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

Q&A with Riley Sager

From my Q&A with Riley Sager, author of Home Before Dark: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

This was a hard book to title, mostly because it’s really two books in one—the story of a woman returning to the allegedly haunted house she lived in as a child and the full text of the bestselling horror memoir her father wrote about their time there. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a title, which is why I took a more abstract approach. I knew the title needed to signify a house was involved, but I also wanted it to hint at the paranormal. I considered several ideas, including House of Horrors, which I thought was a little too on the nose. That became the title of the book within the book. I finally settled on Home Before Dark because it has a kiss of the sinister while really conveying the sense of returning to a place you might not want to be...[read on]
Visit Riley Sager's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Elle Cosimano's "Seasons of the Storm," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Seasons of the Storm by Elle Cosimano.

The entry begin:
Seasons of the Storm is a young adult urban fantasy/adventure about a group of teens who, upon their untimely deaths, have each been turned into the immortal embodiment of a season on earth. Gifted with elemental magic, they’re forced into a vicious cycle in which each Season must hunt and kill the one who comes before them in order to lay claim to their limited time on earth. I started drafting the story years ago, so many of the actors I envisioned while creating the characters are now too old for the roles. But there are plenty of amazing and talented young actors today who could easily play their parts.

Jack Sommers became the living embodiment of Winter in 1988 after a skiing accident took his life. With a skater’s build and garage-band style, he’s the story’s cool and brooding rebel. Cocky and willful, Jack’s known for his ambitious and often dangerous plans, and I can picture Colin Ford pulling off this role with aplomb.

After dying from cancer in the early 1990s, Fleur Atwell was revived to become one of the most powerful Springs in the world. Her long pink hair, emotional warmth, and sunny disposition contrast her badass grip on some deadly earth magic, and she can be...[read on]
Visit Elle Cosimano's website.

Q&A with Elle Cosimano.

My Book, The Movie: Seasons of the Storm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Seven books about lives lived at sea

Lisa Alther was born and grew up in Tennessee. Her novels include Kinflicks, a feminist coming-of-age chronicle. Her other books include Original Sins, Other Women, Bedrock, and a book of conversations between Alther and the painter Françoise Gilot (About Women). Alther’s books have been published in seventeen languages and have appeared on best-seller lists worldwide.

Her new novel is Swan Song.

At Lit Hub Alther tagged seven "books [that] are some of [her] favorites for the ways in which they capture both the sublime and the sinister aspects of life at sea," including:
Ruth Ware, The Woman in Cabin 10

I took a tour of the Queen Mary II and spotted so many ways to dispose of a corpse that I decided to write a murder mystery set on a cruise ship. Once I got home and read my opening chapter, I realized that murder mysteries require a skill set I lack. But if I could have written one, I’d have liked it to resemble this stylish story, set on a luxury yacht in the North Sea. A travel journalist thinks she’s heard a body being dumped overboard in the cabin next door in the middle of the night, but everyone else is convinced that she is just an hysteric.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Woman in Cabin 10  is among Jeff Somers's six best locked-room mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julia Spiro's "Someone Else’s Secret"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Someone Else's Secret: A Novel by Julia Spiro.

About the book, from the publisher:
Here’s the thing about secrets: they change shape over time, become blurry with memory, until the truth is nearly lost.

2009. Lindsey and Georgie have high hopes for their summer on Martha’s Vineyard. In the wake of the recession, ambitious college graduate Lindsey accepts a job as a nanny for an influential family who may help her land a position in Boston’s exclusive art world. Georgie, the eldest child in that family, is nearly fifteen and eager to find herself, dreaming of independence and yearning for first love.

Over the course of that formative summer, the two young women develop a close bond. Then, one night by the lighthouse, a shocking act occurs that ensnares them both in the throes of a terrible secret. Their budding friendship is shattered, and neither one can speak of what happened that night for ten long years.

Until now. Lindsey and Georgie must confront the past after all this time. Their quest for justice will require costly sacrifices, but it also might give them the closure they need to move on. All they know for sure is that when the truth is revealed, their lives will be forever changed once again.

From a fresh voice in fiction, this poignant and timely novel explores the strength and nuance of female friendship, the cost of ambition, and the courage it takes to speak the truth.
Visit Julia Spiro's website.

The Page 69 Test: Someone Else's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Donna Hemans

From my Q&A with Donna Hemans, author of Tea by the Sea:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Tea By the Sea is a title I had in mind long before I developed the story. I don’t recall now how I came to find it but I jotted it down and knew that I would ultimately find a story that worked with it. In this novel, a young mother spends 17 years searching for her daughter taken from her at birth. That description doesn’t readily connect with the idea of having tea by the sea. But readers will discover that tea by the sea is the activity that connects the daughter, Opal, to a mother she doesn’t know. Built into that activity is the guilt Lenworth, Opal’s father, feels after having taken his baby daughter away from...[read on]

Q&A with Donna Hemans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew S. Baer's "Beyond the Usual Beating"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Beyond the Usual Beating: The Jon Burge Police Torture Scandal and Social Movements for Police Accountability in Chicago by Andrew S. Baer.

About the book, from the publisher:
The malign and long-lasting influence of Chicago police commander Jon Burge cannot be overestimated, particularly as fresh examples of local and national criminal-justice abuse continue to surface with dismaying frequency. Burge’s decades-long tenure on the Chicago police force was marked by racist and barbaric interrogation methods, including psychological torture, burnings, and mock executions—techniques that went far “beyond the usual beating.” After being exposed in 1989, he became a symbol of police brutality and the unequal treatment of nonwhite people, and the persistent outcry against him led to reforms such as the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois.

But Burge hardly developed or operated in a vacuum, as Andrew S. Baer explores to stark effect here. He identifies the darkness of the Burge era as a product of local social forces, arising from a specific milieu beyond the nationwide racialized reactionary fever of the 1960s and 1970s. Similarly, the popular resistance movements that rallied in his wake actually predated Burge’s exposure but cohered with unexpected power due to the galvanizing focus on his crimes and abuses. For more than thirty years, a shifting coalition including torture survivors, their families, civil rights attorneys, and journalists helped to corroborate allegations of violence, free the wrongfully convicted, have Burge fired and incarcerated, and win passage of a municipal reparations package, among other victories. Beyond the Usual Beating reveals that though the Burge scandal underscores the relationship between personal bigotry and structural racism in the criminal justice system, it also shows how ordinary people held perpetrators accountable in the face of intransigent local power.
Learn more about Beyond the Usual Beating at the University of Chicago Press website.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seven top fictional characters who are bent but not broken

Kate McLaughlin's new novel is What Unbreakable Looks Like.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven "favorite Bent-But-Not-Broken characters who take the traumas of their past and triumph over them, or use them as sources of strength." One title on the list:
Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie girl, if you were real I’d want to be your friend. I just realized that several of these characters have something in common —love for family, and sisters in particular—whether by birth or by choice. Sadie doted on her younger sister, Maddie. She was more of a mother than sister, since their own mother was off doing her own thing. Sadie suffered a lot, but Maddie was a shining star in her life. Then, Maddie was killed, and Sadie almost broke. But, like the other women on this list, Sadie took her grief and turned it into something else. She took the pain and abuse of her past and channeled it into a quest for truth and justice. Teen-age Sadie buys a car, stocks up on salt and vinegar chips and sets out on a road trip to avenge her sister’s death. Along the way she meets up with some unsavory characters who would like to deepen the cracks in her veneer, but Sadie refuses to break.
Read about another entry on the list.

Sadie is among Kate Kessler's six top revenge thrillers featuring female protagonists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Riley Sager's "Home Before Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark: A Novel by Riley Sager.

About the book, from the publisher:
What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.
Visit Riley Sager's website.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Diana Clarke

From my Q&A with Diana Clarke, author of Thin Girls:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I am a notoriously bad titler, so I didn’t actually come up with Thin Girls, although now I can’t imagine the book with any other name. I usually call a book some incomprehensible combination of letters (mcisnanxjcjw) until someone helps me out with a title. Titles give me stage fright; it’s terrifying, to name a book! A name, I think, should glance without pointing, suggest without winking, and I’m so unsubtle. I am also always wary of the dreaded aha (!) moment in which the reader comes across the book’s title in the book and is immediately ejected from the story’s world, so it was important to me that, if the title phrase did come up in the book, it wasn’t in a cheesy ‘big reveal’ way. The phrase “thin girls” is mentioned on the first page, and then regularly throughout the book. It’s a to-the-point title, an immediate declaration – this is a story about eating disorders, body image, the dieting industry. It’s a book about girls who are thin and girls who want to be and girls who can’t be and the fact that every girl is under the pressure to be...[read on]
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

My Book, The Movie: Thin Girls.

Q&A with Diana Clarke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David M. Carballo's "Collision of Worlds"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain by David M. Carballo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mexico of five centuries ago was witness to one of the most momentous encounters between human societies, when a group of Spaniards led by Hernando Cortés joined forces with tens of thousands of Mesoamerican allies to topple the mighty Aztec Empire. It served as a template for the forging of much of Latin America and initiated the globalized world we inhabit today. The violent clash that culminated in the Aztec-Spanish war of 1519-21 and the new colonial order it created were millennia in the making, entwining the previously independent cultural developments of both sides of the Atlantic.

Collision of Worlds provides a deep history of this encounter, one that considers temporal depth in the richly layered cultures of Mexico and Spain, from their prehistories to the urban and imperial societies they built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Leading Mesoamerican archaeologist David Carballo offers a unique perspective on these fabled events with a focus on the physical world of places and things, their similarities and differences in trans-Atlantic perspective, and their interweaving in an encounter characterized by conquest and colonialism, but also resilience on the part of Native peoples. An engrossing and sweeping account, Collision of Worlds debunks long-held myths and contextualizes the deep roots and enduring consequences of the Aztec-Spanish conflict as never before.
Learn more about Collision of Worlds at the Oxford University Press website.
The Page 99 Test: Collision of Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue