Saturday, January 31, 2009

Five best: books about Scotland Yard

Arthur Herman, author most recently of Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, named a five best list of books about Scotland Yard for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
The Scotland Yard Files
by Alan Moss and Keith Skinner
National Archives Press, 2006

Former Chief Superintendent Alan Moss and crime writer Keith Skinner browsed through Scotland Yard's files in the British National Archives to pull together a list of the 12 most important "firsts" in criminal detection. They include the first "wanted" picture, the first use of a line-up, and the first convictions based on fingerprints (in 1902) and on ballistic evidence. No fan of "Cold Case" or "Criminal Minds" or any of the countless other television crime dramas should be without a copy of this book or ignore the debt that every forensic police division owes to the pioneers at Scotland Yard.
Read about Number One on Herman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elissa Elliott's "Eve: A Novel of the First Woman"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott.

About the book, from the publisher:
It is the world’s oldest tale: the story of Eve, her husband, Adam, and the tragedy that would overcome her sons…. In this luminous debut novel, Elissa Elliott puts a powerful twist on biblical narrative, boldly reimagining Eve’s journey. At once intimate and universal, timely and timeless, this unique work of fiction blends biblical tradition with recorded history and dazzling storytelling. And as it does, Eve comes to life in a way religion and myth have never allowed—in a novel that explores the very essence of love, motherhood, faith, and humanity.

In their world they are alone…a family haunted by banishment, struggling for survival in a harsh new land. A woman who has borne and buried children, Eve sees danger shadowing those she loves, while her husband drifts further and further from the man he was in the Garden, blinded by his need to rebuild a life outside of Eden. One daughter, alluring, self-absorbed Naava, turns away from their beliefs. Another, crippled, ever-faithful Aya, harbors a fateful secret, while brothers Cain and Abel become adversaries, and Dara, the youngest, is chosen for a fate of her own.

In one hot, violent summer, by the shores of the muddy Euphrates, strangers arrive on their land. New gods challenge their own. And for Eve, a time of reckoning is at hand. The woman who once tasted the forbidden fruit of paradise sees her family unraveling—as brother turns on brother, culminating in a confrontation that will have far-reaching consequences for them all.

From a woman’s first awakening to a mother’s innermost hopes and fears, from moments of exquisite tenderness to a climax of shocking violence, Eve takes us on a breathtaking journey of the imagination. A novel that has it all—romantic love, lust, cruelty, heroism, envy, sacrifice, murder—Eve is a work of mesmerizing literary invention by a singular new voice in fiction.
Read an excerpt from Eve, and learn more about the book and author at Elissa Elliott's website and blog.

Elissa Elliott is a former high school teacher and a contributing writer for Books & Culture.

The Page 69 Test: Eve.

--Marshal Zeringue

Justin Gustainis' "Quincey Morris" series, the movies

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Black Magic Woman and Evil Ways by Justin Gustainis.

The entry begins:
There are two books in my urban fantasy series about occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, “white” witch Libby Chastain. Black Magic Woman was released in January 2008, and Evil Ways came out December 30th. The third one, Sympathy for the Devil, is due in late 2009.

My first choice to play Quincey, the tall Texan with a degree from Princeton, would have been Tommy Lee Jones, about twenty years ago. But Mr. Jones is too old now, and, besides, the role might be too reminiscent of his work in the Men in Black movies. Among those available now, I’d pick Russell Crowe. He showed in 3:10 to Yuma that he can do the accent, and he combines the attributes of an action hero with real acting ability.

Libby Chastain should be played by an actress whose name might not be immediately recognizable:....[read on]
Learn more the books and author at Justin Gustainis' website and MySpace page.

Justin Gustainis is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002. His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993. The Hades Project, his first novel, was released to rave reviews in 2003.

My Book, The Movie: Black Magic Woman and Evil Ways.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pg. 99: Catherine Blyth's "The Art of Conversation"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test:The Art of Conversation: A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure by Catherine Blyth.

About the book, from the publisher:
A wide-ranging, exhortatory look at the pleasures of great conversation, including strategies for how to bring it about, from the witty pen of an Englishwoman wise in its ways

In The Art of Conversation, Catherine Blyth eloquently points out the sorry state of disrepair that conversation has fallen into—and then, taking examples from history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and popular culture, she gives us the tools to rebuild. Her prose embodies the conversational values she promotes: It’s smart, succinct, self-deprecating, and light on its feet.

The Art of Conversation isn’t about etiquette, elocution, or knowing how to hold your teacup with your little finger crooked just so. It’s about something simple and profound: connecting. In our distracted days, it’s easy to forget that each of us possesses a communication technology that has been in research and development for thousands of years. Conversation costs nothing, but can bring you the world.

Blyth offers us a chance to revel in the possibilities of conversation. As Alexander Pope nearly wrote, “True ease in talking comes from art, not chance, as those move easiest who have learned to dance.” Okay, Pope was actually talking about writing, but Catherine Blyth has that skill as well. When you have read The Art of Conversation, you’ll not only know the steps, but hear the music like never before.
Listen to an excerpt from The Art of Conversation, and learn more about the book and author at Catherine Blyth's website.

Catherine Blyth is a writer and editor. She has contributed to publications like The Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman and Mail on Sunday, and written scripts for the BBC and Channel 5.

The Page 99 Test:The Art of Conversation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lost manuscripts: ten best

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best lost manuscripts.

One author on the list:
James Michener

Bestselling author James Michener claimed that he dreamed one night in 1960 of writing an epic novel about Mexico. He duly researched and wrote most of the novel, before he misplaced the manuscript. It turned up 30 years later and Michener completed and published the saga.
Read about Number One on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Graves' "A Face at the Window"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Face at the Window by Sarah Graves.

About the book, from the publisher:
Back in the day, Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree turned profits managing the fortunes of Manhattan’s most fortunate. Then she fled the rat race for a stately old fixer-upper in easygoing Eastport, Maine. But now a rat from an even darker corner of Jake’s past has turned up…a killer with a blueprint for demolishing her new life.

As a home repair enthusiast, Jake knows that nothing lasts forever—not windows or doors, not plaster or plumbing. And not good fortune.

After more than three decades eluding justice, the man who murdered her mother is finally about to stand trial—until he vanishes into thin air. Jake has a terrible foreboding of where Ozzie Campbell will turn up next. And while the local police chief is sure she’s overreacting, the truth is far worse than even Jake’s worst fears.

With her normally full house empty for at least another week, Jake has been looking forward to the unaccustomed peace and quiet. Now her cozy, well-loved home feels more like a big empty death trap ready to snap shut. First a pair of out-of-towners clearly not in Eastport for vacation turn up asking questions about her. And if she has any doubt they’re connected to Campbell, those doubts are erased when he calls her with a grim warning.

But exactly what Campbell wants from her isn’t clear, only that he’ll stop at nothing to hurt those closest to Jake. And his first victims are the most defenseless of all. Suddenly Jake can’t help but feel that her house—and her life—has far too many windows. And in any one of them she might see the face of her killer.
Read an excerpt from A Face at the Window, and learn more about the book and author at the official Sarah Graves website.

Sarah Graves, who lives in Eastport Maine, where her mystery novels are set, is the author of the "Home Repair Is Homicide" series.

The Page 99 Test: The Book of Old Houses.

The Page 69 Test: A Face at the Window.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Meryl Gordon reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Meryl Gordon, author of Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach.

Her entry begins:
I'm reading two very different books at once right now, partially because I've been traveling on book tour and haven't wanted to drag a hardcover on the road. I'm almost done with Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, and it's been fascinating to read her fictional portrayal of Laura and George Bush, at the precise moment when they have left the White House. I resisted reading this novel until my husband, political journalist Walter Shapiro, raved about it -- It's wonderfully-written, you bring a lot to the characters but Sittenfeld has also made them her own, memorable and understandable. [read on]
Meryl Gordon is a full-time magazine journalist who has profiled such influential figures as Kofi Annan, Mike Bloomberg, and John Kerry, and such stars as Nicole Kidman, Susan Sarandon, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gordon has written major features for New York, the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, Elle, Marie Claire, and other publications.

Learn more about Mrs. Astor Regrets and Meryl Gordon at her publisher's website.

Read about Gordon's list of the five best "chronicles of high society."

Writers Read: Meryl Gordon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 29, 2009

13 mysteries for political progressives

J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet, has posted "a fairly interesting baker’s-dozen list of mysteries that Philip Green [in the extensive new resource book, The Nation Guide to the Nation] says belong on the shelves of political progressives."

One of the more recent books on the list:
No Defense, by Kate Wilhelm (2000): “In this, one of her (so far) nine cases, ‘death qualified’ Oregon attorney Barbara Holloway fights the political establishment, the legal powers that be and a dangerous crime lord to save the life of an innocent defendant: a typical day’s work for her.”
Read about two other titles to make the list.

Unlike Green, Pierce is "not so convinced that the detective story is inherently conservative." Read why at The Rap Sheet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Dalton Conley's "Elsewhere, U.S.A."

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety by Dalton Conley.

About the book, from the publisher:
Over the past three decades, our daily lives have changed slowly but dramatically. Boundaries between leisure and work, public space and private space, and home and office have blurred and become permeable. How many of us now work from home, our wireless economy allowing and encouraging us to work 24/7? How many of us talk to our children while scrolling through e-mails on our BlackBerrys? How many of us feel overextended, as we are challenged to play multiple roles–worker, boss, parent, spouse, friend, and client–all in the same instant?

Dalton Conley, social scientist and writer provides us with an X-ray view of our new social reality. In Elsewhere, U.S.A., Conley connects our daily experience with occasionally overlooked sociological changes: women’s increasing participation in the labor force; rising economic inequality generating anxiety among successful professionals; the individualism of the modern era–the belief in self-actualization and expression–being replaced by the need to play different roles in the various realms of one’s existence. In this groundbreaking book, Conley offers an essential understanding of how the technological, social, and economic changes that have reshaped our world are also reshaping our individual lives.
Read an excerpt from Elsewhere, U.S.A., and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Dalton Conley is University Professor of the Social Sciences and Acting Dean for the Social Sciences at New York University. He also teaches at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, as an Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and he as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and Slate, among other publications. His previous books include Honky; Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America; and The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.

Visit Dalton Conley's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Elsewhere, U.S.A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Suzy McKee Charnas' "The Vampire Tapestry"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas.

About the book, from the publisher:
Edward Weyland is far from your average vampire: not only is he a respected anthropology professor but his condition is biological — rather than supernatural. He lives discrete lifetimes bounded by decades of hibernation and steals blood from labs rather than committing murder. Weyland is a monster who must form an uneasy empathy with his prey in order to survive, and The Vampire Tapestry is a story wholly unlike any you've heard before.
Read an excerpt from The Vampire Tapestry, and learn more about the author and her work at Suzy McKee Charnas' journal and website.

Suzy McKee Charnas is the author of over a dozen works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, including the Holdfast series from Tor Books and the Sorcery Hall series of books for young adults. She is the winner of the Hugo Award (for her short story "Boobs") and has won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award twice.

The Vampire Tapestry is one of Lisa Tuttle's top six vampire books.

The Page 69 Test: The Vampire Tapestry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2008's best China books

Jeffrey Wasserstrom took an interesting approach to naming 2008's best China books for the Far Eastern Economic Review: he created "thematic pairs of books that are particularly effective when read together."

One such pair:
China Past and Present. Several worthy 2008 books provide a more upbeat assessment of the present and "Modern China: A Very Short Introduction" can be placed in this category. Its author, Oxford historian Rana Mitter, does not view contemporary China through rose-colored glasses, but after finishing his latest book, readers will likely feel more positive about the PRC’s prospects than will those who have just put down "Out of Mao’s Shadow" or "Slaughter Pavilion." One of the book’s most interesting features is the emphasis that Mitter puts on continuities between the Republican era (1912-1949), especially the part when Chiang Kai-shek was in power (1928-1949), and the Communist period. While noting breaks and ruptures, he emphasizes enduring goals (modernization), strategies (nationalistic rhetoric) and flaws (authoritarian tendencies) that connect Chiang to the Communist Party leaders who’ve run China since 1949.

This makes Modern China particularly interesting to read beside Frank Dikotter’s "The Age of Openness: China before Mao" (University of California). Dikotter also links the Republican era to the Communist one. But his thesis is that much was basically right about the country during the decades immediately preceding 1949 (China was far more open to currents from the West then, he insists, and far less tightly controlled), and has been basically wrong ever since (especially but not only when Mao ruled).

Each book is short and lively. In addition, each makes effective use of intriguing examples—even though these sometimes are used to buttress arguments that specialists may feel, as I did occasionally with "Age of Openness" in particular, are made a bit too starkly, pushed a bit too far, or overstate the novelty of the author’s position.
Read about another pair from Wasserstrom's list.

The Page 69 Test: Rana Mitter's Modern China: A Very Short Introduction.

The Page 69 Test: Jeffrey Wasserstrom's China's Brave New World.

The Page 99 Test: Jeffrey Wasserstrom's Global Shanghai, 1850–2010.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeff Benedict's "Little Pink House"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage by Jeff Benedict.

About the book, from the publisher:
Suzette Kelo was just trying to rebuild her life when she purchased a falling down Victorian house perched on the waterfront in New London, CT. The house wasn't particularly fancy, but with lots of hard work Suzette was able to turn it into a home that was important to her, a home that represented her new found independence.

Little did she know that the City of New London, desperate to revive its flailing economy, wanted to raze her house and the others like it that sat along the waterfront in order to win a lucrative Pfizer pharmaceutical contract that would bring new business into the city. Kelo and fourteen neighbors flat out refused to sell, so the city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain to condemn their homes, launching one of the most extraordinary legal cases of our time, a case that ultimately reached the United States Supreme Court.

In Little Pink House, award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict takes us behind the scenes of this case -- indeed, Suzette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story as one woman led the charge to take on corporate America to save her home.
Read an excerpt from Little Pink House, and learn more about the book and author at Jeff Benedict's website. View the Little Pink House video.

Jeff Benedict is an award-winning investigative journalist, a lawyer, and a best-selling author of seven books. He is a contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated and the Hartford Courant.

The Page 99 Test: Little Pink House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Fulmer's "Lost River"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Lost River by David Fulmer.

About the book, from the publisher:
The next heart-pounding chapter in Fulmer’s Storyville series featuring New Orleans detective Valentin St. Cyr Autumn 1913. Valentin St. Cyr has been absent from his Storyville stomping grounds for some months, trying to make it in the straight detective world and make a go of it with his longtime love, Justine. But then a man is found dead in a Storyville brothel.The madam immediately turns to the creole detective for help.He resists, but when several more bodies turn up in Storyville, Valentin can’t help but come to the aid of the place—and the people—he tried to leave behind. Just when he has the case wrapped around his finger, it turns out Valentin has been played.The police captain thinks he’s meddling and may be guilty of murder.He’s on the run, and Justine has turned her back on him, retaliating with a handsome young fellow in a very sporty car. But is she being lured into a trap too? Taking us back to his acclaimed and much-loved Storyville series, in Lost River award-winning author David Fulmer marks a heart-pounding return to the streets of early-1900s New Orleans.
Read an excerpt from Lost River, and learn more about the author and his work at David Fulmer's website.

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Lost River.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jan Westerhoff reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Jan Westerhoff, author of the recently released Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka, his study of one of the greatest philosophers of ancient Asia.

One book mentioned in the entry:
The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt.

I did not just pick up this book because it is set in my old college. This fictionalized account of the meeting between G.H. Hardy, Fellow of Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge (and author of A Mathematician's Apology) and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-educated accounts clerk from an Indian backwater and mathematical genius succeeds in giving a superb description of the adventures of mind in a mysterious atmosphere of melancholy and tragedy. [read on]
Jan Westerhoff was trained as a philosopher and orientalist; he is currently lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Durham, UK.

He has just finished a popular book on Buddhist philosophy and cognitive science entitled 12 Examples of Illusion which is due to come out later this year.

Visit Jan Westerhoff's website, and learn more about Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Jan Westerhoff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barbara Levenson's "Fatal February," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Fatal February by Barbara Levenson.

The entry begins:
Fatal February is one part romance, one part mystery with a large spoonful of humor. After I wrote the book, I received several suggestions that it really was the blue print for a TV series, because it is the first in a series of mysteries with continuing characters. But who hasn’t dreamt of selling their brainchild as a movie?

The protagonist, Mary Magruder Katz, is a quirky criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida. She is half Jewish and half Southern Baptist which explains her name. She has a hot Latin lover who is half Cuban and half Argentine. In Miami, the melting pot often begins in the wedding chapel.

I didn’t write with an eye to a particular look or actor in mind. Now that the characters are full blown, I do visualize who would fill the parts. Drew Barrymore has the right mix of comic timing and intelligent demeanor to be Mary. If I were casting a lesser known....[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Barbara Levenson's website.

Barbara Levenson has served as a prosecutor and run her own law practice where she focused on criminal defense and civil rights litigation. She was elected to a judgeship in the circuit court of Miami-Dade County, where she still serves as a senior judge. Fatal February is her first novel.

My Book, The Movie: Fatal February.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: P.W. Singer's "Wired for War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer.

About the book, from the publisher:
A military expert reveals how science fiction is fast becoming reality on the battlefield, changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself

P. W. Singer’s previous two books foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers— predictions that proved all too accurate. Now, he explores the greatest revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb—the advent of robotic warfare.

We are just beginning to see a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make the stuff of I, Robot and The Terminator all too real. More than seven- thousand robotic systems are now in Iraq. Pilots in Nevada are remotely killing terrorists in Afghanistan. Scientists are debating just how smart—and how lethal—to make their current robotic prototypes. And many of the most renowned science fiction authors are secretly consulting for the Pentagon on the next generation.

Blending historic evidence with interviews from the field, Singer vividly shows that as these technologies multiply, they will have profound effects on the front lines as well as on the politics back home. Moving humans off the battlefield makes wars easier to start, but more complex to fight. Replacing men with machines may save some lives, but will lower the morale and psychological barriers to killing. The “warrior ethos,” which has long defined soldiers’ identity, will erode, as will the laws of war that have governed military conflict for generations.

Paradoxically, these new technologies will also bring war to our doorstep. As other nations and even terrorist organizations start to build or buy their own robotic weapons, the robot revolution could undermine America’s military preeminence. While his analysis is unnerving, there’s an irresistible gee-whiz quality to the innovations Singer uncovers. Wired for War travels from Iraq to see these robots in combat to the latter-day “skunk works” in America’s suburbia, where tomorrow’s technologies of war are quietly being designed. In Singer’s hands, the future of war is as fascinating as it is frightening.
Learn more about the book and author at P.W. Singer's website.

P.W. Singer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; at 34 years old, he's the youngest person ever to hold that position. He's written for or appeared on a wide variety of media, from "60 Minutes" to the New York Times. He has worked for the Pentagon and Harvard University, and in his personal capacity, served as the coordinator of the defense policy advisory task force for the Obama campaign. In his previous two books, Singer foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers - predictions which proved to be all too accurate.

The Page 99 Test: Wired for War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Summarizing Sundance 2009: Part IV

Ray Taras' fourth and final dispatch from the Sundance Flim Festival:
It came down to war, terror, and rape on the last day of Sundance, even though “the best snow on earth” was falling on Park City and the ski area towering over it. A few people trudged through the slush on Main Street taking photos of the winter wonderland that had, until Sunday, given no hint that it could envelop the town. Robert Redford’s posh restaurant, Zoom, showed few signs of life. The negotiations and bidding that had drawn attention away from the eclectic menu had ended some time ago, as well as the opportunity to spot a celebrity. I felt bad I hadn’t run into Christie Brinkley. Then again, I felt glad I hadn’t run into Mike Tyson. Apparently he spent all his time in this chic town locked up in his hotel room.

The war was one of those tribal conflicts in Africa that Western liberals like to describe as intractable—nothing to be done about it since these ethnic militias are intent on maiming and killing each other. I had read the novel, Johnny Mad Dog, a couple of years ago and knew what the film would be dealing with. Shot in Liberia, it turned out to be a lurid, fast-paced account of a group of child soldiers running amok in unnamed African villages and towns.

The child actors, speaking in Liberian patois that is almost understandable for English speakers, wear an array of colorful hand-me-down clothes that American thrift stores export to the west coast of Africa. They chant crazed mantras like "no die, no born"--if you don’t want to die you should not have been born. They swear constantly, as if reciting one long rap song. Like young teenagers they often lack logic. One of their victims is killed for saying he had bananas in his fruit basket when it was oranges that had tumbled out. The only conclusion to be drawn was that he was an advance spy of government troops.

French director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire does not recreate any of the irony found in Emmanuel Dongala’s novel. Perhaps, in the interests of fairness, he could have included a scene from the book that ridicules the self-serving European peacekeepers—not just the African tribalists.

Christophe Minie is brilliant as Johnny—single-minded, remorseless, and stupid. In the film adaptation he does not get the just desserts that he earns in the novel.

This week the International Criminal Court in The Hague began the trial of a Congolese militia leader accused of war crimes, including conscripting child soldiers into his rebel army. Johnny Mad Dog is an attempt to capture the horrors of child soldiers as both perpetrators and victims.

Terror: the bomb attack on the United Nations mission in Baghdad in 2003 which killed the Secretary General’s Special Envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Sergio only incidentally deals with the sparring between the UN and U.S. authorities in the first months after the invasion. Its focus is instead on the Brazilian diplomat’s many achievements at peacemaking, from Mozambique to East Timor, from Yugoslavia to Cambodia.

The film also centers on his fiancée Carolina, left adrift after his death. The extended interview with her shows the anguish of losing a loved one in Iraq, and it reminds us how universal an emotion grieving is. The suspense built into the film is of the bungled attempt to save Sergio’s life as he lay buried and pinned down in the rubble of the UN mission in Iraq. Juxtaposing two American rescuers—one with deep religious beliefs and the other with only practical concerns—seemed contrived and unworthy of a film about a man who overcame divisions.

Sergio was a ladies’ man as well as a peacemaker. The film makes clear that he abandoned his wife and two young sons in order to follow a career as diplomat, in the process meeting many attractive women. It is fitting, then, that Sergio will be showing on HBO later this year.

Rape. Incest. HIV. That is the story of Precious, a grotesquely overweight sixteen-year-old in Brooklyn who is to boot illiterate, a mother of two, and locked into a violent relationship with her mother. Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire won the two top awards—Grand Jury and Audience—for best U.S. drama at Sundance ’09. A special jury prize for acting was also awarded to Mo’Nique, the abusive mother whose sins of omission—not protecting her daughter from her father’s sexual assaults—overshadowed her own violence against daughter and baby granddaughter. Anyone doubting the strength of maternal instincts would have been taken aback by the collective flinching of females in the audience—at least, they were more expressive than men--as Precious’ newborn baby is battered by her enraged grandmother. Push, directed by Lee Daniels (who produced Oscar winner Monster’s Ball), is harrowing from start to finish. If there is a single gleam of hope in it, it is that Precious rises from illiteracy to an eighth-grade reading level. This is small consolation for all the misfortunes that she suffers.

Remarkably for a Sundance film with three awards, Push did not pick up a distributor at the festival. Times are hard, of course. The most lucrative contract this year--$3.5 million—was for Ashton Kutcher’s sex comedy Spread. Last year Hamlet 2 was picked up for $10 million, and it proceeded to bomb at the box office. The commercial versus indie dichotomy that some festival goers approach a film with is staggeringly inaccurate. Since I first attended Sundance in 2000, I have observed how films fall into one of four separate categories: 1) those around which a buzz develops and hype quickly follows; 2) the arty, brainy, lefty ones that Adorno and Althusser would love; 3) the award winners; and, 4) the ones picked up by big-time distributors. It is remarkable how mutually exclusive these categories tend to be.

No coverage of Sundance is complete without a mention of lost and found. The Daily Insider reported Sunday that one Festivalgoer had lost and recovered his cell phone three times. A man who lost his camera described it as having a lot of photos of himself with a banana. Someone also brought in to the Lost and Found office a Pomeranian with a pink Mohawk and sweater. It wasn’t difficult to figure out who it belonged to when, soon afterwards, a woman showed up wearing a matching sweater.

Storytelling in Park City resumes in January 2010.
See also: Summarizing Sundance 2009: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Ray Taras, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, is the author of the recently released Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia.

His literature reviews here on the blog include one of Emmanuel Dongala's Johnny Mad Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Michael Shilling's "Rock Bottom"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling.

About the book, from the publisher:
Once, the Blood Orphans had it all: a million-dollar recording contract from Warner Brothers, killer hooks, and cheekbones that could cut glass. Four pretty boys from Los Angeles, they were supposed to be the next big thing, future kings of rock and roll.

But something happened on the way to glory, and now, two years later, along with their coke-fueled, mohawked female manager, they have washed up in Amsterdam for the final show of their doomed and dismal European tour. The singer has become a born-again Buddhist who preaches from the stage, the bass player's raging eczema has turned his hands into a pulpy mess, the drummer is a sex-fiend tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, and the guitar player--the only talented one--is thoroughly cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates.

As they stumble through their final day together, the Blood Orphans find themselves on a comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption.
Read an excerpt from Rock Bottom, and learn more about the book and author at the Rock Bottom website and Michael Shilling's blog.

Michael Shilling earned his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan where he now teaches in the English Department. His short stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices. He is currently working on a novel that takes place in England during the late 1820s, a drama that he describes, roughly, as Jane Eyre meets The Wire.

The Page 69 Test: Rock Bottom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best identical twins in fiction

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best identical twins in fiction.

One entry on Mullan's list:
Jackson and Pierrot

These unnerving nine-year-olds, miserable echoers of each other, are Briony's cousins in Ian McEwan's Atonement, dumped on her family after their mother bolts. Their joint decision to run away leads to the novel's transforming night of chaos and betrayal.
Read about another set of identical twins on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pg. 99: J. Kaufman's "The Origins of Canadian and American Political Differences"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Origins of Canadian and American Political Differences by Jason Kaufman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do the United States and Canada have such divergent political cultures when they share one of the closest economic and cultural relationships in the world? Canadians and Americans consistently disagree over issues such as the separation of church and state, the responsibility of government for the welfare of everyone, the relationship between federal and subnational government, and the right to marry a same-sex partner or to own an assault rifle.

In this wide-ranging work, Jason Kaufman examines the North American political landscape to draw out the essential historical factors that underlie the countries’ differences. He discusses the earliest European colonies in North America and the Canadian reluctance to join the American Revolution. He compares land grants and colonial governance; territorial expansion and relations with native peoples; immigration and voting rights. But the key lies in the evolution and enforcement of jurisdictional law, which illuminates the way social relations and state power developed in the two countries.

Written in an accessible and engaging style, this book will appeal to readers of sociology, politics, law, and history as well as to anyone interested in the relationship between the United States and Canada.
Read an excerpt from The Origins of Canadian and American Political Differences, and learn more about the author and his work at Jason Kaufman's website and blog.

Jason Kaufman is a sociologist and historian. He is the author of For the Common Good? American Civil Society and the Golden Age of Fraternity and numerous articles on American politics and culture. He is the former John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, where he is currently a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

The Page 99 Test: The Origins of Canadian and American Political Differences.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Greg Sanders reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Greg Sanders, author of Motel Girl, a collection of 21 short stories.

His entry begins:
About a month ago a writer friend, David Pollock, loaned me his copy of Thomas Bernhard's novel, The Loser. The story, in first person, follows the unnamed narrator's fictional relationship with the piano playing genius Glenn Gould and a second friend, Wertheimer, whom Gould labels with "The Loser" moniker when the three men are in music school together in the 1950s. Structurally, the third paragraph, which begins on the first page of the novel, goes on to the end of the book, and the entire narrative is an internal monologue. The novel's very bleak in its way (one suicide and lots of talk of death and diminution), but the narrator's disdain for his fellow Austrians—he calls them "cretinous"—and his meditations on the ridiculous delicacy of artists' egos (in this case, he and Wertheimer become convinced of their worthlessness the very fist time they hear Gould play the piano), along with his analysis of the interrelationship between wealth and existential unhappiness (the latter is a luxury only the former can afford) kept me, paradoxically, happy as all get up. The pure bleakness of the novel....[read on]
Greg Sanders' short stories have appeared in a number of journals and magazines, including Mississippi Review, Opium Magazine, Pindeldyboz, Essays & Fictions, The Los Angeles Review, and The Warwick Review. He earned his MFA from the New School in 2004, lives in New York City, and earns his living as a technical writer.

Among the praise for Motel Girl:
"Greg Sanders has hit the bullseye with Motel Girl. The stories—original, often surreal, yet thoroughly convincing—are tone-perfect, exuding a marvelous, full-bodied authority. An astonishingly fine debut."
—Janet Fitch, author of Paint It Black

"Greg Sanders's stories are ingenious and original—but more important, he's a fabulist with a heart."
—David Gates, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Wonders of the Invisible World, Jernigan and Preston Falls.
Learn more about Greg Sanders and his writing at his website, MySpace page, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Greg Sanders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 "other" Scottish poems

For the Times (London), Gerard Carruthers, editor of a new collection of Scottish Poems, selected his top ten Scottish poems not by the famous Robert Burns.

One poem on his list:
Liz Lochhead, "Rapunzstiltskin"

A feminist poem that is indignant and riotously funny at the same time.

& just when our maiden had got

good & used to her isolation,

stopped daily expecting to be rescued.

had come almost to love her tower.

along comes This Prince

with absolutely

all the wrong answers…
Read another Scottish poem not by Robert Burns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Francis' "Stray Dog Winter"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Stray Dog Winter by David Francis.

About the book, from the publisher:
Darcy Bright, a hapless young Australian artist, receives a surprising birthday present from his elusive half-sister Fin, ostensibly in Moscow on a prestigious fellowship painting industrial landscapes. Fin sends Darcy a ticket to the Soviet Union housed in a leather money belt, and an invitation to join her—only if he’s willing to bring the money belt and its contents.

Although their relationship has, in the past, swung between passionate attachment and startling disloyalty, Darcy has been drifting in his own life, and sees this as an opportunity for direction and purpose. Or, at the very least, adventure, and decides to put himself in his sister's hands, bringing himself and the belt into the USSR.

Upon his arrival into the bleak Soviet winter of 1984, Darcy is quickly engulfed in Fin’s mysterious life there, and he becomes entangled in an extortion plot designed to change the course of Cold War history. And as Fin’s true intentions for her brother unfold, the intricacies of the bond between the estranged siblings start to unravel.

With Stray Dog Winter, David Francis has entered Graham Greene territory, placing a naïve hero in the center of political intrigue and betrayal at the end of the Cold War. Atmospheric and suspenseful, this novel is pure Soviet noir, a remarkable tale of love, passion, politics, identity, and espionage.
Visit the Stray Dog Winter website.

David Francis is an Australian lawyer and former international equestrian who lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of the acclaimed novel The Great Inland Sea, which was published in seven countries. He has taught creative writing at University of California Los Angeles/Occidental College and in the Masters of Professional Writing program at University of Southern California.

The Page 69 Test: Stray Dog Winter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pg. 99: Martin J. Wiener's "An Empire on Trial"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: An Empire on Trial: Race, Murder, and Justice under British Rule, 1870–1935 by Martin J. Wiener.

About the book, from the publisher:
An Empire on Trial is the first book to explore the issue of interracial homicide in the British Empire during its height – examining these incidents and the prosecution of such cases in each of seven colonies scattered throughout the world. It uncovers and analyzes the tensions of empire that underlay British rule and delves into how the problem of maintaining a liberal empire manifested itself in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The work demonstrates the importance of the processes of criminal justice to the history of the empire and the advantage of a trans-territorial approach to understanding the complexities and nuances of its workings. An Empire on Trial is of interest to those concerned with race, empire, or criminal justice, and to historians of modern Britain or of colonial Australia, India, Kenya, or the Caribbean. Political and post-colonial theorists writing on liberalism and empire, or race and empire, will also find this book invaluable.

• Shows the importance of criminal justice for the history of empire • Illustrates the centrality of race relations to the history of empire • Combines ‘close to the ground’ case studies with empire-wide overview of a common problem (how can a ‘liberal empire’ work?)
Read an excerpt from An Empire on Trial.

Martin J. Wiener is Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Rice University. His other publications include the books English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 and Men of Blood: Violence, Manliness, and Criminal Justice in Victorian England.

The Page 99 Test: An Empire on Trial.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nina Killham's "Believe Me"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Believe Me by Nina Killham.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the tradition of Jodi Picoult—a fresh, smart, and deeply moving novel about the power of faith, love, and family

Thirteen-year-old Nic Delano has a lot of questions. Like why does he have a babysitter at his age-and where did she get such long legs? But mostly, what exactly is the meaning of life?

His mother, Lucy, an astrophysicist and atheist, has always encouraged Nic to ask questions. But lately she doesn’t like the answers he’s getting. Nic has been hanging out with a group of devout Christians and is starting to embrace the Bible—and a very different view of the heavens.

But when unexpected tragedy strikes, Nic and Lucy’s beliefs are truly to put to the test. And they need each other now more than ever. But will a mother and her son be able to find a common ground where faith meets understanding and love is, ultimately, what endures?
Learn more about the book and author at Nina Killham's website and blog.

Nina Killham's previous novels are How to Cook a Tart and Mounting Desire.

The Page 69 Test: Believe Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books on irrational decision-making

For the Wall Street Journal, Jonah Lehrer, author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist and the forthcoming How We Decide, named a five best list of books on irrational decision-making.

One title on the list:
The Winner's Curse
By Richard H. Thaler
Princeton, 1992

In 2000, the Texas Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to the richest contract in baseball history after participating in a blind auction. If the team had consulted Richard H. Thaler's "The Winner's Curse," it would have known that such auctions invariably lead to irrational offers -- and, indeed, the Rangers' bid (a 10-year contract for $252 million) overshot the next highest offer by about $100 million. In addition to documenting how bidders at auctions operate, Thaler -- a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago -- examines other anomalies, such as the stock market's seasonal fluctuations (nearly one-third of annual returns occur in January) and the surprising unselfishness of people playing economic games. When given $10 and told to share the money with someone else, most people don't keep it all, or even most of it. Instead, they tend to split the cash equally, which is neither selfish nor rational. As Thaler notes, people have a powerful instinct for generosity, which can lead them to do things that flagrantly violate the model of Homo Economicus.
Read about the oldest book on Lehrer's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Summarizing Sundance 2009: Part III

Ray Taras' third report from the Sundance Flim Festival:
Sixteen films were entered in this year’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Among those I had flagged but did not see was Zion and his Brother, a tale of how older brothers can care for younger ones—up to a point. Set in multicultural Haifa, first-time director Eran Merav expressed surprise that Sundance audiences hadn’t grilled him on Israeli politics and focused on his story. “They are very mature,” he observed during a Park City radio station interview. Viewers were caught up in the film’s narrative tension and did not mistake it for that of the region.

One of a number of Canadian entries at this year’s Sundance was Before Tomorrow, ambitiously set in the 1840s in the Arctic tundra and capturing the early interactions between Inuit communities and the European explorers. Based on Morgendagen, a novel by Danish author Jørn Riel, an Inuit and French Canadian woman have teamed up to direct an exercise in aboriginal storytelling.

Unmade Beds by up-and-coming Argentine director Alexis Do Santos (Glue, 2006) follows the mating games of young foreigners hanging out in London. With a lively comme il faut sound track, it is another colorful depiction of ever swinging London—at least that is the image that young non-Londoners stubbornly cling to.

Because of film schedule conflicts, I was also unable to see The Maid, a Chilean film that explores the uniquely South American world of una empleada, a housekeeper employed by a wealthy household who inevitably becomes entangled in the unsavory family conflicts of the bourgeoisie. Cinéma vérité it must be.

I did see three entries, Cliente, An Education, and Corazón del Tiempoall reviewed here yesterday—and found them equally compelling, even though each infused different degrees of intensity and embraced separate cinematic idioms. Yesterday I caught Victoria Day, named after the holiday English Canadians celebrate(and Quebecers grudgingly go along with) on a late Monday in May. Its director, David Bezmozgis, is a writer who captured considerable literary attention with “Natasha,” a short story published in 2005 in Harper’s and included in the 2005 Best American Short Stories. Canadian authors are often ambivalent about being included in a collection under such a title: Salman Rushdie, editor of the 2008 version, told me that of the 20 authors who he phoned to notify of their inclusion, the only one not to get back to him was Alice Munro.

Bezmozgis was born in Latvia and came to Canada as a six-year-old. His film explores the often overlooked immigrant experience of people from eastern—rather than central—Europe. The film dwells on hockey, though the director and screenwriter would deny it. It is hockey that bonds Canadianized son to immigrant Russian father (masterfully played by Sergiy Kotelenets). The hockey team accounts for most of the boy’s friends, whose antics produce the suspense in the film. Bezmozgis told us that his intention was to capture a kid’s first experiences of love, grief, and death—the defining moments a person returns to over and over as he grows older.

The glorification of the Great One—Gretzky—underpins the film, at times in the background as the hockey telecast is drowned out by heated parent-son exchanges, at times in the foreground as a girl’s effort to make out with the boy falters and “Hockey Night in Canada” coverage takes over. As a Canadian I don’t object to any of this, but I do wonder how it will play in Bogalusa or Las Cruces.

Our Q & A focused on whether a film should resolve all the plots and subplots introduced in it. Bezmozgis emphasized that an audience should leave a film with a sense of mystery. That when he filmed an attempted resolution of an ambiguity—the fate of a disappeared teenager—it created greater confusion and he scrapped the part. That a commercial film might require tidying up loose ends, but a Sundance film functions outside the usual norms.

What better metaphor to capture an unresolved plot than to include extended TV coverage of the 1988 Stanley Cup playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers that was tied 3-3 when the power went out in Boston Gardens and the game had to be postponed!

Unresolved conflict anchors Five Minutes of Heaven, an Irish-UK film about the competing emotions of revenge and reconciliation dogging a Catholic who witnessed his older brother get gunned down during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. After thirty years the man is to meet face-to-face the Protestant militia member who killed his brother. The encounter has been arranged by a television producer and has been carefully stage managed. Neither man wants to be part of a made-for-television melodrama. But they do meet later, in the abandoned tenement flat where the killing took place, and thirty years of suppressed feelings are let out.

Five minutes of heaven? That’s how the Catholic envisages stabbing his brother’s killer methodically to death. Does he enjoy those five minutes? You know Guy Hibbert, who wrote the screenplay for Omagh (2005), will not give us a simple answer.

My personal favorite in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition was Lulu and Jimi from German director and screenwriter Oskar Roehler. There are no plot ambiguities, suspenseful confrontations, or unresolved conflicts in it. Jennifer Decker shines as the submissive and but wide-eyed and wacky daughter of an affluent German family. Against the wishes of her diabolic mother Gertrud, she takes up with an African American whose job is to offer bumper car rides at an amusement park. Perhaps you can get through the first ten minutes of this film treating it as commentary on an inegalitarian, racist society. But after that you’re in for a wild ride! This is a fairy tale with transparently fantastical characters. The costumes and props are garish, the dialogue self-parodical, and the plot a string of contretemps implicating ever more incredulous characters: Von Oppeln, the psychiatrist who has transformed Daddy Cool into a basket case; Josephine, who wanders a highway alone at night, then robs Lulu and Jimi of their money; Harry Hass, who fought at Stalingrad and sees himself as a lady killer.

The director effortlessly situates his film in 1950s Germany; there is no going overboard to define time and place. Many Germans of that period are lampooned as racist and hostile. Others are skewered for being racist and indulgent: for them there’s nothing in the world like being entertained by a cool black American, especially when he does a rendition of “Stand By Me.” In the film the forces of good and evil are easy to distinguish, so there is nothing for us to agonize over. We throw our support behind the good guys, as in a fairy tale. Off beat, decentered, irreverent, with a lightness of touch make this one of this year’s must-see Sundance graduates.--Ray Taras
See also: Summarizing Sundance 2009: Part I and Summarizing Sundance 2009: Part II.

Ray Taras, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, is the author of the recently released Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia. His literature reviews here on the blog include Per Petterson's To Siberia.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jana K. Lipman reading?

This weekend's featured contributor to Writers Read: Jana K. Lipman, author of Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution.

Her entry begins:
What am I reading?Thanks so much for asking – and the question makes me sit down and actually process the recent books I have read. And it makes me realize I wish I was reading more fiction.

Right now, I am starting a new research project, and my reading has focused on 19th century US empire. Most of these books have dealt with mapping and the geographies of America in the 19th century. They have made me re-think the “map” of the “United States” again – why is Hawaii a state? California? but not Panama or Puerto Rico? As borders continue to be disputed throughout the contemporary world, I’ve found it constructive to look back in time to re-remember how the areas we often take for granted as “American” have a much more violent and complex history.

Today I’m in the middle of Island World: A History of Hawaii and the United States by Gary Y. Okihiro. Although I still haven’t gotten to Barack Obama’s memoirs, I’m glad to be reading a book about Hawaii this week when the nation is celebrating the inauguration of the first president who grew up in Hawaii. So far, I’ve been intrigued by Okihiro’s descriptions of surfing and indigenous culture and the way in which it was appropriated by white men in California to demonstrate their strength and masculinity. Personally, I can’t surf, but Okihiro’s analysis will never allow me to look at surfing culture in quite the same way…. And it makes me want to read and learn more about Hawaii and its history vis a vis the United States and the Pacific. [read on]
Jana K. Lipman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Tulane University.

Learn more about Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution at the University of California Press website.

Writers Read: Jana K. Lipman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Rick Mofina's "Six Seconds"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Six Seconds by Rick Mofina.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vengeful woman who aches for her place in paradise…

In Iraq an aid worker who lost her husband and child in a brutal attack saves the life of an American contractor. Believing he can help her avenge her family's deaths, she follows him back home to the United States.

An anguished mother desperate to find her child…

In California a soccer mom arrives to pick up her son from school, only to discover that her husband has taken their child and vanished without a trace.

A detective who needs to redeem himself…

In the Rocky Mountains an off-duty cop rescues a little girl from a raging river moments before she utters her final words in his arms. Haunted by failure, he launches an investigation that leads him to a Montana school where time is ticking down on an event that will rewrite history.…

Three strangers entangled in a plot to change the world in only six seconds…
Read an excerpt from the novel and watch the video trailer.

Check out Ali Karim's take on the book at The Rap Sheet.

Rick Mofina is the acclaimed author of the award-winning Reed-Sydowski series (If Angels Fall, Cold Fear, Blood of Others, No Way Back and Be Mine) and the new internationally-acclaimed Jason Wade series (The Dying Hour, Every Fear and A Perfect Grave.)

Visit Rick Mofina's website.

The Page 69 Test: Six Seconds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Louise Penny's "A Rule Against Murder"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny.

About the book, from the author's website:
Wealthy, cultured and respectable, the Finney family is the epitome of gentility. When Irene Finney and her four grown-up children arrive at the Manoir Bellechasse in the heat of summer, the hotel's staff spring into action. For the children have come to this idyllic lakeside retreat for a special occasion - a memorial has been organised to pay tribute to their late father. But as the heat wave gathers strength, it is not just the statue of an old man that is unveiled. Old secrets and bitter rivalries begin to surface, and the morning after the ceremony, a body is found. The family has another member to mourn.

A guest at the hotel, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache suddenly finds himself in the middle of a murder enquiry. The hotel is full of possible suspects - even the Manoir's staff have something to hide, and it's clear that the victim had many enemies. With its remote location, the lodge is a place where visitors come to escape their pasts. Until the past catches up with them.
Learn more about the book and author at Louise Penny's website and her blog.

A Rule Against Murder is the fourth novel in the Three Pines mystery series.

Louise Penny's first Three Pines mystery, Still Life, won the New Blood Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada. In the United States it received the prestigious Anthony and Barry Awards at Bouchercon 2007, as well as the Dilys Award for the book that the members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association most enjoyed selling. Her second in the series, A Fatal Grace, won the 2007 Agatha Award for Best Novel. And her third, The Cruelest Month, was number one on the hardcover Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list in March 2008.

The Page 69 Test: Still Life.

My Book, The Movie: A Fatal Grace.

The Page 99 Test: The Cruelest Month.

The Page 99 Test: A Rule Against Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue