Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pg. 69: Tracy Clark's "What You Don't See"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: What You Don’t See by Tracy Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
Former cop Cass Raines knows the streets of Chicago all too well. Now she’s a private investigator and getting an exclusive glimpse into how the other half lives—and how they die...

Wealth. Power. Celebrity. Vonda Allen’s glossy vanity magazine has taken the Windy City by storm, and she’s well on her way to building a one-woman media empire. Everybody adores her. Except the people who work for her. And the person who’s sending her flowers with death threats...

As Vonda’s bodyguard, off-duty cop Ben Mickerson knows he could use some back-up—and no one fits the bill better than his ex-partner on the police force, Cass Raines. Now a full-time private eye, Cass is reluctant to take the job. She isn’t keen on playing babysitter to a celebrity who’s rumored to be a heartless diva. But as a favor to Ben, she signs on. But when Vonda refuses to say why someone might be after her, and two of her staff turn up dead, Ben and Cass must battle an unknown assailant bent on getting to the great lady herself, before someone else dies.

Cass finds out the hard way just how persistent a threat they face during the first stop on Vonda’s book tour. As fans clamour for her autograph, things take an ugly turn when a mysterious fan shows up with flowers and slashes Ben with a knife. While her ex-partner’s life hangs in the balance, Cass is left to find out what secrets Vonda is keeping, who might want her dead, and how she can bring Ben’s attacker to justice before enemies in the Chicago Police Department try to stop her in her tracks...
Visit Tracy Clark's website.

Q&A with Tracy Clark.

My Book, The Movie: What You Don’t See.

The Page 69 Test: What You Don’t See.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with H. G. Parry

From my Q&A with H. G. Parry, author of A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love the title—I can say that, because it was my agent's idea, and all I can take credit for is jumping on it. A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a twist on the 1789 "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen," so it's highlighting two things: that the story takes place around the French Revolution, and that it's a version of that history with magic. It also highlights that the book centres around people fighting for various rights and freedoms, and that the pages contain a fair amount of politics and pamphlets and...[read on]
Visit H.G. Parry's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.

Q&A with H.G. Parry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Heather Houser's "Infowhelm"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Infowhelm: Environmental Art and Literature in an Age of Data by Heather Houser.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do artists and writers engage with environmental knowledge in the face of overwhelming information about catastrophe? What kinds of knowledge do the arts produce when addressing climate change, extinction, and other environmental emergencies? What happens to scientific data when it becomes art? In Infowhelm, Heather Houser explores the ways contemporary art manages environmental knowledge in an age of climate crisis and information overload.

Houser argues that the infowhelm—a state of abundant yet contested scientific information—is an unexpectedly resonant resource for environmental artists seeking to go beyond communicating stories about crises. Infowhelm analyzes how artists transform the techniques of the sciences into aesthetic material, repurposing data on everything from butterfly migration to oil spills and experimenting with data collection, classification, and remote sensing. Houser traces how artists ranging from novelist Barbara Kingsolver to digital memorialist Maya Lin rework knowledge traditions native to the sciences, entangling data with embodiment, quantification with speculation, precision with ambiguity, and observation with feeling. Their works provide new ways of understanding environmental change while also questioning traditional distinctions between types of knowledge. Bridging the environmental humanities, digital media studies, and science and technology studies, this timely book reveals the importance of artistic medium and form to understanding environmental issues and challenges our assumptions about how people arrive at and respond to environmental knowledge.
Learn more about Infowhelm at the Columbia University Press website and visit Heather Houser's website.

The Page 99 Test: Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Infowhelm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 10, 2020

Eight books that will immerse you in medicine's long, messy past

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, adult fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Her most recent novel is Opium and Absinthe.

At CrimeReads, Kang tagged eight "books that have been shaped by medicine’s long and messy past." One title on the list:
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

Gerritsen is a prolific contemporary medical thriller writer, but The Bone Garden takes a step back in time for a change. We learn about murders in 1830 that may or may not involve a resurrectionist (a body snatcher who steals corpses for anatomy lessons). Only this resurrectionist is innocent, and must prove it. Gerritson seamlessly weaves two narratives from the present day and the past. You’ll be holding your breath until that last page.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jessica Barry

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I have to admit that I’m terrible at titles for my books – it was my agent who came up with Don’t Turn Around. I think (hope!) it works well to convey the sense of urgency that propels the story, and also ties in with the overarching theme of pervasive fear that women feel going through their everyday lives. It’s a nod to all the times I’ve heard footsteps behind me on a darkened street and thought Don’t turn around, just keep walking, clutch your keys between your fingers, get your phone ready, pick up the pace. When a pair of headlights appear out of the night and begin relentlessly pursuing Cait and Rebecca, the fear they feel – and the sense that the only way to survive is to keep moving forward – is...[read on]
Follow Jessica Barry on Twitter.

Q&A with Jessica Barry.

--Marshal Zeringue

C. T. Rwizi's "Scarlet Odyssey," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Scarlet Odyssey by C. T. Rwizi.

The entry begins:
If someone decided to make my book into a film, they would probably need to cast a lot of completely or relatively new actors for the job. Why? Because I’m not sure there are many well-known options on the table to fill even a fictional cast. Let’s take a look.

The main character, Salo, would need to be a young black man in his late teens. He would need to be surrounded by several other young black men of a similar age, from his brothers to his friends. Five black women, also of a similar age, would need to play the roles of Ilapara, Isa, Kelafelo, Alinata and Nimara.

If they were white, this list would be very easy to fill, as there are many well-known white actors in this demographic to choose from. As it is, I’m struggling to find suitable dreamcasts without resorting to “that black girl I saw on that one tv show.”

I’d probably just end up borrowing the entire cast of Dear White People and every other young black actor who has ever appeared on tv to be honest. That said, the closest to what I envision Salo looking like is a young Alfred Enoch, who plays Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films.

The older characters are somewhat easier. Lupita Nyong'o would be a good fit for...[read on]

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Top ten books about tumultuous times

Matthew Kneale was born in 1960, the son and grandson of writers, and he grew up in suburban London. After studying modern history at Oxford he began writing in Tokyo, where he worked as an English teacher. He travelled whenever he was able, visiting more than eighty countries and seven continents, and tried his hands at learning a number of languages from Spanish and Italian to Japanese, Albanian, Romanian and Amharic Ethiopian. He has written a volume of themed short stories and five novels, including English Passengers, which was a finalist for the Booker Prize and won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. His recent books include Rome: a History in Seven Sackings and Pilgrims.

At the Guardian, Kneale tagged ten "outstanding history books and novels exploring era-defining decisions made under pressure," including:
Five Days in London, May 1940 by John Lukacs

As the British army retreated to Dunkirk, newly appointed prime minister Winston Churchill debated with his war cabinet – most of all with his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, and foreign minister Lord Halifax – as to what to do: fight on or make peace with Hitler? Lukacs’s riveting account pulls the rug on a great misconception (shamefully repeated in the film Darkest Hour) and details how, at this crucial moment, Chamberlain used his considerable authority to support Churchill against Halifax to prevent a peace deal with the Nazis.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rebecca Earle's "Feeding the People"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Potatoes are the world's fourth most important food crop, yet they were unknown to most of humanity before 1500. Feeding the People traces the global journey of this popular foodstuff from the Andes to everywhere. The potato's global history reveals the ways in which our ideas about eating are entangled with the emergence of capitalism and its celebration of the free market. It also reminds us that ordinary people make history in ways that continue to shape our lives. Feeding the People tells the story of how eating became part of statecraft, and provides a new account of the global spread of one of the world's most successful foods.
Learn more about Feeding the People at  the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Feeding the People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Carrie Firestone

From my Q&A with Carrie Firestone, author of Dress Coded:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I have a feeling anyone who has ever been dress coded will see this title and know exactly what Dress Coded is about. Originally, the working title was Shame Garden. I wanted to send a powerful message about the culture of shame and humiliation that has evolved around unfair school dress code policies. When my editor suggested Dress Coded, however, I knew it was the right title for the book. While the story centers around the fallout from an especially egregious dress coding incident, the ultimate message is one of young people finding their voices and fighting for justice. There's no...[read on]
Visit Carrie Firestone's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dress Coded.

Q&A with Carrie Firestone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Chris Nickson's "The Molten City"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Molten City by Chris Nickson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Detective Superintendent Tom Harper senses trouble ahead when the prime minister plans a visit. Can he keep law and order on the streets while also uncovering the truth behind a missing child?

Leeds, September 1908
. There’s going to be a riot. Detective Superintendent Tom Harper can feel it. Herbert Asquith, the prime minster, is due to speak in the city. The suffragettes and the unemployed men will be out in the streets in protest. It’s Harper’s responsibility to keep order. Can he do it?

Harper has also received an anonymous letter claiming that a young boy called Andrew Sharp was stolen from his family fourteen years before. The file is worryingly thin. It ought to have been bulging. A missing child should have been headline news. Why was Andrew’s disappearance ignored?

Determined to uncover the truth about Andrew Sharp and bring the boy some justice, Harper is drawn deep into the dark underworld of child-snatching, corruption and murder as Leeds becomes a molten, rioting city.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tracy Clark's "What You Don’t See," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: What You Don’t See by Tracy Clark.

The entry begins:
What You Don’t See is book three in the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series. In this story, the protagonist, Cassandra Raines, an ex-homicide cop with the Chicago Police Department turned hard-driving PI, is tasked with protecting an arrogant, high-handed magazine publisher named Vonda Allen, who is being terrorized by someone who wants her dead. Cass’s simple personal protection detail, however, quickly turns deadly when Vonda’s staffers begin turning up dead, Cass is confronted with personal tragedy, and the killer shows no signs of letting up. Cass must then figure out what Vonda is hiding from her past, avenge an attack on someone she holds dear, and chase down a vengeful killer before another innocent person dies.

I wasn’t thinking about movie adaptations or casting while I was writing this book and didn’t while writing any of the others. Crime fiction is my bubble, my sweet spot. I pretty much stick to the words on the page, the characters and their individual arcs, that sort of thing. I have no idea how Cass would play on the big or small screen.

Cass has a strong, distinctive voice and worldview and very much conforms to the conventional PI archetype, with updated exceptions. She’s independent almost to a fault, brash, extroverted, snarky, brave, intrepid, often foolhardy. She’s extremely loyal to the makeshift family she’s cobbled together for herself, but intensely private and self-contained. She is part champion of the underdog, part flawed reluctant hero, part...[read on]
Visit Tracy Clark's website.

Q&A with Tracy Clark.

My Book, The Movie: What You Don’t See.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Larry Tye's "Demagogue"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy by Larry Tye.

About the book, from the publisher:
The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings

In the long history of American demagogues, from Huey Long to Donald Trump, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957. Only now, through bestselling author Larry Tye’s exclusive look at the senator’s records, can the full story be told.

Demagogue is a masterful portrait of a human being capable of immense evil, yet beguiling charm. McCarthy was a tireless worker and a genuine war hero. His ambitions knew few limits. Neither did his socializing, his drinking, nor his gambling. When he finally made it to the Senate, he flailed around in search of an agenda and angered many with his sharp elbows and lack of integrity. Finally, after three years, he hit upon anti-communism. By recklessly charging treason against everyone from George Marshall to much of the State Department, he became the most influential and controversial man in America. His chaotic, meteoric rise is a gripping and terrifying object lesson for us all. Yet his equally sudden fall from fame offers reason for hope that, given the rope, most American demagogues eventually hang themselves.
Visit Larry Tye's website.

The Page 99 Test: Demagogue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Chris Nickson


From my Q&A with Chris Nickson, author of The Molten City:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I like a title to intrigue and maybe offer a small signpost to the story – enough to make someone want to open the book and start reading. With the Tom Harper series I’ve chosen a theme of metal/precious metals. While a theme can initially be a good idea, it can also end up a bit limiting - as I’ve discovered. So it’s very much a double-edged sword.

What's in a name?

A name can indicate a great deal. In this book I wrote that working-class families would often choose fanciful names for their daughters because it was as close to frivolous luxury as they’d come in their lives. But my main character, Tom Harper, has a deliberately plain name, something that’s no-nonsense, easy to remember, with a little power to it (in my eyes). His wife’s named Annabelle – one of those fanciful names – yet their daughter is Mary. Ordinary, straightforward. And in all three cases, I feel the names…[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Writers Read: Chris Nickson (January 2019).

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about New York City’s stark economic divide

Lee Conell is the author of a new novel, The Party Upstairs. She’s also the author of the story collection Subcortical, which was awarded The Story Prize Spotlight Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and an American Fiction Award. She has received a 2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as writing fellowships from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vanderbilt University, and the Yiddish Book Center.

At Electric Lit, Conell tagged seven "books that approached socioeconomic inequality in the city in a way that neither fetishized the wealthy nor seemed to exploit the suffering caused by poverty," including:
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

In The Friend, a writer in New York inherits a Great Dane from her recently deceased friend and fellow writer. The novel grapples with sitting with grief, but there’s also a real sense of financial strain and risk: In order to keep her rent-controlled apartment in a building that doesn’t allow for pets, the narrator must hope that nobody reports the dog to her landlord. “It’s not like you’ll be put out on the street overnight,” a friend assures her. The super warns the narrator about the threat of eviction, which the narrator understands: It’s his job on the line as well. Nunez’s book demonstrates the way that housing instability in the city and the weight of class don’t need to take center stage in a narrative to make their presence felt on a character in the midst of great loss.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Friend is among Eliza Smith's twenty books to help you navigate grief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

What is Julian Stockwin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Julian Stockwin, author of To the Eastern Seas.

His entry begins:
These days nearly all my reading is non-fiction and work-related, that is, some aspect of the great age of fighting sail. When I do get some down time, so to speak, I particularly enjoy memoirs of merchant mariners who served before the time of the ‘box-boats’. In their days, before the shipping revolution brought about by containerisation, cargo handling was a very labour intensive – and skilled – business. Also, because cargo needed to be hoisted out, load by load, a ship could be weeks in port (modern container ships turn around in hours only). This meant that much of the life of these pre-box boat sailors would be familiar to Kydd. With time to kill, the crew went on the rantan ashore in foreign ports, often returning somewhat the worse for wear. It was still the age of natural fibre so there was a need for skilled splicing and old-fashioned seamanship. Modern ships have polypropylene or wire ropes that are never spliced but metal moulded together. And before the era of satellite communications, once in Neptune’s realm only the radio operator knew what was going on beyond the world of their ship. It made for a close-knit community.

One such book I enjoyed recently is Under a Yellow Sky is a colourful memoir from Simon Hall who went to sea at a time when the British fleet was still one of the greatest in the world and the Red Ensign a common sight in almost every large port. He writes of...[read on]
About To the Eastern Seas, from the publisher:
With Bonaparte held to a stalemate in Europe, the race to empire is now resumed. Britain's ambitions turn to the Spice Islands, the Dutch East Indies, where Admiral Pellew has been sent to confront the enemy's vastly rich holdings in these tropical islands. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd joins reinforcements to snatch these for the British Crown.

The two colonial masters of India and the East Indies face each other in mortal striving for the region - there can be only one victor to hold all the spoils. The colonial genius, Stamford Raffles, believes Britain should strike at the very centre of Dutch spice production, the Moluccas, rather than the fortresses one by one but is fiercely opposed. Kydd, allying himself to this cause, conspires to lead a tiny force to a triumphant conclusion - however the Dutch, stung by this loss, claim vengeance from the French. A battle for Java and an empire in the East stretches Kydd and Tyger's company to their very limits.
Visit Julian Stockwin's website.

Writers Read: Julian Stockwin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Carrie Firestone's "Dress Coded"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this debut middle-grade girl-power friendship story, an eighth grader starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school and sparks a rebellion.

Molly Frost is FED UP…

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.

Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.


--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Alice C. Early

From my Q&A with Alice Early, author of The Moon Always Rising:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I hope it’s title is intriguing and gives the reader a sense that The Moon Always Rising will be uplifting in some way, but it doesn’t say anything about the story. Choosing a title that captures the novel’s essence was wrenchingly difficult. As it straddles literary and women’s literature and bends genre (a love story but not a romance with elements of mystery and magical realism), the hundreds of titles I considered felt narrow or misleading. My editor and I eventually chose a title inspired by a line in “Fern Hill,” a Dylan Thomas poem that triggers a cathartic exchange between Els and Jack’s jumbie near the end of the book. In that scene, the book’s central theme of the healing power of forgiveness—of oneself and others—comes to the fore and signals that...[read on]
Visit Alice C. Early's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Moon Always Rising.

Q&A with Alice C. Early.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books told from the perspective of domestic workers

Julia Spiro lives year-round on Martha’s Vineyard, where she enjoys fishing, clamming, scalloping, and anything on the beach. She also teaches spin classes in Edgartown and considers spinning her second passion. She previously worked in the film industry and lived in Los Angeles. She graduated from Harvard College.

Spiro's new novel is Someone Else’s Secret.

[Q&A with Julia Spiro; The Page 69 Test: Someone Else's Secret.]

At CrimeReads she tagged seven books told from the perspective of domestic workers, including:
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

Set in Nigeria, this powerful book follows fourteen year-old Adunni, who runs away to the city in order to escape an arranged marriage to an older man. She winds up working as a maid for a wealthy couple, but her troubles multiply when the couple quickly becomes abusive. All Adunni wants is access to education. Through her own strength and determination, she finds a way to claw herself out of enslavement. This story will leave you sobbing and cheering at the same time.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 06, 2020

Pg. 99: Jason Blakely's "We Built Reality"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: We Built Reality: How Social Science Infiltrated Culture, Politics, and Power by Jason Blakely.

About the book, from the publisher:
Over the last fifty years, pseudoscience has crept into nearly every facet of our lives. Popular sciences of everything from dating and economics, to voting and artificial intelligence, radically changed the world today. The abuse of popular scientific authority has catastrophic consequences, contributing to the 2008 financial crisis; the failure to predict the rise of Donald Trump; increased tensions between poor communities and the police; and the sidelining of nonscientific forms of knowledge and wisdom. In We Built Reality, Jason Blakely explains how recent social science theories have not simply described political realities but also helped create them. But he also offers readers a way out of the culture of scientism: hermeneutics, or the art of interpretation. Hermeneutics urges sensitivity to the historical and cultural contexts of human behavior. It gives ordinary people a way to appreciate the insights of the humanities in guiding decisions. As Blakely contends, we need insights from the humanities to see how social science theories never simply neutrally describe reality, they also help build it.
Follow Jason Blakeley on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: We Built Reality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nicola Maye Goldberg's "Nothing Can Hurt You," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg.

The entry begins:
My dream director for an adaptation of Nothing Can Hurt You would be Park Chan-wook, whose film Stoker is my all-time favorite. His unexpected ways of depicting violence and its aftereffects are so extraordinary, and a constant source of inspiration to me as a writer. I’m also very into French New Extremity, so it would be very cool to see how one of those directors, like Coralie Fargeat or Julia Ducourneau, would interpret the material.

The two main characters of the book are Sara Morgan, an art student, and Blake Campbell, her boyfriend, who murders her. Probably any young, good-looking actors could fill those roles, though I think Timothée Chalamet would be particularly good as Blake. A character that might be harder to cast would be Sara’s mother, who becomes a professional psychic after her daughter’s death. I think...[read on]
Visit Nicola Maye Goldberg's website.

Q&A with Nicola Maye Goldberg.

The Page 69 Test: Nothing Can Hurt You.

My Book, The Movie: Nothing Can Hurt You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Tracy Clark

From my Q&A with Tracy Clark, author of What You Don’t See:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I’ve been lucky so far in choosing titles that my publisher hasn’t wanted to change. A lot of thought went into each of them and each title hints very clearly at what readers will find inside the book, once they flip back the cover (fingers crossed) and dig in. Broken Places refers directly to the main character’s state of being at the start of that story. When we meet Cass Raines she is battered, broken, at a loss, but not defeated. The title’s from a Hemingway quote: “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.” That’s Cass, strong at the broken places. In Borrowed Time, book two in the series, the title is more about the case she’s investigating, and after readers have finished reading, why I selected it becomes clear. What You Don’t See, book three, well, that title does double duty pinging off, I think artfully, both the main and subplot. I think a book starts at the title and cover. Those are grabs one and two. The first page is grab three. If you...[read on]
Visit Tracy Clark's website.

Q&A with Tracy Clark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight anti-capitalist sci-fi & fantasy novels

Jae-Yeon Yoo is a volunteer intern at Electric Literature.

She tagged eight novels by authors who "have found ways to critically examine capitalism—and its alternatives—in speculative fiction." One title on the list:
Everfair by Nisi Shawl

A speculative fantasy set in neo-Victorian times, Shawl’s highly-acclaimed novel imagines “Everfair,” a safe haven in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Shawl’s version of the late 19th-century, the Fabian Socialists—a real-life British group—and African-American missionaries band together to purchase a region of the Congo from King Leopold II (whose statue was recently defaced and removed from Antwerp, as a part of the global protest against racism). This region, Everfair, is set aside for formerly enslaved people and refugees, who are fleeing from King Leopold II’s brutal, exploitative colonization of the Congo. The residents of Everfair band together to try and create an anti-colonial utopia. Told from a wide range of characters and backed up with meticulous research, Shawlcreates a kaleidoscopic, engrossing, and inclusive reimagination of what history could have been. “I had been confronted with the idea that steampunk valorized colonization and empire, and I really wanted to spit in its face for doing that,” Shawl states; through her rewritten history of the Congo, Shawl challenges systems of imperialism and capitalism.
Read about another entry on the list.

Everfair is among Kate Heartfield's five favorite books featuring women in love with women and Ginn Hale's five top alternate histories that embrace diversity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Pg. 69: J. Todd Scott's "Lost River"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Lost River by J. Todd Scott.

About the book, from the publisher:
A blistering crime novel of the opioid epidemic–and its cops, villains, and victims–written by a twenty-five-year veteran of the DEA.

Angel, Kentucky: Just another one of America’s forgotten places, where opportunities vanished long ago, and the opioid crisis has reached a fever pitch. When this small town is rocked by the vicious killing of an entire infamous local crime family, the bloody aftermath brings together three people already struggling with Angel’s drug epidemic: Trey, a young medic-in-training with secrets to hide; Special Agent Casey Alexander, a DEA agent who won’t let the local law or small-town way of doing things stand in her way; and Paul Mayfield, a former police chief who’s had to watch his own young wife succumb to addiction.

Over the course of twenty-four hours, loyalties are tested, the corrupt are exposed, and the horrible truth of the largest drug operation in the region is revealed. And though Angel will never be the same again, a lucky few may still find hope.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: This Side of Night.

The Page 69 Test: This Side of Night.

Q&A with J. Todd Scott.

The Page 69 Test: Lost River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top crime novels about returning home

Katie Tallo has been an award-winning screenwriter and director for more than two decades. In 2012, she was inspired to begin writing novels.

Dark August is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads, Tallo tagged ten "terrific novels featuring some dark and stormy journeys back home," including:
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

In this powerful thriller about race and redemption, Darren Mathews returns to East Texas where he grew up. He’s been asked to look into two murders that have stirred up long simmering racial tensions in the town of Lark. He’s a Texas Ranger who drinks too much, has a rocky marriage and was recently suspended. Despite his issues around growing up black in the lone star state, Mathews travels back to East Texas to try to solve the crimes, putting his own life in jeopardy. His very identity comes into question as he digs into Lark’s past and present where old deeds seem to have left a residue on the town. It’s a compelling novel about hatred and love and everything in between.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Julia Spiro

From my Q&A with Julia Spiro, author of Someone Else's Secret:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In my book, the two main characters are both involved in an unthinkable crime, but in different ways. One of them is directly involved in the crime, the other is a witness to it. Both of them silently carry the weight of this crime for ten long years, until they decide that the truth must be revealed. I wanted the title to touch on the difficulty we often face in speaking up when we know there has been an injustice, and the feeling that we are somehow unable to do so if the truth will impact others negatively or perhaps if we don’t feel like the truth is ours to tell. The idea really sprung from my time working in Hollywood, when I was privy to so many whispers about sexual assault and abuses of power, but, like many of my peers, I didn’t do anything about it. There were lots of other titles I considered, but I knew that the title had to have the word “secret” in it, because the story is also very much about how holding onto a single secret can shape the trajectory of our lives, and even ourselves. Someone Else’s Secret as a title also poses a bit of a mystery, which was another reason…[read on]
Visit Julia Spiro's website.

The Page 69 Test: Someone Else's Secret.

Q&A with Julia Spiro.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Francine Hirsch's "Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II by Francine Hirsch.

About the book, from the publisher:
Organized in the immediate aftermath of World War II to try the former Nazi leaders for war crimes, the Nuremberg trials, known as the International Military Tribunal (IMT), paved the way for global conversations about genocide, justice, and human rights that continue to this day. As Francine Hirsch reveals in this immersive new history of the trials, a central piece of the story has been routinely omitted from standard accounts: the critical role that the Soviet Union played in making Nuremberg happen in the first place. Hirsch's book reveals how the Soviets shaped the trials--only to be written out of their story as Western allies became bitter Cold War rivals.

Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg offers the first full picture of the war trials, illuminating the many ironies brought to bear as the Soviets did their part to bring the Nazis to justice. Everyone knew that Stalin had originally allied with Hitler before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 hung heavy over the courtroom, as did the suspicion among the Western prosecutors and judges that the Soviets had falsified evidence in an attempt to pin one of their own war crimes, the Katyn massacre of Polish officers, on the Nazis. It did not help that key members of the Soviet delegation, including the Soviet judge and chief prosecutor, had played critical roles in Stalin's infamous show trials of the 1930s. For the lead American prosecutor Robert H. Jackson and his colleagues, Soviet participation in the Nuremberg Trials undermined their overall credibility and possibly even the moral righteousness of the Allied victory.

Yet Soviet jurists had been the first to conceive of a legal framework that treated war as an international crime. Without it, the IMT would have had no basis for judgment. The Soviets had borne the brunt of the fighting against Germany--enduring the horrors of the Nazi occupation and experiencing almost unimaginable human losses and devastation. There would be no denying their place on the tribunal, nor their determination to make the most of it. Once the trials were set in motion, however, little went as the Soviets had planned. Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg shows how Stalin's efforts to direct the Soviet delegation and to steer the trials from afar backfired, and how Soviet war crimes became exposed in open court.

Hirsch's book offers readers both a front-row seat in the courtroom and a behind-the-scenes look at the meetings in which the prosecutors shared secrets and forged alliances. It reveals the shifting relationships among the four countries of the prosecution (the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the USSR), uncovering how and why the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg became a Cold War battleground. In the process Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg offers a new understanding of the trials and a fresh perspective on the post-war movement for human rights.
Learn more about Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Q&A with J. Todd Scott

From my Q&A with J. Todd Scott, author of Lost River:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are funny things…they tend to come when I least expect them, and I often don’t “title” a book until the end. In fact, I usually use a placeholder title, some word or phrase, and for Lost River, that was “American Vampires” for almost the entire time I was writing it. That was favorite, fictional band of Trey Dorado, one of the book’s viewpoint characters, but I ultimately settled on Lost River, which has significant meaning for one of the other viewpoint characters: Casey Alexander. Lost River is the name of a real cave system she explored with her father while growing up in Kentucky; it also serves to refer obliquely to the (also real) Big Sandy River running near my fictional Angel, KY, and finally, I think it also hints at...[read on]
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: High White Sun.

My Book, The Movie: This Side of Night.

The Page 69 Test: This Side of Night.

Q&A with J. Todd Scott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Robyn Harding's "The Swap," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Swap by Robyn Harding.

The entry begins:
The Swap is the story of two attractive couples who, after a night of magic mushrooms, decide to swap partners. They think it will be harmless fun, an act that they’ll put behind them and move on with their friendship. But thanks to an obsessive teen who knows far too much about what the adults are up to, the swap upends their lives.

A few years ago, I wrote the script for an independent film called The Steps. It starred James Brolin, Jason Ritter, Christine Lahti and Emmanuel Chriqui. The casting was perfect, and I was lucky to be included in the process. But I know enough about the film world to know that the writer doesn’t make casting decisions. Particularly the writer of the novel that will eventually be adapted into a script and then, hopefully, filmed. But a writer can always dream!

If I could choose the perfect cast for The Swap, I’d have Margot Robbie play the cruel and beautiful social media influencer, Freya. She’s got the perfect look for the role and she was so incredible in I, Tonya. A relatable but strong actress like Emily Blunt would be great as Freya’s friend Jamie. As for the teenager Low, I think…[read on]
Visit Robyn Harding's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Robyn Harding & Ozzie.

The Page 69 Test: The Arrangement.

My Book, The Movie: The Swap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight spine-chilling books about occult mysteries

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, adult fiction and non-fiction, and poetry. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Her most recent novel is Opium and Absinthe.

At Electric Lit, Kang tagged eight favorite supernatural stories about ghosts, magic, and seances. One title on the list:
The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker

This book also takes place at the turn of the last century (I can’t help it! I love that time period!). Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, and Ahmed is a jinni, a creature of fire born in the Syrian desert. They meet in the dirty, difficult, noisy world of New York City. As their creation stories and present stories intertwine, I was absolutely transported into their world. It’s one of my favorite books, ever.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Golem and the Jinni is among Sara Holland's top five books set in a fantastical America, W.L. Goodwater's five books with manipulated memories, Ruthanna Emrys's five favorite books that tell the monster’s story, Tara Sonin's five sexy novels to unleash your wanderlust, Francis Spufford's ten top New York novels, seven recommended books for Game of Thrones fans, and Chris Bohjalian's twenty notable books about troubled romances.

The Page 69 Test: The Golem and the Jinni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 03, 2020

Eleven novels of vacations gone horribly awry

Katherine St. John is the author of The Lion's Den.

At CrimeReads she tagged eleven "favorite books that feature vacations—and not just any vacations, but vacations gone wrong," including:
The French Girl, Lexie Elliott

While on summer break a decade ago, a group of friends from Oxford spent a blissful week together in an idyllic French farmhouse… until their vacation was torpedoed by Severine, the beautiful and cunning girl next door, who wreaked havoc on the group and then disappeared, never to be seen again. Ten years later, Severine’s body is found in the well behind the house, and suddenly the group are all suspects. This psychological suspense is a slow-burn, but the shifting alliances and tensions between the friends keep the mystery alive until the end.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The French Girl.

My Book, The Movie: The French Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alice C. Early's "The Moon Always Rising"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Moon Always Rising by Alice C. Early.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1998, fiery Eleanor “Els” Gordon thought the new century would find her married to her childhood soul mate, rejuvenating her family’s Scottish Highlands estate, and finally earning a managing director title at her investment bank. Maybe she’d even have the courage to discover why her estranged mother ran home to Italy thirty years earlier.

But when 2000 dawns, Els is mourning her fiancé and her father, and she’s unemployed, broke, and sharing an antique plantation house on the Caribbean island of Nevis with the ghost—or “jumbie”—of Jack Griggs, the former owner. Jack’s jumbie wangles Els’s help in making amends for wrongs committed during his Casanova life, and in exchange he appoints himself Cupid on behalf of a charter captain who’s as skittish about vulnerability as Els. Meanwhile, Els lures her mother to Nevis in hopes of unraveling the family secrets—but will the shocking truth set her free, or pull her fragile new happiness apart?

A moving and lyrical novel that transports readers from lush tropics to rugged highlands and back again, The Moon Always Rising explores how the power of forgiveness can help even the most damaged person fix whatever is broken.
Visit Alice C. Early's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Moon Always Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Katherine St. John

From my Q&A with Katherine St. John, author of The Lion's Den:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Lion’s Den was the first title I came up with for the book and I can say with absolute authority that it’s the right title, because over a period of months I went through about five hundred alternate titles with my publisher, and none of them were nearly as good! Thankfully, we circled back around to the working title. The Lion’s Den is a double entendre in this case, because it’s the name of the yacht that Belle and her friends set sail on, which proves to be the proverbial lion’s den over the course of the novel. Alternate titles we considered were All That Glitters, Filthy Rich Girl (which I must say I hated), and even… Yacht Candy. Yeah, we went a little deep into the weeds in search of a better title, which only served to make me all the more certain The Lion’s Den was the title that was meant to be.

What's in a name?

I put a lot of thought into the names of the girls on the boat because I wanted to make sure the reader found it easy to keep the characters straight. Alliteration felt appropriate for most memorable golden girl Summer Sanderson, and Amythest (yes, it’s misspelled on purpose) stands out as the one with the amethyst contacts. Wendy is a person whose loyalty changes...[read on]
Visit Katherine St. John's website.

Q&A with Katherine St. John.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sara Mayeux's "Free Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Free Justice: A History of the Public Defender in Twentieth-Century America by Sara Mayeux.

About the book, from the publisher:
Every day, in courtrooms around the United States, thousands of criminal defendants are represented by public defenders--lawyers provided by the government for those who cannot afford private counsel. Though often taken for granted, the modern American public defender has a surprisingly contentious history--one that offers insights not only about the "carceral state," but also about the contours and compromises of twentieth-century liberalism.

First gaining appeal amidst the Progressive Era fervor for court reform, the public defender idea was swiftly quashed by elite corporate lawyers who believed the legal profession should remain independent from the state. Public defenders took hold in some localities but not yet as a nationwide standard. By the 1960s, views had shifted. Gideon v. Wainwright enshrined the right to counsel into law and the legal profession mobilized to expand the ranks of public defenders nationwide. Yet within a few years, lawyers had already diagnosed a "crisis" of underfunded, overworked defenders providing inadequate representation--a crisis that persists today. This book shows how these conditions, often attributed to recent fiscal emergencies, have deep roots, and it chronicles the intertwined histories of constitutional doctrine, big philanthropy, professional in-fighting, and Cold War culture that made public defenders ubiquitous but embattled figures in American courtrooms.
Learn more about Free Justice at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Free Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Ten of the best-dressed characters in fiction

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Her novels include Hearts And Minds and The Lie Of the Land. Her new novel is The Golden Rule, which was inspired by both Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train and the fairy-tale of Beauty and the Beast.

At the Guardian, Craig tagged ten of the best-dressed characters in fiction, including:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna’s sumptuous black velvet ballgown, though revealing of her arms and bosom, is understood by the admiring Kitty to be “just a frame” because her “loveliness consisted precisely in always standing out from what she wore.” Tolstoy hardly describes Anna’s looks but makes us see her beauty and femininity in describing her ballgown, whose seductive colour foreshadows her eventual fate. She is the greatest tragic heroine in literature, and one I return to repeatedly.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Anna Karenina also appears on Ceri Radford's list often of the finest literary romances ever told, Tessa Hadley's list of six favorite examinations of art in fiction, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite epic novels, Jane Corry's list of five of literature's more fearsome families, Neel Mukherjee's six favorite books list, Viv Groskop's top ten list of life lessons from Russian literature, Elizabeth Day's top ten list of parties in fiction, Grant Ginder's top ten list of the more loathsome people in literature, Louis De Berniéres's six best books list, Martin Seay's ten best long books list, Jeffrey Lent's top ten list of books about justice and redemption, Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Hannah Jane Parkinson's list of the ten worst couples in literature, Hanna McGrath's top fifteen list of epigraphs, Amelia Schonbek's list of three classic novels that pass the Bechdel test, Rachel Thompson's top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction, Melissa Albert's recommended reading list for eight villains, Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, David Denby's six favorite books list, Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Diana Clarke's "Thin Girls"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Thin Girls by Diana Clarke.

About the book, from the publisher:
A dark, edgy, voice-driven literary debut novel about twin sisters that explores body image and queerness as well as toxic diet culture and the power of sisterhood, love, and lifelong friendships, written by a talented protégé of Roxane Gay.

Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.

Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.

But Lily is struggling, too. A kindergarten teacher, she dates abusive men, including a student’s married father, in search of the close yet complicated companionship she lost when she became separated from Rose.

When Lily joins a cult diet group led by a social media faux feminist, whose eating plan consists of consuming questionable non-caloric foods, Rose senses that Lily needs her help. With her sister’s life in jeopardy, Rose must find a way to rescue her—and perhaps, save herself.

Illuminating some of the most fraught and common issues confronting women, Thin Girls is a powerful, emotionally resonant story, beautifully told, that will keep you turning the pages to the gratifying, hopeful end.
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

My Book, The Movie: Thin Girls.

Q&A with Diana Clarke.

The Page 69 Test: Thin Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue