Sunday, August 31, 2008

Don Bruns' "Stuff Dreams Are Made Of," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of by Don Bruns.

The author's entry begins:
When Stuff To Die For was released in 2007, we shot a 2 minute trailer using young actors from Miami. They were excellent, and if I were to make the movie for the new book, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, I'd probably recast those characters. (You can see the movie at my site and at You Tube) However, there are two young actors who would be perfect for the roles of James Lessor and Skip Moore. Chace Crawford would be the perfect James, a brash, give a damn kind of 24 year old who is always getting his friend in trouble. Chace can be seen as a series regular in Gossip Girl on the CW channel.

James' best friend and partner in trouble is Skip Moore. I liken the character to....[read on]
Don Bruns is the author of three Caribbean mysteries, Stuff To Die For, and its sequel, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

Among the praise for Stuff Dreams Are Made Of:
"Bruns maintains a narrative tone that would have done Huck Finn proud in this combination Andy Hardy adventure and hard-boiled thriller."

"Don Bruns's Stuff Dreams Are Made Of is a delightfully sinful sequel to his award-winning Stuff To Die For."
Deadly Pleasures
The Page 99 Test: Stuff to Die For.

My Book, The Movie: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Gary Bass' "Freedom's Battle"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary Bass.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do we sometimes let evil happen to others and sometimes rally to stop it? Whose lives matter to us? These are the key questions posed in this important and perceptive study of the largely forgotten nineteenth-century “atrocitarians”—some of the world’s first human rights activists. Wildly romantic, eccentrically educated, and full of bizarre enthusiasms, they were also morally serious people on the vanguard of a new political consciousness. And their legacy has much to teach us about the human rights crises of today.

Gary Bass shatters the myth that the history of humanitarian intervention began with Bill Clinton, or even Woodrow Wilson, and shows, instead, that there is a tangled international tradition, reaching back more than two hundred years, of confronting the suffering of innocent foreigners. Bass describes the political and cultural landscapes out of which these activists arose, as an emergent free press exposed Europeans and Americans to atrocities taking place beyond their shores and galvanized them to act. He brings alive a century of passionate advocacy in Britain, France, Russia, and the United States: the fight the British waged against the oppression of the Greeks in the 1820s, the huge uproar against a notorious massacre in Bulgaria in the 1870s, and the American campaign to stop the Armenian genocide in 1915. He tells the gripping stories of the activists themselves: Byron, Bentham, Madison, Gladstone, Dostoevsky, and Theodore Roosevelt among them.

Military missions in the name of human rights have always been dangerous undertakings. There has invariably been the risk of radical destabilization and the threatening blurring of imperial and humanitarian intentions. Yet Bass demonstrates that even in the imperialistic heyday of the nineteenth century, humanitarian ideals could play a significant role in shaping world politics. He argues that the failure of today’s leading democracies to shoulder such responsibilities has led to catastrophes such as those in Rwanda and Darfur—catastrophes that he maintains are neither inevitable nor traditional.

Timely and illuminating, Freedom’s Battle challenges our assumptions about the history of morally motivated foreign policy and sets out a path for reclaiming that inheritance with greater modesty and wisdom.
Among the acclaim for Freedom's Battle:
"Mr. Bass relates these [19th-century humanitarian] episodes masterfully, providing a wealth of detail in fluid prose. Although he aims to make a point--about the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention--his accounts are full and fair-minded. Freedom's Battle is a pleasure for the learning one can take away from it and for the opportunity to reflect on how much things have changed since the 19th century, and how much, in certain ways, they have not."
—Joshua Muravchik, Wall Street Journal

"A lively narrative history .... Fascinating and well told .... Bass .... writes with a jaunty flair and an eye for eccentric characters."
—Adam Hochschild, New York Times Book Review

“This fresh, fascinating history will be sought out by those engaged in current debates over interventionism.”

"Gripping . . . With delightful wit, insight and scholarship Bass makes the case that humanitarian military intervention arose not with genocide in Bosnia or Rwanda, but in Victorian times in parallel with democracy and the mass media."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Gary Bass is one of the country’s most important scholars working on the politics of human rights. Freedom’s Battle is a brilliant book — meticulously researched, surprising, nuanced, and remarkably entertaining.”
—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

"In Freedom's Battle, Gary Bass takes hold of what is perhaps the most vitally important of contemporary foreign policy questions--when is a nation justified, for humanitarian reasons, to intervene abroad?--and traces its roots deep into the rich soil of recent history. As Bass shows by his fascinating historical detective work, this painful question has dogged leading Western statesmen for more than a century. How they answered it, as Bass shows in rich detail, has a great deal to teach us today. This is a gripping and important book."
—Mark Danner, author of The Massacre at El Mozote and Torture and Truth

“Gary Bass has written an innovative book that broadens the idea of humanitarian intervention. Though we might like to regard contemporary anti-genocide campaigns as unique achievements of our times, Freedom’s Battle offers a striking and original argument that activists and politicians of the 19th century paved the way with a series of interventions to stop the slaughter of innocents. Bass’s new and provocative reading of 19th-century political history teaches us how to better react to the genocides in our world.”
—Peter Maass, author of Love thy Neighbor: A Story of War

"An absorbing, well-researched, and frequently amusing book .... Bass provides a trove of fresh material, as well as fresh insight, concerning this exciting period .... Bass has a considerable gift of phrase .... He also has a jaunty flair for recognizing such cynicism."
—Christopher Hitchens, Foreign Affairs
Read an excerpt from Freedom's Battle, and learn more about the book at the Knopf website.

Gary Bass, an associate professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, is the author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. He is a former reporter for The Economist and has written often for the New York Times.

The Page 99 Test: Freedom's Battle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Carola Dunn's "Black Ship"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Carola Dunn's Black Ship.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1925, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, her husband, Alec Fletcher (a Scotland Yard Detective) and their new twin infant children inherit and move to a new, larger house on the outskirts of London proper, in a stage of slight disrepair (thanks to an aged, now deceased, uncle). Set in a small circle of houses and a communal garden, it seems a near idyllic setting. That is until a dead body turns up half-hidden under the bushes of the communal garden, rumors of bootleggers, American gangsters, and an international liquor smuggling operation via black ships turn everything upside down. And it's up to Daisy - well, Alec with some help from Daisy - to find out who the dead man is, why he was murdered and who did him in!
Among the praise for the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries:
"Delicious...pleasantly reminiscent of the old-fashioned English mysteries of a bygone era."
-- Denver Post on Gunpower Plot

"Cunning...appropriate historical detail and witty dialogue are the finishing touches on this engaging 1920s period piece."
-- Publishers Weekly on The Bloody Tower

"The period sense remains vivid, the characterizations are excellent, and the mysteries are, if anything, more perplexing than ever."
--The Oregonian on Rattle His Bones
Learn more about Black Ship at the St. Martin's Minotaur website.

Visit Carola Dunn's website and the group blog of which she is part, The Lady Killers.

The Page 69 Test: Black Ship.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Five best funny books: Firoozeh Dumas

Firoozeh Dumas, author of Laughing Without an Accent and Funny in Farsi, named a five best list of funny books the Wall Street Journal.

One title on her list:
My Uncle Napoleon
by Iraj Pezeshkzad, translated by Dick Davis
Mage, 1996

It's difficult to exaggerate the popularity in Iran during the 1970s of "Dayee Jon Napoleon" -- both the novel and the TV comedy series based on it. Literally translated as "Dear Uncle Napoleon" but called "My Uncle Napoleon" in its English version, the story centers on three Tehran families in the 1940s living under the thumb of an egotistical patriarch who believes himself the incarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte. He is also extremely paranoid, believing, among other things, that the British are responsible for all of Iran's misfortunes. To this day, Iranians use the phrase "Uncle Napoleon" to describe a conspiracy theorist. The book and TV series were of course banned in Iran after the 1979 revolution -- ensuring their popularity with a new generation.
Read about another title on Dumas' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Floyd Skloot reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Floyd Skloot, a creative nonfiction writer, poet, novelist, and critic.

The first paragraph of his entry:
I'm currently reading the galleys of Patrick French's forthcoming biography of V.S. Naipaul and will follow that with the galleys of Paul Mariani's on Gerard Manley Hopkins. Literary biography is a mainstay of my reading. [read on]
Floyd Skloot has published fifteen books and won three Pushcart Prizes, a PEN USA Literary Award, a Pacific NW Booksellers Association Book Award, two Oregon Book Awards, the Emily Clark Balch Prize from Virginia Quarterly Review, and a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner. He was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award in 2003.

His forthcoming books include The Snow's Music: Poems (Louisiana State University Press, September 2008) and the memoir, The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life (University of Nebraska Press, September 2008).

Visit Floyd Skloot's website.

Writers Read: Floyd Skloot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Doreen Orion's "Queen of the Road"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion.

About the book, from the publisher:
A pampered Long Island princess hits the road in a converted bus with her wilderness-loving husband, travels the country for one year, and brings it all hilariously to life in this offbeat and romantic memoir.

Doreen and Tim are married psychiatrists with a twist: She’s a self-proclaimed Long Island princess, grouchy couch potato, and shoe addict. He's an affable, though driven, outdoorsman. When Tim suggests “chucking it all” to travel cross-country in a converted bus, Doreen asks, “Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?” But she soon shocks them both, agreeing to set forth with their sixty-pound dog, two querulous cats—and no agenda—in a 340-square-foot bus.

Queen of the Road is Doreen’s offbeat and romantic tale about refusing to settle; about choosing the unconventional road with all the misadventures it brings (fire, flood, armed robbery, and finding themselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few). The marvelous places they visit and delightful people they encounter have a life-changing effect on all the travelers, as Doreen grows to appreciate the simple life, Tim mellows, and even the pets pull together. Best of all, readers get to go along for the ride through forty-seven states in this often hilarious and always entertaining memoir, in which a boisterous marriage of polar opposites becomes stronger than ever.
Among the praise for the book:
"A charming, insightful and - most important - hilarious book that evokes the best of Bill Bryson and David Sedaris, but spotlights the unique voice of a gifted memoirist."
--Jonathan Kellerman, New York Times bestselling novelist

"Beneath its fun and frothy exterior, you'll find in this wild ride across America's highways and byways a lovely portrait of a marriage that treats its ups and downs with humor and grace."
--Elle Magazine

"A Charles Kuralt-Albert Brooks-style romp where they meet up with nudists, robbers and more. Required Reading."
--New York Post

"Orion has every good travel writer's ability to make readers feel they are there, to capture the telling details of places, and to present the account in a witty, accessible way. Reading the book makes you want to hit the road and have some of your own grand adventures. This is a fun read that will make just about anyone start itching for a road trip. Grade 'A.'"
--Rocky Mountain News

“The Elizabeth Gilbert Antichrist.”
--The Oregonian
Read an excerpt from Queen of the Road and learn more about the author and her work at Doreen Orion's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Queen of the Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pg. 99: Thomas Dumm's "Loneliness as a Way of Life"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Thomas Dumm's Loneliness as a Way of Life.

About the book, from the publisher:
“What does it mean to be lonely?” Thomas Dumm asks. His inquiry, documented in this book, takes us beyond social circumstances and into the deeper forces that shape our very existence as modern individuals. The modern individual, Dumm suggests, is fundamentally a lonely self. Through reflections on philosophy, political theory, literature, and tragic drama, he proceeds to illuminate a hidden dimension of the human condition. His book shows how loneliness shapes the contemporary division between public and private, our inability to live with each other honestly and in comity, the estranged forms that our intimate relationships assume, and the weakness of our common bonds.

A reading of the relationship between Cordelia and her father in Shakespeare’s King Lear points to the most basic dynamic of modern loneliness—how it is a response to the problem of the “missing mother.” Dumm goes on to explore the most important dimensions of lonely experience—Being, Having, Loving, and Grieving. As the book unfolds, he juxtaposes new interpretations of iconic cultural texts—Moby-Dick, Death of a Salesman, the film Paris, Texas, Emerson’s “Experience,” to name a few—with his own experiences of loneliness, as a son, as a father, and as a grieving husband and widower.

