Sunday, May 31, 2020

Five top campus novels

Kate Weinberg was born and lives in London. She studied English at Oxford and creative writing in East Anglia. She has worked as a slush pile reader, a bookshop assistant, a journalist and a ghost writer.

The Truants is her first novel.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite university-based novels, including:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I know, I know. It’s hardly an original or offbeat recommendation. But The Secret History is the perfect campus novel. I’ve read it and reread it. All told, I’d say I’ve read it more than fifty times. And the reason it’s the campus novel you have to read is because it’s a why-dunit combined with a coming-of-age story told by Richard Papen, who is the Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby’s narrator) of campus novel narrators. I could tell you more about it, line by line, but let me just say this: I once met Donna Tartt and, having read the book so many times, I presumed we were friends and asked her what drugs she’d taken at college. She blanked me.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Secret History is on a top ten list of the best Twinkies in fiction, and among Emily Temple's twenty best campus novels and Ruth Ware's top six books about boarding schools.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: J. M. M. Nuanez's "Birdie and Me"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Birdie and Me by J. M. M. Nuanez.

About the book, from the publisher:
An emotional and uplifting debut about a girl named Jack and her gender creative little brother, Birdie, searching for the place where they can be their true and best selves.

After their mama dies, Jack and Birdie find themselves without a place to call home. And when Mama’s two brothers each try to provide one–first sweet Uncle Carl, then gruff Uncle Patrick–the results are funny, tender, and tragic.

They’re also somehow ... spectacular.

With voices and characters that soar off the page, J. M. M. Nuanez’s debut novel depicts an unlikely family caught in a situation none of them would have chosen, and the beautiful ways in which they finally come to understand one another. Perfect for fans of The Thing about Jellyfish and Counting By Sevens.
Visit J. M. M. Nuanez's website.

Writers Read: J. M. M. Nuanez.

The Page 69 Test: Birdie and Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andre M. Perry's "Know Your Price"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities by Andre M. Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
The deliberate devaluation of Blacks and their communities has had very real, far-reaching, and negative economic and social effects. An enduring white supremacist myth claims brutal conditions in Black communities are mainly the result of Black people’s collective choices and moral failings. “That’s just how they are” or “there’s really no excuse”: we’ve all heard those not so subtle digs.

But there is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. We haven’t known how much the country will gain by properly valuing homes and businesses, family structures, voters, and school districts in Black neighborhoods. And we need to know.

Noted educator, journalist, and scholar Andre Perry takes readers on a tour of six Black-majority cities whose assets and strengths are undervalued. Perry begins in his hometown of Wilkinsburg, a small city east of Pittsburgh that, unlike its much larger neighbor, is struggling and failing to attract new jobs and industry. Bringing his own personal story of growing up in Black-majority Wilkinsburg, Perry also spotlights five others where he has deep connections: Detroit, Birmingham, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He provides an intimate look at the assets that should be of greater value to residents—and that can be if they demand it.

Perry provides a new means of determining the value of Black communities. Rejecting policies shaped by flawed perspectives of the past and present, it gives fresh insights on the historical effects of racism and provides a new value paradigm to limit them in the future.

Know Your Price demonstrates the worth of Black people’s intrinsic personal strengths, real property, and traditional institutions. These assets are a means of empowerment and, as Perry argues in this provocative and very personal book, are what we need to know and understand to build Black prosperity.
Learn more about Know Your Price.

The Page 99 Test: Know Your Price.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Laird Barron

From my Q&A with Laird Barron, author of Worse Angels:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

So much depends upon the title; it’s a load-bearing structure. I’ve always thought so, probably because I concentrated upon poetry early in my development as a writer.

I provided the publisher with a list of alternatives to the working title; I won’t tell you what it was because writers are magpies. Worse Angels is the one the Putnam team chose. It does the job—protagonist Isaiah Coleridge has a dark past as an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit. Now he’s out and carving his own destiny. A man of contradictions, in no small part due to the fact various powers vie to influence, if not outright control him. He’s constantly pulled in one direction or another. Seeking a more righteous path, he endeavors to heed his better angels. In this instance, looking into the suspicious death of a young security officer at a stalled supercollider site. The problem is, as sinister forces impede the investigation, his darker angels have their own ideas about the manner and methods with which he should conduct himself. After all, what are our worse angels but...[read on]
Visit Laird Barron's website.

Q&A with Laird Barron.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ten top thrillers featuring missing persons

Lisa Regan is the USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series as well as several other crime fiction titles. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Education degree from Bloomsburg University. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers Association, and Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter and Boston Terrier named Mr. Phillip.

Regan's latest Josie Quinn novel is Find Her Alive.

At The Strand Magazine Regan tagged ten favorite thrillers featuring missing persons, including:
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

Twenty-two year old Reeve LeClaire spent years in captivity as a young girl but now, with the help of her therapist, Dr. Lerner, she is trying to manage her PTSD and put her life back together. When another abducted girl, Tilly, is recovered alive and recounts having gone through an ordeal similar to Reeve’s, Dr. Lerner enlists Reeve’s help to mentor the young girl. But the more that Reeve delves into the girl’s account, the deeper she is drawn into the criminal investigation. She knows better than anyone how predators work and she’s determined to help find this one. Norton’s talent is best showcased in the way she delves into the psyches of Reeve and Tilly. A taut, exceptionally written book.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Natalie Jenner's "The Jane Austen Society," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Jane Austen Society: A Novel by Natalie Jenner.

The entry begins:
In The Jane Austen Society there are eight main characters who band together at the end of WWII to save Jane Austen’s house, which is a bit of a handful for any producer to both cast and afford. Drawing quick distinctions between all these characters, both physically and temperamentally, became critical early on in the writing. But one thing they almost all had in common: a bona fide British accent. As a result, my dream cast would be a who’s who of leading actors in British film and television.

Because I write without any kind of an outline or idea of what lies ahead, I get to know my characters over time. But with The Jane Austen Society, one particular actor and his performances directly influenced one of my characters right from the start. Benjamin Gray is the widowed village doctor in my story, as well as the keeper of everyone's secrets. When I was writing, I kept imagining this pillar of the town who was so handsome and tall and comforting in tone, but also so inwardly tormented. In that respect the character called to mind the performance by British actor Richard Armitage in the 2004 BBC drama North and South where he played John Thornton, who has always struck me as the ultimate romantic period drama hero. I could see Matthew Goode for the character of the lawyer, Andrew Forrester, who is described as ramrod-straight in both posture and behaviour. For the farmer Adam in my book, I think James Norton from the television series Grantchester and the recent BBC War & Peace would capture the quiet gentleness of that character, and Tom Hughes of the ITV series Victoria would make a perfectly cutting Yardley, the Sotheby’s auctioneer. As for Jack Leonard, the rakish Hollywood producer who is so ostensibly lucky and golden, only...[read on]
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

My Book, The Movie: The Jane Austen Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Elizabeth Shackelford's "The Dissent Channel"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age by Elizabeth Shackelford.

About the book, from the publisher:
A young diplomat’s account of her assignment in South Sudan, a firsthand example of US foreign policy that has failed in its diplomacy and accountability around the world.

In 2017, Elizabeth Shackelford wrote a pointed resignation letter to her then boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She had watched as the State Department was gutted, and now she urged him to stem the bleeding by showing leadership and commitment to his diplomats and the country. If he couldn’t do that, she said, “I humbly recommend that you follow me out the door.”

With that, she sat down to write her story and share an urgent message.

In The Dissent Channel, former diplomat Elizabeth Shackelford shows that this is not a new problem. Her experience in 2013 during the precarious rise and devastating fall of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, exposes a foreign policy driven more by inertia than principles, to suit short-term political needs over long-term strategies.

Through her story, Shackelford makes policy and politics come alive. And in navigating both American bureaucracy and the fraught history and present of South Sudan, she conveys an urgent message about the devolving state of US foreign policy.
Follow Elizabeth Shackelford on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Dissent Channel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with T.R. Ragan

From my Q&A with T.R. Ragan, author of Don't Make a Sound:
Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Every protagonist I write has a piece of me in him or her. I want fairness and justice in the world, and my characters want that too. Within the pages I write, I get justice. As I mentioned before, I was quite shy growing up, which I believe made me an easy target for predators. My shyness led to fear, and later, to anger. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I found a way to let go of my anger and fear, not only through the books I read, but through the books I wrote. My characters could say and do things that I could not. With every book I wrote, I grew stronger. I no longer live in fear. Just like my characters, I can...[read on]
Visit T.R. Ragan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Furious.

Writers Read: T.R. Ragan (May 2016).

My Book, The Movie: Furious.

Q&A with T.R. Ragan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 29, 2020

Ten psychological thrillers featuring sibling rivalry

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons.

McKinnon's new novel is Sister Dear.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten favorite psychological thrillers with sibling rivalry at the heart of them, including:
This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

More than two decades ago, the body of teenager Eve Knox was found in nearby caves by her best friend Maggie, and Eve’s sister, Nola. When potential new evidence is uncovered, Maggie, now a detective and seven months pregnant, is determined to find out what happened to Eve that night. Full of dark twists and questionable characters with even more questionable motives, Gudenkauf is a master at writing small-town creepy.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Emily B. Martin's "Sunshield"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sunshield by Emily B. Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A lawless wilderness. A polished court. Individual fates, each on a quest to expose a system of corruption.

The desolate canyons of Alcoro—and the people desperate enough to hide there—couldn’t be more different from the opulent glass palace and lush forests of Moquoia. But the harsh desert and gleaming court are linked through their past, present, and future: a history of abductions in the desert to power Moquoia’s quarries and factories, and a bleak, inhumane future built on the sweat and sacrifice of these bond laborers.

But events unfolding in the present could change everything. In the desert, outlaw Lark—known to most as the Sunshield Bandit—has built a name for herself attacking slavers’ wagons and freeing the captives inside. But while she shakes the foundation of Moquoia’s stratified society, she also has to fight to protect her rescuees—and herself—from the unforgiving world around them.

In the Moquoian court, young ambassador Veran hopes to finally make his mark by dismantling the unjust labor system, if he can navigate the strict hierarchy and inexplicable hostility of the prince.

And caught in the middle of it all, Tamsin is trapped within four walls, the epicenter of a secret political coup to overthrow the Moquoian monarchy and perpetuate the age-old system of injustice.

Separated by seas of trees and sand, the outlaw, the diplomat, and the prisoner are more connected than anyone realizes. Their personal fates might just tip the balance of power in the Eastern World—if that very power doesn’t destroy them first.
Visit Emily B. Martin's website and check out her six stunning eco-fantasies for nature lovers.

The Page 69 Test: Sunshield.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Leslie Woodcock Tentler's "American Catholics"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Catholics: A History by Leslie Woodcock Tentler.

About the book, from the publisher:
A sweeping history of American Catholicism from the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries to the present

This comprehensive survey of Catholic history in what became the United States spans nearly five hundred years, from the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries to the present. Distinguished historian Leslie Tentler explores lay religious practice and the impact of clergy on Catholic life and culture as she seeks to answer the question, What did it mean to be a “good Catholic” at particular times and in particular places?

In its focus on Catholics’ participation in American politics and Catholic intellectual life, this book includes in-depth discussions of Catholics, race, and the Civil War; Catholics and public life in the twentieth century; and Catholic education and intellectual life. Shedding light on topics of recent interest such as the role of Catholic women in parish and community life, Catholic reproductive ethics regarding birth control, and the Catholic church sex-abuse crisis, this engaging history provides an up-to-date account of the history of American Catholicism.
Learn more about American Catholics at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Catholics: A History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Eve Yohalem

From my Q&A with Eve Yohalem, author of The Truth According to Blue:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title is catchy, but the picture on the book jacket tells the story: two girls and a dog on a dock, scanning the water, a sunken ship beneath them. Summer fun! Adventure! Mystery! Well, yes, that’s all in the book (or at least I hope so). But Blue has type 1 diabetes, and Otis is a service dog as well as a beloved pet. If you look closely, you’ll see Otis is bowing down, which is how he alerts Blue that her blood sugar is low. He isn’t playing; he’s telling her she needs to...[read on]
Visit Eve Yohalem's website.

Q&A with Eve Yohalem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Top ten Scottish crime novels

Craig Robertson is the author of Random, Snapshot, Cold Grave, The Last Refuge, Witness The Dead, Murderabilia, The Photographer, and the new novel, Watch Him Die.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top "Scottish crime novels driven by issues of duality, redemption, the nature of good and evil, and a dark, dark, humour," including:
Quite Ugly One Morning by Chris Brookmyre

It almost seems wrong choosing an early Brookmyre when he’s gone on to write a succession of sophisticated novels exploring the human psyche, but there remains an irresistible, rebellious energy about Quite Ugly that defies comparison. It established his singular, scabrous voice and introduced us to Jack Parlabane, his most used and abused character. Part satire, part mystery and wholly, hilariously engrossing, it is laced with razor-sharp social commentary that pulls no punches. It starts with a jobby on a dead man’s mantelpiece and goes uphill from there.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Shauna Holyoak's "Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal by Shauna Holyoak.

About the book, from the publisher:
Kazu Jones, scrappy fifth grade detective, is back on the case!

Fresh off their first successful investigation, Kazu and her friends — March, CindeeRae, and Madeline — are hungry for their next case, which comes when a vandal begins targeting local comic book stores with anti-comic graffiti. March is especially desperate to unmask the villain before his beloved shop, The Super Pickle, gets hit. But when March takes over, the gang starts butting heads.

It doesn’t help that Kazu is distracted by another mystery at home: her mom is bedridden and her grandmother has come from Japan to help out, but no one will tell Kazu what’s going on. Juggling two investigations is not easy.

When Kazu and the gang trace the vandal’s secret identity to one of the most popular superhero characters in the nation, they realize the vandal’s revenge plot is much more explosive than they thought. But can they put aside their differences in time to catch this criminal–or will both of Kazu’s cases fall apart?
Visit Shauna Holyoak's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Noeleen McIlvenna's "Early American Rebels"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Early American Rebels: Pursuing Democracy from Maryland to Carolina, 1640–1700 by Noeleen McIlvenna.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the half century after 1650 that saw the gradual imposition of a slave society in England’s North American colonies, poor white settlers in the Chesapeake sought a republic of equals. Demanding a say in their own destinies, rebels moved around the region looking for a place to build a democratic political system. This book crosses colonial boundaries to show how Ingle's Rebellion, Fendall's Rebellion, Bacon's Rebellion, Culpeper's Rebellion, Parson Waugh's Tumult, and the colonial Glorious Revolution were episodes in a single struggle because they were organized by one connected group of people.

Adding land records and genealogical research to traditional sources, Noeleen McIlvenna challenges standard narratives that disdain poor whites or leave them out of the history of the colonial South. She makes the case that the women of these families played significant roles in every attempt to establish a more representative political system before 1700. McIlvenna integrates landless immigrants and small farmers into the history of the Chesapeake region and argues that these rebellious anti-authoritarians should be included in the pantheon of the nation’s Founders.
Learn more about Early American Rebels at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Early American Rebels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Debra Bokur

From my Q&A with Debra Bokur, author of The Fire Thief:
What's in a name?

Names! I go down rabbit holes when it comes to naming characters. Choosing a name for my Hawaiian detective, who also happens to be a kahu, or spiritual leader, was a struggle. I finally settled on Kali, but only after much deliberation. In the end, it was because the commonly accepted Hawaiian definition of the name is “someone who hesitates,” while in Hindu legend, the name refers to a powerful, dark goddess. There’s also a Greek translation, where the name means “rosebud.” I liked this weird mix of meanings, because she’s complicated and layered, and all of those qualities can be found in her personality, from the gentleness of a rosebud and the ferocity of an angry goddess to the simple human quality of hesitating.

When I settled on the surname for her uncle, Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, it was because Alaka’i translates to “leader.” He’s an older family member with many more years of experience as a policeman than Kali has as a detective, and it seemed fitting; particularly given that...[read on]
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nancy Star's "Rules For Moving," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Rules for Moving by Nancy Star.

The entry begins:
Often when I’m writing, it feels as if I’m watching a movie in my head. Scenes unspool, stakes rise, characters reveal secrets. The ending can be as much of a surprise when I write it, as it is to the reader who reads it. So dreamcasting my novel is my idea of fun!

A bit about the book: Rules For Moving is the story of online advice columnist Lane Meckler, adored for the wise, witty advice she gives to her readers, but an ill at ease odd duck in her actual life. A social distancer before there was a word for it, Lane is okay with her outsider status until the day her son Henry stops speaking to everyone but her. To help her son, she finally needs to figure out the reason that she’s always felt other than.

The perfect director for this book to screen translation: Lisa Cholodenko. I bet you know her work: she directed the HBO adaptation of the novel Olive Kitteridge and the award-wining limited series Unbelievable. She also directed one of my favorite films, The Kids Are All Right, starring the luminous team of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.

Why Lisa Cholodenko? She’s...[read on]
Visit Nancy Star's website.

Q&A with Nancy Star.

My Book, The Movie: Rules for Moving.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight fictional divas in need of a reality check

Tracy Clark is a native Chicagoan who writes mysteries set in her hometown while working as an editor in the newspaper industry. She is a graduate of Mundelein College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her MA.

Her new novel is What You Don't See.

At CrimeReads, Clark tagged "eight books that feature either high priestesses of haughtiness you love to hate or stealthy stalkers who’ll have you sleeping with the lights on, checking your locks ten times a night and nailing your mailbox shut." One title on the list:
Eleven on Top, Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum, fed up with being a bail enforcement agent, ventures out to find her next gig, but somebody’s after her big time. Her car’s firebombed, she’s firebombed. It could be an old enemy, one who’s funeral home she burned down inadvertently, but whoever he or she is, they’re keeping the pressure on. Stephanie’s fighting for her life, and the struggle is hilarious, but real. Funny series.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Barton Gellman's "Dark Mirror"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State by Barton Gellman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the New York Times bestseller Angler, the definitive master narrative of Edward Snowden and the modern surveillance state, based on unique access to Snowden and groundbreaking reportage around the world.

Edward Snowden touched off a global debate in 2013 when he gave Barton Gellman, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald each a vast and explosive archive of highly classified files revealing the extent of the American government’s access to our every communication. They shared the Pulitzer Prize that year for public service. For Gellman, who never stopped reporting, that was only the beginning. He jumped off from what Snowden gave him to track the reach and methodology of the U.S. surveillance state and bring it to light with astonishing new clarity. Along the way, he interrogated Snowden’s own history and found important ways in which myth and reality do not line up. Gellman treats Snowden with respect, but this is no hagiographic account, and Dark Mirror sets the record straight in ways that are both fascinating and important.

Dark Mirror is the story that Gellman could not tell before, a gripping inside narrative of investigative reporting as it happened and a deep dive into the machinery of the surveillance state. Gellman recounts the puzzles, dilemmas and tumultuous events behind the scenes of his work – in top secret intelligence facilities, in Moscow hotel rooms, in huddles with Post lawyers and editors, in Silicon Valley executive suites, and in encrypted messages from anonymous accounts. Within the book is a compelling portrait of national security journalism under pressure from legal threats, government investigations, and foreign intelligence agencies intent on stealing Gellman’s files. Throughout Dark Mirror, Gellman wages an escalating battle against unknown adversaries who force him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

With the vivid and insightful style that is the author’s trademark, Dark Mirror is a true-life spy tale about the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents. Along the way, with the benefit of fresh reporting, it tells the full story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.
Visit Barton Gellman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Dark Mirror.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Lexie Bean

From my Q&A with Lexie Bean, author of The Ship We Built:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My novel is called The Ship We Built in homage with the refrigerator box Rowan, the narrator and protagonist, guards and reimagines throughout the text. The box is both a literal box and "the box" society offers for all portions of identity, namely gender and sexuality. He draws on the box, punches holes in it, moves it between homes, calls it a "time machine," a "ship." It's up to him to reinvent the box he has been given. He is given the same challenge as a young, queer trans boy in a working class community.

It's also entitled The Ship We Built because of Rowan's understanding of ways he's allowed to connect to others - especially to girls. When Rowan develops feelings for a girl, Rowan does not think it can be "a crush" because crushes, and ultimately relationships, are only supposed to be with boys. At the same time, Rowan knows deep down that this connection with a girl in class is not...[read on]
Visit Lexie Bean's website.

Q&A with Lexie Bean.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Eight of the best pandemic thrillers

Born, raised, and still residing in Vancouver, Daniel Kalla spends his days (and sometimes nights) working as an Emergency Room Physician in a major teaching hospital. In his ‘off’ time, he writes and manages a dual career. He is the author of numerous books, which have been translated into eleven languages to date, and his Shanghai trilogy has been optioned for feature films.

The idea for his first medical thriller, Pandemic, sprang from his clinical experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003.

Kalla's new novel is The Last High.

At The Strand Magazine, he tagged eight favorite pandemic thrillers, including:
The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz (1981)

Many are calling Dean Koontz a prophet for “predicting” the current pandemic in 1981. That’s a stretch. There is a virus in this story named Wuhan-400 that wreaks havoc in Northern California, but the coincidences and parallels largely end there. Still, The Eyes of Darkness a ripping good thriller that would make for great poolside reading. Maybe not so much on a plane, though. Planes and pandemics, even fictional ones, don’t mix so well anymore.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Susan Allott's "The Silence"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Silence: A Novel by Susan Allott.

About the book, from the publisher:
Combining the emotional power and dual narrative style of Before We Were Yours with the nuanced, layered, and atmospheric mystery of The Dry, a powerful debut novel revolving around a shocking disappearance, two neighbor families, and shameful secrets from the past that refuse to stay buried.

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney, Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father phoning from Sydney. 30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she had fled a broken marriage and gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.

Isla unwillingly plans to go back to Australia for the first time in a decade to support her father. The return to Sydney will plunge Isla deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England—a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces this new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve—a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job—is desperate to become a father.

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? What will happen to their family if Isla’s worst fears are realized? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, The Silence is a stunning debut from a promising literary star.
Visit Susan Allott's website.

Q&A with Susan Allott.

The Page 69 Test: The Silence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jill Watts's "The Black Cabinet"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt by Jill Watts.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the presidency with the help of key African American defectors from the Republican Party. At the time, most African Americans lived in poverty, denied citizenship rights and terrorized by white violence. As the New Deal began, a “black Brain Trust” joined the administration and began documenting and addressing the economic hardship and systemic inequalities African Americans faced. They became known as the Black Cabinet, but the environment they faced was reluctant, often hostile, to change.

“Will the New Deal be a square deal for the Negro?” The black press wondered. The Black Cabinet set out to devise solutions to the widespread exclusion of black people from its programs, whether by inventing tools to measure discrimination or by calling attention to the administration’s failures. Led by Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, they were instrumental to Roosevelt’s continued success with black voters. Operating mostly behind the scenes, they helped push Roosevelt to sign an executive order that outlawed discrimination in the defense industry. They saw victories—jobs and collective agriculture programs that lifted many from poverty—and defeats—the bulldozing of black neighborhoods to build public housing reserved only for whites; Roosevelt’s refusal to get behind federal anti-lynching legislation. The Black Cabinet never won official recognition from the president, and with his death, it disappeared from view. But it had changed history. Eventually, one of its members would go on to be the first African American cabinet secretary; another, the first African American federal judge and mentor to Thurgood Marshall.

Masterfully researched and dramatically told, The Black Cabinet brings to life a forgotten generation of leaders who fought post-Reconstruction racial apartheid and whose work served as a bridge that Civil Rights activists traveled to achieve the victories of the 1950s and ’60s.
Visit Jill Watts's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Black Cabinet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Natalie Jenner

From my Q&A with Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My title The Jane Austen Society is so self-evident and obvious that some publishers who bid for my debut book wanted to keep the title “open” – but not St. Martin’s Press, whose judgement has remained unerring every step of the way. I was glad of that, because when I first sat down to write the book, the very first thing I typed was the title. I never once considered naming it anything else. I had been thinking of writing a book about an old British estate house in need of rescue; I had also just spent a year of my life aggressively rereading books by and about Jane Austen. And one day I looked up from my reading and said to my daughter, out of the blue and very simply, “I am going to write a book about a group of people who come together to try and save Jane Austen’s house.” I knew from all my reading about Austen that the first real-life Jane Austen Society had started in 1940 in England for that exact same purpose. I used that one historical fact as the...[read on]
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 25, 2020

Five top books for sports fans

Nige Tassell's book Bottom Corner: Hope, Glory And Non-League Football was named among Waterstones’ top twelve sports books of 2016, while Three Weeks, Eight Seconds: Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon And The Epic Tour de France Of 1989 was shortlisted in the Cycling Book of the Year category at the Sports Books Awards and has since been published in the Netherlands, Spain and the US.

His other books include Mr Gig: One Man’s Search For The Soul Of Live Music, Butch Wilkins And The Sundance Kid: A Teenage Obsession With TV Sport, and Boot Sale: Inside The Strange And Secret World Of Football’s Transfer Window.

At the Guardian, Tassell tagged five favorite sports books, including:
HG Bissinger is one of the select group of fortunate sportswriters who have managed to charm their way into sport’s inner sanctum: the dressing room. In 1988, Bissinger went to live in Odessa, Texas, a town that was built on the bounty of the oil industry, but now revolves around the fortunes of its high school American football team. In Friday Night Lights, he charts the inside story of the Permian Panthers’ season, examining how the teenagers cope with the pressures of playing in front of crowds numbering as many as 20,000. For most of them, Bissinger realises, these Friday night games will be the pinnacle of their entire lives.
Read about another entry on the list.

Friday Night Lights is among LitHub's fifty best small-screen adaptations of literary works.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: L. C. Rosen's "Camp"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Camp by L. C. Rosen.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.

Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim — who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.

This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ — buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.

But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself: How much is he willing to change for love? And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
Visit L. C. Rosen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Camp.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Phuc Tran's "Sigh, Gone"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran.

About the book, from the publisher:
For anyone who has ever felt like they don't belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature.

In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. By sheer chance they land in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a small town where the Trans struggle to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The Metamorphosis, The Scarlet Letter, The Iliad, and more, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.

Appealing to fans of coming-of-age memoirs such as Fresh Off the Boat, Running with Scissors, or tales of assimilation like Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Displaced and The Refugees, Sigh, Gone explores one man’s bewildering experiences of abuse, racism, and tragedy and reveals redemption and connection in books and punk rock. Against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the ‘80s, he finds solace and kinship in the wisdom of classic literature, and in the subculture of punk rock, he finds affirmation and echoes of his disaffection. In his journey for self-discovery Tran ultimately finds refuge and inspiration in the art that shapes—and ultimately saves—him.
Visit Phuc Tran's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sigh, Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Melanie Benjamin

From my Q&A with Melanie Benjamin, author of Mistress of the Ritz:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

This title was more problematic than my others, for this very reason. We definitely wanted to have the word “Ritz” in the title, to both establish the setting and also, because the word connotes such luxury and excitement. After all, it’s even in the title of a song – “Puttin’ on the Ritz!” One of the things I’ve learned is that a title really should be short and to the point these days. For example, when we were discussing the book that became The Aviator’s Wife, I had some pretty flowery titles in mind – Between the Earth and Sky was my favorite. It’s lovely. It also doesn’t at all say what the book is about. And too, I’ve noticed that in recent years books with longer titles just don’t do as well. I think people these days have a hard time even remembering longer titles. So short and sweet it is, and finally someone said, “Well, it’s a book about an aviator’s wife, so let’s call it that.” And we did.

For Mistress of the Ritz, then, we knew we had to have “Ritz” in the title. I advocated for The Ritz in Love and War, but smarter minds convinced me that was too wordy and too vague and my novels have become known for their strong female protagonists, and we needed to make sure the title conveyed that. So the problem became how to describe this strong female protagonist. Who, exactly, was Blanche Auzello in relation to the Ritz? We went back and forth between “queen” and “lady” and “madame” – which I nixed because I didn’t want anyone to think she ran a house of prostitution! – before finally landing on Mistress. I have to admit...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls in the Picture.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin (May 2019).

Q&A with Melanie Benjamin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ten essential Australian novels

Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. She completed the Faber Academy course in 2017, during which she started writing her debut novel, The Silence. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.

Q&A with Susan Allott.

At CrimeReads, Allott tagged ten favorite Australian titles, including:
Evie Wyld, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice (2009)

Evie Wyld was born in London but spent part of her childhood in Australia. After the Fire is her debut, set on the East coast of Australia, about the trauma of war and the experiences that bind two men together despite their fractured relationship. Various critics have suggested that Wyld’s writing is on a par with Tim Winton and Peter Carey. I don’t like to draw comparisons but there are lines from After the Fire that I still think of, a decade after I first read it, and it has held its position as one of the best books I’ve ever read. It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. Wyld went on to win a host of prizes for her second novel, All the Birds, Singing and her third novel, Bass Rock, is out now.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: After the Fire, a Still Small Voice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nancy Wayson Dinan's "Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Set during the devastating Memorial Day floods in Texas, a surreal, empathetic novel for readers of Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles.

2015. 18-year-old Boyd Montgomery returns from her grandfather's wedding to find her friend Isaac missing. Drought-ravaged central Texas has been newly inundated with rain, and flash floods across the state have begun to sweep away people, cars, and entire houses as every river breaks its banks.

In the midst of the rising waters, Boyd sets out across the ravaged back country. She is determined to rescue her missing friend, and she's not alone in her quest: her neighbor, Carla, spots Boyd's boot prints leading away from the safety of home and follows in her path. Hours later, her mother returns to find Boyd missing, and she, too, joins the search.

Boyd, Carla, and Lucy Maud know the land well. They've lived in central Texas for their entire lives. But they have no way of knowing the fissure the storm has opened along the back roads, no way of knowing what has been erased-and what has resurfaced. As they each travel through the newly unfamiliar landscape, they discover the ghosts of Texas past and present.

Haunting and timely, Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life.
Visit Nancy Wayson Dinan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here.

Q&A with Nancy Wayson Dinan.

The Page 69 Test: Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew B. Liu's "Tea War"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India by Andrew B. Liu.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of capitalism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China and India that explores the competition between their tea industries

Tea remains the world’s most popular commercial drink today, and at the turn of the twentieth century, it represented the largest export industry of both China and colonial India. In analyzing the global competition between Chinese and Indian tea, Andrew B. Liu challenges past economic histories premised on the technical “divergence” between the West and the Rest, arguing instead that seemingly traditional technologies and practices were central to modern capital accumulation across Asia. He shows how competitive pressures compelled Chinese merchants to adopt abstract industrial conceptions of time, while colonial planters in India pushed for labor indenture laws to support factory-style tea plantations. Characterizations of China and India as premodern backwaters, he explains, were themselves the historical result of new notions of political economy adopted by Chinese and Indian nationalists, who discovered that these abstract ideas corresponded to concrete social changes in their local surroundings. Together, these stories point toward a more flexible and globally oriented conceptualization of the history of capitalism in China and India.
Learn more about Tea War at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Tea War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Anna Dorn

From my Q&A with Anna Dorn, author of Vagablonde:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Vagablonde is about a blonde criminal defense attorney who wants to be a rapper. The title—a portmanteau of "blonde" and "vagabond"—speaks to her voyeurism into cultures that are not her own in order to "feel something." I wanted to write about cultural appropriation from the perspective of the appropriator—the only perspective I can write with any degree of authenticity. It would be weird to write a novel that takes place in America and doesn’t address race in some way. So I wrote what I knew: a white woman grappling with...[read on]
Visit Anna Dorn's website.

Q&A with Anna Dorn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What is Tom Young reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Tom Young, author of Silver Wings, Iron Cross.

From his entry:
I’ve made it a goal this year to read up on World War II—and to offer a challenge. I’m asking folks to read at least two books about WWII. On social media, I’m promoting a hashtag: #WWIIBookChallenge. Your two books could be anything—a historical novel, a nonfiction book, or a veteran’s memoir. Naturally, I would like one of them to be my new novel, Silver Wings, Iron Cross. But the larger point is to read something. And I’ll bet that once you start, you won’t stop with just two books.

My own reading this year began with a classic: The Winds of War, by Herman Wouk. It’s a magnificent epic that follows a Navy family from the war’s beginnings in Europe through the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wouk continued the epic with another volume, War and Remembrance. That’s next on my list. I’ve always been a fan of the great WWII novelists who were veterans of that war—a list that includes Wouk, Norman Mailer, and...[read on]
About Silver Wings, Iron Cross, from the publisher:
World War II Lieutenant Karl Hagan earned his wings the hard way. But when his plane is shot down behind enemy lines, he’s forced to make the hardest decision of his life: trusting the enemy.

Oberleutnant Wilhelm Albrecht wore his Iron Cross with pride. But when his U-boat is attacked in a devastating air raid, he abandons ship and finds an unlikely ally: the pilot who bombed him.

From the smoke-filled skies over Europe to the fire-blasted waters of a Nazi naval base to the battle-scarred German countryside, the American and the German must form an uneasy truce if they hope to survive. It is November of 1944. The tides of war have turned. Allies have taken back France, and German troops have retreated. But for Karl and Wilhelm, the war is far from over. Each must be prepared to lie for the other, fight for the other, or die with the other. But their short-lived alliance won’t truly be put to the test until they reach the end of the line—inside a POW camp...
Visit Thomas W. Young's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Mullah's Storm.

Writers Read: Thomas W. Young (August 2011).

Writers Read: Tom Young (August 2012).

Writers Read: Tom Young (July 2013).

Writers Read: Tom Young (July 2014).

Writers Read: Tom Young.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top post-apocalyptic sci-fi escapist titles

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.

Her new novel is Simon the Fiddler.

At Lit Hub, Jiles tagged seven titles "for respite in a time of pandemic--riveting stories of societal collapse, plagues, near-death experiences, distant futures on bald stone planets and other tales that will help you escape from this annoying and fretful news-cycle life into the worlds of pure imagination." One title on the list:
Andy Weir, The Martian

It’s a Robinson Crusoe story on Mars, bright and funny and once again, a book that can be re-read many times. this virtue in stories like this is that as you are sitting up late reading it and devouring his endless struggles with food and communications it makes you want to get up and make a sandwich. Sandwiches at midnight are good for you, along with another cup of whatever and don’t forget the agave nectar.

There is a scientifically documented human need to move into the world of the imagination, really. I forget what the study was or where published. But without re-creating the mind in journeys through these distant worlds we become uncomfortable and mentally ungainly and impatient, as is everybody at this point. I think the study may have been done by Jacob Grimm. Not sure.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Martian is among Joel Cunningham's five favorite invented locations that don’t plan to let you leave, Tim Peake's five top books to take to space, Jeffrey Kluger's five favorite books that make epic drama out of space-faring history, Elisabeth Delp's seven classic science fiction space odysseys, Alexandra Oliva's five novels that get important aspects of survival right, Jeff Somers's seven works of speculative fiction that don’t feel all that speculative and  five top sci-fi novels with plausible futuristic technology, Ernest Cline’s ten favorite SF novels, and James Mustich's five top books on visiting Mars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Pablo Palomino's "The Invention of Latin American Music"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Invention of Latin American Music: A Transnational History by Pablo Palomino.

About the book, from the publisher:
The ethnically and geographically heterogeneous countries that comprise Latin America have each produced music in unique styles and genres - but how and why have these disparate musical streams come to fall under the single category of "Latin American music"? Reconstructing how this category came to be, author Pablo Palomino tells the dynamic history of the modernization of musical practices in Latin America. He focuses on the intellectual, commercial, musicological, and diplomatic actors that spurred these changes in the region between the 1920s and the 1960s, offering a transnational story based on primary sources from countries in and outside of Latin America. The Invention of Latin American Music portrays music as the field where, for the first time, the cultural idea of Latin America disseminated through and beyond the region, connecting the culture and music of the region to the wider, global culture, promoting the now-established notion of Latin America as a single musical market. Palomino explores multiple interconnected narratives throughout, pairing popular and specialist traveling musicians, commercial investments and repertoires, unionization and musicology, and music pedagogy and Pan American diplomacy. Uncovering remarkable transnational networks far from a Western cultural center, The Invention of Latin American Music firmly asserts that the democratic legitimacy and massive reach of Latin American identity and modernization explain the spread and success of Latin American music.
Learn more about The Invention of Latin American Music at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of Latin American Music.

--Marshal Zeringue

Florence Gonsalves's "Dear Universe," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves.

The entry begins:
Seeing my baby on screen would be a dream.

I love Perks of Being a Wallflower, both the book and movie, for how it handles heavy topics alongside the beautiful flings and flirtations that come with being a teen. I'm in awe that the author, Stephen Chbosky, also directed the movie. It’d be my ideal scenario to be involved in every part of the process, from the screenwriting to the casting. As exciting as a movie deal would be though, I know it'd be hard to put my story in the hands of other people, as Dear Universe is very personal for me and my family. If somehow ChloĆ« Sevigny circa 2001 could play Cham, I would lose my mind. Since time travel isn’t yet possible, I’d love to see...[read on]
Visit Florence Gonsalves's website.

Q&A with Florence Gonsalves.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Universe.

My Book, The Movie: Dear Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 22, 2020

Seven top revenge thrillers featuring women who have had enough

Pip Drysdale is a writer, actor and musician who grew up in Africa and Australia. At 20 she moved to New York to study acting, worked in indie films and off-off Broadway theater, started writing songs and made four records. After graduating with a BA in English, Drysdale moved to London where she dated some interesting men and played shows across Europe.

Her first novel, The Sunday Girl, a bestseller in Australia, is newly released in the US.

At CrimeReads, Drysdale tagged seven revenge thrillers featuring women who have officially had enough. One title on the list:
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing.

They’ve been married for fifteen years, they have two children and the live in the suburbs… it sounds perfect and vanilla, doesn’t it? Still, perhaps every couple seems a bit flavorless
until you scratch the surface. I don’t want to ruin this for you if you haven’t read it, but let’s just say all hobbies are not created equal and there are some people you absolutely shouldn’t upset.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Lovely Wife is among Christina McDonald's seven top thrillers with flawed characters, C.J. Tudor's seven crime novels where murder is a group activity, Lisa Levy's top seven psychological thrillers with manipulative male narrators, Kaira Rouda's top seven literary couples whose relationships are deeply disturbing in the most fascinating ways possible, and Margot Hunt's top five villains who have had about enough of domestic life.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Catherine Ryan Hyde's "Brave Girl, Quiet Girl"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

About the book, from the publisher:
From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a gripping and emotional novel about friendship, motherhood, and the journey toward finding a place to call home.

Brooke is a divorced single mom, financially strapped, living with her mother, and holding tight to the one thing that matters most: her two-year-old daughter, Etta. Then, in a matter of seconds, Brooke’s life is shattered when she’s carjacked. Helpless and terrified, all Brooke can do is watch as Etta, still strapped in her seat, disappears into the Los Angeles night.

Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teen who is all too used to darkness. Thrown away by her parents, and with a future as stable as the wooden crate she calls home, Molly survives day to day by her wits. As unpredictable as her life is, she’s stunned to find Etta, abandoned and alone. Shielding the little girl from more than the elements, Molly must put herself in harm’s way to protect a child as lost as she is.

Out of one terrible moment, Brooke’s and Molly’s desperate paths converge and an unlikely friendship across generations and circumstances is formed. With it, Brooke and Molly will come to discover that what’s lost—and what’s found—can change in a heartbeat.
Visit Catherine Ryan Hyde's website.

Q&A with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue