A strange and beautiful coming-of-age novel, with a pitch-perfect ear for the comic mundanity of everyday speech, All About Lulu earned its moments of painful, pure tenderness. And, it earned its way onto our list.
Read an excerpt from Captives and learn more about the book at the publisher's website. Visit Todd Hasak-Lowy's faculty webpage.

The Page 69 Test: Captives.

Read an excerpt from All About Lulu, and learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Evison's website.

The Page 99 Test: All About Lulu.

Read about another book on Time Out Chicago's top ten books of 2008 list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pg. 99: W. Wallach & C. Allen's "Moral Machines"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Computers are already approving financial transactions, controlling electrical supplies, and driving trains. Soon, service robots will be taking care of the elderly in their homes, and military robots will have their own targeting and firing protocols. Colin Allen and Wendell Wallach argue that as robots take on more and more responsibility, they must be programmed with moral decision-making abilities, for our own safety. Taking a fast paced tour through the latest thinking about philosophical ethics and artificial intelligence, the authors argue that even if full moral agency for machines is a long way off, it is already necessary to start building a kind of functional morality, in which artificial moral agents have some basic ethical sensitivity. But the standard ethical theories don't seem adequate, and more socially engaged and engaging robots will be needed. As the authors show, the quest to build machines that are capable of telling right from wrong has begun. Moral Machines is the first book to examine the challenge of building artificial moral agents, probing deeply into the nature of human decision making and ethics.
Read "6 Ways to Build Robots that Will Not Harm Humans" and other book-related posts at the Moral Machines blog.

Learn more about Moral Machines at the Oxford University Press website.

Colin Allen is a Professor of History & Philosophy of Science and of Cognitive Science at Indiana University. Wendell Wallach is a consultant and writer and is affiliated with Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

The Page 99 Test: Moral Machines.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Malena Lott reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Malena Lott, author of The Stork Reality and Dating da Vinci.

Her entry begins:
The Mighty Queen of Freeville: a Mother, A Daughter, and the People Who Raised Them, a memoir by Amy Dickinson, author of the syndicated advice column "Ask Amy" (who replaced the coveted Ann Landers spot) and NPR contributor.

I haven't read many memoirs, because I'm usually so busy reading non-fiction books on psychology, business or sociology and, of course, tons of great fiction. But I was pleased to be sent Dickinson's book for review, and within the first chapter it's apparent why she was selected to be the "next Ann Landers." Her story...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Dating da Vinci, and learn more about the author and her work at Malena Lott's website and blog.

Among the praise for Dating da Vinci:
"Malena Lott's charming, heartfelt novel about how grieving widow Ramona Elise gets her groove back will have you cheering bravissimo as she experiences her own Renaissance, courtesy of one very hot Leonardo da Vinci."
--Jenny Gardiner, award-winning author of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
The Page 69 Test: Dating da Vinci.

My Book, The Movie: Dating da Vinci.

Writers Read: Malena Lott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Best books of 2008: fiction

The Week tabulated the "best book" end-of-year choices of critics for The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, New York, The New York Times, the Denver Rocky Mountain News,, Time, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post.

One title on the list:
Lush Life
by Richard Price
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)

Crime novelist Richard Price does the 19th-century-style “novelist-as-reporter thing” better than any American writer alive, said Sam Anderson in New York. His latest marries “the visceral pleasures of a whodunit” with “the more cerebral thrill of a sociology project” after a botched street robbery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side leaves one white hipster dead and another under suspicion of inventing a black suspect. The steady patter provided by “the best writer of dialogue since Plato” makes every cop and every mere bystander jump from the page. The precision of the storytelling exceeds even Price’s own past work, said David L. Ulin in the Los Angeles Times. Despite its admirable range and ambition, Lush Life is “a rocket of a book.” It starts with a bang and “never lets up.”
A caveat: Some of the dramatic tricks that Price has learned from screenwriting, said Ulin, undermine his bid for Zola-like authenticity.
Read about Number One on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pg. 99: Eric J. Sundquist's "King's Dream"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: King's Dream by Eric J. Sundquist.

About the book, from the publisher:
“I have a dream”—no words are more widely recognized, or more often repeated, than those called out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. King’s speech, elegantly structured and commanding in tone, has become shorthand not only for his own life but for the entire civil rights movement. In this new exploration of the “I have a dream” speech, Eric J. Sundquist places it in the history of American debates about racial justice—debates as old as the nation itself—and demonstrates how the speech, an exultant blend of grand poetry and powerful elocution, perfectly expressed the story of African American freedom.

This book is the first to set King’s speech within the cultural and rhetorical traditions on which the civil rights leader drew in crafting his oratory, as well as its essential historical contexts, from the early days of the republic through present-day Supreme Court rulings. At a time when the meaning of the speech has been obscured by its appropriation for every conceivable cause, Sundquist clarifies the transformative power of King’s “Second Emancipation Proclamation” and its continuing relevance for contemporary arguments about equality.
Read an excerpt from King’s Dream, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Eric J. Sundquist is UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA. He is author or editor of eight books on American literature and culture, including the award-winning volumes To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature and Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America.

Learn more about Eric J. Sundquist's research and scholarship at his faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: King's Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's Chart: top Christmas reading

Margaret Reynolds, a broadcaster and academic who reviews classics for the (London) Times, named her top Christmas reading for the paper.

One title on the chart:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A must-read for everyone at Christmas and at every season.
Read about Number One on Reynolds' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Robert Greer's "Blackbird, Farewell"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Blackbird, Farewell by Robert Greer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Shandell “Blackbird” Bird has everything going for him, or so he thinks. Recently selected number two overall in the NBA draft, the 6'8", 250-pound superstar has a gleaming new ride and a salary and athletic shoe contract that make him an instant millionaire. What he doesn’t have is the ability to bury secrets from his past. When Shandell is found shot to death at mid-court, his best friend and college teammate Damion Madrid sets out to find the killer. Damion is well meaning but naïve; luckily his godfather is gumshoe CJ Floyd. Floyd and his partner, Flora Jean Benson, are there to watch his back as Damion stumbles down a shadowy trail that leads to Shandell’s purported peddling of steroids and big-game point shaving. When he discovers a “Blackbird” he never knew and is able to put a face on Shandell’s killer, Damion finds himself in over his head. Will CJ be there in time to prevent his godson from joining Shandell? Featuring the vivid characters and streetwise dialogue that have made the CJ Floyd series a critical and commercial success, Blackbird, Farewell is a punch-packing whodunit that exposes the dark side of the pro-athlete good life.
Read an excerpt from Blackbird, Farewell, and learn more about the book and author at Robert Greer's website.

Robert Greer is a practicing surgical pathologist and professor of pathology and medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. His previous CJ Floyd mysteries include The Fourth Perspective and The Mongoose Deception.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Perspective.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Perspective.

The Page 69 Test: Blackbird, Farewell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What is Lisa Schroeder reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Lisa Schroeder, author of the YA novels I Heart You, You Haunt Me and, releasing this week, Far from You.

Her entry begins:
I am currently reading Let it Snow: Three Holiday Stories, written by three incredible young adult authors – Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. It's a fun book that has made me laugh out loud several times, and is perfect for this time of year, since all stories take place over Christmas, during this huge snow storm. I've only just begun the second story, written by John Green, so I can't say exactly how the three stories intertwine, but my understanding is they do, and I'm excited to see how the authors pull it off.[read on]
About Far from You, from the publisher:
Lost and alone...down the rabbit hole.

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn't quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she'll face issues she's been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful.

Perhaps she's not so alone after all....
Visit Lisa Schroeder's website, blog, and MySpace page.

Writers Read: Lisa Schroeder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Amazon's top 10 of 2008: mystery & thrillers

One title to make the Amazon top ten mystery & thrillers of 2008 list:
Chelsea Cain's Sweetheart
Read about another title to make the Amazon editors' list.

Read an excerpt from Sweetheart, and learn more about the author and her work at Chelsea Cain's website and MySpace page.

Chelsea Cain's first novel featuring Detective Archie Sheridan and killer Gretchen Lowell, Heartsick, was a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of Confessions of a Teenage Sleuth, a parody based on the life of Nancy Drew, several nonfiction titles, and a weekly column in The Oregonian.

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kirsten Hoving's "Joseph Cornell and Astronomy"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars by Kirsten Hoving.

About the book, from the publisher:
Joseph Cornell and Astronomy provides an in-depth look at one artist's intense fascination with the science of astronomy. Joseph Cornell (1903-72) has often been viewed as a recluse, isolated in his home on Utopia Parkway, lost in the fairy tales and charming objects of his collages and assemblage boxes. Less commonly known has been Cornell's vested and serious interest in the history of astronomy and the cutting-edge discoveries made during his own lifetime. An avid reader, he amassed a library of books and articles about science and astronomy, and his reflections about these subjects had a direct impact on his art.

This book explores why astronomy captivated Cornell, and considers hundreds of his works--found-footage films, three-dimensional space-object boxes, enigmatic collages, and cosmic ephemera--that contain references to astronomical phenomena. Kirsten Hoving considers Cornell's enormous collection of astronomy materials, ranging from eighteenth-century books to recent works; newspaper and magazine articles that Cornell clipped and sorted; and diary entries of his observations while stargazing in his backyard. She examines how Cornell explored many dimensions of astronomy through his identities as a Christian Scientist and surrealist artist.

Unfolding Cornell's work with depth and breadth, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy offers a convincing and original appreciation of this intriguing American artist.
Learn more about Joseph Cornell and Astronomy at the Princeton University Press website.

Kirsten Hoving is the Charles A. Dana Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College. She is the author of Fables in Frames: La Fontaine and Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century France.

The Page 99 Test: Joseph Cornell and Astronomy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager Mysteries, the movie

Now showing at My Book, the Movie: Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager Mystery Series.

The entry, titled "Why I Won’t Play," begins:
I was one of those college students who paid careful attention in class because I took terrible notes. In retrospect, I probably would’ve been better served by improving my note taking skills. Much of what my professors had to say blended into a kind of buzzing. Certain lessons, however, have persisted even after thirty years. One lesson in particular, taught by Jim Merritt, my instructor for Romantic Poetry at Brooklyn College, has had a profound effect on my writing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t a writing class, yet I can still hear Prof. Merritt’s voice in my head. We were discussing the life and works of Percy Bysshe Shelley when the subject of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came up. Merritt, a man with a wonderfully expressive face, frowned:

“Okay everyone,” Merritt said, “close your eyes and imagine Frankenstein’s monster.”

After fifteen seconds...[read on]
Reed Farrel Coleman, Brooklyn born and raised, is the former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He has written ten novels in three series including two under his pen name Tony Spinosa. His eleventh novel, Tower, co-authored with Ken Bruen, will premier in Fall 2009. Reed has been twice nominated for the Edgar Award, mystery fiction’s most prestigious honor. He has won the Shamus Award twice along with the Barry and Anthony Awards. He was the editor of the short story anthology Hardboiled Brooklyn. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, Damn Near Dead, Brooklyn Noir 3, and several other publications. Reed is an adjunct lecturer in creative writing at Hofstra University and lives with his family on Long Island.

The Page 69 Test: Redemption Street.

The Page 69 Test: Empty Ever After.

My Book, the Movie: The Moe Prager Mystery Series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books on Christmas traditions: 5 best

At the Wall Street Journal Penne L. Restad, author of Christmas in America: A History, named five books that "display a gift for exploring Christmas traditions."

One title on her list:
Unwrapping Christmas
Edited by Daniel Miller
Oxford, 1993

"Unwrapping Christmas" considers the "extraordinary success" of Christmas as a global event. Daniel Miller opens this set of 10 essays with "A Theory of Christmas." Taking an anthropological viewpoint, the collection emphasizes the holiday's relation to the family and to materialism. The reader won't want to miss the reprint of Claude Lévi-Strauss's "Father Christmas Executed" from 1952 explaining why a French town failed in its attempted Santacide. Another stand-out is James Carrier's explication of gift-giving, from shopping right down to discarded ribbon and paper. Add discussions of Inupiat, Japanese and Trinidadian celebrations and the result is an entertaining but also insightful study of just how innovative the holiday can be and yet still remain, at its core, Christmas.
Read about another title on Restad's five best list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laura Benedict’s "Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts by Laura Benedict.

About the book, from the publisher:
Three childhood friends. A malicious lie. One hell of a consequence.

Growing up, Roxanne, Del, and Alice tested the limits of their friendship with cruel, and often dangerous, games–but they always knew they would be bound together forever. Now, Alice’s marriage is over, and her husband is having a child with another woman. Roxanne, an artist consumed by her work, is losing touch with her friends–and perhaps with reality. And Del is desperate to be a perfect wife and adoring stepmother, but her friends see that her careful façade is crumbling.

The instrument of their destruction is a single enigmatic man–Varick. He seems to be a lonely woman’s dream come true, but where has he come from? And what does he want? As he seduces the women in turn, their lives become unrecognizable to them. Varick’s secret lies buried in their shared past. One simple, childish act has brought them, all these years later, to a place where not only their lives but also their souls are at risk. For once upon a time, the three of them agreed to tell a lie–one that ruined the life of a young priest. Defrocked, destitute, and ruined, he hoped with the whole of his shattered heart that he would get revenge. And in that hope he shook hands with the one who promised it. The devil himself. Now they all must live with the consequences.

Dark and provocative, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts will keep readers in its terrifying grip long after the final, chilling page is turned.
Read an excerpt from Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.

Check out Laura Benedict's website and blog, and watch the Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts trailer.

Laura Benedict’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and a number of anthologies. Her first novel, Isabella Moon, was praised by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger: “Like digging up an unmarked grave in the gloaming, Isabella Moon is a tense and creepy hunt for the truth about what lies beneath.”

The Page 69 Test: Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 19, 2008

What is Annie Barrows reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Annie Barrows, author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half, and co-author of the acclaimed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Her entry begins:
I've just started a reread of Our Mutual Friend. I read it years and years ago, and all I remember is great mountains of slime and trash and filth, but I know, given Dickens, that there's got to be more to it than that. I expect a virtuous but beleaguered girl to show up at any moment. In the meantime, I am riveted by the disgusting descriptions of the Thames. I have a deep personal interest in Victorian sanitation.[read on]
Visit Annie Barrows' website.

Among the praise for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:
"I can't remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren't my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book, please — I can't recommend it highly enough."
--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Writers Read: Annie Barrows.

--Marshal Zeringue