Written with deceptive simplicity, Loneliness as a Way of Life is something rare—an intellectual study that is passionately personal. It challenges us, not to overcome our loneliness, but to learn how to re-inhabit it in a better way. To fail to do so, this book reveals, will only intensify the power that it holds over us.
Among the early acclaim for the book:
"Loneliness as a Way of Life is a book about coming to believe in this world, a world in which loneliness is inevitable and connections are still possible. It is also a risky book, because of the way Dumm weaves the personal into the literary and both into politics. The risk is well run: Dumm's is an untimely piece, essential for the time in which we live."
--William E. Connolly

"Avoiding cynicism and sentimentality alike, Thomas Dumm's penetrating and painfully personal meditations on the modern condition of loneliness may show us more about ourselves than we can easily bear. Through subtle and provocative readings of Shakespeare, Melville, Arendt, and other thinkers, Dumm finds terms for acknowledging and inhabiting his own loneliness, and perhaps ours as well. His calm yet insistently disarming voice claims and challenges us, even when we resist it."
--Robert Gooding-Williams, author of Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics

"Thomas Dumm is a wise guide and learned counselor for the great Socratic question: How to live? We are deeply enriched owing to his wisdom and compassion."
--Cornel West

"[A] heartfelt and erudite diagnosis of a condition that, okay, many people experience these days to some extent.... Dumm's book is not a self-help book (as its title might suggest) but a carefully nuanced intellectual inquiry."
--Steven Moore, Washington Post
Read an excerpt from Loneliness as a Way of Life, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Thomas Dumm is a Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and author of A Politics of the Ordinary.

The Page 99 Test: Loneliness as a Way of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Brendan Halpin's "Forever Changes"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Brendan Halpin's Forever Changes.

About the book, from the publisher:
5:30 a.m., Brianna Pelletier gets ready for her daily pounding. As she lies on the couch, her dad beats her chest, then her back, coaxing the mucus out of her lungs. The pounding doesn’t take care of everything. Brianna’s held out for a long time, but a body with cystic fibrosis doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t matter that Brianna has a brilliant mathematical mind or that she’s a shoo-in for MIT. Or even that her two best friends are beautiful, popular, and loyal. In the grand scheme of things, none of that stuff matters at all. The standard life, lasting maybe seventy-five years, is no more than a speck in the sum total of the universe. At eighteen, and doubting she’ll make nineteen, Brianna is practically a nonentity. Of course she’s done the math. But in her senior year of high school, Brianna learns of another kind of math, in which an infinitely small, near-zero quantity can have profound effects on an entire system. If these tiny quantities didn’t exist, things wouldn’t make the same sense.

Funny, tear-jerking, and memorable, the author’s second novel for teens introduces readers to an extraordinary girl who learns that the meaning of forever can change, and that life – and death – is filled with infinite possibilities.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"Brianna's hesitancy about planning for a future while facing death is poignant and resonates with readers."

“The writing . . . captures much dimension in the personalities of Brianna and those who love her.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The story of a young woman whose time is measurable if not mathematically knowable . . . readers will be drawn by that affecting theme.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"One of the best books I've read."
—A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader
Learn more about the book and author at Brendan Halpin's website and MySpace page.

Brendan Halpin is author of How Ya Like Me Now and Forever Changes, both novels for young adults; the novels Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Long Way Back and Donorboy; and the memoirs Losing My Faculties and It Takes a Worried Man.

Writers Read: Brendan Halpin.

The Page 69 Test: Forever Changes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pg. 99: Simon Baatz's "For the Thrill of It"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz.

About the book, from the publisher:
It was a crime that shocked the nation, a brutal murder in Chicago in 1924 of a child, by two wealthy college students who killed solely for the thrill of the experience. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had first met several years earlier, and their friendship had blossomed into a love affair. Both were intellectuals—too smart, they believed, for the police to catch them. However, the police had recovered an important clue at the scene of the crime—a pair of eyeglasses—and soon both Leopold and Loeb were in the custody of Cook County. They confessed, and Robert Crowe, the state's attorney, announced to newspaper reporters that he had a hanging case. No defense, he believed, would save the two ruthless killers from the gallows.

Set against the backdrop of the 1920s, a time of prosperity, self-indulgence, and hedonistic excess, For the Thrill of It draws the reader into a lost world, a world of speakeasies and flappers, of gangsters and gin parties, that existed when Chicago was a lawless city on the brink of anarchy. The rejection of morality, the worship of youth, and the obsession with sex had seemingly found their expression in this callous murder.

But the murder is only half the story. After Leopold and Loeb were arrested, their families hired Clarence Darrow to defend their sons. Darrow, the most famous lawyer in America, aimed to save Leopold and Loeb from the death penalty by showing that the crime was the inevitable consequence of sexual and psychological abuse that each defendant had suffered during childhood at the hands of adults. Both boys, Darrow claimed, had experienced a compulsion to kill, and therefore, he appealed to the judge, they should be spared capital punishment. However, Darrow faced a worthy adversary in his prosecuting attorney: Robert Crowe was clever, cunning, and charismatic, with ambitions of becoming Chicago's next mayor—and he was determined to send Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb to their deaths.

A masterful storyteller, Simon Baatz has written a gripping account of the infamous Leopold and Loeb case. Using court records and recently discovered transcripts, Baatz shows how the pathological relationship between Leopold and Loeb inexorably led to their crime.

This thrilling narrative of murder and mystery in the Jazz Age will keep the reader in a continual state of suspense as the story twists and turns its way to an unexpected conclusion.
Among the early acclaim for the book:
"Simon Baatz’s For the Thrill of It is likely to be the definitive work on this infamous crime and the dramatic trial of its perpetrators. It is impressive in its research, even-handed in its tone and immensely readable.... [An] excellent book."
Wall Street Journal

"Baatz lucidly lays out the complicated courtroom maneuvers and also provides a fascinating, skillful analysis of two different legal philosophies…. A solid true-crime thriller that’s also a masterly analysis of postwar shifts in society’s ideas about crime and personality."
Kirkus Reviews

"Exhaustively researched and rivetingly presented.... One of the best true-crime books of this or any other season."
Booklist, starred review

"[Baatz] breaks his fascinating narrative into two distinct Law and Order–type sections.... While it might be easy to dismiss the murderers—Nathan "Babe" Leopold Jr. and Richard "Dickie" Loeb—as bored rich kids, Baatz shows that there was much more to this story."
Library Journal

"This story never fails to astonish."
Chicago Tribune

"Meticulous and thorough, and it puts the case in historical perspective as a clash between two conflicting views of criminals and crime, one espoused by ... Clarence Darrow ... the most famous American lawyer of his day, perhaps indeed of any day."
Washington Post Book World

"The story of the Jazz Age thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb has never been told in so gripping a style. A significant work of historical scholarship that reads like a page-turning thriller, Simon Baatz’s masterly book now stands as the definitive account of this legendary case."
—Harold Schechter, author of The Devil's Gentleman

"Altogether absorbing.... Mr. Baatz, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, has done meticulous research, and he writes extremely well.... His book on the Leopold and Loeb case is the best we’ll have for a long, long time."
New York Times
Browse inside For the Thrill of It, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Simon Baatz holds a joint appointment as associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

The Page 99 Test: For the Thrill of It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top books of exchanges of letters

Derwent May, a writer and reviewer for the London Times, named a "critic's chart" of top books of exchanges of letters.

One book on the list:
Letters between a Father and Son V.S. Naipaul

Warm correspondence between the young Naipaul at Oxford and his father in Trinidad.
Learn about the book at the top of May's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pg. 69: Louis Bayard's "The Black Tower"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Louis Bayard's The Black Tower.

About the book, from the publisher:
Vidocq. The name strikes terror in the Parisian underworld of 1818. As founder and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq has used his mastery of disguise and surveillance to capture some of France’s most notorious and elusive criminals. Now he is hot on the trail of a tantalizing mystery—the fate of the young dauphin Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

Hector Carpentier, a medical student, lives with his widowed mother in her once-genteel home, now a boardinghouse, in Paris’s Latin Quarter, helping the family make ends meet in the politically perilous days of the restoration. Three blocks away, a man has been murdered, and Hector’s name has been found on a scrap of paper in the dead man’s pocket: a case for the unparalleled deductive skills of Eugène François Vidocq, the most feared man in the Paris police. At first suspicious of Hector’s role in the murder, Vidocq gradually draws him into an exhilarating—and dangerous—search that leads them to the true story of what happened to the son of the murdered royal family.

Officially, the Dauphin died a brutal death in Paris’s dreaded Temple—a menacing black tower from which there could have been no escape—but speculation has long persisted that the ten-year-old heir may have been smuggled out of his prison cell. When Hector and Vidocq stumble across a man with no memory of who he is, they begin to wonder if he is the Dauphin himself, come back from the dead. Their suspicions deepen with the discovery of a diary that reveals Hector’s own shocking link to the boy in the tower—and leaves him bound and determined to see justice done, no matter the cost.

In The Black Tower, Bayard deftly interweaves political intrigue, epic treachery, cover-ups, and conspiracies into a gripping portrait of family redemption—and brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugène François Vidocq, history’s first great detective.
Among the early praise for the novel:
"The Black Tower breathes life into the world’s first police detective, Vidocq, a literary feat that happily waited for this novelist. As the gripping and nuanced story races through the parlor rooms and back alleys of Paris, Bayard shows why he is at the forefront of literary historical fiction today."
—Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow

"A compelling and sympathetic narrator instantly draws the reader into Bayard’s stellar third historical. Bayard keeps the reader guessing until the end. Few writers today can match the author’s skill in devising an intelligent thriller with heart."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Having previously channeled Dickens and Poe, historical novelist Bayard throws down the gauntlet to Dumas in another high-energy melodrama. The novel’s witty succession of trapdoor endings, culminating in "the quietest of abdications," keeps surprising us. Who says they don’t write ‘em like this anymore? Long may Bayard reign."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Louis Bayard finds fictional inspiration in historical fact. He has emerged as a writer of historical thrillers in the vein of Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist, and 19th century writers such as Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Christo."
Wall Street Journal

"Louis Bayard repairs to Paris for another daring historical adventure. Bayard makes brilliant application of Vidocq in the fanciful adventure. No snatch–and–run researcher, Bayard takes care to capture Vidocq’s roguish voice and grandiose affectations."
New York Times Book Review

"Delicious. [Bayard] inbues(s) his characters with real soul. You may find yourself, more than two centuries after the fact, aching over the fate of the pitiful young Dauphin. A-"
Entertainment Weekly
Read an excerpt from The Black Tower, and learn more about the book and author at Louis Bayard's website.

Louis Bayard is the author of the national bestseller The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy, a New York Times Notable book. A staff writer for, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post,, and Preservation, among others.

The Page 69 Test: The Pale Blue Eye.

The Page 69 Test: The Black Tower.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Robin Benway reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robin Benway, author of Audrey, Wait!.

The concluding paragraph from her entry:
Other books on the "Read Now" pile that I'm trying to get to before summer ends: The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian, Anagrams by Lorrie Moore, and Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker. For every book I finish, it seems that three more take its place. [read more]
About Audrey, Wait!, from the publisher:
California high school student Audrey Cuttler dumps self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders. Evan writes, “Audrey, Wait!,” a break-up song that’s so good it rockets up the billboard charts. And Audrey is suddenly famous!

Now rabid fans are invading her school. People is running articles about her arm-warmers. The lead singer of the Lolitas wants her as his muse. (And the Internet is documenting her every move!) Audrey can’t hang out with her best friend or get with her new crush without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi.

Take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, has outrageous amounts of fun, confronts her ex on MTV, and gets the chance to show the world who she really is.
Read an excerpt from Audrey, Wait!, and learn more about the book and author at Robin Benway's website and MySpace page.

Check out the Audrey, Wait! website.

Writers Read: Robin Benway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Helen Tse's "Sweet Mandarin"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Helen Tse's Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spanning almost a hundred years, this rich and evocative memoir recounts the lives of three generations of remarkable Chinese women.

Their extraordinary journey takes us from the brutal poverty of village life in mainland China, to newly prosperous 1930s Hong Kong and finally to the UK. Their lives were as dramatic as the times they lived through.

A love of food and a talent for cooking pulled each generation through the most devastating of upheavals. Helen Tse's grandmother, Lily Kwok, was forced to work as an amah after the violent murder of her father. Crossing the ocean from Hong Kong in the 1950s, Lily honed her famous chicken curry recipe. Eventually she opened one of Manchester's earliest Chinese restaurants where her daughter, Mabel, worked from the tender age of nine. But gambling and the Triads were pervasive in the Chinese immigrant community, and tragically they lost the restaurant. It was up to author Helen and her sisters, the third generation of these exceptional women, to re-establish their grandmother's dream. The legacy lived on when the sisters opened their award-winning restaurant Sweet Mandarin in 2004.

Sweet Mandarin shows how the most important inheritance is wisdom, and how recipes--passed down the female line--can be the most valuable heirloom.
Among the praise for the book:
"A delightful, well-written and at times painful memoir."
--Publishers Weekly

"An easy-flowing tale that subsumes historical changes in personal histories, especially the plight of the author's grandmother."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Sweet Mandarin is a banquet of family stories that take us from a small Chinese village to cosmopolitan Hong Kong and urban Manchester. Along the way, the ingredients of special dishes and a rich life are added: a homemade stock of hard life, a pound of tragedy, a spoonful of daring, a dash of curses, and dollop after dollop of sheer will. This is a family memoir of survival and victories, luck and determination, and perpetual mounds of dirty dishes waiting to be washed."
--Amy Tan, bestselling author

"In our world of many cultures we seem to focus on those things that separate us. The two very important things that connect us worldwide are family and food. Wherever we go we all wish to be family, and food is the common thread that connects us all. The Tse Family and their beautifully written book, Sweet Mandarin, clearly demonstrates we are all family; and that simply, home-cooked food is the best way to show your love to your family of relatives and friends. In good times and sad times food connects us all."
--Art Smith, Oprah's chef and bestselling author
Learn more about the book and author at the Sweet Mandarin website.

The Page 99 Test: Sweet Mandarin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pg. 69: Edward Dolnick's "The Forger's Spell"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Edward Dolnick's The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century.

About the book, from the publisher:
As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger's Spell is the true story of Johannes Vermeer and the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him centuries later. The con man's mark was Hermann Goering, one of the most reviled leaders of Nazi Germany and a fanatic collector of art.

It was an almost perfect crime. For seven years a no-account painter named Han van Meegeren managed to pass off his paintings as those of one of the most beloved and admired artists who ever lived. But, as Edward Dolnick reveals, the reason for the forger's success was not his artistic skill. Van Meegeren was a mediocre artist. His true genius lay in psychological manipulation, and he came within inches of fooling both the Nazis and the world. Instead, he landed in an Amsterdam court on trial for his life.

ARTnews called Dolnick's previous book, the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist, "the best book ever written on art crime." In The Forger's Spell, the stage is bigger, the stakes are higher, and the villains are blacker.
Among the praise for the book:
"When it comes to forgery and its ability to fascinate, the bigger the better, and the greater the audacity the more compelling. In the story of a two-bit Dutch painter, Han Van Meegeren, who had the nerve to take on that most rarefied of his artistic compatriots, Johannes Vermeer, author Edward Dolnick has hit the mother lode."
--Los Angeles Times

"Dolnick ... tells his story engagingly and with a light touch. He has a novelist's talent for characterization, and he raises fascinating questions."
--New York Times

"Mesmerizing account of an amateur artist who made millions selling forged paintings to art-obsessed Nazis and business tycoons.... Energetic and authoritative."
--Kirkus, starred review

"... extraordinary ... fascinating ... compelling ..."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"... engrossing and jaw-dropping ..."
--Rocky Mountain News
Read an excerpt from The Forger's Spell, and learn more about the author and his work at Edward Dolnick's website.

Edward Dolnick is the author of Down the Great Unknown, The Rescue Artist, and Madness on the Couch. A former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, he has written for the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications.

The Page 69 Test: The Forger's Spell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kim Green's "Live a Little," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Kim Green's Live a Little.

Green's entry begins:
I've been told my books are filmic – and not just by my mother – so some small, delusional part of me is thrilled to state my casting preferences here. (I suspect that "filmic" in this case means "not dense." Whatever – I'll take it.)

There are several options as to who will direct. If the gods smile on me, Nicole Holofcener will put down whatever deceptively straightforward script she's into and take the helm of Live a Little: The Movie. Nora Ephron would also thrill. And if Wes Anderson or Michael Patrick King want to chat, here's my phone number…. I couldn't go wrong with Drew Barrymore producing (though I might get a different director).

Who to play my heroine, abrasive, lying, fortysomething artist cum disgruntled housewife Raquel Rose? [read on]
Read an excerpt from Live a Little, and learn more about the book and author at Kim Green's blog.

Kim Green is the author of Is That a Moose In Your Pocket?, Paging Aphrodite, and Live a Little.

My Book, The Movie: Live a Little.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thomas Frank's most important books

Thomas Frank is the author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, which examined why people seem to vote against their economic interests, and the recently published The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule.

He told Newsweek about his five most important books, and addressed two related issues:
A book you always return to:

Edmund Wilson's "The American Jitters." Super account of the Great Depression.

A classic you revisited with disappointment:

F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise" seemed hopelessly juvenile.
Read more about Frank's 5 most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pg. 99: Andrew Bacevich's "The Limits of Power"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

About the book, from the publisher:
From an acclaimed conservative historian and former military officer, a bracing call for a pragmatic confrontation with the nation's problems

The Limits of Power identifies a profound triple crisis facing America: the economy, in remarkable disarray, can no longer be fixed by relying on expansion abroad; the government, transformed by an imperial presidency, is a democracy in form only; U.S. involvement in endless wars, driven by a deep infatuation with military power, has been a catastrophe for the body politic. These pressing problems threaten all of us, Republicans and Democrats. If the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism.

Andrew J. Bacevich, uniquely respected across the political spectrum, offers a historical perspective on the illusions that have governed American policy since 1945. The realism he proposes includes respect for power and its limits; sensitivity to unintended consequences; aversion to claims of exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and a conviction that the books will have to balance. Only a return to such principles, Bacevich argues, can provide common ground for fixing America’s urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.
Among the acclaim for the book:
“In this utterly original book, Andrew Bacevich explains how our ‘empire of consumption’ contains the seeds of its own destruction and why our foreign policy establishment in Washington is totally incapable of coming to grips with it. Indispensable reading for every citizen.”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy

"A clear-eyed look into the abyss of America's failed wars, and the analysis needed to climb out. In Andrew Bacevich, realism and moral vision meet."
—James Carroll, author of House of War

“In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich takes aim at America’s culture of exceptionalism and scores a bulls eye. He reminds us that we can destroy all that we cherish by pursuing an illusion of indestructibility.”
—Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor USMC (Ret.), co-author of The General’s War and Cobra II

“Andrew Bacevich has written a razor sharp dissection of the national myths which befuddle U.S. approaches to the outside world and fuel the Washington establishment’s dangerous delusions of omnipotence. His book should be read by every concerned US citizen.”
—Anatol Lieven, author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism

“In The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich delivers precisely what the Republic has so desperately needed: an analysis of America's woes that goes beyond the villain of the moment, George W. Bush, and gets at the heart of the delusions that have crippled the country's foreign policy for decades. Bacevich writes with a passionate eloquence and moral urgency that makes this book absolutely compelling. Everyone should read it.”
—Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror
Read "Illusions of Victory under Bush," adapted from The Limits of Power; learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University; he retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The New American Militarism, among other books. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

The Page 99 Test: The New American Militarism.

The Page 99 Test: The Limits of Power.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: M. Glenn Taylor's "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: M. Glenn Taylor's The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart.

About the book, from the official website:
Meet Trenchmouth Taggart, a man born and orphaned in 1903, a man nick-named for his lifelong oral affliction. In the West Virginia coal mine wars, a boy hardens quick when he picks up a gun. Exile is his trophy, and he spends his adult years on the run. He changes his name and plays a mean mouth harp, and he keeps on running from his past, all the way to Chicago. But trouble will sniff even an old man down, and an outlaw will eventually run home. Here, Trenchmouth Taggart's story, like the best ballads, etches its mark deep upon the memory.
Among the praise fo rthe novel:
"Taylor's prose is so fluid and seemingly effortless that The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart bridges the usually irreconcilable gap between popular fiction and literary fiction. It's that rare creature - a literary page-turner - and it will please both the casual reader and the college professor... The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is a stunning, fully realized, unique and ambitious book that proves there's still passion, fire and brilliance in the American novel."
--Eric Miles Williamson, The Houston Chronicle

"Not many young writers are willing to allow a cottonmouth, slow and methodically, to climb up his arm and shoulder and neck and, opening his mouth, let its killer little head bump around inside for a look--even in their fiction. Full of wonder and belief, Glenn Taylor has fearless ambition and dangerous talent. He is, like this, his first book, out to make some big claims on your attention."
--Dagoberto Gilb, author of Woodcuts of Women and The Flowers

"Such writing as we find in The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is rare these days. So much of what we normally get--about rural life--is slick, shallow, and overtly sentimental. Glenn Taylor has cut to the bone and written an elegant story that tells a truth about his people and place, a kind of truth occasionally found--when we're lucky--in a novel. It's a testament to Taylor's craft as a writer that this story is so detailed, present, and personal, yet covers so much time--a hundred years or so. It's as if we were there, marveling at something in danger of being lost."
--Clyde Edgerton, author of Walking Across Egypt and The Bible Salesman

"Part Rip Van Winkle, part Professor Seagull, part O Brother, Where Art Thou?, part Matewan, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is picaresque, legendary, epic, and outrageous, and in spite of all that, I can't help but wonder if maybe it isn't also more than just a little bit true. And with a narrative voice so confident, so compelling, so arresting and pure, the conclusion I came to is that Glenn Taylor must have channeled the whole damn thing."
--Sara Pritchard, author of Crackpots and Lately

"I was hooked immediately by the narrative voice, which I would describe as utterly kickass, take-no- prisoners in tone. The combination of hyperbole & hilarity throughout is what I would call High Hillbilly in the purest form."
--Chuck Kinder, author of Honeymooners and Last Mountain Dancer
Read an excerpt from The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, and learn more about the book and author at the official website.

M. Glenn Taylor's stories have been published in such literary journals as The Chattahoochee Review, Mid-American Review, Meridian, and Gulf Coast. He teaches English and fiction writing at Harper College in suburban Chicago.

The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is a selection in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series for Fall 2008.

The Page 69 Test: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Ezekiel Emanuel reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health and author of numerous books and articles on the ethics of clinical research, health care reform, international research ethics, end of life care issues, euthanasia, the ethics of managed care, and the physician-patient relationship.

His books include the Exploitation and Developing Countries: The Ethics of Clinical Research (co-edited with Jennifer S. Hawkins).

One paragraph from his Writers Read entry:
I just finished John Banville’s The Sea. It is a short novel about the death of a spouse by cancer and the memories of other losses it revives. Wonderful imagery and wonderful descriptions of adolescent behaviors. Having cared for many dying cancer patients and families as an oncologist, I did not find the portrait of the wife’s demise, the gnawing feeling of the inevitable, as realistic as it might be. The sinking, hollowing out feeling of a terminal diagnosis, the ferocious, almost blinding battle against the “death sentence” did not seem to me present. But Banville is great on the avoidance of talking about cancer. His brief but poignant descriptions reminded me that this might be the way we in the West have adopted the very old idea that verbalizing or explicitly mentioning some horrible thing, such as dying from cancer, actually, causally, makes it occur. We avoid talking about cancer even when everyone knows the same information. It seems that we might believe that if we don’t speak the words, somehow terminal cancer and death can be evaded. [read on]
Learn more about Ezekiel Emanuel's research and publications, and read the introduction to Exploitation and Developing Countries: The Ethics of Clinical Research.

Writers Read: Ezekiel Emanuel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pg. 69: Lisa Black's "Takeover"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Takeover by Lisa Black.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the tradition of Kathy Reichs and Jeffery Deaver, a talented novelist introduces a gutsy forensic investigator caught in the middle of an explosive crisis

Early one Thursday morning, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is called to the scene of a gruesome murder. The body of a man has been found on the front lawn of a house in suburban Cleveland, the back of his head bashed in. Although it's not the best start to her day, Theresa has been through worse. What unfolds during the next eight hours, though, is nothing she could ever have imagined.

Downtown at the Federal Reserve Bank, her police detective fiancé is taken hostage with six others in a robbery masterminded by two clever criminals. When she arrives at the scene, Theresa discovers that the police have brought in the city's best hostage negotiator: handsome, high-profile Chris Cavanaugh. He hasn't lost a victim yet, but Theresa wonders if he might be too arrogant to save the day this time around.

When her fiancé is injured, she seizes the opportunity to trade places with him. Once on the inside, she will use all her wiles, experience, and technical skills to gain control of the situation. But what initially appears to be a bank heist turns into something far more complex and deadly, and Theresa must decide how much more she is willing to sacrifice in order to save the lives of innocent people as well as her own.
Among the early praise for Takeover:
"Takeover is a riveting hostage drama packed with surprises. Once Lisa Black gets you inside the bank, you - like the bad guys - won't be able to stop."
--Peter Abrahams, author of The Fan and The Tutor

"Prepare to be taken hostage. Lisa Black tells a compelling story of intrigue, tested relationships, and false leads that gain momentum like a bag of marbles spilled at the top of the stairs. There's no way all those marbles can come back together at the end, and yet, in Black's skillful hands you're in for a surprise. Takeover is captivating. Part procedural, part psychological suspense, and every inch a thriller, Takeover succeeds from the opening chapter. Lisa Black is a gifted storyteller--she excels at bait-and-switch, leaving the reader frantically turning pages. Takeover takes place in the Federal Reserve, but there's nothing reserved in Lisa Black's
charged narrative. Pick up this book, and prepare to invest an entire evening. It's that good."
--Ridley Pearson, author of bestselling crime novels and the Lou Boldt series

"... it is obvious that Lisa Black is a professional and knows what she is writing about. An exciting
story that is hard to put down. Takeover goes into detail on how a hostage negotiation is conducted and on the many problems that can occur when the established rules are not followed. Interesting and educational."
--Dr. Bill Bass, forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee and co-author of bestselling thrillers under the name Jefferson Bass

"Make room for another gutsy forensic pathologist unwilling to stay put in her lab. Theresa MacLean is horrified when the banker found murdered in his driveway connects, just a few hours later, to a bank hostage situation at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Cleveland. Why does her fiancé, detective Paul Cleary, have to be one of the hostages being held by two men who are either incredibly stupid (who robs the Federal Reserve?) or very much clued in to the bank's unique delivery patterns? After a few tense hours observing from the command post across the street, Theresa impulsively defies the hostage negotiator's protocol and swaps places with her wounded fiancé. Now on the inside, she uses her keen observational skills and gains a clearer idea of the robbers' motives. Human behavior, unpredictable as always, forces the hand of the robbers, and the situation escalates messily. Theresa is caught in a harrowing conclusion-car chase and all. Fans of Tess Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles novels will enjoy this debut thriller by a forensic specialist for its steady suspense, female intuition, and distinctive venue. A terrific vacation read...."
--Teresa L. Jacobsen, Library Journal
Learn more about Takeover and the author at Lisa Black's website.

Lisa Black is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and has been certified by the American Board of Criminalistics.

The Page 69 Test: Takeover.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books about political conventions

CBS's Jeff Greenfield named a five best list of books about political conventions for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
Miami and the Siege of Chicago
by Norman Mailer
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968

Norman Mailer's over-the-top convention narratives -- Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is "a fat and aged version of a tough Truman Capote on ugly pills" -- capture a tumultuous time. It's a time that has been covered to death -- can we please amend the First Amendment to outlaw any more video featuring Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth"? -- but in Mailer's hands the past really does come alive. He is especially worth reading for his account of the Miami convention that nominated Richard Nixon. Though overshadowed by the pandemonium in Chicago, the Miami convention -- demonstrating what war, race and generational conflict had done to America's traditional optimism -- prefigured the party's growing appeal to what Nixon later called "the silent majority." In his writing, Mailer shows a respect for Nixon, even an affection. As for the Democratic choices, Mailer says of Eugene McCarthy's supporters: "Like all crusaders, their stinginess could be found in a ferocious lack of tolerance or liaison to their left or right -- the search for Grail seems invariably to proceed in a straight line."
Read about another title on Greenfield's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pg. 99: Bryan Christy's "The Lizard King"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Bryan Christy's The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers.

About the book, from the publisher:
Imagine The Sopranos—with snakes!

When Bryan Christy began investigating the world of reptile smuggling, he had no idea what he would be in for. In the course of his research, he was bitten between the eyes by a blood python, chased by an alligator, sprayed by a bird-eating tarantula, and ejaculated on by a Bengal tiger. But perhaps most challenging was coming face to face with Michael J. Van Nostrand, owner of Strictly Reptiles, a thriving family business in Hollywood, Florida. To some, Michael is a dutiful son of Ray Van Nostrand, Sr., founder of the family business and a living legend among the snake-hunting set. But to Special Agent Chip Bepler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michael and his father are suspected smugglers and targets of a five-year investigation that has become his personal mission.

Strictly Reptiles imports as many as half of the green iguanas brought into the United States (America’s most popular imported reptile), and hundreds of thousands of snakes, frogs, turtles, spiders, and scorpions. The Lizard King is Christy’s evocative tour through the wild subculture of hunters, enthusiasts, and collectors willing to pay $175,000 for a rare African snake. It is the story of virtually every reptile for sale in America, and it is Christy’s personal story of his attraction to life’s underbelly, borne from his experiences in his family of morticians. Best of all, it is a tale of reptile smugglers, a family business, and a cat-and-mouse game with a federal agent determined to expose their cold-blooded crime.
Among the praise for The Lizard King:
"The Lizard King is a wild, woolly, finny, feathery and scaly account of animal smuggling on a grand scale, in a weird world so expansive that a few hundred stray snakes and turtles amount to peanuts. Mr. Christy is after much bigger game … Mr. Christy’s entertaining book is about the crooks, swashbucklers and drug kingpins who constitute the underbelly of the reptile-dealing world … To capture this kind of stunt as effervescently as he does, Mr. Christy must share some of his subjects’ fetishism. (He himself was a snake-fancying kid. He also worked for Ray Van Nostrand cleaning snake cages while doing research for the The Lizard King) So he understands the basic principle that governs reptile trafficking: collectors’ tastes evolve on a ‘bigger, meaner, rarer, hot’ trajectory … The chase eventually becomes international. So Mr. Christy has the makings of cat-and-mouse suspense. He also has a tangle of smugglers, agents, breeders and highly colorful minor players (like the tiger-purchasing Miami gangster who sounds like the prototype for “Scarface”) with stories to tell …"
--Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Bryan Christy has entered the belly of the beasts and come out with a perfectly paced page turner. His complete infiltration into the reptile-smuggling worlds of Mike Van Nostrand and Henry Molt (lovely name for a snake man), among others, could have yielded a book overburdened with whos, hows, and whys. Instead, having mastered all the complexities by dint of exhaustive, gutsy (or crazy) reporting, he succeeds in building, in suitably plain prose, an unfolding narrative whose characters and events-evil and good-leave you marveling at the sheer unholy weirdness of people. The Lizard King is a phenomenally good read!"
--Oliver Payne, National Geographic

"In South Florida, we love our crime stories. And we love our weird animal stories. And we're happiest of all when the two categories intersect. [S]ome guy's getting busted at the airport with birds in his underwear or snakes in his socks… [Those stories] are the rarely visible evidence of a vast, illegal, lucrative trade, exotic animal smuggling, which Bryan Christy recounts and reveals to great effect in his new book… [A] fascinating story."
--Nancy Klingener, Miami Herald

"Lively … skillful … [I]t hit me like a body blow … Christy does a service by lifting up the rock so we can take a peek at these unsavory human specimens."
--Terri Jentz, New York Times Book Review
Read an excerpt from The Lizard King, and learn more about the book and author at Bryan Christy's website and his blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Lizard King.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Holly Morris reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Holly Morris, co-founder of Adventure Divas, Inc., and writer/director/host/exec producer and all around creative heavy of Adventure Divas, the award-winning PBS documentary series.

One book she tagged:
My Journey to Llasa by the 'explorer' Alexandra David-Néel. [read on]
Holly Morris' book, Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who are Changing the World, was named an “Editors’ Choice” and one of the year’s notable books about exploration by the New York Times.

Learn more about Holly Morris and her work.

Writers Read: Holly Morris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pg. 69: David Ebershoff's "The 19th Wife"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife.

About the book, from the publisher:
Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.
Among the early acclaim for the novel:
"The 19th Wife is a big book, in every sense of the word. It sweeps across time and delves deeply into a world long hidden from sight. It offers historical and contemporary perspective on one of the world's fastest-growing religions and one of its oldest practices, and in the process it does that thing all good novels do: It entertains us."
Los Angeles Times

"Coming on the heels of the news-making raid on the FLDS polygamist sect in Texas, this lyrical yet fact-packed epic about the Mormon practice of plural marriage is both timely and transporting. Ebershoff intertwines a modern-day murder mystery with a sweeping historical saga; his title refers to the real-life wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young, who fled her husband and ditched her faith in 1873. Based on Ann Eliza's groundbreaking 1875 memoir, Wife No. 19, and her subsequent campaign to make polygamy illegal, Ebershoff re-creates her struggles as a "sister wife," bringing to life the jealousies, insecurities and financial hardships of being one of a string of spouses -- all of whom Brigham claimed to marry in honor of God. Equally compelling is the book's gritty contemporary story of another 19th wife -- from a renegade cult in the remote desert -- accused of killing her husband after he tells her he will no longer sleep with her. This wife is ultimately redeemed by her gay son, whom she abandoned (under orders from the sect's 'Prophet') when he was 14. Ebershoff's exhaustive research and deft prose combine to make his third novel a literary tour de force."
People, 4 out of 4 stars and a People pick

“This exquisite tour de force explores the dark roots of polygamy and its modern-day fruit in a renegade cult.... Ebershoff (The Danish Girl) brilliantly blends a haunting fictional narrative by Ann Eliza Young, the real-life 19th “rebel” wife of Mormon leader Brigham Young, with the equally compelling contemporary narrative of fictional Jordan Scott, a 20-year-old gay man.... With the topic of plural marriage and its shattering impact on women and powerless children in today's headlines, this novel is essential reading for anyone seeking understanding of the subject.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review and “Pick of the Week”

“Engrossing…vivid…Ebershoff has produced a novel that poses engaging challenges for the faithful in any denomination without discounting the essential value of faith. The result is a book packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters and the deepest questions about the tenacity of belief…Remarkable…The greatest triumph is the way all this material illuminates the larger landscape of faith.”
Washington Post Book World
Read an excerpt from The 19th Wife, and learn more about the author and his work at David Ebershoff's website.

David Ebershoff is the author of the novels, Pasadena and The Danish Girl, and a short-story collection, The Rose City.

The Page 69 Test: Pasadena.

The Page 69 Test: The 19th Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's chart: top theatre biographies

Benedict Nightingale, chief theatre critic of The Times (London), picked a "critic's chart" of the top theatre biographies.

One title on his list:
Prick Up Your Ears by John Lahr

Funny, shrewd portrait of Joe Orton, the subversive maverick.
Read about Number One on the critic's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pg. 99: Sumbul Ali-Karamali's "The Muslim Next Door"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Sumbul Ali-Karamali's The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali’s vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world’s fastest growing religion.
Among the early praise for the book:
“I wish I could send a copy of The Muslim Next Door not just to every Muslim extremist, including Bin Laden and his likes, but also to the President of the United States and his staff, to all policy makers, and also to every single Islamophobe or self-hating Muslim in the world. If they read and understood this book, most certainly our world would become a much better place to live. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the publishing world has generated a virtual flood of books on Islam and Muslims, and the vast majority of what has been published is no better than pseudo-intellectual drivel. In my view, however, The Muslim Next Door is solid intellectual gold! This book easily ranks as one of the best three books published on the Islamic faith in the English language since the tragedy of 9/11. It is a profoundly eloquent, consistently reliable, comprehensive, insightful, and often brilliant testament of what it means to be a Muslim and what the religion of Islam is all about. Refreshing in its honesty, accessibility, and humility, and truly impressive in scope and depth, this is an indispensable book. Indeed this book is a necessary read not just for those who are interested in learning about Islam, but even more so for those who believe that they have learned all there is to know about Islam.”
--Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Immigration, Middle Eastern, and Islamic Law, UCLA School of Law, and author of The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists

“Post 9/11 has seen an explosion of publishing on Islam. For many, the question is who do I read if I only have a limited amount of time and want to know what and why Muslims believe what they believe. The Muslim Next Door is an excellent place to start. Sumbul Ali-Karamali presents Islam as a living and lived faith. She combines scholarship with an engaging and accessible style and frank self-criticism that crystallizes the faith and commitment of a majority of mainstream Muslims in its unity and diversity."
--John L. Esposito, Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University and Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown

"Sumbul Ali-Karamali has provided me with a tremendously valuable window of insight into what it means to honor and live Islam in America's everyday world. The Muslim Next Door is both immensely personal and intellectually grounded, and it presents an informed dialog I would not normally be privy to. One of the most valuable weapons against fear and hatred is exposure to the Other, and this conversational book becomes part of a much-needed, ongoing discovery."
--Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River (an Oprah’s Book Club pick) and Red River

“Sumbul Ali-Karamali has written a book which is gripping, comprehensive and essential. With wit, honesty, and scholarship, she offers an account of what being Muslim means in a polarised world where the fault line is as grave as it is prejudiced. A masterpiece of simplicity that offers a groundbreaking testimony that will find its way to every household, in the US and beyond, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike."
--Chibli Mallat, Professor of Law and Politics of the Middle East, SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah; EU Jean Monnet Chair in European Law, Université Saint-Joseph, Beirut

“This is a refreshingly frank and wonderfully accessible account of what it means to be an American Muslim woman today. Sumbul Ali-Karamali speaks from the heart as well as the head and she dispels many misconceptions about Islam today.”
--Carole Hillenbrand, Professor of Islamic History, University of Edinburgh

"A beautiful book. At a time when most Americans are bombarded with misinformation about Islam and, in particular American Muslims, Ali-Karamali has written an elegant corrective -- a paean to the faith, practice, values, and beliefs of the world's second largest religious community. For anyone who truly wants to know what Muslims believe, this is the perfect book.”
--Reza Aslan, author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
Read an excerpt from The Muslim Next Door, and learn more about the book and author at Sumbul Ali-Karamali's website.

Sumbul Ali-Karamali is a corporate lawyer with degrees in law, Islamic law, and English.

The Page 99 Test: The Muslim Next Door.

--Marshal Zeringue