Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pg. 99: Marion Nestle's "Pet Food Politics"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Marion Nestle's Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine.

About the book, from the publisher:
Marion Nestle, acclaimed author of Food Politics, now tells the gripping story of how, in early 2007, a few telephone calls about sick cats set off the largest recall of consumer products in U.S. history and an international crisis over the safety of imported goods ranging from food to toothpaste, tires, and toys. Nestle follows the trail of tainted pet food ingredients back to their source in China and along the supply chain to their introduction into feed for pigs, chickens, and fish in the United States, Canada, and other countries throughout the world. What begins as a problem "merely" for cats and dogs soon becomes an issue of tremendous concern to everyone. Nestle uncovers unexpected connections among the food supplies for pets, farm animals, and people and identifies glaring gaps in the global oversight of food safety.
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website, Marion Nestle's website, and the What to Eat blog.

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University. She is author of the award-winning Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism, and What to Eat, among other books. She serves as nutrition coeditor of The Bark magazine.

The Page 99 Test: Pet Food Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kim Barnes' "A Country Called Home"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Kim Barnes' A Country Called Home.

About the book, from the publisher:
With her acclaimed memoir In the Wilderness Kim Barnes brought us to the great forests of Idaho, where geography and isolation shape love and family. Now, in her luminous new novel, she returns to this territory, offering a powerful tale of hope and idealism, faith and madness.

It is 1960 when Thomas Deracotte and his pregnant wife, Helen, abandon a guaranteed future in upper-crust Connecticut and take off for a utopian adventure in the Idaho wilderness. They buy a farm sight unseen and find the buildings collapsed, the fields in ruins. But they have a tent, a river full of fish, and acres overgrown with edible berries and dandelion greens. Helen learns to make coffee over a fire as they set about rebuilding the house. Though Thomas discovers he can’t wield a hammer or an ax, there is a local boy, Manny—a sweet soul of eighteen without a family of his own—who agrees to manage the fields in exchange for room and board. Their optimism and desire carry them through the early days.

But the sudden, frightening birth of Thomas and Helen’s daughter, Elise, changes something deep inside their marriage. And then, in the aftermath of a tragic accident to which only Manny bears witness, suspicion, anger, and regret come to haunt this shattered family. It is a legacy Elise will inherit and struggle with, until she ultimately finds a hope of her own.

In this extraordinary novel, Kim Barnes reminds us of what it means to be young and in love, to what lengths people will go to escape loneliness, and the redemption found in family.
Read an excerpt from A Country Called Home, and learn more about the novel at the Knopf website.

Kim Barnes' books include the novel Finding Caruso and two memoirs, In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country—a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize—and Hungry for the World. She teaches writing at the University of Idaho.

The Page 69 Test: A Country Called Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Andrew Gelman reading?

The latest featured contributor to Writers Read: Andrew Gelman, author of Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

His entry begins:
I've been reading Personal Days, by Ed Park, which based on the reviews (and the first couple of chapters, which is what I've read so far) is a remake of Joshua Ferris's Then We Come to the End, last year's hilarious and claustrophobic satire on office-cubicle life. Ferris's and Park's books read like a cross between Geoffrey O'Brien and Don DeLillo, only funnier. Or like a fast-forward Richard Ford without the smugness.[read on]
Visit the official website for Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State. Among the myths and facts about the red and the blue that Gelman exposes:
Myth: The rich vote based on economics, the poor vote "God, guns, and gays."
Fact: Church attendance predicts Republican voting much more among rich than poor.

Myth: A political divide exists between working-class "red America" and rich "blue America."
Fact: Within any state, more rich people vote Republican. The real divide is between higher-income voters in red and blue states.

Myth: Rich people vote for the Democrats.
Fact: George W. Bush won more than 60 percent of high-income voters.

Myth: Religion is particularly divisive in American politics.
Fact: Religious and secular voters differ no more in America than in France, Germany, Sweden, and many other European countries.
Learn more about Andrew Gelman and his work at his website and his blog.

Gelman is a professor in the Departments of Statistics and Political Science at Columbia University, director of the Applied Statistics Center, and also the founding director of the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

Writers Read: Andrew Gelman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dave Zeltserman's "Small Crimes," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman.

The entry begins:
Small Crimes is the first of three "man just out of prison" noir thrillers of mine that Serpent's Tail will be publishing. In this case, the man out of prison is Joe Denton, a disgraced ex-cop who got sent away when trying to destroy evidence for a corruption case being built against him ended up stabbing the DA, Phil Coakley, 13 times in the face and horribly disfiguring the man. Now out of prison Joe wants to go through life without causing anymore damage. The problem is Manny Vassey, a mobster Joe used to do jobs for, is dying of cancer, and Phil is trying his damndest to trade Manny a one-way ticket to heaven for a deathbed confession.

A 42 year-old version of Bruce Willis would be perfect for Joe, but at this point I'd go with...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Small Crimes, and learn more about the book from the publisher.

Visit Dave Zeltserman's website and his blog.

My Book, The Movie: Small Crimes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Chelsea Cain's "Sweetheart"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Chelsea Cain's Sweetheart.

About the book, from the publisher:
With Heartsick, Chelsea Cain took the crime world by storm, introducing two of the most compelling characters in decades: serial killer Gretchen Lowell and her obsessed pursuer Portland Detective Archie Sheridan. The book spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and garnered rave reviews around the world. But the riveting story of Archie and Gretchen was left unfinished, and now Chelsea Cain picks up the tale again.

When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland’s Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the last time they found a body there, more than a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. This body can't be one of Gretchen's—she’s in prison—but after help from reporter Susan Ward uncovers the dead woman's identity, it turns into another big case. Trouble is, Archie can't focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison.

Archie hadn't seen her in two months; he'd moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he's relieved. He knows he's the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all.

Chelsea Cain has topped her own bestselling debut thriller with this unputdownable, unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat read.
Read an excerpt from Sweetheart, and learn more about the author and her work at Chelsea Cain's website and MySpace page.

Chelsea Cain's first novel featuring Detective Archie Sheridan and killer Gretchen Lowell, Heartsick, was a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of Confessions of a Teenage Sleuth, a parody based on the life of Nancy Drew, several nonfiction titles, and a weekly column in The Oregonian.

The Page 99 Test: Sweetheart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's chart: books on cash crashes

Andrew Ellson, Personal Finance Editor at the Times (London), named a critic's chart of books on "cash crashes."

One book on the list:
The Great Crash, 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith

Classic account of the 1929 stock market crash. A must read for any budding economist.
Read about another title on Ellson's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Keith Lee Morris' "The Dart League King"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris.

About the book, from the publisher:
An intriguing tale of darts, drugs, and death.

Russell Harmon is the self-proclaimed king of his small-town Idaho dart league, but all is not well in his kingdom. In the midst of the league championship match, the intertwining stories of those gathered at the 411 club reveal Russell’s dangerous debt to a local drug dealer, his teammate Tristan Mackey’s involvement in the disappearance of a college student, and a love triangle with a former classmate.

The characters in Keith Lee Morris’s second novel struggle to find the balance between accepting and controlling their destinies, but their fates are threaded together more closely than they realize.
Read an excerpt from The Dart League King, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Keith Lee Morris is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Clemson University. His short stories have been published in A Public Space, Southern Review, Ninth Letter, StoryQuarterly, New England Review, The Sun, and the Georgia Review, among other publications. The University of Nevada published his first two books: The Greyhound Gods (2003) and The Best Seats in the House (2004).

The Page 69 Test: The Dart League King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pg. 99: John Ehrenfeld's "Sustainability by Design"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: John R. Ehrenfeld's Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture.

About the book, from the publisher:
The developed world, increasingly aware of “inconvenient truths” about global warming and sustainability, is turning its attention to possible remedies—eco-efficiency, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility, among others. But such measures are mere Band-Aids, and they may actually do more harm than good, says John Ehrenfeld, a pioneer in the field of industrial ecology. In this deeply considered book, Ehrenfeld challenges conventional understandings of “solving” environmental problems and offers a radically new set of strategies to attain sustainability.

The book is founded upon this new definition: sustainability is the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever. There are obstacles to this hopeful vision, however, and overcoming them will require us to transform our behavior, both individually and collectively. Ehrenfeld identifies problematic cultural attributes—such as the unending consumption that characterizes modern life—and outlines practical steps toward developing sustainability as a mindset. By focusing on the “being” mode of human existence rather than on the unsustainable “having” mode we cling to now, he asserts, a sustainable world is within our reach.
Read an excerpt from Sustainability by Design, and learn more about the book and author at the Yale University Press website and the "Sustainability by Design" blog.

John R. Ehrenfeld, who before his retirement was affiliated with the MIT Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development and the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering, now serves as executive director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology and is senior research scholar at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

The Page 99 Test: Sustainability by Design.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Manuel Muñoz reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Manuel Muñoz, author of two collections of short stories: Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue.

One paragraph from his entry:
A book I started too late to assign to my undergrads, but will appear on a syllabus in the spring, is Asali Solomon's fantastic short story collection, Get Down: I sense my students will respond well to her extraordinary warmth and humor, even in difficult situations. And I can't wait to start Walk the Blue Fields, by the Irish writer Claire Keegan. I recently met both of these writers at a conference in Cork and came away quite impressed. Sadly, it was only Keegan whom I got to see on a panel: she was terrific on one about Irish literature, and I was quite taken with her composure, her sure-footed commitment to her writing, and her extremely intelligent reasoning for its place in the world.[read on]
Manuel Muñoz is a member of the faculty of the University of Arizona's creative writing program.

The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue was shortlisted for the 2007 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize.

Muñoz is the recipient of a 2006 National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship and is currently a 2008 Fellow in Fiction with the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Rush Hour, Swink, Epoch, Glimmer Train, Edinburgh Review, and Boston Review, and has aired on National Public Radio's Selected Shorts. A native of Dinuba, California, Manuel graduated from Harvard University and received his MFA in creative writing at Cornell University.

Visit Manuel Muñoz's website.

Writers Read: Manuel Muñoz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pg. 69: Michael Largo's "Genius and Heroin"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Michael Largo's Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is the price of brilliance?

Why are so many creative geniuses also ruinously self-destructive? From Caravaggio to Jackson Pollack, from Arthur Rimbaud to Jack Kerouac, from Charlie Parker to Janis Joplin, to Kurt Cobain, and on and on, authors and artists throughout history have binged, pill-popped, injected, or poisoned themselves for their art. Fully illustrated and addictively readable, Genius and Heroin is the indispensable reference to the untidy lives of our greatest artists and thinkers, entertainingly chronicling how the notoriously creative lived and died—whether their ultimate downfalls were the result of opiates, alcohol, pot, absinthe, or the slow-motion suicide of obsession.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Largo's website.

Michael Largo is the author of three novels, the Bram Stoker Award-winning Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die, and last year's The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died.

The Page 69 Test: Genius and Heroin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Maria Wyke's "Caesar"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Maria Wyke's Caesar: A Life in Western Culture.

About the book, from the publisher:
More than two millennia have passed since Brutus and his companions murdered Julius Caesar—and inaugurated his legend. Though the assassins succeeded in ending Caesar’s dictatorship, they could never have imagined that his power and influence would only grow after his death, reaching mythic proportions and establishing him as one of the central icons of Western culture, fascinating armchair historians and specialists alike.

With Caesar, Maria Wyke takes up the question of just why Julius Caesar has become such an exalted figure when most of his fellow Romans have long been forgotten. Focusing on key events in Caesar’s life, she begins with accounts from ancient sources, then traces the ways in which his legend has been adapted and employed by everyone from Machiavelli to Madison Avenue, Shakespeare to George Bernard Shaw. Napoleon and Mussolini, for example, cited Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in defense of their own dictatorial aims, while John Wilkes Booth fancied himself a new Brutus, ridding America of an imperial scourge. Caesar’s personal life, too, has long been fair game—but the lessons we draw from it have changed: Suetonius derided Caesar for his lustfulness and his love of luxury, but these days he and his lover Cleopatra serve as the very embodiment of glamour, enticingly invoked everywhere from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to the hit HBO series Rome.

Caesar is the witty and perceptive work of a writer who is as comfortable with the implications of Xena: Warrior Princess as with the long shadow cast by the Annals of Tacitus. Wyke gives us a Caesar for our own time: complicated, hotly contested, and perpetually, fascinatingly renewed.
Read an excerpt from Caesar, and learn more about the book at the University of Chicago Press website.

Maria Wyke has taught classics at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Reading, and she currently holds the chair of Latin at University College London.

Learn more about Wyke's research and publications at her faculty website.

The Page 99 Test: Caesar: A Life in Western Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries

Tana French's first novel, In the Woods, won a Mystery Writers of America Edgar award earlier this year, and her second, The Likeness, has just been published.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of "books that defy all the thriller's conventions - but remain thrilling."

One title from her list:
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Old crimes cast long shadows; an attack on a child decades ago leads, by a dark winding road, to the murder of a young woman. This is another one that smashes huge holes in the walls that used to surround the genre. A lot of people used to look down on mystery; the assumption was that it was basically about cheap thrills and roller-coaster plots, with no character depth, no thematic depth, no high-quality writing and no thoughtful exploration of ideas – in other words, that there was a huge wall between mystery and 'real' writing. If anyone still believed in that barrier, I'd say Mystic River finally blew away the last remnants of it. It's a cracking good whodunit and a tight police procedural, but it's also a family saga, a social history, a coming-of-age story and a beautifully written book with vivid, unforgettable characters.
Read about another title from French's list.

Read a brief excerpt from In the Woods, and learn more about the novel and author at Tana French's website.

The Page 69 Test: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pg. 69: Michelle Moran's "The Heretic Queen"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Michelle Moran's The Heretic Queen.

About the book, from the publisher:
In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family’s past and remake history.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family—all with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

Sweeping in scope and meticulous in detail, The Heretic Queen is a novel of passion and power, heartbreak and redemption.
Read an excerpt from The Heretic Queen, and learn more about the book and author at Michelle Moran's website.

Michelle Moran is the author of the national bestselling novel Nefertiti.

The Page 69 Test: The Heretic Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lilith Saintcrow's "Night Shift"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Lilith Saintcrow's Night Shift.

About the book, from the publisher:
Not everyone can take on the things that go bump in the night.

Not everyone tries.

But Jill Kismet is not just anyone.

She's a Hunter, trained by the best - and in over her head.

Welcome to the night shift...
Read an excerpt from Night Shift, and learn more about the author and her work at Lilith Saintcrow's website.

The Page 99 Test: Night Shift.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Margot Kahn reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Margot Kahn, author of Horses That Buck: The Story of Champion Bronc Rider Bill Smith.

Her entry begins:
This summer’s been a strange one. First, it didn’t start acting like summer until the middle of July, right when I had to start teaching creative writing workshops at Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s great literary center. While I wanted to be in a meadow somewhere on the edge of a snowfield, watching the wildflowers open, drifting in and out of the stack of books I’d picked up in May at Elliott Bay, I was instead inside, surrounded by high school hormones, revisiting my old favorite lines. It was bittersweet.

I relished rereading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Collected Stories, and I was ecstatic to see the spastic kid who hadn’t written much in a week sit buried in that book for the rest of the afternoon. I went back to Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club for a lesson on memoir and to John D’Agata’s lovely The Next American Essay collection to show that not all essays are five-paragraph bores. We looked at Junot Diaz’s stories in Drown for, among other things, dialogue. And I went back to The Collected Works of Billy the Kid for its inventive construction, gorgeous lyricism and that Western thing that I love.[read on]
Margot Kahn is the author of Horses That Buck: The Story of Champion Bronc Rider Bill Smith.

Her work and book reviews have appeared in various print and online publications including Work Magazine, Pindeldyboz, Ohioana Quarterly, and Publishers Weekly. In 2005 she received the Ohioana Library Association’s Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for a promising young writer.

Read more about Margot Kahn's Horses That Buck at the publisher's website.

Visit Margot Kahn's website.

Writers Read: Margot Kahn.

--MArshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top ten genre-defying novels

In 2006, author Kit Whitfield named a top ten list of "genre-defying novels" for the Guardian.

One title on her list:
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

Marvellously enjoyable as well as moving and highly intelligent, a book I've read to pieces. On the face of it it's a naturalistic novel and, in its portrait of female friendship and terrors, it provides the same kind of satisfaction as standard chick lit, only better. But also, as part of the story, there's a character who is psychic, and uncannily accurate in lots of her seemingly flaky conclusions. It's not made an issue of, it's just a character detail, harmoniously worked into the plot as a parallel to her two best friends' personalities. Atwood has written some more openly speculative works, but The Robber Bride is my favourite example of her boldness and imagination: rather than leaving out the psychic Charis because the book is supposed to be mainstream literature, she brings her in, and it works beautifully.
Read Whitfield's argument for genre-defying novels and Number One on her list.

Visit Kit Whitfield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Steven Sidor's "The Mirror’s Edge"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Steven Sidor's The Mirror’s Edge.

About the book, from the publisher:
Twin brothers, two years old, are snatched out of their Chicago home at noon on their birthday, never to be seen again. The kidnappers never make contact. The crime haunts the city, devastating those left behind.

As the anniversary of the abduction approaches, freelance journalist Jase Deering begins to investigate a case gone cold for the police. What he finds is a paranoid former nanny who had the word “mirrorrorrim” carved into her flesh that fateful day and a trail that leads to a fabled figure, Aubrey Hart Morick. Morick, dead for many years, was an iconic practitioner of the black arts whose legacies are a scandalous reputation and a son named Graham. Increasingly convinced that Graham Morick is more than the simple, innocent man he claims to be, Jase Deering finds the line between natural and supernatural beginning to blur. His determined search for the truth may cost him, and everyone he holds dear, more than he can bear.
Read an excerpt from The Mirror’s Edge, and learn more about the book and author at Steven Sidor's website.

Steven Sidor is the author of the acclaimed novels Skin River and Bone Factory.

The Page 69 Test: The Mirror’s Edge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

George Pelecanos' 5 most important crime novels

George Pelecanos is the author of many crime novels set in and around Washington, D.C.: A Firing Offense, Nick's Trip, Shoedog, Down By the River Where the Dead Men Go, The Big Blowdown, King Suckerman, The Sweet Forever, Shame the Devil, Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, Soul Circus, Hard Revolution, Drama City, and The Night Gardener.

His latest novel is The Turnaround.

Pelecanos was also an Emmy nominee for HBO's The Wire.

For Newsweek, he named his five most important crime novels...and addressed two related issues:

"The Godfather" by Mario Puzo. Except for the page that features Sonny and the bridesmaid. That page never disappoints.


"True Grit" by Charles Portis. A great adult novel with a strong, teenage female protagonist.
Read more about Pelecanos' most important crime novels.

Listen to an excerpt from The Turnaround.

Visit the official George Pelecanos website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steven Stoll's "The Great Delusion"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Steven Stoll's The Great Delusion: A Mad Inventor, Death in the Tropics, and the Utopian Origins of Economic Growth.

About the book, from the publisher:
Endless economic growth rests on a belief in the limitless abundance of the natural world. But when did people begin to believe that societies should—even that they must—expand in wealth indefinitely? In The Great Delusion, the historian and storyteller Steven Stoll weaves past and present together through the life of a strange and brooding nineteenth-century German engineer and technological utopian named John Adolphus Etzler, who pursued universal wealth from the inexhaustible forces of nature: wind, water, and sunlight. The Great Delusion neatly demonstrates that Etzler’s fantasy has become our reality and that we continue to live by some of the same economic assumptions that he embraced. Like Etzler, we assume that the transfer of matter from environments into the economy is not bounded by any condition of those environments and that energy for powering our cars and iPods will always exist. Like Etzler, we think of growth as progress, a turn in the meaning of that word that dates to the moment when a soaring productive capacity fused with older ideas about human destiny. The result is economic growth as we know it, notas measured by the gross domestic product but as the expectation that our society depends on continued physical expansion in order to survive.
The Great Delusion is Steven Stoll's fourth book.

Steven Stoll is Associate Professor of History at Fordham University, where he teaches environmental history. He has written for Harper’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, and the New Haven Review. Learn more about his research and publications at his faculty webapge.

Read more about The Great Delusion at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Great Delusion.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is James L. Nelson reading?

The latest featured contributor to Writers Read: James L. Nelson, the award-winning author of the recently published George Washington's Secret Navy, Benedict Arnold’s Navy, and several novels that take place during the age of the sailing navies.

He is the recipient of perhaps the highest praise a maritime writer can receive: Patrick O'Brian called him "A master of his period and of the English language."

From his Writers Read entry:
I'm just launching into writing a new book on the Battle of Yorktown and the naval battle that preceded it, so I suspect much of my reading will be directed in that effort. One book I'll be revisiting for that is Piers Mackesy's terrific The War for America. Not what you would call a page-turner, but a brilliant and insightful work.[read on]
Learn more about James L. Nelson and his work at his website.

Writers Read: James L. Nelson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matthew Quick's "The Silver Linings Playbook"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Matthew Quick's The Silver Linings Playbook.

About the novel, from the publisher:
An enchanting first novel about love, madness, and Kenny G.
The Silver Linings Playbook is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.

During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.

When Pat meets the tragically widowed and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their “contract.” All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.

In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way.
Read an excerpt from The Silver Linings Playbook, and learn more about the novel and author at Matthew Quick's website.

Matthew Quick floated down the Peruvian Amazon and formed ‘The Bardbarians’ (a two-man literary circle), backpacked around Southern Africa, hiked to the bottom of a snowy Grand Canyon, soul-searched, and earned his Creative Writing M.F.A. through Goddard College.

The Page 69 Test: The Silver Linings Playbook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peter Behrens' "The Law of Dreams," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Peter Behrens' The Law of Dreams.

One segment from his write-up:
There's a problem with casting, from a strategic dollars and cents standpoint, because the two leads are wild Irish children, or teenagers (in 1847 the concept 'teenager' hadn't been invented yet). Daniel Radcliffe would've worked for Fergus O'Brian, until about a year ago. Fergus has a lot to do with horses--and I saw a still of Daniel in the London "Equus" production and he looked pretty darn good with a horse in the frame.[read on]
Read more about the novel and author at Peter Behrens' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Law of Dreams.

My Book, The Movie: The Law of Dreams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Kimmel's "Guyland"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Michael Kimmel's Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do so many guys seem stuck between adolescence and adulthood? Why do so many of them fail to launch? Just what is going on with America's young men?

The passage from adolescence to adulthood was once clear, coherent, and relatively secure: in their late teenage years and early twenties, guys "put away childish things" and entered their futures as responsible adults. Today growing up has become more complex and confusing as young men drift casually through college and beyond—hanging out, partying, playing with tech toys, watching sports. But beneath the appearance of a simple extended boyhood, a more dangerous social world has developed, far away from the traditional signposts and cultural signals that once helped boys navigate their way to manhood.

The average young American man today is moving through a new stage of development, a buddy culture unfazed by the demands of parents, girlfriends, jobs, kids, and other nuisances of adult life. Sociologist and gender studies authority Michael Kimmel has identified this territory as "Guyland," a place that is both a stage of life and a new social arena.

Guyland is the locker room writ large: the world where young men both test and prove themselves as men and develop the defining attitudes and self-images they will carry into adulthood. Kimmel has interviewed hundreds of young men ages sixteen to twenty-six in high schools and college fraternity houses, military academies and sports bars, to better understand Guyland's rules and restrictions, its layers of peer pressure and gender policing, its features and artifacts—from the ordinary (video games, sports, and music) to the extreme (violent fraternity initiations, sexual predation).

In mapping the social world where tomorrow's men are made, Kimmel offers a view into the minds and times of America's sons, brothers, and boyfriends, and works toward redefining what it means to be a man today—and tomorrow. Only by understanding this world and this life stage can we enable young men to chart their own paths, to stay true to themselves, and to travel safely through Guyland, emerging as responsible and fully formed men of integrity and honor.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Guyland website.

Michael Kimmel is the author or editor of more than twenty volumes, including Changing Men: New Directions in Research on Men and Masculinity (1987), Men Confront Pornography (1990), Manhood in America: A Cultural History (1996), The Gender of Desire (2005), and The History of Men (2005).

The Page 99 Test: Guyland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Andrew Pyper's "The Killing Circle"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Andrew Pyper's The Killing Circle.

About the book, from the publisher:
From acclaimed, internationally bestselling author Andrew Pyper, a suspenseful page-turner that explores the repercussions of the most dishonest of thefts: stealing another’s story and calling it your own.When Patrick Rush, journalist, single father, and failed novelist, decides to join a creative writing circle, it seems a fertile time for the imagination. Throughout Toronto, a murderer is striking at random, leaving his victims’ bodies mutilated and dismembered, and taunting the police with cryptic notes.

Influenced by the atmosphere of menace and fear, the group begins to read each other their own dark, unsettling tales. One, Angela, tells a mesmerizing story about a childstealer called the Sandman. Patrick, though, finds fantasy and reality becoming blurred. Is the maniac at large in fact the Sandman? What does Angela really know? And is he himself being stalked by the killer?

It is only when his son is snatched that Patrick understands what he must do: embark on a horrifying journey into the unknown and track down the elusive figure known as the Sandman.

At once a complex and compulsive read, The Killing Circle explores the side effects of an increasingly fame-mad culture, where even the staid realm of literature can fall prey to ravenous ambition and competition.
Learn more about the author and The Killing Circle--and watch some video trailers--at Andrew Pyper's website.

Andrew Pyper is the author of the novels Lost Girls (which was a New York Times and Globe and Mail Notable Book of the Year), The Wildfire Season, and The Trade Mission: A Novel of Psychological Terror, as well as Kiss Me, a collection of stories.

My Book, The Movie: The Wildfire Season.

The Page 69 Test: The Wildfire Season.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 22, 2008

What is J.B. Shank reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: J.B. Shank, an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota and the author of The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment.

One book on his recent reading list:
Thomas Frank's new book The Wrecking Crew. This is the third installment in what is an evolving critique of the "New Right" that has overtaken American politics since the late 1970s. Frank's first two books were One Market Under God and What's the Matter with Kansas?, and while I continue to hope that Frank will someday turn his attention toward explaining why the movements that he so brilliantly describes had the power that they did (he treats the development as a kind of mass delusion), his neo-muckraking style (H.L. Mencken is his idol, but he is also a child of the post-Hunter S. Thompson generation) provides the perfect antidote to the on-going absurdities of Fox News and "Red America" political discourse. Indeed, put Frank's three books together and you have the perfect hermeneutic for interpreting every dimension of the Sarah Palin phenomenon. [read on]
Read more about The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment at the University of Chicago Press website.

Learn more about J.B. Shank's work at his faculty webpage.

Writers Read: J.B. Shank.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifty greatest villains in literature

A panel picked the 50 greatest villains in literature for the (London) Telegraph.

Number 50 on the list:
Helen Grayle/Velma Valento from Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler

Described as "a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window", Helen Grayle is the most memorable of Raymond Chandler's femmes fatales. She leaves a trail of bloody victims in her wake as she tries to hide her past as flame-haired nightclub singer Velma Valento.
Read about Number One on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ann Cleeves' "White Nights"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ann Cleeves' White Nights.

About the book, from the publisher:
The electrifying follow up to the award-winning Raven Black

Raven Black received crime fiction’s highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award. Now Detective Jimmy Perez is back in an electrifying sequel.

It’s midsummer in the Shetland Islands, the time of the white nights, when birds sing at midnight and the sun never sets. Artist Bella Sinclair throws an elaborate party to launch an exhibition of her work at The Herring House, a gallery on the beach.

The party ends in farce when one the guests, a mysterious Englishman, bursts into tears and claims not to know who he is or where he’s come from. The following day the Englishman is found hanging from a rafter, and Detective Jimmy Perez is convinced that the man has been murdered. He is reinforced in this belief when Roddy, Bella’s musician nephew, is murdered, too.

But the detective’s relationship with Fran Hunter may have clouded his judgment, for this is a crazy time of the year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems.

A stunning second installment in the acclaimed Shetland Island Quartet, White Nights is sure to garner American raves for international sensation Ann Cleeves.
Learn more about White Nights at Cleeves's website and read her online diary.

Ann Cleeves' Raven Black, the first volume in the Shetland Island Quartet, received crime fiction’s highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pg. 69: Mike Resnick's "Stalking the Vampire"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Mike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s Halloween, and John Justin Mallory’s partner, Winnifred Carruthers, has been so busy preparing for the biggest holiday of the year (in his Manhattan, anyway) that she seems short of energy and pale. Mallory is worried that she’s been working too hard. Then he notices the two puncture marks on her neck…

On this night when ghosts and goblins are out celebrating, detective Mallory must stalk the vampire who has threatened his assistant, Winnifred Carruthers, and killed her nephew. With the aid of Felina, the catgirl, Mallory and Carruthers investigate clubs and lairs that only seem to exist on this one night of the year.

His hunt takes him to Creepy Conrad's Cut-Rate All-Night Mortuary, where he questions the living and the dead; to the Annual Zombies' Ball, to learn more about the undead; to the Hills of Home Cemetery, where the vampire sleeps by day; and to Battery Park, where all of Manhattan's bats come to feed and sleep. Along the way he meets a few old friends and enemies, and a host of strange new inhabitants of this otherworldly Manhattan.

Locked in an intriguing battle of wits with the millennia-old vampire, Mallory has until dawn if he is to save his trusted partner.
Stalking the Vampire is an urban fantasy, a sequel to Stalking the Unicorn, which was reprinted at the same time (August, 2008) by Pyr Books.

Learn more about the author and his work at Mike Resnick's website.

Mike Resnick has won five Hugos and been nominated for twenty-six more.

The Page 69 Test: Stalking the Vampire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books about social class

David Lodge is the author of Changing Places, Nice Work, and other novels, including the newly released Deaf Sentence.

He named a five best list of books on the subject of social class for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
Suite Française
by Irène Némirovsky
Knopf, 2006

Evelyn Waugh maintained that England didn't have social classes but instead an order of precedence, which extended in a minutely discriminated sequence from the humblest laborer to the monarch. Whatever the truth of that observation, the social classes in France have been historically divided between aristocracy, bourgeoisie and proletariat, with clearly defined subgroups and pecking orders within each category. Irène Némirovsky's unfinished "Suite Française" gives a riveting and unflattering picture of the French class system put under pressure by Nazi Germany's invasion and occupation of France in 1940. Némirovsky had planned to write a sequence of five novellas but completed just the first two before she was tragically swept away on the black tide of the Holocaust. The first, "Storm in June," describing the panic-stricken flight of Parisians from the capital -- loading their best linen and china into automobiles, ruthlessly competing for food, petrol and accommodation -- is a horribly convincing spectacle of human selfishness and folly. The second entry, "Dolce," is equally telling as it portrays a rural community where various subgroups are more obsessed with preserving their ancient privileges than with the outcome of the war.
Read about Number One on Lodge's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What is Ronald Wallace reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Ronald Wallace, Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry and Halls-Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the newly released collection of poems, For a Limited Time Only.

His entry opens:
I'm just back from a week hiking in the Tetons where I read Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping again, and am in the middle of Gilead with Home on tap.[read on]
Read a selection of Wallace's poems and learn more about his work at his website.

Writers Read: Ronald Wallace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jonathan B. Imber's "Trusting Doctors"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Jonathan B. Imber's Trusting Doctors: The Decline of Moral Authority in American Medicine.

About the book, from the publisher:
For more than a century, the American medical profession insisted that doctors be rigorously trained in medical science and dedicated to professional ethics. Patients revered their doctors as representatives of a sacred vocation. Do we still trust doctors with the same conviction? In Trusting Doctors, Jonathan Imber attributes the development of patients' faith in doctors to the inspiration and influence of Protestant and Catholic clergymen during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He explains that as the influence of clergymen waned, and as reliance on medical technology increased, patients' trust in doctors steadily declined.

Trusting Doctors discusses the emphasis that Protestant clergymen placed on the physician's vocation; the focus that Catholic moralists put on specific dilemmas faced in daily medical practice; and the loss of unchallenged authority experienced by doctors after World War II, when practitioners became valued for their technical competence rather than their personal integrity. Imber shows how the clergy gradually lost their impact in defining the physician's moral character, and how vocal critics of medicine contributed to a decline in patient confidence. The author argues that as modern medicine becomes defined by specialization, rapid medical advance, profit-driven industry, and ever more anxious patients, the future for a renewed trust in doctors will be confronted by even greater challenges.

Trusting Doctors provides valuable insights into the religious underpinnings of the doctor-patient relationship and raises critical questions about the ultimate place of the medical profession in American life and culture.
Among the early praise for the book:
"Jonathan Imber's Trusting Doctors is an important, interesting, and readable book. We all know that our modern doctors do not have the social aura they once did. Imber effectively tells us the eye-opening story of why that change has happened."
--Daniel Callahan, cofounder of the Hastings Center

"Doctors and people who have no choice but to trust doctors--which means all of us--need to read this book. With both sympathy and uncompromising honesty, Jonathan Imber traces the frequently troubled history of a medical profession that needs to attend to its increasingly fragile moral authority."
--Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of the journal First Things

"Trusting Doctors is a major book, a benchmark on medical morality and trust, and an exemplar of religion's impact on medicine."
--Peter Conrad, Brandeis University

"This important book challenges many ideas that have long been taken for granted in medical sociology and the history of medicine: ideas about the work of bioethics and epidemiology, as well as the relation between religion and medicine."
--Raymond G. De Vries, University of Michigan

Read an excerpt from Trusting Doctors, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Learn more about Jonathan B. Imber's work at his faculty webpage.

Jonathan B. Imber is the Class of 1949 Professor in Ethics and professor of sociology at Wellesley College. He is also the author of Abortion and the Private Practice of Medicine.

The Page 99 Test: Trusting Doctors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pg. 69: T. Lynn Ocean's "Southern Poison"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: T. Lynn Ocean's Southern Poison.

About the book, from the publisher:
The last time Jersey Barnes tried to quit her career as a security specialist and leave home without a weapon, she ended up in the middle of a high-stakes cover-up and a scheme to steal millions from hardworking Americans. This time her early retirement is for real. Friends threw her a party to prove it. There was a cake and everything.

But out of the blue, her former handler shows up with other ideas. When Jersey tells him she doesn’t want an assignment---even if does come with an upfront hazard-pay bonus---he reminds her of a clause in the contract she signed back when she was first recruited to work for the government: a pesky paragraph that says she can be recalled into service at any time.

With boating and golfing plans on hold yet again, Jersey straps on her weapon of choice and goes undercover to help root out a terrorist threat---only to learn that another more sinister plot is in the works. And things aren’t any more relaxing at home, either. Just as she starts to explore a steamy relationship with her hunky pub manager, Ox, his ex-wife flies in from California to reclaim him.

Southern Poison moves at breakneck speed as Jersey must save herself from an assassin, stop an evil chemist, keep her troublemaking father and his poker buddies out of jail, untangle a steamy romance, and maybe---just maybe---retire.

On the heels of the lauded Southern Fatality, readers will welcome another hilarious, suspenseful, and sun-soaked adventure from the unforgettable Jersey Barnes.
Among the praise for Southern Poison:
“Jersey Barnes and her quirky family and friends make for a page-turning mix of suspense and fun. Read Southern Poison and you’ll rocket between breath-holding adventure and belly laughs.”
--Cathy Pickens, author of Hush My Mouth and the Southern Fried mysteries

“...a thriller in every sense of the word. Fast-paced, wickedly funny, vicious, violent, and packed with believable characters caught up in a series of escalating adventures that leave you breathless.”
--Jonathan Mayberry, ITW

“Ocean's Southern-styled answer to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum...”
--Publishers Weekly

“T. Lynn Ocean makes the South sizzle!”
--Mary Alice Monroe, NYT bestselling author of Time Is A River

“Smart and sassy...”
Read an excerpt from Southern Poison, and learn more about the author and her work at T. Lynn Ocean's website.

A freelance writer for more than ten years, T. Lynn Ocean has published in magazines nationwide. She is the author of the novels Fool Me Once, Sweet Home Carolina, and Southern Fatality.

The Page 69 Test: Southern Fatality.

The Page 69 Test: Southern Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue

The 25 best boarding school books

At the London Times, Sarah Ebner named her top 25 boarding school books.

A couple of titles from her list:
2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is a very different book to many of the others on the list, and the school is not its main focus, Mr Rochester takes care of that. But whatever the other many attractions of this book, Jane's time at Lowood Academy will stay in a reader's mind for a long, long time.

* * *

4) The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

These modern books have put boarding schools finally back on the map - albeit by inventing one which is full of mortal danger, magic and adventure. The films may be good, but the books are so much better.
Read about two American novels that made Ebner's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stephanie Hale's "Revenge of the Homecoming Queen," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Stephanie Hale's Revenge of the Homecoming Queen.

The entry opens:
First off, I'd like to thank the academy for this award. Oops, I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself! Okay, so if my fabulous teen novel, Revenge of the Homecoming Queen, were made into a book these would be the actors and actresses I had in mind to play the parts perfectly.

Aspen Brooks~ My heroine is sassy, sophisticated, and smart as a whip. She is also occasionally so full of herself that you want to smack her upside the head with her favorite Dooney & Bourke purse, but in the end that's why you'll love her. The only person I can ever see doing Aspen's character justice is Hayden Panettiere. I first saw her in Racing Stripes and knew that she would be perfect. Of course, she's exploded due to...[read on]
Read more about Revenge of the Homecoming Queen at Stephanie Hale's website, and check out Hale's MySpace page and the Books, Boys, Buzz blog.

Stephanie Hale is the author of Revenge of the Homecoming Queen and Twisted Sisters.

The Page 69 Test: Revenge of the Homecoming Queen.

My Book, The Movie: Revenge of the Homecoming Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Declan Burke's "The Big O"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Declan Burke's The Big O.

About the book, from the publisher:
Karen's easy life as a receptionist and armed robber is about to change. Rossi, her ex, is getting out of prison any day now. He'll be looking for his motorcycle, his gun, revenge, and the sixty grand he says is his. But he won't be expecting Ray, the new guy Karen's just met, to be in his way. No stranger to the underworld himself, Ray wants out of the kidnapping game now that some dangerous new bosses are moving in.

Meanwhile Frank, a disgraced plastic surgeon, hires Ray to kidnap his ex-wife for the insurance money. But the ex-wife also happens to be Karen's best friend. Can Karen and Ray trust each other enough to work together on one last job? Or will love, as always, ruin everything?

From a writer hailed as "Elmore Leonard with a hard Irish edge" (Irish Mail on Sunday), Declan Burke's The Big O is crime fiction at its darkest and funniest.
Among the praise for The Big O:
“THE BIG O is a big ol’ success, a tale fuelled by the mischievous spirits of Donald E. Westlake, Elmore Leonard and even Carl Hiassen … THE BIG O kept me reading at speed – and laughing the whole damn time.”
--J. Kingston Pierce, January Magazine, “Best Books 2007 - Crime Fiction”

“Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is one of the sharpest, wittiest and most unusual Irish crime novels of recent years … in a similar tradition to, say, Carl Hiaasen, in that there’s a satirical edge to his work that gives it a real bite.”
--John Connolly, author of The Unquiet

“Burke shows remarkable skill at weaving a complex story from multiple points of view and pulling the strands together in an engaging fashion, and he clearly has the genius required to pull off a large-scale story.”
--Spinetingler Magazine

“It’s hard to praise THE BIG O highly enough. Excellent writing, great characters, superb storytelling – all played out at a ferocious tempo. By turns it’s dark, funny, moving, brutal, tender and twisted. A book that makes one hell of an impact. More Declan Burke please.”
--Allan Guthrie, award-winning author of Two-Way Split

“Burke has [George V.] Higgins’ gift for dialogue, [Barry] Gifford’s concision and the effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak. In short, THE BIG O is an essential crime novel of 2007, and one of the best of any year.”
--Ray Banks, author of Donkey Punch

“With a deft touch, Burke pulls together a cross-genre plot that’s part hard-boiled caper, part thriller, part classic noir, and flat out fun. From first page to last, THE BIG O grabs hold and won’t let go.”
--Reed Farrel Coleman: Shamus, Barry, and Anthony Award-winning Author of the James Deans
Read an excerpt from The Big O and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Declan Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

The Page 99 Test:: The Big O (Irish edition).

The Page 99 Test: The Big O.

--Marshal Zeringue