Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Pg. 99: Danilo Mandić's "Gangsters and Other Statesmen"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Gangsters and Other Statesmen: Mafias, Separatists, and Torn States in a Globalized World by Danilo Mandic.

About the book, from the publisher:
How global organized crime shapes the politics of borders in modern conflicts

Separatism has been on the rise across the world since the end of the Cold War, dividing countries through political strife, ethnic conflict, and civil war, and redrawing the political map. Gangsters and Other Statesmen examines the role transnational mafias play in the success and failure of separatist movements, challenging conventional wisdom about the interrelation of organized crime with peacebuilding, nationalism, and state making.

Danilo Mandić conducted fieldwork in the disputed territories of Kosovo and South Ossetia, talking to mobsters, separatists, and policymakers in war zones and along major smuggling routes. In this timely and provocative book, he demonstrates how globalized mafias shape the politics of borders in torn states, shedding critical light on an autonomous nonstate actor that has been largely sidelined by considerations of geopolitics, state-centered agency, and ethnonationalism. Blending extensive archival sleuthing and original ethnographic data with insights from sociology and other disciplines, Mandić argues that organized crime can be a fateful determinant of state capacity, separatist success, and ethnic conflict.

Putting mafias at the center of global processes of separatism and territorial consolidation, Gangsters and Other Statesmen raises vital questions and urges reconsideration of a host of separatist cases in West Africa, the Middle East, and East Europe.
Learn more about Gangsters and Other Statesmen at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Gangsters and Other Statesmen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten chilling thrillers to get you through the winter storms

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author.

Her latest novel is The Wicked Hour.

At CrimeReads, Blanchard tagged ten chilling tales to get you through a winter storm, including:
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Does one terrible mistake make you a terrible person? This is the disturbing question behind Jennifer Hillier’s grisly, harrowing thriller “Jar of Hearts.” When 16-year-old Geo’s best friend Angela goes missing, only Geo knows what really happened. Fourteen years later, when Angela’s body is found, Geo must testify against her former boyfriend, the Sweetbay Strangler. When he escapes from prison and new bodies start showing up, Geo’s life is in jeopardy—but what really happened back then? That’s the accelerant behind this dark twisty story of flawed characters, turbulent relationships, betrayal, obsession and self-delusion. The ending blew me away.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kristy Dallas Alley's "The Ballad of Ami Miles," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley.

The entry begins:
I have imagined the opening sequence of The Ballad of Ami Miles so often that it plays in my mind like the memory of a movie I've watched again and again. I can see the POV shot of trees and forest floor as Ami tromps confidently toward home, not knowing her world is about to be turned upside down. I see the stiff forms of her grandparents and the strange man standing in the yard where she isn't expecting to find anything out of the ordinary, surrounded by the desolation of Heavenly Shepard, her family's trailer dealership-turned survival compound where they live in isolation after viral infertility has wiped out the world as we know it. She runs away to a communal settlement that is built in a real place, Lake Point state park near Eufaula, Alabama, and I picture it both as its real self and as the older, shabbier version in my mental movie of this book. But the casting keeps changing, as young actors quickly grow up and new talents constantly appear. 

For this "dream casting," I wanted to pick actors who could fit the roles right now. 

The main characters: 

Ami: Sadie Sink who played Max in Stranger Things fits the physical description of Ami pretty perfectly, and I think she's a good fit overall. 

Jessie: There's a young independent film actress named Stella Cole who I think would make a perfect Jessie. For a big-name choice, I can see...[read on]
Follow Kristy Dallas Alley on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Ballad of Ami Miles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Pg. 69: Thomas Perry's "Eddie's Boy"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy: A Butcher's Boy Novel by Thomas Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
Michael Shaeffer is a retired American businessman, living peacefully in England with his aristocratic wife. But her annual summer party brings strangers to their house, and with them, an attempt on Michael’s life. He is immediately thrust into action, luring his lethal pursuers to Australia before venturing into the lion’s den—the States—to figure out why the mafia is after him again, and how to stop them.

Eddie’s Boy jumps between Michael’s current predicament and the past, between the skillset he now ruthlessly and successfully employs and the training that made him what he is. We glimpse the days before he became the Butcher's Boy, the highly skilled hit man who pulled a slaughter job on some double-crossing clients and started a mob war, to his childhood spent apprenticed to Eddie, a seasoned hired assassin. And we watch him pit two prominent mafia families against each other to eliminate his enemies one by one.

He’s meticulous in his approach, using an old contact turned adversary in the Organized Crime Division of the Justice Department for information, without ever allowing her to get too close to his trail. But will he be able to escape this new wave of young contract killers, or will the years finally catch up to him?

Perry’s Edgar Award–winning Butcher’s Boy returns in full force in this exhilarating new installment to the beloved series.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry (December 2019).

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Eddie's Boy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that are pulpy in all the right ways

James S. Murray is a writer, executive producer, and actor, best known as "Murr" on the hit television show Impractical Jokers on truTV. He is also one of the stars of the TV show The Misery Index on TBS along with his comedy troupe, The Tenderloins.

His new novel, with Darren Wearmouth, is Don't Move.

At Tor.com, Murray tagged five gory, creepy page-turners that still offer the best of modern storytelling. One title on the list:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

A new luxury resort is set to open in California. But when a hyper methodical murderer begins picking off the staff one by one, the opening ribbon meant for cutting is quickly transformed into crime scene tape. Wohlsdorf’s debut is an instant classic in my book. Using completely original and fresh storytelling devices, Wohlsdorf has somehow achieved making the reader feel like they’re inside of the security cameras bearing witness to the atrocities taking place within the resort. The entire novel is written from a sinisterly detached perspective, a technique that somehow amplifies the gore in a way that only a twisted and cold robotic mind could conceive. If you’re looking for bloody, mysterious murders that will keep your detective side guessing until the very tragic end, Security is the read for you.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Security.

My Book, The Movie: Security.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Josh Swiller

From my Q&A with Josh Swiller, author of Bright Shining World:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?
Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Bright Shining World is a straightforward title that right away gets mysterious as it doesn’t at all fit the action at the opening. But that is kind of the book in a nutshell: not what it seems to be. The title makes more sense at the end of the book for sure.

What's in a name?

I just liked the name Wallace, back from the character in the absolutely magnificent HBO show The Wire. Conveys a decency. In the book his last name is Cole but his placeholder last name through the early drafts was...[read on]
Visit Josh Swiller's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bright Shining World.

Q&A with Josh Swiller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nimisha Barton's "Reproductive Citizens"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Reproductive Citizens: Gender, Immigration, and the State in Modern France, 1880–1945 by Nimisha Barton.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the familiar tale of mass migration to France from 1880 onward, we know very little about the hundreds of thousands of women who formed a critical part of those migration waves. In Reproductive Citizens, Nimisha Barton argues that their relative absence in the historical record hints at a larger and more problematic oversight—the role of sex and gender in shaping the experiences of migrants to France before the Second World War.

Barton's compelling history of social citizenship demonstrates how, through the routine application of social policies, state and social actors worked separately toward a shared goal: repopulating France with immigrant families. Filled with voices gleaned from census reports, municipal statistics, naturalization dossiers, court cases, police files, and social worker registers, Reproductive Citizens shows how France welcomed foreign-born men and women—mobilizing naturalization, family law, social policy, and welfare assistance to ensure they would procreate, bearing French-assimilated children. Immigrants often embraced these policies because they, too, stood to gain from pensions, family allowances, unemployment benefits, and French nationality. By striking this bargain, they were also guaranteed safety and stability on a tumultuous continent.

Barton concludes that, in return for generous social provisions and refuge in dark times, immigrants joined the French nation through marriage and reproduction, breadwinning and child-rearing—in short, through families and family-making—which made them more French than even formal citizenship status could.
Visit Nimisha Barton's website.

The Page 99 Test: Reproductive Citizens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 30, 2020

Sixteen nonfiction books that tried to define America

Tom Zoellner is the author of several nonfiction books, including Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire and the newly released The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America.

At Electric Lit, he tagged sixteen attempts at the "one nonfiction book that encapsulated the grandeur, folly, ugliness, bravado, idealism, and tempestuousness of the United States of America," including:
These Truths, by Jill Lepore

The Harvard historian takes us from 1600 up to 2018 in a whopper of a volume that cannot possibly have everything stuffed into it. But Lepore makes a valiant attempt to fit in as much color and analysis as possible in 955 pages about the first nation in the world, as she puts it, to be governed “not by accident and force but by reason and choice.” Wars, strikes, riots, slavery, new religions, emancipation, skyscrapers, railroads, movies, highways, muskets, prisons, capitol swamps—all of it pinned down in readable prose, never minding what had to be left out for space. Lepore could have been writing this DAV ["Defining America Volume"] for the rest of her career.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Tessa Arlen's "Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers by Tessa Arlen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Poppy Redfern is back on the case when two female fighter pilots take a fatal dive in an all-new Woman of World War II Mystery by Tessa Arlen. 

It is the late autumn of 1942. Our indomitable heroine Poppy Redfern is thoroughly immersed in her new job as a scriptwriter at the London Crown Film Unit, which produces short films featuring British civilians who perform acts of valor and heroism in wartime. After weeks of typing copy and sharpening pencils, Poppy is thrilled to receive her first solo script project: a fifteen-minute film about the Air Transport Auxiliary, known as Attagirls, a group of female civilians who have been trained to pilot planes from factories to military airfields all over Britain. 

Poppy could not be more excited to spend time with these amazing ladies, but she never expects to see one of the best pilots die in what is being labeled an accident. When another Attagirl meets a similar fate, Poppy and her American fighter-pilot boyfriend, Griff, believe foul play may be at work. They soon realize that a murderer with a desire for revenge is dead set on grounding the Attagirls for good....
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

See Tessa Arlen’s top five historical novels.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

My Book, The Movie: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

The Page 69 Test: A Death by Any Other Name.

The Page 69 Test: Death of an Unsung Hero.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen (November 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

Q&A with Tessa Arlen.

The Page 69 Test: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Thomas Perry

From my Q&A with Thomas Perry, author of Eddie's Boy: A Butcher's Boy Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story? 

The title Eddie's Boy operates differently for two kinds of readers. This is the fourth volume of the Butcher's Boy series, which I wrote over nearly forty years. Many readers will be familiar with the book and will know Eddie, the neighborhood butcher who raised the boy, and know that the Butcher's Boy isn't as threatening a name as some characters think. Or is it? For anyone, the title should hint at the fact that this is going to be a story about a man in the present, but that many things that are parts of it happened in the distant past, when this elderly man was a boy. Maybe a reader will come to the thought that even when a man has white hair, he's still...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry (December 2019).

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Five SFF books packed with twists and turns

Born and raised in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana Pinguicha is a computer engineer graduate who currently lives in Lisbon. She can usually be found writing, painting, devouring extraordinary quantities of books and video games, or walking around with her bearded dragon, Norberta. She also has two cats, Sushi and Jubas, who would never forgive her if she didn’t mention them. 

Pinguicha's new novel, her debut, is A Curse of Roses

At Tor.com she tagged five sci-fi & fantasy "books that start one way, and by the time you’re done with them, there have been so many twists and turns your brain will feel like it’s completely lost in a maze," including:
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

I read this book three or so years ago, and it was like being in a fever dream. Emily Suvada’s debut is a YA Science Fiction novel about Cat, whose father was the world’s leading geneticist and probably the only hope at finding a cure for a deadly virus. Now, I realize we’re going through a pandemic at the time of this article, and not everyone wants to read about fictional viruses ravaging the planet.

The genetic-engineering science in this novel doesn’t exist, but it’s done and explored in such a way you will believe it. The worldbuilding is incredibly complex, yet accessible. There’s a Pigeon Poem—yes, you read that right, a pigeon poem. And there are so many plot twists between these pages, you will constantly find yourself screaming at just how it’s possible that Suvada packed so many things into this book and did it successfully. By the end of the book, you still won’t have found our way out of the maze, but you’ll be so into it you’ll be breathing the next two books like it’s the freshest mountain air.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julia Ember's "Ruinsong"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Ruinsong by Julia Ember.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Julia Ember's dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country's disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen's bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.
Visit Julia Ember's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ruinsong.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael J. Brown's "Hope and Scorn"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hope and Scorn: Eggheads, Experts, and Elites in American Politics by Michael J. Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
Intellectuals “have been both rallying points and railed against in American politics, vessels of hope and targets of scorn,” writes Michael J. Brown as he invigorates a recurrent debate in American life: Are intellectual public figures essential voices of knowledge and wisdom, or out-of-touch elites? Hope and Scorn investigates the role of high-profile experts and thinkers in American life and their ever-fluctuating relationship with the political and public spheres.

From Eisenhower’s era to Obama’s, the intellectual’s role in modern democracy has been up for debate. What makes an intellectual, and who can claim that privileged title? What are intellectuals’ obligations to society, and how, if at all, are their contributions compatible with democracy? For some, intellectuals were models of civic engagement. For others, the rise of the intellectual signaled the fall of the citizen. Carrying us through six key moments in this debate, Brown expertly untangles the shifting anxieties and aspirations for democracy in America in the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. Hope and Scorn begins with “egghead” politicians like Adlai Stevenson; profiles scholars like Richard Hofstadter and scholars-turned-politicians like H. Stuart Hughes; and ends with the rise of public intellectuals such as bell hooks and Cornel West. In clear and unburdened prose, Brown explicates issues of power, authority, political backlash, and more. Hope and Scorn is an essential guide to American concerns about intellectuals, their myriad shortcomings, and their formidable abilities.
Learn more about Hope and Scorn at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hope and Scorn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Five unconventional fictional families that might make you miss your own

Katie Yee is a Brooklyn-based writer and the Book Marks associate editor at Lit Hub. If you follow @bookmarksreads on Instagram, you'll see lots of photos of her rescue dog, Oliver.

At Lit Hub she tagged five unconventional fictional families that’ll make you miss your own. (Maybe.) One title on the list:
Mitsuko and Benson in Bryan Washington’s Memorial

Benson and Mike have been together for years, but when Mike learns his estranged father is dying, he flies to Japan to see him… just as his mother, Mitsuko, has arrived for a visit. Yes, Memorial is about a romantic relationship that has lost some of its momentum (Benson and Mike) and about the obligations one feels towards bloodlines (Mike and his father). But the most rewarding bond is the unexpected relationship that forms between Mitsuko and Benson: a true example of a forged family. (Plus, the cherished role that food plays in our shared sense of family.)
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Elinor Lipman's "Rachel to the Rescue," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman.

The entry begins:
I don’t think about casting a movie while writing a novel because movie dreams are pie in the sky. (Of my 12 novels, many were optioned but only one, Then She Found Me, made it to the screen, thanks to Helen Hunt. ) But if pressed, I would come up with the maybe-surprising choice of Halley Feiffer to play the title role in novel number 13, Rachel to the Rescue.

Why? Because she is funny; because she can play naturally, innocently gee-whiz funny; funny-insecure and funny-appealing. When I saw her in the movie she co-wrote and starred in, He’s Way More Famous Than You, she played a needy, on-the-skids version of herself, yet lovable. I’ll never forget her character bicycling down Broadway in a red sundress, singing “My Vagina,” as if...[read on]
Visit Elinor Lipman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Man.

The Page 99 Test: I Can't Complain.

The Page 69 Test: Good Riddance.

Writers Read: Elinor Lipman (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Rachel to the Rescue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Andrea Portes

From my Q&A with Andrea Portes, author of This Is Not a Ghost Story:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

You always want a title to have a kind of question to it. So, for instance, This is Not a Ghost Story really should be more like, “Why is this not a ghost story? What do ghosts have to do with any of this?” And, of course, it is a ghost story. But it is so much more than that. Without giving anything away, I’d say there are two kinds of hauntings occurring simultaneously in this book. The reader is then challenged to figure out what exactly those hauntings are, to figure out...[read on]
Visit Andrea Portes's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Is Not a Ghost Story.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Not a Ghost Story.

Q&A with Andrea Portes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2020

Five top mysteries set on islands

Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010. She writes the multi-award-winning Dandy Gilver series, set in the old country in the 1930s, as well as a strand of multi-award-winning psychological thrillers. Very different awards. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the humorous Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry look at California life. These are not multi-award-winning, but the first two won the same award in consecutive years, which still isn’t too shabby.

[My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide; The Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide.]

McPherson is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.

Her latest Dandy Gilver mystery is The Turning Tide.

At CrimeReads, McPherson tagged five of her favorite mystery plots set on islands, including:
The Island: Tregarrick / Tresco / Burgh
The Novel: Death at High Tide

My island-hopping tour of crime fiction comes full circle with Hannah Dennison’s Death at High Tide. It takes place on the Isles of Scilly, specifically on a tidal island that’s half Tresco and half Christie’s Burgh, only with a much dowdier hotel. I’m a longtime fan of Dennison’s writing and would have followed her to any setting, but a recent widow and her sister mysteriously inheriting a run-down, once splendid, Art Deco pile and hot-footing it off there? I couldn’t have been more in. The writing of recent grief is sharp and convincing, but the book has a sunny nature overall. Like Ann Cleeves’ Shetland books, it’s pitch-perfect on the feuds and friendships, alliances and claustrophobia, of an isolated community. The relationship between the sisters is appealing and authentic and the dangers of fog, tides, and cliffs are to the fore. If I’d read this as a kid, I might never have gone on all those stealth picnics to Cramond.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Bill Hayton's "The Invention of China"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Invention of China by Bill Hayton.

About the book, from the publisher:
A provocative account showing that “China”—and its 5,000 years of unified history—is a national myth, created only a century ago with a political agenda that persists to this day

China’s current leadership lays claim to a 5,000-year-old civilization, but “China” as a unified country and people, Bill Hayton argues, was created far more recently by a small group of intellectuals.

In this compelling account, Hayton shows how China’s present-day geopolitical problems—the fates of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea—were born in the struggle to create a modern nation-state. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reformers and revolutionaries adopted foreign ideas to “invent’ a new vision of China. By asserting a particular, politicized version of the past the government bolstered its claim to a vast territory stretching from the Pacific to Central Asia. Ranging across history, nationhood, language, and territory, Hayton shows how the Republic’s reworking of its past not only helped it to justify its right to rule a century ago—but continues to motivate and direct policy today.
Visit Bill Hayton's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of China.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Caroline Kim's "The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim.

About the book, from the publisher:
Exploring what it means to be human through the Korean diaspora, Caroline Kim’s stories feature many voices. From a teenage girl in 1980’s America, to a boy growing up in the middle of the Korean War, to an immigrant father struggling to be closer to his adult daughter, or to a suburban housewife whose equilibrium depends upon a therapy robot, each character must face their less-than-ideal circumstances and find a way to overcome them without losing themselves. Language often acts as a barrier as characters try, fail, and momentarily succeed in connecting with each other. With humor, insight, and curiosity, Kim’s wide-ranging stories explore themes of culture, communication, travel, and family. Ultimately, what unites these characters across time and distance is their longing for human connection and a search for the place—or people—that will feel like home.
Visit Caroline Kim's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Q&A with Megan Bannen

From my Q&A with Megan Bannen, author of Soulswift:
Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think all characters are fragments of the author, or, at least, that's true in my case. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote Soulswift for my teenage self who struggled with faith, so Gelya, the main character, feels very much as I felt at age seventeen. Tavik, the
other major character in the book, might seem like her polar opposite, but in many ways, he's more me than even Gelya is. His tendency to cut tension and cloak insecurity with a robust sense of humor is 100% Megan. Even the Goodson, the novel's antagonist, has a certain amount wisdom and experience that comes from a writer who is, herself, middle-aged. I don't know that I could have...[read on]
Visit Megan Bannen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Megan Bannen & Brontë.

The Page 69 Test: The Bird and the Blade.

Q&A with Megan Bannen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about consent

Mia Levitin is a cultural and literary critic based in London. Her work appears regularly in publications including the Financial Times, The Spectator and the Guardian.

She is the author of The Future of Seduction.

At the Guardian, Levitin tagged ten of the "books that informed [her] understanding of the complexities of consent," including:
Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

Having interviewed more than 100 American college and college-bound boys, Orenstein sheds light on their views of masculinity and intimacy. It’s not that young men can’t read cues on consent, she concluded from her conversations, but that – due in large part to an unprecedented exposure to porn – they have been conditioned to prioritise their pleasure and interpret the cues through the lens of their own desires. Sex education, as such, would do well to address these blind spots, as well as remind young people that, as the educator Shafia Zaloom suggests, consent only ensures that sex is legal; it doesn’t necessarily make it ethical or good.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Boys & Sex.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Helen Fry's "MI9"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: MI9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two by Helen Fry.

About the book, from the publisher:
A thrilling history of MI9—the WWII organization that engineered the escape of Allied forces from behind enemy lines

When Allied fighters were trapped behind enemy lines, one branch of military intelligence helped them escape: MI9. The organization set up clandestine routes that zig-zagged across Nazi-occupied Europe, enabling soldiers and airmen to make their way home. Secret agents and resistance fighters risked their lives and those of their families to hide the men.

Drawing on declassified files and eye-witness testimonies from across Europe and the United States, Helen Fry provides a significant reassessment of MI9’s wartime role. Central to its success were figures such as Airey Neave, Jimmy Langley, Sam Derry, and Mary Lindell—one of only a few women parachuted into enemy territory for MI9. This astonishing account combines escape and evasion tales with the previously untold stories behind the establishment of MI9—and reveals how the organization saved thousands of lives.
Visit Helen Fry's website.

The Page 99 Test: The London Cage.

The Page 99 Test: The Walls Have Ears.

The Page 99 Test: MI9.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pg. 69: Lori Nelson Spielman's "The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman.

About the book, from the publisher:
A trio of second-born daughters sets out on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love, by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse.
Learn more about the book and author at Lori Nelson Spielman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Life List.

Writers Read: Lori Nelson Spielman (June 2015).

The Page 69 Test: The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top snowy thrillers

At Book Riot, Sophia LeFevre tagged six isolated, snowy thrillers to match the season, including:
NO EXIT BY TAYLOR ADAMS

Driving through the Rocky Mountains on the way to see her dying mother, Darby gets caught in a fierce blizzard. Unable to continue, she’s forced to pull over at a highway rest stop hosting four other strangers taking cover. Looking for signal to call home, she makes a terrible discovery: in one of the cars parked at the rest stop, she finds a little girl locked in an animal crate. Not knowing which of the travelers inside is the girl’s kidnapper, and unable to leave, Darby tries to find a way to break the girl out so they both can escape to safety.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: No Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mark de Jager

From my Q&A with Mark de Jager, author of Infernal:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Settling on the title took a bit of work!

My original working title was Beast, but that doesn’t carry as much weight, whereas Infernal alludes to the main character’s belief that he is demonic in origin, which drives his perceptions for much of the story.

The tagline ‘The Chronicles of Stratus’ underlines that this is his story, and ties in with it being written in a first person perspective.

What's in a name?

Stratus, my main character’s name, was the first thing that came to me and didn’t change from that very first draft. It’s a strong name, but it’ll make more sense when you get to book two (which is out in May 2021).

I was conscious that the names for the people he interacts with and places he goes would add a lot of flavour to the setting and themes, in the same way that names change as you travel across borders, or sometimes even within the same state.

For example, names in the kingdom of Krandin have softer consonants than those in the opposing empire of Penullin, which tend to be...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Infernal.

Q&A with Mark de Jager.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrea J. Johnson's "Poetic Justice," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Poetic Justice by Andrea J. Johnson.

The entry begins:
The original inspiration for this book came from the 2006 reality TV series Who Wants to Be a Superhero? presented by Stan Lee. The show’s premise asked contestants to create characters who could become comic book heroes—and in my mind, what better hero than a court stenographer who seeks to undo a bad verdict through vigilante justice? However, I wasn’t a writer back then, so the idea got shelved until a couple years ago when I found myself bingeing holiday movies. Whereupon, I realized my premise had to have heart and humor in order to succeed—otherwise, I’d simply have someone running around breaking the law and that wouldn’t entertain for long. (See Bruce Willis in the Death Wish remake to unpack the thematic trouble of such an unruly hero.)

So as you peruse this cast list, imagine instead a Hallmark movie with a little edge, a lot of love, and a plucky heroine determined to restore justice at all costs.

Victoria Justice (protagonist) – Yara Shahidi from Grownish. Fans should be mindful that I deliberately made my main character twenty-five so she’d have room to grow over the course of the series. Shahidi is a little younger, but fits the look and the essence of Victoria as a girl figuring out her identity in a world set on...[read on]
Visit Andrea J. Johnson's website.

My Book, The Movie: Poetic Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Q&A with Soledad Maura

From my Q&A with Soledad Maura, author of Madrid Again: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Madrid Again
gives some (but not all) of the geographical context, and implies repetition. The main characters spend time in Madrid, but they are always on the move, back and forth between Spain and the United States. Some of the secondary and background characters also live through displacements.

What's in a name?

The names in the novel are homages to people both real and fictional. The main character Lola has one of my favorite names of all time. Cinematic, literary, and...[read on]
Visit Soledad Maura's website.

My Book, The Movie: Madrid Again.

Q&A with Soledad Maura.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Catriona McPherson's "The Turning Tide"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Set in 1930s Scotland and brimming with eccentric characters and incisive humor, The Turning Tide is Catriona McPherson's best Dandy Gilver mystery yet!

It's a breezy Scottish summer of 1936 and aristocratic sleuth Dandy Silver, along with trusted colleague Alec Osborne, has been called to solve the strange case of the Cramond Ferrywoman, on the Firth of the Forth.

From their cheerless digs in a local stately home, Dandy and Alec track Vesper Kemp, the ferrywoman, to a tiny tidal island. She seems to have lost her mind, roaming the beaches in rags, ranting about snakes and mercury. What is even more troubling, is that Vesper claims she murdered Peter Haslett, a young man who fell into the river, trying to row past ones of its four water mills, and drowned.

A group of worried Cramond residents--the minister, the innkeeper, and the lady of the big house--are determined that Vesper is innocent. But with four local millers themselves remaining oddly tight-lipped and with all the suspicious strangers who lurk about the village, Dandy and Alec have their work cut out for them. And the closer they get to the answers they seek, the stronger the sense that great danger lies beneath the surface of these murky waters.
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

Writers Read: Catriona McPherson (November 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

The Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Haggai Ram's "Intoxicating Zion"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Intoxicating Zion: A Social History of Hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel by Haggai Ram.

About the book, from the publisher:
When European powers carved political borders across the Middle East following World War I, a curious event in the international drug trade occurred: Palestine became the most important hashish waystation in the region and a thriving market for consumption. British and French colonial authorities utterly failed to control the illicit trade, raising questions about the legitimacy of their mandatory regimes. The creation of the Israeli state, too, had little effect to curb illicit trade. By the 1960s, drug trade had become a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and drug use widespread.

Intoxicating Zion is the first book to tell the story of hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Trafficking, use, and regulation; race, gender, and class; colonialism and nation-building all weave together in Haggai Ram's social history of the drug from the 1920s to the aftermath of the 1967 War. The hashish trade encompassed smugglers, international gangs, residents, law enforcers, and political actors, and Ram traces these flows through the interconnected realms of cross-border politics, economics, and culture. Hashish use was and is a marker of belonging and difference, and its history offers readers a unique glimpse into how the modern Middle East was made.
Learn more about Intoxicating Zion at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Intoxicating Zion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books about feminist folklore

Ruth Gilligan is a writer and academic from Dublin now based in the UK. She has published five books to date and was the youngest person ever to top the Irish Bestsellers’ List.

Her most recent novel, The Butchers [US title: The Butchers' Blessing], is set in the Irish borderlands during the 1996 BSE crisis, and was published to widespread acclaim in March 2020.

[Q&A with Ruth Gilligan.]

Gilligan holds degrees from Cambridge, Yale, UEA and Exeter. She contributes literary reviews to the Irish Independent, Guardian, TLS and LA Review of Books. She works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham and is an ambassador for the global storytelling charity Narrative 4.

At Electric Lit the author tagged eight weird and wonderful "books that combine feminism and folklore; books where uncanny tales are used to empower female voices (and, crucially, female bodies)." One title on the list:
Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Combining fairy tale, fantasy and folk horror, Carmen Maria Machado’s wildly inventive collection offers a monstrous inventory of the different forms of violence and shame that can be exacted on women’s bodies. Yet, for all their darkness and political rage, these stories are shot through with a wonderful humor, a kind of irresistibly freewheeling gothic glee.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2020

Pg. 69: Andrea Portes's "This Is Not a Ghost Story"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes.

About the book, from the publisher:
I am not welcome. Somehow I know that. Something doesn’t want me here.

Daffodil Franklin has plans for a quiet summer before her freshman year at college, and luckily, she’s found the job that can give her just that: housesitting a mansion for a wealthy couple.

But as the summer progresses and shadows lengthen, Daffodil comes to realize the house is more than it appears. The spacious home seems to close in on her, and as she takes the long road into town, she feels eyes on her the entire way, and something tugging her back.

What Daffodil doesn’t yet realize is that her job comes with a steep price. The house has a long-ago grudge it needs to settle ... and Daffodil is the key to settling it.
Visit Andrea Portes's website.

My Book, The Movie: This Is Not a Ghost Story.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Not a Ghost Story.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books for fans of "The Queen’s Gambit"

Aisling Twomey was born in Cork and lived in Dublin for a few years before quitting her old life in 2015 and starting a brand new one in London. Forever reading books in the bath and consequently wondering why her paperbacks are a bit wobbly, Twomey has been a writer for almost ten years.

At Book Riot she tagged seven books for fans of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, including:
BIRTH OF THE CHESS QUEEN BY MARILYN YALOM

When my father taught me to play chess, I was fascinated with the idea that the Queen—a woman!—was the most dominant piece on the board. Any representation meant the world to me, and I remain fascinated about the history of this one little piece. Yalom’s book examines the history of the game, pointing out that its origins in India and Persia are a far cry from the Cold War, and detailing how an unpowerful vizier piece was transformed into a royal behemoth, reflecting the queens who reigned across medieval Europe. This is a genuinely fascinating read, a chance to see a huge volume of human history in one small symbol.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stephen Bates's "An Aristocracy of Critics"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press by Stephen Bates.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story behind the 1940s Commission on Freedom of the Press—groundbreaking then, timelier than ever now

In 1943, Time Inc. editor-in-chief Henry R. Luce sponsored the greatest collaboration of intellectuals in the twentieth century. He and University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins summoned the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the Pulitzer-winning poet Archibald MacLeish, and ten other preeminent thinkers to join the Commission on Freedom of the Press. They spent three years wrestling with subjects that are as pertinent as ever: partisan media and distorted news, activists who silence rather than rebut their opponents, conspiracy theories spread by shadowy groups, and the survivability of American democracy in a post-truth age. The report that emerged, A Free and Responsible Press, is a classic, but many of the commission’s sharpest insights never made it into print. Journalist and First Amendment scholar Stephen Bates reveals how these towering intellects debated some of the most vital questions of their time—and reached conclusions urgently relevant today.
Learn more about An Aristocracy of Critics at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: An Aristocracy of Critics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Wayne Santos

From my Q&A with Wayne Santos, author of The Chimera Code:
:How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Chimera Code was the title that my publishers finally settled on. I’ll be frank and admit that titles aren’t my strong suit. I’m definitely one of those people who, if could say something succinctly, I probably would have been a poet or a song writer, but no, it takes me tens of thousands of words to get the point across. 

The original title of the book was just “Chimera,” and that was in reference to the fact that a combined arms combat squad utilizing conventional weapons, magic and digital attacks are referred to in the military jargon of the world as “Chimera units.” That, of course is a reference to the many headed mythical beast. That was just my way of indicating that the book itself, a mix of cyberpunk and magic, was similarly something with multiple body parts from other animals all retrofitted together. 

What's in a name? 

My naming conventions for characters tend to be a mix of names that just pop in there intuitively, and consulting phone books or baby name generators randomly. For The Chimera Code, Cloke’s name is not her actual street legal name, but one...[read on]
Visit Wayne Santos's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Chimera Code.

My Book, The Movie: The Chimera Code.

Q&A with Wayne Santos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Catriona McPherson's "The Turning Tide," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson.

The entry begins:
Except I don’t think of it as a movie; I think of it as what people in America call a mini-series (and what Brits call a series. All our series are mini, since we don’t have the budgets to make them any bigger.) 

Anyway, think Sunday night on Masterpiece Theater, just after the river cruise advert... 

My series would slot in there nicely. It’s the 1930s, it’s Scotland, there’s a lady detective, a Dalmatian, a snooty butler, a bossy maid, a devoted cook . . . and a murder every week. You’d watch that, wouldn’t you? My dream Dandy Gilver – dark hair, cut glass vowels, kind heart – is Anna Chancellor. You might know her from playing Caroline Bingley in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, or from her role as “Duckface” in Four Weddings and a Funeral. She is absolutely Dandy to me and always has been. 

Here’s why. 

About fifteen years ago I was at a literary festival and someone asked this question about casting a performance based on the book. I said “Anna Chancellor”. Then, at the signing, a woman came up and said she was Anna’s cousin and she’d like to buy a book to send to her. Which she did. 

Then it turned out that my agent lived near Anna in London and knew her. Long story short...[read on]
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

Writers Read: Catriona McPherson (November 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven books about midwesterners who aren’t trying to be nice

Rachel Mans McKenny was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, a YoungArts Scholar, and a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. She received a degree in creative writing at Creighton University and an MA in literature from Iowa State University. She teaches composition and public speaking at Iowa State.

A Midwesterner born and raised, Mans McKenny is a writer and humorist. Her work has been published in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and other outlets. Her debut novel, The Butterfly Effect, is forthcoming from Alcove Press in December 2020.

At Electric Lit, Mans McKenny tagged eleven books "in which Midwestern writers, poets, and characters are unwilling to demur or make apologies to smooth over an issue for the sake of social grace." One title on the list:
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

I couldn’t make this list without the 1992 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Best Novel. Smiley retells King Lear during the farm crisis set in Iowa and told by the perspective of one of the villains in the original play. Ginny (whose counterpoint is Goneril) becomes at once a sympathetic and still deeply conflicting character for readers. This novel is a personal touchstone, and I often think of Smiley’s balance of the scene of poisoned canned goods, and in turn, a land poisoned by agriculture.
Read about another entry on the list.

A Thousand Acres is among Hannah Beckerman's top ten toxic families in fiction, Brian Boone's five books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works, Edward Docx's top ten Shakespearean stories in modern fiction, Emma Donoghue's six best books, Anne Tyler's six favorite books, Sally O'Reilly ten top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, and John Mullan's top ten twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mark de Jager's "Infernal"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Infernal by Mark de Jager.

About the book, from the publisher:
PART MAN. PART MONSTER. ALL VENGEANCE…

In the war-torn lands of Krandin, a kingdom fighting against the Worm King of the Penullin Empire and his dark magic, a stranger wakes, knowing only that his name is Stratus.

He possesses great strength and magic, but only fractured memories of his past, and a growing certainty that he is not, in fact, human.

As he explores this new world, disoriented, making few friends and many enemies, the battle for his mind will determine the fate of the world.
Follow Mark de Jager on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Infernal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Elizabeth A. Williams's "Appetite and Its Discontents"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Appetite and Its Discontents: Science, Medicine, and the Urge to Eat, 1750-1950 by Elizabeth A. Williams.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why do we eat? Is it instinct? Despite the necessity of food, anxieties about what and how to eat are widespread and persistent. In Appetite and Its Discontents, Elizabeth A. Williams explores contemporary worries about eating through the lens of science and medicine to show us how appetite—once a matter of personal inclination—became an object of science.

Williams charts the history of inquiry into appetite between 1750 and 1950, as scientific and medical concepts of appetite shifted alongside developments in physiology, natural history, psychology, and ethology. She shows how, in the eighteenth century, trust in appetite was undermined when researchers who investigated ingestion and digestion began claiming that science alone could say which ways of eating were healthy and which were not. She goes on to trace nineteenth- and twentieth-century conflicts over the nature of appetite between mechanists and vitalists, experimentalists and bedside physicians, and localists and holists, illuminating struggles that have never been resolved. By exploring the core disciplines in investigations in appetite and eating, Williams reframes the way we think about food, nutrition, and the nature of health itself.
Learn more about Appetite and Its Discontents at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Appetite and Its Discontents.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Five top books about women fighting their way out

James S. Murray is a writer, executive producer, and actor, best known as "Murr" on the hit television show Impractical Jokers on truTV. He is also one of the stars of the TV show The Misery Index on TBS along with his comedy troupe, The Tenderloins.

His new novel, with Darren Wearmouth, is Don't Move.

At CrimeReads, Murray tagged "five books dedicated to women fighting their way out." One title on the list:
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt never really had a chance at freedom. Thanks to a tell-all book published by her father, Maggie’s childhood was sold as a freakshow. Chronicling the time she and her family lived in Baneberry Hall, a seemingly haunted estate filled with unusual paranormal activity, the book marked Maggie’s life with a twinge of notoriety she’s never been able to shake. That is, until years later, when as an adult, Maggie inherits the allegedly haunted property and prepares the estate for sale to rid her life of it forever. But before she knows it, the ghosts of the house and the living ghosts of her town come back to haunt her. Pulling from classics like The Amityville Horror and Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Home Before Dark leaves its mark as a downright terrifying novel in a sea of overrated haunting stories. Alongside Maggie, it’s up to the reader to decipher the mysteries of Baneberry Hall and more importantly, to live to tell the tale.
Read about another entry on the list.

Home Before Dark is among Karen Dionne's eight top thrillers that turn home into a place of mortal danger.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue