Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ten groundbreaking urban fantasy novels

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado, with his partner, Brian, and writes the books he always wanted to read. White Trash Warlock is his first novel. In 2015, Slayton founded Trick or Read, an annual initiative to give out books along with candy to children on Halloween as well as uplift lesser-known authors or those from marginalized backgrounds.

At Publishers Weekly, Slayton tagged ten of his favorite urban fantasies that break new ground, including:
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Carriger mixes steampunk, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance in this Victorian comedy of manners full of vampires, werewolves, and teacups. There's nothing quite like it for laughter and a paranormal mystery. It's also a beautiful and engaging love story. Alexia Tarrabotti is a spinster cursed or blessed, depending on which supernatural entity you're asking, with a lack of soul, a quantity everyone is trying to measure in order to create more supernatural beings or destroy them. This state gives Alexia the unique ability to nullify supernatural powers. This delightful book kicked off a career that has earned Carriger a diehard fandom.
Read about another entry on the list.

Soulless is among Darynda Jones's ten must-read crime-fighting duos.

My Book, The Movie: Soulless by Gail Carriger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lyle Fearnley's "Virulent Zones"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Virulent Zones: Animal Disease and Global Health at China's Pandemic Epicenter by Lyle Fearnley.

About the book, from the publisher:
Scientists have identified southern China as a likely epicenter for viral pandemics, a place where new viruses emerge out of intensively farmed landscapes and human--animal interactions. In Virulent Zones, Lyle Fearnley documents the global plans to stop the next influenza pandemic at its source, accompanying virologists and veterinarians as they track lethal viruses to China's largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake. Revealing how scientific research and expert agency operate outside the laboratory, he shows that the search for origins is less a linear process of discovery than a constant displacement toward new questions about cause and context. As scientists strive to understand the environments from which the influenza virus emerges, the unexpected scale of duck farming systems and unusual practices such as breeding wild geese unsettle research objects, push scientific inquiry in new directions, and throw expert authority into question. Drawing on fieldwork with global health scientists, state-employed veterinarians, and poultry farmers in Beijing and at Poyang Lake, Fearnley situates the production of ecological facts about disease emergence inside the shifting cultural landscapes of agrarian change and the geopolitics of global health.
Learn more about Virulent Zones at the Duke University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Virulent Zones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matthew Hart's "The Russian Pink"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Russian Pink: A Novel by Matthew Hart.

About the book, from the publisher:
An explosive debut featuring renowned diamond expert caught in a web of deception and malice while trying to uncover the secrets behind the most expensive diamond in the world.

When "The Russian Pink"—a stunningly large rose-hued diamond—makes a surprise appearance around the neck of Honey Li, the wife of surging presidential candidate Harry Nash, Alex Turner, an investigator for the Treasury Department’s diamond division and former C.I.A. agent, finds himself spiraling down a seemingly endless rabbit hole. A diamond like that always carries secrets, but the web of mystery behind "The Pink" is more complex than Alex could ever image.

Starting with the trail of damage from botched sting operation, Alex wavers between legal and illegal tactics, friends, family, and foes to find out why a mysterious Russian double agent betrayed him and the diamond ended up on a potential path to the White House. For wherever the Russian Pink goes, secrecy, deception, and death surely follow.

With echos of both John Le Carre and Jason Matthews, The Russian Pink is a stylish and fresh page-turner that catapults the reader into the world of blood diamond trading, a world that Matthew Hart, the author of the critically acclaimed Diamond, navigates with authoritative authenticity and wit.
The Page 69 Test: The Russian Pink.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2020

Six of the most haunting settings in crime fiction

Max Seeck devotes his time to writing professionally. An avid reader of Nordic noir for personal pleasure, he listens to film scores as he writes. His accolades include the Finnish Whodunit Society’s Debut Thriller of the Year Award 2016.

Seeck's new novel is The Witch Hunter.

At CrimeReads, he tagged six of his favorite haunting settings in crime fiction, including:
Shattered, Dean Koontz

Newly married Alex is driving with Colin—his stepson—from Philadelphia to San Francisco. What at first feels like a fun roadtrip, a chance to spend some quality time with one another, soon turns into a nightmare. They are followed by a bitter psychopath who wants to make sure Alex never gets to start his new life in the Golden city. Now, the events of this novel mainly take place in Alex’s van, on the road. And that’s the beauty of it. We have the long empty road and the threatening headlights in the rear view mirror. Simple and effective.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Scott Peeples's "The Man of the Crowd"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City by Scott Peeples, with photographs by Michelle Van Parys.

About the book, from the publisher:
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) changed residences about once a year throughout his life. Driven by a desire for literary success and the pressures of supporting his family, Poe sought work in American magazines, living in the cities that produced them. Scott Peeples chronicles Poe’s rootless life in the cities, neighborhoods, and rooms where he lived and worked, exploring how each new place left its enduring mark on the writer and his craft.

Poe wrote short stories, poems, journalism, and editorials with urban readers in mind. He witnessed urban slavery up close, living and working within a few blocks of slave jails and auction houses in Richmond and among enslaved workers in Baltimore. In Philadelphia, he saw an expanding city struggling to contain its own violent propensities. At a time when suburbs were just beginning to offer an alternative to crowded city dwellings, he tried living cheaply on the then-rural Upper West Side of Manhattan, and later in what is now the Bronx. Poe’s urban mysteries and claustrophobic tales of troubled minds and abused bodies reflect his experiences living among the soldiers, slaves, and immigrants of the American city.

Featuring evocative photographs by Michelle Van Parys, The Man of the Crowd challenges the popular conception of Poe as an isolated artist living in a world of his own imagination, detached from his physical surroundings. The Poe who emerges here is a man whose outlook and career were shaped by the cities where he lived, longing for a stable home.
Learn more about The Man of the Crowd at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Man of the Crowd.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Emily Carpenter

From my Q&A with Emily Carpenter, author of Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love my title so much! I was on a writing retreat with a couple of writing friends and they actually came up with the title for me. Because this novel is a follow-up, I wanted it to echo the title of the first book Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. And I love the word "reviving" - it conjures up miracles and also death. It's so dramatic.

What's in a name?

Dove, the main character in the 1930s timeline and Eve's grandmother, has many names. Her birth name is Ruth Lurie, a simple name given to a little girl born in a state hospital or asylum for the insane in the 1920s. When she runs away and joins up with a gang of street children, she decides to call herself Annie, after Little Orphan Annie from the radio show because she's plucky and has red hair. Then when she takes a job she calls herself Ruth Davidson, using the last name of...[read on]
Visit Emily Carpenter's website.

My Book, The Movie: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters.

The Page 69 Test: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters.

Q&A with Emily Carpenter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Pg. 69: Louise Guy's "A LIfe Worth Living"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living by Louise Guy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Are some white lies simply too big to forgive?

Eve and Leah are identical twins—but beyond that, they’re polar opposites. Struggling journalist Leah envies Eve’s seemingly perfect life—the loyal husband, the beautiful twin daughters, the stellar career—little knowing that what Eve longs for most is Leah’s independence.

When a shocking event upends their world, one woman seizes a split-second chance to change everything and follow her sister down a different life path. It’s a spontaneous choice, but there’s no going back. How will she deal with the fallout when covering up one untruth means lying to everyone—about everything?

One thing is clear: both twins have secrets, and both just want to be happy. But what price will they pay to live the life they’ve always wanted?
Visit Louise Guy's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jodi Rios's "Black Lives and Spatial Matters"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Black Lives and Spatial Matters: Policing Blackness and Practicing Freedom in Suburban St. Louis by Jodi Rios.

About the book, from the publisher:
Black Lives and Spatial Matters is a call to reconsider the epistemic violence that is committed when scholars, policymakers, and the general public continue to frame Black precarity as just another racial, cultural, or ethnic conflict that can be solved solely through legal, political, or economic means. Jodi Rios argues that the historical and material production of blackness-as-risk is foundational to the historical and material construction of our society and certainly foundational to the construction and experience of metropolitan space. She also considers how an ethics of lived blackness—living fully and visibly in the face of forces intended to dehumanize and erase—can create a powerful counter point to blackness-as-risk.

Using a transdisciplinary methodology, Black Lives and Spatial Matters studies cultural, institutional, and spatial politics of race in North St. Louis County, Missouri, as a set of practices that are intimately connected to each other and to global histories of race and race-making. As such, the book adds important insight into the racialization of metropolitan space and people in the United States. The arguments presented in this book draw from fifteen years of engaged research in North St. Louis County and rely on multiple disciplinary perspectives and local knowledge in order to study relationships between interconnected practices and phenomena.
Visit Jodi Rios's website.

The Page 99 Test: Black Lives and Spatial Matters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten horror novels

Gabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright. He won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award in 2015, was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards at the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. In 2016 his first young adult novel, Boone Shepard, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize. A film adaptation of his novel The Hunted is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles.

At the Guardian, Bergmoser tagged ten "horror stories that in different ways revolutionised the genre by being far more than just bumps in the night," including:
In the Woods by Tana French

I know; this is not horror, at least not insofar as where it sits in bookstores. But I would also argue it’s not a traditional crime novel or literary character study either. In the Woods uses the structure of a whodunnit to craft one of the most haunting explorations of fear I’ve ever read and, in doing so, includes the only written scene to ever make me jump, a scene so infused with the force of an unshakable nightmare that it transforms the book around it, leaving readers with the sense that some evils can never be truly understood and some trauma is too great to move on from. If that doesn’t encapsulate horror at its most evocative, I have no idea what does.
Read about another entry on the list.

In the Woods is among Kate White's favorite thrillers with a main character who can’t remember what matters most, Kathleen Donohoe's ten top titles about missing persons, Jessica Knoll's ten top thrillers, Tara Sonin's twenty-five unhappy books for Valentine’s Day, Krysten Ritter's six favorite mysteries, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Emma Straub's ten top books that mimic the feeling of a summer vacation, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books from Ireland's newer voices, and Judy Berman's ten fantastic novels with disappointing endings.

The Page 69 Test: In the Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Q&A with Anna Ellory

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

I think The Puzzle Women has a dual meaning as a title. It’s actually what the men and women piecing together the Stasi’s archived and shredded documents are called. But it’s also a metaphor for all the women in the book, all missing pieces of themselves.

Lotte is desperate to know her Mama.

The women they encounter in the refuge Rune recognizes are all broken in some way.

The role of Nanya and Isolde to help women to find themselves again.

How even The Puzzle Women themselves have lives that are fractured.

How Berlin was broken and divided, then united, but the differences between living on either side are still very present.

This book looks at breaking and mending, scars and trauma, puzzle is a great word to...[read on]
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Puzzle Women.

My Book, The Movie: The Puzzle Women.

Q&A with Anna Ellory.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of the best books on life outdoors

Stef Penney is a screenwriter and the author of three novels: The Tenderness of Wolves (2006), The Invisible Ones (2011), and Under a Pole Star (2016). She has also written extensively for radio, including adaptations of Moby Dick, The Worst Journey in the World, and, mostly recently, a third installment of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series.

At the Guardian, Penney tagged six books "to remind us of the beauty and danger nature can offer," including:
Thirty-four years after it was first published, Barry Lopez’s naturalistic epic Arctic Dreams is more relevant than ever. Lopez combines nature writing at its finest, a history of arctic exploration, reflections on Inuit culture and musings on psychology, time and place, but it’s most astonishing for the exquisite quality of his noticing, and his ability to conjure beauty from the most introverted landscape. The prose shimmers. Dip in to shift your mental gears, and emerge with the ability to see the world – and yourself – differently.
Read about another entry on the list.

Arctic Dreams is among Helen Macdonald's six favorite books and Caspar Henderson's top ten natural histories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Frederic Clark's "The First Pagan Historian"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment by Frederic Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The History of the Destruction of Troy, Dares the Phrygian boldly claimed to be an eyewitness to the Trojan War, while challenging the accounts of two of the ancient world's most canonical poets, Homer and Virgil. For over a millennium, Dares' work was circulated as the first pagan history. It promised facts and only facts about what really happened at Troy — precise casualty figures, no mention of mythical phenomena, and a claim that Troy fell when Aeneas and other Trojans betrayed their city and opened its gates to the Greeks. But for all its intrigue, the work was as fake as it was sensational.

From the late antique encyclopedist Isidore of Seville to Thomas Jefferson, The First Pagan Historian offers the first comprehensive account of Dares' rise and fall as a reliable and canonical guide to the distant past. Along the way, it reconstructs the central role of forgery in longstanding debates over the nature of history, fiction, criticism, philology, and myth, from ancient Rome to the Enlightenment.
Learn more about The First Pagan Historian at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Pagan Historian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Bennett R. Coles's "Dark Star Rising," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Dark Star Rising: Blackwood & Virtue by Bennett R. Coles.

The entry begins:
Dark Star Rising is the second book in the science fantasy Blackwood and Virtue series, picking up with our heroes after their first successful mission. This success is overshadowed, however, by the discovery that their foes were only a small part of a much bigger threat to the Empire – a shadowy, far-reaching organization led by the mysterious Dark Star. Armed with a letter of marque the crew of HMSS Daring have wide latitude to operate as necessary to accomplish their mission, but the obstacles are growing. Pirate activities are getting bolder, war with an alien species looms, and Daring herself seems to be the target of an attack from within the Imperial court. 

This series of books is swashbuckling space adventure aboard a star sailing ship in a dense galactic cluster, so any actor would have to bring a sense of fun to their role. In my opinion, as part of the screen test each actor would have to be able to convincingly shout, “Huzzah!” 

For the heroine, Petty Officer Amelia Virtue, I’d love see Emilia Clarke get the nod, having just the right look for our plucky quartermaster. Many of her biggest roles have required her to exude gravitas, so it would be fun to see Ms. Clarke cut loose and show us just how strong and sassy Amelia can be. 

Our hero, Subcommander Lord Liam Blackwood, would be well represented by Henry...[read on]
Visit Bennett R. Coles's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Star Rising.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Star Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The ten best books about Texas

Aaron Gwyn is the author of three novels. His fiction has appeared in his story collection Dog on the Cross, finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award; and numerous magazines and anthologies such as Esquire, McSweeney’s, Best of the West, and Every True Pleasure: LGBTQ Tales of North Carolina. He is associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where he teaches fiction writing and American literature.

Gwyn's new novel is All God's Children.

At Publishers Weekly he tagged the ten best books about the Lone Star state, including:

The Son by Philipp Meyer

The best book written about Texas, fact or fiction, is Meyer's epic novel, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. When 13-year-old Eli McCullough's family is wiped out in 1851 by Comanche raiders, Eli is taken captive and then slowly assimilated into the tribe. He will eventually learn to hunt, fight, and love like the Comanche, but when tragedy destroys this new family and he's forced to return to Anglo civilization, Eli sets out on an 80-year quest to dominate in war, in cattle, and finally in oil, using the ways of the Comanche to conquer his enemies, leaving a trail of sons behind him.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Son is among John Larison's ten top books in the history & future of the Western and Paul Howarth's ten top tales from the frontier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Christiane M. Andrews

From my Q&A with Christiane M. Andrews, author of Spindlefish and Stars:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story? 

Because the entire story was inspired by a picture of a stargazy pie (a Cornish fish pie, sometimes decorated with pastry stars, where the fish heads are left poking through the crust and “gazing” at the sky), the working title for this novel was “Stargazy.” However, while the fish and the stars became the center of the story, the pie itself never made it into the draft, and my editor and I worked together to find a new title.

Though Spindlefish and Stars suggests the direction of the story, it deliberately does not take readers too far into it; in fact, it was a bit of a struggle to find a title that did not reveal too much! So many of the ones we brainstormed would have given away significant parts of the plot—Why did Clo’s father send her to this desperately gray island?—or identified aspects of the characters—Who is this old woman who locks Clo away? Why is Clo given such repulsive chores with the fish?—not meant to be understood until later in the text. Though the word “spindlefish” does...[read on]
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spindlefish and Stars.

The Page 69 Test: Spindlefish and Stars.

Q&A with Christiane M. Andrews.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Christian L. Bolden's "Out of the Red"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Out of the Red: My Life of Gangs, Prison, and Redemption by Christian L. Bolden.

About the book, from the publisher:
Out of the Red is one man’s pathbreaking story of how social forces and personal choices combined to deliver an unfortunate fate. After a childhood of poverty, institutional discrimination, violence, and being thrown away by the public education system, Bolden's life took him through the treacherous landscape of street gangs at the age of fourteen. The Bloods offered a sense of family, protection, excitement, and power. Incarcerated during the Texas prison boom, the teenage former gangster was thrust into a fight for survival as he navigated the perils of adult prison. As mass incarceration and prison gangs swallowed up youth like him, survival meant finding hope in a hopeless situation and carving a path to his own rehabilitation. Despite all odds, he forged a new path through education, ultimately achieving the seemingly impossible for a formerly incarcerated ex-gangbanger.
Learn more about Out of the Red at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Out of the Red.  

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: D.S. Butler's "House of Lies"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: House of Lies (Detective Karen Hart Book 4) by D. S. Butler.

About the book, from the publisher:
A dark secret. A haunted past. And a house full of lies.

When two teenage girls vanish without a trace from an educational retreat at Chidlow House in Lincolnshire, the students and teachers are put on high alert.

Called in to investigate, Detective Karen Hart questions everyone who came into contact with the two girls, Cressida and Natasha, in the days leading up to their disappearance.

Stories of Chidlow House being haunted abound, but Hart—still coming to terms with the suspicious circumstances surrounding the tragic loss of her own family—knows that while the house might be otherworldly, the crime is grimly real.

But nothing is quite as it seems at Chidlow House. When it becomes clear that someone at the estate must know more than they’re letting on, Hart faces a race against time to find the culprit and save the girls.

While there is no shortage of suspects, Hart comes up against one dead end after another. And when she too begins hearing eerie whispers in the walls, she is forced to wonder: was she too quick to dismiss Chidlow’s supernatural reputation?
Visit D.S. Butler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bring Them Home.

The Page 69 Test: Bring Them Home.

Writers Read: D. S. Butler (November 2018).

The Page 69 Test: House of Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sarah Tolmie's "The Fourth Island," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Island by Sarah Tolmie.

The entry begins:
Who would want to make a movie of a quiet sort of book set in an imaginary Aran island in 1840, before the famine? Jim Sheridan, perhaps? But then, what if the story was also a time-travel story? Aha, like Outlander, genre moviemakers might say? Sadly no, there’s not enough sex or violence. Plenty of implied violence. After all, the story features Cromwell. And two priests who escape the Belgian revolution of 1830. But the main gambit of the book is despair. The experience of despair is the ticket that gets people to Inis Caillte, the fourth, lost Aran island. Who wants to make that movie?

My first thought was Anthony Minghella. Let’s face it, he’s about as likely as anybody. He would have done beautifully with it. The man who could make the poet’s book that is The English Patient into a movie —a feat that I seriously doubted was possible — would be the dream director for a book like this. The whole thing is about texture and mental experience, and about coming out the other end of deadly suffering. Into what? A bit more life, perhaps, in a low-key sort of place, a small island with no government and no God. Come to think of it, another director who would have affinity for this story would be...[read on]
Visit Sarah Tolmie's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Island.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight epic quest stories

Micheline Aharonian Marcom is the author of seven novels, including a trilogy of books about the Armenian genocide and its aftermath in the 20th century.

Her latest book is The New American.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight epic journeys in literature, including:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

When I think of Hurston I recall her description in her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” of the “cosmic Zora” who would emerge at times as she walked down Seventh Avenue, her hat set at a certain angle, who belonged “to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.” In Hurston’s extraordinary novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, the eternal and timeless qualities of imaginative literature are on full display in the very specific groundings of place and time, spoken language and culture. The book opens with Janie Crawford recounting her life story to her friend Pheoby upon her return to the all-Black town of Eatonville, Florida. The book, set in the 1930s, follows Janie’s narration of her early life, her three marriages (the last for love), and the many trials she undergoes including the death of her beloved during her travels, before she finally returns changed, wiser, independent. “You got tuh go there tuh know there…Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Their Eyes Were Watching God also appears among Michael Zapata's ten books that were almost lost to history, Yann Martel's five favorite books, and Benjamin Obler's top ten fictional coffee scenes in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Philip C. Almond's "The Antichrist: A New Biography"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Antichrist: A New Biography by Philip C. Almond.

About the book, from the publisher:
The malign figure of the Antichrist endures in modern culture, whether religious or secular; and the spectral shadow he has cast over the ages continues to exert a strong and powerful fascination. Philip C. Almond tells the story of the son of Satan from his early beginnings to the present day, and explores this false Messiah in theology, literature and the history of ideas. Discussing the origins of the malevolent being who at different times was cursed as Belial, Nero or Damien, the author reveals how Christianity in both East and West has imagined this incarnation of absolute evil destined to appear at the end of time. For the better part of the last two thousand years, Almond suggests, the human battle between right and wrong has been envisaged as a mighty cosmic duel between good and its opposite, culminating in an epic final showdown between Christ and his deadly arch-nemesis.
Learn more about The Antichrist at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Afterlife: A History of Life after Death.

The Page 99 Test: The Antichrist: A New Biography.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee

From my Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, author of Phoenix Extravagant:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I've always thought a title should intrigue the reader and, if possible, just sound cool. It might be weird to have a story about a mecha dragon (featured on the cover!) called Phoenix Extravagant, but that was the title that came to me when I conceived this novel. It refers to a magical paint pigment with fiery and destructive power, and I picked the phoenix reference because it's based on a real-world watercolor pigment, PO49 (Quinacridone Gold), that has a glowing golden tone. The secret behind the creation of these magical pigments is at the heart of the story's exploration of themes of colonialism and assimilation.

What's in a name?

My setting, Hwaguk, is loosely based on…[read on]
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (June 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Eight books featuring unlikely detectives

Peter Colt was born in Boston, MA in 1973 and moved to Nantucket Island shortly thereafter. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Rhode Island and a 24-year veteran of the Army Reserve with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. He is a police officer in a New England City and the married father of two boys.

Colt's new novel is Back Bay Blues.

[My Book, The Movie: Back Bay BluesThe Page 69 Test: Back Bay BluesQ&A with Peter Colt]

At CrimeReads, Colt tagged eight novels featuring "amateur sleuths [who] never asked to get mixed up in a murder investigation—but they won't stop looking until they find the truth," including:
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

This is the one that started this whole train of thought. I was working on one of my novels with its very conventional detective and all I could think of was Easy Rawlins. As my guy is getting ready to go out looking for a missing teen, I was wondering if Easy were in the same situation, would he rather be at home with a drink, listening to a fight on the radio? After all, Easy never wanted to be a detective, it was thrust on him.

Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is a World War II veteran who is originally from Houston. He is laid off from his job as a defense contractor and ends up drinking in another Houstonian’s bar. While there, he is hired by a white man to find a white woman named Daphne Monet who frequents black jazz clubs. It doesn’t take long for bodies to appear, putting Rawlins into it up to his neck. Like all the best mysteries, this one has the potent combination of murder and blackmail.

Easy Rawlins is an Unlikely Detective because it is the last thing he wants to do. He would much rather have his job at the defense plant, to make his mortgage payments and live the American dream. The problem is that in 1940s Los Angeles, that dream is harder to realize for some more than others. Rawlins is black, the racism of the 1940s is pervasive and Rawlins quickly runs out of options to save his bit of the American Dream. Once he reluctantly becomes a detective and is thrust deeper into the case, racism becomes even more acute when he is dealing with the police. Racism is a constant backbeat, the bass notes to the story. It is always there, but it isn’t the whole story. Walter Mosley does a brilliant job of using fiction to address racism and by driving the plot with it. He also tells us a great detective story about a guy who just wants to be an average Joe and ends up an Unlikely Detective.
Read about another entry on the list.

Devil in a Blue Dress is among E.G. Scott's ten best pairs of frenemies in fiction, Alex Segura's nine top jazz-infused crime novels, Lori Roy's five top morality-driven thrillers, and Al Roker's six favorite crime novels.

Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, from Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series, made The A.V. Club's list of “13 sidekicks who are cooler than their heroes.”

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Elaine Farrell's "Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland: Life in the Nineteenth-Century Convict Prison by Elaine Farrell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Focusing on women's relationships, decisions and agency, this is the first study of women's experiences in a nineteenth-century Irish prison for serious offenders. Showcasing the various crimes for which women were incarcerated in the post-Famine period, from repeated theft to murder, Elaine Farrell examines inmate files in close detail in order to understand women's lives before, during and after imprisonment. By privileging case studies and individual narratives, this innovative study reveals imprisoned women's relationships with each other, with the staff employed to manage and control them, and with their relatives, spouses, children and friends who remained on the outside. In doing so, Farrell illuminates the hardships many women experienced, their poverty and survival strategies, as well as their responsibilities, obligations, and decisions. Incorporating women's own voices, gleaned from letters and prison files, this intimate insight into individual women's lives in an Irish prison sheds new light on collective female experiences across urban and rural post-Famine Ireland.
Visit Elaine Farrell's website.

The Page 99 Test: Women, Crime and Punishment in Ireland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Bennett R. Coles's "Dark Star Rising"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dark Star Rising: Blackwood & Virtue by Bennett R. Coles.

About the book, from the publisher:
The misfit crew of HMSS Daring are on a covert mission to dismantle a sprawling pirate network threatening the empire in this enthralling second Blackwood & Virtue novel—a thrilling, action-packed blend of the military sea adventures of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series with Jim Butcher’s sci fi Cinder Spires novels.

Exuberant after scoring a major victory against enemy pirates, the star sailing ship HMSS Daring eagerly embarks on its new mission. Until the pirate network is dismantled and its mysterious leader Dark Star brought to justice, the safety of the empire remains in jeopardy.

Supported by the ship’s misfit crew, Subcommander Liam Blackwood and Quartermaster Amelia Virtue go undercover, following leads that take them deep into the pirate network. Yet the closer they get to its center and the elusive Dark Star, the clearer it becomes that all is not what it seems.

Pirates aren’t the only danger the duo face. Empowered by imperial decree, an old enemy is murdering noble families and taking their property—an enemy that has a personal grudge against Daring and her crew. And now he is on his way across the galaxy to exact revenge.

Caught between ruthless pirates, a vengeful enemy, and their own increasingly intense feelings, Liam and Amelia must use all their cunning, charm, and daring to get out this alive.
Visit Bennett R. Coles's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Star Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Eight books about the intersection of witchcraft & feminism

Lucile Scott is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She has reported on national and international health and human rights issues for over a decade. Most recently, she has worked at the United Nations and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and has contributed to such publications as VICE and POZ magazines. In addition, she has written and/or directed plays that have been featured in New York City, Edinburgh, and Los Angeles. In 2016 she hit the rails as part of Amtrak’s writers’ residency program. An American Covenant: A Story of Women, Mysticism, and the Making of Modern America is her first book.

At Electric Lit, Scott tagged eight books about hexing the patriarchy, including:
The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

In the late 1800s, the American male medical establishment coined the term “mediomania,” in an effort to link insanity to Spiritualism, and cut down the threat to the patriarchal order. They then redefined insanity’s symptoms as the most common side effects of entrancement—rigidity, seizure, ecstasy. Eventually, they settled on the more widely employed “hysteria,” derived from the Greek hystera, meaning uterus.

Beams riveting slow burn of a novel tells a story of “teenage hysteria” set in 1871 in New England. The prose is so thick with mystic symbols and smoldering repression that it reads like a startlingly lucid dream or nightmare—one that explores how, even when well meaning, the male medical and philosophical establishments can hex a woman by convincing her that her flawed, weak body, not the strict limits society puts on her, are responsible for her ills. It also poignantly expresses the power of pulling back that curtain and seeing the truth: you are strong.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Komline's "The Common School Awakening"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Common School Awakening: Religion and the Transatlantic Roots of American Public Education by David Komline.

About the book, from the publisher:
A statue of Horace Mann, erected in front of the Boston State House in 1863, declares him the "Father of the American Public School System." For over a century and a half, most narratives about early American education have taken this epithet as the truth. As Mann looms over the Boston Common, so he has also loomed over discussions of early American schooling. Other scholarship has emphasized economic factors as the main reason for the emergence of public schools. The Common School Awakening offers a new narrative about the rise of public schools in America that counters these conceptions.

In this book, David Komline explains how a broad and distinctly American religious consensus emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century, allowing people from across the religious spectrum to cooperate in systematizing and professionalizing America's schools in an effort to Christianize the country. At the height of this movement, several states introduced state-sponsored teacher training colleges and concentrated government oversight of schools in offices such as the one held by Mann. Shortly thereafter, the religious consensus that had served as the foundation for this common school system disintegrated. But the system itself remained, the legacy of not just one man, but of a whole network of reformers who put into motion a transatlantic and transdenominational religious movement - the "Common School Awakening."
Learn more about The Common School Awakening at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Common School Awakening.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Christopher Cosmos

From my Q&A with Christopher Cosmos, author of Once We Were Here: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love titles, and think that they are and can be extremely important, and I think of titles as the first opportunity to introduce readers to what they're about to dive into. I also think that the best titles add something imperative to the story. An example I often think about is the movie You Can Count On Me. In the movie, Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo play siblings, and towards the end, in a very emotional scene, he asks her something along the lines of, "Do you remember when we were kids, do you remember what we used to say to each other?" And she responds, through her tears, "Of course I do!" They don't have to say it to each other again, because that's not how people talk, but we already know what it is that they used to say to each other, because...[read on]
Visit Christopher Cosmos's website.

The Page 69 Test: Once We Were Here.

Q&A with Christopher Cosmos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2020

Seven great thrillers that take readers to faraway places

Rose Carlyle is a law professor who has written intermittently throughout her life and who began writing fiction in 2016. She was awarded first class honours in her creative writing Masters at the University of Auckland and was granted a prestigious mentorship under which she developed and completed this manuscript. She spends her spare time in far-flung places and currently lives in New Zealand. The Girl in the Mirror is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads, Carlyle tagged seven "books that have transported me to places I’ve never been with such vividness that I feel as though I have." One title on the list:
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

UK-based Wyld leaps from one end of the world to the other with every chapter of this tightly plotted novel. The story alternates between the present day on a stormy English island and past events that occurred under the blazing sun of a Queensland sheep station. Wyld breaks most of the crime fiction “rules,” and much of the story is revealed in reverse chronological order. The reader is dizzied but never confused by the contrasts between the English cold and the Australian heat, but what the two landscapes have in common is a rawness that offers no safe harbor to the brooding, secretive heroine.
Read about another entry on the list.

All the Birds, Singing is among four books that changed Alison Booth and Cal Flyn's ten top books about the Australian bush.

My Book, The Movie: All the Birds, Singing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Anna Ellory's "The Puzzle Women," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Puzzle Women by Anna Ellory.

The entry begins:
If they make my book into a movie (which would be amazing as I see the whole scene before I place a word on the page so I can already see it) here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles.

Lotte – a young actress with Down Syndrome there are so few actresses with Down syndrome, I believe this should change, a younger Sarah Gordy (who is exceptional) – someone who can capture the joy and happiness Lotte exudes even in her darkest moments.

Rune – A 20 something guy, tall and handsome in a quirky way, very insecure. I love Manchester by the Sea (one of my favourite films) and...[read on]
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Puzzle Women.

My Book, The Movie: The Puzzle Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Richard Gaskins's "The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court by Richard Gaskins.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the first in-depth study of the first three ICC trials: an engaging, accessible text meant for specialists and students, for legal advocates and a wide range of professionals concerned with diverse cultures, human rights, and restorative justice. It introduces international justice and courtroom trials in practical terms, offering a balanced view on persistent tensions and controversies. Separate chapters analyze the working realities of central African armed conflicts, finding reasons for their surprising resistance to ICC legal formulas. The book dissects the Court's structural dynamics, which were designed to steer an elusive middle course between high moral ideals and hard political realities. Detailed chapters provide vivid accounts of courtroom encounters with four Congolese suspects. The mixed record of convictions, acquittals, dissents, and appeals, resulting from these trials, provides a map of distinct fault-lines within the ICC legal code, and suggests a rocky path ahead for the Court's next ventures.
Learn more about The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Congo Trials in the International Criminal Court.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Q&A with Robert Masello

From my Q&A with Robert Masello, author of The Haunting of H. G. Wells:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

For once, I got a title that works well with the book. (Picking titles is my nightmare.) The hero of the book is, of course, H.G. Wells, arguably the founder of sci-fi, and the author of such classics as The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. The book is set during the First World War, and Wells is sent to the Western Front, by Winston Churchill no less, to investigate rumors of a brigade of angels descending from Heaven to repel the German troops. Such a story actually did make its way into the public consciousness. While at the Front, Wells is drawn into a world that even he could not have imagined, a world whose denizens...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Masello's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood and Ice.

The Page 69 Test: The Medusa Amulet.

The Page 69 Test: The Einstein Prophecy.

My Book, The Movie: The Einstein Prophecy.

The Page 69 Test: The Night Crossing.

Q&A with Robert Masello.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Tolmie's "The Fourth Island"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Fourth Island by Sarah Tolmie.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dark, mournful, and beautiful, Sarah Tolmie's The Fourth Island is a moving and unforgettable story of life and death on the hidden Irish island of Inis Caillte.

Huddled in the sea off the coast of Ireland is a fourth Aran Island, a secret island peopled by the lost, findable only in moments of despair. Whether drowned at sea, trampled by Cromwell's soldiers, or exiled for clinging to the dead, no outsiders reach the island without giving in to dark emotion.

Time and again, The Fourth Island weaves a hypnotic pattern with its prose, presaging doom before walking back through the sweet and sour moments of lives not yet lost. It beautifully melds the certainty of loss with the joys of living, drawing readers under like the tide.
Visit Sarah Tolmie's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about the Himalayas

Ed Douglas is an award-winning writer with a passion for the Himalaya. The author of a dozen books, including a biography of Tenzing Norgay, he has reported from the region for more than twenty-five years, covering the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and the Tibetan occupation. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

Douglas's new book is Himalaya: A Human History.

At the Guardian, he tagged ten "books that catch the human texture and shape of the world’s highest mountain range," including:
Kathmandu by Thomas Bell

Tom Bell went to Kathmandu as an eager young foreign correspondent, reporting for the Daily Telegraph on the Nepali civil war that began in 1996. Then he fell in love, with his future wife and also with the city. Bell wasn’t the first outsider to be beguiled, but none have written about the Himalayas’ greatest city so well. Kathmandu is as rich a literary hunting ground as Istanbul, but unlike the Byzantines, the ancient Newari culture that built the Kathmandu valley’s lilliputian city-states has survived, even as the city has swollen and evolved. Bell is a subtle guide through this tantric, down-at-heel labyrinth, teasing apart the layers.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pg. 99: Michelle Jackson's "Manifesto for a Dream"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Manifesto for a Dream: Inequality, Constraint, and Radical Reform by Michelle Jackson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A searing critique of our contemporary policy agenda, and a call to implement radical change.

Although it is well known that the United States has an inequality problem, the social science community has failed to mobilize in response. Social scientists have instead adopted a strikingly insipid approach to policy reform, an ostensibly science-based approach that offers incremental, narrow-gauge, and evidence-informed "interventions." This approach assumes that the best that we can do is to contain the problem. It is largely taken for granted that we will never solve it. In Manifesto for a Dream, Michelle Jackson asserts that we will never make strides toward equality if we do not start to think radically. It is the structure of social institutions that generates and maintains social inequality, and it is only by attacking that structure that progress can be made. Jackson makes a scientific case for large-scale institutional reform, drawing on examples from other countries to demonstrate that reforms that have been unthinkable in the United States are considered to be quite unproblematic in other contexts. She persuasively argues that an emboldened social science has an obligation to develop and test the radical policies that would be necessary for equality to be assured for all.
Visit Michelle Jackson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Manifesto for a Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five thrillers that explore "mean girl" culture

Avery Bishop is the pseudonym for a USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including the newly released Girl Gone Mad.

[The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad; Q&A with Avery Bishop.]

At CrimeReads, Bishop tagged "five novels that, while they may not mainly focus on mean girl culture, certainly contain aspects that are important to the plot; in some of the books, bullying is what sets the story in motion." One title on the list:
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Ellison’s novel takes place at an exclusive girls’ boarding school, which is pretty much the perfect setting for mean girl culture. Ash, the protagonist, comes to the school from the United Kingdom after the death of her parents, and right off the bat—like within minutes of her arriving on campus—some of the girls start messing with her. As you can imagine, things spiral out of control from there.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Good Girls Lie.

The Page 69 Test: Good Girls Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Antony Johnston

From my Q&A with Antony Johnston, author of The Exphoria Code:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?
Photo by Chad Michael Ward

I spend a lot of time on titles, because they set expectations for new and returning readers alike. The word ‘Exphoria’ had come to me in a flash long before I even conceived the story, just sitting in my notebook for months.

In the book, terrorists attempt to steal the design for a top-secret military drone project, while our hero Brigitte — a hacker working for MI6 — tries to uncover the mole. When it came time to give that military project a name, I remembered that word ‘Exphoria’ and it slotted into place perfectly, like the universe was giving me a nudge.

From there the full title The Exphoria Code grew logically, as it has so many implications. First and foremost, taken as a whole it implies a thriller; without knowing anything about the book, the rhythm and cadence of the full title puts one in the right frame of mind.

Then there are the words. Exphoria is invented, and strikingly unusual, but close enough to a real word that it feels somehow genuine. The classic ‘x’ substitution hints at technology. And making this unusual word a Code invites questions as to what sort of code it could possibly be. Computer code? Coded messages? A code of honour? While one of those is strictly the correct answer, all three elements define the character of the book.

I also knew The Exphoria Code would be...[read on]
Visit Antony Johnston's website.

Q&A with Antony Johnston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Pg. 69: Emily Carpenter's "Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter.

About the book, from the publisher:

The bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls returns to uncover a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa, 1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free or set her world on fire?
Visit Emily Carpenter's website.

My Book, The Movie: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters.

The Page 69 Test: Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books by masters of interiority

Claire Messud's novels include The Emperor's Children, The Woman Upstairs, and The Burning Girl.

Her new book is Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write, an autobiography in essays.

At The Week magazine Messud tagged six works by masters of interiority. One title on the list:
Alice Munro: Selected Stories (1996).

Munro knows her world, and every facet of her characters, to bedrock. She conveys more in a single story than most writers do in a novel. Her prose is glorious — concrete, restrained, with the occasional, always justified, lyrical fillip — and her insight pitiless. She sees everything but knows that life is mysterious, that self-knowledge and the knowledge of others are fractured and partial.
Read about another entry on the list.

Alice Munro's Selected Stories is among Meg Wolitzer's five favorite books by women writers, Carolyn Cooke's top ten legendary short story collections, and Andre Dubus III's five most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue