Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Pg. 69: Heather Levy's "Walking Through Needles"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Walking Through Needles by Heather Levy.

About the book, from the publisher:
A riveting, dark debut psychological thriller perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson, and Megan Abbott.

When Sam Mayfair was sixteen, her life was shattered by an abuser close to her. News of her abuser's murder fifteen years later should have put an end to the torture she's endured because of one decision plaguing her life. But with her stepbrother Eric as the prime suspect, Sam is flung back into the hell of her rural Oklahoma childhood. As Sam tries to help exonerate Eric while hiding certain truths of their past from investigators, details of the murder unravel. And Sam quickly learns some people, including herself, will do anything to keep their secrets buried deep.
Follow Heather Levy on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Walking Through Needles.

The Page 69 Test: Walking Through Needles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Annelise Heinz's "Mahjong"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture by Annelise Heinz.

About the book, from the publisher:
How has a game brought together Americans and defined separate ethnic communities? This book tells the first history of mahjong and its meaning in American culture.

Click-click-click. The sound of mahjong tiles connects American expatriates in Shanghai, Jazz Age white Americans, urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans in wartime, Jewish American suburban mothers, and Air Force officers' wives in the postwar era.

Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture illustrates how the spaces between tiles and the moments between games have fostered distinct social cultures in the United States. This mass-produced game crossed the Pacific, creating waves of popularity over the twentieth century. Annelise Heinz narrates the history of this game to show how it has created a variety of meanings, among them American modernity, Chinese American heritage, and Jewish American women's culture. As it traveled from China to the United States and caught on with Hollywood starlets, high society, middle-class housewives, and immigrants alike, mahjong became a quintessentially American game. Heinz also reveals the ways in which women leveraged a game to gain access to respectable leisure. The result was the forging of friendships that lasted decades and the creation of organizations that raised funds for the war effort and philanthropy. No other game has signified both belonging and standing apart in American culture.

Drawing on photographs, advertising, popular media, and dozens of oral histories, Heinz's rich and colorful account offers the first history of the wildly popular game of mahjong.
Visit Annelise Heinz's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mahjong.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top detectives from science fiction or fantasy

Neil Sharpson lives in Dublin with his wife and their two children. Having written for theatre since his teens, Sharpson transitioned to writing novels in 2017, adapting his own play The Caspian Sea into When The Sparrow Falls.

At he tagged five top detectives from science fiction or fantasy, including:
Rick Deckard, Bladerunner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Harrison Ford famously called his third most iconic SF/Fantasy role “a detective who doesn’t do any detecting”. But Deckard, like the movie around him, is not about plot and Ford is playing less a character than the entire concept of the hard-bitten, morally compromised, hard drinking gumshoe. Yes, it’s all about the trenchcoat and the mood and the atmosphere. But what mood. What an atmosphere. What. A. Trenchcoat.
Read about another entry on the list.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? also appears on James Clammer's top ten list of novels told in a single day, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies's six best books list, Abhimanyu Das and Gordon Jackson's list of eleven science fiction books that are often taught in college, Robert Kroese's list of five science fiction novels about sheep, Ceridwen Christensen's list of eleven stories of love and robots, Ryan Britt's list of six of the best detectives from science fiction literature, Weston Williams's list of fifteen classic science fiction books, Allegra Frazier's list of four great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, Ryan Menezes's list of five movies that improved the book, Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the twelve most unfaithful movie versions of science fiction and fantasy books, Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten greatest personality tests in sci-fi & fantasy, John Mullan's list of ten of the best titles in the form of questions, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs's list of ten classic sci-fi books that were originally considered failures and Robert Collins's top ten list of dystopian novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Q&A with Jeffrey B. Burton

From my Q&A with Jeffrey B. Burton, author of The Keepers: A Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The first book in my series about dog handler Mason "Mace" Reid and his extraordinary pack of human remains detection dogs was titled The Finders. That's what he calls his cadaver dogs. The second in the series is titled The Keepers, which plays off the old nursery rhyme (Finders, Keepers, Losers, Weepers) but, as the novel progresses, the keepers comes to represent the group of villains they're up against.

What's in a name?

Everything. You want a certain cadence...[read on]
Visit Jeffrey B. Burton's website.

Q&A with Jeffrey B. Burton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Peter Cajka's "Follow Your Conscience"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Follow Your Conscience: The Catholic Church and the Spirit of the Sixties by Peter Cajka.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is your conscience? Is it, as Peter Cajka asks in this provocative book, “A small, still voice? A cricket perched on your shoulder? An angel and devil who compete for your attention?” Going back at least to the thirteenth century, Catholics viewed their personal conscience as a powerful and meaningful guide to align their conduct with worldly laws. But, as Cajka shows in Follow Your Conscience, during the national cultural tumult of the 1960s, the divide between the demands of conscience and the demands of the law, society, and even the church itself grew increasingly perilous. As growing numbers of Catholics started to consider formerly stout institutions to be morally hollow—especially in light of the Vietnam War and the church’s refusal to sanction birth control—they increasingly turned to their own consciences as guides for action and belief. This abandonment of higher authority had radical effects on American society, influencing not only the broader world of Christianity, but also such disparate arenas as government, law, health care, and the very vocabulary of American culture. As this book astutely reveals, today’s debates over political power, religious freedom, gay rights, and more are all deeply infused by the language and concepts outlined by these pioneers of personal conscience.
Learn more about Follow Your Conscience at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Follow Your Conscience.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six domestic suspense novels where nothing is really ever what it seems

Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because—as her professor pointed out—'It's not meant to be a story.' She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters' degree in Children's Literature. After the birth of her first child she stayed home full time to write and raise children, renovate houses and build a business with her husband.

The idea for her first published novel, The Boy Under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story. Her second novel, Three Hours Late, was voted one of Fifty Books you can't put down in 2013 and her third novel, The Secrets in Silence, was The Australian Woman's Weekly Book of the month for June 2014.

Trope lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

At CrimeReads she tagged six domestic suspense titles where nothing is really ever what it seems:
Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

A sense of unease fills this novel from page one. Camille returns to her hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl. It’s not an assignment she wants, preferring to avoid her family and her memories. Her recollections of her disturbing, abusive childhood and the death of her sister make this a compulsive read. Her own fragile mental state and self- harm force the reader to question her even as she questions herself.
Read about another entry on the list.

Sharp Objects is among Heather Gudenkauf's ten great thrillers centered on psychology and Peter Swanson's ten top thrillers that explore mental health.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 28, 2021

Heather Levy's "Walking Through Needles," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Walking Through Needles by Heather Levy.

The entry begins:
When I was writing Walking Through Needles, I wasn’t thinking of any particular actors but rather a blending of several faces, so it I had a lot of fun coming up my dream cast. First, a little book background:

Walking Through Needles centers around Sam Mayfair and her stepbrother Eric Walker, who become inseparable as teens until Sam, a budding masochist, suffers abuse by someone close to her and a traumatic event causes them to spin-off on different paths. Fifteen years later, both Sam and Eric learn that Sam’s abuser was murdered and Eric is the prime suspect. Both want to keep horrifying secrets of their past hidden from investigators as Sam tries to exonerate Eric.

Sam Mayfair was by far the hardest character to cast since she’s strong yet vulnerable, closed off, stubborn, and unapologetic about her sexuality. After seeing Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People, I knew she was my perfect Sam. The actor also easily transitioned from playing a teen to an adult, which is handy since the timeline switches from 1994 to 2009.

With Eric Walker, I knew right away that...[read on]
Follow Heather Levy on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Walking Through Needles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books of everyday social anthropology

Gillian Tett is chair of the US editorial board at the Financial Times and the author of books including Fool's Gold (2009) and Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life (2021).

"[W]hile culture is hard to define," she argues, "nobody can ignore it – certainly not in a world that is so globalised and dangerously polarised that we clearly need to gain empathy for others."

At the Guardian Tett tagged ten "books that help explain why culture – and anthropology – matter so much today." One title on the list:
The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich

One of my favourite books of the last year. Henrich trained as an aeronautical engineer but then became an evolutionary anthropologist-cum-biologist and this renaissance background enables him to write brilliantly on the peculiarities of WEIRD – western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic – societies today. He stresses what an aberration WEIRD culture is. You will never look at psychology experiments in the same way again after reading this; or ignore how literacy and individual identity affect our thoughts.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paul Conrad's "The Apache Diaspora"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Apache Diaspora: Four Centuries of Displacement and Survival by Paul Conrad.

About the book, from the publisher:
Across four centuries, Apache (Ndé) peoples in the North American West confronted enslavement and forced migration schemes intended to exploit, subjugate, or eliminate them. While many Indigenous groups in the Americas lived through similar histories, Apaches were especially affected owing to their mobility, resistance, and proximity to multiple imperial powers. Spanish, Comanche, Mexican, and American efforts scattered thousands of Apaches across the continent and into the Caribbean and deeply impacted Apache groups that managed to remain in the Southwest.

Based on archival research in Spain, Mexico, and the United States, as well Apache oral histories, The Apache Diaspora brings to life the stories of displaced Apaches and the kin from whom they were separated. Paul Conrad charts Apaches' efforts to survive or return home from places as far-flung as Cuba and Pennsylvania, Mexico City and Montreal. As Conrad argues, diaspora was deeply influential not only to those displaced, but also to Apache groups who managed to remain in the West, influencing the strategies of mobility and resistance for which they would become famous around the world.

Through its broad chronological and geographical scope, The Apache Diaspora sheds new light on a range of topics, including genocide and Indigenous survival, the intersection of Native and African diasporas, and the rise of deportation and incarceration as key strategies of state control. As Conrad demonstrates, centuries of enslavement, warfare, and forced migrations failed to bring a final solution to the supposed problem of Apache independence and mobility. Spain, Mexico, and the United States all overestimated their own power and underestimated Apache resistance and creativity. Yet in the process, both Native and colonial societies were changed.
Learn more about The Apache Diaspora at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Apache Diaspora.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: "In Royal Service to the Queen"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen's Governess by Tessa Arlen.

About the book, from the publisher:
The revealing story of Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved governess, Marion Crawford, who spent more than sixteen years of her life in loyal service to the royal family and was later shunned by those she has loved and served.

Marion Crawford can remember each of the wonderful years when she was governess to the little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose: included in their lives, confided in, needed, trusted, and loved. These memories will never dim, ever. In Marion’s mind, she will always be their Crawfie.

But things become increasingly complicated as the young royals navigate adulthood. It is May 1945 and Princess Elizabeth–the heiress presumptive to the British throne–has fallen in love, and the only member of her family who is happy for her is her governess. No one in the young princess’s life thinks that Prince Philip of Greece would be a suitable husband for the future Queen of England. No one that is, except for Marion Crawford.

Crawfie wholeheartedly supports Elizabeth in her determination to marry Philip. She too has fallen in love–and has convinced her fiancĂ©, George, that they must wait for Elizabeth and Philip to receive the King’s blessing before she can leave her service to the Crown.

Over the next two years Crawfie is caught between loyalty to Princess Elizabeth; running the risk of alienating her royal employer, Queen Elizabeth; and losing the man she loves. But as Crawfie prevails to marry George and stands with him in Westminster Abbey on Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding day, she is unaware that her troubled relationship with Queen Elizabeth is far from over. And just around the corner is a betrayal that will sever her bond with the royal family forever.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

See Tessa Arlen’s top five historical novels.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

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

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Death of an Unsung Hero.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen (November 2019).

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

Q&A with Tessa Arlen (April 2020).

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

Q&A with Tessa Arlen (December 2020).

The Page 69 Test: In Royal Service to the Queen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Nine immersive historical novels

Martha Hall Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls and Lost Roses. She lives in Connecticut, where she spends her days filling legal pads with stories and reading World War II books.

Kelly's new novel is Sunflower Sisters.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine favorite historical mysteries in which setting plays a significant part, including:
Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it? Tillie won’t rest until she figures out the mystery of her sister’s death and can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and her opium addiction looming, it becomes difficult for her to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Opium and Absinthe.

Q&A with Lydia Kang (July 2020).

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Caley Horan's "Insurance Era"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Insurance Era: Risk, Governance, and the Privatization of Security in Postwar America by Caley Horan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Actuarial thinking is everywhere in contemporary America, an often unnoticed byproduct of the postwar insurance industry’s political and economic influence. Calculations of risk permeate our institutions, influencing how we understand and manage crime, education, medicine, finance, and other social issues. Caley Horan’s remarkable book charts the social and economic power of private insurers since 1945, arguing that these institutions’ actuarial practices played a crucial and unexplored role in insinuating the social, political, and economic frameworks of neoliberalism into everyday life.

Analyzing insurance marketing, consumption, investment, and regulation, Horan asserts that postwar America’s obsession with safety and security fueled the exponential expansion of the insurance industry and the growing importance of risk management in other fields. Horan shows that the rise and dissemination of neoliberal values did not happen on its own: they were the result of a project to unsocialize risk, shrinking the state’s commitment to providing support, and heaping burdens upon the people often least capable of bearing them. Insurance Era is a sharply researched and fiercely written account of how and why private insurance and its actuarial market logic came to be so deeply lodged in American visions of social welfare
Learn more about Insurance Era at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Insurance Era.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Gilles Legardinier

From my Q&A with Gilles Legardinier, author of The Paris Labyrinth:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title The Paris Labyrinth propels you right into the story; it evokes a city and an atmosphere of mystery. The setting and the context of this intrigue are fundamental: it’s the 1889 World’s Fair, the birth of the City of Light, the opening of the Eiffel Tower, in a time when there are a lot of new technologies. People back then feel at a loss, a bit like today, they’re scared by all these changes. Vincent, the protagonist of this story, especially feels it as he is a secret passage maker and is threatened by an invisible power. In this thousands-of-years-old and labyrinthine city, he must unveil the secrets of a mysterious hunt made of riddles, lost knowledge, and hidden places so he can survive. The title is the first step of the journey and already...[read on]
Visit Gilles Legardinier's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Paris Labyrinth.

Q&A with Gilles Legardinier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Nine novels about women fighting for a just society

Claire Boyles is a writer, mom, and former farmer who lives and writes in Colorado on the traditional, ancestral, and stolen lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples. She received my MFA from Colorado State University in May of 2018. Her new short story collection is Site Fidelity. She has a novel on the way, too. Boyles's writing has appeared in VQR, Kenyon Review, Boulevard, and Masters Review, among others. She writes movies for the Hallmark Channel and is a proud member of the WGAW.

At Electric Lit Boyles tagged nine novels about women activists, including:
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth

Barn 8 is a novel about a direct-action protest in which a group of activists—including Janey and Cleveland, both auditors for the American egg industry—try to liberate all of the chickens on a single egg farm in one night. The story is told by a variety of narrators, some central to the plot, some more peripheral, allowing a wide range of perspectives and judgments including those of the chickens themselves, whose consciousness and eventual transformation outlasts the human fallibility the botched heist reveals.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robert G. Parkinson's "Thirteen Clocks"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Thirteen Clocks: How Race United the Colonies and Made the Declaration of Independence by Robert G. Parkinson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In his celebrated account of the origins of American unity, John Adams described July 1776 as the moment when thirteen clocks managed to strike at the same time. So how did these American colonies overcome long odds to create a durable union capable of declaring independence from Britain? In this powerful new history of the fifteen tense months that culminated in the Declaration of Independence, Robert G. Parkinson provides a troubling answer: racial fear. Tracing the circulation of information in the colonial news systems that linked patriot leaders and average colonists, Parkinson reveals how the system’s participants constructed a compelling drama featuring virtuous men who suddenly found themselves threatened by ruthless Indians and defiant slaves acting on behalf of the king.

Parkinson argues that patriot leaders used racial prejudices to persuade Americans to declare independence. Between the Revolutionary War’s start at Lexington and the Declaration, they broadcast any news they could find about Native Americans, enslaved Blacks, and Hessian mercenaries working with their British enemies. American independence thus owed less to the love of liberty than to the exploitation of colonial fears about race. Thirteen Clocks offers an accessible history of the Revolution that uncovers the uncomfortable origins of the republic even as it speaks to our own moment.
Learn more about Thirteen Clocks at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Thirteen Clocks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: D.W. Buffa's "The Privilege"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Privilege by D.W. Buffa.

About the book, 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.

Q&A with D.W. Buffa.

My Book, The Movie: The Privilege.

The Page 69 Test: The Privilege.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 25, 2021

Ten top thrillers that revolve around grief

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English wife-and-husband team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Their acclaimed novels of psychological suspense have sold more than 8 million copies around the world. At CrimeReads they write:
Writers (and readers) ... are drawn to leading characters who are active, who go out into the world and solve problems. Grief is the opposite of that, and grieving involves the acceptance that some problems cannot be fixed, they can only be lived with. That acceptance can be immensely important in getting through the dark periods of our life but it is a very bad basis for a thriller. So what do we do with grief when we write a thriller?
They tagged "ten books which make use of grief, or pointedly avoid it, or turn it into something else," including:
Cast of Shadows by Kevin Guilfoile (2005)

This remarkable thriller begins with the brutal rape and murder of Davis Moore’s teenager daughter. It’s going to be about grief, right? These are the book’s opening sentences: ‘This wasn’t grief Davis felt, staring at her so-still feet pointing at impossible angles to the tight synthetic weave of charcoal carpet. Grief is born. Grief matures. Grief passes.’ This is an entire thriller about the refusal of grief and the brilliantly original way that Moore, a doctor, sets out to find his daughter’s killer.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Cast of Shadows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Russell E. Martin's "The Tsar's Happy Occasion"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Tsar's Happy Occasion: Ritual and Dynasty in the Weddings of Russia's Rulers, 1495-1745 by Russell E. Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Tsar's Happy Occasion shows how the vast, ornate affairs that were royal weddings in early modern Russia were choreographed to broadcast powerful images of monarchy and dynasty. Processions and speeches emphasized dynastic continuity and legitimacy. Fertility rites blended Christian and pre-Christian symbols to assure the birth of heirs. Gift exchanges created and affirmed social solidarity among the elite. The bride performed rituals that integrated herself and her family into the inner circle of the court.

Using an array of archival sources, Russell E. Martin demonstrates how royal weddings reflected and shaped court politics during a time of dramatic cultural and dynastic change. As Martin shows, the rites of passage in these ceremonies were dazzling displays of monarchical power unlike any other ritual at the Muscovite court. And as dynasties came and went and the political culture evolved, so too did wedding rituals. Martin relates how Peter the Great first mocked, then remade wedding rituals to symbolize and empower his efforts to westernize Russia. After Peter, the two branches of the Romanov dynasty used weddings to solidify their claims to the throne.

The Tsar's Happy Occasion offers a sweeping, yet penetrating cultural history of the power of rituals and the rituals of power in early modern Russia.
Learn more about The Tsar's Happy Occasion.

The Page 99 Test: The Tsar's Happy Occasion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Angela May

From my Q&A with Angela May, co-author (with Mary Alice Monroe) of The Islanders:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

When we started writing this middle grade novel, the working title was The Island during the rough draft. It seemed fitting at the time, considering that the setting of the story--Dewees Island, SC--was a special nature sanctuary that my co-author, Mary Alice Monroe, and I absolutely love it. The title seemed to appropriately reflect the strong sense of place we were creating. However, as our characters developed and the scenes crystalized, their adventurous story led us to rename the book The Islanders because that is who they became, together, in their summertime journey together. And, through the characters’ experiences, we felt like the reader would grow to feel like one of the gang too, an Islander who yearns to return to Dewees again and again. You’ll have to let us know if you think we chose the better title after you read the book. We’re curious to know!

What's in a name?

Each character’s name in the book is...[read on]
Learn more about The Islanders and visit Angela May's website.

Q&A with Angela May.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Julia Buckley's "Death on the Night of Lost Lizards," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Death on the Night of Lost Lizards by Julia Buckley.

The entry begins:
Death on the Night of Lost Lizards is the third book in my Hungarian Tea House series; it debuted at the beginning of this month. The series follows the life of Hana Keller, a Hungarian-American woman who helps to run Maggie’s Tea House, named for her mother Magdalena, her colleague along with her grandmother, Juliana. The tea house has become the setting for a great deal of conflict and drama over three books, starting with a murder during a tea party. This dire event brought Detective Erik Wolf into the tea house. Himself the son of an immigrant, Wolf is fascinated from the start by the three tea house ladies and their unusual insight. The series blends Hungarian folklore and culture, art of all kinds, and a touch of the psychic in a traditionally cozy setting.

Casting roles for a movie version of the book would be a daunting task. I see my characters in my head, but only in a rather amorphous way, and to give them detailed features would be like committing to a permanent relationship. However, for the fun of the assignment, I have plucked some faces out of the vast array of talented people who could play my characters (although I’ve traveled in time to hire some of them).

Hana is known for her lovely red-brown hair, an autumnal and striking shade. The absolute perfect casting for her would be a young Mariska Hargitay. A half-Hungarian herself, Mariska in her twenties had the perfect look to be Hana. She has the glamour of Jayne Mansfield (her actual mother) and…[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Buckley's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Big Chili.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Chili.

My Book, The Movie: A Dark and Twisting Path.

Writers Read: Julia Buckley (September 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Death on the Night of Lost Lizards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top books about teen friendships

Brittany Ackerman is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University's Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has completed a residency at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, and has attended the Mont Blanc Workshop in Chamonix, France under the instruction of Alan Heathcock. She has also attended the Writers by Writers Methow Valley Workshop under the leadership of Ross Gay.

Her first collection of essays and winner of the 2016 Nonfiction Award, The Perpetual Motion Machine, was published with Red Hen Press in 2018. Her debut novel, The Brittanys, it out now with Vintage.

At Electric Lit Ackerman tagged seven "books about teen friendships from the 1970s to 2000s," including:
In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard

The 14-year-old narrator of In Zanesville is best friends with Felicia, aka Flea. These two girls, who are members of the marching band, are invited to the popular girl’s sleepover by some sweet strike of luck.
I look at Felicia, who looks back at me, coolly, chewing. I point to my chin, and her eyes bug out in alarm. She takes her napkin and saws away at her own chin, eyes grateful. I give her a slight nod—Yes, you got it—and then glance questioningly at the pop on the counter. She discreetly mimes opening a bottle and then looks back to her plate.
These are friends who read each other’s minds, who can understand a glance from across the room, who are always aiming to help each other fit in, or at the very least not stand out. The book encapsulates a year in the life of these two girls as they grow apart, fall back together, and try not to burn down the house.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Messner's "Unconventional Combat"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Unconventional Combat: Intersectional Action in the Veterans' Peace Movement by Michael A. Messner.

About the book, from the publisher:
In recent decades, there has been a generational shift of the US veterans' peace movement, from one grounded mostly in the experiences of older white men of the Vietnam War era, to one informed by a young, diverse cohort of post-9/11 veterans. In Unconventional Combat, Michael A. Messner traces this transformation through the life-history interviews of six veterans of color to show how their experiences of sexual and gender harassment, sexual assault, racist and homophobic abuse during their military service has shaped their political views and action. Drawing upon participant observation with the Veterans For Peace and About Face organizations and interviews with older male veterans as his backdrop, Messner shows how veterans' military experiences form their collective "situated knowledge" of intersecting oppressions. This knowledge, Messner argues, further shapes their intersectional praxis, which promises to transform the veterans' peace movement and potentially link their anti-militarist work with other movement groups working for change. As intersectionality has increasingly become central to the conversation on social movements, Unconventional Combat is not only a story about the US veterans' peace movement, but it also offers broad relevance to the larger world of social justice activism.
Visit Michael Messner's website.

The Page 99 Test: Guys Like Me.

The Page 99 Test: Unconventional Combat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Stewart Taylor's "A Distant Grave"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Distant Grave: A Mystery (Maggie D'arcy Mysteries, Volume 2) by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the follow up to the critically acclaimed The Mountains Wild, Detective Maggie D'arcy tackles another intricate case that bridges Long Island and Ireland in A Distant Grave.

Long Island homicide detective Maggie D'arcy and her teenage daughter, Lilly, are still recovering from the events of last fall when a strange new case demands Maggie's attention. The body of an unidentified Irish national turns up in a wealthy Long Island beach community and with little to go on but the scars on his back, Maggie once again teams up with Garda detectives in Ireland to find out who the man was and what he was doing on Long Island. The strands of the mystery take Maggie to a quiet village in rural County Clare that's full of secrets and introduce her to the world of humanitarian aid workers half a world away. And as she gets closer to the truth about the murder, what she learns leads her back to her home turf and into range of a dangerous and determined killer who will do anything to keep the victim's story hidden forever.

With the lyrical prose, deeply drawn characters, and atmospheric setting that put The Mountains Wild on multiple best of the year lists, Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers another gripping mystery novel about family, survival, and the meaning of home.
Visit Sarah Stewart Taylor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild.

The Page 69 Test: A Distant Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Seven top doubles in the twisted world of mystery fiction

Emily Beyda is a Los Angeles native who written the popular “Dear Glutton” advice column in The Austin Chronicle. She is graduate of Texas State’s M.F.A. program.

Her debut novel is The Body Double.

At CrimeReads Beyda tagged seven of her "favorite doubles in the twisted world of mystery fiction and (slightly) beyond," including:
The Likeness, by Tana French

I stumbled onto this book, by the legendary Tana French, in the wake of my grandfather Joe Beyda’s passing. He loved her work, and reading it was a way to feel closer to him during that strange, sad time. So I have a particular affection for The Likeness, which tells the story of a police detective passing herself off as a deceased victim in order to investigate a case. I love this book for the way it investigates the failures of friendship—how we might know the people we consider closest to us less than we think. There’s the satisfying unraveling of the mystery to follow, but also something deeper; the question of what it means to be held by our communities, and, in that closeness, known.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Likeness is among Sophie Stein's eight books about small-town woman detectives, Alison Wisdom's sven great thrillers featuring communal living, Christopher Louis Romaguera's nine books about mistaken identity, and Simon Lelic's top ten false identities in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan Bernofsky's "Clairvoyant of the Small"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser by Susan Bernofsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first English-language biography of one of the great literary talents of the twentieth century, written by his award-winning translator

The great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser lived eccentrically on the fringes of society, shocking his Berlin friends by enrolling in butler school and later developing an urban-nomad lifestyle in the Swiss capital, Bern, before checking himself into a psychiatric clinic. A connoisseur of power differentials, his pronounced interest in everything inconspicuous and modest—social outcasts and artists as well as the impoverished, marginalized, and forgotten—prompted W. G. Sebald to dub him “a clairvoyant of the small.” His revolutionary use of short prose forms won him the admiration of Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Robert Musil, and many others.

He was long believed an outsider by conviction, but Susan Bernofsky presents a more nuanced view in this immaculately researched and beautifully written biography. Setting Walser in the context of early twentieth century European history, she provides illuminating analysis of his extraordinary life and work, bearing witness to his “extreme artistic delight.”
Visit Susan Bernofsky's website.

The Page 99 Test: Clairvoyant of the Small.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Chris Offutt

From my Q&A with Chris Offutt, author of The Killing Hills:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

It’s hard to speculate on the effect a short phrase will have on a stranger. People often ignore “No Trespassing” or “Emergency Parking Only” signs. Many poems are composed of short phrases but they have a cumulative impact. Titles are difficult in general—after the work to make a book, a writer is then expected to distill its essence down to a few words. Frankly, I’m terrible at titles. In this case, my wife suggested the title because it refers to a conversation in the book and it has a slight rhyme.

What's in a name?

For a protagonist, I tend to go with a one syllable first name because it’s quick and easy to type. The last name “Hardin” was my favorite teacher in elementary school. I also like it because, in the speech pattern of eastern Kentucky, it sounds like...[read on]
Visit Chris Offutt's website.

Q&A with Chris Offutt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

D.W. Buffa's "The Privilege," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Privilege by D.W. Buffa.

The entry begins:
When my first novel, The Defense, was published in l997, the first question almost everyone who knew me asked was, “Is it going to be made into a movie?” The second question, almost always, was, “Who do you think should play the lead?”

I was surprised. I should not have been. What we see on film has become, for many of us, the measure, not just of a novel’s success, but of its importance. It is, for that reason, often assumed that the author must have had a particular actor or actress in mind when he created at least some of the characters who fill the pages of his work. And, let me confess, when I first started writing I would sometimes wonder who might be able to show on the screen what I was trying to describe with my pen. I knew that Leopold Rifkin, the judge in The Defense, could have been played perfectly by Ben Kingsley. I could see him doing it. Horace Woolner, the district attorney, could only have been played by James Earl Jones. The defense lawyer, the same Joseph Antonelli who is the defense lawyer in The Privilege, - well, he was always a problem. John Garfield could have done it, but Garfield had been dead for nearly half a century.

Now, more than twenty years later, trying to cast The Privilege, I wish that instead of 2021, it was 1950. It would have been easy then. Antonelli, the lawyer who never loses, would be played by Glenn Ford, and Tangerine, the woman he lives with, a woman so good looking that even other, beautiful, women are not jealous, by...[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Writers Read: D.W. Buffa.

My Book, The Movie: The Privilege.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five thrilling SFF books to motivate you while exercising

Aigner Loren Wilson is a SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer who writes poetry, nonfiction, games, alongside her fiction. Her work has been called evocative, noteworthy, and imaginative.

At Wilson tagged five "great books to help keep your motivation up while you hit the gym, trail, or whatever other method you use to exercise," including:
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Another military fantasy in the epic historical sense, R.F. Kuang’s 2018 debut novel, part of The Poppy War series, catches Rin accepted into an elite military school. While there, she endures training and bullying to discover that she has some untapped power that sends her down a road of mastering her skills and saving her people. The book’s inspired by the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking, so it covers dark ground while following Rin’s journey. It’s great to see a historical epic fantasy that shows the realities of strenuous mental and physical exercise, but the added benefit of this book being own voices is *chef’s kiss*.

In a lot of ways, it’s similar to both Moon and Clark’s books. Kuang too went the extra mile to turn The Poppy War’s fantasy worlds and characters into more than just adventures and events. These authors crafted people that readers could admire for their complexity and commitment, if not to themselves than to the act of growing, or well, more in line with the theme of this article, getting yoked.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Poppy War is among Megan Whalen Turner's eight SFF books featuring deities, Jennifer Giesbrecht's top five fantasy books steeped in history, and Ross Johnson's twenty-five epic fantasies for fans of Game of Thrones.

The Page 69 Test: The Poppy War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Howland's "Hearing Luxe Pop"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hearing Luxe Pop: Glorification, Glamour, and the Middlebrow in American Popular Music by John Howland.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hearing Luxe Pop explores a deluxe-production aesthetic that has long thrived in American popular music, in which popular-music idioms are merged with lush string orchestrations and big-band instrumentation. John Howland presents an alternative music history that centers on shifts in timbre and sound through innovative uses of orchestration and arranging, traveling from symphonic jazz to the Great American Songbook, the teenage symphonies of Motown to the “countrypolitan” sound of Nashville, the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys to the blending of soul and funk into 1970s disco, and Jay-Z’s hip-hop-orchestra events to indie rock bands performing with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. This book attunes readers to hear the discourses gathered around the music and its associated images as it examines pop’s relations to aspirational consumer culture, theatricality, sophistication, cosmopolitanism, and glamorous lifestyles.
Learn more about Hearing Luxe Pop at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hearing Luxe Pop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laura Lippman's "Dream Girl"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dream Girl: A Novel by Laura Lippman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the end, has anyone really led a blameless life?

Injured in a freak fall, novelist Gerry Andersen is confined to a hospital bed in his glamorous high-rise apartment, dependent on two women he barely knows: his incurious young assistant, and a dull, slow-witted night nurse.

Then late one night, the phone rings. The caller claims to be the “real” Aubrey, the alluring title character from his most successful novel, Dream Girl. But there is no real Aubrey. She’s a figment born of a writer’s imagination, despite what many believe or claim to know. Could the cryptic caller be one of his three ex-wives playing a vindictive trick after all these years? Or is she Margot, an ex-girlfriend who keeps trying to insinuate her way back into Gerry’s life?

And why does no one believe that the call even happened?

Isolated from the world, drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and a dreamlike state in which he is haunted by his own past: his faithless father, his devoted mother; the women who loved him, the women he loved.

And now here is Aubrey, threatening to visit him, suggesting that she is owed something. Is the threat real or is it a sign of dementia? Which scenario would he prefer? Gerry has never been so alone, so confused – and so terrified.

Chilling and compulsively readable, touching on timely issues that include power, agency, appropriation, and creation, Dream Girl is a superb blend of psychological suspense and horror that reveals the mind and soul of a writer.
Visit Laura Lippman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Another Thing to Fall.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

The Page 69 Test/Page 99 Test: Life Sentences.

The Page 69 Test: I'd Know You Anywhere.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Dangerous Thing.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

The Page 69 Test: Wilde Lake.

My Book, the Movie: Wilde Lake.

The Page 69 Test: Sunburn.

The Page 69 Test: Lady in the Lake.

The Page 69 Test: Dream Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 21, 2021

Six dark novels of fatherhood crime and noir

Zach Vasquez is a native of Los Angeles, California. He writes fiction and criticism.

At CrimeReads he tagged six dark titles of fatherhood crime and noir, including:
Cold in July, Joe R. Lansdale

While Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale is known for hopping between the Western, horror and hard-boiled crime novel, Cold in July reads like a combination of all three. What starts out as a straight-forward revenge thriller—mild-mannered civilian Richard Dane finds himself menaced by career criminal Ben Russell after he kills the man’s son in self-defense—takes an even more sinister turn once both men realize that the corpse laying between them may not belong to Russell’s son after all.

Forming a tense partnership, the duo’s search for answers leads them on a journey of horrifying discovery, one which tests all bounds and bonds of family and forgiveness, transforming an already riveting slice of country-friend noir into a truly mythic tale.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jason Vuic's "The Swamp Peddlers"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Swamp Peddlers: How Lot Sellers, Land Scammers, and Retirees Built Modern Florida and Transformed the American Dream by Jason Vuic.

About the book, from the publisher:
Florida has long been a beacon for retirees, but for many, the American dream of owning a home there was a fantasy. That changed in the 1950s, when the so-called "installment land sales industry" hawked billions of dollars of Florida residential property, sight unseen, to retiring northerners. For only $10 down and $10 a month, working-class pensioners could buy a piece of the Florida dream: a graded home site that would be waiting for them in a planned community when they were ready to build. The result was Cape Coral, Port St. Lucie, Deltona, Port Charlotte, Palm Coast, and Spring Hill, among many others—sprawling communities with no downtowns, little industry, and millions of residential lots.

In The Swamp Peddlers, Jason Vuic tells the raucous tale of the sale of residential lots in postwar Florida. Initially selling cheap homes to retirees with disposable income, by the mid-1950s developers realized that they could make more money selling parcels of land on installment to their customers. These "swamp peddlers" completely transformed the landscape and demographics of Florida, devastating the state environmentally by felling forests, draining wetlands, digging canals, and chopping up at least one million acres into grid-like subdivisions crisscrossed by thousands of miles of roads. Generations of northerners moved to Florida cheaply, but at a huge price: high-pressure sales tactics begat fraud; poor urban planning begat sprawl; poorly-regulated development begat environmental destruction, culminating in the perfect storm of the 21st-century subprime mortgage crisis.
Visit Jason Vuic's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Yucks.

The Page 99 Test: The Swamp Peddlers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with D.W. Buffa

From my Q&A with D.W. Buffa, author of The Privilege:
Does the title take the readers into the story?

A title can tell the reader what kind of book it is, whether it is, for example, a murder mystery, a love story, or a courtroom drama. At other times, it can tell something about the story itself, something that, after you have read it, makes it easy to remember. The title The Great Gatsby does not tell you anything about what kind of novel it is, but, once you have read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, that title stays with you forever. The Privilege tries to do both these things.

The Privilege refers to the attorney- client privilege, the privilege that requires a lawyer to keep secret anything his client may tell him. Defending a client for a murder he did not commit, Joseph Antonelli is losing at trial when a new client confesses, or seems to confess, to the crime. How can Antonelli save an innocent man without violating the privilege with the guilty man? That question is difficult enough, but Antonelli will also have to find a way to save himself when he finds himself a pawn in a game he does not understand, a game in which other murders will be committed, other innocent defendants will be put on trial, and, unless Antonelli agrees to represent them, the evidence that can prove their innocence will never be revealed. The mystery is not who committed murder; the mystery is why...[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Q&A with D.W. Buffa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Seven absent fathers in literature

Katie Yee is a Brooklyn-based writer and the Book Marks associate editor at Lit Hub.

At Lit Hub she tagged seven "stories that start with what might feel like an absence but turn into something else entirely." One title on the list:
Stephen Graham Jones, Mapping the Interior

The hero of Stephan Graham Jones’ terrifically horrifying Mapping the Interior is literally being haunted by his father. It starts one night, when the teenager thinks he sees a shadowy figure in the doorway of his house. It’s not his mother or younger brother, no. It reminds him of his father, a man who died a mysterious death before the family left their reservation. At night, he’s led deeper and deeper into his own house, which seems to shape-shift before his eyes and which forces him to confront a lot of the harsh truths about family.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rhiannon Graybill's "Texts after Terror"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Texts after Terror: Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Hebrew Bible by Rhiannon Graybill.

About the book, from the publisher:
Texts after Terror offers an important new theory of rape and sexual violence in the Hebrew Bible. While the Bible is filled with stories of rape, scholarly approaches to sexual violence in the scriptures remain exhausted, dated, and in some cases even un-feminist, lagging far behind contemporary discourse about sexual violence and rape culture. Graybill responds to this disconnect by engaging contemporary conversations about rape culture, sexual violence, and #MeToo, arguing that rape and sexual violence - both in the Bible and in contemporary culture - are frequently fuzzy, messy, and icky, and that we need to take these features seriously. Texts after Terror offers a new framework informed by contemporary conversations about sexual violence, writings by victims and survivors, and feminist, queer, and affect theory. In addition, Graybill offers significant new readings of biblical rape stories, including Dinah (Gen. 34), Tamar (2 Sam. 13), Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11), Hagar (Gen. 16), Daughter Zion (Lam. 1-2), and the unnamed woman known as the Levite's concubine (Judges 19). Texts after Terror urges feminist biblical scholars and readers of all sorts to take seriously sexual violence and rape, while also holding space for new ways of reading these texts that go beyond terror, considering what might come after.
Learn more about Texts after Terror at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Texts after Terror.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: A. Natasha Joukovsky's "The Portrait of a Mirror"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Portrait of a Mirror: A Novel by A. Natasha Joukovsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
A stunning reinvention of the myth of Narcissus as a modern novel of manners, about two young, well-heeled couples whose parallel lives intertwine over the course of a summer, by a sharp new voice in fiction

Wes and Diana are the kind of privileged, well-educated, self-involved New Yorkers you may not want to like but can't help wanting to like you. With his boyish good looks, blue-blood pedigree, and the recent tidy valuation of his tech startup, Wes would have made any woman weak in the knees—any woman, that is, except perhaps his wife. Brilliant to the point of cunning, Diana possesses her own arsenal of charms, handily deployed against Wes in their constant wars of will and rhetorical sparring.

Vivien and Dale live in Philadelphia, but with ties to the same prep schools and management consulting firms as Wes and Diana, they’re of the same ilk. With a wedding date on the horizon and carefully curated life of coupledom, Vivien and Dale make a picture-perfect pair on Instagram. But when Vivien becomes a visiting curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art just as Diana is starting a new consulting project in Philadelphia, the two couples’ lives cross and tangle. It’s the summer of 2015 and they’re all enraptured by one another and too engulfed in desire to know what they want—despite knowing just how to act.

In this wickedly fun debut, A. Natasha Joukovsky crafts an absorbing portrait of modern romance, rousing real sympathy for these flawed characters even as she skewers them. Shrewdly observed, whip-smart, and shot through with wit and good humor, The Portrait of a Mirror is a piercing exploration of narcissism, desire, self-delusion, and the great mythology of love.
Visit A. Natasha Joukovsky's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Portrait of a Mirror.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Ten top guilty pleasure novels

May Cobb earned her MA in literature from San Francisco State University, and her essays and interviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly. Her debut novel, Big Woods, won multiple awards. A Texas native, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

Cobb's new novel is The Hunting Wives.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten favorite "page-turnery, propulsive reads that are also whip-smart with a side of social commentary that goes down like honey," including:
Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Sager’s back with his latest—a compulsively readable and unbearably tense thriller about a rideshare gone horribly wrong. It’s the early 1990s and movie-obsessed college student Charlie accepts a ride home to Ohio from Josh Baxter, a handsome stranger she meets at the campus ride board. Charlie’s looking to split from college after the murder of her best friend at the hands of the Campus Killer, and Josh is heading home, presumably, to look after his sick father. But Josh’s odd behavior has Charlie wondering if he is, in fact, the Campus Killer. And what ensues is an electrifying, white-knuckle road trip fizzing with Hitchockian film noir references and a twist so shocking I literally gasped out loud.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue