Friday, November 30, 2007

What is Juliet Marillier reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Juliet Marillier, author of several highly popular fantasy novels for adults, including the Sevenwaters Trilogy and the Bridei Chronicles, as well as novels for young adults.

By happy coincidence, a novel that recently joined the Page 69 Test series figures in her entry:
When I’m in full-on writing mode the contents of my bedside table tend to be weighted toward reference material. I made an exception for Jason Goodwin’s The Snake Stone, featuring eunuch detective Yashim. The first in this series, The Janissary Tree, impressed me so much that I bought (and read) the second book as soon as it came out.

Goodwin’s depth of historical knowledge and, in particular, his understanding of Ottoman culture makes each of these books a rich and compelling journey into early 19th century Istanbul. A particularly fine feature of the books is Yashim’s love of food and cookery, which I suspect allows our hero to sublimate certain other desires that he can no longer fully satisfy. The shopping and cooking sequences are sensual delights. They’re like little windows into this character’s psyche. [read on]
Marillier's Wildwood Dancing is on Amazon's 2007 list of top ten books for young adults; it also won the 2006 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel.

Visit Juliet Marillier's website to learn more about her books and works in progress, and read her "author's spotlight" essay at the Random House website. Also, check out Writer Unboxed, a genre writing blog which she shares with several other writers and editors.

Writers Read: Juliet Marillier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Emily Martin's "Bipolar Expeditions"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Emily Martin's Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture.

About the book, from the publisher:

Manic behavior holds an undeniable fascination in American culture today. It fuels the plots of best-selling novels and the imagery of MTV videos, is acknowledged as the driving force for successful entrepreneurs like Ted Turner, and is celebrated as the source of the creativity of artists like Vincent Van Gogh and movie stars like Robin Williams. Bipolar Expeditions seeks to understand mania's appeal and how it weighs on the lives of Americans diagnosed with manic depression.

Anthropologist Emily Martin guides us into the fascinating and sometimes disturbing worlds of mental-health support groups, mood charts, psychiatric rounds, the pharmaceutical industry, and psychotropic drugs. Charting how these worlds intersect with the wider popular culture, she reveals how people living under the description of bipolar disorder are often denied the status of being fully human, even while contemporary America exhibits a powerful affinity for manic behavior. Mania, Martin shows, has come to be regarded as a distant frontier that invites exploration because it seems to offer fame and profits to pioneers, while depression is imagined as something that should be eliminated altogether with the help of drugs.

Bipolar Expeditions argues that mania and depression have a cultural life outside the confines of diagnosis, that the experiences of people living with bipolar disorder belong fully to the human condition, and that even the most so-called rational everyday practices are intertwined with irrational ones.

Among the praise for Bipolar Expeditions:

"In this exciting book, Martin brilliantly sketches out a relationship between the frenetic pace of modern life and the way in which bipolar disorder is imagined and evoked. Martin describes the way the diagnosis comes to carry meaning for those who hold it and the cultural dimensions of the way in which the illness is understood and experienced."
--Tanya Luhrmann, author of Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry

"Learned, imaginative, and insightful, Bipolar Expeditions explores experience, stigma, and performance using the varied tools of ethnography, history, and social theory. Martin's readers will return from that contested and new-found land called mania with a richer and more sophisticated understanding of a fundamental aspect of the human condition."
--Charles Rosenberg, Harvard University

"This is a gracefully written, lively, and wholly fascinating book. Martin offers a rich and multifaceted portrait of the role of bipolar illness -- and of our notions about bipolar illness -- in contemporary American society. The book is broad-ranging, both in its focus and in the theoretical perspectives it employs. I do not know of any other books that address bipolar illness in anything like this fashion."
--Louis A. Sass, author of Madness and Modernism

"Bipolar Expeditions is a wonderful book. It is compellingly written, elegantly structured, both deeply scholarly and intensely personal. Destined to become an instant classic, the book offers a strikingly original argument with the potential to change forever how the reader thinks about 'mental illness.' Martin is a master of popular culture. She is also in command of a vast psychiatric literature."
--Lorna A. Rhodes, University of Washington

Read the introduction to Bipolar Expeditions and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Emily Martin is professor of anthropology and a member of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at New York University. Her other books include Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS and The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction.

The Page 99 Test: Bipolar Expeditions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pg. 69: Steve Carlson's "Almost Graceland"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Steve Carlson's Almost Graceland.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ray Johnston thought his life was disgustingly normal. At forty-two, he had lived in Memphis all his life. His ex-wife had saved him from paying alimony by marrying her divorce lawyer, he enjoyed his work at the lumberyard, and he had a girlfriend who, everyone had to admit, was a peach. He did suffer one recurring nuisance; from as far back as he could remember, strangers would come up to him asking, “Do you know you look a lot like Elvis?” One day a man at a bar notices the similarity. It turns out the man actually works for Elvis Presley, and soon Ray gets two unfriendly phone calls, supposedly from the King himself. Later comes a third, one that makes Ray dizzy. He has been invited to dinner at Graceland! In an hour! Why? Ray can’t believe it -- even when the limousine arrives to take him to the famed residence.

What follows is a meeting of two men who have almost nothing in common except their looks, their age, and the city they were born and grew up in. One is a working man who is trying to deal with what life has given him. The other is the most well-known and worshipped singer who has ever lived.

Steve Carlson delivers an enchanting debut novel that explores the power of loss and redemption in a moving portrait of Elvis at the end of his life.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"A beautifully written novel by a longtime television actor that brings to life a pleasant middle-aged truck driver in Memphis. Almost Graceland is one of the most interesting works of fiction to cross my desk in a long time."
--R. Cavin, Editor, St. Martin's Press

"A conceptually intriguing portrait of the man Elvis might have been if he weren't all shook up."

"In this debut novel by Carlson, a film actor and author (The Commercial Actor's Guide), Gladys Presley gives birth to twin sons on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, MS. One is named Elvis; birth records indicate that the other was stillborn. In April 1977, Ray Johnston, a Memphis lumberyard worker with an uncanny resemblance to Elvis, discovers that he was adopted. Identical birthdays, a common birthplace, and other coincidences convince Ray that he is Elvis's twin brother, but few others take his claim seriously. An article in a local newspaper finally catches the King's attention, along with a number of Elvis watchers and curiosity seekers, launching Ray into the most exciting five months of his life. As rejection gradually becomes acceptance and Ray and Elvis begin sharing personal moments, good times are overshadowed by unscrupulous paparazzi, a kidnapping attempt, and an abiding need for secrecy. Of course, Elvis's death on August 16, 1977, ends the adventure. Facts of Elvis's life are meticulously woven into this novel of 'what ifs' that will catch the fancy of Elvis fans. Recommended for popular fiction collections."
--Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Library Journal

"Elvis-loving readers who can put their disbelief [about The King's separated-at-birth twin] in check will want to add this to the collection."
--Publishers Weekly
Learn more about the novel and author at Steve Carlson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Almost Graceland.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Roberta Isleib reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Roberta Isleib, a clinical psychologist who has written seven mysteries including five featuring a neurotic LPGA golfer and two starring psychologist/advice columnist Dr. Rebecca Butterman.

Part of her entry:
At my recommendation, my book group recently read Boombox by Gabriel Cohen, published by Academy Chicago. I'd read Cohen's first novel back in 2002, a police procedural set in the Red Hook neighborhood of New York. It was a wonderful book, nominated for an Edgar for best first novel. Boombox was very different -- the short and tragic story of a group of unlikely neighbors who clash in a series of connected townhouses. The book asks fascinating though discouraging questions about whether people who come from different backgrounds can learn to live in proximity -- a good question for our times. [read on]
Isleib's Deadly Advice was published in March, with Preaching to the Corpse due to follow on December 4. Isleib is currently the president of Sisters in Crime International.

Visit Roberta Isleib's website and her blog, and read her award-nominated story "Disturbance in the Field."

Writers Read: Roberta Isleib.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ray Banks' "The Big Blind," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Ray Banks' The Big Blind.

About the book -- a novel which, according to Ken Bruen, “…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:”
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.

Banks' entry opens:
The Big Blind, the movie?

Okay, let's say I had it all my own way: The Big Blind would keep its northern British roots, that big Manchester rain and the grey concrete bleakness of modern trading estate Britain. If it ever made it to the screen, the visuals should make people think of wet dog - that's the best olfactory summary I can come up with. Maybe wet dog with the hint of stale lager.

For Alan Slater, our humble narrator and perpetually harassed double-glazing salesman, there's really no other choice than the De Niro of the Midlands ....[read on]
Ray Banks is the author of The Big Blind (his debut), Saturday's Child, and Donkey Punch.

Banks at his website and at Crimespace and MySpace.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Blind.

My Book, The Movie: The Big Blind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "Sons and Other Flammable Objects"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Porochista Khakpour's Sons and Other Flammable Objects.

About the book, from the publisher's website:

A masterful tale of immigrant identity, assimilation, and the universal struggle of sons to define themselves in the shadow of their fathers

With rolling storytelling cadences and wry wit that recall Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, Porochista Khakpour, a young writer who emigrated to California from Tehran at age three, has delivered an extraordinary debut that marks her as a major and outrageously gifted new voice. Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a unique and powerful first novel, at once a comedy and a tragedy, a family history and a modern coming-of-age story with a distinctly timeless resonance.

Growing up, Xerxes Adam is painfully aware that he is different — with an understanding of his Iranian heritage that vacillates from typical teenage embarrassment to something so tragic it can barely be spoken. His father, Darius, dwells obsessively on his sense of exile, and fantasizes about a nonexistent daughter he can relate to better than his living son; Xerxes’s mother changes her name and tries to make friends; but neither of them offers their son anything he can actually use to make sense of the terrifying, violent last moments in a homeland he barely remembers. As he grows into manhood and moves to New York, his major goal in life is to completely separate from his parents, but when he meets a beautiful half-Iranian girl on the roof of his building after New York’s own terrifying and violent catastrophe strikes, it seems Iran will not let Xerxes go.

A wry and haunting first novel from a fresh Iranian-American writer, Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a sweeping, lyrical tale of suffering, redemption, and the role of memory and inheritance making peace with our worlds.
Among the praise for Sons and Other Flammable Objects:
“Khakpour builds her luminously intelligent debut around the travails of an Iranian-American family caught in the feverish and paranoid currents immediately after 9/11.... Khakpour is an elegant writer, and she imparts a perfect sense of the ironies of being Persian in America.”
Publishers Weekly

Sons and Other Flammable Objects is one of those rare novels that makes you laugh and at the same time breaks your heart. It is a brilliant, insightful, and original portrait of an Iranian-American family, mother, father, son, all struggling, often crazily, to belong, to find meaning in their new home in America, to assert their identities. All the characters are memorable, lingering with you long after you finish the last page.”
—Nahid Rachlin, author of Persian Girls and Jumping Over Fire

“Like the young Philip Roth, Porochista Khakpour uses lashing, dark humor tinged with deep melancholy to paint a wonderfully twisted portrait of family life. Xerxes Adam, the ‘son’ of the title, is a protagonist for our times: repulsed by his father and alienated from his motherland, he hides from his origins in the ashes of post-9/11 New York. This is a novel of searing intelligence.”
—Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia

“Hypnotic, kaleidoscopic, gorgeous and mad, this novel is a brilliant and astonishing debut. And the story it tells is the best kind of story — where comedy and tragedy weave together mysteriously and yet organically, like a shifting in the play of light, like life itself.”
—Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and I Love You More Than You Know
“Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a marvelous novel: witty, wise, continually surprising, continually inventive, exuberant, heartbreaking. It resists the easy categories of immigrant lit, family saga, first novel — because it is, first and foremost, a delightful, generous work of literary art.”
—Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy

“Khakpour displays a barbed, appealing sensibility and a trenchant wit”

“While there is no shortage of fiction that deals with the subjects of racial and cultural identity, Khakpour’s first novel refuses to oversimplify these issues fro the sake of a smoother narrative. An incredibly complex book, it acknowledges that navigating the demands of multiple cultures is anything but a tidy process.”
—Chris Pusateri, Library Journal
"Khakpour explores ethnicity, nationalism, and post-9/11 fear — well-worn themes that are far less compelling than the exuberant originality of her style. The characters burst from the page in fiery exchanges, while their chaotic inner lives are conveyed with witty precision; a simple parting comment is accompanied by “a definite wink, a wink or maybe a squint, but a smile, possibly a grimace, more than a smile.” Khakpour’s comic sense of familial tensions — particularly father-son enmity — is infectious...."
The New Yorker
Read an excerpt from Sons and Other Flammable Objects at the official book website, and visit Porochista Khakpour's website.

Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1978. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the Johns Hopkins University writing seminars MA program. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Reader, The Village Voice,, Paper, Nylon, Gear, Alef, Bidoun, and, among other publications.

The Page 99 Test: Sons and Other Flammable Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is Vicki Hendricks reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Vicki Hendricks, author of noir novels Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and Cruel Poetry.

One title she tagged:
The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin is the coarsest deck of sandpaper between two covers that I have ever seen. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying it! It was recommended on Rara Avis by John Williams, my editor, and since he likes my stuff, I generally like what he likes. I love it when I get a new name in noir. I’m halfway through, and if I hadn’t been interrupted by the book fair, I would have finished. The author is a musician in an “internationally acclaimed band” and I’m betting it’s gotta be hard rock. I don’t know how he learned to write like this in his spare time, but it’s original and fast-paced — don’t you just hate those multi-talented guys? — with a main character Frank who can only be less down and out than his brother Jerry Lee. So far, there is no intentional crime, but an unfortunate accident has taken place whereby drunken Jerry Lee kills a boy on a bicycle and spirals down from there, taking Frank with him. I love those spiral-downs. [read on]
Visit Vicki Hendricks' website.

The Page 99 Test: Cruel Poetry.

Writers Read: Vicki Hendricks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Most important books: Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Running with Scissors, Dry, and Magical Thinking, all of which have been New York Times bestsellers and are published around the world. A film version of Running with Scissors starring Annette Bening and Gwyneth Paltrow was adapted for the screen by Ryan Murphy.

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

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Felt like the melancholy, pretentious ramblings of an old drunk. I nearly never read another dead person.

A book you hope parents read to their children:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Teaches kids to befriend their monsters.

Read about Burroughs' five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Katherine Howell's "Frantic"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Katherine Howell's Frantic.

About the book
, from the author's website:
In one terrible moment, paramedic Sophie Phillips’ life is ripped apart – her police officer husband, Chris, is shot on their doorstep and their ten-month-old son, Lachlan, is abducted from his bed. Suspicion surrounds Chris as he is tainted with police corruption, but Sophie believes the attack is much more personal – and the perpetrator far more dangerous...

While Chris is in hospital and the police, led by Detective Ella Marconi, mobilise to find their colleague's child, Sophie's desperation compels her to search for Lachlan herself. She enlists her husband's partner, Angus Arendson, in the hunt for her son, but will the history they share prove harmful to Sophie's ability to complete her mission?

And could one dangerous decision cause Sophie to ultimately lose everything important in her life?
Among the praise for Frantic:
"[A]n adrenaline rush of a thriller ... as addictive as it is exhausting."
--Sue Turnbull, Sydney Morning Herald

"Frantic is a ripper of a yarn, told with verve and feeling for the characters and place. Howell is a natural storyteller."
Reg Anderson, Courier Mail

"There is no let up in this story, as the title suggests it charges full steam ahead in a state of sustained urgency.... Frantic is an outstanding thriller...."
--Crime Down Under

Frantic is “a fast-paced and involving read” and “a real page-turner (that) will certainly appeal to fans of medical-based crime thrillers.”
--Bookseller and Publisher
Katherine Howell's Frantic was released by Pan Macmillan in May 2007 in Australia, and will be published in 2008/09 in France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK. Her second book, The Darkest Hour, is scheduled for release in Australia in 2008.

Howell introduced herself to American readers at Sarah Weinman's "Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind."

Read an excerpt from Frantic and learn more about Katherine Howell and her writing at her website.

The Page 69 Test: Frantic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pg. 99: McDonagh & Pappano's "Playing With The Boys"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports by Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano.

About the book, from the Oxford University Press:
From small-town life to the national stage, from the boardroom to Capitol Hill, athletic contests help define what we mean in America by "success." And by keeping women from "playing with the boys" on the grounds that they are inherently inferior to men, society relegates them to second-class status in American life.

In this forcefully argued book, Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano show in vivid detail how women have been unfairly excluded from participating in sports on an equal footing with men. Using dozens of powerful examples from the world of contemporary American athletics -- girls and women trying to break through in football, ice hockey, wrestling, and baseball to name just a few -- the authors show that sex differences are not sufficient to warrant women's coercive exclusion from competing with men; that some sex-group differences actually confer a sports advantage to women; and that "special rules" for women in sports do not simply reflect the "differences" between the sexes, but actively create and reinforce a view that women as a group are inherently inferior to men -- even when women clearly are not. For instance, women's bodies give them a physiological advantage in endurance sports like the ultra-marathon and distance swimming. So, why do so many Olympic events -- from swimming to skiing to running to bike racing--have shorter races for women than men? Likewise, why are women's tennis matches limited to three sets while men's are best-of-fives? This book shows how sex-segregated sports policies, instead of reflecting sex-group differences, in fact construct them.

An original and provocative argument to level the athletic playing field, Playing with the Boys issues a clarion call for sex-sensible policies in sports as a crucial step toward achieving social, economic, and political equality for men and women in our society.
Among the praise for Playing With The Boys:

"Convincingly argue[s] the notion that sports, like politics, higher education, and employment generally, should provide equal opportunity for women... Marshaling facts, research, and opinions from biology, history, sociology, law, media, and psychology, the authors make their feminist argument more plausibly than does Colette Dowling in The Frailty Myth ... Highly recommended."
--Library Journal

"Playing with the Boys dismantles the common assumption that women must be inferior to men when it comes to sports. McDonagh and Pappano impressively show how this deep stereotype has no grounds and why it's so important we get rid of it."
--Donna Brazile, author of Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics

"This is one of those rare gems of a book that makes you entirely reassess what you thought you knew. Provocative, absorbing and meticulously argued, Playing with the Boys questions the received wisdom about Title IX and women's sports from the most unexpected perspective. Read the book."
--Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Stephen and Evalyn Milman Professor of American Studies, Cornell University and author of Faithful and Fearless: Moving Feminist Protest inside the Church and Military

"McDonagh and Pappano hit a home-run! This book shows that coerced sex segregation in sports does not benefit women, and in fact holds back women who are fully capable of competing with men -- and that flies in the face of U.S. ideals of equality. Readers will never think of Title IX in the same way again."
--Kim Gandy, President, National Organization for Women (NOW)

"This is a wonderful work! It offers novel evidence from biology, history, and the law that makes us realize that women's sports are not only intrinsically interesting as a topic of study, but also a key part of larger debates about who we are as a society and a nation."
--Kristin Goss, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Studies and Political Science, Duke University and author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America

Learn more about Playing With The Boys at the Oxford University Press website.

Eileen McDonagh is Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. She is the author of Breaking the Abortion Deadlock.

Laura Pappano is the author of The Connection Gap and an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and The Washington Post.

The Page 99 Test: Playing With the Boys.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Bruce Western reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Part of his entry:
By my bedside, I'm currently chewing off small chunks of Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters. This is the first volume in his monumental biography of Martin Luther King and history of the Civil Rights Movement. Parting the Waters focuses on the decade from 1954 and can be read as a case study in the life cycle of a social movement, beginning with small and local forms of protest, rooted in churches and other community social organizations. Political histories of the 1950s and 1960s now seem focused on the emergence of social movement conservatism. Together I think these two streams of writing – on the civil rights movements and on the origins of contemporary conservatism -- form parts of mosaic that tell us a lot about today's politics, and the pivotal influence of race in structuring the left-right divide. [read on]
Bruce Western is the author of Punishment and Inequality in America, a study of the growth and social impact of the American penal system. His first book, Between Class and Market, examined the development and decline of labor unions in the postwar industrialized democracies. He is currently studying the social impact of rising income inequality in the United States.

The Page 99 Test: Punishment and Inequality in America.

Writers Read: Bruce Western.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's chart: six American noir masters

Barry Forshaw, author of The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, named a "critic's chart" of "six American noir masters" for the London Times.

One prolific master who made the cut:
Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark
Westlake is nonpareil, but aficionados have a sneaking regard for the spare, existential Parker novels that he wrote as Stark.
Read more about Forshaw's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2007

David Wellington's "13 Bullets" & "99 Coffins," the movies

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: David Wellington's 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins.

Wellington laid out the backstory before he named actors he'd like to see in screen adaptations of the books:
My novels, 13 Bullets and the upcoming 99 Coffins, are set in a world where vampires have long been a historical fact, having always lived beside, and preying on, the human population. They’re bigger than us, much faster, and almost impossible to kill even before they start drinking blood. Afterwards they’re virtually bulletproof. They can only be brought down by destroying their hearts — all other wounds heal instantly. They are hairless, pigment-free freaks with rows of wicked teeth and they don’t read poetry and date cute vampire hunters, and they don’t daintily sip blood from a pair of hickeys on your neck. They’d rather tear off your head and suck the blood from your spurting stump.

Needless to say humanity tries to fight back — and though we’re severely outmatched, the numbers are on our side. Over the centuries we’ve managed to turn the tide, ferreting out vampire lairs during the light of day and exterminating these predators wherever we find them. By the 1980s vampires are believed by most people to be extinct. Then, in the twenty-first century, evidence comes to light that this was nothing more than a fond hope. A cadre of vampires are back and slaughtering the good people of Pennsylvania. It falls on a pair of law enforcement agents to put them back in their coffins for good. One is an aging U.S. Marshal, the only living American who has fought a vampire before and lived. The other is a young State Trooper, a member of the Highway Patrol who has never discharged her weapon outside of a firing range. [read on to see who the author would cast to play these characters in a film adaptation]
Among the praise for 13 Bullets:
“In 13 Bullets, David Wellington focuses his ample powers of imagination on modernizing the vampire legend. The result is a charming, funny, bloody, and best of all, thrilling adventure. FBI vampire hunters Caxton and Arkeley make an electric duo. Thwarting them at every turn from within the walls of a maximum security prison, ringleader Malvern is a diabolical cross between Hannibal Lecter and one of Anne Rice's ancients.”
—Sarah Langan, author of The Keeper

“Lace collars and kerchiefs are nowhere to be found in this breakneck, blood-spattered, totally original vampire novel. Breathless, exciting and totally kick ass.”
—B. H. Fingerman, author of Bottomfeeder

"...the action is nonstop, the pace relentless and absorbing."
—Paul Witcover,
99 Coffins is due out on December 31, 2007.

David Wellington is also the author of the Monster Island trilogy and Plague Zone, a new serial novel available at

Read more about 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins, and visit David Wellington's website.

The Page 69 Test: Monster Nation.

My Book, The Movie: 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Recovery Man"

The latest feature at the Page 69 Test: Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Recovery Man.

About the book, from the publisher:
Retrieval Artist Miles Flint has uncovered a long-held secret to his past linked to the Aleyd Corporation-and a kidnapping by the mysterious Recovery Man, in a case that threatens the entire Earth Alliance legal system...
Recovery Man is #6 in the "The Retrieval Artist" series.

Among the early praise for Recovery Man:
"Rusch continues her provocative interplanetary detective series with healthy doses of planet-hopping intrigue, heady legal dilemmas and well-drawn characters. On Jupiter's moon Callisto, Hadad Yu, a glorified bounty hunter known as a Recovery Man, kidnaps Rhonda Shindo for delivery to the alien Gyonnese as payback for a reneged legal settlement. Meanwhile, Shindo's preteen daughter, Talia, has just discovered that she's a clone of her mother's birth-daughter; left behind, she faces a doubly confusing world as lawyers, cops and her mother's employer fight over child-custody rights. Meanwhile, Miles Flint, series protagonist and PI-like Retrieval Artist, discovers a secret in his dead mentor's files — a secret that suggests his daughter, long thought dead, may be alive somewhere on Callisto. Rusch creates instantly sympathetic characters in a convincingly fragmented future wherein the petty mistakes of one culture translate to heinous crimes in another. Though Flint's role this time around is meager (largely following the proverbial paper trail), alternating perspectives help other characters transcend their stock types; damsel-in-distress Rhonda proves refreshingly manipulative, and even the villainous Recovery Man wrestles with his convictions. Science-fiction fans should expect to be hooked."
--Publishers Weekly

"After his mentor's murder, Miles Flint discovers ever more of her secrets. A recovery man (not as ethically reprehensible as a tracker nor as careful as a retrieval artist) kidnaps Rhonda Shindo and leaves daughter Talia trapped in a closet. Discoveries and felonies converge after Talia escapes and calls Armstrong's top law firm, triggering events that shake to the core the Aleyd corporation and Earth law. While Talia's protectively detained, Aleyd seeks custody of her; the recovery man delivers Rhonda to aliens; and Miles goes to Callisto and discovers more about what led him to become a retrieval artist. A nifty series cooks on."
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy writer. She has written many novels under various names, including Kristine Grayson for romance, and Kris Nelscott for mystery. Her novels have made the bestseller lists and have been published in 14 countries and 13 different languages.

At My Book, the Movie, Hugo Award-winning writer Rusch has suggested some casting ideas should the SciFi Channel decide to adapt her "The Retrieval Artist" series of novels. She also shared casting ideas for an adaptation of Days of Rage (written as Kris Nelscott).

The Page 69 Test: Recovery Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pg. 99: Gary McKinney's "Slipknot"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Gary McKinney's Slipknot.

About the book, from the publisher:

Slipknot is mystery with an ecological twist, featuring Gavin Pruitt, Willapa County Sheriff and Deadhead. Pruitt’s county is in Southwest Washington State, where Black Bear Ridge, the last 1,000 acres of old-growth forest in the region, is up for sale. But then world-famous ecologist John Carpenter is murdered, which sets the process on its ear and the mystery in motion. Carpenter’s Environmental Impact Statement is missing, and nobody — neither environmentalists or logging companies — can get their hands on the old-growth until it is found. With the country watching, Pruitt’s small town ways come under national scrutiny: How could a Deadhead get elected county sheriff in the first place? And how could he possibly solve this crime? The suspects mount: a radical environmental group ANGER (A Noble and Green Earth will Remain); multi-national logging companies; an Asian timber cartel; and locals who see the old-growth as their economic salvation.

Yet besides a ripping good mystery, Slipknot reveals the inner and outer character of Sheriff Gavin Pruitt. A Deadhead from the sixties whose first Grateful Dead concert was at the Eagles Ballroom during the “Quick and the Dead” tour, Pruitt may now represent the establishment, but he has not forgotten his roots. As his friend Marion Jones points out: “You can cut the hair off a Deadhead, but you can’t cut the Deadhead out of Gavin.” This, then, is the crux of Pruitt’s character development: how do people who embraced the ethos of the sixties not become their parents? How do they continue striving to create change within the establishment even as they become the establishment? As one reporter says to Pruitt: “It’s hard to imagine a Deadhead peacenik out busting heads.” To which Pruitt responds: “We don’t bust heads in Willapa County. We establish positive neighborhood relationships and foster proactive community networking.”

Pruitt loves the Dead, but he especially loves the lyrics to their songs, using them to help him makes sense out of what can often seem a chaotic and brutal world. After a stressful run-in with a fanatical right-winger, for example, Pruitt muses that “He was behaving in ways he didn’t recognize — some peckerwood smokey on the take. As the Dead put it, he was feeling like a stranger — to love, to himself as a man, as an officer of the law.”

Pruitt also deals with the loves in his life: his daughter, his girlfriend, and the mysterious and alluring Olwen Friday, a recluse living in a magical home on the edge of Black Bear Ridge. Plot twists begin revealing a parallel to how people treat one another and how they treat the environment. Indeed, the selfish abuse of a daughter mirrors the equally selfish abuse of the land and the earth.

Among the early praise for Slipknot:

Gavin Pruitt, the hero of "Slipknot" ... is an unlikely combo plate of a hero — he's both a sheriff and a dedicated Grateful Dead fan. Bellingham resident Gary McKinney (himself a writer-musician combo plate) places his laid-back cop in a fictional county in Southwest Washington, investigating the murder of an ecologist.

Meanwhile, loggers and "greenback" environmentalists lock horns and Gavin also has to deal with his current lover, a sexy (and aggressive) ex-lover, a daughter, and a variety of rascals — some of whom are trying to scare the bejesus out of him. This is great fun, though the frequent references to Dead lyrics sometimes seem a little strained to me. (Then again, what do I know? I was never a serious Deadhead.)
--Adam Woog, Seattle Times

Read an excerpt from Slipknot and learn more about the novel at the Kearney Street Books website.

Gary McKinney is a technical writer, rock 'n roll musician, and novelist. His first two Kearney Street Books novels were If You Want to Get to Heaven and Choosing.

The Page 99 Test: Slipknot.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Stacey Levine reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Stacey Levine, author of My Horse and Other Stories, Dra—, and Frances Johnson.

Part of her entry:
Bret Easton Ellis’ most recent, Lunar Park, with its purposefully unlikeable characters, is pretty great, much more complex than Fowler or Schatzig. As is The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard, a world-class novel that’s smoldering and brilliant. The Nature Diary of Opal Whitely contains the writings of a little Oregon girl who was considered a literary prodigy in the early 20th century. Later she was accused of plagiarism, and became a wandering hermit, meeting a bad end in London in the 1960s or so. I can’t really seem to finish Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Its prose is so mild. Under the Glacier by Halldor Laxness, an Icelander, is terse, hilarious, and full of awe for life. [read on]
Read more about Frances Johnson and visit Stacey Levine's website to learn more about her novels, stories, and other writing.

Writers Read: Stacey Levine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books capturing the spirit of Scotland

Alex Salmond, a former economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party, named a five best list of books "that reflect the spirit of his native land" for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman (Crown, 2001).

To understand the central truths of Scottish character and culture, from their origins to today, you could do no better than to look into "How the Scots Invented the Modern World." Arthur Herman covers it all: Scotland's contributions to democracy, capitalism and banking, as well as to literature and the arts. From the Scottish Reformation of the 1600s to David Hume and the Enlightenment in the 1700s, from Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1800s to the devolution of 1997 that restored the Scottish Parliament for the first time in nearly 300 years, Herman conjures the spirit of a people rooted in education and reason. His description of the opening of Edinburgh's first medical school in 1726 is particularly telling: "Edinburgh taught its doctors to be hands-on generalists, who could spot a problem, make a diagnosis, and apply treatment themselves."
Read about the book that topped Salmond's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pg. 69: "Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare, edited by Scott Newstok.

About the book, from the publisher:
This volume gathers and annotates all of the Shakespeare criticism, including previously unpublished lectures and notes, by the maverick American intellectual Kenneth Burke. Burke’s interpretations of Shakespeare have influenced important lines of contemporary scholarship; playwrights and directors have been stirred by his dramaturgical investigations; and many readers outside academia have enjoyed his ingenious dissections of what makes a play function.

Burke’s intellectual project continually engaged with Shakespeare’s works, and Burke’s writings on Shakespeare, in turn, have had an immense impact on generations of readers. Carefully edited and annotated, with helpful cross-references, Burke’s fascinating interpretations of Shakespeare remain challenging, provocative, and accessible. Read together, these pieces form an evolving argument about the nature of Shakespeare’s artistry. Included are thirteen analyses of individual plays and poems, an introductory lecture explaining his approach to reading Shakespeare, and a comprehensive appendix of scores of Burke’s other references to Shakespeare. The editor, Scott L. Newstok, also provides a historical introduction and an account of Burke’s legacy.

This edition fulfills Burke’s own vision of collecting in one volume his Shakespeare criticism, portions of which had appeared in the many books he had published throughout his lengthy career. Here, Burke examines Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Venus and Adonis, Othello, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, King Lear, Troilus and Cressida, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Falstaff, the Sonnets, and Shakespeare’s imagery.

Among the praise for Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare:
"Of all the American 'New Critics,' Kenneth Burke has been the most interesting to critics and scholars in recent years. In gathering his writings on Shakespeare, Scott Newstok has done an invaluable service, not least because some twenty-five percent of the material is published here for the first time. Burke’s central concern is with dramatic form, which is conceived both precisely, in respect to the workings of the plays, and generously, with wide-ranging rhetorical, social, and human awareness. Though Burke was far more than a literary critic, these essays bring out how important literary expression was to his ideas of human motives and possibilities. There is something for everyone here: even those most at home with Burke and Shakespeare will find surprises and fresh suggestions throughout."
—Paul Alpers, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

"Scott Newstok’s well-edited collection of Kenneth Burke’s essays on Shakespeare is an authentic augmentation of the best modern criticism we have on Shakespeare. Burke, a superb rhetorician, confronts daringly the triple greatness of the greatest of all writers ever: cognitive power, linguistic richness, and a whole cosmos of persuasive women and men made up out of words."
—Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities, Yale

"As my guides in reading Shakespeare, I name first Kenneth Burke, an American regarded by various of his fellow citizens as the equal of the most formidable literary minds of the American twentieth century, who wrote repeatedly on Shakespeare as well and as consistently as anyone might be thought to have done."
—Stanley Cavell, Walter M. Cabot Professor Emeritus of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Harvard University

"Kenneth Burke's insights into how Shakespeare's plays work — as poetry, drama, and theater — are as profound as Aristotle's insights on tragedy, Freud's on dreams, and Stanislavsky's on acting. What treasure, to have all this at last between two covers!"
—Toni Dorfman, Yale Theater Studies

"Age cannot wither Kenneth Burke’s reflections on Shakespeare, which are as fresh, vital, and quirky now as they were when they first appeared. This volume would be worth having for the celebrated essays on Othello and King Lear alone, but it is particularly gratifying to find so many other remarkable displays of Burke’s quicksilver mind."
—Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

"Kenneth Burke turns to Shakespearean drama to find some paradigm of true community. The relation of literature to politics, including modern political religions, from Puritan theocracies to totalitarianisms of Left or Right, is Burke’s burden even when he seems to be literary in the most technical sense."
— Geoffrey Hartman,
Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, Yale University

"I have been inspired by the example of Kenneth Burke for his repeated emphasis on the inseparability of language, rhetoric, and discourse from political and social issues and for his failure to observe the decorum of a more restricted kind of literary criticism."
—Patricia Parker, Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature, Stanford University

"Burke’s marvelously inventive essays on Shakespeare’s plays are too valuable a national resource to languish in the world out of print."
—William H. Pritchard, Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, Amherst College
Learn more about Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare at the publisher's website, and visit editor Scott Newstok's faculty webpage.

The Page 69 Test: Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Shirley Maclaine reading?

Shirley Maclaine, actor and author -- she has a new book out, Sage-ing while Age-ing -- talked to the Christian Science Monitor about her radio listening and television- and film-viewing.

And what she's been reading:
Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great. I think he's got a lot of points about religion and how we're going at each other because we don't believe in somebody else's God. Although, most of what he says, I'm not in agreement with. [He picks] an argument using the point of view that you think would be absolutely the opposite of his own. I'm also reading The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, [which is] about Al Qaeda. Very, very good. I'm still reading it but I like very much how he's educating the reader as to how all this came about. I just finished Carl Bernstein's book on Hillary Clinton [A Woman in Charge] – interesting. [He shows] how religious she is, which I didn't know. I don't read fiction – my life is fiction, I don't need more of it!
Read Maclaine's praise of two recent movies and her thoughts on the "intellectual maniacs" (reckless use of an adjective there, Shirley) she watches on television.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Christopher Coyne's "After War"

The latest feature at the Page 99 Test: Christopher Coyne's After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why does liberal democracy take hold in some countries but not in others? Why do we observe such different outcomes in military interventions, from Germany and Japan to Afghanistan and Iraq? Do efforts to export democracy help as much as they hurt? These are some of the most enduring questions of our time.

Historically, the United States has attempted to generate change in foreign countries by exporting liberal democratic institutions through military occupation and reconstruction. Despite these efforts, the record of U.S.-led reconstructions has been mixed, at best. For every West Germany or Japan, there is a Cuba, Haiti, Somalia, or Vietnam.

After War seeks to answer these critical foreign policy questions by bringing an economic mindset to a topic that has been traditionally tackled by historians, policymakers, and political scientists. Economics focuses on how incentives influence human action. Therefore, within an economic context, a successful reconstruction entails finding and establishing a set of incentives that makes citizens prefer a liberal democratic order. Coyne examines the mechanisms and institutions that contribute to the success of reconstruction programs by creating incentives for sustained cooperation.

Coyne emphasizes that the main threat to Western nations in the post-Cold War period will not come from a superpower, but rather from weak, failed, and conflict-torn states — and rogue groups within them. It is also critical to recognize that the dynamics at work — cultural, historical, and social — in these modern states are fundamentally different from those that the United States faced in the reconstructions of West Germany and Japan. As such, these historical cases of successful reconstruction are poor models for todays challenges. In Coynes view, policymakers and occupiers face an array of internal and external constraints in dealing with rogue states. These constraints are often greatest in the countries most in need of the political, economic, and social change. The irony is that these projects are least likely to succeed precisely where they are most needed.

Coyne offers two bold alternatives to reconstruction programs that could serve as catalysts for social change: principled non-intervention and unilateral free trade. Coyne points to major differences in these preferred approaches; whereas reconstruction projects involve a period of coerced military occupation, free trade-led reforms are voluntary. The book goes on to highlight the economic and cultural benefits of free trade.

While Coyne contends that a commitment to non-intervention and free trade may not lead to Western-style liberal democracies in conflict-torn countries, such a strategy could lay the groundwork for global peace.
Among the early praise for After War:
"I view the key analytical point as focusing on the power of on-the-ground expectations to make the reconstruction 'game' either a cooperative or combative one. This is a difficult variable to control, but Chris offers a very good look at the best and worst attempts that the United States has made to manipulate these variables and thus export democracy. If you want to know why the Solow model doesn't seem to hold for Bosnia, or a deeper more analytic sense of why Iraq has been a mess, this is the place to go."
Marginal Revolution

"A brilliant and timely contribution that should shift the debate on U.S. foreign policy and state-building. In providing new insights from economic theory on what can be expected in post-conflict situations, Coyne guides us toward attainable goals and interventions that have a better chance of success."
—Jack Goldstone, George Mason University

"After War adds a unique perspective on the United States's ability to impose liberal democratic institutions abroad. In clear prose, Christopher Coyne combines the economic way of thinking with an appreciation of politics, history, culture, and social factors to expose why past efforts to export liberal democracy have failed and why we should be skeptical of future efforts."
—Emily Chamlee-Wright , Beloit College
Read Chapter One from After War and learn more about the book at the Stanford University Press website.

Christopher J. Coyne is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, West Virginia University, a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, and an Associate Editor for the Review of Austrian Economics. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including Cato Journal, Constitutional Political Economy, Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Kyklos, and Review of Political Economy.

The Page 99 Test: After War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ali Smith's literary top ten

Ali Smith is the latest writer to offer up a literary top ten at Pulp Net.

Two entries from her list:
My favourite novel that no one else seems to have heard of:

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. I don’t understand why Bowles’s writing isn’t better known. She’s brilliant.

Deceased author I’d most like to watch crossing a room, just to see how she moves:

Jane Austen
Read about Smith's "favourite opening line of a novel."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kyle MacDonald's "One Red Paperclip"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Kyle MacDonald's One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply.

About the book, from the publisher:
Kyle MacDonald had a paperclip. One red paperclip, a dream, and a resume to write. And bills to pay. Oh, and a very patient girlfriend who was paying the rent while he was once again “between jobs.” Kyle wanted to be able to provide for himself and his girlfriend, Dominique. He wanted to own his own home. He wanted something bigger than a paperclip. So he put an ad on Craigslist, the popular classifieds website, with the intention of trading that paperclip for something better. A girl in Vancouver offered him a fish pen in exchange for his paperclip. He traded the fish pen for a doorknob and the doorknob for a camping stove. Before long he had traded the camping stove for a generator for a neon sign. Not long after that, avid snow-globe collector and television star Corbin Bernsen and the small Canadian town of Kipling were involved, and Kyle was on to bigger and better things.

In One Red Paperclip, Kyle takes you on a journey around the globe as he moves from paperclip holder to homeowner in just fourteen trades. With plenty of irreverent and insightful anecdotes and practical tips on how you can find your own paperclip and realize your dreams, he proves it’s possible to succeed in life and achieve your dreams on your own terms. Quirky and inspirational, this story of a regular guy and a small, red, now-legendary paperclip will have you looking at your office supplies-and your life-in a whole new way.
Read an excerpt from One Red Paperclip and visit the One Red Paperclip website.

The Page 99 Test: One Red Paperclip.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Idra Novey reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Idra Novey, whose poems appear in the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Slate, and Barrow Street. Her first book of poems received the Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James and will be published in fall 2008.

Her entry opens:
Beside my bed, I like to keep a mix of new books and a few favorites in case I’m in the mood to be nourished by something already familiar. Recently, I’ve been rereading Near to the Wild Heart, a first novel by the brilliant Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. I’ve read all of Lispector’s novels more than once, and The Passion According to G.H. probably four times. With a Lispector novel, I find I can open to almost any page and come across a question or insight that brings a new sharpness to my thinking about whatever I’ve been mulling over during the day. [read on]
Novey's chapbook of poems The Next Country won the 2005 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship and her translations of Brazilian poet Paulo Henriques Britto received a PEN Translation Fund grant. She teaches writing at Columbia University.

Novey's poems available online include "Aubade," "Maddox Road," and "Definition of Stranger."

Writers Read: Idra Novey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pg. 69: Jason Goodwin's "The Snake Stone"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jason Goodwin's The Snake Stone.

About the book, from the publisher:
The captivating return of Yashim, the eunuch investigator from the intelligent, elliptical and beguilingly written" (The Times, London) bestseller The Janissary Tree

When a French archaeologist arrives in 1830s Istanbul determined to track down a lost Byzantine treasure, the local Greek communities are uncertain how to react; the man seems dangerously well informed. Yashim Togalu, who so brilliantly solved the mysterious murders in The Janissary Tree, is once again enlisted to investigate. But when the archaeologist’s mutilated body is discovered outside the French embassy, it turns out there is only one suspect: Yashim himself.

The New York Times celebrated The Janissary Tree as “the perfect escapist mystery,” and The Daily Telegraph called it “[A] tremendous first novel . . . Beautifully written, perfectly judged, humane, witty and captivating.”

With The Snake Stone, Jason Goodwin delights us with another transporting romp through the back streets of nineteenth-century Istanbul. Yashim finds himself racing against time once again, to uncover the startling truth behind a shadowy society dedicated to the revival of the Byzantine Empire, encountering along the way such vibrant characters as Lord Byron’s doctor and the sultan’s West Indies–born mother, the Valide. Armed only with a unique sixteenth-century book, the dashing eunuch leads us into a world where the stakes are high, betrayal is death — and the pleasure to the reader is immense.
Among the praise for The Snake Stone:
"Early 19th-century Istanbul's teeming mix of nationalities, religions and cultures comes alive in this vibrant sequel to the Edgar-winning The Janissary Tree (2006). When French archeologist Maximilien Lefèvre begins asking very pointed, well-informed questions about long-lost Greek artifacts and then is found dead outside the French embassy, series hero Yashim, a Turkish eunuch, finds himself suspected of the murder. His efforts to clear his name take him from markets and wharves to palaces and underground tunnels as he uncovers a secret society, unearths sacred relics and hunts the murderer. Goodwin's secondary characters, particularly Yashim's close friend Stanislaw Palewski, the world-weary Polish ambassador, are distinct and memorable, and the mystery presents an entertaining challenge to the reader as well as to charming, determined Yashim. With his second effort as intricate and delightful as the first, Goodwin takes his rightful place among such distinguished British historical mystery writers as Lindsay Davis and the late Edith Pargeter."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"When you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth…The needless complications of the plot — which sees evil intent in everything from the journals of a learned Greek society to the induction rites of the watermen's guild — actually work in its favor by evoking the chaos of life in the ancient city that straddles the Golden Horn. Goodwin presents this in sumptuous detail, in scenes that take Yashim from the social heights of Topkapi Palace to the dregs of the docks, with a fragrant side trip into the spice market at the Grand Bazaar, source of the ingredients for the elaborate Ottoman dishes he serves his eccentric friend, Stanislaw Palewski, an ambassador of the now-defunct nation of Poland. Their erudite table talk is always lively, as are the conversations Yashim initiates with anyone who has a story to tell. These exchanges don't always have anything to do with the plot, but they provide the nicest kind of traveling music for that magic carpet ride."
--Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

"Goodwin uses rich historical detail to elevate the books ... far above the realm of everyday sleuthing.... [H]e manages to develop such a large and exotic cast of characters that the human intrigue in the series trumps its much-flaunted expertise."
--Janet Maslin, New York Times

"The second in a thrilling and entertaining series, Goodwin scored another winner."
--The Herald

"It's a pleasure to meet again the infinitely civilised and intelligent Yashim ... The vivid portrait of the lost world of the Ottoman Empire seem to carry with it the faint whiff of the mysterious East ... a rich mixture adding up to an excellent and enjoyable crime novel."
--Literary Review

"Yashim's second outing, and it easily lives up to the promise of Goodwin's earlier novel, The Janissary Tree ... Goodwin's knowledge of Istanbul is extraordinary ... makes a perfect summer read."
--The Sunday Times (London)

Read an excerpt from The Snake Stone.

Jason Goodwin is the author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, among other award-winning nonfiction. The Janissary Tree, his first novel in the series featuring Yashim, was published in May 2006 to international acclaim.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alex Scarrow's "A Thousand Suns," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Alex Scarrow's A Thousand Suns.

Scarrow's entry opens:
The book started out as a screenplay anyway, so writing it as a novel, it already had the movie pace, and chapters that were effectively scenes. As I wrote the book, from page one I already had the cast in my head - something screenwriters do, more than novel writers I think. Anyway then, let's get on with casting...

Chris Roland, a wildlife photographer who explores the submerged ruins of a B-17 bomber off the coast of America. That role was always going to be played by Paul Bettany (Wimbledon, Da Vinci Code, Master and Commander). He's very English and self-effacing.

Max Kleinman, pilot and leader of a Luftwaffe crew, tasked with flying a captured B-17 bomber to America to drop the Nazis' one and only atom bomb on New York in the last few days of the war. I saw this character being played by .... [read on]
Alex Scarrow is the author of A Thousand Suns, Last Light, and Ellie Quin.

Visit the Scarrow Brothers' website, Alex Scarrow's blog, and read reviews of A Thousand Suns.

The Page 69 Test: A Thousand Suns.

My Book, The Movie: A Thousand Suns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ray French: top 10 black comedies

Ray French is a novelist and short story writer. He named his top 10 black comedies for the Guardian.

His rationale underlying the selections:
"If you consider how absurd the world often is, laughter is surely the only appropriate response. Really good comedy should be capable of looking the things we fear most straight in the eye, and still making us laugh. My list, which I can't possibly put in any definitive order, includes books that deal with insanity, murder, suicide, and dictatorships. Several also take a long, hard, uncomfortable look at the family - that human laboratory of the emotions where we first learn about love, hate, jealousy and loyalty. Most include moments that simultaneously made me laugh out loud and thank the higher power that I wasn't in the same position as the characters. As Will Rogers said, 'Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else'."
One title from French's list:
The Joke by Milan Kundera

"A difference of taste in jokes" wrote George Eliot, "is a great strain on the affections." It's rather more than that in Kundera's novel. Ludvik sends a postcard containing a joke about Trotsky to a young woman with whom he's infatuated. Not such a good idea in 1950s Czechoslovakia, where a Stalinist regime is in power. Ludvik is expelled from the Communist Party, loses his job at the university and is sent to work in the mines for a decade. He comes out thirsting for revenge, but the regime is beginning to thaw and life has a few more surprises in store for him.
Read about another title to make the list.

--Marshal Zeringue