Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pg. 69: Emily Winslow's "The Whole World"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Whole World by Emily Winslow.

About the book, from the publisher:
At once a sensual and irresistible mystery and a haunting work of psychological insight and emotional depth, The Whole World marks the beginning of a brilliant literary career for Emily Winslow, a superb, limitlessly gifted author.

Set in the richly evoked pathways and environs of Cambridge, England, The Whole World unearths the desperate secrets kept by its many complex characters—students, professors, detectives, husbands, mothers—secrets that lead to explosive consequences.

Two Americans studying at Cambridge University, Polly and Liv, both strangers to their new home, both survivors of past mistakes, become quick friends. They find a common interest in Nick, a handsome, charming, seemingly guileless graduate student. For a time, the three engage in harmless flirtation, growing closer while doing research for professor Gretchen Paul, the blind daughter of a famed novelist. But a betrayal, followed by Nick’s inexplicable disappearance, brings long-buried histories to the surface.

The investigation raises countless questions, and the newspapers report all the most salacious details—from the crime that scars Polly’s past to the searing truths concealed in photographs Gretchen cannot see. Soon the three young lovers will discover how little they know about one another, and how devastating the ripples of long-ago actions can be.
Read an excerpt from The Whole World, and learn about the book and author at Emily Winslow's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten African crime novels

Michael Stanley is the writing team of native Africans Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.

They named their top ten crime novels for the Guardian. One title on the list:
Devils Peak by Deon Meyer

Deon Meyer is the best known contemporary South African crime writer. His six books have won a number of awards, and he was the first to honestly reflect the current realities of the new South Africa in his books. Devils Peak (2007) opens with a high-class prostitute confessing to the minister of a small-town church. The story switches to a black man, once a special agent for the old regime but now grasping for a new life, watching his young son being killed by thugs. The system fails him and the perpetrators are released. He decides to settle the score himself, with vicious murderers who prey on the weak. If you think the vigilante theme is clichéd, read this book. Meyer's detective – Benny Griessel – has to end the killing. But Benny has his own battle with the alcohol he uses as an escape. The book is a page-turning thriller, with one of the scariest parts being where Benny buys a bottle of brandy.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Barbara Yngvesson's "Belonging in an Adopted World"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Belonging in an Adopted World: Race, Identity, and Transnational Adoption by Barbara Yngvesson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the early 1990s, transnational adoptions have increased at an astonishing rate, not only in the United States, but worldwide. In Belonging in an Adopted World, Barbara Yngvesson offers a penetrating exploration of the consequences and implications of this unprecedented movement of children, usually from poor nations to the affluent West. Yngvesson illuminates how the politics of adoption policy has profoundly affected the families, nations, and children involved in this new form of social and economic migration.

Starting from the transformation of the abandoned child into an adoptable resource for nations that give and receive children in adoption, this volume examines the ramifications of such gifts, especially for families created through adoption and later, the adopted adults themselves. Bolstered by an account of the author’s own experience as an adoptive parent, and fully attuned to the contradictions of race that shape our complex forms of family, Belonging in an Adopted World explores the fictions that sustain adoptive kinship, ultimately exposing the vulnerability and contingency behind all human identity.
Read more about Belonging in an Adopted World at the University of Chicago Press website.

Barbara Yngvesson is professor of anthropology at Hampshire College, the author of Virtuous Citizens, Disruptive Subjects: Order and Complaint in a New England Court and Law and Community in Three American Towns (co-authored with Carol Greenhouse and David Engel), and an associate editor at American Anthropologist.

The Page 99 Test: Belonging in an Adopted World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doug Magee's "Never Wave Goodbye," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Never Wave Goodbye by Doug Magee.

The entry begins:
I've been a screenwriter for a number of years and have had my heart broken when actors I had hoped would play roles weren't available, didn't want to do the role, etc. So when I wrote Never Wave Goodbye I didn't have actors in mind. Now that it's making the rounds in Hollywood I've been doing some dreaming. I'd like Naomi Watts to play Lena Trainor, an oncologist who puts her nine year-old daughter Sarah on a bus to camp, not knowing its a fake bus. I'd like...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Never Wave Goodbye, and learn more about the book and author at Doug Magee's website.

Writers Read: Doug Magee.

The Page 69 Test: Never Wave Goodbye.

My Book, The Movie: Never Wave Goodbye.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books to inspire busy public figures

At the Guardian, Robert McCrum named a few books to inspire busy public figures.

His suggestions for David Miliband, the Labour leadership contender and former foreign secretary:
1. The Quiet American by Graham Green

2. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

3. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
Read about more suggested books on McCrum's lists.

The Quiet American is among Malcolm Pryce's top ten expatriate tales, Catherine Sampson's top ten Asian crime fiction, and Pauline Melvilles' top 10 revolutionary tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Eula Biss reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Eula Biss, author of Notes from No Man’s Land.

Her entry begins:
I just read Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay for the second time. “This is the usual sort of book about illness. Someone gets sick, someone gets well,” she writes, but that’s not true at all, except for the “someone gets sick” part, which is a grand understatement. Manguso make an art of understatement, and she refuses to allow her account of a long illness to become a narrative of redemption or a narrative of triumph. In fact, she resists allowing her meditations on suffering and “spacetime” to cohere into one continuous narrative of any sort. She offers instead a work of accrual, a series of observations that testify to the...[read on]
Among the praise for Biss' Notes from No Man’s Land:
“I fought with this book. I shouted, ‘Amen!’ I cursed at it for being so wildly wrong and right. It’s so smart, combative, surprising, and sometimes shocking that it kept me twisting and turning in my seat like I was on some kind of socio-political roller coaster ride. Eula Biss writes with equal parts beauty and terror. I love it.”
--Sherman Alexie

“Essays about America and race: I know what you’re thinking. You have absolutely no idea—how iconoclastic this book is, how unpredictable, how provocative, how complicit, how (potentially) transfiguring. An utterly beautiful and deeply serious performance.”
--David Shields

“[A]n ambitious, smart and sublime collection of essays on race and ethnicity that recently won the National Book Critic’s Circle award for criticism. Her style, like Joan Didion’s, is somewhat oblique and emotionally reserved, but rarely in a way that’s alienating or inappropriate. What drives these pieces is language, voice, and a kind of boiling moral tension....”
--Steven Church
Visit Eula Biss' website.

Writers Read: Eula Biss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pg. 69: Paul Doiron's "The Poacher's Son"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron.

About the book, from the publisher:
Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive---his own father.

Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father, Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: They are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before---and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty.

Now, alienated from the woman he loves, shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand Jack’s brutality, but is the man capable of murder? Desperate and alone, Mike strikes up an uneasy alliance with a retired warden pilot, and together the two men journey deep into the Maine wilderness in search of a runaway fugitive. There they meet a beautiful woman who claims to be Jack’s mistress but who seems to be guarding a more dangerous secret. The only way for Mike to save his father now is to find the real killer---which could mean putting everyone he loves in the line of fire.

The Poacher’s Son is a sterling debut of literary suspense. Taut and engrossing, it represents the first in a series featuring Mike Bowditch.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Doiron's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Poacher's Son.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books that made a difference to Samantha Bee

The Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee is the author of I Know I Am, but What Are You?

For O, The Oprah Magazine, she named a list of books that made a difference in her life. One book on her list:
The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion

In this memoir about the year following her husband's death, Didion explains that she felt as if he might come back at any second, so she had to leave his shoes right where they were. I wept from beginning to end. The book reminded me of when my grandmother died. I was working, getting stuff done—but it was as if a little shroud were over my head. One day I thought, "Oh, the sky is blue." And I realized I hadn't lifted my eyes off the ground for a year.
Read about another book on the list.

The Year of Magical Thinking is one of Douglas Kennedy's top ten books about grief and Norris Church Mailer's five best memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Caryn Casey & Legacy and Impulse

The current featured trio at Coffee with a Canine: Caryn Casey & Legacy and Impulse.

Casey, on how her dogs joined her family:
Fate brought us to both dogs in opposing ways and distinct ways. After deeply mourning the loss of our first beloved dog, Rafferty, I felt if there was to be another dog in my life, it would need to be one with special needs. We adopted Legacy through Homeward Bound Dog Rescue in Minnesota; she has deformed front paws and a background that included mistreatment. I have often said, Impulse came to us in a way that would never happen again. Ten years ago, we purchased her from a pet store after I felt an almost indescribable and immediate attachment to her. I had never purchased a dog before that in any other way than through a rescue. I didn’t know then what I have come to learn about puppy mills and what I was supporting at the time by buying her, but she has had some health issues, including becoming blind and I feel...[read on]
Caryn Casey is co-owner of a company called Much More Than Me and a writer specializing the past several years in dog rescue issues and stories.

Her book, UNDERDOGS: Valuable Information and Stories of Transformation is a culmination of this work; part storytelling, part resource.

Visit the Much More Than Me website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Caryn Casey & Legacy and Impulse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: R. Charli Carpenter's "Forgetting Children Born of War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond by R. Charli Carpenter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sexual violence and exploitation occur in many conflict zones, and the children born of such acts face discrimination, stigma, and infanticide. Yet the massive transnational network of organizations working to protect war-affected children has, for two decades, remained curiously silent on the needs of this vulnerable population.

Focusing specifically on the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, R. Charli Carpenter questions the framing of atrocity by human rights organizations and the limitations these narratives impose on their response. She finds that human rights groups set their agendas according to certain grievances-the claims of female rape victims or the complaints of aggrieved minorities, for example-and that these concerns can overshadow the needs of others. Incorporating her research into a host of other conflict zones, Carpenter shows that the social construction of rights claims is contingent upon the social construction of wrongs. According to Carpenter, this pathology prevents the full protection of children born of war.
Learn more about Forgetting Children Born of War at the publishers' website.

Visit R. Charli Carpenter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Forgetting Children Born of War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ten of the best beaches in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best beaches in literature.

One beach on the list:
Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

Washed up like driftwood, Hope Clearwater lives in a beach house on Brazzaville Beach. She sits there and recalls her past – her broken marriage, her disturbing experiences researching animal behaviour, her involvement in a civil war – as the waves roll in. The beach is where you go to get your head clear.
Read about another literary beach on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sophie Littlefield's "A Bad Day for Pretty"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie Littlefield.

About the book, from the publisher:
Stella Hardesty, avenger of wronged women, is getting cozy with Sheriff "Goat" Jones when a tornado blows none other than Goat’s scheming ex-wife, Brandy, through the front door. Adding to the chaos, the tornado destroys the snack shack at the demolition derby track, pulling up the concrete foundation and unearthing a woman's body. The main suspect in the woman’s murder is Neb Donovan---he laid the foundation, and there's some pretty hard evidence pointing to his guilt. Years ago, Neb's wife asked Stella for help getting him sober. Stella doesn't believe the gentle man could kill anyone, and she promises his frantic wife she'll look into it.

Former client Chrissy Shaw is now employed at Stella's sewing shop and she helps with the snooping as Stella negotiates the unpredictable Brandy and the dangerously magnetic sheriff.

This is the thrilling sequel to Sophie Littlefield’s debut, A Bad Day for Sorry, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Stella Hardesty is a heroine to watch---join her on this next adventure for as fiercely funny and riveting a story as there is to be found in crime fiction.
Visit Sophie Littlefield's website and blog, and read more about A Bad Day for Pretty.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Sorry.

Writers Read: Sophie Littlefield.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Day for Pretty.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Reece Hirsch reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Reece Hirsch, author of the legal thriller The Insider.

His entry begins:
I think most writers have at least one book that they keep returning to as a sort of Platonic ideal of what a great book should be. For me, it’s Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. I recently reread Dog Soldiers and found it to be just as good as I remembered it.

When I first found the book at age 15, I was too young to fully appreciate it. I was impressed by the ecstatic reviews, the National Book Award and the cool cover of the paperback with a soldier carrying a hypodermic needle instead of a rifle. But even at first reading I was captured by the breathlessly paced story of a journalist who brings a shipment of heroin back to California from Vietnam and quickly gets in way over his head.

The book is more than just the tale of a drug deal gone bad and a chase from Berkeley to L.A. to the California desert near the Mexican border. Robert Stone is a writer who has never...[read on]
Among the early praise for Reece Hirsch's The Insider:
"Hirsch's fast-paced, film-ready plot and tough, ambitious characters will keep fans of legal thrillers on the edge of their seats."
Publishers Weekly

"Reece Hirsch is writing and running with the big boys."
—John Lescroart

"Gripping and gritty, The Insider sizzles with tension and twists that both entertain and magnetize..."
—Steve Berry

"This is a legal thriller sure to keep you up late into the night. Watch out, John Grisham!"
—Gayle Lynds

"We will be hearing more from this talented newcomer. Highly recommended."
—Sheldon Siegel
Visit Reece Hirsch's website.

Writers Read: Reece Hirsch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Daniel Okrent's 5 best books on alcohol

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of the New York Times, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking, and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace. He was also a featured commentator on Ken Burns’s PBS series, Baseball, and is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he remains an Associate.

His new book is Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on alcohol. One title on his list:
The Alcoholic Republic
by W.J. Rorabaugh
Oxford, 1979

This excavation of the most drink-sodden era in U.S. history (1790-1840) is as damning as it is enlightening. At a time of easy access (there were 14,000 American distilleries by 1810), rough frontier mores and poor water quality, liquor seeped into every corner of national life, writes W.J. Rorabaugh. Americans "drank at home and abroad, alone and together, at work and at play, in fun and in earnest. They drank from the crack of dawn to the crack of dawn." If you wish to understand the temperance movement's nobler impulses—that is, those that were untouched by the xenophobia and political cynicism that later drove the campaign— you might start here.
Read about another book on the list.

The Alcoholic Republic is also one of Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeffrey Brand-Ballard's "Limits of Legality"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Limits of Legality: The Ethics of Lawless Judging by Jeffrey Brand-Ballard.

About the book, from the publisher:
Judges sometimes hear cases in which the law, as they honestly understand it, requires results that they consider morally objectionable. Most people assume that, nevertheless, judges have an ethical obligation to apply the law correctly, at least in reasonably just legal systems. This is the view of most lawyers, legal scholars, and private citizens, but the arguments for it have received surprisingly little attention from philosophers.

Combing ethical theory with discussions of caselaw, Jeffrey Brand-Ballard challenges arguments for the traditional view, including arguments from the fact that judges swear oaths to uphold the law, and arguments from our duty to obey the law, among others. He then develops an alternative argument based on ways in which the rule of law promotes the good. Patterns of excessive judicial lawlessness, even when morally motivated, can damage the rule of law. Brand-Ballard explores the conditions under which individual judges are morally responsible for participating in destructive patterns of lawless judging. These arguments build upon recent theories of collective intentionality and presuppose an agent-neutral framework, rather than the agent-relative framework favored by many moral philosophers. Defying the conventional wisdom, Brand-Ballard argues that judges are not always morally obligated to apply the law correctly. Although they have an obligation not to participate in patterns of excessive judicial lawlessness, an individual departure from the law so as to avoid an unjust result is rarely a moral mistake if the rule of law is otherwise healthy.

Limits of Legality will interest philosophers, legal scholars, lawyers, and anyone concerned with the ethics of judging.
Learn more about Limits of Legality at the Oxford University Press website.

Jeffrey Brand-Ballard is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Affiliated Faculty in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University, Washington, DC.

The Page 99 Test: Limits of Legality

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 25, 2010

Coffee with a canine: Jeffrey Marks & Scooter and Penny

This weekend's featured trio at Coffee with a Canine: Jeffrey Marks & Scooter and Penny.

Marks, on how they were all united:
We got Scooter after our first Scottie passed away. We were very sad about it, and suddenly I won the NCAA basketball pool and more than enough money to buy a new pet.

Both of the dogs came from reputable breeders near my family’s hometown in eastern Ohio. When I went to pick up Scooter, he jumped from the breeder’s arms right inside my coat and stayed there all the way home. He’s always been a cuddler. We picked up Penny in the midst of a nasty thunderstorm; she’s one who likes to...[read on]
Jeffrey Marks is the author of a number of literary biographies of some of the mystery writers of the 1940s and 1950s (Who Was That Lady?, Atomic Renaissance, and Anthony Boucher).

He is currently working on a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, the man who wrote the Perry Mason series.

Visit Jeffrey Marks' website and check out his posts on the Little Blog of Murder.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jeffrey Marks & Scooter and Penny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Lynn Kiele Bonasia's "Summer Shift"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Summer Shift by Lynn Kiele Bonasia.

About the book, from the publisher:
Forty-four-year-old Cape Cod clam bar owner Mary Hopkins is stuck in the cycle of her seasonal business; overwhelmed by the relentless influx of new names and fresh young faces, she feels as if life is passing her by.

In the first days of the summer season, a young waitress’s tragic accident stirs up unresolved pain from Mary’s past, leaving her longing for connection. At the same time, Mary’s life is further upended as she begins to suspect her beloved great-aunt, the one person in the world who loves her unconditionally, is descending into Alzheimer’s disease. Then, in walks Dan, a lost love—perhaps the greatest of her life— returning to the Cape after disappearing years before without an explanation. As Mary faces these challenges and losses, it’s her rekindled romance with Dan and her burgeoning unlikely friendships with a warm, eccentric collection of local characters that keep her afloat.

Set against the backdrop of Cape Cod sand, sun, and seafood, Summer Shift is the story of a woman’s struggle to find the peace, love, and human connection that have eluded her for decades.
Read an excerpt from Summer Shift, and learn more about the book and author at Lynn Kiele Bonasia's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Lynn Kiele Bonasia & Kiele.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Shift.

--Marshal Zeringue

David Mitchell's 6 favorite books

David Mitchell is the author of Cloud Atlas and number9dream, both of which were finalists for the Man Booker Prize. His latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, will be published this month by Random House.

He named his six favorite books for The Week magazine.

One title on the list:
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Last up, a book of nonfiction—in which the author projects what would (or will) happen to the world if (or when) the species Homo sapiens permanently disappears. The fruits of this many-headed inquiry are fascinating and curiously comforting.
Read about another book on the list.

The World Without Us appears on Annalee Newitz's list of thirty-five essential posthuman novels and is one of Louise Erdrich's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Robert Dugoni's "Bodily Harm," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm by Robert Dugoni.

The entry begins:
I honestly never thought about who could play David Sloane in my three novel series, The Jury Master, Wrongful Death and Bodily Harm. Sloane is a unique hero – a lawyer who is brilliant but also physically capable. Readers have suggested Tom Cruise – nope not enough grit. Brad Pitt – perhaps but he likes the quirkier movie roles. Leonardo DiCaprio – maybe too much grit. And of course, George Clooney – perfect but maybe too old by the time the first movie came out. I like Matt Damon, who I think gets better and better, but not sure he pulls off the intellectual lead that well. Then the other day I was sitting watching...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Dugoni's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Nic Pizzolatto reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Nic Pizzolatto, author of the new novel, Galveston.

His entry begins:
The Collected Poems of Kenneth Fearing- Most people know Fearing for his seminal crime novel The Big Clock, but his poetry is drenched in atmospherics and the particular existential dread dramatized by noir. It's far ahead of its time, anticipating the media and informational saturation of the present age, and the language that contains these revelations is elegant, sly, and darkly evocative.

The Complete Stories Finca Vigia Edition by Ernest Hemingway- always near at hand for their stylistic mastery. Sometimes I go months without reading it, then it'll be all I want to read for a couple weeks. I started to write a long paragraph about how important the writing in these stories is, but...[read on]
Among the early praise for Galveston:
"Galveston is a haunting and haunted tale, beautifully rendered, an uncommonly well written thriller moving in its descriptions of people struggling to escape the gravity of the past amid a ruinous landscape."
--Kem Nunn, author of Tijuana Straights

"Galveston is an assured debut full of hard truths, a throwback novel that ends up shouldering the noir genre forward."
--Chuck Hogan, author of Devils in Exile and Prince of Thieves

"Pizzolatto,like the great Richard Ford...expresses [his character’s] dissatisfaction in precise language, drawing readers into perfectly realized, frequently unconventional scenarios."

"Nic Pizzolatto’s beautiful, lucid prose seems to flow like water or like music. He knows how to write in the marrow of his bones. This will be the first of many brilliant books. Hooray for talent, that rare and lovely gift of the gods."
-- Ellen Gilchrist, author of Victory Over Japan and Nora Jane
Nic Pizzolatto's fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories and other publications. His work has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and his story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea was named by Poets & Writer’s Magazine as one of the top five fiction debuts of the year.

Visit Nic Pizzolatto's website.

Writers Read: Nic Pizzolatto.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pg. 99: Harvey G. Cohen's "Duke Ellington's America"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Duke Ellington's America by Harvey G. Cohen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Few American artists in any medium have enjoyed the international and lasting cultural impact of Duke Ellington. From jazz standards such as “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” to his longer, more orchestral suites, to his leadership of the stellar big band he toured and performed with for decades after most big bands folded, Ellington represented a singular, pathbreaking force in music over the course of a half-century. At the same time, as one of the most prominent black public figures in history, Ellington demonstrated leadership on questions of civil rights, equality, and America’s role in the world.

With Duke Ellington’s America, Harvey G. Cohen paints a vivid picture of Ellington’s life and times, taking him from his youth in the black middle class enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of worldwide acclaim. Mining extensive archives, many never before available, plus new interviews with Ellington’s friends, family, band members, and business associates, Cohen illuminates his constantly evolving approach to composition, performance, and the music business—as well as issues of race, equality and religion. Ellington’s own voice, meanwhile, animates the book throughout, giving Duke Ellington’s America an intimacy and immediacy unmatched by any previous account.

By far the most thorough and nuanced portrait yet of this towering figure, Duke Ellington’s America highlights Ellington’s importance as a figure in American history as well as in American music.
For more information on Duke Ellington's America, including an overview, chapter-by-chapter summary, reviews, excerpts and YouTube clips, visit the official website.

The Page 99 Test: Duke Ellington's America.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 35 essential posthuman novels

"Science fiction has always asked what comes after Homo sapiens," writes Annalee Newitz at io9. "A superhuman version of our species, or a dying planet devoid of intelligent life? This list of 35 essential posthuman novels will get you started answering the big questions too."

One book on the list:
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi

In this magic realist eco-thriller, Bacigalupi imagines a world where genetically-engineered crops are ravaged by viruses and humans scrabble to survive on the few foodstuffs that remain. Gene-tweaked "New People," scorned by many, may be humanity's only hope.
Read about another work on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Samantha Bruce-Benjamin's "The Art of Devotion"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Art of Devotion by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the tradition of bestselling authors Ian McEwan and Anne Enright, Samantha Bruce-Benjamin’s brilliant and timeless debut unveils the dark side of human nature as four women share the poignant tale of love, obsession, and ultimate betrayal that binds them forever.

Have we all not wished to keep forever the one person we love the most?

The secluded beaches of a sun-drenched Mediterranean island are the perfect playground for young Sebastian and Adora. Emotionally adrift from their mother, Adora shelters her sensitive older brother from the cruelties of the world. Sophie does not question her children’s intense need for one another until it’s too late. Her beloved son’s affections belong to Adora, and when he drowns in the sea, she has no one else to blame.

Still heartbroken years later, Adora fills her emptiness with Genevieve, the precocious young daughter of her husband’s business associate and his jealous wife, Miranda. Thrilled to be invited into the beautiful and enigmatic Adora’s world, the child idolizes her during their summers together. Yet, as the years progress, Genevieve begins to suspect their charmed existence is nothing more than a carefully crafted illusion. Soon, she too is ensnared in a web of lies.

Stunningly told in the tragic voices of four women whose lives are fatefully entangled, The Art of Devotion is evocative and haunting, a story of deceit, jealousy, and the heartbreaking reality of love’s true power.
Browse inside The Art of Devotion, and learn more about the book and author at Samantha Bruce-Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Devotion

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is Heather Sharfeddin reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Heather Sharfeddin, author of Blackbelly, Mineral Spirits, and the newly released Sweetwater Burning.

Her entry begins:
I just finished Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. It's a fabulous book about family connections, which is a topic I find particularly interesting. Allison's ability to peel back the covers and show us how even the most dysfunctional families have their own endearing traditions and perspectives makes her work so appealing. She illustrates how children grow into and emulate their own people. The fierce loyalties in this book are at times so clear and understandable, and at times troubling and even...[read on]
Heather Sharfeddin grew up in Idaho and Montana, the daughter of a forester-turned-cattle rancher. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son.

Among the early praise for Sweetwater Burning:
“[Heather] Sharfeddin has ... captured the family-like entanglements in a small community—by showing us what happens when those relationships begin to come apart.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Superbly crafted ... Characters are wonderfully drawn.... This is a story about the miracle of love blossoming in unlikely places.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Emotional storytelling ... as gritty as they come.”
Chicago Tribune
Visit Heather Sharfeddin's website.

Writers Read: Heather Sharfeddin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 women travellers in fiction

Jennie Rooney's first novel, Inside the Whale, was shortlisted for the Costa first novel award in 2008. Her new novel, The Opposite of Falling, in which Ursula Bridgewater takes Thomas Cook's famous new tour of America after her engagement is broken off, is out now in the U.K.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of fiction's most engaging female adventurers. One entry on her list:
Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Fearing that marriage will stifle her independence, young American Isabel Archer takes up the offer of a trip to Europe with (of course) her aunt. While in Europe she inherits a fortune, bequeathed to her for the purpose of securing her freedom, but which causes her to become the object of scheming bounty-hunters. Dark and goose-bumpingly sinister.
Read another women traveller on the list.

The Portrait of a Lady is among Elizabeth Edwards' six best books and Tina Brown's five best books on reputation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger

The current featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff and Ginger.

Pintoff, on how Ginger joined her household:
We brought Ginger into our home when our previous dog, a west highland terrier named Bailey, was well into her golden years. We’d always loved golden retrievers, and we hoped that the “poodle” combo would alleviate shedding as well as allergy concerns.

Some people can’t imagine life without a dog, and I’m one of them. When Bailey inevitably left us, Ginger was a tremendous comfort. She allowed our family to...[read on]
Stefanie Pintoff's debut novel, In the Shadow of Gotham, won the Edgar® Award for Best First Novel and the St. Martin’s Press / Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel Award, while also earning nominations for the Agatha and RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

Her second novel in the series, A Curtain Falls, released in May 2010. Among the early praise for the novel:
"This worthy sequel to Pintoff's acclaimed Edgar Award-[winning] debut, In the Shadow of Gotham, brings to life New York's theater world at the turn of the 20th century and the fledgling science of criminology. Fans of Caleb Carr will like this one."
Library Journal (starred review)
The Page 69 Test: In the Shadow of Gotham.

The Page 69 Test: A Curtain Falls.

Learn more about her books at Stefanie Pintoff's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Stefanie Pintoff & Ginger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Gary B. Nash's "The Liberty Bell"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Liberty Bell by Gary B. Nash.

About the book, from the publisher:
Each year, more than two million visitors line up near Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and wait to gaze upon a flawed mass of metal forged more than two and a half centuries ago. Since its original casting in England in 1751, the Liberty Bell has survived a precarious journey on the road to becoming a symbol of the American identity, and in this masterful work, Gary B. Nash reveals how and why this voiceless bell continues to speak such volumes about our nation.

A serious cultural history rooted in detailed research, Nash’s book explores the impetus behind the bell’s creation, as well as its evolutions in meaning through successive generations. With attention to Pennsylvania’s Quaker roots, he analyzes the biblical passage from Leviticus that provided the bell’s inscription and the valiant efforts of Philadelphia’s unheralded brass founders who attempted to recast the bell after it cracked upon delivery from London’s venerable Whitechapel Foundry. Nash fills in much-needed context surrounding the bell’s role in announcing the Declaration of Independence and recounts the lesser-known histories of its seven later trips around the nation, when it served as a reminder of America’s indomitable spirit in times of conflict. Drawing upon fascinating primary source documents, Nash’s book continues a remarkable dialogue about a symbol of American patriotism second only in importance to the Stars and Stripes.
Read more about The Liberty Bell at the Yale University Press website.

Gary B. Nash is professor emeritus of history at UCLA. He is former president of the Organization of American Historians, and his 1979 book The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

The Page 99 Test: The Liberty Bell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pg. 69: Nicola Monaghan's "Starfishing"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Starfishing by Nicola Monaghan.

About the book, from the publisher:
LONDON, LATE 1990s. Frankie Cavanagh has just started working as a trader and is determined to beat the men she works with at their own game. The dizzying surge of adrenaline that comes with the chaos, the speed, the rush of the day, is only amplified when she begins an affair with her charismatic American boss. Powered by clubs, cocktails, and cocaine, their thrill-seeking relationship quickly spirals out of control, bringing Frankie to a point of reckoning.

This electrifying novel from the “awe-inspiring” (Birmingham Post, UK), award-winning author of The Killing Jar lays bare the landscape of London’s trading room floor—its fierce customs, furious pace, and insatiable greed. Nicola Monaghan depicts the high-stakes reality of the burgeoning global economy in the 1990s and reinvents the classic tale of ambition and power with a gritty, fearless heroine. Crackling with energy and intensity, Monaghan’s powerful and seductive prose plunges readers into a whirlpool of hubris and betrayal, capturing the fragile nature of morality and confirming her reputation as an exhilarating young talent.
Browse inside Starfishing, and learn more about the book and author at Nicola Monaghan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Starfishing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books that made a difference to Zoë Saldana

A few months ago the actor Zoë Saldana (Avatar) told O, The Oprah Magazine about a few books that made a difference to her.

One book on her list:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz

Oscar Wao is the lowest on the food chain: He is not white, he is not thin, he is not attractive, he is not completely American. Díaz is trying to put you in Oscar's place so you can understand his invisibility. Oscar falls for an older woman who's involved in a situation that can get him killed. Why does he risk it? Because she is the only person who really sees him.

Why she chose it:
Díaz talks about Dominicans and what makes us unique—especially the women. I grew up surrounded by Dominican women who were goddesses. My mother is the heroine of my life, and so are my grandmother and my great-grandmother. The women are the strongest, and Díaz caught that. I also think at certain points in your life, you feel utterly alone and completely invisible. You understand your own impotence, how there's sometimes nothing you can do about it. And that's Oscar.
Read about another book that made a difference to Saldana.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao also appears on Paste magazine's list of the ten best debut novels of the decade (2000-2009) and among The Millions' best books of fiction of the millenium. The novel is one of Matthew Kaminski's five favorite novels about immigrants in America.

See Junot Díaz's most important books and the Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Maya Sloan's "High Before Homeroom," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: High Before Homeroom by Maya Sloan.

The entry begins:
High Before Homeroom is about a sixteen year-old boy in Oklahoma named Doug. He is in love with a girl named Laurilee, but he’s not cool enough for her. She likes bad boys. So he decides to become a crystal meth addict, get sent to rehab, come back with street cred and win her affection.

It’s a weird book.

I’ve been told my writing is cinematic, which doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always loved movies. Small indies, foreign films, big-budget crapfests (especially the kind that involve a hurricane/crater/nuclear catastrophe destroying the world as we know it), Sci-Fi epics especially the post-apocalyptic kind), and, of course, totally unrealistic, weepy chick flicks (especially the kind that feature endearingly neurotic female leads, highlight couture gowns, and end with romantic kissing scenes in the rain/with a historical landmark as a backdrop/in some exotic tropical locale). Not to mention, I’ve been known to see the occasional highly acclaimed Academy Award-approved saga (especially if they require some gorgeous actress to put on forty pounds/some heartthrob A-list movie star to play a character that is mentally-challenged or handicapped/ornate period costumes).

I like all kinds of movies, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Well...there is one genre I adore that causes me a bit of embarrassment. No, not porn. Even more humiliating than that...

I love movie musicals.

So, with that in mind, here is the cast:

Doug, the lead: John Savage as Claude Bukowski in Hair (1979). He’s from Oklahoma. He’s all sweet, corn-fed innocence until...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official High Before Homeroom website and view the video trailer, which has been nominated for Best Big Budget/Big House Trailer by The Moby Awards. There is currently an independent movie in the works.

My Book, The Movie: High Before Homeroom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 21, 2010

What is Jennifer Gilmore reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jennifer Gilmore, author of Something Red.

Her entry begins:
I am done with teaching and done with my book tour for a bit, and I'm finally able to catch up on some books I have been looking forward to cracking open. Currently, I'm reading Martha McPhee's Dear Money. This novel, deals with the conflicts that arise out of making art and also wanting things--good schools for your kids, summer houses, pretty dresses, lovely smelly cheeses--that making art does not often afford. While this subject matter appeals to me--a little too much--the narrator's voice is so assured, and her transformation so universally rendered, this novel really will appeal to anyone who has ever had to think about what commerce means. And also? I don't think women write enough about issues surrounding money, and this is a brave topic.

I am heading...[read on]
Among the early praise for Something Red:
"Rich and entertaining."
--Vanity Fair

"Ambitious and provocative, more Molotov cocktail than standard-issue domestic drama, raising profound questions about loyalty, independence, love of family and of country."
--O, The Oprah Magazine

“Gilmore glides smoothly from one perspective to another, giving equal and anxious weight to each…Gilmore has pulled off a remarkable feat: not of fusing the personal and the political but of showing why they’re so difficult to reconcile.”
--Susann Cokal, New York Times Book Review
Something Red was published by Scribner on March 30, 2010.

Gilmore’s first novel, Golden Country, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2006, an Top Ten Debut Fiction of 2006, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Watch the trailer for Something Red at Jennifer Gilmore's website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Gilmore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books about inventions

William Rosen is the author of The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about inventions.

One title on the list:
The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder

The holy grail for Tom West and his team of computer engineers was a machine that was smaller and nimbler than a mainframe but still able to process 32 bits of information: a superminicomputer. Tracy Kidder chronicled their painstaking quest in one of the more improbable best sellers ever. (A book about writing software code?) But even now "The Soul of a New Machine" is capable of inducing in readers the same sleepless nights that the project demanded of the twentysomething geeks who designed and built the machine they dubbed the Eagle. "The real game is pinball," West tells them. "You win one game, you get to play another; you build this machine, you get to build another."
Read about another book on the list.

See: Tracy Kidder's best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matt J. Rossano's "Supernatural Selection"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved by Matt Rossano.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2006, scientist Richard Dawkins published a blockbuster bestseller, The God Delusion. This atheist manifesto sparked a furious reaction from believers, who have responded with numerous books of their own. By pitting science against religion, however, this debate overlooks what science can tell us about religion. According to evolutionary psychologist Matt J. Rossano, what science reveals is that religion made us human.

In Supernatural Selection, Rossano presents an evolutionary history of religion. Neither an apologist for religion nor a religion-basher, he draws together evidence from a wide range of disciplines to show the valuable--even essential--adaptive purpose served by systematic belief in the supernatural. The roots of religion stretch as far back as half a million years, when our ancestors developed the motor control to engage in social rituals--that is, to sing and dance together. Then, about 70,000 years ago, a global ecological crisis drove humanity to the edge of extinction. It forced the survivors to create new strategies for survival, and religious rituals were foremost among them. Fundamentally, Rossano writes, religion is a way for humans to relate to each other and the world around them--and, in the grim struggles of prehistory, it offered significant survival and reproductive advantages. It emerged as our ancestors' first health care system, and a critical part of that health care system was social support. Religious groups tended to be far more cohesive, which gave them a competitive advantage over non-religious groups, and enabled them to conquer the globe.

Rather than focusing on one aspect of religion, as many theorists do, Rossano offers an all-encompassing approach that is rich with surprises, insights, and provocative conclusions.
Learn more about Supernatural Selection at the Oxford University Press website.

Matt Rossano is head of the Psychology Department at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of Evolutionary Psychology: The Science of Human Behavior and Evolution.

The Page 99 Test: Supernatural Selection.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Linda M. Faulkner & Delaney and Charlotte

Today's featured guests at Coffee with a Canine: Linda M. Faulkner & Delaney and Charlotte.

Faulkner, on how her dogs joined her household:
I adopted Delaney (lab/pointer mix) from the pound when he was 8 weeks old. He’s 10 years old now, and you’ll see that his chin has whitened considerably from the time he was a puppy. The two Rotties were my husband’s dogs before we were married and, when we blended our families, Tyson, Patience, and Delaney got along famously. (Tyson was also a pound puppy, Patience was obtained from a breeder in PA.) After we moved from Massachusetts to Montana, Charlotte (the German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix) was adopted from the local shelter and joined the pack. We lost Tyson and Patience within a year of each other between 2008 and 2009; Delaney and Charlotte are...[read on]
Second Time Around, Faulkner's debut mystery novel, was nominated for Best Mystery/Suspense Fiction at the 2010 EPIC Conference.

Among the praise for the novel:
"Fascinating tale, well written."
--Sylvia Dickey Smith

"...a wild and complicated tale of revenge, years of lies, romance, and, of course murder. More than one..."
--Carl Brookins
Visit Linda M. Faulkner's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Linda M. Faulkner & Delaney and Charlotte.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Heidi Jon Schmidt's "The House on Oyster Creek"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jon Schmidt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sensitive but practical, Charlotte Tradescome has come to accept the reticence of her older, work-obsessed husband Henry. Still, she hopes to create a life for their three-year-old daughter. So when Henry inherits a home on Cape Cod, she, Henry, and little Fiona move from their Manhattan apartment to this seaside community. Charlotte sells off part of Tradescome Point, inadvertently fueling the conflict between newcomers and locals. Many townspeople easily dismiss Charlotte as a "washashore." A rare exception is Darryl Stead, an oyster farmer with modest dreams and an open heart, with whom Charlotte feels the connection she's been missing. Ultimately he transforms the way she sees herself, the town, and the people she loves...
Learn more about the book and author at Heidi Jon Schmidt's website.

Writers Read: Heidi Jon Schmidt.

The Page 69 Test: The House on Oyster Creek.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ten of the best good doctors in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best good doctors in literature.

One doctor on the list:
Dr Stephen Maturin

In the Napoleonic nautical yarns of Patrick O'Brian, Maturin is right-hand man to Captain Jack Aubrey. As well as being the ship's surgeon, Maturin is a part-time spy and a famous naturalist. Fluent in a dozen languages, he is something of a bohemian: a former opium addict and an accomplished cellist and flautist. Sometimes he has time to cure people.
Read about another doctor on the list.

The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian also appears on Bella Bathurst's top ten list of books on the sea. Master & Commander, the first book in the series, is one of Peter Mayle's six best books.

Also see Mullan's list of ten of the best bad doctors in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark Bevir's "Democratic Governance"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Democratic Governance by Mark Bevir.

About the book, from the publisher:
Democratic Governance examines the changing nature of the modern state and reveals the dangers these changes pose to democracy. Mark Bevir shows how new ideas about governance have gradually displaced old-style notions of government in Britain and around the world. Policymakers cling to outdated concepts of representative government while at the same time placing ever more faith in expertise, markets, and networks. Democracy exhibits blurred lines of accountability and declining legitimacy.

Bevir explores how new theories of governance undermined traditional government in the twentieth century. Politicians responded by erecting great bureaucracies, increasingly relying on policy expertise and abstract notions of citizenship and, more recently, on networks of quasi-governmental and private organizations to deliver services using market-oriented techniques. Today, the state is an unwieldy edifice of nineteenth-century government buttressed by a sprawling substructure devoted to the very different idea of governance--and democracy has suffered.

In Democratic Governance, Bevir takes a comprehensive look at governance and the history and thinking behind it. He provides in-depth case studies of constitutional reform, judicial reform, joined-up government, and police reform. He argues that the best hope for democratic renewal lies in more interpretive styles of expertise, dialogic forms of policymaking, and more diverse avenues for public participation.
Read an excerpt from Democratic Governance, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Mark Bevir is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written widely about political theory and public policy. His previous books include New Labour: A Critique, Governance Stories, and Key Concepts in Governance.

The Page 99 Test: Democratic Governance.

--Marshal Zeringue