Monday, December 31, 2007

Pg. 99: J. Díaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

About the book, from the publisher:
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Díaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Díaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
Among the praise for the novel:
"Díaz's gutsy short story collection Drown (1996) made the young Dominican American a literary star. Readers who have had to wait a decade for his first novel are now spectacularly rewarded. Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, he has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters—Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator—cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are. Propelled by compassion, Díaz's novel is intrepid and radiant."
--Booklist (starred review)

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a book that speaks in tongues. This long-awaited novel by Junot D’az is a masterpiece about our New World, its myths, curses, and bewitching women. Set in America's navel, New Jersey, and haunted by the vision of Trujillo's brutal reign over the Dominican Republic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is radiant with the hard lives of those who leave and also those who stay behind-it is a rousing hymn about the struggle to defy bone-cracking history with ordinary, and extraordinary, love."
--Walter Mosley, author of Devil in a Blue Dress and Cinammon Kiss

"Terrific... Narrated in high-energy Spanglish, the book is packed with wide-ranging cultural references - to Dune, Julia Alvarez, The Sound of Music - as well as erudite and hilarious footnotes on Caribbean history. It is a joy to read, and every bit as exhilarating to reread."
--Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly

"Astoundingly great.... You could call The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao the saga of an immigrant family, but that wouldn't really be fair. It's an immigrant-family saga for people who don't read immigrant-family sagas."
--Lev Grossman, Time

"Now that D’az's second book, a novel called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has finally arrived, younger writers will find that the bar. And some older writers - we know who we are - might want to think about stepping up their game. Oscar Wao shows a novelist engaged with the culture, high and low, and its polyglot language."
--David Gates, Newsweek

"In the imagination of many writers it is the untold stories that propel-those vibrant, colorful, magical, historical swirls of humanity that make up our knowing. Junot D’az's wondrous first novel offers that and more, enchanting us with energetic poetry and offering us a splendid portrait of ordinary folks set against the extraordinary cruel history of the Dominican Republic in the 20th century. Those of us who have for years known and marveled at Mr. D’az's stories will not be disappointed."
--Edward P. Jones
Read an excerpt from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and learn more about the book and author at Junot Díaz's website.

Junot Díaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown was a national bestseller and won numerous awards. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao “a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.”

The Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What is Michael Boylan reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Michael Boylan, Chair of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies at Marymount University and author of many publications, including the novel The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment and A Just Society, Boylan's original worldview theory of ethics and social philosophy.

Part of his entry:
Books: nonfiction--
  • translations of Kant's Critique of Judgment
  • review of my translation of Plato's Republic [read on]
The Page 99 Test: A Just Society.

The Page 69 Test: The Extinction of Desire: A Tale of Enlightenment.

Writers Read: Michael Boylan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pg. 69: "The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Andrew Lycett's The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

About the book, from the publisher:

Though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name is recognized the world over, for decades the man himself has been overshadowed by his better understood creation, Sherlock Holmes, who has become one of literature's most enduring characters. Based on thousands of previously unavailable documents, Andrew Lycett, author of the critically acclaimed biography Dylan Thomas, offers the first definitive biography of the baffling Conan Doyle, finally making sense of a long-standing mystery: how the scientifically minded creator of the world's most rational detective himself succumbed to an avid belief in spiritualism, including communication with the dead.

Conan Doyle was a man of many contradictions. Always romantic, energetic, idealistic and upstanding, he could also be selfish and fool-hardy. Lycett assembles the many threads of Conan Doyle's life, including the lasting impact of his domineering mother and his wayward, alcoholic father; his affair with a younger woman while his wife lay dying; and his nearly fanatical pursuit of scientific data to prove and explain various supernatural phenomena. Lycett reveals the evolution of Conan Doyle's nature and ideas against the backdrop of his intense personal life, wider society and the intellectual ferment of his age. In response to the dramatic scientific and social transformations at the turn of the century, he rejected traditional religious faith in favor of psychics and séances -- and in this way he embodied all of his late-Victorian, early-Edwardian era's ambivalence about the advance of science and the decline of religion.

The first biographer to gain access to Conan Doyle's newly released personal archive -- which includes correspondence, diaries, original manuscripts and more -- Lycett combines assiduous research with penetrating insight to offer the most comprehensive, lucid and sympathetic portrait yet of Conan Doyle's personal journey from student to doctor, from world-famous author to ardent spiritualist.

Among the early praise for The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes:
"[An] excellent biography.... Comprehensive and authoritative, it is undoubtedly the best account of Doyle to date, and the best we are likely to get."
-- The Sunday Times (London)

"[A] scrupulous, authoritative account of how an undistinguished doctor from Portsmouth climbed to the pinnacle of late-Victorian literary fame."
-- Jeremy McCarter, New York Times Book Review

"Lycett excels in unearthing the sources from which Doyle drew to endow Holmes with unique skills.... [A] brilliant analysis."
-- Sunday Herald (Scotland)

"In Andrew Lycett's hugely enjoyable new biography, the sheer breathtaking dynamism of [Conan Doyle] shines through.... [An] impeccably researched book."
-- The Sunday Telegraph (London)

"It is the precise and intelligent appreciation of the differences by which Conan Doyle was composed that makes Lycett's diagnosis of his subject so thoroughly satisfying. Using previously unseen archives, Lycett gives us Conan Doyle as a late Victorian and definitive Edwardian, battling with the uncertainties of his own age, weary of the uncertainties of the next one."
-- The New Statesman (London)

"Conan Doyle has found a biographer of distinction in Andrew Lycett.... Lycett's brilliant piece of detective work on the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories now allows us to judge his literary worth against that of his peers and properly to set him in the context of his times.... [A] splendid biography."
-- The Guardian, Book of the Week selection (London)

"[A] sympathetic new biography...shrewd and thorough ... entertaining."
-- The Independent on Sunday (London)
Read an excerpt from The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes and learn more about the book at the Simon & Schuster website.

Andrew Lycett studied history at Oxford University. After an early career as a foreign correspondent specializing in Africa and the Middle East, he now writes biographies. His lives of Dylan Thomas, Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming have been highly praised.

"10 things you didn’t know about Arthur Conan Doyle."

The Page 69 Test: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pg. 99: "In the Company of Crows and Ravens"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the cave walls at Lascaux to the last painting by Van Gogh, from the works of Shakespeare to those of Mark Twain, there is clear evidence that crows and ravens influence human culture. Yet this influence is not unidirectional, say the authors of this fascinating book: people profoundly influence crow culture, ecology, and evolution as well.

John Marzluff and Tony Angell examine the often surprising ways that crows and humans interact. The authors contend that those interactions reflect a process of “cultural coevolution.” They offer a challenging new view of the human-crow dynamic — a view that may change our thinking not only about crows but also about ourselves.

Featuring more than 100 original drawings, the book takes a close look at the influences people have had on the lives of crows throughout history and at the significant ways crows have altered human lives. In the Company of Crows and Ravens illuminates the entwined histories of crows and people and concludes with an intriguing discussion of the crow-human relationship and how our attitudes toward crows may affect our cultural trajectory.
Among the praise for In the Company of Crows and Ravens:
"A fascinating look at the corvid family, illustrated with Mr. Angell’s delightful black-and-white drawings."
—Stuart Ferguson, Wall Street Journal

"A fascinating examination of two unsung birds and their relations with humans.... [A] stunningly illustrated volume."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Sleek, evocative illustrations—a mysterious light seems to come directly from the eyes and feathers of these birds.... Learning how to slow down and observe animals around us is one simple way to form a stronger bond with nature. In the Company of Crows and Ravens is a subtle and beautiful reminder of this simple truth."
—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"If corvids could read — and it seems they can do damn near everything else — they would surely find this book as entertaining and instructive as this human does."
—Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"...beautifully illustrated and gripping and difficult to put down as any good work of fiction."
—Alex Kacelnik, Nature

"... a book rich in descriptive language and juicy with insight and biological detail."
New Scientist

"This is a work bursting with fresh ideas, rich in speculation, while also managing to survey, in highly accessible terms, the full spectrum of research into this fascinating bird group."
BBC Wildlife Magazine

"A solid volume...[with] a vast amount of fascinating and provocative material..."

"[A] delightful blend of science, art, and anthropology, biologist Marzluff and illustrator Angell, both fascinated by the corvids, demonstrate why the crows and ravens are worthy of study and respect.... The text travels easily from science to folklore to literature, which, along with Angell's lively black-and-white illustrations, recommends this book highly."

Listen to a conversation with John Marzluff on WAMU Washington's The Diane Rehm Show.

John M. Marzluff is Denman Professor of Sustainable Resource Sciences and professor of wildlife science, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington. Tony Angell is a freelance artist and writer in Lopez Island, Washington.

Read an excerpt from In the Company of Crows and Ravens and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: In the Company of Crows and Ravens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pg. 69: Jessica Snyder Sachs' "Good Germs, Bad Germs"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jessica Snyder Sachs' Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World.

About the book, from the publisher:
Making Peace with Microbes

Public sanitation and antibiotic drugs have brought about historic increases in the human life span; they have also unintentionally produced new health crises by disrupting the intimate, age-old balance between humans and the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and our environment. As a result, antibiotic resistance now ranks among the gravest medical problems of modern times. Good Germs, Bad Germs addresses not only this issue but also what has become known as the “hygiene hypothesis”— an argument that links the over-sanitation of modern life to now-epidemic increases in immune and other disorders. In telling the story of what went terribly wrong in our war on germs, Jessica Snyder Sachs explores our emerging understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the human body and its resident microbes—which outnumber its human cells by a factor of nine to one! The book also offers a hopeful look into a future in which antibiotics will be designed and used more wisely, and beyond that, to a day when we may replace antibacterial drugs and cleansers with bacterial ones — each custom-designed for maximum health benefits.
Among the praise for Good Germs, Bad Germs:
"The paradigm shift of working with instead of against bacteria has the potential to revolutionize 21st–century medicine; Sachs’s book is a thoughtful lay reader’s guide to this emerging field."
Library Journal

"Jessica Snyder Sachs successfully weaves story–telling, history, microbiology and evolution into an exciting account of the two aspects of microbes for humankind — the good and the bad. Through direct interviews and other primary sources, she provides the reader with up-to-date reporting in the areas of drug resistance, infection and new therapeutics. The book is a wonderful read."
—Stuart B. Levy, M.D., author of The Antibiotic Paradox: How the Misuse of Antibiotics Destroys their Curative Powers

"Jessica Snyder Sachs has a vital message about our future health: we have to get to know our microbes better. They are not simple germs to be wiped out with a magic drug, but complicated creatures whose existence is intimately intertwined with our own. In Good Germs, Bad Germs, Sachs delivers one of the best accounts of the cutting edge of microbiology I've read in recent years."
—Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

"If germs had hands you’d want to shake them — at least to thank them for the good work they do. That counterintuitive truth is just one of many in Jessica Snyder Sachs’s Good Germs, Bad Germs, an alternately illuminating, fascinating and even amusing look into the curious world of microbes and how our very struggle to keep ourselves safe from them has put us in danger we never imagined. Sachs displays a rare gift for shining light into places you thought you’d never want to explore and then making you glad you had the courage to peek. This is splendid writing."
—Jeffrey Kluger, Science Editor, Time, and author of SPLENDID SOLUTION: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio

"Good Germs, Bad Germs is incredibly well researched and contains a wealth of fascinating information. It is completely up to date, integrating science and health with the newest ideas on how microbes beneficially affect and even protect humans from disease."
—Dale Umetsu, professor of immunology, Harvard Medical School

"Jessica Snyder Sachs’s Good Germs Bad Germs is an outstanding introduction to a complex scientific topic, presented in extremely clear and vivid language. Her approach outlines not only the deleterious effects of microbes, with which we are all too familiar, but also the beneficial side to this vast array of organisms, without which human life would be impossible. The book is a must read for anyone who wants to get 'the big picture' of the microbial world."
—Garland E. Allen, professor of biology, Washington University

"The amazing thing about this book is that it unites in a remarkable way the particular — otherwise known as everyday life — with the sweepingly general — the historical perspective. It is educational, amusing, thought–provoking, and quirky by turns. It brings to life not only the individual scientists who shaped the modern era of microbiology but also the equally important lives of modern parents with critically ill children. I wish I had written this book."
—Abigail Salyers, professor of microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and co-author of Revenge Of The Microbes: How Bacterial Resistance Is Undermining The Antibiotic Miracle

Read an excerpt from Good Germs, Bad Germs and learn more about the book and author at Jessica Snyder Sachs' website.

Jessica Snyder Sachs is a contributing editor to Popular Science and Parenting magazines and writes regularly for Discover, National Wildlife, and other national publications. Prior to becoming a full-time freelance writer in 1991, she managed and edited Science Digest.

The Page 69 Test: Good Germs, Bad Germs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lilith Saintcrow's "Dante Valentine series," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Lilith Saintcrow's "Dante Valentine series."

The Dante Valentine series opens with Working For The Devil and closes with the newly-released fifth and final volume, To Hell and Back.

Saintcrow's entry opens:
Since I'm a very visual writer, I usually do play the game with myself -- "who would I cast in my books?"

For the Valentine series, some of it is simple. I would love Fairuza Balk or Rachel Weisz as Dante, since both have that edge of competence. I would also, if I'm dreaming, like Cate Blanchett for the role, since Dante isn't traditionally pretty. [read on]
Learn more about the author and her books at Lilith Saintcrow's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lilith Saintcrow's "Dante Valentine series."

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Seth Harwood reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Seth Harwood, creator of the the Jack Palms Crime Podcast Series. His novel Jack Wakes Up will be available in print in March 2008.

Harwood's stories have been published in Post Road, Ecotone, Inkwell, Sojourn: A Journal of the Arts, and The Red Rock Review, among others, as well as in the online journals Storyglossia and His story “White” was nominated for a Pushcart prize.

He teaches writing and literature at the City College of San Francisco and Chabot College.

One paragraph from his entry:
For the classes I’m teaching now, I’m reading Capote’s In Cold Blood, a truly great, pioneering book in American creative nonfiction, and Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good for You, which makes me want to watch TV and feel good about it. On that note, I just finished watching the second season of Showtime’s Dexter, which I think is the best thing around by a mile, even up on The Sopranos level. I had to read the Lindsay books after I started watching the series, I just finished his second one, actually, and I find the series to be even better. I love the way it builds the different characters into complete people that you have to care about — all of them! [read on]
Visit Seth Harwood's website, his blog, and his MySpace page.

Writers Read: Seth Harwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pg. 99: David Fulmer's "The Blue Door"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Blue Door by David Fulmer.

About the book, from the publisher:
As welterweight boxer Eddie Cero makes his way home through a dark Philadelphia alley, he steps in on two punks beating up an older man. It’s a favor that’s going to turn Eddie’s life upside down. Sal Giambroni buys Eddie a round and offers him a part-time gig helping with his private-detective work. Despite Eddie’s reluctance, a few days on the job reveal that he has a knack for snooping — and then he stumbles onto a cold case involving a missing soul singer. A music lover with a budding interest in the singer’s attractive, talented sister, Eddie finds himself involved in a violent, twisted story of betrayal and intrigue, power and passion — all set to the beat of rock and roll.

David Fulmer’s acclaimed Storyville series brought us a New Orleans teeming with jazz. The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues took fans to Atlanta and the blues. The Blue Door now brings us the vibrant city of Philadelphia and the early days of its famous soul.
Among the advance praise for The Blue Door:
"Moving from 1907 New Orleans (Jass and Rampart Street) to 1962 Philadelphia, Shamus Award winner Fulmer pulls out all of the stops in creating a most engaging, reluctant private investigator. Eddie Cero, a welterweight boxer with too many serious injuries, meets up with Sal Giambroni, who hires him to tail a businessman. Eddie discovers he has a natural bent for this work and is soon taking on a three-year-old cold case involving a rising soul singer. Offering a vivid portrait of Philly's heyday as a music scene (think American Bandstand), Fulmer's latest mystery is an excellent choice for patrons who like George Pelecanos and a good dollop of music in their mysteries. Fulmer lives in Atlanta."
--Library Journal

"Shamus-winner Fulmer (The Dying Crapshooter's Blues) delivers another compelling tale of music and murder. In 1962 Philadelphia, a struggling young boxer's life is changed forever when he comes to the rescue of PI Sal Giambroni during a mugging in a South Philly alley. Giambroni offers welterweight Eddie Cero a job, and after reluctantly accepting, Eddie finds he has a knack for investigative work. He turns his attention to the unsolved disappearance of Johnny Pope, lead singer of the Excels, a once-popular rock group. Eddie finds himself falling for Pope's sister, Valerie, a jazz singer at the Blue Door Club, though she fiercely resists his attempts to uncover the truth about her brother. Fulmer expertly portrays the racial tensions of the era as Eddie, a white man, navigates his relationship with Valerie, a black woman. As in previous works, Fulmer excels at capturing the feel and textures of earlier decades, even as he moves forward in time with each successive novel. Drawn in by the immensely likable characters and rich, realistic story lines, readers will be eager to see where Fulmer goes next."
--Publishers Weekly

"Leisurely and atmospheric. Fulmer seems most intent on creating Eddie's quirky world, perhaps in preparation for further episodes. Eddie's exploits might do for the American Bandstand-era City of Brotherly Love what Fulmer's Storyville series (Rampart Street, 2006, etc.) did for Jazz Age New Orleans."
--Kirkus Reviews

"The Blue Door is an exciting historical private investigative tale. Eddie is terrific as he holds the story line together; his hunk lit asides add depth to 1962 when Bandstand ruled Rock and Roll. Readers will enjoy Eddie working the case, but it is the underbelly of the short-lived Camelot era that comes to vivid life that makes this a strong Philadelphia Noir."
--Harriet Klausner

"Fulmer gives us the whole package -- gritty characters, plot muscle and historical relevance. He vividly conveys the streets and the competitive interests of the crowd on both sides of the crime line, remaining true to motivations and behaviors that have the feel of humanity. But there's more to distinguish a Fulmer novel. No setting, for him, is complete without the music of the time, place and individual, which he laces through the narrative like a pattern in a garment. Be it historical New Orleans ("Jass"), Atlanta ("The Dying Crapshooter's Blues") or, as in this case, the dope-ridden, rum-soaked streets of Philly, the beat of the music is pervasive, as is the quality of the yarn. Anyone reading this would be well advised to pick up everything this under-rated author puts inside the covers of a book."
--Jules Brenner
Read Chapter One from The Blue Door and learn more about the author and his writing at David Fulmer's website.

David Fulmer is the author of, among other works, the acclaimed Storyville mysteries featuring Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. The first volume of the series, Chasing the Devil's Tail, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and the winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel.

My Book, The Movie: David Fulmer's "Storyville" books.

The Page 69 Test: The Dying Crapshooter's Blues.

The Page 99 Test: The Blue Door.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pg. 69: Marie Phillips' "Gods Behaving Badly"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

About the book, from the publisher:

Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees - a favorite pastime of Apollo's - is sapping their vital reserves of strength.

Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?
Among the praise for Gods Behaving Badly:

"Witty and entertaining . . . an auspicious debut that outrageously libels the classical pantheon."
—James Urquhart, Financial Times

"A joyful frolic. . . . This novel will not only make you laugh and give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling; it will also provide a good basic grounding in Greek mythology."
—Lisa Gee, The Independent

"A swaggering caper ... ingeniously imagined and satisfyingly lusty."
—Catherine Taylor, The Guardian

"Very, very funny.... This book charms and provokes."
—Bettany Hughes, Times of London

"Funny and unpretentious, witty and readable."
—Francesca Segal, The Observer

"What makes the novel stand out - and it really does stand out - is its originality and lightness of touch."
—Jessamy Calkin, Daily Telegraph Magazine

Read more about the novel and watch a video of Phillips talking about Gods Behaving Badly.

Learn more about the author and her writing at the official Marie Phillips website and The Woman Who Talked Too much blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gods Behaving Badly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pg. 99: D.P. Lyle's "Forensics and Fiction"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: D.P. Lyle's Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers.

About the book, from the publisher:
How long can someone survive in a cold, damp cave without food or water? How was diphtheria treated in 1886? Can Botox kill? Can DNA be found on a knife years later? How are mummified corpses identified? How long does it take blood to clot when spilled on a tile floor? What happens in death from electrocution?

As a consultant to many novelists around the world and to the writers of such popular TV shows as Monk, Law & Order, House, and CSI: Miami, D. P. Lyle, M.D., has answered many cool, clever, and oddball questions over the years. Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers is a collection of the best of these questions. The answers are provided in a concise and entertaining fashion that will keep you wide awake so you can read “just one more.”
Among the praise for Forensics and Fiction:
“Indispensable ... Don’t even think of writing a medical mystery without the wise counsel of Dr. D. P. Lyle.”
--Lee Goldberg, author of the Diagnosis Murder and Monk novels

“A terrific resource for crime writers and anyone interested in forensics ... will jump-start your imagination about all kinds of ingenious crimes, crime-solving techniques, and plot twists.”
--Matt Witten, supervising producer of the Fox TV show House

“Every crime-fiction author’s best friend ... as essential to my library as my Strunk and White.”
--Hallie Ephron, author of Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel

“There’s damn good reason why Dr. Doug Lyle’s e-mail is in every crime writer’s address book and why his reference books belong on every aspiring writer’s book shelf: His advice comes from the head of a medical expert but also from the heart and imagination of a writer. Whenever I paint myself into a forensic corner, Dr. Doug is always there to rescue me.”
--P. J. Parrish, author of An Unquiet Grave
Read an excerpt from Forensics and Fiction.

D. P. Lyle, MD is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar Award nominated author of the non-fiction books Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers, a compilation of the most interesting questions he has received over the years, and Forensics For Dummies, an in depth look into the world of forensic science. His published fiction includes the thrillers Devil’s Playground and Double Blind.

The Page 99 Test: Forensics and Fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Michael Dirda's five best Christmas stories

Michael Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic at the Washington Post and author of several books about books including the recent essay collection Classics for Pleasure, named a five best list of Christmas stories for Opinion Journal.

The most recent title on the list:
A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd (Broadway, 2003).

Set during the Depression in an Indiana steel town, "A Christmas Story" is the funny, nostalgia-laden tale of Ralphie Parker's quest for the greatest of all Christmas presents: a Red Ryder carbine BB gun. Originally part of the story collection "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (1966), Jean Shepherd's mini-classic -- amplified with four related stories to make up this short book--vividly re-creates those rapturous, irretrievable Christmastimes of Erector sets, Flexible Flyers, Dick Tracy detective kits, Shirley Temple dolls, Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. Wrapped in layers of wool, Ralphie and his friends ooh and ah before the displays in department-store windows, visit Santa Claus and can hardly wait for "lovely, beautiful, glorious Christmas, around which the entire year revolved." As in Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales" and Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," here is the very stuff that holiday dreams are made of. Let it snow.
Read about the story that tops Dirda's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ron Chudley's "Stolen"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Ron Chudley's Stolen.

About the book, from the publisher:
"The sound of the river, ever-present, had finally intruded on his consciousness. If Nate was playing by himself outside, that damn river was too close for comfort. Instantly forgetting everything else, John hurried to the door, pushed it right open, stepped to the edge."

John Quarry is on vacation with his small son, Nate, when a tragedy occurs: during an overnight stop in the Fraser Canyon, the child disappears and is presumed lost to the river. The coroner's verdict is death by drowning, although the body is never recovered.

While the authorities consider the matter closed, a provocative dream convinces John that his son is not dead, but stolen. With little hope and only a single clue, John sets out on a desperate search. It takes him from B.C. to bustling Calgary, where he is arrested, to the Alberta badlands, where he is nearly murdered, and to the foothills of the towering Rocky Mountains, where he is forced to undertake a final, perilous journey.

To find his son and save his own life, John must be more than brave and better than clever. He must have the blind faith found only in a parent in extremis.
Ron Chudley is the author of two other TouchWood mysteries: Old Bones (2005) and Dark Resurrection (2006). He has written extensively for television (including The Beachcombers) and for the National Film Board of Canada and has contributed dramas to CBC Radio's Mystery, The Bush and the Salon and CBC Stage.

The Page 69 Test: Stolen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pg. 99: Coren's "Why Does My Dog Act That Way?"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Stanley Coren's Why Does My Dog Act That Way?: A Complete Guide to Your Dog's Personality.

About the book, from the publisher:
We've shared our lives with dogs for thousands of years, but they still act in ways that baffle us. To help us understand them better, Dr. Stanley Coren, the undisputed expert on dog behavior, intelligence, and training, tells the story of how dogs evolved over time into the myriad forms and breeds we love today. Not simply domesticated wolves, dogs are actually much more complex than wild canines; their ability to adapt to a man-made world is far more flexible, their personalities far more diverse. Fascinating findings reveal which breeds were bred to become more dominant, affectionate, cooperative, or even dangerous. This practical, surprising book also presents -- for the first time -- the "Dog Behavior Inventory," a simple, fun test based on the personality-profiling questionnaires used in human psychological studies that you can administer to your own dog to get a detailed picture of his personality and how he compares to other members of his breed. Then, using the findings of the U.S. Army's once- classified studies of "Superdogs," you can train your pet to become a real-life equivalent of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin -- a dog who is not disturbed, angered, or frightened by anything.
Filled with the entertaining anecdotes and scientific data that Dr. Coren's avid followers have come to expect and enjoy, this uniquely complete guide to dog psychology can help you to select a new companion and to understand and communicate better with your old friend.
Among the praise for the book:
"Coren's love for dogs shines like a beacon ... [A] thoughtful and fascinating exploration of the mind of a dog."
-- Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, author of The Other End of the Leash

"Meticulously researched, highly readable, and essential for anyone who loves and lives with a dog."
-- Jon Katz, author of A Dog Year

"The thinking dog owner's guide to everything they ever wanted to know about their dog. Truths expanded, myths exposed, common sense prevailing, Dr. Coren tells it the way it is. Two dew claws up for this excellent book."
-- Nicholas H. Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, DVA, author of The Dog Who Loved Too Much and If Only They Could Speak

"The author, a psychologist, cleverly combines scholarship, opinion, and anecdotes . . . Read . . . his book[s] with your best friend."
-- The Dallas Morning News

"With a sharp-eyed analysis and wry wit, [Coren] meticulously examines the species' capabilities in a four-star toolbox fully equipped to help you better interpret Fido."
-- The Seattle Times
Read an excerpt from Why Does My Dog Act That Way? and learn more about the author and his work at Stanley Coren's website.

Stanley Coren is a Professor Emeritus in the Psychology Department of the University of British Columbia. He is the author of numerous books including The Intelligence of Dogs, How to Speak Dog, The Pawprints of History, and Why We Love the Dogs We Do?.

See Stanley Coren's list of the five best books about dogs.

The Page 99 Test: Why Does My Dog Act That Way?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What is Howard S. Becker reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Howard S. Becker.

His latest book is Telling About Society. According to Becker, "It deals with all the different ways people have used to communicate what they thought they knew about society, everything from novels and plays to mathematical models. You can get an idea of the book's contents and perspective from the syllabus and list of readings from a course of that name I have taught a couple of times."

One paragraph from his entry:
Another friend, Harvey Molotch, wants to discuss a new book by Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, and so I'm rereading that. Latour is one of the most original thinkers in my field of sociology in a long time and his ideas, though clearly and even amusingly stated, are unconventional enough to confuse people who can't quite believe that he means what he says. I read people like Latour the way my mentor, Everett C. Hughes, recommended I read the great sociologist Georg Simmel, not trying to grasp his "theory," whatever that might be in all its integrity, but just looking for ideas that could be useful. (It's the way I read Wittgenstein, on the rare occasions when I do.) Latour doesn't disappoint, there are plenty of useful ideas on every page. [read on]
Learn more about Howard S. Becker and his scholarship.

Read about Telling About Society at the University of Chicago Press website.

Writers Read: Howard S. Becker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Anne Frasier's "Garden of Darkness"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Anne Frasier's Garden of Darkness.

About the book, from the publisher:
Return to the haunted town of Tuonela, Wisconsin, with the USA Today bestselling author of Pale Immortal. And find out if the rumors are true.

All roads lead back to Tuonela...

Rachel Burton tried to leave, but the killing brought her back. The skinned body was found in the woods, just as Rachel — the town medical examiner — was driving out of Tuonela for good, or so she thought. Now her baby will be born here, and the betrayal of Evan Stroud — the man she's always loved, the man who can never see the light of day — will continue to haunt her waking and sleeping hours... Others are coming to Tuonela, drawn to the legend of the Pale Immortal, the so-called vampire whose exhumed body is now on display. And others will die. As Evan succumbs to madness, those around him will suspect the worst of him. But everything he is rumored to be will pale in comparison to the one who has been awakened...
Among the early praise for Garden of Darkness:
"Garden of Darkness, the second Tuonela thriller is a fabulous horror thriller that combines events from the past with a frightening present. The story line grips the audience from the moment a couple driving stop when the woman who just miscarried sees a girl and never slows down from her first scream to the last confrontation. Keep the lights on as Anne Frasier provides a powerfully scary supernatural tale."
--Harriet Klausner

"When I find myself leaving all the lights on, it’s a good sign I’ve found an exceptionally clever and scary read. While the story grabbed me, the book’s creepy atmosphere made my skin crawl. But what made Frasier’s book so compelling was the heart-wrenching love story between Rachel and Evan. The book is layered with rich detail, the subplots nuanced with shadows. Also of note is the smooth way Frasier combined first person and third in the same book, which I felt added texture and another dimension to the story. Garden of Darkness is truly one of the more exceptional books I’ve read."
--Cerri Ellis

"Frasier has created a compelling take on the vampire myth that leaves plenty of room for more in this suspenseful series of sinister secrets and unspeakable evil. There are modern day parallels with Manchester and his followers that add a ring of authenticity to the main storyline. Taut action and excellent character development make this one of the better horror offerings. "
--Sandy Amazeen
Read the prologue to Garden of Darkness.

Anne Frasier's novels include Pale Immortal, which began the story continued in Garden of Darkness; Before I Wake, in which a secret government medical experiment goes wrong; Play Dead, set among the voodoo scene in Savannah, Georgia; and Sleep Tight, a traditional police procedural set in Minneapolis.

Learn more about the author and her books at Anne Frasier's website, her blog, and her MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: Pale Immortal.

The Page 69 Test: Garden of Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Patricia Gussin's "Twisted Justice," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Patricia Gussin's Twisted Justice.

Gussin's entry opens:
The heart wrenching drama of Kramer vs. Kramer and the violent scenario of The War of the Roses bracket the domestic deception and betrayal that explode onto the scene in Twisted Justice. No one ever really knows what goes on in another’s marriage and in Twisted Justice what appears on the surface to be the ideal family, in the blink of an eye implodes, spiraling out of control toward devastation.

The perfect lives of Laura, a surgeon mother – Steve, a television news anchor father – and their five great kids – disintegrate into a nightmare when Steve’s sexy co-anchor is murdered. Both Laura and Steve are successful professionals and dedicated parents. Each in their own way. Each motivated by their own agenda. Each with dark secrets they are desperate to protect. But how does Steve react when Laura is accused of killing Kim?

The part of Laura would best be played by a mom-actress. A great choice because she is a dedicated mother and such a versatile leading actress is... [read on]
Visit Patricia Gussin's website and view the Twisted Justice trailer.

Patricia Gussin's debut novel, Shadow of Death, was nominated for Best First Novel in the Thriller Awards sponsored by International Thriller Writers.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow of Death.

My Book, The Movie: Twisted Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Wann's "Simple Prosperity"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: David Wann 's Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle.

About the book, from the publisher:

In his bestseller Affluenza, David Wann and his co-authors diagnosed the debilitating disease of over-consumption. In Simple Prosperity he shows readers how we can overcome this disease by investing in a variety of real wealth sources. To recapture a more abundant and sustainable lifestyle, try:

- Creating a richer life story through personal growth incentives
- Forming higher-yield friendships and stronger bonds through social capital
- Taking preventive healthcare measures to build up wellness reserves
- Balancing the biological budget through “greener” currency
- Caring for people, not just cars, to improve your neighborhood wealth index
- Resolving that pesky carbon conundrum through energy savings
- Celebrating instead of desecrating! Cultural prosperity futures value the earth as a sacred place

In our age of hedge fund hysteria, Simple Prosperity is a new way of investing that will save our sanity and the planet.

Among the early praise for Simple Prosperity:

"This is a valuable and concise digest of much that we've figured out in recent years, about health, stress, joy, community. The only thing it won't tell you how to do is make more money; instead, it will let you see that you may already have enough."
--Bill McKibben, author Deep Economy

"Perhaps the highest compliment one writer can give another is 'I wish I’d said that!' David Wann has woven together all the right stuff to make a compelling and appealing case for the abundance of enough and the poverty of more. He stands firmly with one foot in the intimate details of daily life and the other in the shocking details of the degradation of healthy ecosystems and communities. Both the appeal of a better personal life and the horror of what will be upon us if we don’t act should get us all on the Simple Prosperity bandwagon."
--Vicki Robin, coauthor Your Money or Your Life

"Dave Wann's recipes from his own experience in Simple Prosperity are a breath of fresh air, and just what we need for a saner future. They include ideas, sound research and down-to-earth advice we can all use. This book is also much more: a friendly, personal guidebook for living a more enjoyable, healthy, loving life."
--Hazel Henderson, author, Ethical Markets: Growing The Green Economy

"If ever there was a right book at the right time, Simple Prosperity is it. This country needs this book."
--Lester R. Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute, author of Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

David Wann is the author or coauthor of nine books including Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle (St. Martin’s Press, 2008) and the bestseller Affluenza (Berrett-Koehler, 2005).

Visit Dave Wann's website and learn more about Simple Prosperity at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Simple Prosperity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

January Magazine’s Best Books of 2007

January Magazine has just posted its "Best Books of 2007" list.

Editor Linda L. Richards explains how the list is compiled:
The January Best of the Year list is not a popularity contest. Our choices reflect what our writers and editors liked best of the books they read and enjoyed throughout the year. They don’t need to qualify their choices. There is no board or panel. No quotas from certain publishers, no authors that had to be included. And though some of the books mentioned here were reviewed for January Magazine in 2007, that’s not part of the criterion. These are, quite simply, the books that our well read eyes and hearts liked best, listed in alphabetical order within the loose category in which they fall.

Because this year we had so much fun rolling out our Holiday Gift Guide over a number of days, we’re going to do the same with the Best of 2007. Starting here with the children’s books we liked best and working our way through the week through fiction, non-fiction, crime fiction and art & culture.
Follow those links.

--Marshal Zeringue

Garrison Keillor's most important books

Garrison Keillor is the author of Pontoon and four other Lake Wobegon novel.

He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books. And answered two related questions:
A classic you revisited with disappointment:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Why did it take Melville so looooooonnnng to get to the story? I couldn't make it more than halfway through.

A book that parents should read to their kids:

Moby-Dick. Two minutes and they'll be asleep.
[CftAR note: don't swallow this line on Moby-Dick. It's amazing.]

Read about Keillor's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "The Re-enchantment of the World"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Gordon Graham's The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Re-enchantment of the World is a philosophical exploration of the role of art and religion as sources of meaning in an increasingly material world dominated by science. Gordon Graham takes as his starting point Max Weber's idea that contemporary Western culture is marked by a 'disenchantment of the world' -- the loss of spiritual value in the wake of religion's decline and the triumph of the physical and biological sciences. Relating themes in Hegel, Nietzsche, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, and Gadamer to topics in contemporary philosophy of the arts, Graham explores the idea that art, now freed from its previous service to religion, has the potential to re-enchant the world. In so doing, he develops an argument that draws on the strengths of both 'analytical' and 'continental' traditions of philosophical reflection.

The opening chapter examines ways in which human lives can be made meaningful as a background to the debates surrounding secularization and secularism. Subsequent chapters are devoted to painting, literature, music, architecture, and festival with special attention given to Surrealism, 19th-century fiction, James Joyce, the music of J. S. Bach and the operas of Wagner. Graham concludes that that only religion properly so called can 'enchant the world', and that modern art's ambition to do so fails.
Learn more about The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion at the Oxford University Press website.

Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary’s Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts, earned M.A. degrees from the University of St. Andrews and the University of Durham, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Durham. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s premier academy of letters, in 1999. He is an ordained Anglican priest, and his areas of academic interest include aesthetics, moral philosophy, philosophy of religion, and the Scottish philosophical tradition. He is currently North American representative of the Society for Applied Philosophy, and editor of the Journal of Scottish Philosophy. His courses include “Philosophy, Art, and Culture” and “The Scottish Philosophical Tradition.”

Graham's books include Evil and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and
Ethics and International Relations, 2nd edition (Blackwell, forthcoming 2008).

The Page 69 Test: The Re-enchantment of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 17, 2007

What is Michael Dowling reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Michael Dowling, who is one half of Tobias Druitt, the author of Corydon and the Island of Monsters, Corydon and the Fall of Atlantis, and finally Corydon and the Siege of Troy.

One book mentioned in his entry:
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I came to it through Eragon because whenever I told my parents anything about it they said that it sounded as if it was derived from the Dragonriders of Pern books. This is the first of them, and it is really great, with great descriptions and original ideas - and I can see Eragon is very obviously in debt to it. [read on]
Read the Guardian's interview with Dowling from earlier this year.

Learn more about Michael Dowling and his writing at the Tobias Druitt website.

Writers Read: Michael Dowling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: D. Graham Burnett's "Trying Leviathan"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: D. Graham Burnett's Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature.

About the book, from the publisher:

In Moby-Dick, Ishmael declares, "Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned ground that a whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me." Few readers today know just how much argument Ishmael is waiving aside. In fact, Melville's antihero here takes sides in one of the great controversies of the early nineteenth century -- one that ultimately had to be resolved in the courts of New York City. In Trying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular -- and biblically sanctioned -- view that the whale was a fish. The immediate dispute was mundane: whether whale oil was fish oil and therefore subject to state inspection. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature -- and how we know it -- was at stake. Burnett vividly re-creates the trial, during which a parade of experts -- pea-coated whalemen, pompous philosophers, Jacobin lawyers -- took the witness stand, brandishing books, drawings, and anatomical reports, and telling tall tales from whaling voyages. Falling in the middle of the century between Linnaeus and Darwin, the trial dramatized a revolutionary period that saw radical transformations in the understanding of the natural world. Out went comfortable biblical categories, and in came new sorting methods based on the minutiae of interior anatomy -- and louche details about the sexual behaviors of God's creatures.

When leviathan breached in New York in 1818, this strange beast churned both the natural and social orders -- and not everyone would survive.

Among the praise for Trying Leviathan:

"Graham Burnett's pathbreaking book teems with lively accounts of a notorious legal conflict between different kinds of people and different kinds of knowledge played out in New York in the early years of the nineteenth century. Disputes like these vividly illuminate the preoccupations of past societies and make us more conscious of our own. An important and thoroughly engaging book."
--Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

"'Is a whale a fish?' Melville famously wrestled with the question in Moby-Dick, but as Graham Burnett reveals in Trying Leviathan, the question had already been argued in -- of all places -- a Manhattan courtroom in 1818. In addition to providing a fascinating and provocative look at the relationship between science and culture in early nineteenth-century New York, Burnett writes eloquently about how the whalemen regarded their mysterious and awe-inspiring prey. This is a fun, surprising, and, in the best sense, challenging book."
--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea

"Trying Leviathan recounts a remarkable collision of science and law in a New York City courtroom in 1818. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens. A compelling, provocative work."
--Daniel Kevles, Yale University

"In this irresistible narrative, full of fascinating characters, Graham Burnett has given us a brilliant, imaginative, often amusing, wonderfully realized study that brings together questions of epistemology, the relation of observation to theory, the era's worship of nature and simultaneous commercial exploitation of it, claims of class to intellectual authority, and the relation of expertise to democracy."
--Thomas Bender, New York University

"I can't remember reading a more intelligent and well-written book than Graham Burnett's Trying Leviathan. He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book."
--Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales

Read chapter one from Trying Leviathan and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

D. Graham Burnett is associate professor of history at Princeton University, where he recently held the Christian Gauss Preceptorship and directed the Program in History of Science. His other books include Masters of All They Surveyed (Chicago) and A Trial By Jury (Knopf).

The Page 99 Test: Trying Leviathan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books bearing bears

Lewis Smith, the environment reporter for the London Times, picked six books with bears.

One book to the make the list:
The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

Psst! Want some porridge? Outrageously irresistible collision of detection and nursery rhyme.
Read about another title to make Smith's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What is Bob McGrath reading?

Bob McGrath, author and Sesame Street regular, talked to the Christian Science Monitor about his television viewing and what he's been listening to.

And what he's been reading:

For many years, I seemed not to have the time to read – my life was nonstop, morning to night. That's started to change. I need catching up on a lot of history. I read The Winter Soldiers: The Battles for Trenton and Princeton, by Richard Ketchum, and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which I liked because you could jump around – 20 or 30 pages on each subject. I also read The New American Militarism, by Andrew Bacevich. He writes about why we're in the mess we're in and how to restore a sense of proportion and realism to US policy.
Check out McGrath's account of what he's been watching on television and listening to.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Gabriel Cohen's "The Graving Dock"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Gabriel Cohen's The Graving Dock.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the chill of winter, a homemade coffin drifts ashore in New York Harbor, containing the body of a boy with the letters “G.I.” written on his forehead. As a detective with Brooklyn South Homicide, Jack Leightner finds that corpses are a part of every working day. But today his attention is riveted on a considerably smaller box, containing an engagement ring for his girlfriend Michelle.…

In his second mystery featuring Detective Jack Leightner, Edgar Award-nominated author Gabriel Cohen vividly captures New York’s most fascinating borough.

The relatively gentle treatment of the victim in Jack’s new case leads him to believe that the boy may have been subject to a strange type of mercy killing. But when a new body appears, it’s clear that no mercy was involved.

Meanwhile, Jack can’t figure out his new partner, Tommy Balfa. The man seems fixated on some mysterious trouble of his own, leaving Jack to find out why the unknown boy was sent adrift. Eventually, Jack is forced to take on a second, unofficial investigation into his own partner’s shady activities. And both cases keep interfering with his attempts to propose to his girlfriend. As all three plots thicken, Jack’s pursuit of the killer takes him on a whirlwind tour of hidden parts of New York Harbor, from the secret world of Governors Island to the dilapidated shipyards of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Red Hook, Cohen’s debut, was called “outstanding” (The New York Times), “accomplished” (Publishers Weekly), and “compelling” (Booklist). The Graving Dock, the eagerly awaited sequel, is a triumph, even richer in atmosphere, action, and the mysteries of the human heart.
Among the praise for The Graving Dock:
"Death and recovery consume Det. Jack Leightner in his second appearance and validate the praise Cohen received for Red Hook. Cohen offers not just a mystery but a satisfying elegy for vanished ways of life."
Publishers Weekly

"Cohen’s second procedural believably captures the rhythms and interactions of a busy urban precinct. Everyman Jack, struggling to do the right thing, merits devotion."
Kirkus Reviews

“Intricate, atmospheric, funny and enthralling… An impressive crime novel from a powerful, promising writer.”
—George Pelecanos, author of The Night Gardener

"Sometimes, a book comes along and you realize it's just what you've been waiting for -- even if you didn't know it. Gabriel Cohen has written another winner, bittersweet and melancholic, but not without hope for the human condition."
—Laura Lippman, author of What the Dead Know

"The breadth of Gabriel Cohen's knowledge of such disparate subjects as tides, Buddhism, and the NYPD is matched by the depth of his knowledge of the human heart. The Graving Dock is as beautifully observed as it is completely absorbing."
—SJ Rozan, author of In This Rain
Read an excerpt from The Graving Dock and learn more about the novel and author at Gabriel Cohen's website.

Gabriel Cohen is the author of the Edgar Award-nominated novel Red Hook, its new sequel The Graving Dock, and the novel Boombox. His nonfiction book Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky: a Buddhist Path Through Divorce will be released in March.

The Page 69 Test: Gabriel Cohen's The Graving Dock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What is Stephanie Elizondo Griest reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of an award-winning memoir, Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, the guidebook 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, and another memoir (forthcoming in August 2008), Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines.

One book tagged in her entry:
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. I'm heading to South Africa and Mozambique in January, so am using this as a primer. Mandela is a charming narrator, and his story is astounding. [read on]
Read an excerpt from Around the Bloc and visit Stephanie Elizondo Griest's website.

The Page 99 Test: Around the Bloc.

Writers Read: Stephanie Elizondo Griest.

--Marshal Zeringue

A.E. Hotchner's favorite coming-of-age tales

A.E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway (1966), The Boyhood Memoirs of A.E. Hotchner (2007), and the forthcoming The Good Life According to Hemingway, named a five best list of books about "coming of age" for Opinion Journal.

One title from the list:
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (Random House, 1959).

This acidulous and funny novella begins with the 23-year-old narrator, Neil Klugman, holding Brenda Patimkin's glasses while she dives into a country-club swimming pool -- and then he watches, entranced, as she walks away: "She caught the bottom of her suit between thumb and index finger and flicked what flesh had been showing back where it belonged. My blood jumped." With that, Philip Roth is off, spinning an unsparing yet tender tale about a summer affair between poor-boy Neil, from Newark, N.J., and Brenda, a Radcliffe student who is staying with her upper-middle-class family in Short Hills. "Goodbye, Columbus" -- originally published with an additional five short stories -- is primarily concerned with Neil and Brenda's tense romance and the challenges of Jewish assimilation, but it is also a brilliant lampoon of the American way of life.
Read about the book that topped Hotchner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue