Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pg. 69: David J. Walker's "Too Many Clients"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Too Many Clients by David J. Walker.

About the book
, from the publisher:
The new novel in the acclaimed ‘Wild Onion Ltd.’ mystery series

Private eye Kirsten and her lawyer husband Dugan have a problem. A tarnished Chicago cop has been murdered, and Dugan’s foolish flouting of certain rules has ensured his place on the list of suspects. Kirsten knows it’s unwise to have her own husband as a client, but doesn’t trust his freedom with anyone else. Soon, though, she has two more clients, who both want her to find the real killer – or at least they say they do...
Read an excerpt from Too Many Clients, and learn more about the book and author at David J. Walker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Too Many Clients.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best mirrors in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best mirrors in literature.

One novel on the list:
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Dorian is in the habit of taking a mirror up to the locked room containing his portrait and comparing his reflection with the increasingly horrid image on the canvas. When he realises what a monster he has become, he becomes another mirror-smasher. "He loathed his own beauty, and flinging the mirror on the floor, crushed it into silver splinters beneath his heel."
Read about another book on the list.

The Picture of Dorian Gray also appears on Mullan's lists of ten of the best disastrous performances in fiction and ten of the best examples of ekphrasis in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Toby Ball's "The Vaults," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Vaults by Toby Ball.

The entry begins:
I definitely did not write The Vaults with any particular actors in mind, though the sensibility of gangster movies from the 1930s and 40s was very much an influence. That said, casting the film had become a popular conversation topic, generally over drinks.

Here's my vision:

Frank Frings would be played by Ed Norton of ten years ago or possibly George Clooney.

Arthur Puskis would be played by a sixty-year-old...[read on]
Toby Ball works at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The Vaults, his first novel, was published in September by St. Martin's Press.

Visit Toby Ball's website and blog.

Writers Read: Toby Ball.

My Book, The Movie: The Vaults.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Elliott Sawyer reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Elliott Sawyer, author of The Severance, his first novel.

One book tagged in the entry:
The Running Man by Richard Bachman, uh, I mean Steven King. Whatever, the book is great. The story combines two of things I like in my fiction: A dystopian future full of crime and violence and an anti-hero up against the world trying to beat the odds. I liked The Running Man so much that in early versions of my book, The Severance, I tried to include scenes where my main character would be interrupted while reading it (These scenes died in editing, I mourn the loss.) The book’s main character, Ben Richards, was a major inspiration for me when I was crafting my story’s protagonist. Jake Roberts. Richards has a certain amorality and pragmatism that I really liked. You can’t exactly call him a “hero” by any stretch. He kills cops, blows up buildings, takes hostages and, for the most part, just doesn’t care. And yet you root for him the whole way. I love this. But...[read on]
About The Severance:
The Severance is a mystery set amid war, the war in Afghanistan. Its authenticity derives from the author's combat experience there. The protagonist is an officer who ran afoul of Army discipline, and was assigned to lead a rehabilitation platoon of similar troublemakers. While fighting the Taliban they discover a corrupt contractor's cache of dollars, plot to smuggle it home- only to find themselves fighting a deadly unknown foe trying to highjack it.
Elliott Sawyer was an officer in the 101st Airborne Division. He saw action as a combat patrol leader in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and during a second deployment in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. Now, back in the United States, he commands a training company of up to 240 soldiers. He and his wife live in Elgin, Oklahoma.

Visit Elliott Sawyer's website.

Writers Read: Elliott Sawyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tim Pigott-Smith's 6 best books

Tim Pigott-Smith is best known in the UK for roles in the television dramas The Jewel In The Crown, The Chief and The Vice. He also writes The Baker Street Mysteries children’s books.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One title on the list:
Bleak House
by Charles Dickens

The most amazing story of injustice. It just gets under my skin, you want to put it right and you can’t. It has wonderfully drawn characters and contains one of my favourite passages: the death of homeless boy Jo. Very moving.
Read about another entry on Pigott-Smith's list.

Bleak House
is one of James McCreet's top ten Victorian detective stories and one of Rebecca Ford's favorite five fiction books. It is on John Mortimer's list of the five best books about law and literature and John Mullan's list of ten of the best men writing as women, and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: E.S. Greenberg, L. Grunberg, S. Moore, and P. Sikora's "Turbulence"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers by Edward S. Greenberg, Leon Grunberg, Sarah Moore, and Patricia B. Sikora.

About the book, from the publisher:
This timely book investigates the experiences of employees at all levels of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) during a ten-year period of dramatic organizational change. As Boeing transformed itself, workers and managers contended with repeated downsizing, shifting corporate culture, new roles for women, outsourcing, mergers, lean production, and rampant technological change. Drawing on a unique blend of quantitative and qualitative research, the authors consider how management strategies affected the well-being of Boeing employees, as well as their attitudes toward their jobs and their company. Boeing employees’ experience holds vital lessons for other employees, the leaders of other firms determined to thrive in today’s era of inescapable and growing global competition, as well as public officials concerned about the well-being of American workers and companies.
Edward S. Greenberg is a member of the Political and Economic Change Program, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, and professor of political science. Leon Grunberg is professor and chairperson, Department of Comparative Sociology, University of Puget Sound. Sarah Moore is associate dean of faculty and professor of psychology, University of Puget Sound. Patricia B. Sikora is owner/principal, Sikora Associates, LLC, in Superior, CO.

The Page 99 Test: Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 29, 2010

Coffee with a canine: Eve Marie Mont & Maggie

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Eve Marie Mont and Maggie.

Mont, on how Maggie joined her home:
When I taught in southern Maryland, a teacher friend of mine ran a small humane shelter out of her home, so my husband and I set out one evening to find ourselves a new companion. We thought we wanted an older dog, one that was housetrained and a little more placid. But when we arrived at the house, I spotted a puppy sitting in a crate by the foyer stairs. We had told ourselves we didn’t want a puppy. Puppies were too much work, too much hassle. But as we played with the other adult dogs, that puppy in the crate kept staring at us, almost begging us to take her home.

“Miracle,” as she was known at the time, had been found on the edge of a farmer’s field covered in ticks. She’d been to the vet and had had all her shots, but she’d already been “adopted” three times and had been returned for various reasons. One family said their son was allergic to her. Another didn’t realize how much work a puppy would be. The last owner said that Maggie had hoarded things in her crate: old socks, stuffed animals, empty plastic water bottles. I didn’t see why this was a deal breaker, as I’d probably hoard things too if somebody had once left me for dead on the edge of a farmer’s field.

She was small and tan with a white belly and white paws that looked like little boots. She also had a white lightning-shaped patch on the back of her neck like Harry Potter. Her....[read on]
About Eve Mont's Free to a Good Home:
FOR ADOPTION: Adorable, energetic Jack Russell free to a loving home. Previous owner could no longer meet his needs, which include lots of exercise and attention. But those willing to give him these will be rewarded with unswerving loyalty and love…

Noelle Ryan works as a veterinary technician at a New England animal shelter, helping pets find the perfect homes. If only it were as easy to find the same thing for herself. After discovering that she can’t have children—and watching her marriage fall apart after a shocking revelation by her husband—Noelle feels as forlorn and abandoned as the strays she rescues.

She can’t seem to get over her ex, Jay. Unfortunately, all Jay wants from her is a whopper of a favor: serving as a caretaker for his elderly mother, who still blames Noelle for the breakup. While Jay heads off to Atlanta to live the life of a bachelor, Noelle is left with only her Great Dane, Zeke, to comfort her. But when a carefree musician named Jasper gives her a second chance at life—and at love—Noelle comes to realize that home is truly where the heart is.
Read an excerpt from Free to a Good Home, and visit Eve Mont's website and blog.

Writers Read: Eve Marie Mont.

Coffee with a Canine: Eve Marie Mont and Maggie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on Afghanistan

Thomas Barfield, an anthropology professor at Boston University, is the author of Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History.

At FiveBooks, he discussed five books on Afghanistan with Daisy Banks. One book on the list:
Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid

Ahmed Rashid is a well-known writer on Afghanistan. His book about the Taliban came to prominence after 9/11. What Rashid manages to do is to show that this is a transnational problem. You cannot understand what is going on in Afghanistan without understanding the politics of Pakistan. He is able to explain to some extent the double game Pakistan has always been playing in Afghanistan. It wants to install and dominate a Pashtun Afghan government in Kabul.

They were strong supporters of the Taliban, helped bring them to power, but after 9/11 they were confronted with an American threat. The US demanded that the Taliban turn in Osama bin Laden or face destruction. Pakistan was asked to choose whether it wanted to be an American ally or an American target in the Bush administration’s new War on Terror.

Hoping to save the situation, Pakistan pleaded with Mullah Omar to give up Osama bin Laden, promising him that the Taliban regime would then not be a target if he did. But the Taliban weren’t quite as co-operative as they expected and refused. While Pakistan abandoned the Taliban when the Americans invaded Afghanistan, they never dropped their covert support for the movement. Thus Pakistan showed little hesitation in going after al Qaeda members who fled to Pakistan but gave refuge to Mullah Omar and his followers in Quetta, Baluchistan. For that reason the insurgency in Southern Afghanistan had its roots across the border in Pakistan. Since Pakistan denied it was aiding the Taliban, Ahmed Rashid was one of the few people with the contacts necessary to sort out such a transborder conflict and the ability to sort through the complexity of Pakistani politics.

Rashid also knows the Afghan side well, Karzai in particular. So his descriptions of the political factions there are also good and he can put them in a longer-term context. It gives a really good understanding of all the different problems which make it so difficult to bring peace to Afghanistan.
Read about another book on Barfield's list.

Also see Ann Marlowe's five best books about Afghanistan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ann Cleeves' "Blue Lightning"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspector Jimmy Perez takes his fiancé home to Fair Isle, the tiny island he comes from, to meet his parents. The island is a magnet for bird watchers, who congregate at the local inn and lighthouse. When a local married celebrity, who had an eye for the lads, is murdered, Perez discovers that the suspects are very close to him indeed. With a sensational ending destined to create much buzz in the mystery world, Blue Lightning will thrill suspense fans everywhere.
Learn more about the novel and author at Ann Cleeves's website and online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

The Page 99 Test: Red Bones.

The Page 69 Test: Blue Lightning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is Miles Corwin reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Miles Corwin, author of Kind of Blue.

His entry begins:
I just finished T. Jefferson Parker’s Iron River.

I enjoyed it for a number of reasons. A lot of mysteries are clipped and laconic, more like movie treatments than novels. Iron River was different. The descriptions of the desert landscapes were very evocative, and the characters were well drawn and fully formed. The subplot was compelling and convincing. And while many mystery writers are content to adhere to the basic outlines of a murder investigation, Parker grappled with an important societal issue – you can read the book to find out what it is – without being didactic or slowing down the plot.

I like to alternate crime fiction with nonfiction. After reading Iron River, I read...[read on]
Among the early praise for Kind of Blue:
"Corwin...clearly knows the technical stuff. His procedural details are spot-on, but he also knows how to generate adrenaline-producing action, and he gets in to the very heart and soul of his multifaceted protagonist. This fine first novel marks the arrival of a strong new voice in hard-boiled crime fiction."
Booklist (starred review)

"Hard-boiled Jewish cops are few and far between, and Corwin's (Ash) Levine is a scrappy pit bull of a detective who doesn't let go until the guilty are found... Years of experience as a Los Angeles Times reporter give Corwin the inside track on the seamy side of the city, and his depiction of the life of a police detective is as real as it gets. Readers of Michael Connelly will rejoice."
Library Journal

"Miles Corwin wrote two brilliant nonfiction explorations of Los Angeles Police Department homicide detectives in The Killing Season and Homicide Special. Now, Mr. Corwin infuses his intimate knowledge of cops and murder in his first novel, Kind of Blue, the story of LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detective Ash Levine, a one-time Israeli paratrooper at war with his fellow detectives, his department, and his own unrelenting guilt for having lost a witness he failed to protect. Every bit as moving, funny, complex, and exciting as the works of Michael Connelly and Joseph Wambaugh, Kind of Blue launches Miles Corwin to the front rank of crime novelists working LA's meanest streets."
—Robert Crais, New York Times bestselling author

"Kind of Blue is my kind of book and I think Miles Corwin is a novelist to watch. This book has character and texture, action and reflection. It's got it all and I can't wait for more!"
—Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author
Miles Corwin, a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of three nonfiction books: The Killing Season, a national bestseller; And Still We Rise, the winner of the PEN West award for nonfiction and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; and Homicide Special, a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Kind of Blue, Corwin's first novel, debuts in November.

Visit Miles Corwin's website.

Writers Read: Miles Corwin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on animal survival

Bernd Heinrich is a renowned naturalist and emeritus professor of biology at the University of Vermont. His new book is The Nesting Season: Cuckoos, Cuckolds, and the Invention of Monogamy.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of book about animal survival. One title on the list:
The Beak of the Finch
by Jonathan Weiner (1994)

Darwin made the Galápagos finches famous, but biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant and their graduate students deepened our understanding of how these small birds have survived and adapted across the centuries. Darwin supposed that the various kinds of finches, with their varying beaks and body sizes, came from diverse genetic backgrounds. But he later concluded that the finches were closely related and had thus likely evolved from a common stock. The Grants—working for three decades on the islands—bolstered Darwin's insight that species are not immutable, as had been thought. One potential problem with Darwin's theory had been that species appeared to be largely static, but the Grants succeeded in showing that evolution can be very rapid—beak shapes could change from year to year in response to, say, heightened mortality rates caused by food scarcity. Evidence of speedy adaptation has added meaning today as we witness insects becoming resistant to insecticides and bacteria surviving despite the most potent antibiotics.
Read about another book on the list.

Read Bernd Heinrich's answer to the question: Can penguins really feel love?

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Randy Roberts' "Joe Louis: Hard Times Man"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Joe Louis: Hard Times Man by Randy Roberts.

About the book, from the publisher:
Joe Louis defended his heavyweight boxing title an astonishing twenty-five times and reigned as world champion for more than eleven years. He got more column inches of newspaper coverage in the 1930s than FDR did. His racially and politically charged defeat of Max Schmeling in 1938 made Louis a national hero. But as important as his record is what he meant to African-Americans: at a time when the boxing ring was the only venue where black and white could meet on equal terms, Louis embodied all their hopes for dignity and equality.

Through meticulous research and first-hand interviews, acclaimed historian and biographer Randy Roberts presents Louis, and his impact on sport and country, in a way never before accomplished. Roberts reveals an athlete who carefully managed his public image, and whose relationships with both the black and white communities—including his relationships with mobsters—were far more complex than the simplistic accounts of heroism and victimization that have dominated previous biographies.

Richly researched and utterly captivating, this extraordinary biography presents the full range of Joe Louis’s power in and out of the boxing ring.
Learn more about Joe Louis: Hard Times Man at the Yale University Press website.

Randy Roberts is distinguished professor of history at Purdue University.

The Page 99 Test: Joe Louis: Hard Times Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pg. 69: Kathryn Casey's "The Killing Storm"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Killing Storm by Kathryn Casey.

About the book, from the publisher:
On a quiet afternoon in the park, four-year-old Joey plays in the sandbox, when a stranger approaches looking for his puppy. While Joey’s mom, Crystal, talks on her cell phone, the stranger convinces the child to help search. By the time Crystal turns around, her son has disappeared. Yet her reaction is odd, not what one would expect from a distraught mother. Is Crystal somehow involved in her son’s abduction?

Meanwhile, on a ranch outside Houston, Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong assesses a symbol left on the hide of a slaughtered longhorn, a figure that dates back to a forgotten era of sugarcane plantations and slavery. Soon other prizewinning bulls are butchered on the outskirts of the city, each bearing a similar drawing. The investigations converge at the same time a catastrophic hurricane looms in the Gulf. Finally, as dangerous winds and torrential rains pummel the city, Sarah is forced to risk her life to save Joey.
Read the first three chapters of The Killing Storm, and learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Casey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Singularity.

The Page 99 Test: Blood Lines.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Storm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten ghost stories

Kate Mosse is the author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre, and other novels, works of non-fiction, short stories and a play, Syrinx, which won a Broadcasting Press Guild award in 2009.

She named her top ten ghost stories for the Guardian. One title on the list:
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1982)

For my money, the greatest of the contemporary ghost writers. Hill creates believable period characters, she creates a hermetic world that yet speaks of wider superstitions and histories, and creates plots with tension, pace and jeopardy without ever becoming heavy-handed. This is a story of vengeance, of an old curse from an embittered woman, all centred on the brooding Eel Marsh House, gloomy and isolated and cut off from the mainland at high tide. As the tension of premonition and disaster builds and builds, the ghostly screams of an accident long ago will haunt the reader's imagination long after the last page has been turned. Perfect.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Visit Kate Mosse's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sepulchre.

Also see: Brad Leithauser's five best ghost tales, James Hynes' top ten Halloween stories, and Peter Washington's top ten ghost stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Anna Elliott's "Dark Moon of Avalon," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott.

The entry begins:
In Dark Moon of Avalon, the young former High Queen Isolde and her friend and protector Trystan are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper Lord Marche and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde's wit and talent for healing and Trystan's strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot's hands.

If I were casting the roles of Trystan and Isolde for a movie, one of my first choices for Trystan would be Matt Bomer, currently starring on the hit TV show White Collar. He's very similar in appearance to the way I've always pictured Trystan in my head with his intense blue eyes and lean, angular good looks. But more than that, the character he plays on White Collar is a man of mystery, a rogue with a conscience and a sense of honor, and that describes Trystan perfectly. Trystan is a...[read on]
Read the prologue to Dark Moon of Avalon, and watch the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Anna Elliott's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Moon of Avalon.

Writers Read: Anna Elliott.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Moon of Avalon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is Elizabeth Anderson reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Elizabeth Anderson, author of the newly released The Imperative of Integration.

Her entry begins:
I've been reading around lately in the history of egalitarianism. I'm interested not only in the history of egalitarian ideas, but in the history of the practice of equality. In that area Geoff Eley's Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 is an amazing eye-opener. Eley narrates a history dripping with irony, inconsistency, and missed opportunities. Socialist movements in Europe started out with a strong agenda of feminism and sexual liberation. However, he documents how time and again, the Left put women's interests on the back burner in the name of advancing (male) workers' liberation first. When socialist or communist parties came close to or actually acquired power, they swiftly moved to shore up male dominance and adopted sexually conservative ideologies.

Women's issues were not the only ones drawing out...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Imperative of Integration:
"The Imperative of Integration accomplishes two important things: It demonstrates--using rigorous social scientific analysis--that racial segregation is the root cause of the continuing social disadvantage of African Americans. And it argues persuasively--using subtle philosophical reasoning--that in light of American history, a concerted effort to integrate our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces is the only path forward consistent with a commitment to social justice. Serious students of contemporary American society will want to read this book."
--Glenn Loury, Brown University

"This book is beautifully and clearly argued at the highest philosophical level and, at the same time, attentive to social and historical realities. It offers a compelling vision of an ideal of integration that has largely been lost to view. Whether or not you agree with her, Elizabeth Anderson has staked out a position that all serious thinking about American race relations must now contend with."
--Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Ethics of Identity

"In The Imperative of Integration, Elizabeth Anderson expertly blends social science research, moral philosophy, and political theory to make a lucid, compelling, and impassioned case for the desegregation of American society. Decades after the passage of landmark civil rights legislation, American neighborhoods and schools remain highly segregated by race. This clear moral statement of the urgent need for integration is long overdue and should be read carefully by all Americans."
--Douglas S. Massey, coauthor of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
Read an excerpt from Elizabeth Anderson's The Imperative of Integration, and learn more about the book from the Princeton University Press.

Elizabeth Anderson is the John Rawls Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Writers Read: Elizabeth Anderson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nicole Krauss' four favorite new books

Nicole Krauss's new novel is Great House.

She recently named her four favorite new books for The Daily Beast. One title on the list:
by Jenny Erpenbeck

I’ve been a fan of the East-German born writer Jenny Erpenbeck since I read her first work translated into English, The Old Child and Other Stories, in 2005. Her writing is marked by an utter lack of the extraneous, and bristles with a sense of the uncanny. Visitation, her newest novel, traces a ghostly parade of successive inhabitations of a lake house outside Berlin that Erpenbeck summered in as a girl, making for an intimate portrait of the century of Hitler, Soviet communism, and the fall of the Wall. Like every aspect of Erpenbeck’s work, the novel’s form is wonderfully idiosyncratic. Erpenbeck is an opera director in her other life, and here she divides her novel into voices—The Gardener, The Architect’s Wife, The Red Army Officer—that ping off and swallow each other like in a score by Meredith Monk.
Read about another book Krauss recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Anna Evans' "Strangers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Strangers by Mary Anna Evans.

About the book, from the publisher:
Faye Longchamp's new archaeological firm has landed a project in St. Augustine, Florida. In four centuries, America's oldest city has accumulated skeletons that should probably stay buried. Within a day of Faye's arrival, a woman disappears, leaving behind blood, priceless artifacts, and a note asking for Faye's help. The detective hires Faye to find the artifacts' origin. But the ghosts of the Ancient City are demanding masters, and Faye is also driven to uncover their secrets—until it becomes clear that what they seek is Faye herself. And her child...
The Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries include Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates, and Strangers.

Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans.

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lynn Stout's "Cultivating Conscience"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People by Lynn A. Stout.

About the book, from the publisher:
Contemporary law and public policy often treat human beings as selfish creatures who respond only to punishments and rewards. Yet every day we behave unselfishly--few of us mug the elderly or steal the paper from our neighbor's yard, and many of us go out of our way to help strangers. We nevertheless overlook our own good behavior and fixate on the bad things people do and how we can stop them. In this pathbreaking book, acclaimed law and economics scholar Lynn Stout argues that this focus neglects the crucial role our better impulses could play in society. Rather than lean on the power of greed to shape laws and human behavior, Stout contends that we should rely on the force of conscience.

Stout makes the compelling case that conscience is neither a rare nor quirky phenomenon, but a vital force woven into our daily lives. Drawing from social psychology, behavioral economics, and evolutionary biology, Stout demonstrates how social cues--instructions from authorities, ideas about others' selfishness and unselfishness, and beliefs about benefits to others--have a powerful role in triggering unselfish behavior. Stout illustrates how our legal system can use these social cues to craft better laws that encourage more unselfish, ethical behavior in many realms, including politics and business. Stout also shows how our current emphasis on self-interest and incentives may have contributed to the catastrophic political missteps and financial scandals of recent memory by encouraging corrupt and selfish actions, and undermining society's collective moral compass.

This book proves that if we care about effective laws and civilized society, the powers of conscience are simply too important for us to ignore.
Read an excerpt from Cultivating Conscience, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Lynn Stout is the Paul Hastings Professor of Corporate and Securities Law at the UCLA School of Law. She is the coauthor of several books and a frequent commentator for NPR, PBS, and the Wall Street Journal.

The Page 99 Test: Cultivating Conscience.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coffee with a canine: Anne Gracie & Chloe

The current featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: Anne Gracie and Chloe.

Gracie, on how the two were united:
It was several years since my beloved old Bessie-dog had died (aged 20) and for a long time I couldn't imagine any other dog taking her place. Then I dog-sat a friend's dog for a few weeks, and realized I didn't just have a Bessie-shaped hole in my life, there was also a dog-shaped one that needed to be filled. I planned to get a dog from the shelter in a few weeks, after a conference I needed to attend.

Then I made the mistake of walking past a pet shop and paused beside a snaggle of six puppies in a big cage. One woke up, saw me, and came straight over. I'm a bit superstitious about being picked by a dog, but I was going to a conference in two weeks, and in any case, I hadn't planned to buy a puppy from a shop, so I went home and tried to be sensible for a few hours... then...[read on]
About Anne Gracie's new novel, The Accidental Wedding:
When Nash Renfrew wakes in the bed of lovely Maddy Woodford, he has no memory. In the days following his accident, he is charmed by her bright outlook on life, but he lives for the nights, when she joins him chastely-more or less-in her bed. When his memory returns, Nash asks for just one more night before he leaves. But it's one night too many and it creates a scandal that leaves him no choice but to offer her marriage.

With five orphaned half-siblings in her charge, Maddy needs the security Nash offers and can't resist the promise of passion she's experienced in his embrace. Well born, but poverty-stricken, Maddy knows she's not the wife he planned on, but he's everything she's ever dreamed of.

But will passion be enough? He's a diplomat who knows Czars and Princes and Grand-dukes and she's just a country girl who's never even been to a ball.

Can their new-found love survive, or will this accidental marriage destroy her dreams and his career?
Visit Anne Gracie's website and blog, follow her on Twitter, and join her on Facebook.

Chloe stars in Gracie's featured post, "If you want to be a writer get a dog."

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Anne Gracie and Chloe.

--Marshal Zeringue

15 classic science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers rejected

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs came up with a list of well-known and beloved science fiction and fantasy novels that publishers didn't want to touch.

One novel on the list:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)

The number bandied around the internet is that 12 major publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book, before someone was willing to take a chance. Rowling recently told Oprah Winfrey,
My agent knows better than I do... It was a lot of people. A lot of people just sent it back, virtually by return post. It was like a boomerang. I did really believe in it. I just thought, This is a good story.... For some reason, I can even remember being quite pleased with the rejection letters. "F. Scott Fitzgerald got these. It's all part of being a writer!"
One publisher held onto it for six months before finally rejecting it — and then when Bloomsbury decided to take it on, this other publisher suddenly decided they wanted it too. But Rowling decided that she should go with the publisher that wanted the book right away, rather than the one that kept her waiting and then turned her down. According to the BBC, the entire series has sold more than 400 million books worldwide.
Read about another book on the list.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best scars in fiction and ten of the best motorbikes in literature, Justin Scroggie's top ten list of books with secret signs.

Also see: Ten classic SF books that were originally considered failures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Bruce DeSilva's "Rogue Island"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva.

About the book, from the publisher:
Liam Mulligan is as old school as a newspaper man gets. His beat is Providence, Rhode Island, and he knows every street and alley. He knows the priests and prostitutes, the cops and street thugs. He knows the mobsters and politicians—who are pretty much one and the same.

Someone is systematically burning down the neighborhood Mulligan grew up in, people he knows and loves are perishing in the flames, and the public is on the verge of panic. With the whole city of Providence on his back, Mulligan must weed through a wildly colorful array of characters to find the truth.
Read an excerpt from Rogue Island, and learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What is Steven Saylor reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Steven Saylor, author to the recently released Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome.

His entry begins:
Most of my reading these days is devoted to primary sources for Roman history—everything from the chronicles of Livy to the plays of Seneca to the satires of Lucian. But I also love to read purely for escape, and in that regard I am strangely addicted to the novels of the Italian archaeologist, historical novelist, and thriller writer Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

Strangely, I say, because VMM has got to be one of the most uneven writers around. His historical novels about the Ancient World range from quite fine (The Last Legion, Tyrant, The Talisman of Troy, The Lost Army) to so-so (The Ides of March) to embarrassingly bad (Empire of Dragons).

(I have so far avoided reading the books for which VMM is best known, a trilogy of novels about Alexander the Great which were big bestsellers across Europe; VMM is so oblivious of the male-male sexuality of the ancient Greeks that I am not eager to compare his Alexander to the Alexander of Mary Renault.)

Along with historical novels, VMM also writes “thrillers”—at least they are marketed as thrillers, but the author is so blithely unfettered by genre rules and reader expectations that these books are actually unclassifiable. Like popcorn, I find them addictive and enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying; since VMM is willing to pull any old rabbit out of the hat (including ridiculous supernatural explanations), it hardly matters what happens in these potboilers. The Oracle is harebrained but quite atmospheric, and the breathless plotting of Pharaoh kept me turning the pages, but The Tower is a leading contender for Worst Novel Ever Written. If...[read on]
Among the early praise for Empire:
“Thrilling...with one of the greatest authors of historical fiction as our guide, it’s a glorious ride.”
USA Today

“Saylor is an excellent guide through this fascinating underworld. Superb historical fiction.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Historical events provide plenty of depraved details and comparisons that beg to be drawn to today; lions and gladiators in the arena, volcanic eruptions, live burials, and master illusionists abound to fire up any number of dinner conversations.... Recommended for anyone who enjoys Roman history.”
Library Journal

“Saylor...vividly describes how the family survives the volcanic destruction of Pompeii, the burning of Rome, and the persecution of Jews and Christians...the ending...[may] signal another volume to come in this grand series.”
Publishers Weekly

“Filled with tales of intrigue, ambition, violence, and suspense... a vivid evocation of the bloodthirsty, chaotic spectacle that was ancient Rome, and an example of how the best historical fiction brings the past to life.”
Archaeology Magazine
Visit Steven Saylor's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Steven Saylor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series, the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series.

The entry begins:
I’m outside the box, thinking.

The characters in the Jo Beckett series live vividly, and sometimes obstreperously, inside my head. I know what they look like. So do readers—when I asked them who should play the characters in the movie, I got twenty-five different answers.

So, how can I pick a single cast? In this era of HD, 3D, avatars and performance capture, why collapse the possibilities to a single face? Let’s not. I’m casting Jo Beckett, The Movie with a few mashups.

Jo is a forensic psychiatrist—a deadshrinker. The Kirkus Mystery and Thriller Review called her a “rock climber, monkey wrangler, and confessor extraordinaire.” She needs spunk, intelligence, and some serious physicality.

Movie Jo: Rachel McAdams crossed with...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Meg Gardiner's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series.

Writers Read: Meg Gardiner.

The Page 69 Test: The Liar's Lullaby.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Scott W. Hibbard's "Religious Politics and Secular States"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Religious Politics and Secular States: Egypt, India, and the United States by Scott W. Hibbard.

About the book, from the publisher:
This comparative analysis probes why conservative renderings of religious tradition in the United States, India, and Egypt remain so influential in the politics of these three ostensibly secular societies.

The United States, Egypt, and India were quintessential models of secular modernity in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1980s and 1990s, conservative Islamists challenged the Egyptian government, India witnessed a surge in Hindu nationalism, and the Christian right in the United States rose to dominate the Republican Party and large swaths of the public discourse. Using a nuanced theoretical framework that emphasizes the interaction of religion and politics, Scott W. Hibbard argues that three interrelated issues led to this state of affairs.

First, as an essential part of the construction of collective identities, religion serves as a basis for social solidarity and political mobilization. Second, in providing a moral framework, religion's traditional elements make it relevant to modern political life. Third, and most significant, in manipulating religion for political gain, political elites undermined the secular consensus of the modern state that had been in place since the end of World War II. Together, these factors sparked a new era of right—wing religious populism in the three nations.

Although much has been written about the resurgence of religious politics, scholars have paid less attention to the role of state actors in promoting new visions of religion and society. Religious Politics and Secular States fills this gap by situating this trend within long—standing debates over the proper role of religion in public life.
Learn more about Religious Politics and Secular States at the publisher's website and the official Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Religious Politics and Secular States.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best balls in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best balls in literature.

One novel on the list:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary loves a ball but it always makes her discontented. After she and her dull husband attend a glamorous ball given by the Marquis d'Andervilliers she begins to chafe at the restrictions of provincial married life. Her ambition to consort with toffs has been awakened.
Read about another book on the list.

Madame Bovary is on Mullan's lists of ten of the best bad lawyers in literature, ten of the best lotharios in literature, and ten of the best bad doctors in fiction, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Willie Geist's 6 favorite humor books

Willie Geist is the host of MSNBC's "Way Too Early With Willie Geist," co-host of "Morning Joe," and the author of the new book, American Freak Show.

For The Week magazine, he named his six favorite humor books.

One title on the list:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

I had a friend who was so inspired by this novel that he once tried every drug in the famous passage that begins: “The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab.” Yes, the book is dark, but it’s funny as hell. In our deepest places, we all wish we could live like Raoul Duke for a while.
Read about another book on Geist's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Paul Grossman's "The Sleepwalkers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Berlin, 1932. In the final weeks of the Weimar Republic, as Hitler and his National Socialist party angle to assume control of Germany, beautiful girls are seen sleepwalking through the streets. Then, a young woman of mysterious origin, with her legs bizarrely deformed, is pulled dead from the Havel River. Willi Kraus, a high ranking detective in Berlin's police force, begins a murder investigation.

A decorated World War I hero and the nation's most famous detective, Willi also is a Jew. Despite his elite status in the criminal police, he is disturbed by the direction Germany is taking. Working urgently to identify the dead woman and solve the murder, Willi finds his superiors diverting him at every turn, and is forced to waste precious time on a politically-sensitive missing person case. Colleagues seem to avoid him; a man on a streetcar stops him from reading a newspaper over his shoulder; he is uncomfortably aware of being watched. But he persists, and soon enters the dangerous Berlin underworld of debauched nightclubs, prostitutes with secrets to hide, and a hypnotist with troubling connections.

As he moves through darkness closer to the truth, Willi begins to understand that much more than the solution to a murder is at stake. What he discovers will mean that his life, the lives of his friends and family, and Germany itself will never be the same.

The Sleepwalkers is a powerful, dramatic debut thriller of a nation's unstoppable corruption, featuring a good man trapped between his duty to serve and his grave doubts about what, and who, he serves.
Visit Paul Grossman's website.

Writers Read: Paul Grossman.

The Page 69 Test: The Sleepwalkers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 22, 2010

What is Eve Marie Mont reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Eve Marie Mont, author of Free to a Good Home, her debut novel about a woman coming to terms with past disappointments and forging a bright new future--man and dog included.

Her entry begins:
Right now, I’m juggling two books, going back and forth between them depending on my mood. One is Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. I’ve never read any of Morton’s other books, even though they gets raves, but I’m thoroughly immersing myself in this multi-layered novel about family secrets and identity. The story, which spans a century, focuses on a little girl placed aboard a ship sailing from England to Australia. When she arrives in Australia, however, she has no idea who she is or where she came from. Adopted by the harbormaster and his wife who name her Nell, the girl grows up happy and well cared for until her father tells her the truth. This sets in motion a search to find her true identity, a mystery that will echo across the years, culminating in her granddaughter Cassandra’s inheritance of a mysterious cottage with a forgotten garden. The book is...[read on]
About Eve Mont's Free to a Good Home:
FOR ADOPTION: Adorable, energetic Jack Russell free to a loving home. Previous owner could no longer meet his needs, which include lots of exercise and attention. But those willing to give him these will be rewarded with unswerving loyalty and love…

Noelle Ryan works as a veterinary technician at a New England animal shelter, helping pets find the perfect homes. If only it were as easy to find the same thing for herself. After discovering that she can’t have children—and watching her marriage fall apart after a shocking revelation by her husband—Noelle feels as forlorn and abandoned as the strays she rescues.

She can’t seem to get over her ex, Jay. Unfortunately, all Jay wants from her is a whopper of a favor: serving as a caretaker for his elderly mother, who still blames Noelle for the breakup. While Jay heads off to Atlanta to live the life of a bachelor, Noelle is left with only her Great Dane, Zeke, to comfort her. But when a carefree musician named Jasper gives her a second chance at life—and at love—Noelle comes to realize that home is truly where the heart is.
Read an excerpt from Free to a Good Home, and visit Eve Mont's website and blog.

Writers Read: Eve Marie Mont.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nicholas Farrell's 6 best books

Nicholas Farrell is an actor who has appeared in films, plays and television shows including Chariots Of Fire and the TV series Foyle's War. He is appearing in Birdsong at the Comedy Theatre, London.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One title on the list:
by Sebastian Faulks

I have long admired the book on which the play I am appearing in is based. It’s an amazingly imagined portrait of life in the trenches during the First World War and also features a very moving love story. A modern-day classic.
Read about another book on Farrell's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Francesco Duina's "Winning"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession by Francesco Duina.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most of us are taught from a young age to be winners and avoid being losers. But what does it mean to win or lose? And why do we care so much? Does winning make us happy? Winning undertakes an unprecedented investigation of winning and losing in American society, what we are really after as we struggle to win, our collective beliefs about winners and losers, and much more.

Francesco Duina argues that victory and loss are not endpoints or final destinations but gateways to something of immense importance to us: the affirmation of our place in the world. But Duina also shows that competition is unlikely to provide us with the answers we need. Winning and losing are artificial and logically flawed concepts that put us at odds with the world around us and, ultimately, ourselves. Duina explores the social and psychological effects of the language of competition in American culture.

Primarily concerned with our shared obsessions about winning and losing, Winning proposes a new mind-set for how we can pursue our dreams, and, in a more satisfying way, find our proper place in the world.
Read an excerpt from Winning, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Winning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pg. 69: Henry Perez's "Mourn the Living"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Mourn the Living by Henry Perez.

About the book, from the publisher:
Wherever You Live…

From city to city, one man walks the streets, carefully choosing his victims. Mercilessly, he cuts their throats. And with each kill, he leaves his chilling trademark, honed to razor-sharp perfection over decades of practice…

He’ll Find You

But now, reporter Alex Chapa is tracking the story, following the lead of a murdered colleague—and getting dangerously close to the most elusive serial killer in decades…

And Kill You

When the next victim surfaces bearing the unmistakable calling card, Alex realizes no one is safe from this psychopath’s murderous rage. For the killer has set his sights on Alex and those he loves—and only their blood will satisfy him…
Learn more about the book and author at Henry Perez's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Killing Red.

The Page 69 Test: Mourn the Living.

--Marshal Zeringue

Joan Frances Turner's "Dust," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Dust by Joan Frances Turner.

The entry begins:
Whenever anyone asks me--as they occasionally do--who my dream cast for Dust might include, my answer is always an immediate, "I honestly have no idea but please, please, please let Rick Baker do the makeup." Having the man responsible for An American Werewolf in London, The Ring, Videodrome, Star Wars, The Howling and dozens of other films--not to mention, of course, the dancing zombies in Michael Jackson's "Thriller"--as my makeup and special effects impresario would be a genuine honor, and at that point they can honestly do whatever they like with the script. (Not that anyone ever consults the writer about such things, anyway.)

That said, imaginary-casting Dust is still great fun, for the simple reason that Hollywood thrives on prettiness and most of our players would have to be willing to get down in the dirt and spectacularly ugly. Assuming, since this is all fantasy, that I can cast without regard to time, place or real-world age, here's a few suggestions:

--Jessie: Our POV protagonist, Jessie is an "everywoman" zombie, an angry teenage girl turned angry young woman trapped in a slowly decaying body and searching, with little success, for a surrogate family like she never had alive. Busy Philipps, who played the tough, needy Kim Kelly on Freaks and Geeks, springs to mind right away, or possibly...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Dust, and learn more about the book and author at Joan Frances Turner's website and blog.

Writers Read: Joan Frances Turner.

The Page 69 Test: Dust.

My Book, The Movie: Dust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten classic sci-fi books that were originally considered failures

At io9, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs came up with a list of ten classic science fiction books that were originally considered failures.

One novel on the list:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

While lots of Dick's books have fallen out of print (only to be re-issued later), his most well known (The Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, VALIS) have always been in print. Not so with Electric Sheep. Originally published in 1968, Signet published a 75¢ paperback in 1971. The book didn't reappear, until Ballentine published it 11 years later as Blade Runner (which would have put you back $2.75).
Read about another novel on the list.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? also appears on Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Paul Grossman reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Paul Grossman, author of The Sleepwalkers.

His entry begins:
I’m just finishing a very powerful Dutch novel from the Second World War called Comedy in a Minor Key. Although written by a German Jew who spent those years in hiding, it’s told from the point of view of the Dutch couple who keep such a man in their care. The result is most intimate, psychologically raw exploration I’ve ever encountered of what it must have felt like to have a...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Sleepwalkers:
"Simultaneously a work of historical fiction, a medical mystery, a thriller, and a work of crime noir, this debut novel powerfully captures the atmosphere of Berlin on the verge of Nazi takeover, the elegance and cultural brilliance amid the decadence, and the sense of impending doom."
--Library Journal, starred review

"With wonderful stories like these to tell, Paul Grossman is assured a long future. I look forward to his next one.”
--Olen Steinhauer, New York Times bestselling author of The Nearest Exit

“Fresh and riveting. This thriller isn’t only exciting---it's meaningful.”
--David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer

“What a remarkable debut. The Sleepwalkers weaves together an unusual mystery with a vivid and uneasy setting. Paul Grossman has recreated German on the eve of the Third Reich with extraordinary skill, sensitivity, and narrative flair.”
--David Liss, bestselling author of The Devil's Company

“Richly imagined and sumptuously researched, The Sleepwalkers roars through 1932 Berlin like a Messerschmitt fighter.”
-Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestselling author of They’re Watching
Visit Paul Grossman's website.

Writers Read: Paul Grossman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pg. 69: Todd Ritter's "Death Notice"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Death Notice by Todd Ritter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania, has never had a murder. At least not as long as Kat Campbell has been police chief. And the first is brutal. George Winnick, a farmer in his sixties, is found in a homemade coffin on the side of the highway with his lips sewn shut and his veins and arteries drained of blood and filled with embalming fluid. Chilling as that is, it becomes even more so when Kat finds that the Perry Hollow Gazette obituary writer, Henry Goll, received a death notice for Winnick before he was killed.

Soon after, the task force from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Investigation shows up and everything takes an irreversible turn for the worse. Nick Donnelly, head of the task force, has been chasing the “Betsy Ross Killer,” so named because he’s handy with a needle and thread, for more than a year. Winnick seems to be his fourth victim. Or is he?

Kat has never handled a murder case before, but she’s not about to sit by while someone terrorizes her sleepy little town or her own son. But will her efforts be enough to stop a killer and bring calm to Perry Hollow.

A portrait of a small town in turmoil, where residents fear for their lives, Todd Ritter’s Death Notice is a gripping debut from a terrific new talent in crime fiction.
Learn more about Death Notice and its author at Todd Ritters' website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

The Page 69 Test: Death Notice.

--Marshal Zeringue