Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pg. 99: "The Foreign Correspondent"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Alan Furst's The Foreign Correspondent.

About the book, from the publisher:
From Alan Furst, whom The New York Times calls “America’s preeminent spy novelist,” comes an epic story of romantic love, love of country, and love of freedom – the story of a secret war fought in elegant hotel bars and first-class railway cars, in the mountains of Spain and the backstreets of Berlin. It is an inspiring, thrilling saga of everyday people forced by their hearts’ passion to fight in the war against tyranny.

By 1938, hundreds of Italian intellectuals, lawyers and journalists, university professors and scientists had escaped Mussolini’s fascist government and taken refuge in Paris. There, amid the struggles of émigré life, they founded an Italian resistance, with an underground press that smuggled news and encouragement back to Italy. Fighting fascism with typewriters, they produced 512 clandestine newspapers. The Foreign Correspondent is their story.

Paris, a winter night in 1938: a murder/suicide at a discreet lovers’ hotel. But this is no romantic traged – it is the work of the OVRA, Mussolini’s fascist secret police, and is meant to eliminate the editor of Liberazione, a clandestine émigré newspaper. Carlo Weisz, who has fled from Trieste and secured a job as a foreign correspondent with the Reuters bureau, becomes the new editor. Weisz is, at that moment, in Spain, reporting on the last campaign of the Spanish civil war. But as soon as he returns to Paris, he is pursued by the French Sûreté, by agents of the OVRA, and by officers of the British Secret Intelligence Service. In the desperate politics of Europe on the edge of war, a foreign correspondent is a pawn, worth surveillance, or blackmail, or murder.

The Foreign Correspondent is the story of Carlo Weisz and a handful of antifascists: the army officer known as “Colonel Ferrara,” who fights for a lost cause in Spain; Arturo Salamone, the shrewd leader of a resistance group in Paris; and Christa von Schirren, the woman who becomes the love of Weisz’s life, herself involved in a doomed resistance underground in Berlin.

The Foreign Correspondent is Alan Furst at his absolute best – taut and powerful, enigmatic and romantic, with sharp, seductive writing that takes the reader through darkness and intrigue to a spectacular denouement.
Among the reviews of the novel:
Paris, 1939. When we heard that dateline, we used to think of Rick, Ilsa, and Sam, tinkling "As Time Goes By" in the background. Now we think of Alan Furst. His latest expatriate in Paris is a journalist, Carlo Weisz, half Italian and half Slav, working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and finding himself drawn into the steadily more dangerous activities of the Italian Resistance. What makes Furst's world so utterly seductive is the tantalizing sliver of time he writes about: not World War II but the period just prior to its beginning in earnest, when secret agents of every stripe were huddled in Paris, and cynical individualists were facing the realization that even they stood to be trapped in the coming crossfire. But they weren't trapped quite yet, and despite the storm clouds, romance still hung in the night air: Weisz, for example, was "living on the diet imagined by every dreamer who ever went to Paris: bread, cheese, and wine" -- and women, who were "a classic, and effective, addition to the diet." But politics was part of the diet, too, roughage of a kind, and gradually Weisz moves from writing the occasional antifascist article for a Resistance newspaper to taking a more active role, spurred by his desire to help his lover, living in Berlin, escape the Nazis. Furst fans will delight in identifying the various characters from earlier novels who make cameos here, but that's only a pleasant aperitif, like greeting old friends at your favorite restaurant. The real pleasure is the meal itself, and Furst serves another delicious helping of Paris suspended in a brief moment of time when everyone waited for something to happen, good or bad: "Il faut en fenir" (There must be an end to this). Fortunately, for Furst readers, not quite yet.
--Bill Ott, Booklist, starred review
Visit Alan Furst's website and read an excerpt from The Foreign Correspondent.

The Page 99 Test: The Foreign Correspondent.

--Marshal Zeringue

"Pigeons," the movie

Movies are full of pigeons. They're there to make parks look more authentic; they jump up at the moment of maximum tension when someone is creeping around an attic or bell-tower; they are the victims when a hawk needs to kill a weaker bird to remind the audience that nature is harsh and there are predators among us; feeding pigeons while wearing ratty clothes and gloves with the fingers cut off is a sure sign that a bit player is a sad, semi-deranged street person ... or an undercover cop.

And yet the pigeon is never the star. (And why do bats get so much glory?)

How would one adapt a book about pigeons for the big screen?

Semi-related trivia question of the day: how many pigeon-wranglers worked on the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York?

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "Monster Nation"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Monster Nation by David Wellington.

About the novel, from the publisher:
In the heart of America, in the world's most secure prison, something horrible is growing in the dark. A wave of cannibalism and fear is sweeping across the heartland, spreading carnage and infection in its wake. Captain Bannerman Clark of the National Guard has been tasked with an impossible mission: discover what is happening — and then stop it before it annihilates Los Angeles.

In California, he discovers a woman trapped in a hospital overrun with violent madmen. She may hold the secret to the Epidemic but she has lost everything — even her name.

David Wellington's first novel, Monster Island, explored a world overcome by horror and the few people strong enough to survive. Now he takes us back in time to where it all began — to the day the dead began to rise.
Paul Goat Allen's review for The Barnes & Noble Review:
Simply put, David Wellington has done for zombies what Victoria's Secret has done for lingerie (not that reanimated, flesh-eating corpses should in any way be associated with glamorous bras and sexy sleepwear!). With the release of Monster Island in the spring of 2006 -- made an instant cult classic in large part by a hugely popular online serialization -- Wellington brought the zombie subgenre to the forefront of horror with a macabre masterpiece about a mysterious contagion that sweeps the planet and brings about an end to the age of humanity.

Monster Nation is a prequel of sorts that chronicles the very first days of the Epidemic, when an unknowing public hadn't yet discovered the horrific truth -- that tens of thousands of infected undead, hungry for succulent flesh, were creating more of their kind and systematically taking over the United States. Standing in their way is Bannerman Clark, a 61-year-old captain in the Colorado National Guard who is tasked with the impossible: to find the origins of the ghoulish outbreak and somehow put a stop to it before it's too late. His search begins in a Supermax prison outside of Colorado Springs, where a gruesomely violent riot has confirmed that numerous occupants are, in fact, zombies. And to make matters worse, the warden -- quite possibly infected -- has just left on vacation for California…

Comparable to other end-of-the-world classics like Stephen King's The Stand and Robert R. McCammon's Swan Song, Wellington's Monster Nation is an absolute must-read for horror aficionados. Who knew that armies of decomposing corpses bent on sucking the life out of the remnants of humankind could be so wildly entertaining?
Visit David Wellington's website to learn more about the trilogy and his other books.

The Page 69 Test: Monster Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fay Vincent's best baseball books

Fay Vincent, commissioner of baseball from 1989 through 1992, and author of The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved (2006), named the five best books on the so-called national pastime for Opinion Journal.

One title -- which Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley has called one "of the best sports books ever written" -- from the list:

Veeck as in Wreck by Bill Veeck (Putnam, 1962).

Bill Veeck's memoir is an irreverent and funny account of his days as an unorthodox baseball owner -- and indeed he did try some silly tricks to draw crowds. Sometimes he went over the line, as with Eddie Gaedel, the midget he sent up to bat for the St. Louis Browns in 1951, and "Disco Demolition Night," which turned into a fan riot in 1979, when he owned the Chicago White Sox. But Veeck also made a serious and singular contribution to the game in 1947 when, as owner of the Cleveland Indians, he brought the first black player, Larry Doby, into the American League. But because Jackie Robinson preceded Doby into the major leagues by a few months, both Doby and Veeck have been somewhat overlooked. In this memoir, Veeck understates his own role and the essential sense of fairness that motivated him. Doby told me that he loved this man, who supported him during those vicious early days and whose friendship underscored the absurdity of baseball's color line. Bill Veeck may have been a bit of a wreck, but he deserves much more attention and credit than he has received.

Read about the only novel on Vincent's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2007

"The Crimes of Jordan Wise"

A man wearing a yachting cap walks into a bar.

No, that's not the start of joke but rather what happens at the beginning of Bill Pronzini's The Crimes of Jordan Wise (2006), and there's nothing funny about the story that follows.

Pronzini is a sure-handed story teller, and one of the crafty things I admire about this novel is how he sets the hook so early and so effectively. Before I even opened the book I was curious about this Wise fellow and the crimes he committed. Even better, on the third page Pronzini has the man in the yachting cap -- a writer, the man soon volunteers, a fact which the narrator is already aware of -- tentatively approach our narrator, who introduces himself as "Richard Laidlaw. No, Jordan Wise."

Now, why would Laidlaw/Wise offer his alias, and then immediately confess his real name? When he shortly offers to tell the story of his crimes to the writer, who happens to have a tape recorder and a spare cassette on him, I couldn't help wonder: who is the spider in this story, and who is the fly?

Why is Wise confessing his crimes -- he doesn't answer when it's suggested that perhaps the statutes of limitations on them have expired -- and how does he already know his counterpart is a writer? From the other side, is this writer very lucky to walk into this story -- "My sixth sense says you might have a story to tell," he says -- or does he have some prior knowledge of Jordan Wise's crimes?

I wondered: is Laidlaw/Wise a cousin of Hannibal Lecter, and is this writer serving himself up for yet another Jordan Wise crime? Or is he another Tom Ripley, and will he -- by virtue of his ingenuity and luck and psychopathy -- skate away at the end of the story, the writer discovering his mistake in trusting his storyteller only when it is too late? Or perhaps he is another Humbert Humbert, aware of the enormity of his misdeeds yet compelled to try to make us understand his compulsion?

Or, perhaps, the writer is in league with the authorities and playing on the criminal braggart to implicate himself in crimes of which they suspect him but lack evidence of.

None of these questions would have kept me interested if the story itself was boring but that is hardly the case. In spite of an unlovable and unsympathetic narrator, his story had me turning the pages -- curious about what Jordan Wise did, and worried about what was going to happen to the man in the yachting cap.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sarah Langan's "The Keeper"

Today's feature at The Page 69 Test: Sarah Langan's The Keeper.

About the novel, from the publisher:

Some believe Bedford, Maine, is cursed. Its bloody past, endless rain, and the decay of its downtown portend a hopeless future. With the death of its paper mill, Bedford's unemployed residents soon find themselves with far too much time to dwell on thoughts of Susan Marley. Once the local beauty, she's now the local whore. Silently prowling the muddy streets, she watches eerily from the shadows, waiting for ... something. And haunting the sleep of everyone in town with monstrous visions of violence and horror.

Those who are able will leave Bedford before the darkness fully ascends. But those who are trapped here — from Susan Marley's long-suffering mother and younger sister to her guilt-ridden, alcoholic ex-lover to the destitute and faithless with nowhere else to go — will soon know the fullest and most terrible meaning of nightmare.

Among the endorsements and praise for the novel:

"The only horror story I’ve read recently that finds adequate metaphors for the self-destructive properties of anger."
--Terrence Rafferty, New York Times

"...Langan lovingly crafts the struggling town of Bedford, Maine, its unlucky inhabitants and the troubling history of the town's shuttered paper mill, before tearing it all to bloody pieces.... This is horror on a big scale, akin to the more ambitious work of Stephen King ... this effective debut promises great things to come."
--Publishers Weekly

"A beautiful, suspenseful novel ... that sets out to do exactly what it should: scare the reader with a combination of well-crafted prose and page-turning velocity."
--Sarah Weinman, Baltimore Sun

"The Keeper is a brilliant debut, heralding the arrival of a major talent.
--Tim Lebbon, author of Dusk and Berserk

"The Keeper's a smart, brand-new take on the haunted house story. In vivid, compelling prose, which runs from the wry to the lyrical, Langan here gives us nothing less than a sharply realized portrait of an American town in the death-throes of decay. Susan Marley is a subtle juggernaut of a character -- and she inhabits the mind once you've finished like a dark, lingering smoke.
--Jack Ketchum, author of Offspring
Visit Sarah Langan's website and read an excerpt from The Keeper.

The Page 69 Test: The Keeper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 psychological thrillers

Dublin-born Alex Barclay's much-praised debut novel Darkhouse will be released in the U.S. in May; her second novel The Caller comes out in Britain this week.

She named her top 10 psychological thrillers for the Guardian.

One title from her list:
The Straw Men by Michael Marshall

Michael Marshall had me at "we're not dead": Ex-CIA agent Ward Hopkins comes home from his parents' funeral to discover these words scrawled on a note in his father's handwriting. Two other seemingly unconnected events open the book and suck you into an intriguing, action-packed ride, structured on a disturbing and original premise. Marshall is master of creating the unsettling feeling of "something is very wrong" and cranking it up to "everything is very wrong".
Read about the book that topped Barclay's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is Paul W. Kahn reading?

Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities, and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School.

His most recent book is Out of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil.

He shared an account of his recent reading over at Writers Read. Part of his reading list:
I think of my day as organized around what I am reading. I read for different purposes throughout the course of the day. I write in the mornings, so I read books then that help me with my current project, which is a book on torture and terror. My morning reading now is Lynn Hunt's Inventing Human Rights and Robin Wagner-Pacifici's The Art of Surrender.
Check out Kahn's early afternoon, drivetime, and evening reading lists.

Read the Page 69 Test results for Out of Eden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "Cold Day in Hell"

New at the Page 99 Test: Richard Hawke's Cold Day in Hell.

About the novel, from the publisher:
In the stew and dazzle of New York City, savvy, irreverent Fritz Malone – who Susan Isaacs called “the perfect balance of noir P.I. and decent guy” – is embroiled in a string of grisly murders that drags him behind the lurid headlines into the tangled affairs of some the city’s most beautiful people and their ugly truths.

When two women linked with charismatic late-night TV personality Marshall Fox are found brutally slain in Central Park, Fox becomes the prime suspect and is charged with the murders. At the tabloid trial, one of Fox’s ex-lovers, Robin Burrell, is called to testify – and is instantly thrust into the media’s harsh spotlight. Shaken by a subsequent onslaught of hate mail, Robin goes to Fritz Malone for help. Malone has barely begun to investigate when Robin is found sadistically murdered in her Upper West Side brownstone, hands and feet shackled and a shard of mirror protruding from her neck.

But it’s another gory detail that confounds both Malone and Megan Lamb, the troubled NYPD detective officially assigned to the case. Though Fox is in custody the third victim’s right hand has been placed over her heart and pinned with a four-inch nail, just as in the killings he’s accused of. Is this a copycat murder, or is the wrong man on trial?

Teaming up with Detective Lamb, Malone delves deeper into Fox’s past, unpeeling the layers of the media darling’s secret life and developing an ever-increasing list of suspects for Robin’s murder. When yet another body turns up in Central Park, the message is clear: Get too close to Fox and get ready to die.

And Malone is getting too close.

In Cold Day in Hell, Richard Hawke has again given readers a tale about the dark side of the big city, a thriller that moves with breakneck speed toward a conclusion that is as shocking as it is unforgettable.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"Hawke's intriguing second crime thriller ... solidifies the wisecracking Fritz's place in the upper ranks of big-city series detectives..."
Publishers Weekly

"Hawke seals the deal in PI Fritz Malone’s second intelligent and well-turned mystery... Hawke’s smart prose, easy wit, and unforced pathos make this a great suggestion for readers mourning the loss of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar or Stephen Greenleaf’s John Marshall Tanner — and near the top of any armload of titles proffered to voracious Robert Parker fans awaiting their next fix."
Booklist (starred review)
Visit Richard Hawke's website, and read the first chapter of Cold Day in Hell.

The Page 99 Test: Cold Day in Hell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "The End As I Know It"

Today's feature at The Page 69 Test: Kevin Shay's The End as I Know It: A Novel of Millennial Anxiety.

About the novel:

It’s 1998. Or, as Randall Knight sees it, Y2K minus two. Randall, a twenty-five-year-old children’s singer and puppeteer, has discovered the clock is ticking toward a worldwide technological cataclysm. But he may still be able to save his loved ones—if he can convince them to prepare for the looming catastrophe. That’s why he’s quit his job, moved into his car, and set out to sound the alarm.

The End as I Know It follows Randall on his coast-to-coast Cassandra tour. His itinerary includes the elementary schools that have booked him as a guest performer and the friends and relatives he must awaken to the crisis. When nobody will heed his warning, Randall spirals into despair and self-destruction as he races from one futile visit to the next. At the end of his rope, he lands with a family of newly minted survivalists in rural Texas. There, he meets a woman who might help him transcend his millennial fears and build a new life out of the shards of his old one.

Among the praise for the novel:

Kevin Shay has come up with a funny, twisted, razor-sharp lens with which to view the very distant recent past. The End as I Know It will leave you laughing, and refusing to cry. A deeply rewarding journey for anyone who may have felt like the only American without the requisite bright future in America, circa 1999 — the only ones certain we weren’t worth a million on paper. The party in America has been over for seemingly as long as one can remember, but then Kevin Shay turns up like your only friend who took the right kind of pictures. And somehow you feel better.
—Dan Kennedy, author of Loser Goes First

After reading just a few pages of The End As I Know It, I knew that I did not want it to end. Kevin Shay is a wonderfully funny novelist, a creator of deft (sometimes daft) comic moments, and his story is completely irresistible.
—Sean Wilsey, author of Oh the Glory of It All

Kevin Shay brilliantly mines tension from the gap between the fears of 1999 and the reality of Y2K, and he does it with incredible humor and heart. The End as I Know It is a funny, profound, effortless book.
—Kevin Guilfoile, author of Cast of Shadows

The End as I Know It is a smart, funny, disturbing and, yes, charming novel that had me waxing nostalgic for the not-so-long-ago days when a simple digital anomaly was the only thing vying for attention in the pantheon of Things That Scare the Living Crap Out of Me.
—James P. Othmer, author of The Futurist

Visit Kevin Shay's website and his MySpace page, and read an excerpt from The End As I Know It.

The Page 69 Test: Kevin Shay's The End as I Know It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Oprah and "The Road"

Oprah has announced the new selection for her book club: Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

An unusual yet inspired choice: it's the best book I read last year.

Linda L. Richards has a nice summary of the news at January Magazine, including clips from several reviews and mention of what Oprah hopes readers will get from the novel.

Richards also notes the famously media-shy McCarthy will sit for an interview with Oprah.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"There Goes My Everything," the movie

The historian Jason Sokol teamed up with playwright-performer Nina Louise Morrison to develop some casting ideas for a feature film adaptation of Sokol's 2006 book, There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights.

Their treatment opens:
A work of history and scholarship, There Goes My Everything contains within it manifold tales – stories of families, cities, and individuals who experienced massive upheaval in their daily lives. The movie version focuses on one of the many dramatic narratives that the book reveals.

We set our movie in New Orleans, and revolve around the lives of those families impacted by school desegregation. In November, 1960, the Big Easy became the first locale in the Deep South to integrate its schools. This saga unfolded in the now-infamous Ninth Ward.
Read the entire piece at My Book, The Movie.

Visit Sokol's website and read an excerpt from There Goes My Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ann Cummins' "Yellowcake"

Ann Cummins has applied the "Page 69 Test" to her new novel, Yellowcake.

About the book, from the publisher:
[I]n her debut novel, Cummins stakes claim to rich new literary territory with a story of straddling cultures and cheating fate in the American Southwest. Yellowcake introduces us to two unforgettable families — one Navajo, one Anglo — some thirty years after the closing of the uranium mill near which they once made their homes. When little Becky Atcitty shows up on the Mahoneys’ doorstep all grown up, the past comes crashing in on Ryland and his lively brood. Becky, the daughter of one of the Navajo mill workers Ryland had supervised, is now involved in a group seeking damages for those harmed by the radioactive dust that contaminated their world. But Ryland wants no part of dredging up their past—or acknowledging his future. When his wife joins the cause, the messy, modern lives of this eclectic cast of characters collide once again, testing their mettle, stretching their faith, and reconnecting past and present in unexpected new ways.

Finely crafted, deeply felt, and bursting with heartache and hilarity, Yellowcake is a moving story of how everyday people sort their way through life, with all its hidden hazards.

Read an excerpt from Yellowcake.

Among the endorsements and early reviews for the novel:
"Already much admired for her superb short stories, Ann Cummins excels once more with a first novel that places her among the most serious and original writers of her generation."
--Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind and A Feather on the Breath of God

"A gorgeous novel about people who are as tender and ornery and passionate and mixed-up and real as the people we know in real life. I loved them, and I love this book."
--Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier

"Glorious ... an unflinchingly honest look at the struggles faced by so-called ordinary Americans. But there is nothing at all ordinary about the wonderful, fully fleshed characters that populate this book. Cummins knows the souls of her people — an incredibly wide range of them — and she knows her place, a Southwest that is rendered in all its unromantic but somehow blessed beauty."
--Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and Esther Stories

"Cummins brilliantly conflates the insidious damage wrought by radiation sickness with the maladies of the soul caused by prejudice, poverty, nature's abuse, and love's betrayal."
--Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review
The Page 69 Test: Yellowcake.

Cummins' previous book is the acclaimed Red Ant House: Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Marcus Sakey reading?

Marcus Sakey, author of the terrific The Blade Itself, shared a few words about his recent reading for the current feature at "Writers Read."

If his choices intrigue you, keep up with future selections on Sakey's recently-read shelf.

More links:
--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "Brave Enemies"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Robert Morgan's Brave Enemies.

About the novel, from the publisher:
In the 1780s, unrest ruled the Carolinas. Settlers were arriving to clear forest glades and ridges as the Cherokees withdrew; British forces were pillaging as the patriots mustered for battle. Robert Morgan's stunning new novel tells a story of two young people caught in the chaos and war raging in the wilderness.

Only sixteen years old, Josie Summers murders her abusive stepfather and, wearing his clothes to disguise herself as a man, flees the family farm. Almost immediately lost in the snowy woods, she accepts a young Methodist preacher's invitation to assist in his itinerant ministry. When Joseph's true identity is revealed, the Reverend John Trethman is racked with guilt at having shared his home with a young woman and then falling in love with her. His solution is to marry Josie, performing as both minister and bridegroom. Not long after their wedding, John is kidnapped by British soldiers and forced to minister to their wounded and bury their dead. Josie again disguises herself as a man and joins the North Carolina militia to avoid being taken for a spy. On January 17, 1781, in a wooded pasture called the Cowpens, Josie is gravely wounded in the patriots' victorious battle and despairs of ever seeing John again. Robert Morgan's description of the battle of Cowpens is as vivid and intense as any in Revolutionary War literature.

Brave Enemies is a story of romance and enduring love, of the struggle to build a homeland as one era is dying and another age of freedom and discovery is being born.
Robert Morgan is the author of the acclaimed, bestselling Oprah's Book Club choice Gap Creek, and at least six other books of fiction and eleven volumes of poetry. A native of the North Carolina mountains, he is professor of English at Cornell University. His awards include four NEA grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Times Notable Books citations, and the Southern Book Critics Circle award.

Visit Robert Morgan's official website, and read an excerpt from Brave Enemies.

The Page 99 Test: Brave Enemies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pg. 69: "The Bridal Wave"

Earlier this month Erin Torneo and Valerie Cabrera Krause put their book The Bridal Wave: A Survival Guide to the Everyone-I-Know-is-Getting-Married Years to the Page 69 Test.

About the book, from the publisher:
It starts with the IGBN (I’ve Got Big News) phone calls and a mailbox full of Save the Dates. Next comes the meltdown: I always thought I’d be married by now. Why does she have a ring on her finger and I don’t? Soon you’re buying outrageously expensive china, dancing the electric slide with the groom’s dull but available cousin, and envisioning a long and single life for you and a dozen or so cats. But fear not!

Now Erin Torneo and Valerie Cabrera Krause show you how to surf The Bridal Wave on your own terms. This hilarious and practical guide to surviving the wedding blitz reveals the sanity-saving secrets to dealing with all manner of matri-mania, including how to

• manage finances during the costly wedding season
• turn brutal self-examination (“What’s wrong with me?”) into empowering self-reflection (“Nothing!”)
• cope with envy and feelings of competition
• deal with lobridemized friends
• avoid settling for Mr. Wrong just to fit the timeline in your head
• actually enjoy being a bridesmaid, despite the dress

Like the best of friends, Erin and Valerie will help you separate fact from fairy tale – and stay sane, whether you’re coupled-up, single and looking, or single and just fine, thank you very much!
Among the endorsements and reviews:
“For any woman who is currently trapped in the middle of a Bridal Wave — this book is your lifesaver!”
– Liz Tuccillo, He’s Just Not That Into You

“A funny and genuinely helpful book that should be on every single woman's shelf.”
– Karen McCullah Lutz, The Bachelorette Party, Legally Blonde

"For anyone who's thought to herself something like, 'even my college roommate with Tourette's has a ring,' the release of Torneo and Cabrera's tough but sincere guide to 'keeping the crazies in check' in the wake of friends' weddings may spell relief. With care, humor, and a thorough understanding of the fine line between envy and disgust padded by single women watching friends get swept through the marriage mill, Torneo and Cabrera manage to keep everything in perspective.
Publishers Weekly
Visit the official site of The Bridal Wave and its sister blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Bridal Wave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Penni Russon's "Breathe"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Penni Russon's Breathe, the second volume in the "Undine" trilogy.

About the book, from the author's website:

Six months have passed since Undine discovered the powerful magic within her and very nearly threw the entire world into chaos. Life has gone back to normal—almost. The magic still swirls relentlessly below her surface, demanding that she break her promise not to use it.

And then there's Trout. Trout, with his messy, unrequited love for Undine. Trout, who can't sleep and who roams the streets at night instead. Trout, so desperate to learn about Undine's magic that he's willing to trust a mysterious young woman who knows an awful lot about him, about Undine, and about chaos theory.

As their lives continue to both unravel and coalesce, Undine and Trout feel drawn back to the Bay, where it all began.

Is Undine stronger than the magic she contains? Is she more girl than magic, or more magic than girl?

Among the praise for the novel:
"Russon's bracing, poetic voice and earthy, likable characters ground the story's esoteric symbolism, and many readers will find their own fear and love reflected in the beautiful, open-ended metaphors."
--Gillian Engberg, ALA Booklist

"[Breathe] is a fascinating character study, continuing to probe the allergorical connections between magic, female sexuality and sublimation of self while intorducing questions of predestination, indivduation, and a "multi-verse" of realities. Worth reading for the prose alone..."
--Claire E. Gross, Horn Book Magazine
Read an excerpt from Breathe.

Visit Penni Russon's website and her blog, Eglantine's Cake.

The Page 69 Test: Penni Russon's Breathe

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2007

More six-word stories

Yesterday I posted a brief item about six-word stories.

Too forgetful to have remembered reading earlier items on the subject at "The Rap Sheet," and too lazy to check (as I should have known to do), I failed to note that the novelist S.J. Rozan has been collecting six-word stories from crime writers and crime readers.

Read all about it. You may even send Rozan your own very short story.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "The World to Come"

Dara Horn put her acclaimed novel The World to Come to the Page 99 Test.

About the novel, from the author's website:
A million-dollar painting by Marc Chagall is stolen from a museum during a singles' cocktail hour. The unlikely thief is Benjamin Ziskind, a lonely former child prodigy who writes questions for quiz shows and who is sure the painting used to hang on a wall of his parents' living room. As Ben tries to evade the police, he and his twin sister, Sara, seek out the truth of how the painting got to the museum, whether the "original" is actually a forgery, and whether Sara, an artist, can create a convincing forgery to take its place.

Eighty years prior, in the 1920's in Soviet Russia, Marc Chagall taught art to orphaned Jewish boys. There Chagall befriended the great Yiddish novelist known by the pseudonym "Der Nister," The Hidden One. And there, with the lives of these real artists, the story of the painting begins, carrying with it not only a hidden fable by the Hidden One but also the story of the Ziskind family -- from Russia to New Jersey and Vietnam.
Only a fraction of the praise for the novel:
"Nothing short of amazing."
--Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)

"Throughout this rich, complex and haunting novel, Horn reminds us that our world poses constant threats to the artist and to art, to the individual and the creative spirit. Their very survival is a miracle."
--New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

"A deeply satisfying literary mystery and a funny-sad meditation on how the past haunts the present — and how we haunt the future."
--Time Magazine

"Isn't there a Willy Wonka gum that tastes like all good foods at once? If so, Dara Horn's "The World to Come" is the literary equivalent of that confection, equal parts mystery, sprawling novel, folktale, philosophical treatise, history, biography, love story and fabulist adventure ... each page of her novel is a marvel."
--San Francisco Chronicle (Editor's Recommendation)

"Captivating and startling ... miraculously, it stays aloft in the mind like a dream you can't decide was sweet or frightening."
--Washington Post
The World to Come is Dara Horn's second novel; her first, In the Image, is now available in paperback.

Visit Dara Horn's website and read the first chapter of The World to Come.

The Page 99 Test: The World to Come.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Cass Sunstein reading?

A couple of weeks ago Cass Sunstein, law school and political science professor at the University of Chicago and author of many books including The Second Bill of Rights, Radicals in Robes, and Infotopia, responded to my query about what he was reading.

Read his answer at Writers Read.

Just this morning Sunstein posted "Executive Privilege: A Primer," at the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog. It opens:

In view of the current conflict between Congress and the President, it might be useful to outline existing law on executive privilege, and thus to provide a kind of primer (a tentative, preliminary, and incomplete one to be sure). The following does not focus on or attempt to resolve the current controversy. Nor does it trace the practices of Congress and the executive branch over time.

One of the largest lessons is that much of the law remains unsettled. The Supreme Court has not said a great deal; the court of appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has said more; but it is not at all clear that a majority of the Supreme Court would agree with what the lower court has said. Here is (the bulk of) the law as it now stands. [read on]

Read the Page 69 Test: Cass Sunstein's Infotopia

--Marshal Zeringue

Ray Banks' "The Big Blind"

Ray Banks, who shares his birthday with Chuck Barris and Curtis Mayfield and was born in a Fife town famous for chocolate cake and linoleum, is the author of The Big Blind -- today's feature at the Page 69 Test -- and the forthcoming Saturday's Child and Donkey Punch.

About The Big Blind:
Stella Artois, Jack Daniels’, American Roulette and Caribbean Stud. Double glazing salesmen Alan Slater and Les Beale are on the town, doing what they always do: getting hammered and losing money.

It all kicks off when Beale trades aggro with some Chinese lads. As always, Alan’s on hand to pick up the pieces.

But he can’t manage it forever. Slater’s getting sick of it. Sick to his stomach. Beale used to be a good salesman and an okay friend, but since his wife left him, he’s become a bigoted, fat, falling-apart-at-the-seams victim of drink, paranoia and his own slavering greed.

To make matters worse, he’s about to lose his job. And Alan Slater’s about to have a road accident that’ll spell the end of his old life and the beginning of a brand new world of shite.
Among the praise for the novel:

“…tears off the page like a Mack truck spewing diamond prose of such finesse that you have to push back from the page lest you burn.”
--Ken Bruen, Shamus-winning author of The Guards

“Seedy, sordid and unpleasant — you wouldn’t want Alan Slater’s life, but watching it spiral spectacularly out of control makes for a hugely compulsive and entertaining read. If you’re making a list of authors to watch, Ray Banks should be right there at the top.”
--Kevin Wignall, author of For The Dogs

“I loved The Big Blind. Ray Banks’ rapid-fire prose takes no prisoners. It’s fast, hard and tight, with a story that doesn’t let go until the very last page.”
--Simon Kernick, author of The Murder Exchange

“Banks is as close to Ken Bruen for smarts and economy as anyone. The Big Blind is a winner and Ray Banks establishes himself straight away with this raw, gripping, and very excellent debut.”
--Charlie Stella, author of Cheapskates

Visit Ray Banks' website, "The Saturday Boy."

The Page 69 Test: The Big Blind.

--Marshal Zeringue

"The Retrieval Artist," a TV series

Over at My Book, the Movie, Hugo Award-winning writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch has suggested some casting ideas should the SciFi Channel decide to adapt her "The Retrieval Artist" series of novels.

See who Rusch has in mind for the following characters:
  • "Miles Flint is a fallen angel. He’s very pretty, but he has had a hard life and it shows in the planes of his face."
  • "Noelle DiRicci, his sometimes partner.... She’s not pretty, but she’s smart and tough. She’s disillusioned, but she’s starting to realize that she can have power. We need a powerful woman here, but one a little older and a lot more jaded."
  • "Paloma, who has her moments of importance, [and] seems like a wise woman."
  • "Ki Bowles, the reporter no one likes and yet plays such an important part...."
Read on.

--Marshal Zeringue

Literary top 10: Laura Hird

Laura Hird shared a very interesting "literary top 10" list with Pulp Net.

One item on which we agree:
My favourite opening line of a novel

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul, Lo-lee-ta; the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
Read about another item from Hird's list on which we're not in complete accord.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Six-word stories

Ernest Hemingway once said his best work was a story he wrote in just six words: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." The Guardian challenged some contemporary authors to be equally economical.

A few of the responses:
"It can't be. I'm a virgin."
Kate Atkinson

Set sail, great storm, all lost.
John Banville

Juicy offer. Must decline. Still paralysed.
Richard Ford

Bob's last message: Bermuda Triangle, Baloney.
Elmore Leonard
Read more responses.

Blackbook magazine conducted the same exercise a few years ago. Pete Anderson reprinted a few of the entries, including Norman Mailer's: "Satan--Jehovah--fifteen rounds. A draw."

Pete Anderson's six-word story: "Aging skier goes downhill. Literally, figuratively."

I'll offer an old joke (not my own creation): "Redneck's famous last words: 'watch this!'"

--Marshal Zeringue

Best fiction and food combinations

Tunku Varadarajan, an assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal, selected a short list of the "most delectable combinations of fiction and food" for Opinion Journal.

A taste from his list:
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Deliverance from starvation: Inman, the Confederate soldier who deserts at Petersburg, Va., late in the Civil War, has lost all acquaintance with food on his hellish trudge back home to the Blue Ridge Mountains when he chances upon a homestead. There, "a young woman, a girl really," feeds him back to life: "The woman served him up a plate heaped high with beans and bread and a big peeled onion. . . . Inman took the plate and a knife and spoon into his lap and fell to eating. A part of him wished to be polite, but it was overcome by some dog organ deep in his brain, and so he ate loudly and in gulps, pausing to chew only when absolutely necessary. He forewent slicing the onion and ate on it like an apple." Unfeeling must be the reader who will not taste that onion on his own palate.
Check out Number One on Varadarajan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What is Paul Lewis reading?

Paul Lewis, author of Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict, shared an account of his latest reading and research activity at Writers Read.

Among the stories he's been tracking:
[T]he case of Joseph Frederick, a Juneau, Alaska high school student who was punished in 2002 for refusing to take down a banner he designed that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Though Ferguson has testified that he was only trying "to be meaningless and funny, in order to get on television” during an Olympics parade event, his case has now reached the Supreme Court where the free-speech issues associated with it appear to be no laughing matter.
Visit Paul Lewis's website.

Read the Page 69 Test: Cracking Up.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "Catching Genius"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: Kristy Kiernan's debut novel, Catching Genius.

About the novel, from the publisher:
As children, Connie and Estella were best friends - until Estella was discovered to be a math prodigy, which led to the sisters' estrangement. Now, years later, they are forced to reunite on the Gulf Coast of Florida as they pack up their childhood home and ready it for sale. The reunion comes at a time when both Connie and Estella must come to terms with painful revelations and devastating consequences in their own lives. And once again, her sister's genius may alter Connie's life in ways she cannot control.
Read an excerpt from Catching Genius.

Check out some of the advance praise for the novel. Among the book's endorsements:
"Catching Genius is the total package; a beautiful story beautifully told. Kristy Kiernan pulls you into a deep and fully-realized world; exactly the place a reader wants to be taken."
-Lorna Landvik, author of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons and Oh, My Stars

"In her beautifully written debut novel, Catching Genius, Kristy Kiernan portrays the complexity of familial relationships with a depth, candor, and insight that can only be called exceptional."
-Sandra Kring, author of The Book of Bright Ideas and Carry Me Home

"Kristy Kiernan bursts from the gate with this skillful rendering of a family's reckoning with its painful past. She peels away the layers in a lilting and luminous voice, exposing strata after strata of family secrets made murkier by the passage of time, and proves she's a writer to watch -- find a comfortable spot, turn off the phone, and lose yourself in this gorgeous debut."
-Sara Gruen, NYT Bestselling author of Water For Elephants

"Kristy Kiernan’s fluent storytelling and fully-drawn, credible characters make for an affecting novel. With effortless grace, her lyrical prose drops the reader into scenes rich with detail and powerful emotions. Catching Genius is a stunning debut that will leave readers of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve clamoring for more from this talented author."
-Tasha Alexander, author of And Only to Deceive and A Poisoned Season

"Catching Genius is the real thing: a rich, compelling, and deeply nuanced story delivered in language that's as luminous as it is authoritative. To judge by this affecting first novel, I'd say Kiernan's the real thing, too."
-Jon Clinch, author of Finn
Curious about the inspiration for Catching Genius? Read Kiernan's backstory.

Visit Kristy Kiernan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Catching Genius.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "The Pitcher Shower"

Donald Harington put his novel The Pitcher Shower to the Page 99 Test.

About the book, from the publisher:
Every time Hoppy enters a town in his truck, he is greeted with delight and anticipation, showered with warmth, offered meals, and more often than not, pretty girls trying to catch more than just his eye. It's not that Hoppy is so special; it's the pitcher shows that he brings with him, the shoot-'em-ups and giddyappers that all the Ozark folk adore that have them lining up to welcome him. Hoppy's predictable routine and his struggles with his own self-loathing are challenged when a teenager succeeds in stowing away in his truck and proves to be a lot more than he seems. Together they contend with a wily traveling preacher who dogs their heels, trying to steal away their audience with his message of salvation. This peddler of the Gospel is just as bent on making money as the peddler of the motion pitcher, and in his cunning he steals all of Hoppy's cowboy pitchers. The pitcher shower has no choice but to buy the only available pitcher he can find, a strange pitcher called A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and hope that it will prove popular with audiences who expect horses and Hopalong Cassidy.
Read an excerpt from The Pitcher Shower, and visit Harington's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Pitcher Shower.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top books on the 1980s

Chris Power, who reviews fiction for the Times (U.K.), named his six top books on the 1980s.

Number two on the list:

Money by Martin Amis

A satirical paean to Reaganomics via the corporate-sponsored sacraments of booze, porn and violence.

Read about Power's other picks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2007

"The Blue Cheer," the movie

The Blue Cheer is the second novel in Ed Lynskey's "PI Frank Johnson Mystery" series.

Over at My Book, The Movie, Lynskey considers the casting should Hollywood come calling and turn his books into a film.

Here he describes Frank Johnson and looks back to actors from days gone by for the role:
Since my PI books are written in first-person, I haven't devoted a lot of thought or included too much written description on Frank's physical appearance. Given all the jams he winds up in, and the rigors needed to extract himself, I'd say he's fairly young and athletic. If not, perhaps the director would hire a stunt double to film the action sequences.

On the other hand, Frank is something of a pulp novel buff. If using that as a guideline and dipping back in time, I'd tap Ralph Meeker (Kiss Me Deadly) or even further back, Dana Andrews (Laura). The only trouble is these three actors would need to speak with a Southern accent, but then that's why they're actors (and I'm not).
But Lynskey's preferred contemporary actor for the role is someone still very much around; in fact, he's starring in what is sure to be one of the top grossing movies of the weekend. If that hint doesn't put an actor in mind, check out the book cover: I'm sure it's a coincidence, but the guy on the cover looks a bit like Lynskey's choice.

Read more about Ed Lynskey's The Blue Cheer, the movie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lydia Millet's list

Novelist Lydia Millet, author of Everyone’s Pretty, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, and the award-winning My Happy Life, picked a list for the The Week magazine.

One of her titles:
The Complete Tales of Merry Gold by Kate Bernheimer

This second novella in a fairy-tale trilogy shows what it’s like to be the mean one in a family, the sister nobody likes—and it does so with such authenticity that we see both how easy and how hard it is to be vicious. Bernheimer’s strengths are her poetic language and refusal to judge her characters.
Read more about Millet's list.

Check out an interview with Kate Bernheimer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Atul Gawande's favorite books

In the fall of 2002, Atul Gawande told Barnes & Noble about his ten favorite books. The explanation that I liked best:
Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses -- Everything I dislike about writing -- pompousness, knowing wordiness, literary posturing, characters as merely symbols, symbols as blaring neon signposts, tendentious politics -- put together into a single book of genius. It works. I don’t know why.
Read about Gawande's other nine favorites.

And check out his new book, Better.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"

Mohsin Hamid grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton and Harvard. His first novel, Moth Smoke, was a Betty Trask Award winner, PEN/ Hemingway Award finalist, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has also appeared in Time, the New York Times, and other publications.

His new book, due out next week, is The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

A synopsis, from the publisher:
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting....

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
Among the early praise for the novel:

'Beautifully written and superbly constructed. It is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time, as well as being a subtle and elegant analysis of the state of our world today.'
--Philip Pullman

'A brilliant book. With spooky restraint and masterful control, Hamid unpicks the underpinnings of the most recent episode of distrust between East and West. The narrative is balanced by a love as powerful as the sinister forces gathering, even when it recedes into a phantom of hope.'
--Kiran Desai

'Builds with masterfully controlled irony and suspense... A superb cautionary tale, and a grim reminder of the continuing cost of ethnic profiling, miscommunication and confrontation.'
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review (full review)

'This author’s second novel succeeds so well... [Its] firm, steady, even beautiful voice proclaims the completeness of the soul when personal and global issues are conjoined.'
--Booklist, starred review (full review)

'Clever and elegant... unfinished love adds depth, and an unsuspected measure of tenderness, to his tense, polished second novel.'
--Independent (full review)

'Succeeds in wrapping an exploration of the straining relationship between East and West in a gripping yarn... an elegant and sharp indictment of the clouds of suspicion that now shroud our world.'
--Observer (full review)

'Picks off his ideological targets with the accuracy of a sniper... prods the intellect, quickens the pulse and captures the imagination.'
--Sunday Times (full review)

'A quietly told, cleverly constructed fable of infatuation and disenchantment with America... an intelligent, highly engaging piece of work.'

'The tone is spot-on... a thoughtful and sophisticated novel that has the courage to wear its poltitical conviction on its sleeve.'
--Time Out London

Read an excerpt from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and visit Mohsin Hamid's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Peter Ames Carlin reading?

Peter Ames Carlin is the TV critic for The Oregonian newspaper in Portland and author of Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson.

Ralph Heibutzki's praise for Catch a Wave led me to ask Carlin about what he has been reading.

One title he mentioned:
A Moveable Thirst, a book about the Napa wine region by my friend Rick Kushman (like me a TV critic by day) and Hank Beal. The second half of the book is a guide to actual Napa wineries, but the first half is pure narrative, about the guys' adventures touring the wineries themselves. It's charming and funny, but also smart and a nice tutorial for aspiring wine buffs. As such it reminds me of the other wine book I read this year, Brian Doyle's The Grail, which is essentially a series of essays about a year at an elite winery in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The grail in the title is the perfect pinot noir ... which a lot of people (including Brian's subjects) have come awfully close to creating.
Read about the other books on Carlin's current reading list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Paul Ekman's "Emotions Revealed"

A second edition of Paul Ekman's Emotions Revealed comes out this spring. I've not read the book (and probably won't), but I have read Malcolm Gladwell's essay about Ekman's work and it is fascinating.

The hook line from Gladwell's article: "Can you read people's thoughts just by looking at them?"

For Ekman, the answer is Yes.

And, it seems, he can train others to do so as well. Imagine the applications and implications.

Read more about the book.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pg. 99: "Guardian of the Dawn"

Richard Zimler put his novel Guardian of the Dawn to the Page 99 Test.

About the novel, from the publisher:
In an age of faith and fire
In a land of many gods
A journey of survival is about to begin.…

In his acclaimed novels Hunting Midnight and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Richard Zimler has spun luminous historical fiction from the experience of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. Spanning decades and continents, his new novel is set in the lush world of colonial India during the age of the Inquisition. Here is the astonishing story of Tiago Zarco, a young man whose family fled forced conversions in Portugal and now lives in a twilight between local Hindus and the ruling Portuguese Catholics. As Tiago comes of age in Goa, the capital of the spice trade, he struggles to keep the far-reaching powers of the Inquisition from destroying his family and pulling him apart from the Hindu girl he loves. When an act of betrayal puts his beloved father in prison, Tiago is forced to hunt down the traitor and make an unimaginable choice…and for him, a harrowing journey begins–one that will show him the depths of human depravity, and the dark, poisonous salvation of revenge….

At once a grand historical adventure and a riveting tale of love and mystery, Guardian of the Dawn brilliantly illuminates a world that has rarely been described–in a novel that blazes with passion, fury, and hope.
Among the praise for Guardian of the Dawn:
"Deeply absorbing.... [a] rich, fast-moving story."
Kirkus Reviews

“Richard Zimler is a superbly talented historical novelist, capable of combining fascinating broad-canvas glimpses of history with the most intimate portraits of the human heart in turmoil.”

“Richard Zimler is a present-day scholar and writer of remarkable erudition and compelling imagination, an American Umberto Eco.”
"Picking up where he left off in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Zimler tracks the travails of a young Jewish manuscript illustrator who flees with his family from Portugal to India.... an exotic, colorful novel."
- Publishers Weekly
Read an excerpt from the novel, and visit Richard Zimler's website.

Page 99: Guardian of the Dawn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Benjamin Black's "Christine Falls"

I finished Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (John Banville's crime-writing pen-name), a couple of weeks ago, yet I keep putting off writing a review.

Rather than delay any longer, I'll quote some lines from other reviewers that capture my opinion of the book. (Lazy, for sure, but there are so many reviews of this book that I don't feel I'm cheating author or reader.)
Christine Falls is crossover fiction of a very high order. Its mystery plot, while by no means lacking conviction, is frequently upstaged by the aptness and beauty of its insinuating visions.
--Janet Maslin

It would be absurd to suggest that Banville writing as Black is better than Banville writing as Banville, but in a different and yet fascinatingly similar way he is every bit as good, and deserves to win a new, broader readership with this fine book.
--Michael Dibdin

I was entranced and enmeshed and otherwise embroiled in Black’s tale, classic Dublin noir--if there was such a thing--set in the 1950s and following the familial misdeeds of a Dublin pathologist we only ever know as “Quirke.”
--Linda L. Richards
By the way, I was fairly certain that I'd figured out the main who-done-it question early on -- and, while I'm not usually very good at that, I was correct -- but the mystery really isn't the main point in this novel.

About the novel, from the publisher:
It’s not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It’s the living. One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse -- and concealing the cause of death.

It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious -- and very well-guarded -- secrets of Dublin’s high Catholic society, among them members of his own family.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize winner John Banville’s fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black’s debut marks him as a true master of the form.
--Marshal Zeringue