Sunday, April 11, 2021

Q&A with Dan Stout

From my Q&A with Dan Stout, author of Titan Song:
What's in a name?

I love this question. There is so much in a name, and my thoughts about character names changes with what stage the manuscript is in.

First, there’s the process of finding a name that works during the drafting process. This is really for me, in the very early stages. I spend a great deal of time trying on different options before settling on character names. Names have a “feel” to them, and I can be working with a character for a while, trying to find their voice, and then I change their name and immediately they start taking on a different persona.

But I also have to make sure that readers will recognize and remember the names. You can have great characters, but if they’re named Stan, Steve, and Steph, most readers will struggle to keep them separate.

On top of all that, Titan Song is a blend of fantasy and noir mystery. To pull off that combo, I need to deliver a mix of elements from both genres. I can use names to underscore each of those core genres, such as by mixing common 21st Century names with unusual variations or period names to emphasize the otherworldliness of the setting.

Finally, sometimes names are...[read on]
Visit Dan Stout's website.

My Book, The Movie: Titanshade.

Writers Read: Dan Stout (April 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Titanshade.

The Page 69 Test: Titan's Day.

My Book, The Movie: Titan's Day.

Q&A with Dan Stout.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tim Harford's six best books

Tim Harford, “the Undercover Economist,” is a Financial Times columnist, BBC broadcaster, and the author of nine books (most recently How To Make The World Add Up / The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics) and the podcast “Cautionary Tales.”

[Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics booksThe Page 69 Test: The Undercover EconomistThe Page 69 Test:The Logic of LifeThe Page 99 Test: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with FailureThe Page 99 Test: The Undercover Economist Strikes BackThe Page 99 Test: The Data Detective]

At The Week magazine Harford tagged his six best books. One title on the list:
Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff.

An introduction to game theory – the use of mathematics to understand cooperative and competitive interactions, from tennis to business to the cold war. This was the book that turned me into an economist. It’s full of clever counterintuitions and memorable stories.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Pg. 69: Elissa Grossell Dickey's "The Speed of Light"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Speed of Light: A Novel by Elissa Grossell Dickey.

About the book, from the publisher:
A compelling and provocative debut novel told in intersecting timelines over a tumultuous, defining year in one woman’s life.

Simone is trying her best not to think of what she’s lost. Diagnosed with MS, she awaits the results of another anxiety-inducing MRI. She’s just walked away from Connor, “a fixer” but possibly the love of her life. And nearing the holidays, the sights and sounds of winter in South Dakota only prick memories of better years gone by. Then, on a December morning at the university where she works, jarring gunshots pierce the halls. In a temporary safe place and terrified, Simone listens and pretends this will all be over soon.

As she waits for silence, her mind racing, Simone’s past year comes into focus. Falling in love and missing it. Finding strength in family and enduring friendships. Planning for the future, fearing it, and hoping against hope in dark places. Her life has been changing at the speed of light, and each crossroad brought Simone here, to this day, to endure the things she can’t control and to confront those that she can.
Visit Elissa Grossell Dickey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Light.

The Page 69 Test: The Speed of Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top romance novels that tug at the heartstrings

Libby Hubscher is an author and scientist. She studied biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and holds a doctor of philosophy in molecular toxicology from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared online and in textbooks, scientific journals, and literary journals. Her short story “The Unwelcome Guest” was long-listed for the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2018. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two young children, and a menagerie of pets.

Hubscher's debut novel is Meet Me in Paradise.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten favorite romance novels that tug at the heartstrings, including:
Float Plan by Trish Doller

Doller’s adult debut novel begins a year after Anna has lost her fiancé to suicide, when she begins a journey they’d planned to take together. As she takes to sea aboard the boat he left her, her grief is ever present, a shifting current that pulls her along. Then Anna meets sailor Keane, who is dealing with a different kind of loss, and together they have to navigate the waters as well as their own complicated feelings. Float Plan is gentle, deeply emotional exploration of the fluidity of grief, the struggle that is moving on, and the resiliency of the heart in its capacity of love, even after heartbreak.
Read about another entry on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Trish Doller & Cobi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michela Wrong's "Do Not Disturb"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad by Michela Wrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
A powerful investigation into a grisly political murder and the authoritarian regime behind it: DO NOT DISTURB upends the narrative that Rwanda sold the world after the deadliest genocide of the twentieth century.

