Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What is Nicholas Griffin reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Nicholas Griffin, author of the historical novels The Requiem Shark, House of Sight and Shadow, and Dizzy City, and the nonfiction work, Caucasus.

His entry begins:
I'm heading toward the end of nine months of research for my next book. That means I've read around 120 books, all non-fiction, as well as several hundred articles. The problem with research is not only that so much of it is dry, most of it is happens to be irrelevant to your own end-result, but even the author doesn't know exactly where he or she is heading at this stage. Among the dross, I read many first rate books, two of which, Nelson Mandela's Long Road to Freedom and Walter Russell Mead's God and Gold stand out.

Writers need patience, but patience itself is put in perspective through Mandela's accomplishments, always pushing outwards, reaching outwards, observing, even when all he had was...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Nicholas Griffin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Dizzy City.

Writers Read: Nicholas Griffin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: James Hayman's "The Cutting"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Cutting by James Hayman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From a formidable new voice in suspense fiction comes an edge-of-the-seat story of a homicide detective on the trail of a killer, who slays with exacting precision, and who harbors a terrifying motive

Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe moved from New York City to Portland, Maine, to escape a dark past: both the ex-wife who’d left him for an investment banker, and the tragic death of his brother, a hero cop gone bad. He sought to raise his young daughter away from the violence of the big city ... so he’s unprepared for the horrific killer he discovers, whose bloody trail may lead to Portland’s social elite.

Early on a September evening, the mutilated body of a pretty teenaged girl, a high school soccer star, is found dumped in a scrap-metal yard. She had been viciously assaulted, but her heart had been cut out of her chest with surgical precision. The very same day a young businesswoman, also a blonde and an athlete, was abducted as she jogged through the streets of the city’s west end. McCabe suspects both crimes are the work of the same man---a killer who’s targeting the young---who is clearly well-versed in complex surgical procedures, and who may have struck before. Just as the investigation is beginning, McCabe’s ex-wife reemerges, suddenly determined to reclaim the daughter she heedlessly abandoned years earlier.

With the help of his straight-talking (and, at times, alluring) partner, Maggie Savage, McCabe begins a race against time to rescue the missing woman and unmask a sadistic killer---before more lives are lost.
Read an excerpt from The Cutting, and learn more about the book and author at James Hayman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutting.

--Marshal Zeringue

Harley the lit blogging corgi

Although Harley doesn't do much of the heavy lifting at Kaye Barley's Meanderings and Muses blog, he certainly is a presence there.

Harley and Kaye are the currently featured duo at Coffee with a Canine.

Kaye introduced the couple:
Harley and I live with my husband Donald in Boone, NC, which is a small town in the Western Carolina mountains. When I'm not working, I'm "Mistress of Meanderings and Muses," a terrific little blog which recently had a virtual party in celebration of welcoming 10,000 visitors. And that's after having been around for less than eight months. I'm pretty proud of that, and over the moon proud of Meanderings and Muses where we host writers and fans from the mystery/crime fiction community as guest bloggers. While most of us have roots in the crime fiction world, our conversations at M&M are all over the place. It's fun and it's interesting, and I hope some of your readers will stop by for a visit. You never know who you'll see there, or what we'll be chatting about.

Harley's full name is Harley Doodle Barley. We added the "Doodle" 'cause he was born on the 4th of July, 2005.
Read more at Coffee with a Canine: Kaye Barley & Harley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best marital rows in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best marital rows in literature.

One dust-up on the list:
Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Lydgate and Rosamond marry in mutual passion, but impecuniousness begins to render the husband "disagreeable" to his wife. Their first row is all the ghastlier for producing no raised voices, just the certainty in Rosamond's mind, when Lydgate talks of pawning her jewels, that if she had known this "she would never have married him".
Read about another marital row on Mullan's list.

Middlemarch also made Mullan's list of ten of the best funerals in literature.

Are you a little unsettled for not having read Middlemarch? So are John Banville and Nick Hornby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Patrick Manning's "The African Diaspora"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture by Patrick Manning.

About the book, from the publisher:
Patrick Manning refuses to divide the African diaspora into the experiences of separate regions and nations. Instead, he follows the multiple routes that brought Africans and people of African descent into contact with one another and with Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In weaving these stories together, Manning shows how the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean fueled dynamic interactions among black communities and cultures and how these patterns resembled those of a number of connected diasporas concurrently taking shaping across the globe.

Manning begins in 1400 and traces five central themes: the connections that enabled Africans to mutually identify and hold together as a global community; discourses on race; changes in economic circumstance; the character of family life; and the evolution of popular culture. His approach reveals links among seemingly disparate worlds. In the mid-nineteenth century, for example, slavery came under attack in North America, South America, southern Africa, West Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and India, with former slaves rising to positions of political prominence. Yet at the beginning of the twentieth century, the near-elimination of slavery brought new forms of discrimination that removed almost all blacks from government for half a century.

Manning underscores the profound influence that the African diaspora had on world history, demonstrating the inextricable link between black migration and the rise of modernity, especially in regards to the processes of industrialization and urbanization. A remarkably inclusive and far-reaching work, The African Diaspora proves that the advent of modernity cannot be imaginatively or comprehensively engaged without taking the African peoples and the African continent as a whole into account.
Read an excerpt from The African Diaspora, and learn more about the book at the Columbia University Press website.

Learn more about Patrick Manning's research and teaching at his World History Network webpage.

Patrick Manning is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History and Director of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh and president of the World History Network, a nonprofit corporation fostering research in world history. His books include Slavery and African Life, Migration in World History, and Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past.

The Page 99 Test: The African Diaspora.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pg. 69: Binnie Kirshenbaum's "The Scenic Route"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Scenic Route by Binnie Kirshenbaum.

About the book, from the publisher:
Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia Landsman flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate. Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent—as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler. Her narrative is a tapestry of remembrances and regrets...and her secret shame: a small, cowardly sin of omission. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something small but brave, the refrain "if only" returns to haunt her, leaving Sylvia with one more story of love lived and lost.
Browse inside The Scenic Route, and learn more about the book and author at Binnie Kirshenbaum's website.

Binnie Kirshenbaum is the author of two short story collections and six novels. She is a professor of fiction writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts and lives in New York City.

The Page 69 Test: The Scenic Route.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best vegetables in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best vegetables in literature.

One title on the list:
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

At the Grand Academy of Lagado, Gulliver discovers a scientist who "has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers". His experiments were failing, however, "since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers".
Read about another book on Mullan's list.

Gulliver's Travels
is one of Neil deGrasse Tyson's 5 most important books.

Also see Mullan's list of the ten of the best pieces of fruit in literature and Adam Leith Gollner's top 10 fruit scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pg. 99: T. Lynn Ocean's "Southern Peril"

The current feature at the Page 99 test: Southern Peril by T. Lynn Ocean.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why is it so hard for Jersey Barnes to retire? When a state supreme judge calls in a favor, she tells herself (again) that this is her last case. She must investigate the judge’s brother, Morgan, and his newly-inherited business. When Jersey realizes the DEA is checking on Morgan, too, she finds herself in the middle of a twenty-year-old mystery and a drug ring investigation. Still checking up on her geriatric father and his trouble-making friends, negotiating the steamy friendship/relationship with her bartender Ox, and dodging the flirtacious sparks flying back and forth with the cute DEA agent, Jersey begins to wonder if retirement is ever in her future. On the heels of the lauded Southern Poison, readers will welcome another hilarious, suspenseful, and sun-soaked adventure from the unforgettable Jersey Barnes.
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, Southern Fatality, and Southern Poison.

The Page 69 Test: Southern Fatality.

The Page 69 Test: Southern Poison.

Learn more about the author and her work at T. Lynn Ocean's website.

The Page 99 Test: Southern Peril.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Esther M. Sternberg reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Esther M. Sternberg, author of the recently released Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Her entry begins:
I generally prefer non-fiction to fiction, and tend to read historical biographies, particularly biographies of accomplished women. Most recently I have read the biography Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, by Brenda Maddox; the biography Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd; and the biography Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin. All three of these books not only provide detailed descriptions of the era when these women lived, but also give fascinating insights into the hurdles that they had to overcome in order to accomplish their goals in periods in history when their fields were very much male-dominated. The books are thoughtful in that they reveal character traits in each of these women that helped them make their great contributions despite these challenges and against all odds. The books nonetheless also explore traits that may have hindered them in fully achieving recognition in their own time. The books about scientists (Merian and Franklin) also reveal the history of their particular fields of science, which I find fascinating, in the context of what we know about these fields today.[read on]
Esther M. Sternberg's publications include Healing Spaces and The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, has done extensive research on brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain's stress response on health. She was on the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis, prior to joining the National Institutes of Health in 1986.

Read an excerpt from Healing Spaces, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Dr. Sternberg is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain's stress response on health: the science of the mind-body interaction. A dynamic speaker, recognized by her peers as a spokesperson for the field, she translates complex scientific subjects in a highly accessible manner, with a combination of academic credibility, passion for science and compassion as a physician. Learn more about her research, publications, and professional activities at Esther M. Sternberg's website.

Writers Read: Esther M. Sternberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Gregg Hurwitz's "Trust No One"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Over the past two decades, Nick Horrigan has built a quiet, safe life for himself, living as much under the radar as possible. But all of that shatters when, in the middle of the night, a SWAT team bursts into his apartment, grabs him and drags him to a waiting helicopter. A terrorist— someone Nick has never heard of—has seized control of a nuclear reactor, threatening to blow it up. And the only person he’ll talk to is Nick, promising to tell Nick the truth behind the events that shattered his life twenty years ago.

At seventeen years old, Nick Horrigan made a deadly mistake—one that cost his stepfather his life, endangered his mother, and sent him into hiding for years. Now, what Nick discovers in that nuclear plant leaves him with only two choices—to start running again, or to fight and finally uncover the secrets that have held him hostage all these years.

As Nick peels back layer after layer of lies and deception, buffeted between the buried horrors of the past and the deadly intrigues of the present, he finds his own life—and the lives of nearly everyone he loves—at risk. And the only thing guiding him through this deadly labyrinth are his stepfather’s dying words: TRUST NO ONE. Acclaimed for years by both critics and his peers as one of the finest thriller writers today, Gregg Hurwitz has lived up to all the accolades and expectations with Trust No One, an electrifying and compelling novel that will be remembered for years to come.
Read an excerpt from Trust No One and watch the video trailer.

Learn more about the book and author at Gregg Hurwitz's website and blog.

Gregg Hurwitz is the author of several critically acclaimed thrillers, most recently The Crime Writer which was a finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the ITW Best Novel of the Year award.

My Book, The Movie: The Crime Writer.

The Page 69 Test: Trust No One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five novels about life during the Hapsburg Empire's collapse

Arthur Phillips is the internationally bestselling author of Angelica, The Egyptologist, and Prague, which was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. His latest novel is The Song Is You.

In his Powells.com Q & A, Phillips named "Five Novels That Make You Feel Like You Might Know Something about Life During the Collapse of the Hapsburg Empire."

One book on the list:
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Not the Hapsburgs, admittedly, but you get the idea.)
Read about all five titles on Phillips' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review: Elina Hirvonen's "When I Forgot"

Ray Taras, who covers contemporary world literature for the blog, reviews Elina Hirvonen's When I Forgot (Tin House Books, 2009):
Dysfunctional people, both Finnish and American, populate this short novel. Set principally in Helsinki, it is a story about the poisonous nature of violence. Fathers return from war to suffer psychotic episodes. They hurt their children and scar them for life. The unmistakable antecedent cause setting off this cycle of pathological behavior is war. In this novel, the theme of war extends from the U.S. invasion of Vietnam to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

But it is hard to construe this book as anti-American. Rather it is a melancholic narrative of contemporary life in Finland—one without alcohol, humor, or sisu (“spirit”). Thirty years his younger, Elina Hirvonen is as far removed from the playfulness and joie de vivre of an Arto Paasilinna novel as can be imagined.

First-time author Hirvonen is steeped in current affairs. She has worked as filmmaker, magazine editor, freelance journalist, and TV host. Many of her projects are concerned with the subject of migration. She herself has been living in Zambia writing, filming, and teaching. But the focus of When I Forgot is on Anna, a young Finn whose defining relationships are with her mentally-ill brother Joona and her befuddled American lover Ian. She becomes caregiver to one and anchor to the other. As she puts it, “My relationships had been based on two things: tending to someone’s needs, and despair” (p. 84).

A sense of foreboding affects most of the characters in this novel. They are shaped by the political and social events of the day. History makes Hirvonen’s men and women, they do not make history. This is a study of anomie in one affluent society—Finland-- and of aggression in another—the United States.

“Muddling through” is as much as Anna can aspire to. Dwelling on Mrs. Dalloway and on Virginia Woolf suggests other alternatives of escape to Anna. Hirvonen has acknowledged the inspiration she received from reading Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.

Reflecting the novel’s ambiance, the prose is austere: “The evening was warm and thick with longing, but I felt none of it” (p. 160). The glittering lights of Kaivopuisto park along the harbor in Helsinki are a cause for gloom, not joy. Only mad Joona has character, even if it is to lash out at his sister, or morally blackmail her.

Is this an accurate representation of a despondent, anguish-ridden post- 9/11 world, as the book has been billed? It seems a stretch to read that into the narrative. Private life may indeed be structured by public affairs, by the polis. To one degree or another, America may have been traumatized by terrorism and itself resorted to it. Anna’s caregiving slips may produce harrowing consequences. But even under these conditions, individuals have stronger, freer wills than Hirvonen leads the reader to believe.
--Ray Taras
Ray Taras, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, is the author of the recently released Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia.

He has reviewed the following fiction for the blog:
Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce
Per Petterson's To Siberia
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger
Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses
M.G. Vassanji's The Assassin's Song
3 Works by Dorota Masłowska
Andreï Makine's L’amour humain
Michel Houellebecq's The Possibility of an Island
Emmanuel Dongala's Johnny Mad Dog
Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide

Read an excerpt from When I Forgot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Paul Martin Midden's "Toxin," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Toxin by Paul Martin Midden.

The entry begins:
Toxin is a book about a senator who gets involved in a plot to alter the United States. Because so many people have been so paranoid about this kind of thing in recent years, it seems like a prime time to make a movie about it.

There are problems, of course: for the most part, senators are boring middle-aged, rich white guys, so it is not often that they figure in novels. Jake Telemark, the protagonist of Toxin, is an unrich, unpedigreed middle-aged guy who just happens to be a senator. He is also an assassin, which makes him interesting.

Who to play Jake? He is a thoughtful guy, capable of reflection, but he is also willing to take action and put plans in motion. A rumpled guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Sean Penn would do well because both of them have the range and complexity to pull this off. If Harrison Ford were fifteen years younger, he would have been ideal.

Now Isadore Hathaway, the love interest and fellow conspirator, needs to be tall, beautiful, bright, and...[read on]
Read more about Toxin at New Books.

Paul Martin Midden is a psychologist who currently serves as Clinical Director of a nationally-recognized treatment center. Absolution, his debut novel, was released in 2007.

My Book, The Movie: Toxin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: books on U.S. history

At the Wall Street Journal, Neal Bascomb, author of Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most ­Notorious Nazi, named a five best list of books on U.S. history.

One title on his list:
The Children
by David Halberstam
Random House, 1998

In a Montgomery bus station on May 20, 1961, a young man got down on his knees and prayed for the strength to love the racist mob closing in on him. “When he tried to get up, someone kicked him violently in the back, so viciously that three vertebrae on his spine were cracked.” This is one ­visceral scene among scores of others in David Halberstam’s “The Children,” a sweeping portrait of Nashville activists, most of them students, who brought courageous nonviolent protest to the civil-rights struggle in the Deep South. Halberstam covered the movement as a young reporter for the ­Tennessean, and when he wrote this book four decades later, the memory of those students clearly still burned in his heart.
Read about another book on Bascomb's list.

Also see, Gordon Wood's five best list of books on American history.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Chris Knopf's "Hard Stop"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Hard Stop by Chris Knopf.

About the book, from Publishers Weekly:
Sam Acquillo, who left his job as head of the Technical Services and Support Division of Con Globe for the humdrum life of a skilled carpenter in the Hamptons, is still a magnet for trouble in Knopf’s rewarding fourth mystery (after 2008’s Head Wounds). George Donovan, Con Globe’s chairman of the board, tries a carrot and stick approach to get Acquillo to find his missing girlfriend, Iku Kinjo, a “brilliant and compelling” consultant. Half of that ploy works, and Acquillo is drawn back into the deadly machinations of corporate intrigue, where the payoff may be wealth or death. Knopf blends familiar elements (cop ally; cop nemesis; bad ex-wife; beautiful, independent girlfriend) in unusually pleasing fashion and adds plenty of original touches as well. Aside from his surprising computer illiteracy, Acquillo is a savvy operator who loves problem solving and has the tenacity of a pit bull. His penchant for intriguing predicaments bodes well for a long and successful series.
Visit Chris Knopf's website to learn more about the Sam Acquillo Hamptons mysteries.

Coffee with a canine: Chris Knopf & Sam.

My Book, The Movie: Two Time.

The Page 99 Test: Hard Stop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pg. 69: Bridget Asher's "The Pretend Wife"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Bridget Asher's The Pretend Wife.

About the book, from the publisher:
What would life be like with the one who got away? From the author of My Husband’s Sweethearts—hailed as “a laugh-and-cry novel”* that’s “whip-smart, tender…an undiluted joy to read”**—comes this bighearted, funny, fiercely perceptive tale about a happily married woman and the little white lie that changed everything.…

For Gwen Merchant, love has always been doled out in little packets—from her father, a marine biologist who buried himself in work after her mother’s death; and from her husband, Peter, who’s always been respectable and safe. But when an old college boyfriend, the irrepressible Elliot Hull, invites himself back into Gwen’s life, she starts to remember a time when love was an ocean.

What does Elliot want? In fact, he has a rather surprising proposition: he wants Gwen to become his wife. His pretend wife. Just for a few days. To accompany him to his family’s lake house for the weekend so that he can fulfill his dying mother’s last wish. Reluctantly Gwen agrees to play along—with her husband Peter’s full support. It’s just one weekend—what harm could come of it?

But as Gwen is drawn into Elliot’s quirky, wonderful family—his astonishingly wise and open mother, his warm and welcoming sister, and his adorable, precocious niece—she starts questioning everything she’s ever expected from love. And as she begins to uncover a few secrets about her own family, it suddenly looks like a pretend relationship just might turn out to be the most real thing she’s ever known.
Read an excerpt from The Pretend Wife, and learn more about the book and author at Bridget Asher's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pretend Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lisa See: notable books about China

Lisa See's most recent book is Shanghai Girls.

For Powell's, she named several books that "have made me think about China in new ways, pressed me to be more critical (and sometimes more forgiving) of the country, have captured a moment or a subject in a unique way, or have knocked my socks off with the audacity of the subject or the skill of the writer."

One of the titles:
Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine by Jasper Becker

To my knowledge, this is the most complete and thorough examination of China's Great Leap Forward, when 30 million people died of starvation caused by Mao's attempt at utopian agricultural policies. It's rare to read a book so well researched, thoughtful, and provocative. I can't stop thinking about it.
Read about another book on See's list.

Also see 2008's best China books and Five Good Short Books on China.

The Page 99 Test: Lisa See's Peony in Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kevin Kenny reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Kevin Kenny, author of the newly released Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment.

His entry begins:
I am currently reading Peter Kolchin’s American Slavery, 1619-1877. A classic in its field, American Slavery was first published in 1993. The current Tenth Anniversary edition comes with a new Preface and Afterword by Kolchin. Accessible to specialists and general readers alike, this elegantly written book covers the period from the beginnings of American slavery through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Kolchin offers a remarkably balanced account of a highly contentious topic, viewing the “peculiar institution” from the perspectives of the slaves, the slave owners, non-slaveowning Southerners, and Northern observers across the political spectrum. He shows how American slavery, far from being a static or monolithic evil, changed over time and spread across space, assuming very different forms in different periods and places. And he interweaves the relevant scholarly controversies into his narrative with a nice, light touch. As the author of Unfree Labor (1990), a study of American slavery and Russian serfdom, Kolchin also excels at placing his subject in comparative contexts, especially Brazil and the Caribbean. He describes American Slavery, 1619-1877 as a “short, interpretive survey” and it is without question the best of its kind.[read on]
Kevin Kenny is Professor of History at Boston College, where he teaches the history of Atlantic migration and popular protest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition to Peaceable Kingdom Lost (Oxford University Press, 2009), he is the author of The American Irish: A History (Longman, 2000), and Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (Oxford University Press, 1998); and contributing editor of New Directions in Irish-American History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003) and Ireland and the British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2004). He teaches courses on the history of American immigration, race, and ethnicity.

Read more about Peaceable Kingdom Lost at the Oxford University Press website, and see the related essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The ‘holy experiment’ was too good to last,” and his recent entry on OUPblog, Immigrants and Native Americans.”

Learn more about Kevin Kenny's scholarship at his Boston College faculty webpage.

Writers Read: Kevin Kenny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pg. 99: Anne Rose's "Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South by Anne C. Rose.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the American South at the turn of the twentieth century, the legal segregation of the races and psychological sciences focused on selfhood emerged simultaneously. The two developments presented conflicting views of human nature. American psychiatry and psychology were optimistic about personality growth guided by the new mental sciences. Segregation, in contrast, placed racial traits said to be natural and fixed at the forefront of identity. In a society built on racial differences, raising questions about human potential, as psychology did, was unsettling.

As Anne Rose lays out with sophistication and nuance, the introduction of psychological thinking into the Jim Crow South produced neither a clear victory for racial equality nor a single-minded defense of traditional ways. Instead, professionals of both races treated the mind-set of segregation as a hazardous subject. Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South examines the tensions stirred by mental science and restrained by southern custom.

Rose highlights the role of southern black intellectuals who embraced psychological theories as an instrument of reform; their white counterparts, who proved wary of examining the mind; and northerners eager to change the South by means of science. She argues that although psychology and psychiatry took root as academic disciplines, all these practitioners were reluctant to turn the sciences of the mind to the subject of race relations.
Learn more about Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South at the publisher's website.

Anne C. Rose is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

The Page 99 Test: Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky

The current feature at Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. In addition to her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, she has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama.

Lucky got his name from a work of fiction...and has earned a role in Riggle's next novel:
My son Sam named him. We surprised Sam with the dog; my husband went by himself to go pick the dog up. As soon as Sam saw him, he lit up with pure joy and said, "I'll name him Lucky, hi Lucky!" and that was that. Sam had been reading a bedtime story about a boy with a dog named Lucky. I always liked the name Frodo for a dog, so in my next book, I named a dog Frodo (and also gave Lucky a role in the book, too!).
Browse inside Real Life & Liars, and learn more about the book and author at Kristina Riggle's website.

Writers Read: Kristina Riggle.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

Read--Coffee with a canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Scott Lasser's "The Year That Follows"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Year That Follows by Scott Lasser.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of a woman’s search for her brother’s lost son, orphaned in the wake of his sudden death, drives Scott Lasser’s riveting new novel—a work of stunning economy and momentum about a woman’s quest and a family’s longing for wholeness and completion.

Cat is a single mother living in Detroit when her brother is killed in New York, and she sets off in search of his child. Her search is still under way when she gets a call from her father. Sam is eighty and carrying the weight of a secret he has kept from her all her life. He asks Cat to visit him in California, intending to make his peace.

Cat’s journey—toward her father, and her brother’s infant son—and Sam’s journey toward his daughter, his lost son, and a new relationship to both his future and his past are woven into this superbly realized novel about families and the mysteries and ambiguities that inhere in our most primal relations. The result is a deeply stirring work that explores the complexities of home and heritage, and the bonds that even death is powerless to diminish.
Read an excerpt from The Year That Follows, and learn more about the author and his work at Scott Lasser's website and blog.

Scott Lasser's novels include Battle Creek and All I Could Get. His non-fiction has appeared in magazines ranging from Dealmaker (for which he wrote a regular book column) to The New Yorker.

The Page 69 Test: The Year That Follows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kim Stanley Robinson's ten favorite Mars novels

Kim Stanley Robinson made his mark as a science-fiction writer with the 1990s Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. For the IEEE Spectrum, he named his "10 Favorite Mars Novels.”

One title on the list:
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury (1950). By the 1930s, telescopes and radio astronomy made it seem that Mars lacked both water and oxygen, and so the Lowell dream began to die. One of the first and greatest responses to this ”dry Mars” realization was Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece. A series of linked stories, it was the first Mars fiction to suggest that whatever we find on Mars, we will be bringing our old dreams of the place along to haunt us. And the book’s final image will always express another basic Martian truth: We are the Martians we seek.
Read about another book on Kim Stanley Robinson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is Alissa Hamilton reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice.

Part of her entry:
If you're more in the mood for a thriller, I recommend A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle With a Deadly Industry, by David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Kessler was largely responsible for exposing and cracking down on the tobacco industry. Although the book was published in 2001, it is timely given a recent article co-authored by Kelly Brownell, Yale psychologist and author of Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About it, and Kenneth Warner, tobacco researcher and Dean of the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, about the similarities in the marketing tactics used by the food and tobacco industries.[read on]
Alissa Hamilton holds a Ph.D. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a J.D. from the University of Toronto Law School. She has been a Graham Research Fellow in International Human Rights at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She is currently a 2008-2009 Food and Society Policy Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Visit Squeezed's home page at the Yale University Press website, to view reviews, an excerpt, and more.

Check out Alissa Hamilton's blog.

Writers Read: Alissa Hamilton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's "Morality Without God?"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Morality Without God? by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right.

Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance.
Read more about Morality Without God? at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Morality Without God?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 literary ménages à trois

Ewan Morrison is the author of the novels Distance, Swung, and the soon-to-be-released Ménage as well as the collection of short stories The Last Book You Read. He writes a weekly column for Scotland on Sunday under the name Weegie Bored.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of literary ménages à trois.

One book on the list:
Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

The erotic novel that Hemingway suppressed during his own lifetime, and left incomplete on his death, is set in the Cote d'Azur in the 1920s and tells the story of an author, his adventurous wife, and the psycho-sexual games they play while sharing a young woman. It is largely held to be autobiographical.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Linda Castillo's "Sworn to Silence"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Some secrets are too terrible to reveal... Some crimes are too unspeakable to solve...

In the sleepy rural town of Painters Mill, Ohio, the Amish and “English” residents have lived side by side for two centuries. But sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community. In the aftermath of the violence, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence. Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish.

Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate has been asked to return to Painters Mill as Chief of Police. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate. She’s certain she’s come to terms with her past—until the first body is discovered in a snowy field. Kate vows to stop the killer before he strikes again. But to do so, she must betray both her family and her Amish past—and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.
Read an excerpt from Sworn to Silence, and learn more about the book and author at Linda Castillo's website.

Linda Castillo is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, the Holt Medallion and a nomination for the Rita.

The Page 69 Test: Sworn to Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shattered childhoods: 20 books

One title on AbeBooks' list of 20 books of shattered childhoods:
Mister Pip
Lloyd Jones

Thirteen-year-old Matilda sees her South Pacific island wrecked by the violence of a civil war in the 1990s. During the chaos, the island′s only white person begins teaching Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in the school and, of course, there is a massive disconnection between Victorian England and a small island near Papua New Guinea. The mother-daughter relationship is also vital in this moving novel that won the Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Read about another book on the list. [h/t to escapegrace]

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marc Bekoff & Jessica Pierce's "Wild Justice"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce.

About the book, from the publisher:
Scientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she was injured by a rambunctious teenage male? Or a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw that doing so caused another rat to be shocked? Aren’t these clear signs that animals have recognizable emotions and moral intelligence? With Wild Justice Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce unequivocally answer yes.

Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Bekoff and Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility. Animals, in short, are incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. Ultimately, Bekoff and Pierce draw the astonishing conclusion that there is no moral gap between humans and other species: morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.

Sure to be controversial, Wild Justice offers not just cutting-edge science, but a provocative call to rethink our relationship with—and our responsibilities toward—our fellow animals.
Read an excerpt from Wild Justice, and learn more about the book at the University of Chicago Press website.

Marc Bekoff has published numerous books, including The Emotional Lives of Animals, and has provided expert commentary for many media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC. Jessica Pierce has taught and written about philosophy for many years. She is the author of a number of books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics.

The Page 99 Test: Wild Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Attica Locke's "Black Water Rising"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke.

About the book, from the publisher:
Writing in the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Greg Iles, Attica Locke, a powerful new voice in American fiction, delivers a brilliant debut thriller that readers will not soon forget.

Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he's long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora's box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston's corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

With pacing that captures the reader from the first scene through an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.
Browse inside Black Water Rising, and learn more about the book and author at Attica Locke's website.

Attica Locke is a writer who has worked in both film and television. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has written movie scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, and Jerry Bruckheimer films, as well as television pilots for HBO, Dreamworks, and Silver Pictures. She is currently at work on an HBO miniseries about the civil rights movement.

The Page 69 Test: Black Water Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2009

Henry Perez's "Killing Red," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Killing Red by Henry Perez.

The entry begins:
Like a lot of people I know, I developed an obsession for movies at an early age. I studied film, both production and theory, in college, and tend to think of my stories in a visual, cinematic way as I’m writing them.

In writing Killing Red, my debut mystery, I approached the plotting and pacing much like I would a screenplay. I got the action on the page in my first draft, making sure there was nothing there that was unnecessary or that might slow things down. I colored in many of the details in subsequent revisions.

So discussing what it might be like to see my first book turned into a film seems quite natural in a way. Killing Red is the story of Alex Chapa, a Chicago-area newspaper reporter who made a name for himself fifteen years ago when he broke the story of the capture of Kenny Lee Grubb, after a young girl named Annie Sykes escaped and led police to the mass murderer’s home. Now, less than a week before Grubb is to be executed, Chapa is summoned to the prison for one last interview. But instead of the usual death row confessional or final declarations of innocence, Grubb boasts that a copycat has been retracing his steps, and that Annie Sykes, now in her twenties, will be the final victim. Chapa has just a few days to find Annie before someone else does.

The first question authors are usually asked on the subject of their book being turned into a film concerns casting, and I’ve heard some speak candidly about having this actor or that actress in mind when they were creating a character. I...[read on]
Preview Killing Red, and learn more about the book and author at Henry Perez's website and blog.

Henry Perez has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. Born in Cuba, he immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, and lives in the Chicago area with his wife and children.

My Book, The Movie: Killing Red.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Caitlin O'Connell reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Caitlin O'Connell, author of The Elephant’s Secret Sense and the upcoming The Boys Club about male society from the elephant perspective. She is also co-author of a children’s nonfiction science book called The Elephant Scientist. Her essay in the August issue (2009) of The Writer magazine strives to assist the nature writer in “casting words in nature’s best light.”

Her entry begins:
Because I teach a creative writing class for Stanford’s Continuing Studies program, I’m always on the lookout for books to recommend to my students on the craft of writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott was recently recommended and it didn’t take long to see why. Part of my phobia of self-help books is the assumption that they deliver dry facts on how I should behave within the discipline of writing and inevitably make me feel like I’ve somehow failed at my craft if I’m not able to do my daily writing exercises, keep a diary and be religious about outlining prior to writing. Anne Lamott blows those fears out of the water with her wonderful and frank personal narrative about a writer’s struggles, failures and successes, while weaving in motives for trying some concrete, very accessible tools to assist writers in moving forward with their goals. I highly recommend this book to writers, would-be writers, as well as readers looking for a fun personal narrative.[read on]
Read an excerpt from The Elephant’s Secret Sense and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Elephant’s Secret Sense.

Writers Read: Caitlin O'Connell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best births in fiction

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best births in literature.

One title on the list:
Beloved by Toni Morrison

Runaway slave Sethe is trying to make it across the Ohio river to a state where blacks are free. Short of her goal she goes into labour in a field of camomile, sure that she will die. But Amy, a young white girl, helps her to a nearby shed, where she gives birth to Denver.
Read about another birth on Mullan's list.

Beloved also appears on Kit Whitfield's top ten list of genre-defying novels and on top of one list of contenders for the title of the single best work of American fiction published in the last twenty-five years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Julie Metz's "Perfection"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.

“He loved you so much.” That’s what everyone keeps telling her. It’s true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. The most damaging affair was ongoing—a tumultuous relationship that ended only with Henry’s death. For Julie, the only thing to do was to get at the real truth—to strip away the veneer of “perfection” that was her life and confront each of the women beneath the veneer.

Perfection is the story of Julie Metz’s journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness—if not perfection.
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Perfection.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coffee with a canine: Chris Knopf & Sam

Hard Stop, Chris Knopf's fourth and latest Hamptons Mystery novel, is now available from booksellers everywhere.

Kirkus called protagonist Sam Acquillo an "appealing hero" who is complemented by "a colorful entourage that includes endearing Eddie, the anti-Marley dog, mak[ing] for a lively and entertaining mix."

"Eddie, the anti-Marley dog" is more formally known as Eddie van Halen, and he shares certain character traits with Knopf's 9-year-old soft-coated Wheaten terrier, Sam, who is named after Samuel Beckett, another famous Irish existentialist.

Knopf and Sam are featured in the inaugural post of my new blog, Coffee with a Canine.

Learn more about Sam and Chris at Chris Knopf's website.

Read--Coffee with a canine: Chris Knopf & Sam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Robert Dugoni's "Wrongful Death"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death by Robert Dugoni.

About the book, from the publisher:
Just minutes after winning a $1.6 million wrongful-death verdict, attorney David Sloane confronts the one case that threatens to blemish his unbeaten record in the courtroom. Beverly Ford wants Sloane to sue the United States government and military in the mysterious death of her husband, James, a national guardsman killed in Iraq. While a decades-old military doctrine might make Ford's case impossible to win, Sloane, a former soldier himself, is compelled to find justice for the widow and her four children in what is certain to become the biggest challenge of his career.

With little hard evidence to go on, Sloane calls on his friend, reclusive former CIA agent turned private investigator Charles Jenkins, to track down the other men serving with Ford the night he died. Alarmingly, two of the four who returned home alive didn't stay that way for long, and though the mission's wheelchairbound commander now works for a civilian contractor, he refuses to talk. The final -- and youngest -- soldier is also the most elusive, but he's their only shot at discovering the truth -- if Sloane and Jenkins can keep him alive long enough to tell it.

Meanwhile, Sloane isn't the only one on a manhunt. As he propels his case into a federal courtroom, those seeking to hide the truth threaten Sloane's family, forcing his new wife Tina and stepson Jake into hiding, where they become the targets of a relentless killer. Now Sloane must race to uncover what really happened on that fatal mission, not only to bring justice to a family wronged but to keep himself and the people closest to him from becoming the next casualties...
Read an excerpt from Wrongful Death, and learn more about the book and author at Robert Dugoni's website and blog.

Robert Dugoni is the New York Times bestselling author of The Jury Master and Damage Control.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books about criminals

Elliott Gorn, who teaches history and American Civilization at Brown ­University, is the author of Dillinger’s Wild Ride: The Year That Made America’s Public Enemy ­Number One. For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about criminals.

One book on the list:
Pickpocket’s Tale
by Timothy Gilfoyle
Norton, 2006

Years ago, historian Timothy Gilfoyle found in the archives the crudely written, 99-page memoir of a minor New York crime figure, George Appo. With “A Pickpocket’s Tale,” Gilfoyle builds a story of the urban demimonde around Appo’s own words. Half Irish and half Chinese, his mother dead and his father in prison, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points section of Lower Manhattan, where he learned the art of the scam and went on to become a “con artist, a trickster extraordinaire.” Appo’s story is an amazing one, set in brothels and opium dens, night courts and prisons. Gilfoyle skillfully depicts this underworld of poverty and brutality, pluck and luck, against the backdrop of opulent Gilded Age New York.
Read about another book on the list.

See Theodore Dalrymple's list of favorite books on the criminal mind.

--Marshal Zeringue