Saturday, August 31, 2013

Five top books of adventure and lust

Louisa Ermelino named five recent "rugged, kick-ass, leg breaking, can’t get them out of your head" good books for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly, including:
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Gritty and terrifying and powerful, yet smooth as silk, this novel about a cadre of characters living on the border between Ohio and Kentucky, includes a malevolent preacher who douses himself in spiders and drags around his wheelchair-bound sidekick whom he crippled in a religious stunt, a married couple who troll the highway looking for hitchhikers to mutilate and murder, and… you get the idea. Pollack knows his territory and his people. Reading him is like stopping at a roadside bar and listening to some stranger tell stories without ever taking a breath.
Read about another book on Ermelino's list.

The Devil All the Time is among Lauren Passell's ten must-read books that take place in the Midwest.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Candy Gunther Brown reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Candy Gunther Brown, author of The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America.

Her entry begins:
As a professor of religious studies, much of my reading is goal-directed: focused either on research or teaching. I just finished Steven Green’s The Bible, the School, and the Constitution, a fascinating book that offers fodder for both my writing and my classrooms. The book reveals that many of today’s controversies over religion in public schools have been stewing since the nineteenth century. I came to this book having just finished testifying as an expert witness in a trial of yoga in public schools in Encinitas, California. The judge accepted the defense’s argument that yoga can be taught in public schools—even though...[read on]
About The Healing Gods, from the publisher:
The question typically asked about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is whether it works. However, an issue of equal or greater significance is why it is supposed to work. The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America explains how and why CAM entered the American biomedical mainstream and won cultural acceptance, even among evangelical and other theologically conservative Christians, despite its ties to non-Christian religions and the lack of scientific evidence of its efficacy and safety.

Before the 1960s, most of the practices Candy Gunther Brown considers-yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, meditation, martial arts, homeopathy, anticancer diets-were dismissed as medically and religiously questionable. These once-suspect health practices gained approval as they were re-categorized as non-religious (though generically spiritual) health-care, fitness, or scientific techniques. Although CAM claims are similar to religious claims, CAM gained cultural legitimacy because people interpret it as science instead of religion.

Holistic health care raises ethical and legal questions of informed consent, consumer protection, and religious establishment at the center of biomedical ethics, tort law, and constitutional law. The Healing Gods confronts these issues, getting to the heart of values such as personal autonomy, self-determination, religious equality, and religious voluntarism.
Learn more about The Healing Gods at the Oxford University Press website, and follow Candy Gunther Brown on Facebook and Twitter.

Writers Read: Candy Gunther Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best pregnancy books

Claire Zulkey is a writer who lives in Chicago.  Her books include the novel An Off Year. She also edits the aptly named website,

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Zulkey tagged five top books for "the type of pregnant woman who wants information, minus the finger-wagging or tantric herbal perineal massage," including:
How To Have Your Second Child First, by Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorenson

I dogeared more pages in this book than I didn’t. I knew going into parenthood that I didn’t want to try to reinvent the wheel when it came to raising our child. If I could learn some shortcuts and tips that could reduce my stress level once the baby came along, I was down. Colburn and Sorenson’s book looks almost like a gift book, but make no mistake: the advice in it is a lifesaver for any new parent who wants a reality check (on such topics as the uselessness of luxuries like wipe warmers).
Read about another book on the list.

Visit Claire Zulkey's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: F. Errington, T. Fujikura, & D. Gewertz's "The Noodle Narratives"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century by Frederick Errington, Tatsuro Fujikura, and Deborah Gewertz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Tasty, convenient, and cheap, instant noodles are one of the most remarkable industrial foods ever. Consumed around the world by millions, they appeal to young and old, affluent and impoverished alike. The authors examine the history, manufacturing, marketing, and consumption of instant noodles. By focusing on three specific markets, they reveal various ways in which these noodles enable diverse populations to manage their lives. The first market is in Japan, where instant noodles have facilitated a major transformation of post-war society, while undergoing a seemingly endless tweaking in flavors, toppings, and packaging in order to entice consumers. The second is in the United States, where instant noodles have become important to many groups including college students, their nostalgic parents, and prison inmates. The authors also take note of “heavy users,” a category of the chronically hard-pressed targeted by U.S. purveyors. The third is in Papua New Guinea, where instant noodles arrived only recently and are providing cheap food options to the urban poor, all the while transforming them into aspiring consumers. Finally, this study examines the global “Big Food” industry. As one of the food system’s singular achievements, the phenomenon of instant noodles provides insight into the pros and cons of global capitalist provisioning.
Learn more about The Noodle Narratives at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Noodle Narratives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 30, 2013

James McBride's 6 favorite books

James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on the New York Times bestseller list for two years. It is considered an American classic and is read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna was translated into a major motion picture directed by Spike Lee. It was released by Disney/Touchstone in September 2008. McBride wrote the script for Miracle at St. Anna and co-wrote Spike Lee's 2012 Red Hook Summer.

McBride's latest novel, The Good Lord Bird, is about American revolutionary John Brown.

One of the author's six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Been in the Storm So Long by Leon F. Litwack

This 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner reveals the day-to-day life of white and black America during slavery and just after emancipation. It communicates how the two groups grappled with the tremendous moral dilemma that slavery presented. Good historians who write well are like good filmmakers. They reel the film before your eyes with tremendous effectiveness. Litwack is one of those.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Todd Ritter's "Devil's Night"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Devil's Night by Todd Ritter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two things Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell never thought she would do again: Enter a burning building, and lay eyes on Henry Goll, the man who was trapped inside with her the last time she was in one. So Kat's on high alert when, barely a year after the dust settled around the Grim Reaper killings, both happen on the same day.

She's jolted awake at 1a.m. by a desperate phone call telling her Perry Hollow’s one and only museum—home to all the town’s historical artifacts—has been set on fire. Arriving at the scene, Kat catches just a glimpse of Henry's face among the crowd before she's rushed into the charred building, only to find the museum curator dead…bludgeoned, not burned. Kat has lived through some tense moments and seen some gruesome crimes, but the next twenty-four hours will be the most dangerous of her life as she and Henry seek out a killer and the motivation behind these terrifying crimes.

Todd Ritter returns to the beloved town of Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania with Devil's Night, his most poignant, cleverly plotted novel yet.
Learn more about the book and author at Todd Ritter's website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Todd Ritter's Death Notice.

My Book, The Movie: Death Notice.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2011).

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five notable books on tennis

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on tennis:
Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played
by L. Jon Wertheim

In the 2008 Wimbledon men's finals, five-time winner Roger Federer stepped onto the court against Spain's Rafael Nadal and played what some consider to be one of the finest tennis matches of all time. Sports Illustrated senior writer Wertheim gives readers the point-by-point account in all of its surprising dimensions.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Debbie Levy's "Imperfect Spiral," the movie

The current feature at My Book, The Movie: Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy.

The entry begins:
Imperfect Spiral has two storylines. One concerns the aftermath of a terrible accident, in which a five-year-old boy runs into traffic to chase down his football while in the care of his fifteen-year-old babysitter. The other is the tale of the deep connection forged between the little boy, whose name is Humphrey, and the babysitter—Danielle—during the summer they spend together as babysitter and babysittee (he coins that word) before the accident. Casting those two characters is key to the movie. Danielle feels, as teenagers often do, that she is impossibly peculiar. And she is, in fact, peculiar, but only a little bit, as so many of us are. Humphrey is also a little bit peculiar and wonderfully and completely unaware of this. And he thinks Danielle is absolutely the greatest. For the perfect Humphrey, I’d cast Jonathan Lipnicki—not as the 23-year-old that he is now (sorry, Jonathan, wherever you are), but as the six-year-old adorable little kid, Ray, he played in Jerry Maguire. As for Danielle...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Debbie Levy's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Imperfect Spiral.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three top books on Kenya

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on Kenya. One title on the list:
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

On the threshold of independence in 1963, the residents of Thabai village prepare to celebrate the ceding of power to Kenyans. Beneath the surface, things are tense: the British colonials are leaving and there are scores to settle.

During the struggle for independence, some villagers signed up with the Home Guard and collaborated with the "white man". Others took the Mau Mau oath and joined the rebellion – and were imprisoned and tortured in British internment camps. The comrades of Kihika, a local rebel leader who was captured and hanged, are determined to find and kill the man who betrayed him.

The stories of the main characters are told through skilful weaving between past and present. The political turbulence in the country deeply affected people's lives, testing their friendship, love and courage – and sometimes led to betrayal.

As this powerful and absorbing story unfolds, each chapter fills in pieces of a puzzle. Ngugi creates a living history of the independence struggle, retelling the colonial story from a Kenyan perspective.

Kenya's most famous novelist spent more than a year in prison for his writings during the 1970s, and later went into exile abroad.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Wilton Barnhardt reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Wilton Barnhardt, author of Lookaway, Lookaway.

His entry begins:
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Since my own publisher approached Ms. Fowler for a blurb, I admit I felt obligated to read something new of hers (I remembered her first novel, Sarah Canary, as a quiet masterpiece). Her latest is simply one of the best, most moving, important, humane books I’ve read in years. There are not many original family sagas left to tell, but, somehow, Fowler has thought of a new one. (I suspect there are many nonfiction models for accounts of family life where some Skinner-like research experiment has played out, seemingly harmless and engrossing at the time but with later dire consequences, but there is no fiction I have ever heard of with Fowler’s particular subject.) I won’t say much more about it—it is full of surprises which I have no intention of spoiling. The narrator is winning, funny, wry, which doesn’t quite prepare you for...[read on]
About Lookaway, Lookaway, from the publisher:
Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.

As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family's legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what's left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?

In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.
Learn more about the book and author at Wilton Barnhardt's website and blog.

Writers Read: Wilton Barnhardt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Karen Harrington's "Sure Signs of Crazy"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington.

About the book, from the publisher:
Not every person responds to words the same way. Some words are trouble words. A trouble word will change the face of the person you say it to. Love can be a trouble word for some people. Crazy is also a trouble word.

I should know.

You've never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her classmates geek out over Harry Potter, she writes letters to Atticus Finch. Her best friend is a plant. And she's never known her mother, who has lived in a mental institution since Sarah was two.

Sarah and her dad have spent the last decade moving from one Texas town to another, and she's never felt truly at home...until now. This is the story of on extraordinary summer in which Sarah gets her first real crush, new friends, and the answers she's always been looking for.
Learn more about the book, currently a Best Book of the Month on Amazon, at Karen Harrington’s website or on her Facebook page.

Harrington's debut novel Janeology explored the shocking crime of Jane Nelson and examined how genetics play a role in the actions we take. Sure Signs of Crazy is the story of Jane’s daughter, a young girl growing up in the shadow of her infamous mother’s illness.

The Page 69 Test: Janeology.

My Book, the Movie: Janeology.

The Page 69 Test: Sure Signs of Crazy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top mold-breaking fantasy novels

The science fiction, fantasy, and horror author Lisa Tuttle won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1974, received the 1982 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for "The Bone Flute", which she refused, and the 1989 BSFA Award for Short Fiction for "In Translation."

For the Guardian, she named her top ten mold-breaking fantasy novels.  One entry on the list:
The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

I could easily add three different titles by Graham Joyce to this list, but decided on this one because it is the kind of deceptively simple story that's very hard to get right, and he never drops a stitch. It's a love story about a married couple, and deeply moving without being sentimental or trite.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan Bordo's "The Creation of Anne Boleyn"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo.

UK edition
About the book, from the publisher:
Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings or the raven-haired seductress of twenty-first-century portrayals? (Answer: neither.) And perhaps the most provocative questions concern Anne’s death more than her life. How could Henry order the execution of a once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships.

Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto “mean girl,” feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies.
Learn more about the book and author at the official The Creation of Anne Boleyn website and blog, and at the UK publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susan Bordo & Sean and Dakota.

The Page 99 Test: The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tracy Guzeman's "The Gravity of Birds," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman.

The entry begins:
What a blissful assignment! Populating a film version of The Gravity of Birds with actors of my own choosing seems like the best possible way to procrastinate for a while. But since the narrative goes back and forth in time, I’d need a handful of Alices, a few Natalies, certainly more than one Thomas, and at least a pair of Finches. (Or else one extremely talented makeup artist.) I’m hard pressed to identify young actors that would bear enough resemblance to their older counterparts, something that often pulls me out of the action when I’m watching a film where the actors age dramatically. But for certain characters, at certain points in the novel, choosing a card-carrying SAG (or Equity) member is a piece of cake.

I didn’t have him in mind when I wrote the character, but now when I imagine Dennis Finch, the art history professor, I can only picture the brilliant Michael...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Tracy Guzeman's website and blog.

Writers Read: Tracy Guzeman.

My Book, The Movie: The Gravity of Birds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five recent great, underrated books

Gabe Habash named five recent "great books with sales that don’t represent their worth" for PWxyz, the news blog of Publishers Weekly, including:
Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

If you want a heart-stopping book, this is it. Krasznahorkai has been called “the Hungarian master of the apocalypse” by Susan Sontag, while James Wood said reading him is “one of the most profoundly unsettling experiences I have had as a reader.” Here, all you need to know is that a few unhinged people are waiting around an isolated hamlet for the arrival of a supposed prophet. Notoriously an enemy of paragraph breaks and periods (Krasznahorkai has built a cult following in part because he says things like: “Only God needs the period—and at the end He will use one, I am sure.”), reading Satantango is an exercise both claustrophobic and mesmerizing. There’s a moment where the narrative actually breaks down, right there on the page. When I read it, I stood up and started pacing around I was so excited.

Bonus points if you watch all of Béla Tarr’s 7 hour adaptation of the book.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is David Rich reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: David Rich, author of Middle Man.

His entry begins:
An old friend recently said, “I finally read that Irwin Shaw story you used to talk about, the one you said was perfect.” I had no idea what he was talking about. “'Tip on a Dead Jockey',” he said. I remembered reading it but not giving it that recommendation so I reread it. It is perfect. And that led to other Shaw stories like “The Greek General,” “Love on a Dark Street,” and my favorite, “Girls in Their Summer Dresses.”

Irwin Shaw gets guys – tough guys, soft guys, self destructive guys, lucky and unlucky guys. He gets guys as clearly as anyone - Hemingway, Updike, doesn’t matter. There are guys who over estimate themselves and over trust their buddies like Alex in “The Greek General.” And there are guys who underestimate themselves and pass on a good bet the way Barber does in “Tip on a Dead Jockey.”

For Shaw it’s never unrealistic histrionics or dramatic displays of anger that define his men; it’s...[read on]
About Middle Man, from the publisher:
David Rich—whose acclaimed debut, Caravan of Thieves, drew comparisons to Elmore Leonard, Robert Ludlum, and John le Carré—returns with a crime thriller featuring Lieutenant Rollie Waters.

Recruited into SHADE, the elite, covert group formed by the U.S. military, Rollie Waters must locate and retrieve the countless millions taken from Saddam’s cache during the Iraq War and shipped home in the coffins of dead soldiers. But when a sniper attacks the team, Rollie is forced to go undercover to solve the riddle of the graves and to apprehend the puppet master behind the whole plot.

Rollie’s own father, inveterate liar and charming con artist Dan Waters, was killed attempting to steal the first $25 million after stumbling across the conspiracy involving powerful military officers, would-be kings, and the very general who nearly destroyed Rollie during his last tour in Afghanistan.

Rollie’s undercover quest takes him from Houston and the self-proclaimed king of Kurdistan, to the treacherous, labyrinthine streets of Erbil, Iraq, and into the arms of a stunning, enigmatic woman whose motives he can’t discern. As a confirmed citizen of the fog, now more spy than soldier, Waters must uncover the man pulling the strings behind a backdrop of murder, deceit, and stolen fortune—before he disappears forever into the mist.
Learn more about the book and author at David Rich's website and blog.

Writers Read: David Rich (September 2012).

My Book, The Movie: Caravan of Thieves.

My Book, The Movie: Middle Man.

Writers Read: David Rich.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Melodie Johnson Howe's "City of Mirrors"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: City of Mirrors: A Diana Poole Thriller by Melodie Johnson Howe.

About the book, from the publisher:
Running out of money, Diana Poole is forced to go back to the only work she knows: acting. Her much-loved husband and movie-star mother have died, and now Diana is over thirty-five. In Hollywood that means she might as well be dead. Still, a few key people remember her talent, and she lands a role in a new movie. But an actress should never get her hopes up, especially when she discovers the female lead’s murdered body. Raised in her mother’s shadow, Diana knows people in “the business”will go to dangerous lengths to protect their images. When her own life and career are threatened, Diana decides to fight back and find the killer. But unmasking the surprising murderer isn’t that easy, especially when she uncovers what’s real—and unreal—in her own life.
Learn more about the book and author at Melodie Johnson Howe's website.

The Page 69 Test: City of Mirrors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top bookish retreats to American cities

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Dell Villa tagged five top literary escapes to American cities, including:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt.

In a grand southern mansion, in a town where everyone knows everyone, shots ring out in the early morning mist of May 2, 1981. This book, based on actual events surrounding a complex murder case in Savannah, awoke in me a deeply suppressed desire to visit the Deep South, and an admittedly more natural urge to linger over a mint julep. Your journey within these pages is full of twists, turns, drawls, deceptions, and a bit of voodoo; similar to the Fiji trip I’ve only ever taken in my overactive imagination, this was a sojourn I never wanted to end.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Charles Gati (ed.), "Zbig: The Strategy and Statecraft of Zbigniew Brzezinski"

Ray Taras, Fulbright Distinguished Chair in European Studies at the University of Warsaw, reviews Charles Gati (ed.), Zbig: The Strategy and Statecraft of Zbigniew Brzezinski (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013):
It’s almost become an iron law. For every book about international politics authored by Zbigniew Brzezinski, there is a corresponding book about Henry Kissinger. Depending on how we count, since his debut in 1956 as Carl Friedrich’s co-author on Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Brzezinski has published 17-18 books. Including autobiographies, there are at least as many book-length studies about Kissinger. What is truly rare is, then, a biography of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. Senior East European scholar Charles Gati’s new edited book justifiably sees itself as “the first comprehensive account of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s complementary roles as author, academic, policy maker, and critic.”

It is facile and redundant to go much further in a Brzezinski-Kissinger comparison. That is the subject of the first chapter by Justin Vaïsse, recently-appointed director of the policy planning staff of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will hopefully have time to complete the next Brzezinski biography, based on his personal papers. He insists that the two statesmen have maintained good relations for the past three decades. But the supposedly sole derogatory Kissinger comment Vaïsse could find is a 1976 bombshell: “Brzezinski is a total whore. He’s been on every side of every argument” (p.21). Two years earlier Zbig, in his own inimitable way, had been as devastating in his terse summary of Kissinger’s approach as Richard Nixon’s security advisor: “fascination with enemies and ennui with friends” (p.19). That is, supposedly Chinese and Russian enemies and Western European friends.

Gati’s book has a simple but effective structure. Vaïsse’s chapter fits in Part I, “From the Ivy League.” Two other chapters here deal with Brzezinski’s usually overlooked softening tone on totalitarianism as a concept, and with his underappreciated pragmatism on member states of the Soviet bloc. “Our strategic and historical goal should not be the absorption of what was once called Eastern Europe into what is still called Western Europe;” rather, the objective should be “the progressive emergence of a truly independent, culturally authentic, perhaps de facto neutral Central Europe,” he wrote in a 1988 article (p.55). This was the prevailing sentiment at the breakthrough talks of the Polish Round Table held within a year.

This cautious tactic was overtaken by the fast-paced events that broke the back of the Soviet bloc by the end of 1989. In October of that year Zbig himself had developed a more sober assessment of Eastern Europe’s future. Speaking at a conference in the Soviet Foreign Ministry, he rhetorically asked “whether the Soviet Union will retain a presence in Europe” (p. 153). Some two years later there was not just no Soviet presence but no Soviet Union.

The second Part of the book, titled “To the National Security Council,” is made up of contributions by cohorts and policy analysts providing original insights on and thick descriptions of Zbig’s years at the NSC. Anecdotes abound such as about “his exuberant Russophobia as illustrated by his anti-Soviet antics on the Great Wall” in 1978 (p.93). The Chinese subsequently nicknamed him The Polar Bear Tamer. In turn his scholarly colleagues in communist studies “judged him brilliant and erratic – brilliant all the time, right about half the time” (p.96).

“The Policy Advocate,” the third Part, begins with a chapter by Patrick Vaughn, author of a Brzezinski biography which appeared in Polish in 2010. He recounts an alleged report by KGB agents indicating that Brzezinski had orchestrated fellow Pole Karol Woytyła’s selection as Pope in 1978 as part of “a backdoor plot in the Vatican with the aim of destabilizing Poland and the Warsaw Pact alliance” (p.127). The Polish term mitoman, or pseudologia fantastica as it can be rendered into “English,” may capture the exaggerated character of this conspiracy theory.

Brzezinski’s circumscribed criticism of the 1991 US military intervention in Iraq, then his scorching attack on the 2003 invasion, gives rise to the charming subtitle of James Mann’s chapter, “The Makings of a Dove.” Perhaps it represented hyperbole directed at two Republican administrations, but it was becoming apparent that Brzezinski no longer needed to be a cold war warrior, much less a shooting war one. In an interview with Deutsche Welle in August 2013, he cautioned against Western intervention in Syria following reports of the use of chemical weapons against civilians: “Given the contemporary reality of what I have called in my writings ‘Global Political Awakening,’ a policy of force based primarily on Western and in some cases former colonial powers does not seem to me a very promising avenue to an eventual solution to the regional problem.” Zbig had indeed become a dove for the long haul.

Part IV is called “Portraits” and includes “A Self-Assessment” based on Gati’s interview with Zbig. An especially germane comment from him comes at the very end. We know that he has a manifestly Polish identity. To someone like me who went to the same high school in Montreal as he did, his formative years spent in Canada also give definition to his identity. Zbig recalls how, in his first years in the US – he enrolled as a doctoral student at Harvard in 1950 – “I said to myself, why change my name?” He had concluded that “America is the only country where someone called ‘Zbigniew Brzezinski’ can make a name for himself without changing his name” (p.234).

This biography tells us a lot not just about Zbig but about America’s own checkered history in Brzezinski’s lifetime.--Ray Taras
Visit Ray Taras's website. His 2012 books are Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe (Edinburgh University Press); (editor) Challenging multiculturalism: European models of diversity Edinburgh University Press); and (editor) Russia's identity in international relations: images, perceptions, misperceptions (Routledge).

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top dangerous mentors in fiction

Megan Abbott's latest novel is Dare Me.

Dare Me was named: One of Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of 2012, one of Salon's Ultimate Book Guide Choices for 2012, one of The Millions's Best Books of 2012, and NBC's The Today Show's Holiday Book Picks: Gillian Flynn's selection.

One of Abbott's five most dangerous mentors in fiction, as told to The Daily Beast:
The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James

When Isabel Archer first meets Madame Merle, she is lured as if by a siren song to the sound of the older woman playing a piano sonata. Fatefully, James’s heroine places herself eagerly “under [the] influence” of the enigmatic and hypnotic woman who will eventually engineer Isabel’s catastrophic marriage. The scene in which Isabel learns of her mentor’s betrayal is heartbreaking. “What have you done with me?” she asks, horrified. In reply, Madame Merle slowly rises, “stroking her muff, but not removing her eyes from Isabel’s face. ‘Everything,’ she answered.”
Read about another novel on the list.

The Portrait of a Lady is among Susan Cheever's six favorite Massachusetts books and the six best books named by Elizabeth Edwards; it is also one of Tina Brown's five best books on reputation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: William J. Turkel's "Spark from the Deep"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Spark from the Deep: How Shocking Experiments with Strongly Electric Fish Powered Scientific Discovery by William J. Turkel.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spark from the Deep tells the story of how human beings came to understand and use electricity by studying the evolved mechanisms of strongly electric fish. These animals have the ability to shock potential prey or would-be predators with high-powered electrical discharges.

William J. Turkel asks completely fresh questions about the evolutionary, environmental, and historical aspects of people's interest in electric fish. Stimulated by painful encounters with electric catfish, torpedos, and electric eels, people learned to harness the power of electric shock for medical therapies and eventually developed technologies to store, transmit, and control electricity. Now we look to these fish as an inspiration for engineering new sensors, computer interfaces, autonomous undersea robots, and energy-efficient batteries.
Learn more about Spark from the Deep at the Johns Hopkins University Press website and William J. Turkel's website.

The Page 99 Test: Spark from the Deep.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Steve Yarbrough reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances.

His entry begins:
Right now, I'm on something of a Hungarian fiction binge. Presently I am reading Peter Nadas's ambitious and challenging Parallel Stories. This comes on the heels of a Gyula Krudy collection from NYRB titled The Adventures of Sindbad. I have another Krudy novel on-deck, Sunflower, again from NYRB. The impetus for all of this is that some years ago, I became infatuated, like one of the characters in my own new novel The Realm of Last Chances, with the work of...[read on]
About The Realm of Last Chances, from the publisher:
In a captivating departure from the Deep South setting of his previous fiction, Steve Yarbrough now gives us a richly nuanced portrait of a marriage being reinvented in a small town in the Northeast, in his most surprising and compelling novel yet.

When Kristin Stevens loses her administrative job in California’s university system, she and her husband, Cal, relocate to Massachusetts. Kristin takes a position at a smaller, less prestigious college outside Boston and promptly becomes entangled in its delicate, overheated politics. Cal, whose musical talent is nothing more than a consuming avocation, spends his days alone, fixing up their new home. And as they settle into their early fifties, the two seem to exist in separate spheres entirely. At the same time, their younger neighbor Matt Drinnan watches his ex-wife take up with another man in his hometown, with only himself to blame. He and Kristin, both facing an acute sense of isolation, gravitate toward each other, at first in hope of a platonic confidant but then, inevitably, of something more. The Realm of Last Chances provides us with a subtle, moving exploration of relationships, loneliness and our convoluted attempts to reach out to one another.
Learn more about the book and author at Steve Yarbrough's website.

Writers Read: Steve Yarbrough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Carol Snow's "Bubble World"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Bubble World by Carol Snow.

About the book, from the publisher:
Freesia’s life is perfect. She lives on the beautiful tropical island of Agalinas, surrounded by idyllic weather, fancy dress shops, and peacocks who sing her favorite song to wake her up in the morning. She has so many outfits she could wear a different one every day for a year and not run out.

Lately things on the island may have been a bit flippy: sudden blackouts, students disappearing, even Freesia’s reflection looking slightly . . . off. But in Freesia’s experience, it’s better not to think about things like that too much.

Unfortunately for her, these signs are more than random blips in the universe. Freesia’s perfect bubble is about to pop.
Learn more about the book and author at Carol Snow's website.

Carol Snow is the author of Snap and Switch, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She had also written five novels for adults, including Just Like Me, Only Better and What Came First.

My Book, The Movie: Just Like Me, Only Better.

My Book, The Movie: What Came First.

The Page 69 Test: Bubble World.

--Marshal Zeringue

David Rich's "Middle Man," the movie

The current feature at My Book, The Movie: Middle Man by David Rich.

The entry begins:
Want to have some fun? Spend a little time trying to cast Maya: the daughter of the man claiming to be the King of Kurdistan; she is dark, voluptuous, mysterious, wry, witty, focused and determined.

For inspiration I spent a little time staring at photos of the astoundingly beautiful and talented Isabelle Adjani. If you have never seen her in One Deadly Summer, drop what you’re doing. She’s too old now for the part now, but once upon a time…

There are probably Persian actresses who would fit the part, but I am not familiar with them. French actresses are often popular around the world so I searched there and Bérénice Marlohe (Skyfall) stopped me right away. If you want to know what Maya looks like (and you do) check her out. And I would be remiss if I did not mention – in any blog post on any topic - Eva Green. I’m going to work my way through Italian and Greek actresses next.

Johnny Bannion is a bald headed Welshman, a one eyed charmer and con artist extraordinaire. He is Dan, Rollie’s father, times ten. Anthony...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at David Rich's website and blog.

Writers Read: David Rich (September 2012).

My Book, The Movie: Caravan of Thieves.

My Book, The Movie: Middle Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2013

Five books that are like country and western songs

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Nicole Hill suggested five books that, like country and western songs, tell "stories of agony and ecstasy, soaring highs and mighty powerful lows, heartache and hard living," including:
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

Faulkner’s roundtable of misery hits all the same sour notes as the best singers to grace the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In this saddest of road-trip stories, the Bundren family embarks on an odyssey to bury matriarch Addie. It’s darkly comic, with the trauma of his mother’s death confusing young Vardaman into uttering one of the book’s most memorable lines: “My mother is a fish.” It’s a defeatist kind of humor—there is irony in the bleakness—in the same vein as all of Nashville’s deprecating barroom bawls (“And as the door behind you closes, the only thing I know to say, it’s been a good year for the roses.”) You could try your hand at tackling Absalom, Absalom!, but wouldn’t you ruther have some bananas with the Bundrens?

Mama died, and Anse can’t stand it/Mama died, we think she planned it/Mama died, she ain’t here no more/Mama died, and Cash is a Jesus metaphor
Read about another novel on the list.

As I Lay Dying is on Laura Frost's list of the ten best modernist books (in English), Helen Humphreys's top ten list of books on grieving, John Mullan's list of ten of the best teeth in literature, Jon McGregor's list of the top ten dead bodies in literature, Roy Blount Jr.'s list of five favorite books of Southern humor, and James Franco's six best books list.

The “My mother is a fish.” chapter in As I Lay Dying is among the ten most notorious parts of famous books according to Gabe Habash.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Tracy Guzeman reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds.

Her entry begins:
After working on a long project (first novel) and starting another (second novel), I’m drawn to the crisp borders of the short story. Right now I’m reading Andrea Barrett’s new collection, Archangel, and Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. I am an ardent Andrea Barrett fan; I confess to semi-stalking her at a writing conference where my efforts were rewarded when I found myself standing in back of her in the coffee line. In both her novels and story collections, her characters are people I’m fascinated by: individuals with a passion for defining the unknown and explaining the unfathomable, by setting ablaze the precise boundaries of science and illuminating its cold, dark corners. Science writers, x-ray technicians, geneticists… what happens when their elegant theorems are transmogrified into messy human behavior? I can never wait to...[read on]
About The Gravity of Birds, from the publisher:
How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.
Learn more about the book and author at Tracy Guzeman's website and blog.

Writers Read: Tracy Guzeman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books with Western perspectives of Asia

Ian Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College. His books include The China Lover, Murder in Amsterdam, Occidentalism, God's Dust, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Bad Elements, Taming the Gods, and the forthcoming Year Zero: A History of 1945.

With Alec Ash of Five Books, Buruma tagged five top books with Western perspectives of Asia, including:
The next country on our tour is Japan, with Donald Richie’s The Inland Sea.

Donald Richie, who died earlier this year, was a great friend and mentor of mine. He first arrived in Japan in 1947, when Japan was still occupied by the United States, and he stayed there, as a journalist and a writer, more or less until his death. He introduced Japanese cinema to the West through his books.

The Inland Sea, which was written in the sixties, is his love poem to Japan as he viewed it – which is quite romantically. It’s about a trip he makes around the Inland Sea, a very beautiful part of Japan filled with small islands. The landscape is extraordinary. He travels there just as Japan is modernising very fast – the cities are transformed as the old Japan disappears, as is happening in China now. So he goes to the part of Japan which to him is the least spoilt. It shows his love for a certain idea of Japan that’s disappearing – which is always the romantic view. Much of literature consists of describing a vanishing or a vanished world.

What are the communities he spends time with?

Many of them are small fishing villages, where people still have a very rural, traditional way of life. Even though he’s describing reality, he infuses it with a kind of poetry. It’s as much a product of his own romantic imagination as it is of life in Japanese fishing villages in the 1960s.
Read about another book Buruma tagged at Five Books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Bill Crider's "Compound Murder"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Compound Murder by Bill Crider.

About the book, from the publisher:
Small-town Texas sheriff Dan Rhodes is in for another puzzling mystery in this next in the entertaining, award-winning series

Before classes start one morning, the body of English instructor Earl Wellington is found outside the building of the community college. Wellington was clearly involved in a struggle with someone and has died as a result. Sheriff Dan Rhodes pursues and arrests Ike Terrell, a student who was fleeing the campus. Ike's father is Able Terrell, a survivalist who has withdrawn from society and lives in a gated compound. He’s not happy that his son has chosen to attend the college, and he's even less happy with the arrest.

Rhodes discovers that Wellington and Ike had had a confrontation over a paper that Wellington insisted Ike plagiarized. Wellington also had had a confrontation with the dean and was generally disliked by the students. As the number of suspects increases, it’s up to Rhodes to solve the murder while also dealing with an amusing but frustrating staff, a professor who wants to be a cop, and all the other normal occurrences that can wreak havoc in a small town.

Bill Crider's Compound Murder is an enjoyable police procedural filled with surprises, chuckles, and a quirky cast that will captivate mystery readers.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, and Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes on the big screen.

Writers Read: Bill Crider (August 2012).

Writers Read: Bill Crider.

The Page 69 Test: Compound Murder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Anthony Gierzynski's (with Kathryn Eddy) "Harry Potter and the Millennials"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation by Anthony Gierzynski with Kathryn Eddy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Without a doubt, the Harry Potter series has had a powerful effect on the Millennial Generation. Millions of children grew up immersed in the world of the boy wizard—reading the books, dressing up in costume to attend midnight book release parties, watching the movies, even creating and competing in Quidditch tournaments. Beyond what we know of the popularity of the series, however, nothing has been published on the question of the Harry Potter effect on the politics of its young readers—now voting adults.

Looking to engage his students in exploring the connections between political opinion and popular culture, Anthony Gierzynski conducted a national survey of more than 1,100 college students. Harry Potter and the Millennials tells the fascinating story of how the team designed the study and gathered results, what conclusions can and cannot be drawn about Millennial politics, and the challenges social scientists face in studying political science, sociology, and mass communication.
Learn more about the book and authors at the official Harry Potter and the Millennials website.

The Page 99 Test: Harry Potter and the Millennials.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What is Todd Ritter reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Todd Ritter, author of Devil's Night.

His entry begins:
I’ve been working on a historical mystery, so this summer is all about nonfiction for me. Not for research purposes, although there has been a bit of that, but to get a feel for how nonfiction writers use historical detail to enhance their stories.

Right now, my nonfiction book of choice is The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. It’s an excellent example of a writer using telling details — clothing, weather, headlines — to really immerse readers into the world of the story. Brown doesn’t drown the reader in facts, figures and exhaustive descriptions, like some authors do. Instead, he lets the story flow, using ...[read on]
About Devil's Night, from the publisher:
Two things Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell never thought she would do again: Enter a burning building, and lay eyes on Henry Goll, the man who was trapped inside with her the last time she was in one. So Kat's on high alert when, barely a year after the dust settled around the Grim Reaper killings, both happen on the same day.

She's jolted awake at 1a.m. by a desperate phone call telling her Perry Hollow’s one and only museum—home to all the town’s historical artifacts—has been set on fire. Arriving at the scene, Kat catches just a glimpse of Henry's face among the crowd before she's rushed into the charred building, only to find the museum curator dead…bludgeoned, not burned. Kat has lived through some tense moments and seen some gruesome crimes, but the next twenty-four hours will be the most dangerous of her life as she and Henry seek out a killer and the motivation behind these terrifying crimes.

Todd Ritter returns to the beloved town of Perry Hollow, Pennsylvania with Devil's Night, his most poignant, cleverly plotted novel yet.
Learn more about the book and author at Todd Ritter's website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Todd Ritter's Death Notice.

My Book, The Movie: Death Notice.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2011).

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Three of Iran's supreme leader's favorite novels

Ali Khamenei is Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The Iranian journalist and writer Akbar Ganji has an essay in the current Foreign Affairs (Sept/Oct 2013),  "Who Is Ali Khamenei?".

"As a young man, Khamenei loved novels," Ganji writes. "He read such Iranian writers as Muhammad Ali Jamalzadah, Sadeq Chubak, and Sadeq Hedayat but came to feel that they paled before classic Western writers from France, Russia, and the United Kingdom."

One of Khamenei's favorite Western novels according to Ganji:
Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

"In my opinion, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is the best novel that has been written in history. I have not read all the novels written throughout history, no doubt, but I have read many that relate to the events of various centuries.... [But] Les Misérables is a miracle in the world of novel writing.... I have said over and over again, go read Les Misérables once. This Les Misérables is a book of sociology, a book of history, a book of criticism, a divine book, a book of love and feeling."
--Khamenei, to some officials of Iran’s state-run television network in 2004
Learn about two more of Khamenei's favorite Western novels.

Read Akbar Ganji's essay, "Who Is Ali Khamenei?" at Foreign Affairs and view Fareed Zakaria's commentary on the subject at CNN's Global Public Square website. Zakaria notes:
The books Khamenei likes are all critiques of Western society, for the way it has treated the poor or African Americans or native Americans. He does not, incidentally, seem to recognize the strength of a culture that criticizes itself – all these critiques of the West are by Westerners, who often gain great fame for these efforts.
--Marshal Zeringue

Anita Hughes's "Lake Como," the movie

The current feature at My Book, The Movie: Lake Como by Anita Hughes.

The entry begins:
The minute I started writing Lake Como, I began visualizing it as a movie - it is hard not to when the setting is one of the most picturesque lakes in the world!

Hallie is a young San Francisco interior designer and I see her as a vibrant and beautiful blonde - possibly Blake Lively. Hallie's mother, Francesca designs wedding cakes and she is one of those women who looks elegant in jeans and Keds with flour on her fingers. I see her as Ashley Judd or Andie MacDowell with a bob.

Hallie's grandmother - the San Francisco society matriarch Constance Playfair would be a lovely older actress with beautiful skin and exquisite fashion sense - perhaps...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Anita Hughes's website.

Writers Read: Anita Hughes (July 2012).

My Book, The Movie: Market Street.

My Book, The Movie: Lake Como.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top novels about the horrors of adolescence

Janice Clark is a writer and designer living in Chicago. She grew up in Mystic, Connecticut, land of whaling and pizza. She received her MFA from New York University.

Clark's new novel is The Rathbones.

For Publishers Weekly she named seven of her favorite coming-of-age novels. One title on the list:
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Pip’s journey from blacksmith’s boy to gentleman comes full circle when he learns to value not the trappings of wealth and class but the quiet strength of Joe at the forge and the nobility of the convict Magwitch, truer than that of any of the ruling class in Dickens’ novel. Pip learns to trust his own conscience and reverts to the kind nature of his boyhood, before Miss Havisham lured him into her spidery realm.
Read about another book on Clark's list.

Great Expectations appears on Amy Wilkinson's list of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth, Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of "Great Expectations".

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pg. 69: Carolyn Jess-Cooke's "The Boy Who Could See Demons"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bestselling author Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written a brilliant novel of suspense that delves into the recesses of the human mind and soul—perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Lisa Unger. The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.

Dr. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, is called in to work at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. There she is told to observe and assess Alex Connolly, a keenly intelligent, sensitive ten-year-old coping with his mother’s latest suicide attempt. Alex is in need of serious counseling: He has been harming himself and others, often during blackouts. At the root of his destructive behavior, Alex claims, is his imaginary “friend” Ruen, a cunning demon who urges Alex to bend to his often violent will.

But Anya has seen this kind of behavior before—with her own daughter, Poppy, who suffered from early-onset schizophrenia. Determined to help Alex out of his darkness, Anya begins to treat the child. But soon strange and alarming coincidences compel Anya to wonder: Is Alex’s condition a cruel trick of the mind? Or is Ruen not so make-believe after all? The reality, it turns out, is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.

A rich and deeply moving page-turner, The Boy Who Could See Demons sets out to challenge the imagination and capture the way life takes unexpected turns. In the best storytelling tradition, it leaves the reader changed.
Learn more about the book and author at Carolyn Jess-Cooke's website and blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Read: Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

My Book, The Movie: The Boy Who Could See Demons.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Could See Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best Elmore Leonard books

Tony Parsons's books include the international bestsellers, Man and Boy and Man and Wife. A former music journalist and television personality, he lives in England.

For the U.K. edition of GQ he named five of his favorite Elmore Leonard books, including:
Raylan (2012)

The late flowering that produced Rayland Givens, inspiration of the TV series, Justified. Raylan is Elmore digging deep at the very bottom of the American nightmare - Nazis with bazookas, mining executives who want to suck the juice from a land and its people and Raylan himself, the last of the great western heroes. He doesn't pull his gun unless he is planning to kill you.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jacob N. Shapiro's "The Terrorist's Dilemma"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: The Terrorist's Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations by Jacob N. Shapiro.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do terrorist groups control their members? Do the tools groups use to monitor their operatives and enforce discipline create security vulnerabilities that governments can exploit? The Terrorist's Dilemma is the first book to systematically examine the great variation in how terrorist groups are structured. Employing a broad range of agency theory, historical case studies, and terrorists' own internal documents, Jacob Shapiro provocatively discusses the core managerial challenges that terrorists face and illustrates how their political goals interact with the operational environment to push them to organize in particular ways.

Shapiro provides a historically informed explanation for why some groups have little hierarchy, while others resemble miniature firms, complete with line charts and written disciplinary codes. Looking at groups in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, he highlights how consistent and widespread the terrorist's dilemma--balancing the desire to maintain control with the need for secrecy--has been since the 1880s. Through an analysis of more than a hundred terrorist autobiographies he shows how prevalent bureaucracy has been, and he utilizes a cache of internal documents from al-Qa'ida in Iraq to outline why this deadly group used so much paperwork to handle its people. Tracing the strategic interaction between terrorist leaders and their operatives, Shapiro closes with a series of comparative case studies, indicating that the differences in how groups in the same conflict approach their dilemmas are consistent with an agency theory perspective.

The Terrorist's Dilemma demonstrates the management constraints inherent to terrorist groups and sheds light on specific organizational details that can be exploited to more efficiently combat terrorist activity.
Learn more about The Terrorist's Dilemma at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Terrorist's Dilemma.

--Marshal Zeringue