Monday, November 30, 2020

Sixteen nonfiction books that tried to define America

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

See Tessa Arlen’s top five historical novels.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

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

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Death of an Unsung Hero.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen (November 2019).

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

Q&A with Tessa Arlen.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Thomas Perry

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Silence.

The Page 99 Test: Nightlife.

The Page 69/99 Test: Fidelity.

The Page 69/99 Test: Runner.

The Page 69 Test: Strip.

The Page 69 Test: The Informant.

The Page 69 Test: The Boyfriend.

The Page 69 Test: A String of Beads.

The Page 69 Test: Forty Thieves.

The Page 69 Test: The Old Man.

The Page 69 Test: The Bomb Maker.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

The Page 69 Test: A Small Town.

Writers Read: Thomas Perry (December 2019).

Q&A with Thomas Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Five SFF books packed with twists and turns

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julia Ember's "Ruinsong"

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

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

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Ruinsong.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Hope and Scorn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Five unconventional fictional families that might make you miss your own

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: The Family Man.

The Page 99 Test: I Can't Complain.

The Page 69 Test: Good Riddance.

Writers Read: Elinor Lipman (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Rachel to the Rescue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Andrea Portes

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

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

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

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

Q&A with Andrea Portes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2020

Five top mysteries set on islands

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

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

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

Her latest Dandy Gilver mystery is The Turning Tide.

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: The Invention of China.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Q&A with Megan Bannen

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

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

Coffee with a Canine: Megan Bannen & Brontë.

The Page 69 Test: The Bird and the Blade.

Q&A with Megan Bannen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about consent

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

She is the author of The Future of Seduction.

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Boys & Sex.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Helen Fry's "MI9"

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: The London Cage.

The Page 99 Test: The Walls Have Ears.

The Page 99 Test: MI9.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: The Life List.

Writers Read: Lori Nelson Spielman (June 2015).

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top snowy thrillers

At Book Riot, Sophia LeFevre tagged six isolated, snowy thrillers to match the season, including:

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

The Page 69 Test: No Exit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mark de Jager

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

Settling on the title took a bit of work!

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

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

What's in a name?

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

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

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

Q&A with Mark de Jager.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

My Book, The Movie: Poetic Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Q&A with Soledad Maura

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

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

What's in a name?

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

My Book, The Movie: Madrid Again.

Q&A with Soledad Maura.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

Writers Read: Catriona McPherson (November 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

The Page 69 Test: The Turning Tide.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Intoxicating Zion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books about feminist folklore

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

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

[Q&A with Ruth Gilligan.]

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

At Book Riot she tagged seven books for fans of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, including:

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: An Aristocracy of Critics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Wayne Santos

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

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

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

What's in a name? 

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

The Page 69 Test: The Chimera Code.

My Book, The Movie: The Chimera Code.

Q&A with Wayne Santos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s why. 

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Go to My Grave.

Writers Read: Catriona McPherson (November 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

About the book, from the publisher:

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Infernal.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Appetite and Its Discontents.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Five top books about women fighting their way out

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kristin Fields

From my Q&A with Kristin Fields, author of A Frenzy of Sparks:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I always know the title of my novels before I start writing. In many ways, the title becomes the question I work backwards to answer. There are many ways that A Frenzy of Sparks connects to the themes of the novel: coming of age, addiction, the civil, political, and societal demands for change (not unlike those of today). In both of my novels, A Lily in the Light and A Frenzy of Sparks, the title has also been a line in the story. 

What's in a name? 

My family is Italian American. Writing this novel was really a way to...[read on]
Visit Kristin Fields's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Lily in the Light.

Writers Read: Kristin Fields (May 2019).

My Book, The Movie: A Frenzy of Sparks.

The Page 69 Test: A Frenzy of Sparks.

Q&A with Kristin Fields.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrea Portes's "This Is Not a Ghost Story," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes.

The entry begins:
This is a fun exercise and one I’ve actually had to do, and continue having to do, if real life. My first novel, Hick, was made into a film starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Eddie Redmayne, Blake Lively and Alec Baldwin. My second novel, Bury This, is currently in development and we are just now in this exact stage… of imagining who would be an inspired choice.

For This is Not a Ghost Story, I have no idea who would play Daffodil. I know, simply, that it should be directed by someone who knows how to create a kind of quiet, eerie tension. Perhaps the director of...[read on]
Visit Andrea Portes's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2020

Eight books to read instead of "Hillbilly Elegy"

At the Los Angeles Times, Lorraine Berry tagged eight books that offer a more honest approach to America's working class than Hillbilly Elegy, including:
Ramp Hollow by Steven Stoll

Stoll examines the causes of poverty in the Appalachian region, drawing from a documented history of violence and exploitative capitalism to lay out a convincing argument the real culprits are public policy and corporate greed. Along the way, he shows how economic measures of self-reliance have failed to account for communities in which barter often takes the place of cash.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Libra R. Hilde's "Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty in African American Communities over the Long Nineteenth Century by Libra R. Hilde.

About the book, from the publisher:
Analyzing published and archival oral histories of formerly enslaved African Americans, Libra R. Hilde explores the meanings of manhood and fatherhood during and after the era of slavery, demonstrating that black men and women articulated a surprisingly broad and consistent vision of paternal duty across more than a century. Complicating the tendency among historians to conflate masculinity within slavery with heroic resistance, Hilde emphasizes that, while some enslaved men openly rebelled, many chose subtle forms of resistance in the context of family and local community. She explains how a significant number of enslaved men served as caretakers to their children and shaped their lives and identities. From the standpoint of enslavers, this was particularly threatening--a man who fed his children built up the master’s property, but a man who fed them notions of autonomy put cracks in the edifice of slavery.

Fatherhood highlighted the agonizing contradictions of the condition of enslavement, and to be an involved father was to face intractable dilemmas, yet many men tried. By telling the story of the often quietly heroic efforts that enslaved men undertook to be fathers, Hilde reveals how formerly enslaved African Americans evaluated their fathers (including white fathers) and envisioned an honorable manhood.
Learn more about Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Josh Swiller's "Bright Shining World"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Bright Shining World by Josh Swiller.

About the book, from the publisher:
A darkly funny thriller about one boy’s attempt to unravel the mysterious phenomenon affecting students in his new town, as he finds a way to resist sinister forces and pursue hope for them all.

Wallace Cole is perpetually moving against his will. His father has some deeply important job with an energy company that he refuses to explain to Wallace who is, shall we say, suspicious. Not that his father ever listens to him. Just as Wallace is getting settled into a comfortable life in Kentucky, his father lets him know they need to immediately depart for a new job in a small town in Upstate New York which has recently been struck by an outbreak of inexplicable hysterics–an outbreak which is centered at the high school Wallace will attend.

In the new town, go from disturbing to worse: trees appear to be talking to people; a school bully, the principal, and the town police force take an instant dislike to Wallace; and the student body president is either falling for him or slipping into the enveloping darkness. Bright Shining World is a novel of resistance, of young people finding hope and courage and community in a collapsing world.
Visit Josh Swiller's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bright Shining World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Top ten books about great thinkers

Peter Salmon was born in Australia but now lives in the UK. His first novel The Coffee Story was a New Statesman Book of the Year. He has written for the Guardian, the Sydney Review of Books, the New Humanist, as well as Australian TV and radio. He has received the Writer's Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.

Salmon's new book is An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida.

At the Guardian, he tagged ten of the best books about great thinkers, including:
At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell

Along with Stuart Jeffries’ Grand Hotel Abyss, this has become the ne plus ultra of group biographies, to the point where any pitch for a book in this area these days has to say: “It’s like At Existentialist Cafe meets The Rest Is Noise.” There’s a reason for this. Bakewell’s ability to connect a thinker’s ideas to their life and personality is impressive. I particularly love her slow, minutely reasoned, takedown of Heidegger the man: displaying Paul Celan’s books in the window of his local bookshop is, she writes, “the single documented example I can find of him actually doing something nice”.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Susan Lewis

From my Q&A with Susan Lewis, author of My Lies, Your Lies:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I sometimes feel that getting the right title can be almost as difficult as deciding what the book is going to be about. I think titles can matter a lot, especially for less well-known authors as their names won’t be strong enough on their own to pull readers in. In the case of My Lies, Your Lies I knew I had to come up with something fast, as my publisher was keen to go with a title I simply didn’t feel was right. Their suggestion was Forgive Me which didn’t cover it at all. (It is now the title for my next book.) Luckily, everyone went for My Lies, Your Lies as it does go some way towards telling you what the book is about.

What's in a name?

Names are always important to me. It helps me to see the character, to understand something of their personality and to portray the right image of them to a reader. In My Lies, Your Lies I chose the name Joely for the lead protagonist because of its gentleness, elegance and relevance to age (early forties). There is also, I feel, a determination and intelligence to it. As for Freda, the other main character, I chose that because...[read on]
Visit Susan Lewis's website.

My Book, The Movie: My Lies, Your Lies.

Q&A with Susan Lewis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Geoffrey F. Gresh's "To Rule Eurasia’s Waves"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: To Rule Eurasia’s Waves: The New Great Power Competition at Sea by Geoffrey F. Gresh.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first book to weave Eurasia together through the perspective of the oceans and seas

Eurasia’s emerging powers—India, China, and Russia—have increasingly embraced their maritime geographies as they have expanded and strengthened their economies, military capabilities, and global influence. Maritime Eurasia, a region that facilitates international commerce and contains some of the world’s most strategic maritime chokepoints, has already caused a shift in the global political economy and challenged the dominance of the Atlantic world and the United States. Climate change is set to further affect global politics.

With meticulous and comprehensive field research, Geoffrey Gresh considers how the melting of the Arctic ice cap will create new shipping lanes and exacerbate a contest for the control of Arctic natural resources. He explores as well the strategic maritime shifts under way from Europe to the Indian Ocean and Pacific Asia. The race for great power status and the earth’s changing landscape, Gresh shows, are rapidly transforming Eurasia and thus creating a new world order.
Learn more about To Rule Eurasia’s Waves at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: To Rule Eurasia’s Waves.

--Marshal Zeringue