Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What is Edward M. Lerner reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Edward M. Lerner, author of Fools’ Experiments, Small Miracles, and the newly released InterstellarNet: Origins.

His entry begins:
Immersed as I am daily in science fiction, I take a break -- when I can -- with reading that is neither science nor fiction. Recently, that’s meant Eyewitness to History, edited by John Carey.

Carey has selected eyewitness accounts from around the world and spanning more than two millennia. He opens with Thucydides describing plague in Athens (430 BC) amid the Peloponnesian War and ends with James Fenton’s account of the (1986) ouster of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. What these accounts – more than 250 of them – share is vivid, first-hand narrative.

Eyewitness to History is a book to be sampled and savored, not read cover to cover. In part that’s because so much of history reflects man’s inhumanity to man. To proceed from one atrocity to the next would be too much. Trust me: you won’t soon forget...[read on]
Among the early praise for InterstellarNet: Origins:
“One of the most original, believable, thoroughly thought-out, and utterly fascinating visions ever of what interstellar contact might really be like.”
–Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog

“Lerner mixes physics, computer science, and economics into a series of very intellectually satisfying puzzles. Some of the puzzles involve understanding the alien, and some depend on understanding ourselves … A very satisfying read, especially for the intellectually inclined.”
–Mike Brotherton, author of Spider Star

“Edward Lerner takes us from a first SETI detection to full scale interstellar net economics, with thrills along the way. No one had thought through what a working interstellar net would be like. Lerner has the professional heft to make sense of it, tell a story, and make us care. Good stuff, told in clear, quick prose. A groundbreaking job!”
–Gregory Benford, author of Timescape
Learn more about the author and his work at his website Edward M. Lerner, perpetrator of science fiction and techno-thrillers, and blog SF and Nonsense.

The Page 99 Test: Small Miracles.

The Page 69 Test: Fools’ Experiments.

Writers Read: Edward M. Lerner.

-- Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 LA noir novels

Jonathan Kellerman is the author of the Alex Delaware novels. He named a top ten list of LA noir novels for the Guardian.

One title on his list:
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Not a crime novel per se, this book remains the finest account of Hollywood heartbreak ever written. If it's noir you're looking for, this one's saturated with nuclear fatalism. And would-be starlets.
Read about another book on Kellerman's list.

The Day of the Locust
also figures among Jane Ciabattari's 5 best novels on Hollywood and Jonathan Evison's list of books about the Spirit of California; it is one of Peter Conn's five best novels from the Great Depression.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Don Dahler's "Water Hazard"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Water Hazard by Don Dahler.

About the book, from the publisher:
The follow-up to the critically acclaimed A Tight Lie--a darkly funny, fast-talking mystery with a dash of sports and no shortage of action

Golf is a game of consistency, and after too many missed fairways, missed putts, and missed cuts, Huck Doyle’s career as a Tour pro is on life support. The sometime private eye has lost his full-time PGA player status and is back to scraping it out on minor tournaments. So it’s only by the generosity of the father of an old law-school pal, Rick Wong, that Huck finds himself in paradise with a rare sponsor’s exemption, gearing up to play in the Sony Open in Hawaii. But when his benefactor keels over dead from a gunshot during a practice round, Huck is obligated to find out who killed the millionaire banker and pillar of the community. Is it the young wife? A competitor trying to stop a secret bank merger? Or was it an assassination ordered from some distant shores?

With his brother undergoing an experimental spinal-cord treatment and his relationship with a beautiful medical examiner showing some strain, Huck has more than enough on his mind as he tees off in a career-changing match. As the investigation carries him into the murky waters of international finance, computer encryptions, and the dark side of paradise, Huck finds himself playing the game of his life, on and off the golf course.

In the footsteps of Tim Green and Mike Lupica, Don Dahler has once again written a riveting mystery that brings the world of sports into crime fiction. Water Hazard will satisfy thriller readers and golf fanatics alike.
Learn more about the book and author at Don Dahler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Water Hazard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robert Perkinson's "Texas Tough"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire by Robert Perkinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vivid history of America’s biggest, baddest prison system and how it came to lead the nation’s punitive revolution

In the prison business, all roads lead to Texas. The most locked-down state in the nation has led the way in criminal justice severity, from assembly-line executions to isolation supermaxes, from prison privatization to sentencing juveniles as adults. Texas Tough, a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, shows how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became the national template.

Drawing on convict accounts, official records, and interviews with prisoners, guards, and lawmakers, historian Robert Perkinson reveals the Southern roots of our present-day prison colossus. While conventional histories emphasize the North’s rehabilitative approach, he shows how the retributive and profit-driven regime of the South ultimately triumphed. Most provocatively, he argues that just as convict leasing and segregation emerged in response to Reconstruction, so today’s mass incarceration, with its vast racial disparities, must be seen as a backlash against civil rights.

Illuminating for the first time the origins of America’s prison juggernaut, Texas Tough points toward a more just and humane future.
Read an excerpt from Texas Tough, and learn more about the book and author at the Texas Tough website.

Robert Perkinson is currently a professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2006.

The Page 99 Test: Texas Tough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Win Blevins' books, the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Win Blevins' Stone Song and other books.

The entry begins:
If they make my book into a movie, they can use anyone they damn well please. One book was extraordinarily close to being made, directed by John Milius, with Clint Eastwood, got into pre-production and two months from shoot date and delayed. Never...[read on]
Win Blevins' many books include the novel Stone Song (which won the Spur award and the Mountains and Plains Booksellers award for fiction), three volumes of informal history, a volume of natural history, and a dictionary. He has also sold several screenplays and countless short stories and magazine and newspaper articles.

Visit Win Blevins' website and the blog for his alter ego, author Caleb Fox.

The Page 69 Test: Caleb Fox's Zadayi Red.

My Book, The Movie: Win Blevins' Stone Song and other books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four of the greatest alternative Irish writers

Max McGuinness, a columnist at The Dubliner, named four unjustly overlooked Irish writers for The Daily Beast.

One author on the list:
Gene Kerrigan

Whereas Julian Gough has scoured the underbelly of the Celtic Tiger for laughs, Gene Kerrigan writes grimly realistic crime novels on the same theme. An experienced investigative journalist, Kerrigan nevertheless seems to have reserved his greatest exposés for novels like The Midnight Choir and Little Criminals, whose engrossing mastery of the sordid detail of underworld life is on a par with that of The Wire.

Kerrigan is even beginning to show signs of developing his fiction into a powerful social critique, with echoes of Dashiell Hammett. Last year’s Dark Times in the City expertly captures the anomie of life in a contemporary Dublin scarred by rampant property speculation and social breakdown. As the country faces what many are already calling a “lost decade,” thanks to perhaps the worst economic crisis of any Western country, it is unlikely that Kerrigan will find himself short of material any time soon.
Read about another writer on McGuinness' list.

Also see Frank Delaney's top 10 Irish novels, Foyles' top 10 list of contemporary Irish novels, Brian McGilloway's top ten modern Irish crime novels, and Declan Burke's top ten list of Irish crime fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: James Hynes's "Next"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Next by James Hynes.

About the novel, from the publisher:

Kevin Quinn is an average, middle-aged, liberal-leaning, self-centered, emotionally-damaged American. As he travels to Austin, Texas, for a job interview, he contemplates lost opportunities in romance, apocalyptic visions, and how to reinvent himself. Next is a funny, moving, sexy, and surprising novel that takes place over the course of a day that begins unusually and will end dramatically, when Kevin learns, at last, what happens next.
Read an excerpt from Next, and learn more about the book and author at James Hynes's website and blog.

Hynes is the author of The Lecturer’s Tale, Wild Colonial Boy, Publish & Perish (all New York Times Notable Books of the Year), and the novel Kings of Infinite Space. He lives in Austin, Texas.

The Page 69 Test: Next.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is Dinty W. Moore reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Dinty W. Moore, author of the memoir Between Panic & Desire, The Accidental Buddhist, Toothpick Men, The Emperor’s Virtual Clothes, and the writing guide, The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.

His entry begins:
I am currently reading Philip Graham’s The Moon, Come to Earth, a fascinating blend of travel writing and family memoir set in Lisbon. I love the way the book refuses to limit itself to one mode or the other, and how Graham’s various turns and twists eventually combine to make a whole much greater than the sum of the parts. He is also just a clear, enjoyable, funny writer.

Like everyone else in the nonfiction world, I’m also reading...[read on]
Moore’s memoir Between Panic & Desire was winner of the 2009 Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize.

Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues.

He has won numerous awards for his writing, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. He directs Ohio University's BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program.

Visit Dinty Moore's website.

Writers Read: Dinty W. Moore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on sisters

Zoë Heller named a five best list of books on sisters for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
Transit of Venus
by Shirley Hazzard
Viking, 1980

"You could see the two sisters had passed through some unequivocal experience, which, though it might not interest others, had formed and indissolubly bound them." The experience that binds Caroline and Grace Bell in this wise and elegant novel is to have been orphaned at an early age and raised in the grim suburbs of Sydney by their resentment-crabbed step-sister, Dora. As young women, they flee their suffocating life on the colonial fringes, for England, where their sentimental educations begin in earnest. The account of their respective journeys through romance, marriage and betrayal is part love story, part mystery, part engrossing novel of ideas. Shirley Hazzard is one of the rare writers whose work is equally satisfying at both a micro and a macro level—which is to say, her sentences are as finely wrought and as carefully plotted as her larger story.
Read about another book on the list.

Transit of Venus is one of Jennifer Egan's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Tom Lowe's "The 24th Letter"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The 24th Letter by Tom Lowe.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Father John Callahan hears the confession of a frightened prison inmate, he learns that a man facing lethal injection is innocent. The lead investigator on the case, his friend Sean O’Brien, is still haunted by the case. The 24th letter in the Greek alphabet—Omega—may provide the key to uncovering the killer’s identity.
Watch the trailer for The 24th Letter, and learn more about the book and author at Tom Lowe's website.

Tom Lowe has written 7 screenplays and is an award winning documentary writer/director whose films have aired nationwide on PBS. The films include: The Sponge Divers of Tarpon Springs, River Into the New World, Feather Wars, The Last Cowboys and Zora’s Roots.

A False Dawn, his first novel published by St. Martin’s Press, introduced former homicide detective Sean O'Brien.

The Page 69 Test: The 24th Letter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marion Blute's "Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution: Solutions to Dilemmas in Cultural and Social Theory by Marion Blute.

About the book, from the publisher:
Social scientists can learn a lot from evolutionary biology - from systematics and principles of evolutionary ecology to theories of social interaction including competition, conflict and cooperation, as well as niche construction, complexity, eco-evo-devo, and the role of the individual in evolutionary processes. Darwinian sociocultural evolutionary theory applies the logic of Darwinism to social-learning based cultural and social change. With a multidisciplinary approach for graduate biologists, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, social psychologists, archaeologists, linguists, economists, political scientists and science and technology specialists, the author presents this model of evolution drawing on a number of sophisticated aspects of biological evolutionary theory. The approach brings together a broad and inclusive theoretical framework for understanding the social sciences which addresses many of the dilemmas at their forefront - the relationship between history and necessity, conflict and cooperation, the ideal and the material and the problems of agency, subjectivity and the nature of social structure.
Read an excerpt from Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution, and learn more about the book and author at the Cambridge University Press website as well as Marion Blute's faculty webpage and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ten of the best priests in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named a list of ten of the best priests in literature.

One priest on the list:
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

The most frighteningly convincing of all Greene's priests is Father Crompton. The narrator, Bendrix, discovers, after the death of his lover, Sarah, that she has been received into the Catholic church. He is appalled and confronts the priest ("haggard, graceless, with the Torquemada nose") over dinner. But he is rhetorically bested; the grimly assured priest has heard every argument before.
Read about another priest on the list.

The End of the Affair
also appears on Mullan's list of ten of the best novels about novelists and Douglas Kennedy's top ten books about grief.

Also see Paul Murray's ten best list of the worst fictional clergymen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Keith Thomson's "Once A Spy"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Once A Spy by Keith Thomson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Drummond Clark was once a spy of legendary proportions. Now Alzheimer’s disease has taken its toll and he’s just a confused old man who’s wandered away from home, waiting for his son to fetch him.

When Charlie Clark takes a break from his latest losing streak at the track to bring Drummond back to his Brooklyn home, they find it blown sky high—and then bullets start flying in every direction. At first, Charlie thinks his Russian “creditors” are employing aggressive collection tactics. But once Drummond effortlessly hot-wires a car as their escape vehicle, Charlie begins to suspect there’s much more to his father than meets the eye. He soon discovers that Drummond’s unremarkable career as an appliance salesman was actually a clever cover for an elaborate plan to sell would-be terrorists faulty nuclear detonators. Drummond’s intricate knowledge of the “device” is extremely dangerous information to have rattling around in an Alzheimer’s-addled brain. The CIA wants to “contain” him--and so do some other shady characters who send Charlie and Drummond on a wild chase that gives “father and son quality time” a whole new meaning.

With Once a Spy, Keith Thomson makes his debut on the thriller stage with energy, wit, and style to spare.
Read an excerpt from Once a Spy, and learn more about the book and author at Keith Thomson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Once A Spy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What is Stephanie Dickison reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Stephanie Dickison, author of The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home.

Her entry begins:
When I’m not writing or cooking, eating or walking, I can be found at my local library, picking up the mass amount of books I’ve put on hold, or on the couch, dipping into the next title on the pile.

Before I wrote full-time, I read 10 books a month. Now I average around 3, though I wish it was still 10. Most of my reading is done before bed. And now that I’m running 2 book clubs, my reading list is comprised mostly of what’s on the list (though the teetering pile beside the couch in the living room keeps me hopeful that eventually I’ll get to all those other titles before their due dates).

I think you can tell as much about a person by what they read as what’s in their wallet.

The titles for March and April so far, are:

I have a food book club where I’ve picked books about food and then I choose a restaurant based on the book and we have our discussion there. I’ve just completed reading The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones and...[read on]
Stephanie Dickison's latest book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home, is about her career as pop culture, book, music and restaurant critic.

Among the early praise for The 30-Second Commute:
“This is for anyone who’s ever wondered what we freelance writers do all day. Stephanie Dickison airs all our dirty laundry – from the crazy hours to the procrastination temptation to the seemingly impossible juggle of assignments, finances, and personal life. Reading this hilarious book is like picking the brain of a cherished writing mentor – one who makes you snort your latte out of your nose.”
--Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5-Guide

“I loved reading The 30-Second Commute immensely. This book is timeless and has monstrous personality. Stephanie’s confidence and commitment to her art quickly walks off the pages and directly into your heart. As a songwriter I relate to her, as a musician, I’ve learned from her, and as a woman I appreciate her. It’s fun and feisty, yet charismatic and classy.”
--Jully Black, Juno Award-winning R&B singer/songwriter

“Honest, insightful and a lot of fun. Stephanie has that rare ability to make reading The 30-Second Commute feel like having a great lunch with a good friend.”
--John McFetridge, author of Dirty Sweet, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, and Let It Ride
Visit Stephanie Dickison's website and blogs.

Writers Read: Stephanie Dickison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sanjeev Bhaskar's 6 best books

Sanjeev Bhaskar, a British actor who appears in Notting Hill and the forthcoming adaptation of Ken Bruen's London Boulevard, named his six best books for the Daily Express.

One book on the list:
Last Train to Memphis
by Peter Guralnick

I’m a big fan of biographies and Elvis. This book and its sequel comprise the must-have Presley biography for the true fan. Incredibly detailed and well written it’s an affectionate but honest portrait of the man, unlike some of the hatchet jobs written after his death. Covers everything that a fan would want to know about The King.
Read about another book on the list.

Last Train to Memphis also appears on Robert Fontenot, Jr.'s top ten list of Elvis Presley books and Bob Stanley's "critic's chart" of top books about Elvis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Laskin's "The Long Way Home"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War by David Laskin.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of The Children's Blizzard comes an epic story of the sacrifice and service of an immigrant generation.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation's population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers—most of whom had been drafted—knew little of America outside of tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes.

In The Long Way Home, award-winning writer David Laskin traces the lives of a dozen men, eleven of whom left their childhood homes in Europe, journeyed through Ellis Island, and started over in a strange land. After detailing the daily realities of immigrant life in the factories, farms, mines, and cities of a rapidly growing nation, Laskin tells the heartbreaking stories of how these men—both conscripts and volunteers—joined the army, were swept into the ordeal of boot camp, and endured the month of hell that ended the war at the Argonne, where they truly became Americans. Those who survived were profoundly altered—and their experiences would shape the lives of their families as well.

Epic, inspiring, and masterfully written, The Long Way Home is the unforgettable true story of the Great War, the world it remade, and the men who fought for a country not of their birth, but which held the hope and opportunity of a better way of life.
Read an excerpt from The Long Way Home, and learn more about the book and author at the official The Long Way Home website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Long Way Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 26, 2010

J.T. Ellison's "The Cold Room," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison.

The entry begins:
I normally shy away from giving detailed ideas of who I think would be a good actor or actress to play my characters would they get made into a movie, because I don’t like to put someone in the mind of the reader before they have a chance to decide on their own.

But my wonderful readers have lots of ideas about who should play homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson, and FBI Profiler John Baldwin. Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Blake Lively are all favorite contenders, though I’d have to throw Amanda Righetti into the mix as well – she’s got the exact profile I imagine for Taylor. And Baldwin is always a clean-cut up Hugh Jackman, or Thomas Gibson, though Baldwin’s green eyes are one of his commanding features, so I’m not sure the perfect actor has been picked for him yet. I’ll throw a new thought out there… Depending on how he ages, Chace Crawford wouldn’t be a bad choice.

The Cold Room
has a couple of new characters in it, namely Renn McKenzie, Taylor’s new partner, and James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, and Detective Inspector for New Scotland Yard. McKenzie is hard – he’s serious, and not everything he seems on the surface. Someone like...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at J.T. Ellison's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: All the Pretty Girls.

The Page 99 Test: 14.

The Page 69 Test: 14.

The Page 99 Test: Judas Kiss.

My Book, The Movie: the Taylor Jackson series.

The Page 69 Test: The Cold Room.

My Book, The Movie: The Cold Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five terrific novels overshadowed by their film versions

One title from Jonathan Lethem's 1999 list of five terrific novels overshadowed by their film versions:
True Grit by Charles Portis

The difference between the novel and the film is that the novel, which like Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man" perfectly captures the naive elegance of the American voice, is about the inner life of the narrator, a 14-year-old girl. The film is, of course, about John Wayne, who in portraying Rooster Cogburn turned his screen image gently on its ear, and won an Oscar. That was nice, but the book should be better remembered.
Read about another book on Lethem's list.

True Grit also appears on Willy Vlautin's list of five great books set in the West.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector.

Schine, on how she and the dog were united, and how Hector got his name:
We drove down to Maryland to get him when he was 10 weeks old. It was when the sniper was still shooting people. We stopped for gas and a pee in Pennsylvania, then drove without stopping until we got to the breeder. The snipers were arrested a couple days later exactly where we went.

* * *
I would like to say that it was because of the Iliad or even the phrase “since Hector was a pup,” but in fact my father had a friend, a Canadian lumberjack who used to say “Hi there, Hector,” to every child and every dog he met. Our previous dog was named Buster, and somehow Hector seemed to fit—enough continuity, not too much—and he just looks like a Hector, doesn’t he? I think it was quite a popular dog name in...[read on]
Cathleen Schine is the author of The New Yorkers and The Love Letter, among other novels.

She has contributed to
The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.

Her new novel is
The Three Weissmanns of Westport.

Schine's "Dog Trouble" in The New Yorker.

Cathleen Schine's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Gordon's "The Serialist"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Serialist by David Gordon.

About the book, from the publisher:

Harry Bloch is a struggling writer who pumps out pulpy serial novels—from vampire books to detective stories—under various pseudonyms. But his life begins to imitate his fiction when he agrees to ghostwrite the memoir of Darian Clay, New York City’s infamous Photo Killer. Soon, three young women turn up dead, each one murdered in the Photo Killer’s gruesome signature style, and Harry must play detective in a real-life murder plot as he struggles to avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.

Witty, irreverent, and original, The Serialist is a love letter to books—from poetry to pornography—and proof that truth really can be stranger than fiction.
Browse inside The Serialist, and learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.

David Gordon was born in Queens and currently lives in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College, holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and an MFA in Writing, both from Columbia University, and has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pg. 99: Roger E. A. Farmer's "How the Economy Works"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies by Roger E. A. Farmer.

About the book, from the publisher:
"Of all the economic bubbles that have been pricked," the editors of The Economist recently observed, "few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself." Indeed, the financial crisis that crested in 2008 destroyed the credibility of the economic thinking that had guided policymakers for a generation. But what will take its place?

In How the Economy Works, one of our leading economists provides a jargon-free exploration of the current crisis, offering a powerful argument for how economics must change to get us out of it. Roger E. A. Farmer traces the swings between classical and Keynesian economics since the early twentieth century, gracefully explaining the elements of both theories. During the Great Depression, Keynes challenged the longstanding idea that an economy was a self-correcting mechanism; but his school gave way to a resurgence of classical economics in the 1970s-a rise that ended with the current crisis. Rather than simply allowing the pendulum to swing back, Farmer writes, we must synthesize the two. From classical economics, he takes the idea that a sound theory must explain how individuals behave-how our collective choices shape the economy. From Keynesian economics, he adopts the principle that markets do not always work well, that capitalism needs some guidance. The goal, he writes, is to correct the excesses of a free-market economy without stifling entrepreneurship and instituting central planning.

Recent events have shown that we cannot afford to treat economics as an ivory-tower abstraction. It has a direct impact on our lives by guiding regulators and policymakers as they make decisions with far-reaching practical consequences. Written in clear, accessible language, How the Economy Works makes an argument that no one should ignore.
Learn more about How the Economy Works at the Oxford University Press website and at Roger E. A. Farmer's website, where you will find five video trailers of the author's description of the book's contents.

Roger E. A. Farmer is Professor and Chair of the Economics Department at UCLA. The author of numerous books and journal articles, he is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and of the Centre for Economic Policy Research.

The Page 99 Test: How the Economy Works.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kate White's six favorite books

Kate White is the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and the best-selling author behind the new thriller Hush. She listed the books that affected her the most for The Week magazine.

One book on the list:
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I was a Nancy Drew addict as a kid, but I’d never read a grown-up mystery until I heard about this classic in my early 20s. Wickedly funny, it introduced the unforgettable Nick and Nora Charles to the world, and there’s a great twist at the end.
Read about another book on White's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Paolo Bacigalupi reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Paolo Bacigalupi, author of the acclaimed debut novel The Windup Girl and the award winning short story collection Pump Six and Other Stories.

His entry begins:
I'm reading a book called On Killing, by Dave Grossman because I'm interested in killing. Wait. Did I say that out loud? Seriously, though, it seems like if your characters are going to kill each other, they should do so realistically, and you should the understand the likely impact of something that traumatic on the killer. Good info on the processes required to...[read on]
Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing has appeared in High Country News,, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It has been anthologized in various “Year’s Best” collections of short science fiction and fantasy, nominated for a Nebula and four Hugo awards, and has won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best sf short story of the year.

The Windup Girl was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009, and the short story collection Pump Six and Other Stories was a 2008 LOCUS Award winner for Best Collection and also named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly.

Among the praise for The Windup Girl:
"A worthy successor to William Gibson."
--TIME, Top Ten Fiction Books of 2009

"Recalls William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The most important SF novel of the year."
Visit Paolo Bacigalupi's website.

Writers Read: Paolo Bacigalupi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pg. 69: Liane Merciel's "The River Kings' Road"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: The River Kings' Road: A Novel of Ithelas by Liane Merciel.

About the book, from the publisher:
The wounded maidservant thrust the knotted blankets at him; instinctively, Brys stepped forward and caught the bundle before it fell. Then he glimpsed what lay inside and nearly dropped it himself.

There was a baby in the blankets. A baby with a tear-swollen face red and round as a midsummer plum. A baby he knew, even without seeing the lacquered medallion tucked into the swaddling—a medallion far too heavy, on a chain far too cold for an infant who had not yet seen a year.

A fragile period of peace between the eternally warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Langmyrne border village of Willowfield, killing its inhabitants—including a visiting Oakharne lord and his family—and leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived the carnage—a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe, and who enlists a Langmyr peasant, a young mother herself, to nourish and nurture the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road ... Odosse, the peasant woman whose only weapons are wit, courage, and her fierce maternal love—and who risks everything she holds dear to protect her new charge ... Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, called upon to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies ... Bitharn, Kelland’s companion on his journey, who conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills—and whose feelings may ultimately be Kelland’s undoing ... and Leferic, an Oakharne Lord’s bitter youngest son, whose dark ambitions fuel the most horrific acts of violence. As one infant’s life hangs in the balance, so too does the fate of thousands, while deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all....
Read an excerpt from The River Kings' Road, and learn more about the book and author at Liane Merciel's website.

The Page 69 Test: The River Kings' Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books about the Spanish inquisition

Theresa Breslin is an award winning librarian and writer with a special interest in children's literature. Her new novel is Prisoner of the Inquisition.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of books on the Spanish Inquisition. One title on the list:
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Brilliant portrayal of Katherine of Aragon from a magnificent historical novelist, this book skilfully uses flashback to tell of Katherine's life in Spain as a pampered princess of the Spanish monarchs. Worth reading too for an insight into the difficulties of the life of Queen Isabella. Gregory's use of language made me feel as though I was walking with Katherine on slippered feet through the halls of the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Read about another book on the list.

Visit Theresa Breslin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: David Hughes & Dexter

Today's feature at Coffee with a Canine: David Hughes & Dexter.

Hughes, on how he and Dexter were united:
Year 2001: I downloaded him.... I found a breeder's website. It was love at first sight. I was a cat man to be honest. It was during a medical that the nurse suggested I was a stressed fat overweight slob and I ought to consider getting a dog - I am a lover of the Wire Haired Fox Terrier. I am not a dog lover. Don't get me wrong, I'd never be cruel to a dog, but most dogs I wouldn't give a house room to. I suppose I quite admire the Airedale as well, but dogs with brown noses give me the creeps. One exception is Monty, a chocolate brown labrador--everything in a canine I find unattractive, but in this case he is such a laid back gentle beast he is forgiven and anyway Dexter likes him. I get the impression you haven't actually read Walking The Dog. But Dexter is more than I ever hoped for. He saved...[read on]
About Walking the Dog, from the publisher:
Hughes’ daily walks with Dexter form the spine of Walking the Dog. We eavesdrop on their encounters with fellow dog-walkers (‘Hello Hector’, ‘Hello Chester’…) and on Hughes’ thoughts as he plods along carrying a plastic bag of poo. He begins to remember moments from his past, dark memories of murder and violence. He explores his own fantasies and obsessions. From the gentle comedy of the early pages, Walking the Dog is transformed into something deeper and more disturbing.

This will be a landmark book in the field of graphic literature. The drawing is sublime, the imagination extraordinary, the ambition unequalled.
Visit the official David Hughes website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: David Hughes & Dexter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: J. Donovan's "Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by James Donovan.

About the book, from the publisher:
James Donovan takes a comprehensive approach to the history of the jury in modern France by investigating the legal, political, sociocultural, and intellectual aspects of jury trial from the Revolution through the twentieth century. He demonstrates that these juries, through their decisions, helped shape reform of the nation's criminal justice system.

From their introduction in 1791 as an expression of the sovereignty of the people through the early 1900s, argues Donovan, juries often acted against the wishes of the political and judicial authorities, despite repeated governmental attempts to manipulate their composition. High acquittal rates for both political and nonpolitical crimes were in part due to juror resistance to the harsh and rigid punishments imposed by the Napoleonic Penal Code, Donovan explains.

In response, legislators gradually enacted laws to lower penalties for certain crimes and to give jurors legal means to offer nuanced verdicts and to ameliorate punishments. Faced with persistently high acquittal rates, however, governments eventually took powers away from juries by withdrawing many cases from their purview and ultimately destroying the panels' independence in 1941.
Learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

James Donovan is associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University at Mont Alto.

The Page 99 Test: Juries and the Transformation of Criminal Justice in France in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fiona Jayde's "Cold Victory," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Cold Victory by Fiona Jayde.

The entry begins:
I rarely associate the characters I see in my head with people already in existence. Perhaps this is because I don't write "visually" but instead focus on the inner core of the character and layer in visual cues later during revisions.

However, in my recent release Cold Victory, my lead hero - Commander Galen Stark - came to me in a very specific form -based on the wrestler turned actor John Cena. That's right - the WWE star who's recently been starring in all these macho movies. (And while I love macho movies where things blow up, I can't say I saw any of his... Yet.)

Somehow, when I saw Stark in my head, he looked like John Cena. Huge strong body, strong hero's jaw, low brusque voice, commanding presence, graceful despite the bulky muscles. And there's muscles. Plenty of em. I saw a video of Cena talking about his girlfriend with his face just glowing, and I knew I had Stark right there - big tough guy with a soft spot for the heroine.

As far as my heroine - Zoya Scott - I...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Cold Victory, watch the trailer, and learn more about the author and her work at Fiona Jayde's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Cold Victory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Michael Jaime-Becerra's "This Time Tomorrow"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: This Time Tomorrow by Michael Jaime-Becerra.

About the book, from the publisher:
Gilbert Gaeta, a forklift operator in a dairy, can barely make payments on the house where he lives with his thirteen-year-old daughter, Ana. When a month of overtime shifts comes his way, he begins to envision a new life, one in which he can save enough money for an engagement ring and finally propose to his girlfriend, Joyce. He works the night shift, exhausted but making good money, and it’s looking like his plan will work. Then Ana is chased home from the Laundromat by bullies, and she begins pushing him to buy a washer and dryer. Gilbert tries to stay firm, but when Ana’s trouble follows her to school, the pressure mounts to put her first, and delay his future with Joyce.

Joyce, who at thirty-six has never lived on her own, can’t move out of her father’s traditional Mexican house until she is married. Feeling her life with Gilbert slipping away, she starts to despair. And then one day, standing before her impressive collection of vintage purses, she sees a way to take control of her future. But it won’t be easy.

Writing from three distinct and equally moving perspectives, award-winning author Michael Jaime-Becerra tells a story about the painful balance between love and responsibility. An intimate and poignant first novel, This Time Tomorrow casts a new light on Southern California’s working class and its struggles for happiness.
Read an excerpt from This Time Tomorrow, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

Michael Jaime-Becerra currently teaches creative writing at University of California, Riverside. His short-story collection, Every Night Is Ladies’ Night, was named one of the best of the year by the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. It was awarded a California book award, the Silver Medal for a First Work of Fiction.

The Page 69 Test: This Time Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five great noir novels from the post-Chandler era

A decade ago David Bowman picked a list of five great noir novels from the post-Chandler generations.

One title on the list:
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Ellroy indulges in every cliché of the genre (the two-fisted loner, the femme fatale, the twisted gunsel), but triumphantly reinvents each because he is convinced he is rebuilding noir from scratch. Hooray for delusion. In his best book, Ellroy fictionalizes the notorious true story of the murder of a Los Angeles whore (literally sliced in two), using the poor girl as a psychic stand-in for the novelist's own murdered mother.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kristin Harmel reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Kristin Harmel, author of After and other novels.

Her entry begins:
I just finished reading A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents, by Liza Palmer, a fabulous writer who also happens to be a great friend of mine. It was an absolutely tremendous book. It was a beautifully realistic look at family relationships, which I think are very under-explored in women's fiction. We spend so much time focusing on friends, career, romantic relationships, etc., that I think sometimes we forget to delve deeply enough into the first important relationships of our lives-- those with our parents and siblings. Liza does this masterfully in a novel about four siblings whose mother died five years ago and who are now coming to terms with the loss of their father -- who left them two decades earlier -- on his deathbed. Her novel explores not just those family relationships, but how they impact everything -- from work to friendship to love. It really made me think. And honestly, I was crying...[read on]
Kristin Harmel's first five novels, How to Sleep with a Movie Star, The Blonde Theory, The Art of French Kissing, When You Wish, and Italian For Beginners have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all around the world.

Among the early praise for After:
"[After's] lessons about family, friendship, loss, and the enduring power of love should stick with readers."
--Publishers Weekly

"The various reactions to grief depicted are real and can serve as a guide for other teen survivors and the adults in their lives...[a] heartfelt story."
--Kirkus Reviews
Visit Kristin Harmel's website.

Writers Read: Kristin Harmel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pg. 99: Paul D. Halliday's "Habeas Corpus"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire by Paul D. Halliday.

About the book, from the publisher:
We call habeas corpus the Great Writ of Liberty. But it was actually a writ of power. In a work based on an unprecedented study of thousands of cases across more than five hundred years, Paul Halliday provides a sweeping revisionist account of the world's most revered legal device.

In the decades around 1600, English judges used ideas about royal power to empower themselves to protect the king's subjects. The key was not the prisoner's "right" to "liberty"—these are modern idioms—but the possible wrongs committed by a jailer or anyone who ordered a prisoner detained. This focus on wrongs gave the writ the force necessary to protect ideas about rights as they developed outside of law. This judicial power carried the writ across the world, from Quebec to Bengal. Paradoxically, the representative impulse, most often expressed through legislative action, did more to undermine the writ than anything else. And the need to control imperial subjects would increasingly constrain judges. The imperial experience is thus crucial for making sense of the broader sweep of the writ's history and of English law.

Halliday's work informed the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush on prisoners in the Guantánamo detention camps. His eagerly anticipated book is certain to be acclaimed the definitive history of habeas corpus.
Read an excerpt from Habeas Corpus, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Paul D. Halliday is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

The Page 99 Test: Habeas Corpus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Joseph Fiennes: six best books

Joseph Fiennes is an actor best known for his roles as William Shakespeare in Shakespeare In Love and Robert Dudley in Elizabeth.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One book on the list:
by Hermann Hesse

I read this aged 16 and it was the first book that brought me back into literature and ignited my imagination, having been completely uninterested at school. Siddhartha is a simple breakdown of Buddhist philosophy and a great spiritual travel book. There is a depth but also a beautiful economy in the writing. Ultimately it’s about human fallibility and finding restoration on a higher plane.
Read about another book on Fiennes' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alice Lichtenstein's "Lost"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Lost by Alice Lichtenstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
On a cold January morning, Susan, a professor of biology, leaves her husband alone for a few minutes and returns to find him gone. Suffering from dementia, no longer able to dress or feed or wash himself without help, Christopher has wandered alone into a frigid landscape with no sense of home or direction. Lost.

Over the course of one weekend, as a massive search for Christopher takes place, Susan's life intersects with those of two strangers: Jeff, her liaison with the police, a social worker and search-and-rescue expert shaken by his young wife's betrayal, and Corey, a twelve-year-old boy, rendered mute by a family tragedy, who has become one of Jeff's cases. While the temperature drops and teams scour the countryside with greater and greater urgency, Susan and Jeff venture into the fraught territory of their pasts -- to impulsive choices and events that may have led to their present circumstances and to the painful question of whether they are to blame for their spouses' actions. Corey, too, is troubled by memories, and a secret that could affect them all. When the desperate search concludes, what it uncovers will transform Susan, Jeff,and Corey and irrevocably bind them together.

From the unexpected convergence of these three lives emerges an arresting portrait of the shifting terrain of marriage and the uneasy burden of love and regret. With her stark, beautiful prose and extraordinary insight into the human conscience and heart, Alice Lichtenstein has crafted a fiercely eloquent and emotionally suspenseful novel about the lengths we will go to take care of someone and the unfathomable ways that even the simplest of choices can reverberate throughout a life.
Read an excerpt from Lost, and learn more about the book and author at Alice Lichtenstein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Lost.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Five best books about scandals

Henry E. Scott's Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, "America's Scandalous Scandal Magazine" was recently published by Pantheon.

He named his five favorite books on scandals for the Wall Street Journal. One book on the list:
The Informant
by Kurt Eichenwald

More than 5,000 book titles on Amazon include the word "scandal"—that says a lot about the theme's drawing power, but some of the best books on the subject are more subtly titled. Kurt Eichenwald's "The Informant" is a classic of corporate-scandal reportage, dissecting the 1990s price-fixing conspiracy by Archer Daniels Midland and overseas agricultural companies. The book reads like a John Grisham thriller as Eichenwald weaves the improbable story of Mark Whitacre, an ADM executive who became the FBI's secret source—and who turned out to be crooked, too. Who knew that a complex tale about an international plot to rig the prices of an animal-feed additive called lysine could be almost impossible to put down?
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Walter Greatshell reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Walter Greatshell, author of Xombies: Apocalypticon and Xombies: Apocalypse Blues.

His entry begins:
Lately I've read two true accounts of 19th Century seafarers: White Jacket by Herman Melville, and Two Years before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. I don't know why I'm suddenly reading these things, which in the past I would have found pretty dry and technical, except that in recent years I've become much more interested in other authors' personal experiences, and how they record them. Maybe it has something to do with my growing awareness of my own mortality--eventually my writing will be all that's left to show who I was.

Melville was an ironic, literary guy, with a strongly-felt political agenda that comes through the material, while Dana was...[read on]
When not writing satirical horror novels, Walter Greatshell dabbles in freelance illustration (with an eye to creating dark children’s books, comics or graphic novels), humorous nonfiction (a throwback to his early days as a freelance journalist and arts critic), and stage acting (including in local productions of Oedipus Rex and Karel Capek’s R.U.R.).

Visit Walter Greatshell's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Xombies: Apocalypse Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Xombies: Apocalypticon.

Writers Read: Walter Greatshell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan Douglas's "Enlightened Sexism"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work Is Done by Susan J. Douglas.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of Where the Girls Are, a sharp and irreverent critique of how women are portrayed in today’s popular culture

Women today are inundated with conflicting messages from the mass media: they must either be strong leaders in complete command or sex kittens obsessed with finding and pleasing a man. In Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas, one of America’s most entertaining and insightful cultural critics, takes readers on a spirited journey through the television programs, popular songs, movies, and news coverage of recent years, telling a story that is nothing less than the cultural biography of a new generation of American women.

Revisiting cultural touchstones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor to Desperate Housewives, Douglas uses wit and wisdom to expose these images of women as mere fantasies of female power, assuring women and girls that the battle for equality has been won, so there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting sexist stereotypes—all in good fun, of course. She shows that these portrayals not only distract us from the real-world challenges facing women today but also drive a wedge between baby-boom women and their “millennial” daughters.

In seeking to bridge this generation gap, Douglas makes the case for casting aside these retrograde messages, showing us how to decode the mixed messages that restrict the ambitions of women of all ages. And what makes Enlightened Sexism such a pleasure to read is Douglas’s unique voice, as she blends humor with insight and offers an empathetic and sisterly guide to the images so many women love and hate with equal measure.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Susan J. Douglas website.

Susan J. Douglas is the author of Where the Girls Are, The Mommy Myth, and other works of cultural history and criticism. She is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies and chair of the department at the University of Michigan, where she has taught since 1996.

The Page 99 Test: Enlightened Sexism.

--Marshal Zeringue