We think we know the story of Africa’s Great Lakes region. Following the Rwandan genocide, an idealistic group of young rebels overthrew the brutal regime in Kigali, ushering in an era of peace and stability that made Rwanda the donor darling of the West, winning comparisons with Switzerland and Singapore. But the truth was considerably more sinister.

Vividly sourcing her story with direct testimony from key participants, Wrong uses the story of the murder of Patrick Karegeya, once Rwanda’s head of external intelligence and a quicksilver operator of supple charm, to paint the portrait of a modern African dictatorship created in the chilling likeness of Paul Kagame, the president who sanctioned his former friend’s assassination.
Visit Michela Wrong's website.

The Page 99 Test: Do Not Disturb.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 09, 2021

Five SFF books about wicked women

Heather Walter has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with both English and Information Science degrees, books are–and always will be–a definitive part of her life. Her new novel is Malice.

As an author, Walter loves writing about what-ifs, flawed protagonists, and re-imagined history. Her favorite characters are usually villains.

When not writing, you can find her reading (duh), knitting, binging TV, and planning her next travel adventure.

At Walter tagged five favorite books featuring fictional women who are, unashamedly, wicked. One title on the list:
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

A feminist, alternate history of my dreams! It’s 1893, and witches used to hold power—until the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, when witches were overthrown and their magic was forbidden. In New Salem, women—with their wily words and ways—are subservient to men. Witchcraft is a crime punishable by burning, and official witch-hunters patrol the city—hungry to sniff out even a hint of magic. Enter the Eastwood women—June, Agnes, and Beatrice—who join with a group of suffragists ready to topple the patriarchy. But soon these women want more than the vote—they want to bring back the magic that was stolen from them. Branded as outcasts and criminals for their subversive beliefs, the Eastwood sisters must band together despite the old wounds threatening to tear them apart. And as the officials close in, the witchy trio will use any means necessary—including illegal spells, manipulation, betrayal, and even starting some fires of their own—to claim what’s theirs. I was rooting for these women to cause as much havoc as possible.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Clay McLeod Chapman's "Whisper Down the Lane"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Whisper Down the Lane: A Novel by Clay McLeod Chapman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table ... and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Remaking.

The Page 69 Test: The Remaking.

My Book, The Movie: Whisper Down the Lane.

Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman.

The Page 69 Test: Whisper Down the Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Donis Casey

From my Q&A with Donis Casey, author of Valentino Will Die:
How much does your title do to take readers into the story?

I usually suffer trying to come up with the perfect title. Only one time did I leave the title to the publisher, and I was not happy with what they chose. So for Valentino Will Die, I did it myself, and the reader can pretty much glean exactly what the story is about from the title. Most of my titles are taken from something one of the characters says, and Valentino Will Die is no exception. In fact it's Rudolph Valentino himself who utters the fateful line to our heroine, movie star Bianca LaBelle, one evening beside her swimming pool. She prods Rudy to tell her what has been bothering him for several weeks, and he replies he has been receiving threatening notes that say “Valentino will die.” I thought about having the notes say “Valentino must die,” but “must die” titles have been done to death, as it were. Instead, let's be decisive and say he “will die”.
What's in a name?

My protagonist was born Blanche Tucker, the eighth of ten children growing up on a horse farm in Oklahoma during the 1910s. She's originally named after...[read on]
Visit Donis Casey's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

My Book, The Movie: Hell With the Lid Blown Off.

The Page 69 Test: All Men Fear Me.

My Book, The Movie: All Men Fear Me.

The Page 69 Test: The Wrong Girl.

My Book, The Movie: Valentino Will Die.

The Page 69 Test: Valentino Will Die.

Q&A with Donis Casey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Elissa Grossell Dickey's "The Speed of Light," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Light: A Novel by Elissa Grossell Dickey.

The entry begins:
The Speed of Light is book club fiction following a tumultuous year in the life of a woman grappling with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, a new love, and a terrifying workplace incident. Now, call me biased, but I think The Speed of Light would make a fantastic movie, with its mix of excitement, emotion, and romance. If I’m ever lucky enough for that to happen, here’s who I imagine playing the lead roles:

Simone Archer: Simone would be played by Shailene Woodley. To be honest, I’ve always had trouble imagining who would play my main character. But when I posed the question to family and friends, multiple people suggested Shailene, who of course is famous for...[read on]
Visit Elissa Grossell Dickey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Speed of Light.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Edward B. Westermann's "Drunk on Genocide"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany by Edward B. Westermann.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Drunk on Genocide, Edward B. Westermann reveals how, over the course of the Third Reich, scenes involving alcohol consumption and revelry among the SS and police became a routine part of rituals of humiliation in the camps, ghettos, and killing fields of Eastern Europe.

Westermann draws on a vast range of newly unearthed material to explore how alcohol consumption served as a literal and metaphorical lubricant for mass murder. It facilitated "performative masculinity," expressly linked to physical or sexual violence. Such inebriated exhibitions extended from meetings of top Nazi officials to the rank and file, celebrating at the grave sites of their victims. Westermann argues that, contrary to the common misconception of the SS and police as stone-cold killers, they were, in fact, intoxicated with the act of murder itself.

Drunk on Genocide highlights the intersections of masculinity, drinking ritual, sexual violence, and mass murder to expose the role of alcohol and celebratory ritual in the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Its surprising and disturbing findings offer a new perspective on the mindset, motivation, and mentality of killers as they prepared for, and participated in, mass extermination.
Learn more about Drunk on Genocide at the Cornell University Press.

The Page 99 Test: Drunk on Genocide.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten homecomings in fiction

Catherine Menon is Australian-British, has Malaysian heritage and lives in London. She is a University lecturer in robotics and has both a PhD in pure mathematics and an MA in Creative Writing.

Her short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, was published in 2018. Her short stories have won or been placed in a number of competitions. Her work has been broadcast on radio, and she’s been a judge for several international short fiction competitions.

Fragile Monsters is Menon's debut novel.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "books [that] offer intimate, startling perspectives on homecomings: some that celebrate it, some that examine the challenges and others that question the nature of what it means to return." One title on the list:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a dazzling, fractal spin of a novel, with homecomings repeated on varying scales throughout. Spanning nine generations of a single family, Gyasi’s debut traces the journey from Ghana to the US and back again. Within this structure, each generation has their own returns home to deal with: from prison, from slavery, from loneliness and self-enforced exiles. The sheer sweep and grandeur of this story is complemented by Gyasi’s impeccable prose, which brings the reader eye to eye with the minuscule, memorable detail of the characters’ lives.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Thirteen books that explore codependent relationships

Sam Cohen was born and raised in suburban Detroit. Her fiction is published in Fence, Bomb, Diagram, and Gulf Coast, among others. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship and a PhD fellow at the University of Southern California, Cohen lives in Los Angeles.

Her new story collection is Sarahland.

At Electric Lit Cohen tagged thirteen "books that explore the earth-shattering capacity of the power of two," including:
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Nan, a dorky small town oyster shucker in 19th century England, is obsessed with Kitty, a cross-dressing cabaret performer in a can’t-tell-if-you-wanna-fuck-her-or-be-her way. She spends all her oyster money on seeing Kitty’s show every single night and then, on the road as Kitty’s assistant, she ends up doing both, fucking Kitty and becoming her. Kitty trains Nan as a performer and they’re madly in love and have a successful cabaret show as cross-dressed twins. I love this novel for its portrayal of how recognition of queer desire can blow apart the world, completely reshaping one’s identity and way of moving.
Read about another entry on the list.

Tipping the Velvet is among Kate Davies's ten top books about coming out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman

From my Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman, author of Whisper Down the Lane: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Quite a lot, I think... Whisper Down the Lane, or Telephone, is a game of rumors. A group of children sit in a circle. One child whispers a sentence -- I like to eat Lucky Charms in my pajamas -- into their neighbor's ear, then that child whispers the sentence into their neighbor's ear, going around the circle until the whispered statement returns to its originator. But when it goes around the circle, the phrase tends to mutate. Words are forgotten and replaced. Even the original intent behind the sentence alters itself. When it comes full circle and the originator gets to hear the sentence returned to them, they say it out loud (usually to laughter): Eyes do harm to unlucky lamas.

My novel, Whisper Down the Lane, is about the adult version of this childhood game... The rumors that spread and pervert themselves from one neighbor to the next. How something relatively harmless that someone says can take on a life of its own and become dangerous. How lives can be...[read on]
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Remaking.

The Page 69 Test: The Remaking.

My Book, The Movie: Whisper Down the Lane.

Q&A with Clay McLeod Chapman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Tasha Alexander's "The Dark Heart of Florence"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Dark Heart of Florence: A Lady Emily Mystery (Volume 15) by Tasha Alexander.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the next Lady Emily Mystery, The Dark Heart of Florence, critically acclaimed author Tasha Alexander transports readers to the legendary city of Florence, where Lady Emily and Colin must solve a murder with clues leading back to the time of the Medici.

In 1903, tensions between Britain and Germany are starting to loom over Europe, something that has not gone unnoticed by Lady Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves. An agent of the Crown, Colin carries the weight of the Empire, but his focus is drawn to Italy by a series of burglaries at his daughter’s palazzo in Florence—burglaries that might have international ramifications. He and Emily travel to Tuscany where, soon after their arrival, a stranger is thrown to his death from the roof onto the marble palazzo floor.

Colin’s trusted colleague and fellow agent, Darius Benton-Stone, arrives to assist Colin, who insists their mission must remain top secret. Finding herself excluded from the investigation, Emily secretly launches her own clandestine inquiry into the murder, aided by her spirited and witty friend, Cécile. They soon discover that the palazzo may contain a hidden treasure dating back to the days of the Medici and the violent reign of the fanatic monk, Savonarola—days that resonate in the troubled early twentieth century, an uneasy time full of intrigue, duplicity, and warring ideologies.

Emily and Cécile race to untangle the cryptic clues leading them through the Renaissance city, but an unimagined danger follows closely behind. And when another violent death puts Emily directly in the path of a killer, there’s much more than treasure at stake…
Visit Tasha Alexander's website.

Q&A with Tasha Alexander.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Heart of Florence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Pg. 99: Benjamin R. Young's "Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader: North Korea and the Third World by Benjamin R. Young.

About the book, from the publisher:
Far from always having been an isolated nation and a pariah state in the international community, North Korea exercised significant influence among Third World nations during the Cold War era. With one foot in the socialist Second World and the other in the anticolonial Third World, North Korea occupied a unique position as both a postcolonial nation and a Soviet client state, and sent advisors to assist African liberation movements, trained anti-imperialist guerilla fighters, and completed building projects in developing countries. State-run media coverage of events in the Third World shaped the worldview of many North Koreans and helped them imagine a unified anti-imperialist front that stretched from the boulevards of Pyongyang to the streets of the Gaza Strip and the beaches of Cuba.

This book tells the story of North Korea's transformation in the Third World from model developmental state to reckless terrorist nation, and how Pyongyang's actions, both in the Third World and on the Korean peninsula, ultimately backfired against the Kim family regime's foreign policy goals. Based on multinational and multi-archival research, this book examines the intersection of North Korea's domestic and foreign policies and the ways in which North Korea's developmental model appealed to the decolonizing world.
Learn more about Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top novels about fictional bands

Glenn Dixon is the #1 bestselling author of the memoir Juliet’s Answer. He has played in bands all his life, traveled through more than seventy-five countries, and written for National Geographic, the New York Post, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and Psychology Today. Before becoming a full-time writer, he taught high school English for twenty years. He lives in Calgary with his girlfriend.

Dixon's new novel is Bootleg Stardust.

At Lit Hub he tagged his top ten novels about fictional bands. One entry on the list:
Sonic Death Monkey
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

High Fidelity tells the story of a record shop (remember those?) and a side story about one of the employees (played hilariously in the film adaptation by Jack Black). He desperately wants to be in a band and goes through a number of possible band names including, at one point, Kathleen Turner Overdrive but Sonic Death Monkey it is, and when it finally does happen—this fictional band rocks the final scenes in both the book and the movie.
Read about another entry on the list.

High Fidelity also made Robert Haller's list of six top novels referencing pop music, Brian Boone's list of five classic books Hollywood should adapt into corny sitcoms, Lisa Jewell's six best books list, Jen Harper's list of seven top books to help you get through your divorce, Chris Moss's top 19 list of books on "how to be a man," Jeff Somers's lists of five of the best novels in which music is a character and six books that’ll make you glad you’re single, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Ted Gioia's list of ten of the best novels on music, Melissa Albert's top five list of books that inspire great mix tapes, Rob Reid's six favorite books list, Ashley Hamilton's list of 8 books to read with a broken heart, Tiffany Murray's top 10 list of rock'n'roll novels, Mark Hodkinson's critic's chart of rock music in fiction, and John Sutherland's list of the best books about listing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Adele Parks's "Just My Luck," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck: A Novel by Adele Parks.

The entry begins:
Just My Luck is the story of a group of friends who have been extremely close since they met fifteen years ago, around the time they all had their first babies. The families have grown up together and their lives have become intrinsically linked: the kids go to the same schools, they go on holidays together, they meet socially all the time. One of their little rituals is that they do the lottery every week, as a syndicate. Until one evening, they quarrel. Two of the three couples leave the syndicate but the very next week the numbers come up and Lexi and Jake Greenwood have the winning ticket worth 18 million pounds/23 million dollars! This leads to all sorts of betrayals, jealousy and deception as the other couples go to extreme lengths to try to get a share of the money. And when I say extreme, think of pretty much every illegal activity you can and they try it…theft, bribery, kidnapping, extortion… This is a novel that looks at what money can, can’t, should and certainly should not buy!

It’s a novel where you are unsure who to trust and no one is exactly what they seem. I think actors would enjoy the challenge and range. Isla Fisher would be my absolute dream for the role of Lexi Greenwood. The earnest mom who works in the charity sector and firmly believes her friends and family are everything. Until, that is, she wins the lottery. Then she sees her family turn into avaricious, materialistic people, the very sort of person she abhors. Lexi has a heart of gold but is no pushover, I think Isla Fisher would nail the nuance. I’d cast Dominic…[read on]
Visit Adele Parks's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Invited Her In.

My Book, The Movie: I Invited Her In.

Q&A with Adele Parks.

The Page 69 Test: Lies, Lies, Lies.

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

My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 05, 2021

Pg. 69: Elle Marr's "Lies We Bury"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Lies We Bury by Elle Marr.

About the book, from the publisher:
I was born in captivity…

Two decades ago Marissa Mo escaped a basement prison―the only home she’d ever known. At twenty-seven, Marissa’s moved beyond the trauma and is working under a new name as a freelance photographer. But when she accepts a job covering a string of macabre murders in Portland, it’s impossible for Marissa not to remember.

Everything is eerily familiar. The same underground lairs. Sad trinkets and toys left behind, identical to those Marissa had as a child. And then there is the note meant just for her that freezes Marissa’s blood: See you soon, Missy.

To determine the killer’s next move, Marissa must retrieve her long-forgotten memories and return to a past she’s hidden away. But she won’t be facing her fears alone. Someone is waiting for her in the dark.
Visit Elle Marr's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Missing Sister.

The Page 69 Test: Lies We Bury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Adam Mitzner

From my Q&A with Adam Mitzner, author of The Perfect Marriage:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are very tricky business. I’ve written 9 novels, and I’m at about 50% whether my title ends up being the title when the book is published. I had the title before I began writing for exactly two of the books.

The Perfect Marriage was one of those two. Before I wrote the first line I knew that the book was going to be about this couple that were very happy together, but that the title would suggest otherwise because no marriage is actually perfect. So it worked well on both levels – before starting the book, the reader knows that the titular couple at least think they’re blissfully happy, but the reader also knows that there’s...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

The Page 69 Test: A Case of Redemption.

My Book, The Movie: A Case of Redemption.

The Page 69 Test: Losing Faith.

My Book, The Movie: Losing Faith.

The Page 69 Test: A Matter of Will.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner (July 2019).

My Book, the Movie: A Matter of Will.

My Book, The Movie: The Perfect Marriage.

The Page 69 Test: The Perfect Marriage.

Q&A with Adam Mitzner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top novels featuring twisted medicine

Shelley Nolden's debut novel is The Vines. Her obsession with forbidden North Brother Island in New York City's East River, as well as her personal health history and passion for equality, heavily influenced the creation of this historical fiction thriller.

At CrimeReads Nolden tagged eight favorite novels that break the “do no harm” medical oath, including:
The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

Written by a physician who excels in the art of manipulating the life-or-death stakes associated with the field of medicine, this story follows Cora, a girl born with two hearts. In the 1850s, such an anomaly was considered a prize for gravediggers and anatomists alike. Cora knows that her value as a cadaver, to be dissected and displayed for the public, keeps her in permanent danger. So, to keep her enemies close, she’s joined their trade.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Clay McLeod Chapman's "Whisper Down the Lane," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Whisper Down the Lane: A Novel by Clay McLeod Chapman.

The entry begins:
In Whisper Down the Lane, we spend a considerable amount of time within the minds of two characters who -- nonspoiler alert -- turn out to be the same person, just at different points in his life. There's "Sean" at age five and "Richard" in his thirties. I feel like this is sort of an open secret that the book isn't really trying to hide, so I feel comfortable enough talking about it here. For the sake of your question, though, I'm going to focus on adult Richard. To have the same character cleaved from his own past, his childhood buried under a considerable amount of trauma... that could be a powerhouse performance for any actor!

There are certain actors who possess a particular haunted nature that I find myself extremely enamoured by. Just one look at Cillian Murphy or Peter Sarsgaard and you can almost sense the darkness lingering beneath their cheeks, buried behind their eyes. Jake Gyllenhaal would bring a particular charm to the role, where you can still see...[read on]
Visit Clay McLeod Chapman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Remaking.

The Page 69 Test: The Remaking.

My Book, The Movie: Whisper Down the Lane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's "When Women Invented Television"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
New York Times bestselling author of Seinfeldia Jennifer Keishin Armstrong tells the little-known story of four trailblazing women in the early days of television who laid the foundation of the industry we know today.

It was the Golden Age of Radio and powerful men were making millions in advertising dollars reaching thousands of listeners every day. When television arrived, few radio moguls were interested in the upstart industry and its tiny production budgets, and expensive television sets were out of reach for most families. But four women—each an independent visionary— saw an opportunity and carved their own paths, and in so doing invented the way we watch tv today.

Irna Phillips turned real-life tragedy into daytime serials featuring female dominated casts. Gertrude Berg turned her radio show into a Jewish family comedy that spawned a play, a musical, an advice column, a line of house dresses, and other products. Hazel Scott, already a renowned musician, was the first African American to host a national evening variety program. Betty White became a daytime talk show fan favorite and one of the first women to produce, write, and star in her own show.

Together, their stories chronicle a forgotten chapter in the history of television and popular culture.

But as the medium became more popular—and lucrative—in the wake of World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee arose to threaten entertainers, blacklisting many as communist sympathizers. As politics, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and money collided, the women who invented television found themselves fighting from the margins, as men took control. But these women were true survivors who never gave up—and thus their legacies remain with us in our television-dominated era. It's time we reclaimed their forgotten histories and the work they did to pioneer the medium that now rules our lives.

This amazing and heartbreaking history, illustrated with photos, tells it all for the first time.
Visit Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Seinfeldia.

The Page 99 Test: Sex and the City and Us.

The Page 99 Test: Pop Star Goddesses.

The Page 99 Test: When Women Invented Television.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best books about film

Andrew Pulver, film editor at the Guardian, tagged ten of the best books about movies, including:
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
Peter Biskind

A stone-cold classic from the moment it arrived in 1998. Biskind, a former editor of Premiere magazine, produced a detailed, insightful and immensely readable account of the (until then) relatively neglected achievements of the 70s “movie brats” and their outpouring of masterworks. Both scholarly and popular, Biskind’s book turned a whole new generation on to the Hollywood new wave.
Read about another entry on the list.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on making movies and Leo Braudy's list of the five best books on Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Pg. 69: Donis Casey's "Valentino Will Die"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Valentino Will Die by Donis Casey.

About the book, from the publisher:

Though Bianca LaBelle, star of the wildly popular silent movie serial "The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse", and Rudolph Valentino, the greatest screen idol of all time, have been friends for years, in the summer of 1926 they are making their first picture together, a steamy romance called Grand Obsession. One evening after dinner at Bianca's fabulous Beverly Hills estate, a troubled Rudy confesses that he has received anonymous death threats. In a matter of days, filming comes to an abrupt halt when Rudy falls deathly ill. Could it be poison?

As Rudy lies dying, Bianca promises him that she will find out who is responsible. Was it one of his many lovers? A delusional fan? Or perhaps Rudy had run afoul of a mobster whose name Bianca knows all too well? She calls on P.I. Ted Oliver to help her investigate the end of what had seemed to be the charmed life of Valentino.
Visit Donis Casey's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

My Book, The Movie: Hell With the Lid Blown Off.

The Page 69 Test: All Men Fear Me.

My Book, The Movie: All Men Fear Me.

The Page 69 Test: The Wrong Girl.

My Book, The Movie: Valentino Will Die.

The Page 69 Test: Valentino Will Die.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Paula Munier

From my Q&A with Paula Munier, author of The Hiding Place: A Mercy Carr Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

When I was writing Blind Search, the publisher didn’t like the working title (which was so bad I’ve forgotten it). So I came up with a list of 100 titles I could live with. The publisher liked Blind Search, and the editorial director liked The Hiding Place. So my editor told me, “This novel will be called Blind Search, but your next novel will be called The Hiding Place.” So I began plotting the story knowing it would be called The Hiding Place, but without knowing why. I had to write the book to find out. In retrospect, it seems inevitable, but it didn’t seem that way when I started.

What's in a name?

Mercy Carr is my heroine. I wanted to use...[read on]
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: A Borrowing of Bones.

The Page 69 Test: A Borrowing of Bones.

Writers Read: Paula Munier (October 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Blind Search.

The Page 69 Test: Blind Search.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

The Page 69 Test: The Hiding Place.

Q&A with Paula Munier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven autobiographies & memoirs that remind us of the messiness of memory

Whitney Otto's novels include the New York Times bestseller How to Make an American Quilt, which was later made into a movie of the same name, and Eight Girls Taking Pictures. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and in several anthologies.

Otto's new book is Art for the Ladylike: An Autobiography through Other Lives.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven autobiographies and memoirs in which "love, experience, ideas, and observations ignore the limitations of the linear story, building a more far more complex, complete narrative." One title on the list:
Marion Winik, The Big Book of the Dead

When I was in high school and hanging around its little theater with the other theater kids, our teacher gave us Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, a book I immediately loved for its thumbnail life dramas. The Big Book of the Dead is a compilation of Winik’s two previous “books of the dead” plus a few added obituaries, totaling 125 thumbnail tributes. I only mention this because the other books lacked narrative order, seeming like a pack of cards flung in the air, while this book is more loosely chronological, organized by geography.

I have loved Winik’s voice since reading her autobiographical essays collection, Telling. Here, we meet her friends, lovers, husband, parents, colleagues, neighbors, students, even a celebrity or two as she writes whimsically, movingly about their lives. Unlike Spoon River Anthology, this is a book of memory and the importance of memory, including the way those 125 memories all add up to the story of Winik herself.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 02, 2021

Sarah Langan's "Good Neighbors," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Good Neighbors: A Novel by Sarah Langan.

The entry begins:
My book's about the fish out of water Wilde family, who scrimp and save for a piece of the American dream-- a house in the suburbs of Long Island. But they're not welcome. They're rough around the edges and represent the declining status of suburbia. It's the near future and times are a little rougher, finances tighter, global warming worse, and there's a dangerous sinkhole in the middle of the park. These problems are too big to overcome, and the Wildes make the perfect scapegoats. The people of Maple Street have been looking for someone to blame for a long time. When Maple Street's favorite daughter Shelly falls down the sinkhole, the whole block decides that she must have been running from someone when she fell. They direct their accusations against the Wilde family, dad Arlo in particular, whom they decide must have been hurting her. The police get involved, child services takes Arlo away, and pretty soon, and ugly mob forms. The Wilde family isn't just in danger of losing their dream, but their lives.

Casting is currently underway for Good Neighbors, so in deference to that, I'm not going to mention anyone who is actually attached, or whom we may eventually approach. I'm not allowed until it's officially announced. So, that's why, if anybody reads this, and is actually considering being a part of Good Neighbors, or is already attached, that your name is not mentioned here.

I don't think about actors, or directors, or translating my work to film as I'm writing. But it's fun to think about afterward. Any translation to film inherently changes the material, and I think it's important to go with that-- to trust and enjoy what others bring to your work.


You and Dead to Me have extraordinarily tricky tones, and their director, Silver Tree, manages to pull them off, so I'd love to see her take on Good Neighbors, which is both funny and dark, horrific and and uplifting, real and surreal.

For similar reasons, I'd love to see David Lynch's take, and Karyn Kusama's (The Invitation).

I've been told my whole career that my work reads like a David Lynch film, and I'm finally starting to see it.

Writers --

I'd love to see what Gillian Flynn, Megan Abbott, or Patricia...[read on]
Visit Sarah Langan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Keeper.

Pg. 99: Glenn Stout's "Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America's Original Gangster Couple by Glenn Stout.

About the book, from the publisher:
The true Jazz Age tale of America’s first gangster couple, Margaret and Richard Whittemore

Before Bonnie and Clyde there were Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid. In the wake of world war, a pandemic, and an economic depression, Margaret and Richard Whittemore, two love-struck working-class kids from Baltimore, reached for the dream of a better life. The couple headed up a gang that in less than a year stole over one million dollars’ worth of diamonds and precious gems—over ten million dollars today.

Margaret was a chic flapper, the archetypal gun moll, partner to her husband’s crimes. Richard was the quintessential bad boy, whose cunning and violent ambition allowed the Whittemores to live the kind of lives they'd only seen in the movies. Along the way he killed at least three men, until prosecutors managed a conviction. As tabloids across the country exclaimed the details of the couple’s star-crossed romance, they became heroes to a new generation of young Americans who sought their own version of freedom.

Set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties’ excesses, acclaimed author Glenn Stout takes us from the jailhouse to the speakeasy, from the cabarets where the couple celebrated good times to the gallows where their story finally came to an end—leaving Tiger Girl pining for a final kiss. Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid is a thrilling tale of rags to riches, tragedy and infamy.
Visit Glenn Stout's website.

The Page 99 Test: Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five SF&F character pairs with ever-changing relationships

Catriona Silvey was born in Glasgow and grew up in Scotland and England. After collecting an unreasonable number of degrees from the universities of Cambridge, Chicago, and Edinburgh, she moved back to Cambridge where she lives with her husband and son. Her short stories have been performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Silvey's new novel is Meet Me in Another Life.

At she tagged five science-fiction and fantasy character pairs with ever-changing relationships, including:
Kin and Miranda—Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

When time agent Kin Stewart gets stranded in the past, he breaks the rules. Instead of minimising contact to avoid corrupting the timeline, he gets married and starts a family. Eighteen years later, the agency arrives to find him embedded in 2014 with a wife and a teenage daughter, Miranda.

Forced to return to the future, Kin tries to continue the fraught task of parenting across a distance of 128 years. From his desk in the time agency, he scatters messages through the years of his daughter’s life, watching Miranda spiral into different versions of herself as a result of his interventions. Through Kin’s attempts to stay in touch with his daughter, the novel enacts a parental fantasy of being able to undo past mistakes, of finding out through trial and error exactly who our children need us to be. Kin doesn’t always get it right: at first, every attempt he makes to contact Miranda creates a new fissure in their relationship. In order to be the father she needs, he must realise that she is more than he ever imagined or projected. ‘Whoever you become,’ he tells her towards the end, ‘I can never know’. And it would be true, except that Miranda finds a way to break the rules in turn. As Miranda becomes her own father’s protector and symbolic ancestor, these two subvert the bounds of the parent-child relationship and come to understand each other fully.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Here and Now and Then.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Pg. 69: Sarah Langan's "Good Neighbors"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Good Neighbors: A Novel by Sarah Langan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

But menace skulks beneath the surface of this exclusive enclave, making its residents prone to outrage. When the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbors’ worst fears. Dad Arlo’s a gruff has-been rock star with track marks. Mom Gertie’s got a thick Brooklyn accent, with high heels and tube tops to match. Their weird kids cuss like sailors. They don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.

Though Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroeder—a lonely college professor repressing a dark past—welcomed Gertie and her family at first, relations went south during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, when the new best friends shared too much, too soon. By the time the story opens, the Wildes are outcasts.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.
Visit Sarah Langan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Keeper.

My Book, The Movie: The Missing.

The Page 69 Test: Good Neighbors.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Tasha Alexander

From my Q&A with Tasha Alexander, author of The Dark Heart of Florence: A Lady Emily Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles have long been the most frustrating part of writing for me. Of my sixteen novels, only two have my original titles. At this point, I expect my publisher will want them changed. For example, I wanted Uneasy Lies the Crown to be called The Death of Kings, which was deemed (among other things) too masculine. The title of my current book, The Dark Heart of Florence, captures the flavor of the story well enough, I suppose. The working title was The Ninth Circle, taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which, perhaps, offers more insight into the book. The ninth circle of hell punishes treachery with a frozen lake. The worse the offense, the deeper the guilty party is frozen in it. Just how deeply the villain in Dark Heart should be placed isn’t cut and dry, at least not if you consider…[read on]
Visit Tasha Alexander's website.

Q&A with Tasha Alexander.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about New York

Craig Taylor is the author, most recently, of New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time.

His other books include Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now—As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It, Return to Akenfield, and One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, which began life as a column in the Guardian newspaper.

At the Guardian Taylor tagged ten of his favorite books about New York. One title on the list:
The Long-winded Lady by Maeve Brennan

No one captures the small moments of New York like Maeve Brennan. I remember a woman at City Diner, 90th and Broadway, who’d appear most evenings with a fat Russian novel and a glass of diner white wine. Maeve Brennan would have written up her story in prose that would at first appear wispy before revealing its weight. Brennan performs exactly this feat in the 47 short pieces here, all of which appeared in the New Yorker between 1954 and 1981. They are slight only on first read.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue