Friday, September 24, 2021

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "The Idiot"

D.W. Buffa was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years and his Joseph Antonelli novels reflect that experience. The New York Times called The Defense "an accomplished first novel" which "leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read it over again." The Judgment was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel of the year. The latest Joseph Antonelli novel is The Privilege.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when it was in college or in
my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Dostoevsky's The Idiot begins:
We have all heard, though usually in a bad movie or in a bad book, that your whole life flashes before your eyes in the moment you are about to die. But what really happens, what does someone really think about, in the moments before death? Is it about the past, about the life that is about to end, or is it, strange as it may seem at first, about the future? In one of the great, if largely forgotten, Russian novels of the 19th Century, Fyodor Dostoevsky describes what went through the mind of a man moments before his execution. He describes what had actually happened to him when, in l849, he was arrested with thirty others for crimes against the state and taken to St. Petersburg to be shot.

Dostoevsky stood there, his hands tied behind his back, while the firing squad was assembled and everything made ready. The soldiers took their positions and, at the order, aimed their rifles, the commander raised his arm ready to give the order to fire. And then…nothing, not a sound, until the firing squad was ordered to lower their rifles and the prisoners were informed that their death sentences had been commuted to exile in Siberia.

There is a marvelous line uttered by...[read on]
About Buffa's new novel The Privilege, from the publisher:
Joseph Antonelli, who never lost a case he should have won and won nearly every case he should have lost, is about to see his client, Justin Friedrich, convicted for a crime he did not commit. His wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their yacht in the San Francisco marina, and Friedrich does not have a chance. But then the real killer approaches Antonelli…

Famous and enigmatic, James Michael Redfield, the head of a high tech company that leads the world in the development of artificial intelligence, Redfield gives Antonelli evidence that proves Friedrich is innocent. But why did Redfield wait until the last minute to give Antonelli this proof?

Before Antonelli can even begin to solve that riddle, there is another murder, and Antonelli finds himself an unwilling participant in a conspiracy he does not understand. Antonelli has never known anyone like James Michael Redfield. Because for Redfield, it isn’t about murder at all; it is all about the trial. Because only a trial can show the world what Redfield believes it needs to know…no matter how many people need to die.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jo Perry

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

“Pure” comes from the Latin Latin “purus” –– "clean, clear; unmixed; unadorned; chaste, undefiled." Pure is a mysterious title, but its associations and meanings illuminate the novel from beginning to end. The title arrived with the idea––a volunteer in a Jewish burial society who encounters a body of a woman she suspects was murdered. Jewish burial societies (Muslims have a similar burial prep) prepare bodies for burial by performing tahara, a ritual washing which returns the dead to newborn purity.

“Pure” is also an intensifier, i.e., it can mean unadulterated or unalloyed as in “pure joy” or “pure misery.” “Pure” has goodness-connotations, too, and my protagonist is trying to find a path to goodness. And the novel takes place during the pandemic lockdown in Los Angeles, there is always the threat of...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about death and what comes next

TJ Klune is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, Klune believes it's important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

His new novel is Flash Fire, the sequel to The Extraordinaries.

[Q&A with TJ KluneThe Page 69 Test: Flash Fire]

At Tor.com Klune tagged five books about death and what comes next, including:
What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

If you’ve heard of this book, chances are because it’s from the forgettable film version starring Robin Williams. While the film itself is gorgeous to look at, it—like The Lovely Bones film—loses something in translation. Though primarily known as a horror author, Matheson’s work in this story is a powerful thing. Matheson himself said that he thought What Dreams May Come was the most important book he’s ever written, saying, “It caused a number of readers to lose their fear of death—the finest tribute any writer could receive.”

The novel follows a man who dies in a car accident, and goes to a place known as Summerland, a version of Heaven where he can have and do anything he wants. In her grief, his wife dies by suicide, and is sent to a “lower realm” which is a version of Hell. What follows is a rescue mission to save her. Though some will take issue—and rightly so—with the idea that those who die by suicide aren’t destined for a Summerland of their own, Matheson writes with heart and understanding. And the ending? Perfection.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pg. 99: Krystale E. Littlejohn's "Just Get on the Pill"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Just Get on the Pill: The Uneven Burden of Reproductive Politics by Krystale E. Littlejohn.

About the book, from the publisher:
Understanding the social history and urgent social implications of gendered compulsory birth control, an unbalanced and unjust approach to pregnancy prevention.

The average person concerned about becoming pregnant spends approximately thirty years trying to prevent conception. People largely do so alone using prescription birth control, a situation often taken for granted in the United States as natural and beneficial. In Just Get On the Pill, a keenly researched and incisive examination, Krystale Littlejohn investigates how birth control becomes a fundamentally unbalanced and gendered responsibility. She uncovers how parents, peers, partners, and providers draw on narratives of male and female birth control methods to socialize cisgender women into sex and ultimately into shouldering the burden for preventing pregnancy.

Littlejohn draws on extensive interviews to document this gendered compulsory birth control—a phenomenon in which people who give birth are held accountable for preventing and resolving pregnancies in gender-constrained ways. She shows how this gendered approach encroaches on reproductive autonomy and poses obstacles for preventing disease. While diverse cisgender women are the focus, Littlejohn shows that they are not the only ones harmed by this dynamic. Indeed, gendered approaches to birth control also negatively impact trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming people in overlooked ways. In tracing the divisive politics of pregnancy prevention, Littlejohn demonstrates that the gendered division of labor in birth control is not natural. It is unjust.
Visit Krystale E. Littlejohn's website.

The Page 99 Test: Just Get on the Pill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about lies and liars

Aja Raden studied ancient history and physics at the University of Chicago and, during that time, worked as the Head of the Auction Division at the famed House of Kahn. For over seven years, she worked as the Senior Designer for Los Angeles-based fine jewelry company Tacori. Raden is an experienced jeweler, trained scientist, and well-read historian. Her expertise sits at the intersection of academic history, industry experience, and scientific perspective. Raden's books include the New York Times bestseller Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World.

Her latest book is The Truth About Lies: The Illusion of Honesty and the Evolution of Deceit.

At the Guardian Raden tagged ten of her favorite books about lies and liars, including:
The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

Also wonderful, but definitely not a beach read. The Confidence Game is dense. Konnikova breaks down exactly how and why con artists manage to do what they do; and she gets granular as hell in the process. By way of explaining the criminal mind and method, she tells the story of possibly every liar, thief and con artist in the last few centuries – and it’s intense. I disagree with almost all of her conclusions about the bigger whys, but Konnikova operates on a whole different level; her mind is a machine. I would not go up against her in a pub quiz.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Lee Mandelo's "Summer Sons"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Lee Mandelo's debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.
Visit Lee Mandelo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Sons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Six great novels with mysterious protagonists

Christopher Swann is a novelist and high school English teacher. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, he earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He has been a Townsend Prize finalist, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize, and twice been a finalist for a Georgia Author of the Year award. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

Swann's new novel is A Fire in the Night.

At CrimeReads he tagged six great novels with "narrators and protagonists who deliberately keep secrets from us, or whose pasts are mysteries that loom over the story and are only revealed a piece at a time." One title on the list:
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf (2016)

This is a savage, sardonic bloodbath of a story, suffused with mordant wit and a Grand Guignol style. The Manderley Resort, an exclusive, high-tech hotel on the California coast, is about to open, but someone is determined to keep that from happening. Every single staff member of the Manderley is being watched, and over the next several hours, they will be killed off, one by one. Gory and breathless, with nods to Hitchcock by way of Tarantino, Security is also a love story featuring a mysterious and oddly disembodied narrator, and the identity of that narrator becomes almost as compelling as the taut suspense Wohlsdorf employs around a single question: who will survive?
Read about another entry on the list.

Security is among James S. Murray's five books that are pulpy in all the right ways.

The Page 69 Test: Security.

My Book, The Movie: Security.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark Lawrence Schrad's "Smashing the Liquor Machine"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition by Mark Lawrence Schrad.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the history of temperance and prohibition as you've never read it before: redefining temperance as a progressive, global, pro-justice movement that affected virtually every significant world leader from the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries.

When most people think of the prohibition era, they think of speakeasies, rum runners, and backwoods fundamentalists railing about the ills of strong drink. In other words, in the popular imagination, it is a peculiarly American history.

Yet, as Mark Lawrence Schrad shows in Smashing the Liquor Machine, the conventional scholarship on prohibition is extremely misleading for a simple reason: American prohibition was just one piece of a global phenomenon. Schrad's pathbreaking history of prohibition looks at the anti-alcohol movement around the globe through the experiences of pro-temperance leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Leo Tolstoy, Thomás Masaryk, Kemal Atatürk, Mahatma Gandhi, and anti-colonial activists across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Schrad argues that temperance wasn't "American exceptionalism" at all, but rather one of the most broad-based and successful transnational social movements of the modern era. In fact, Schrad offers a fundamental re-appraisal of this colorful era to reveal that temperance forces frequently aligned with progressivism, social justice, liberal self-determination, democratic socialism, labor rights, women's rights, and indigenous rights. Placing the temperance movement in a deep global context, forces us to fundamentally rethink its role in opposing colonial exploitation throughout American history as well. Prohibitionism united Native American chiefs like Little Turtle and Black Hawk; African-American leaders Frederick Douglass, Ida Wells, and Booker T. Washington; suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frances Willard; progressives from William Lloyd Garrison to William Jennings Bryan; writers F.E.W. Harper and Upton Sinclair, and even American presidents from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Progressives rather than puritans, the global temperance movement advocated communal self-protection against the corrupt and predatory “liquor machine” that had become exceedingly rich off the misery and addictions of the poor around the world, from the slums of South Asia to the beerhalls of Central Europe to the Native American reservations of the United States.

Unlike many traditional "dry" histories, Smashing the Liquor Machine gives voice to minority and subaltern figures who resisted the global liquor industry, and further highlights that the impulses that led to the temperance movement were far more progressive and variegated than American readers have been led to believe.
Learn more about Smashing the Liquor Machine at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Smashing the Liquor Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Top ten books about long-distance relationships

Amber Medland's debut novel is Wild Pets. In the novel, the author writes in the Guardian:
Iris – a depressed writer studying in New York – is in two transatlantic relationships, one with her boyfriend, Ezra, who is touring with his band, and one with her best friend, Nance. They email, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, share Spotify playlists, etc. Technology promises a sense of togetherness, but it cannot appease our hunger for physical closeness.
At the Guardian Medland recommended ten books about long-distance relationships, including:
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Meet Henry De Tamble, a librarian with a wolfish streak and Clare Abshire, a visual artist. Henry has a genetic disorder that means he’s sucked out of the present and hurled naked through time at random. The novel alternates between their perspectives, so we see how each experiences their love story inflected differently. It is longing accelerated: Henry is always vanishing, and Clare, missing him. But they wring the juice out of each moment they have together. The book is near edible in its descriptions of food, books, punk, sex and the smell of manuscript paper.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is among Fran Wilde’s five books that explore the relationship of time travel & portal narrative and Jenny Colgan's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Louise Guy reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Louise Guy, author of Her Last Hope.

The entry begins:
I usually have two books on the go, one on audio and the other on my kindle. I’ve just finished The Marriage by K L Slater and Her Last Worlds by Kim Kelly.

Full of lies and deception, I’m always drawn into the worlds K L Slater creates, and The Marriage was no exception. Why on earth would you marry your son’s killer? That’s the story's premise and one that kept me ruminating throughout as to what the real motive could be. Full of twists and turns, this story kept me guessing right up until the end, which is why I love this author’s works. When I read a K L Slater I find myself totally engrossed in the story when I’m reading but also when I’m going about my normal day, sifting through the what ifs? And could that person be responsible for...[read on]
About Her Last Hope, from the publisher:
Will new friends almost ruined by their husbands find the strength to fight for each other?

Abi’s life has been turned upside down by her husband’s death―in more ways than she could ever have imagined. With his dodgy business dealings now exposed, gone is her glamorous lifestyle and the trust of her family and friends. How could the man who said he loved her have betrayed her so spectacularly?

Abi’s new neighbour Lucinda and her four-year-old son Max are struggling to overcome their own betrayal by Max’s violent, vengeful father. The pieces of Lucinda’s life seem finally to be coming together when she is given a new identity and finds an ally in Abi. But an unexpected twist throws both women’s lives into fresh turmoil.

Faced with a tougher time than they ever thought possible, Abi and Lucinda turn to each other. It’s an unlikely friendship built on common ground―but is it strong enough to help them rebuild their lives from rock bottom?
Visit Louise Guy's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living.

My Book, The Movie: A Life Worth Living.

Q&A with Louise Guy (November 2020).

My Book, The Movie: A Winning Betrayal.

The Page 69 Test: A Winning Betrayal.

Writers Read: Louise Guy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Six books with city settings that play a significant role

Alan Parks was born in Scotland and attended The University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. Bloody January is his debut novel.

At CrimeReads he tagged six crime "books that have nothing in common but the huge part the cities in which they are set play," including:
Louise Welsh, The Cutting Room

Glasgow is a city which I’m very familiar. The best writers can make a familiar city, a new city, a place you think you know but you don’t. In The Cutting Room, Louise Welch simply carved out a new Glasgow. No hard men, no long-suffering women, no razor kings, no clichés about the city that run from the thirties until now.

Her hero Rilke is ostensibly an auctioneer, but he’s really a connoisseur of things. Of the feel of them, the patina from the people who have used them, the smell of them. It makes sense that the crime he becomes involved in is discovered through an object. A fading black and white photograph. The object rather than the flesh.

His Glasgow is one of faded grandeur and tightly kept secrets. No one is quite who they seem, including Rilke. His homosexuality, hidden from some, plain to others is like the city he lives in, half hidden in shadow and more complex than it seems. Welsh’s Glasgow is embodied in Rilke and it in him. It’s a perfect match.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Cutting Room is among Sarah Lotz's eight novels featuring atypical amateur detectives and Irvine Welsh's five best crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kira Jane Buxton's "Feral Creatures"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T....

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity's last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what's a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that's what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

The Page 69 Test: Feral Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ten of the best music memoirs & biographies

Fiona Sturges is an arts writer specializing in books, music, podcasting and TV.

At the Guardian she tagged ten candid memoirs and biographies that reveal the inner lives of musicians, including:
Life by Keith Richards

Given the legendarily debauched life of the Rolling Stones guitarist, it’s a wonder that he can remember enough of it to fill a book. Eye-watering in its candour, Life gleefully takes us through music, money, arrests, fallouts, makeups, drugs and “chicks”. It’s gossipy, spry and an absolute hoot from beginning to end.
Read about another entry on the list.

Life is among Liz Phair's ten favorite books, Dan Holmes's twenty best memoirs written by musicians, Ginni Chen's top six books that destroyed real life friendships, and Claire Zulkey's five top books "written by folks more famous for rocking out."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: M. David Litwa's "The Evil Creator"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea by M. David Litwa.

About the book, from the publisher:
M. David Litwa here examines the origins of the creator concept in early Christian biblical interpretations. His interpretation moves beyond previous attempts to root the analysis in Judaism or in a social-psychological crisis. Rather, it connects the ancient readings with Christianity today. In Gnostic readings, ancient Egyptians' assimilation of the Jewish god to the deity Seth-Typhon is studied to understand Gnostics' reapplication to a "Judeo-catholic" creator. The Christian reception of sections in the gospel of John is shown to implicate the Judeo-catholic figure in murdering Christ. Litwa then discusses Marcionism, where God's harmful behavior continues to be displayed. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the "god of this world" blinds people from illumination. He destroys the Law and the Lawgiver. Christ also succumbs to the "curse of the Law" inflicted by God. In both streams of biblical interpretation, it is shown how ancient readers logically concluded that the creator of this world was not simply just or cruel, but outright evil in his attempt to curse and destroy Christ.

The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea shows how this analysis is a product of Christian biblical exegesis and connects its ancient origins to modern theology. Litwa shows how readers of today's Christian Bible still find wickedness and how these early explications have contributed to the atheism phenomenon.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

The Page 99 Test: How the Gospels Became History.

The Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2021

Ten top psychological thrillers

S.F. Kosa is a clinical psychologist with a fascination for the seedy underbelly of the human psyche. Though The Quiet Girl is her debut psychological suspense novel, writing as Sarah Fine, she is the author of over two dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their (blended) brood of five young humans.

Kosa's latest novel is The Night We Burned.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten of her favorite psychological thrillers, including:
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Speaking of rich and unvarnished depictions … Virgil Wounded Horse, an enforcer on who exacts justice for those the American legal system neglects, nearly loses his nephew, Nathan, to an overdose and goes on a mission to track down the scourge selling heroin to kids on “the rez.” It’s a compelling and gritty crime novel, a solid mystery—but it’s also a keen portrait of the modern consequences of colonization, the relentless drag of injustice and poverty that too often leads to despair, and the power of dignity, community, and spirituality. The author paints us a lovingly complex picture of the pulls of loyalty, grief, ambition, heritage, and identity—and the absolute necessity of hope and belongingness (a major predictor of psychological wellbeing, by the way).
Read about another entry on the list.

Winter Counts is among Stephen Miller's favorite crime fiction of 2020, Molly Odintz's six favorite titles from the "new wave of thrillers where the oppressed get some well-earned revenge," and Jennifer Baker's top twelve mystery novels featuring BIPOC protagonists.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Counts.

My Book, The Movie: Winter Counts.

Q&A with David Heska Wanbli Weiden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "An Empty Grave," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave: An Andy Hayes Mystery by Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

The entry begins:
I get this question a lot, and the answer is easy: the best person to play Andy Hayes, my disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback, is actor Keanu Reeves. Why? He’s done it twice on screen already.

The first time, in 1991’s Point Break, he teamed with Patrick Swayze in a crime fiction tale involving the FBI’s investigation of a violent California bank robbery gang whose members investigators believe are surfers. Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former Ohio State quarterback who quit the sport after blowing out his knee, and later becomes an FBI agent. The second time, in...[read on]
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie:: An Empty Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matthew FitzSimmons's "Constance"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons.

About the book, from the publisher:
A breakthrough in human cloning becomes one woman’s waking nightmare in a mind-bending thriller by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Gibson Vaughn series.

In the near future, advances in medicine and quantum computing make human cloning a reality. For the wealthy, cheating death is the ultimate luxury. To anticloning militants, it’s an abomination against nature. For young Constance “Con” D’Arcy, who was gifted her own clone by her late aunt, it’s terrifying.

After a routine monthly upload of her consciousness―stored for that inevitable transition―something goes wrong. When Con wakes up in the clinic, it’s eighteen months later. Her recent memories are missing. Her original, she’s told, is dead. If that’s true, what does that make her?

The secrets of Con’s disorienting new life are buried deep. So are those of how and why she died. To uncover the truth, Con is retracing the last days she can recall, crossing paths with a detective who’s just as curious. On the run, she needs someone she can trust. Because only one thing has become clear: Con is being marked for murder―all over again.
Visit Matthew FitzSimmons's website.

The Page 69 Test: Constance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seven top thrillers about the dark side of academia

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, Bustle, the Ploughshares blog, and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged seven "excellent thrillers that use the college campus as a setting to explore the darker side of academia, leverage the competitive atmosphere, and present a compactly contained mystery that keeps you reading." One title on the list:
The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Like [Ashley Winstead's] In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, this thriller centers on a college reunion that dredges up old feelings of inadequacy, competition, and, of course, guilt. Ambrosia Turner is reluctant to attend her 10-year reunion at Wesleyan, but she relents after receiving letters from her former friend Sloan Sullivan, or Sully. Although they haven’t talked in years, Ambrosia is touched, and not a little concerned, that Sully has reached out this way. In chapters alternating between the present day and the beginning of college, we learn why Ambrosia is uncomfortable returning to a campus where she felt awkward and out of place, how her fiery friendship with Sully made her feel like she finally fit in, and what tragic ending to their friendship kept them away from each other and campus—until now.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kate Myles

From my Q&A with Kate Myles, author of The Receptionist:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Receptionist
is short and to-the-point. People tell me it’s a great title, so that must count for something! It lets us know we’ll be meeting an entry level worker who does something in the thriller vein…something nefarious. As we get into the book, I like the fact that the title character is not the protagonist. She’s more of a change agent in the other characters’ lives.

What's in a name?

Doug. Say it with me, “Doug.” He’s a monosyllable. A gen-xer. A former frat boy running his dad’s company into the ground. In fifth grade, I sat next to a Doug. He was always...[read on]
Visit Kate Myles's website.

Q&A with Kate Myles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Catherine J. Ross's "A Right to Lie?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?: Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment by Catherine J. Ross.

About the book, from the publisher:
In A Right to Lie?, legal scholar Catherine J. Ross addresses the urgent issue of whether the nation's highest officers, including the president, have a right to lie under the Speech Clause, no matter what damage their falsehoods cause. Does freedom of expression protect even factual falsehoods? If so, are lies by candidates and public officials protected? And is there a constitutional path, without violating the First Amendment, to stop a president whose persistent lies endanger our lives and our democracy?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the general answer to each question is "yes." Drawing from dramatic court cases about defamers, proponents of birtherism, braggarts, and office holders, Ross reveals the almost insurmountable constitutional and practical obstacles to legal efforts to rein in public deception. She explains the rules that govern the treatment of lies, while also demonstrating the incalculable damage presidential mendacity may lead to, as revealed in President Trump's lies about the COVID-19 pandemic and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Falsehoods have been at issue in every presidential impeachment proceeding from Nixon to Trump. But, until now, no one has analyzed why public lies might be impeachable offenses, and whether the First Amendment would provide a defense. Noting that speech by public employees does not receive the same First Amendment protection as the speech of ordinary citizens, Ross proposes the constitutionally viable solution of treating presidents as public employees who work for the people. Charged with oversight of the Executive, Congress may—and should—put future presidents on notice that material lies to the public on substantial matters will be deemed a "high crime and misdemeanor" subject to censure and even impeachment. A Right to Lie? explains how this approach could work if the political will were in place.
Visit Catherine J. Ross's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Seven of the best books about islands

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a British author, poet, and playwright.

Her debut book, The Girl of Ink & Stars, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and British Children's Book of the Year.

Her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and VOYA. She holds degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and lives by the river in Oxford.

The Mercies is her debut novel for adults.

At the Guardian Hargrave tagged seven favorite books about islands, including:
Madeline Miller’s Circe offers a very different sort of origin story, this time for the witch banished by Zeus to live out her days on Aeaea. Formerly known as a bit player in the Odyssey, Circe’s life story is offered here, full of salt and herbs and sex. It’s a romp, and also a beautiful account of making a home, and making peace with yourself.
Learn about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Veronica Bond's "Death in Castle Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery) by Veronica Bond.

About the book, from the publisher:
Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.
Visit Julia Buckley's website and follow Veronica Bond on Facebook.

Q&A with Julia Buckley.

Writers Read: Veronica Bond.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jo Perry's "Pure," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Pure by Jo Perry.

The entry begins:
Ascher requires a character-actor, not a movie star––someone really funny and real to bring her to life. A young Sarah Silverman would be perfect. I wish Ascher and Silverman were the same age, but Ascher is much younger. I’m pretty sure Silverman could play a character younger than she is now, but if she couldn’t...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2021

Five top dangers-of-dating thrillers

Catherine Ryan Howard has been a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel and John Creasey (New Blood) Daggers, and Irish Crime Novel of the Year multiple times. The Nothing Man, her mix of true crime and crime fiction, was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She is currently based in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the couch.

Howard's new novel, 56 Days, is a thriller about a couple locked down together in Dublin that the author wrote while she was locked down in Dublin.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite dangers-of-dating thrillers, including:
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Twenty-something Catherine exists rather than lives in London, isolated, mistrustful and struggling with crippling OCD. But when we flashback to just four years earlier, we meet a confident and outgoing party-girl who relishes a drunken night on the town with her friends – until, on one of those nights, she meets Lee. What happened in between that wreaked such havoc on Catherine’s life? And what will happen now that Lee is being released from prison? Where this thriller is in a league of its own is in its depiction of the slow, insidious nature of domestic abuse and coercive control. If you’ve ever wondered ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’, this novel has a definitive answer for you: because by the time there was any reason to, it was already too late. Truly terrifying and forever my recommendation for an exceptional psychological thriller that you may have missed first time around.
Read about another entry on the list.

Into the Darkest Corner is among Shalini Boland's five savviest, toughest women in crime fiction and Jane Robins's top ten creepy psychological thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vivienne Sanders's "Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America by Vivienne Sanders.

About the book, from the publisher:
A systematic account of the contributions of Welsh immigrants to the United States.

This book is the first systematic attempt to both recount and evaluate the considerable, though undervalued, contributions of Welsh immigrants to the development of the United States. Vivienne Sanders recounts the lives and achievements of Welsh immigrants and their descendants within a narrative outline of American history that emphasizes the Welsh influence upon the colonists’ rejection of British rule, as well as upon the establishment, expansion, and industrialization of the new American nation.
Follow Vivienne Sanders on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Avery Bishop reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Avery Bishop, author of One Year Gone: A Novel.

The entry begins:
Like many writers, I'm often reading several books at the same time, and I often like to read in many different genres. Usually I'm reading a book on my Kindle, an ebook on my phone, a hardcover or paperback, and listening to an audiobook when I'm driving or shopping or walking the dog.

On my Kindle: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. A short novel, not even 45,000 words, but it's dark and gritty and has a lyrical quality to its prose. I'm currently halfway through and really enjoying it.

On my phone: The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado. A thriller about...[read on]
About One Year Gone, from the publisher:
A mother will risk everything to find her missing daughter in this twisty thriller from the author of Girl Gone Mad.

“Sometimes teenagers run away…Give her a few days. She’ll be back.”

That’s what the police tell Jessica Moore when her seventeen-year-old daughter, Wyn, vanishes. All signs point to this being true. But days become weeks. Weeks become months. And Jessica begins to fear the terrible truth―that she may never see her daughter again.

Then, one year later, when all hope seems lost, Jessica gets a flurry of text messages from Wyn that freeze her blood: mom. please help. i think he’s going to kill me. But Wyn’s terrified plea comes with a warning not to call the police. Her kidnapper wears a badge.

As Jessica’s fears are raised again, so are the stakes. Delving into the months leading up to Wyn’s disappearance, Jessica stumbles upon information that could put her own life in danger. With each revelation, the nightmare deepens. Now she must decide just how far she’ll go to bring her daughter home.
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

Writers Read: Avery Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton

From my Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Feral Creatures:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Feral Creatures
is a nod to a few elements of the book, which I’m thrilled about since I love how it sounds phonetically and that it has an aura of intrigue. Since the novel is narrated by a crow and is set in a world where humans have succumbed to a deadly virus (a little topical, alas), most of the characters are animals and are indeed, feral creatures. At the beginning of the novel, S.T. the domesticated crow—a fervid fan of all things human and in many ways the last bastion of humanity—finds the impossible: the last child on earth. He vows to protect her against the many dangers of the Alaskan village in which they live, as well as the horror that humanity has morphed into and that continues to plague the planet. S.T. attempts to raise Dee as he knew humans to be, imagining her to grow up well-adjusted and with cultural understanding and education. But as Dee grows, S.T. realizes that Dee is perhaps not the quintessential human being, but rather, a creature with animal instincts. S.T. fear materializes as he realizes that Dee is wild and untamable, and that—much to his chagrin—he is raising a...[read on]
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Adlakha's "She Wouldn't Change a Thing"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: She Wouldn't Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sliding Doors meets Life After Life in Sarah Adlakha's story about a wife and mother who is given the chance to start over at the risk of losing everything she loves.

A second chance is the last thing she wants.

When thirty-nine year old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son.

But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other.

Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her?

Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices, She Wouldn't Change a Thing is a dazzling debut from a bright new voice.
Visit Sarah Adlakha's website.

The Page 69 Test: She Wouldn't Change a Thing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mary Angela Bock's "Seeing Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Seeing Justice: Witnessing, Crime and Punishment in Visual Media by Mary Angela Bock.

About the book, from the publisher:
A behind-the-scenes look at the struggles between visual journalists and officials over what the public sees--and therefore much of what the public knows--of the criminal justice system.

In the contexts of crime, social justice, and the law, nothing in visual media is as it seems. In today's mediated social world, visual communication has shifted to a democratic sphere that has significantly changed the way we understand and use images as evidence. In Seeing Justice, Mary Angela Bock examines the way criminal justice in the US is presented in visual media by focusing on the grounded practices of visual journalists in relationship with law enforcement. Drawing upon extended interviews, participant observation, contemporary court cases, and critical discourse analysis, Bock provides a detailed examination of the way digitization is altering the relationships between media, consumers, and the criminal justice system. From tabloid coverage of the last public hanging in the US to Karen-shaming videos, from mug shots to perp walks, she focuses on the practical struggles between journalists, police, and court officials to control the way images influence their resulting narratives. Revealing the way powerful interests shape what the public sees, Seeing Justice offers a model for understanding how images are used in news narrative.
Visit Mary Angela Bock's website.

The Page 99 Test: Seeing Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten gripes in literature

Lucy Ellmann has published seven novels: Sweet Desserts (winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize), Varying Degrees of Hopelessness, Man or Mango? A Lament, Dot in the Universe, Doctors & Nurses, Mim, and, in 2019, Ducks, Newburyport (shortlisted for the Booker and winner of the Goldsmiths Prize).

Ellmann's first essay collection is Things Are Against Us.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "admirable examples of the fine tradition of being an awkward customer." One entry on the list:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Driven to distraction by Rochester’s cavorting with a gold-digger and dressing up in drag as a fortune teller, Jane finally erupts. “Do you think I am an automaton? – a machine without feelings? … Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you – and full as much heart!” Like Sojourner Truth’s real-life speech a few years after the novel was written, Ain’t I a woman? Brontë’s fervid feminist statement refutes the Victorian gridlock imposed on womanhood. But after Jane and Rochester retreat triumphantly indoors, lightning blights the tree they were just sitting under: you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Elizabeth Brooks’s list of ten of the creepiest gothic novels, Kate Kellaway's list of the best romantic novels that aren’t riddled with cliches, Julia Spiro's list of seven titles told from the perspective of domestic workers, Jane Healey's list of five favorite gothic romances, Annaleese Jochems's list of the great third wheels of literature, Sara Collins's list of six of fiction's best bad women, Sophie Hannah's list of fifteen top books with a twist, E. Lockhart's list of five favorite stories about women labeled “difficult,” Sophie Hannah's top ten list of twists in fiction, Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Amy Mason Doan's "Lady Sunshine," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Lady Sunshine: A Novel by Amy Mason Doan.

The entry begins:
Lady Sunshine is a surprise inheritance story that, in my totally unbiased opinion, would make a fantastic movie. We follow main character Jackie Pierce in two time periods – 1979 and 1999. In ’79, Jackie is a restless, fiery, unhappy teen sent to live with her musical, bohemian relatives for the summer at The Sandcastle. It’s a gorgeous place cut off from the rest of the world -- a wild, sprawling estate in far northern coastal California. She forms an intense bond with her hippie cousin Willa, although the two couldn’t be more different, and she has the best summer of her life with the many free spirited visitors who flock there.

But at the end of the summer, Jackie flees for mysterious reasons. Twenty years later, Jackie, now a staid music teacher in Boston, inherits The Sandcastle and returns “just to pack up and sell it.”

Of course it’s not that simple…

Jackie in ’99 is keeping a lot of secrets, and she’s buried her teenage boldness for reasons we don’t understand until the end of the book, but we can still see a flicker of that fire. The musicians who come to The Sandcastle to record a tribute album to Jackie’s uncle in the present thread of the story help her rediscover that old self – and the passions she’s been stuffing deep down for many years.

Florence Pugh would capture both Jackie’s fierce and tender sides, and would make us feel her joy and vulnerability as she opens up to love with...[read on]
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Hours.

My Book, The Movie: Lady Sunshine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five gripping mysteries set in small towns

A former magazine editor and award-winning journalist, Janice Hallett has written speeches and articles for, among others, the UK's Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. In screenwriting, Hallett's first feature film Retreat was released by Sony Pictures (co-written and directed by Carl Tibbetts) which starred Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell.

Her debut novel is The Appeal.

At the Waterstones blog Hallett tagged five favorite gripping mysteries set in small towns, including:
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

You can taste the dust in this beautifully written thriller – the first of Locke’s Highway 59 series – with Black Texas Ranger Darren Matthews at the helm. Two bodies are pulled from the Bayou in Lark, a tiny backwater community in East Texas. One victim is a local white woman, the other a black lawyer from Chicago. What links them, and how their murders relate to racial tension stirred up by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, is a driving force in Matthews’ investigation. With strong roots in the dry Texas soil, he is determined to uncover the truth. At first glance a police procedural, Bluebird, Bluebird is a lot more, as its slow burn of a mystery is as much an emotional journey as it is an intelligent one.
Read about another entry on the list.

Bluebird, Bluebird is among Katie Tallo's top ten crime novels about returning home.

--Marshal Zeringue