Saturday, February 27, 2021

Pg. 69: Rachel Anne Gillett's "At Home in Our Sounds"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: At Home in Our Sounds: Music, Race, and Cultural Politics in Interwar Paris by Rachel Anne Gillett.

About the book, from the publisher:
At Home in Our Sounds illustrates the effect jazz music had on the enormous social challenges Europe faced in the aftermath of World War I. Examining the ways African American, French Antillean, and French West African artists reacted to the heightened visibility of racial difference in Paris during this era, author Rachel Anne Gillett addresses fundamental cultural questions that continue to resonate today: Could one be both black and French? Was black solidarity more important than national and colonial identity? How could French culture include the experiences and contributions of Africans and Antilleans?

Providing a well-rounded view of black reactions to jazz in interwar Paris, At Home in Our Sounds deals with artists from highly educated women like the Nardal sisters of Martinique, to the working black musicians performing at all hours throughout the city. In so doing, the book places this phenomenon in its historical and political context and shows how music and music-making constituted a vital terrain of cultural politics--one that brought people together around pianos and on the dancefloor, but that did not erase the political, regional, and national differences between them.
Learn more about At Home in Our Sounds at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: At Home in Our Sounds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 26, 2021

Eight books about the strange & curious world of early robots

Rebecca Morgan Frank’s fourth collection of poems is Oh You Robot Saints! (2021).

Her previous collections are Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country and The Spokes of Venus, and Little Murders Everywhere, finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

At Lit Hub she shared a reading list that is "an eclectic sampling to help you navigate the world of automata that live in libraries." One title on the list:
Adrienne Mayor, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines and Ancient Dreams of Technology

Was Pygmalion, to some degree, the first sex robot? Is realistic male chest armor the first artificial human enhancement? These are some of the assertions Mayor makes as she explores early imaginings of creatures that are “made not born,” and investigates aspects of “biotechne,” or “life through craft,” in tales of familiar mythical figures such as Hephaestus, Daedalus, Medea, and Pandora. Early robots are indeed the stuff of myths, as Mayor demonstrates in her unpacking of these early conceptions of artificial life; she also explores their materiality in ancient artifacts such as coins, vases, and mirrors. Perhaps most recognizable as a robot prototype is the hulking bronze automaton Talos, forged by Hephaestus, but Mayor teases out for the reader how these many myths of artificial life are precursors to the made automata and robots that follow. Mayor’s final chapter, “Myth and History,” does delve into the world of the made to note such engineers such as Philo, Heron, al-Jazari and Ma Jun, and crosses over into legends of automaton guardians of Buddhist relics in India. Through this guide to the ancient world of automata, Mayor reminds us that humans have already imagined pretty much everything.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Gods and Robots.

--Marshal Zeringue

James Brabazon's "All Fall Down," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: All Fall Down by James Brabazon.

The entry begins:
There is only one possible actor who could play Max McLean, the Irish spy-assassin protagonist in All Fall Down – and that’s the amazing Jason O’Mara. They’re even from the same part of Ireland! Jason read the audio book for All Fall Down (which is more like a one-man dramatization) and totally brought Max to life. When I hear Max’s voice in my head, it’s Jason’s I can hear. He’s a top chap, too – zero celeb bs – which I think is vital for playing Max, who has the world’s most finely tuned bs detector!

Commander Frank Knight – Max’s enigmatic operator… Gary Oldman, for sure. He has form for playing tricky spies, and Frank Knight is as tricky as they come.

Rachel Levy, the brilliant, beautiful and devastating spectre that rises from Max’s past… that would have to be...[read on]
Visit James Brabazon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Break Line.

My Book, The Movie: The Break Line.

Writers Read: James Brabazon (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: All Fall Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Marti Leimbach

From my Q&A with Marti Leimbach, author of Dragonfly Girl:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Dragonfly Girl is about a high school senior who discovers a “cure” for death and ends up embroiled in an international rivalry. I thought about calling it The Death Cure, but that sounded like science fiction (the novel has some speculative fiction, but is very steeped in the real world). Also, it didn’t sound personal enough. This is about a girl, after all, one who is very smart in some ways, but woefully not in others, who can handle herself in very difficult situations that most teens wouldn’t cope with, but who can barely get through a school day without drama. How do you describe such a girl?

Within the first few chapters the reader will understand why the main character is called “dragonfly girl” but it isn’t until the end that the name has further significance, and we see that this girl has changed. She’s become something she wasn’t before. And this new identity will take...[read on]
Visit Marti Leimbach's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dragonfly Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Dragonfly Girl.

Q&A with Marti Leimbach.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Top ten books about castaways

Lucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers - The Sea Sisters, A Single Breath, The Blue/No Escape, Last Seen, You Let Me In, and The Castaways. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Clarke is a passionate traveller, beach hut dweller, and fresh air enthusiast. She's married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Clarke writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories.

At the Guardian she tagged ten favorite books about castaways, including:
The Beach by Alex Garland

Nick Hornby once described The Beach as “Lord of the Flies for Generation X”. When backpacker Richard is given a hand-sketched map, it promises to lead him to an unknown island and a secret beach untouched by tourism. Intrigued, Richard and two friends set off on a journey of discovery, eventually uncovering a community of travellers living on the shores of a Thai island. But utopia is laced with darkness, and the island paradise descends into violence and madness. An entire generation of travellers (me included) tucked this novel into their backpacks and went in search of the undiscovered.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Beach also appears on Hephzibah Anderson's list of eleven previously hip books that have not aged well, S J watson's list of six novels that could only take place at the seashore, Cat Barton's top five list of books on Southeast Asian travel literature, Kate Kellaway's ten best list of fictional holidays, Eleanor Muffitt top 12 list of books that make you want to pack your bags and trot the globe, Anna Wilson's top ten list of books set on the seaside, the Guardian editors' list of the 50 best summer reads ever, John Mullan's list of ten of the best swimming scenes in literature, and Sloane Crosley's list of five depressing beach reads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julia Fine's "The Upstairs House"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine.

About the book, from the publisher:
There’s a madwoman upstairs, and only Megan Weiler can see her.

Ravaged and sore from giving birth to her first child, Megan is mostly raising her newborn alone while her husband travels for work. Physically exhausted and mentally drained, she’s also wracked with guilt over her unfinished dissertation—a thesis on mid-century children’s literature.

Enter a new upstairs neighbor: the ghost of quixotic children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown—author of the beloved classic Goodnight Moon—whose existence no one else will acknowledge. It seems Margaret has unfinished business with her former lover, the once-famous socialite and actress Michael Strange, and is determined to draw Megan into the fray. As Michael joins the haunting, Megan finds herself caught in the wake of a supernatural power struggle—and until she can find a way to quiet these spirits, she and her newborn daughter are in terrible danger.

Using Megan’s postpartum haunting as a powerful metaphor for a woman’s fraught relationship with her body and mind, Julia Fine once again delivers an imaginative and “barely restrained, careful musing on female desire, loneliness, and hereditary inheritances” (Washington Post).
Visit Julia Fine's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Upstairs House.

The Page 69 Test: The Upstairs House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Courtney E. Thompson's "An Organ of Murder"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: An Organ of Murder: Crime, Violence, and Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century America by Courtney E. Thompson.

About the book, from the publisher:
An Organ of Murder explores the origins of both popular and elite theories of criminality in the nineteenth-century United States, focusing in particular on the influence of phrenology. In the United States, phrenology shaped the production of medico-legal knowledge around crime, the treatment of the criminal within prisons and in public discourse, and sociocultural expectations about the causes of crime. The criminal was phrenology’s ideal research and demonstration subject, and the courtroom and the prison were essential spaces for the staging of scientific expertise. In particular, phrenology constructed ways of looking as well as a language for identifying, understanding, and analyzing criminals and their actions. This work traces the long-lasting influence of phrenological visual culture and language in American culture, law, and medicine, as well as the practical uses of phrenology in courts, prisons, and daily life.
Learn more about An Organ of Murder at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: An Organ of Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Top ten queer protagonists in crime fiction

Russ Thomas grew up in the 80s reading anything he could get his hands on, writing stories, watching television, and playing videogames: in short, anything that avoided the Great Outdoors. After a few ‘proper’ jobs, he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Now a full-time writer, he also teaches creative writing classes and mentors new authors.

Thomas's new novel is Nighthawking.

At CrimeReads he tagged his "top ten list of the most memorable queer protagonists of crime fiction." One title on the list:
Leonard Pine

The 90s brought us Hap and Leonard, two best friends who have now been raising hell together across Texas for thirty years. It’s true to say they both break the mould. Hap Collins is the sensitive, brooding working-class labourer who avoids violence at almost any cost, while Leonard Pine is a gay black Vietnam veteran with a violent streak, who’s more than happy to shoot any man who underestimates him. We meet the pair in Joe R. Lansdale’s Savage Season (1990), a book chock full of memorable characters, sharp dialogue, and dark suspense. But it’s Leonard Pine who stands out as something special, a gay protagonist in the mystery genre who breaks every stereotype in the book.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Julia Fine's "The Upstairs House," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Upstairs House: A Novel by Julia Fine.

The entry begins:
The Upstairs House is about a new mother who is either experiencing postpartum psychosis, or being haunted by the ghosts of the author Margaret Wise Brown and her female lover. I’d love to see the film embrace all the messy, claustrophobic, feminist fractals of the novel—I envision a film that jumps between 1940s Manhattan and present-day Chicago, a film that blurs the line between fantasy and reality so that the viewer is just as unsettled as Megan, the protagonist.

Of the three lead characters, two are recent historical figures. I’ve tried to do their real-life counterparts justice in fiction, and in casting them I’d want to stick as close to their general real-life vibes as possible. Margaret Wise Brown was quirky and extravagantly generous and at the same time prickly. I envision an actress like Ruth Wilson or Kate Winslet in the role, someone who looks enough like Margaret in photographs, and could show us the vulnerability hiding underneath her many layers.

Michael Strange, Margaret’s partner of ten years, was a strong personality. She was extremely charismatic, and often very bossy—she definitely requires an actress with...[read on]
Visit Julia Fine's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Upstairs House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Emilya Naymark

From my Q&A with Emilya Naymark, author of Hide in Place:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think coming up with Hide in Place, the title, took longer than writing the novel. I’m kidding (not really). What I really wanted to call it was Minor Threat, but that would have been impossible—first, because it’s the name of a very famous punk hardcore band, and second, because it refers to my secondary protagonist, Alfie, the minor in the book. That title wasn’t thrilling enough. It wasn’t about my undercover detective. It implied something minor.

I recruited an army of friends and acquaintances to come up with a title for me. Dinner conversations, lunch conversations, Facebook threads, dozens of suggestions sent to my publisher. Nothing. When my agent suggested Hide in Place and my publisher accepted it, I was so happy I could have danced on the ceiling.

It's a great title because it refers to the way all the characters are playing a role. My undercover detective adopts alternate personas, my teenager tries on different behaviors to see which fits. My confidential informant hides in plain sight, and my detective’s ex-partner...[read on]
Visit Emilya Naymark's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hide in Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hide in Place.

Q&A with Emilya Naymark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Pg. 69: Marti Leimbach's "Dragonfly Girl"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dragonfly Girl by Marti Leimbach.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this spellbinding thriller and YA debut from bestselling author Marti Leimbach, Kira Adams has discovered a cure for death—and it may just cost her life.

Things aren’t going well for Kira. At home, she cares for her mother and fends off debt collectors. At school, she’s awkward and shy. Plus, she may flunk out if she doesn’t stop obsessing about science, her passion and the one thing she’s good at . . . very good at.

When she wins a prestigious science contest she draws the attention of the celebrated professor Dr. Gregory Munn (as well as his handsome assistant), leading to a part-time job in a top-secret laboratory.

The job is mostly cleaning floors and equipment, but one night, while running her own experiment, she revives a lab rat that has died in her care.

One minute it is dead, the next it is not.

Suddenly she’s the remarkable wunderkind, the girl who can bring back the dead. Everything is going her way. But it turns out that science can be a dangerous business, and Kira is swept up into a world of international rivalry with dark forces that threaten her life.
Visit Marti Leimbach's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dragonfly Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Dragonfly Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steven B. Smith's "Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes by Steven B. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
A rediscovery of patriotism as a virtue in line with the core values of democracy in an extremist age

The concept of patriotism has fallen on hard times. What was once a value that united Americans has become so politicized by both the left and the right that it threatens to rip apart the social fabric. On the right, patriotism has become synonymous with nationalism and an “us versus them” worldview, while on the left it is seen as an impediment to acknowledging important ethnic, religious, or racial identities and a threat to cosmopolitan globalism.

Steven B. Smith reclaims patriotism from these extremist positions and advocates for a patriotism that is broad enough to balance loyalty to country against other loyalties. Describing how it is a matter of both the head and the heart, Smith shows how patriotism can bring the country together around the highest ideals of equality and is a central and ennobling disposition that democratic societies cannot afford to do without.
Learn more about Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine top novels about gossip

Priyanka Champaneri received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts numerous times. She received the 2018 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing for The City of Good Death, her first novel.

At Electric Lit, Champaneri tagged "nine books to quell your appetite for a good gossip." One title on the list:
The Mothers by Brit Bennett

A chorus of women narrate the events of Brit Bennett’s debut novel, closely following the lives of three young members of their church’s congregation. Under this collective gaze, Nadia, Luke and Aubrey grow up—each carrying a personal burden that follows them into adulthood as they form attachments with each other, as well as deep secrets that threaten to crack open the carefully structured community that watches them. As the chorus notes,

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around in our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
Read about another entry on the list.

The Mothers is among Patrick Coleman's eight top San Diego books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 22, 2021

What is D.W. Buffa reading?

Featured at Writers Read: D.W. Buffa, author of The Privilege.

His entry begins:
I first read The Great Gatsby by accident, when I was twenty-four, late one night at the end of my second year in graduate school, the night before I left to spend the summer in New York. I had finished packing my tattered second-hand suitcase and the small string tied cardboard box of books I was taking with me. With nothing left to do, I picked up a slim paperback edition, a copy of Gatsby, and started to read. It was, if I remember, a little after midnight when I started and a little after four in the morning when I finally finished it and knew immediately that I would one day read it again. And I have, at least half a dozen times, the last time just a few days ago. The astonishing thing is that each time is like reading something you have never read before. You remember that you have read it, you remember the story, you remember whole lines, but it still, somehow, comes as a surprise, the way Fitzgerald makes you feel that you know these people as well, or better, than anyone you have ever actually met.

It is like listening to a story told by one of your uncles about relatives you never knew, the story he tells you each time you see him and always...[read on]
About The Privilege, from the publisher:
Joseph Antonelli, who never lost a case he should have won and won nearly every case he should have lost, is about to see his client, Justin Friedrich, convicted for a crime he did not commit. His wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their yacht in the San Francisco marina, and Friedrich does not have a chance. But then the real killer approaches Antonelli…

Famous and enigmatic, James Michael Redfield, the head of a high tech company that leads the world in the development of artificial intelligence, Redfield gives Antonelli evidence that proves Friedrich is innocent. But why did Redfield wait until the last minute to give Antonelli this proof?

Before Antonelli can even begin to solve that riddle, there is another murder, and Antonelli finds himself an unwilling participant in a conspiracy he does not understand. Antonelli has never known anyone like James Michael Redfield. Because for Redfield, it isn’t about murder at all; it is all about the trial. Because only a trial can show the world what Redfield believes it needs to know…no matter how many people need to die.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Writers Read: D.W. Buffa.

--Marshal Zeringue

The novels of the new Dark Academia canon

Amy Gentry is the author of the feminist thrillers Good as Gone, Last Woman Standing, and Bad Habits, as well as Boys for Pele, a book of music criticism in the 33 1/3 series.

At CrimeReads she tagged the books of “'Dark Academia,' after the gothic, bookish online aesthetic that adopts The Secret History as its foundational text." One title on the list:
They Never Learn, Layne Fargo (2020)

Fargo’s book is the rare one on this list that features a professor in the lead—but in keeping with the Dark Academia aesthetic, she’s not a detective, but a serial killer. Antihero Scarlett is sultry yet calculating, deeply committed to pleasure, and bent on exacting her revenge on campus rapists. In They Never Learn, Fargo cleverly interweaves chapters about Scarlet’s shocking habit of murdering men at her college with a parallel story of a young student that will have readers wishing she would bump off a couple more.
Read about another entry on the list.

They Never Learn is among Molly Odintz's six best vigilante thrillers.

My Book, The Movie: They Never Learn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Ashley Schumacher

From my Q&A with Ashley Schumacher, author of Amelia Unabridged: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I was told very early in my pursuit of traditional publishing that the powers that be are more of an influence on titles than anything else. I had friends who warned that they had held onto a beloved title with both hands only to have it wrenched from their grasp, so I was very hesitant to let myself really love any title lest I should lose it.

Amelia Unabridged was actually courtesy of my husband after a joint brainstorming session. It represents the book beautifully, I think, bringing the main character Amelia right up against a literary term and hinting that stories will be a large part of the novel itself. I’m thrilled the title stood the test of time.

What's in a name?

Names play an important part in Amelia Unabridged, especially when it comes to N. E. Endsley, the mysterious author of the book series with which the main character, Amelia, is obsessed. What people...[read on]
Visit Ashley Schumacher's website.

Q&A with Ashley Schumacher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fifty great classic novels under 200 pages

Emily Temple holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

Temple's first novel is The Lightness.

At Lit Hub she tagged fifty great classic novels under 200 pages. One title on the list:
James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1933) : 112 pages

A 20th century classic, and still one of the best, most important, and most interesting crime novels in the canon. Fun fact: Cain had originally wanted to call it Bar-B-Q.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Postman Always Rings Twice is among Douglas Kennedy's ten favorite "novels on the agonies and ecstasies of the extramarital adventure," Vincent Zandri's top ten doomed and deadly romances in noir fiction, and Benjamin Black/John Banville's five top works of noir.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Howard Smith's "A Dream of the Judgment Day"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Dream of the Judgment Day: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1620-1890 by John Howard Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
The United States has long thought of itself as exceptional--a nation destined to lead the world into a bright and glorious future. These ideas go back to the Puritan belief that Massachusetts would be a "city on a hill," and in time that image came to define the United States and the American mentality. But what is at the root of these convictions? John Howard Smith's A Dream of the Judgment Day explores the origins of beliefs about the biblical end of the world as Americans have come to understand them, and how these beliefs led to a conception of the United States as an exceptional nation with a unique destiny to fulfill. However, these beliefs implicitly and explicitly excluded African Americans and American Indians because they didn't fit white Anglo-Saxon ideals. While these groups were influenced by these Christian ideas, their exclusion meant they had to craft their own versions of millenarian beliefs. Women and other marginalized groups also played a far larger role than usually acknowledged in this phenomenon, greatly influencing the developing notion of the United States as the "redeemer nation."

Smith's comprehensive history of eschatological thought in early America encompasses traditional and non-traditional Christian beliefs in the end of the world. It reveals how millennialism and apocalypticism played a role in destructive and racist beliefs like "Manifest Destiny," while at the same time influencing the foundational idea of the United States as an "elect nation." Featuring a broadly diverse cast of historical figures, A Dream of the Judgment Day synthesizes more than forty years of scholarship into a compelling and challenging portrait of early America.
Learn more about A Dream of the Judgment Day at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Dream of the Judgment Day.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jack Heath's "The Missing Passenger"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Missing Passenger by Jack Heath.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jarli only narrowly escaped death after his world-shattering app made him infamous. Now there’s a new foe afoot and Jarli is far from safe in this thrilling sequel to The Truth App.

When a seemingly unoccupied plane crash lands in the middle of Kelton, Jarli’s attempts to lay low and out of Viper’s criminal crosshairs crash lands along with it.

The cause of the accident is a mystery until his Truth App uncovers a dangerous secret at the crash site—a secret Viper will do anything to keep buried.

Suddenly Jarli is a target again and on the run with his high school tormentor, Doug. There’s no one he can trust, not even the police—and Jarli’s starting to think Doug is hiding something, too. Constantly at odds and left with no other choice, they team up to conduct an investigation of their own. But when Doug’s past comes back to haunt them, Jarli fears that there’s little hope in getting out of this one alive.

Kelton was supposed to be the perfect hiding place. But there’s no hiding from the truth.
Visit Jack Heath's website.

Writers Read: Jack Heath (April 2020).

My Book, The Movie: The Truth App.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing Passenger.

--Marshal Zeringue