Saturday, July 31, 2021

Twelve great British crime novels

Crime Fiction Lover assembled a list of twelve great UK crime novels from twelve great British cities, including:
Leeds – Dark Briggate Blues by Chris Nickson

The Yorkshire metropolis of Leeds – once a city of the finest woollens – has re-invented itself in the last two decades with glamorous shopping, lovely bars and restaurants, while never forgetting its history. How could it with author Chris Nickson having written several historical crime novels set during different periods, in the city. The funkiest must be Dark Briggate Blues, which has a noir-ish feel to it and is set in the 1950s. Dan Markham is a bit like Leeds’ own Mike Hammer and after serving in military intelligence he’s become a PI. What begins as an infidelity job turns into a murder case – the murder of the man Markham was surveilling!
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Dan Royles's "To Make the Wounded Whole"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle against HIV/AIDS by Dan Royles.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the decades since it was identified in 1981, HIV/AIDS has devastated African American communities. Members of those communities mobilized to fight the epidemic and its consequences from the beginning of the AIDS activist movement. They struggled not only to overcome the stigma and denial surrounding a "white gay disease" in Black America, but also to bring resources to struggling communities that were often dismissed as too "hard to reach." To Make the Wounded Whole offers the first history of African American AIDS activism in all of its depth and breadth. Dan Royles introduces a diverse constellation of activists, including medical professionals, Black gay intellectuals, church pastors, Nation of Islam leaders, recovering drug users, and Black feminists who pursued a wide array of grassroots approaches to slow the epidemic's spread and address its impacts. Through interlinked stories from Philadelphia and Atlanta to South Africa and back again, Royles documents the diverse, creative, and global work of African American activists in the decades-long battle against HIV/AIDS.
Learn more about To Make the Wounded Whole at the University of North Carolina Press.

The Page 99 Test: To Make the Wounded Whole.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Samantha Downing's "For Your Own Good"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing.

About the book, from the publisher:
USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with a few mysterious deaths on campus that’re looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. If not, well, they’ll get what they deserve.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.
Visit Samantha Downing's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

The Page 69 Test: He Started It.

The Page 69 Test: For Your Own Good.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 30, 2021

Five thrillers to warn you away from social media

Lindsay Cameron worked as a corporate lawyer for many years in Vancouver and New York City before leaving the law behind to write books.

Her first novel, Biglaw, was published in 2015.

Just One Look is her suspense debut.

Cameron lives in New York City where she is currently at work on her next book.

At CrimeReads she tagged "five thrillers that might convince you to finally pull the trigger on that [social media account] delete button," including:
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

When I was half-way through reading Pretty Things, I double checked the privacy settings on all of my social accounts. That’s because it isn’t just stalkers who are trolling for information, it’s grifters too! Case in point, Nina. Nina is a con artist who preys on Los Angeles’s wealthy and careless, utilizing social media to locate and target her marks. When Nina’s mother gets hit with sky high medical bills, Nina and her charming boyfriend set their sights on their riskiest mark yet: Vanessa, an heiress turned influencer. But there’s far more to Vanessa than what appears on her feed, so buckle up for this dazzling game of cat and mouse.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Pretty Things.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sumbul Ali-Karamali's "Demystifying Shariah"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Demystifying Shariah: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It's Not Taking Over Our Country by Sumbul Ali-Karamali.

About the book, from the publisher:
A direct counterpoint to fear mongering headlines about shariah law—a Muslim American legal expert tells the real story, eliminating stereotypes and assumptions with compassion, irony, and humor

Through scare tactics and deliberate misinformation campaigns, anti-Muslim propagandists insist wrongly that shariah is a draconian and oppressive Islamic law that all Muslims must abide by. They circulate horror stories, encouraging Americans to fear the “takeover of shariah” law in America and even mounting “anti-shariah protests” . . . . with zero evidence that shariah has taken over any part of our country. (That’s because it hasn’t.) It would be almost funny if it weren’t so terrifyingly wrong—as puzzling as if Americans suddenly began protesting the Martian occupation of Earth.

Demystifying Shariah explains that shariah is not one set of punitive rules or even law the way we think of law—rigid and enforceable—but religious rules and recommendations that provide Muslims with guidance in various aspects of life. Sumbul Ali-Karamali draws on scholarship and her degree in Islamic law to explain shariah in an accessible, engaging narrative style—its various meanings, how it developed, and how the shariah-based legal system operated for over a thousand years. She explains what shariah means not only in the abstract but in the daily lives of Muslims. She discusses modern calls for shariah, what they mean, and whether shariah is the law of the land anywhere in the world. She also describes the key lies and misunderstandings about shariah circulating in our public discourse, and why so many of them are nonsensical.

This engaging guide is intended to introduce you to the basic principles, goals, and general development of shariah and to answer questions like: How do Muslims engage with shariah? What does shariah have to do with our Constitution? What does shariah have to do with the way the world looks like today? And why do we all—Muslims or not—need to care?
Learn more about the book and author at Sumbul Ali-Karamali's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Muslim Next Door.

The Page 99 Test: Demystifying Shariah.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Adam Simcox

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

I’m usually terrible at picking titles. It’s something my friends mock me for, unmercifully. Much like the opening chapter which came to me in a dream, The Dying Squad just popped into my head. It’s based on the mobile unit used by the British police, an agile grouping of coppers that could operate across London without adhering to divisional policing boundaries. My flying squad are similarly agile, solving crimes their living counterparts can’t. And they’re, you know, dead, hence the name. Fingers crossed the title gets across the irreverent style of the book, too.

What's in a name?

I never promised...[read on]
Follow Adam Simcox on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Dying Squad.

Q&A with Adam Simcox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Top ten stories about bored teenagers

John Patrick McHugh is from Galway. His work has appeared in Banshee, Granta, Stinging Fly, Tangerine and Winter Papers.

Pure Gold is his debut story collection.

At the Guardian McHugh tagged ten "works that explore how the sublime can arise from the dull reality of being a teenager." One title on the list:
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)

Poor aul Holden, eh? The quintessential sulky teenager who is already bored with life. The story of his striking back against the phonies while meandering around New York is well known. While not Salinger’s finest work – I’d have Franny and Zooey above it – it is a brilliantly sad and nuanced portrait of a troubled and traumatised, and kind, soul. And how good is that scene with the sex worker Sunny?
Read about another entry on the list.

The Catcher In The Rye appears on A.F. Brady's list of seven literary anti-heroes who expose the dark side of NYC, Liz Phair's ten desert island books list, Brian Boone's list of five great novels that will probably never be made into movies, Natalie Zutter's list of nine classic YA books ripe for some creative genderbending of the main characters, Lance Rubin's top ten list of books with a funny first-person narrator, Andy Griffiths's list of five books that changed him, Chris Pavone's list of five books that changed him, Gabe Habash's list of the 10 most notorious parts of famous books, Robert McCrum's list of the 10 best books with teenage narrators, Antoine Wilson's list of the 10 best narrators in literature, A.E. Hotchner's list of five favorite coming-of-age tales, Jay McInerney's list of five essential New York novels, Woody Allen's top five books list, Patrick Ness's top 10 list of "unsuitable" books for teenagers, David Ulin's six favorite books list, Nicholas Royle's list of the top ten writers on the telephone, TIME magazine's list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school, Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, Dan Rhodes' top ten list of short books, and Sarah Ebner's top 25 list of boarding school books; it is one of Sophie Thompson's six best books. Upon rereading, the novel disappointed Khaled Hosseini, Mary Gordon, and Laura Lippman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jacob Darwin Hamblin's "The Wretched Atom"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Wretched Atom: America's Global Gamble with Peaceful Nuclear Technology by Jacob Darwin Hamblin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A groundbreaking narrative of how the United States offered the promise of nuclear technology to the developing world and its gamble that other nations would use it for peaceful purposes.

After the Second World War, the United States offered a new kind of atom that differed from the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This atom would cure diseases, produce new foods, make deserts bloom, and provide abundant energy for all. It was an atom destined for the formerly colonized, recently occupied, and mostly non-white parts of the world that were dubbed the "wretched of the earth" by Frantz Fanon.

The "peaceful atom" had so much propaganda potential that President Dwight Eisenhower used it to distract the world from his plan to test even bigger thermonuclear weapons. His scientists said the peaceful atom would quicken the pulse of nature, speeding nations along the path of economic development and helping them to escape the clutches of disease, famine, and energy shortfalls. That promise became one of the most misunderstood political weapons of the twentieth century. It was adopted by every subsequent US president to exert leverage over other nations' weapons programs, to corner world markets of uranium and thorium, and to secure petroleum supplies. Other countries embraced it, building reactors and training experts. Atomic promises were embedded in Japan's postwar recovery, Ghana's pan-Africanism, Israel's quest for survival, Pakistan's brinksmanship with India, and Iran's pursuit of nuclear independence.

As The Wretched Atom shows, promoting civilian atomic energy was an immense gamble, and it was never truly peaceful. American promises ended up exporting violence and peace in equal measure. While the United States promised peace and plenty, it planted the seeds of dependency and set in motion the creation of today's expanded nuclear club.
Visit Jacob Darwin Hamblin's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Wretched Atom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Richard Lange's "Rovers"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Rovers by Richard Lange.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two immortal brothers crisscross the American Southwest to elude a murderous biker gang and protect a young woman in this “utter triumph and delight” from award-winning author Richard Lange (Jonathan Ames, author of A Man Named Doll)

Summer, 1976. Jesse and his brother, Edgar, are on the road in search of victims. They’re rovers, nearly indestructible nocturnal beings who must consume human blood in order to survive. For seventy years they’ve lurked on the fringes of society, roaming from town to town, dingy motel to dingy motel, stalking the transients, addicts, and prostitutes they feed on.

This hard-boiled supernatural hell ride kicks off when the brothers encounter a young woman who disrupts their grim routine, forcing Jesse to confront his past and plunging his present into deadly chaos as he finds himself scrambling to save her life. The story plays out through the eyes of the brothers, a grieving father searching for his son’s murderer, and a violent gang of rover bikers, coming to a shattering conclusion in Las Vegas on the eve of America’s Bicentennial.

Gripping, relentless, and ferocious, Rovers demonstrates once again why Richard Lange has been hailed as an “expert writer, his prose exact, his narrative tightly controlled” (Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times).
Learn more about the book and author at Richard Lange's website.

The Page 69 Test: This Wicked World.

The Page 69 Test: Angel Baby.

The Page 69 Test: The Smack.

The Page 69 Test: Rovers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Four of Quentin Tarantino's favorite books

Quentin Tarantino began his career as an independent filmmaker with the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, which was in part funded by money from the sale of his screenplay True Romance (1993).

His second film, Pulp Fiction (1994), was a major success among critics and audiences and won him numerous awards, including the Palme d'Or and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Subsequent film sinclude Jackie Brown (1997), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Django Unchained (2012).

His most recent film is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). It received 10 nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Production Design. It also won Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Pitt) at the 77th Golden Globe Awards.

Tarantino's first book is a novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

At Lit Hub Vanessa Willoughby shared four of the writer-director's favorite books, including:
Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

Percy’s portrait of a New Orleans cinephile won the 1962 National Book Award and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels. The narrative centers on a young stockbroker named Binx Bolling, who searches for meaning beyond the materialistic, aimless, consumerist landscape of 1950s America. Terrence Malick adapted the script in the 1980s, but the project never came to fruition.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Moviegoer is among Stewart O'Nan's six favorite fiction books that feature real-life characters, Ron Rash's six favorite Southern fiction books, The Barnes & Noble Review's five top books on New Orleans, Jon Krakauer's five best books about mortality and existential angst, and Richard Ford's 5 most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jonathan E. Robins's "Oil Palm: A Global History"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Oil Palm: A Global History by Jonathan E. Robins.

About the book, from the publisher:
Oil palms are ubiquitous—grown in nearly every tropical country, they supply the world with more edible fat than any other plant and play a role in scores of packaged products, from lipstick and soap to margarine and cookies. And as Jonathan E. Robins shows, sweeping social transformations carried the plant around the planet. First brought to the global stage in the holds of slave ships, palm oil became a quintessential commodity in the Industrial Revolution. Imperialists hungry for cheap fat subjugated Africa’s oil palm landscapes and the people who worked them. In the twentieth century, the World Bank promulgated oil palm agriculture as a panacea to rural development in Southeast Asia and across the tropics. As plantation companies tore into rainforests, evicting farmers in the name of progress, the oil palm continued its rise to dominance, sparking new controversies over trade, land and labor rights, human health, and the environment.

By telling the story of the oil palm across multiple centuries and continents, Robins demonstrates how the fruits of an African palm tree became a key commodity in the story of global capitalism, beginning in the eras of slavery and imperialism, persisting through decolonization, and stretching to the present day.
Learn more about Oil Palm: A Global History at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Oil Palm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Carolyn Ferrell

From my Q&A with Carolyn Ferrell, author of Dear Miss Metropolitan:
photo credit: Matt Licari
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

What a great question. I think some readers might find the title a bit intriguing, because the eponymous Miss Metropolitan occupies comparatively little space in the novel. In other words, the title might surprise—which I think is actually a great thing. It embodies Emily Dickinson’s line: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant—.” I could have given the book a more straightforward name. But Miss Metropolitan is both an individual character as well as a representative of the various communities experiencing the trauma, grief and healing at the novel’s center. I think of her as a kind of Everywoman. She stands for the community that has failed the “victim-girls” and yet ultimately bears responsibility for them. The title is a nod to the woman who has lived across from the “house of horrors” yet neglected to...[read on]
Visit Carolyn Ferrell's website.

Q&A with Carolyn Ferrell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Nine books with plots pulled from real life

A son of the Finger Lakes in western New York State, Andrew Welsh-Huggins now calls himself a “proud native adopted Ohioan.” By day, he is a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus. By earlier in the day, he is the author of seven books in the Andy Hayes private eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator. “Readers who love old-fashioned detective novels will be in hog heaven as they tear into Welsh-Huggins’ latest adventure featuring Andy Hayes,” said Booklist of Fatal Judgment.

The newest Andy Hayes novel is An Empty Grave.

At CrimeReads Welsh-Huggins tagged "nine books with plots pulled from real life, expanded and turned, like straw into gold, into an altogether new creation." One title on the list:
What The Dead Know, by Laura Lippman

A woman arrested for leaving the scene of an accident confesses to police that she is Heather Bethany, a girl who disappeared with her sister from a local mall in the 1970s, a case that until that moment was never solved. Lippman based the book on the real-life disappearance of sisters Katherine Mary Lyon, 10, and Sheila Mary Lyon, 12, from a mall in Wheaton, Maryland, in 1975. (Though the girls’ remains have never been found, a career criminal finally pleaded guilty to their murders in 2017). “We were raised to believe that we were safe going out in pairs, and the fact that two girls went out and never came home seemed particularly haunting,” Lippman told NPR in 2007.
Read about another entry on the list.

What the Dead Know is among Sarah Stewart Taylor's five top mysteries about characters searching for relatives and Kathleen Donohoe's ten top books about missing persons.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Vicki Delany's "Murder in a Teacup"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Murder in a Teacup by Vicki Delany.

About the book, from the publisher:
National bestselling author Vicki Delany's delightful Tea by the Sea mystery series continues, as Cape Cod tearoom proprietress and part-time sleuth, Lily Roberts, stirs up trouble when she unwittingly serves one of her grandmother's B&B guests a deadly cup of tea...

Lily has her work cut out for her when a visit from her grandmother Rose's dear friend, Sandra McHenry, turns into an unexpected—and unpleasant—McHenry family reunion. The squabbling boils over and soon Tea by the Sea's serene afternoon service resembles the proverbial tempest in a teapot. Somehow, Lily and her tearoom survive the storm, and Sandra's bickering brethren finally retreat to Rose's B & B. But later that evening, a member of their party—harmless Ed French—dies from an apparent poisoning and suddenly Tea by the Sea is both scene and suspect in a murder investigation!

Mercifully, none of the other guests fall ill. They all ate the same food, but Ed insisted on bringing his own special blend of herbal teas. So it seems, amid the whining and dining, someone snuck up to one of Lily's cherished teapots and fatally spiked Ed's bespoke brew, but who? Was it Ed's long-estranged sister-in-law? Did teenage troublemaker Tyler take a prank too far? Or perhaps the family's feuds have been steeping for longer than anyone realizes? It's up to Lily, Rose, and their friends to get to the bottom of the poisoned pot and bag the real culprit behind the kettle murder plot.
Visit Vicki Delany's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen.

The Page 69 Test: A Scandal in Scarlet.

Writers Read: Vicki Delany (November 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Murder in a Teacup.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Frank L. Holt's "When Money Talks"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics by Frank L. Holt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Coinage--it is one of the most successful and consistent technologies ever invented. Nothing else we still use in everyday life has a history quite like it. Look around at all the things that would bewilder a Greek, Roman, or Renaissance ancestor; then, dig into your purse or pocket for that one artifact that they would immediately recognize as part of their world. Historian Frank L. Holt takes us on a lively journey through the history of numismatics, the study of coins--one of the oldest and most important contributions to the arts and humanities.

For 2600 years, poets, economists, philosophers, historians, and theologians have pondered the mysteries of money. Who invented coins, and why? Does coinage function beyond our control as if it had a mind of its own? How has it changed world history and culture? What does numismatics reveal about our past that could never be discovered from any other source? How has numismatics advanced using modern science? Does it still suffer from racist ideas about physiognomy and phrenology? What does its future hold? The approach taken in this richly illustrated book is as multi-faceted as coined money itself. Coins are integral to our economic, social, political, religious, and cultural history. When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics explores each aspect of coinage, and takes a special interest in how coins have appeared in literature and pop culture, ranging in its analysis from Greek drama and the New Testament to T.V. sitcoms and meme theory.
Learn more about When Money Talks at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Treasures of Alexander the Great.

The Page 99 Test: When Money Talks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Adam Simcox's "The Dying Squad," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox.

The entry begins:
My background is in film – it’s how I’ve earned my misbegotten living, up until now — so when it came to writing The Dying Squad, casting choices were always lurking, flicking my ears and tweaking my nose. I’ve written and directed three films before, and when working in those micro-budget terms, casting was always a challenge. Now I’m here, with my fantasy film selection, it’s time to splash that cash.

Our hero, Joe Lazarus, is a no-nonsense copper with a big problem: he’s dead. That state of being has left him with a swiss-cheese memory, so we need an actor that can portray this sense of confusion, but also get across his intelligence and silent steel too. Let’s go for Paul Bettany. Half tempted to have him in his vision costume just for kicks, but cooler producing heads will probably prevail.

Daisy-May, Joe’s also-dead 16-year-old partner, is the real star of the show. She’s sarky, she’s gobby, and she’s not afraid to call you on your bullshit. She’s also the moral compass and beating heart of the book, and we’ll need an actor of substance to play the role. Let’s go for...[read on]
Follow Adam Simcox on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Dying Squad.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 26, 2021

Seven novels about losing faith in religion

Kelsey McKinney is a reporter and writer who lives in Washington, D.C. She is a co-owner and features writer at

In her freelance work, McKinney writes about everything from Tom DeLonge’s alien obsession to Christian megachurches and bull riding.

Her new novel is God Spare the Girls.

At Electric Lit McKinney tagged seven novels about losing faith in religion and yet feeling less alone. One title on the list:
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

The Tabernacle of the Gospel Truth—the fundamentalist church in Tom Perotta’s The Abstinence Teacher—is a bit more extreme than modern-day evangelicalism, but their beliefs on sex are the same. This story of a high-school teacher forced to teach a Christian sex-ed curriculum is way funnier than it has any business being. Its central pastor is warm and loving, but holds strict doctrinal beliefs, and Perrotta isn’t afraid to make good-natured jokes about the culture of Christianity.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John V. Petrocelli's "The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit by John V. Petrocelli.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bullshit is the foundation of contaminated thinking and bad decisions that leads to health consequences, financial losses, legal consequences, broken relationships, and wasted time and resources.

No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, we’re all susceptible to bullshit—and we all engage in it. While we may brush it off as harmless marketing sales speak or as humorous, embellished claims, it’s actually much more dangerous and insidious. It’s how Bernie Madoff successfully swindled billions of dollars from even the most experienced financial experts with his Ponzi scheme. It’s how the protocols of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of 36 million people from starvation. Presented as truths by authority figures and credentialed experts, bullshit appears legitimate, and we accept their words as gospel. If we don’t question the information we receive from bullshit artists to prove their thoughts and theories, we allow these falsehoods to take root in our memories and beliefs. This faulty data affects our decision making capabilities, sometimes resulting in regrettable life choices.

But with a little dose of skepticism and a commitment to truth seeking, you can build your critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills to evaluate information, separate fact from fiction, and see through bullshitter spin. In The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, experimental social psychologist John V. Petrocelli provides invaluable strategies not only to recognize and protect yourself from everyday bullshit, but to accept your own lack of knowledge about subjects and avoid engaging in bullshit just for societal conformity.

With real world examples from people versed in bullshit who work in the used car, real estate, wine, and diamond industries, Petrocelli exposes the red-flag warning signs found in the anecdotal stories, emotional language, and buzzwords used by bullshitters that persuade our decisions. By using his critical thinking defensive tactics against those motivated by profit, we will also learn how to stop the toxic misinformation spread from the social media influencers, fake news, and op-eds that permeate our culture and call out bullshit whenever we see it.
Visit John V. Petrocelli's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Hilary Davidson

From my Q&A with Hilary Davidson, author of Her Last Breath:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think the phrase “her last breath” immediately suggests the idea of a dying declaration or a person’s last words, and that sets up the book really well. In chapter one of Her Last Breath, the reader meets Deirdre, who is at her sister’s funeral. It’s especially painful for her because they’d had a troubled relationship and had gone through periods of estrangement. By the end of the chapter, Deirdre has received a message her sister wrote the morning she died, warning that her husband was going to kill her and revealing that her husband had killed his first wife. The message sets Deirdre on a quest for justice, but it also turns her world upside down because she’s left with so many questions about who her sister really was and what...[read on]
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Always Tells.

The Page 69 Test: One Small Sacrifice.

Writers Read: Hilary Davidson (July 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Don't Look Down.

The Page 69 Test: Her Last Breath.

Q&A with Hilary Davidson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Seven mysteries filled with family members

S. C. Perkins is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel. Murder Once Removed was the winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. She resides in Houston and, when she’s not writing or working at her day job, she’s likely outside in the sun, on the beach, or riding horses.

Perkins's new novel is Fatal Family Ties.

At CrimeReads she tagged "seven books from all over the crime-fiction map where multiple family members are at the heart of each mystery," including:
Murder in Old Bombay, by Nev March

Tight family bonds and the determination to prove that two women did not commit suicide forms the backbone of Nev March’s atmospheric historical mystery set in 1892 Bombay, India. As Captain Jim Agnihotri recovers from his battle wounds, he reads of how Adi Framji’s beloved wife and sister seemingly deliberately fell to their deaths from a clock tower. At Adi’s insistence that the women would not have committed suicide, Captain Jim offers his assistance to Adi and the Framji family in discovering the truth behind the tragedy. Yet when Jim’s questions threaten to expose a past the Framjis would rather keep hidden, he must navigate the tangled circumstances surrounding the family he respects and his quest to uncover the real reason behind the two women’s deaths.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Cary Federman's "Democracy and Deliberation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Democracy and Deliberation: The Law and Politics of Sex Offender Legislation by Cary Federman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sex offender laws include residency restrictions, registration and notification requirements, and post-conviction civil commitment. These laws and regulations impose serious restrictions on the movements of convicted sex offenders. This is controversial because these laws and regulations occur after the sex offender has completed his time in prison. These laws and regulations are intended to have both a deterrent and therapeutic effect. Residency restrictions seek to prevent sex offenders from re-committing their crimes and civil commitment provides psychological services while incarcerated in a forensic facility. Most works on this subject are deeply critical of these laws.

Cary Federman takes a more sympathetic approach to sex offender legislation. He focuses on the deliberative intentions of legislators, exploring the limits of judicial review and the rights of interested parties to influence lawmaking. Leaders of these interested parties are usually the parents of children who have been sexually violated and murdered. Critics of sex offender legislation tend to focus on the convicted parties, arguing that their rights have been violated. The Law and Politics of Sex Offender Legislation asserts that these laws are expressions of the deliberative intentions of lawmakers concerned about public safety—they are thus constitutional, if not always wise.
Learn more about Democracy and Deliberation at the University of Michigan Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Assassination of William McKinley.

The Page 99 Test: Democracy and Deliberation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Joe Clifford's "The Shadow People"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Shadow People by Joe Clifford.

About the book, from the publisher:
A riveting, twisty psychological thriller from acclaimed author Joe Clifford, perfect for fans of Alex North's THE WHISPER MAN and Riley Sager's LOCK EVERY DOOR

Brandon Cossey is finishing his last semester as an undergrad when he learns his childhood best friend, Jacob Balfour, has committed suicide. The news about Jacob, who had long battled schizophrenia, does not come as a surprise―but the bizarre details surrounding his death do. Jacob was found several states away, in a quarry, burned alive. Brandon returns to his hometown and discovers Jacob had been moonlighting as an amateur DIY reporter. As sole author and editor of the homemade zine Illuminations, Jacob has been covering a wide array of conspiracy theories.

When Jacob’s estranged grandfather, Francis, who also suffers from schizophrenia (but chooses to go untreated), arrives for the funeral, he tells Brandon that Jacob didn’t kill himself; Jacob stumbled upon a secret so deadly he was murdered to keep it quiet. Soon afterwards, Brandon’s life takes a turn for the strange. He notices odd cars and lookalikes following him, his personal property is hacked and stolen, and Brandon can no longer trust what he thinks he sees. As his grasp on reality recedes and falters, Brandon must question whether a sinister gang of doppelgängers, whom Jacob dubbed “the Shadow People,” are really responsible.
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse.

My Book, The Movie: The Lakehouse.

Q&A with Joe Clifford.

My Book, The Movie: The Shadow People.

Writers Read: Joe Clifford.

The Page 69 Test: The Shadow People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Five recent captivating SFF mystery novels

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five favorite recent sci-fi & fantasy novels, including:
A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell (2018)

Dr. Janet Watson returns from her service on the Federal side of the American New Civil War with a medical discharge, a second-hand, defective prosthetic limb, and dismal career prospects. Her professional qualifications are excellent, but few hospitals are interested in hiring a one-armed Black surgeon struggling with PTSD. Thus, Watson must settle for a technician’s post well below her talents and for a roommate with whom to split the rent. The job is unsatisfactory. The roommate is alarming.

Why Sara Holmes (occupation classified, probably spy) is so determined to share her luxurious apartment with a roommate at all, let alone Watson in particular, is unclear. That she is determined to do so is manifest, if only from the implausibly low rent. Still, living in luxury with a nosy, pushy (occupation classified, probably spy) is preferable to a squalid room in a crowded tenement. Particularly when Watson takes too close an interest in a mystery that powerful people very much do not want solved. Having offended well-connected people unburdened by ethics, Watson’s survival may depend on her quirky roommate’s ingenuity.
Read about another entry on the list.

A Study in Honor is among Sadie Trombetta's top nine gender-swapped retellings of classic books.

The Page 69 Test: A Study in Honor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mary T. Boatwright's "Imperial Women of Rome"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Imperial Women of Rome: Power, Gender, Context by Mary T. Boatwright.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Imperial Women of Rome explores the constraints and activities of the women who were part of Rome's imperial families from 35 BCE to 235 CE, the Roman principate. Boatwright uses coins, inscriptions, papyri, material culture, and archaeology, as well as the more familiar but biased ancient authors, to depict change and continuity in imperial women's pursuits and representations over time. Focused vignettes open each thematic chapter, emphasizing imperial women as individuals and their central yet marginalized position in the principate. Evaluating historical contingency and personal agency, the book assesses its subjects in relation to distinct Roman structures rather than as a series of biographies. Rome's imperial women allow us to probe the meanings of the emperor's authority and power; Roman law; the Roman family; Roman religion and imperial cult; imperial presence in the city of Rome; statues and exemplarity; and the military and communications. The book is richly illustrated and offers detailed information in tables and appendices, including one for the life events of the imperial women discussed in the text. Considered over time and as a whole, Livia, the Agrippinas and Faustinas, Julia Domna, and others closely connected to Rome's emperors enrich our understanding of Roman history and offer glimpses of fascinating and demanding lives.
Learn more about Imperial Women of Rome at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Imperial Women of Rome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Hermione Hoby

From my Q&A with Hermione Hoby, author of Virtue: A Novel:
Photograph by Nina Subin
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I like how the word has both an old-fashioned tenor, as in "feminine virtue" and, simultaneously, a contemporary flavor in terms of "virtue-signaling". (It's interesting to me that "virtue" is a term rarely used sincerely any more.) In some sense, I think this is an old-fashioned novel. The setting may be contemporary, the politics and attitudes are of this moment, but formally, it's just pretty traditional. The book is about trying to be good, and the near-impossibility of living an uncompromised life in a compromised world, so I hope the title does something to indicate that, and to convey both earnestness and irony.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

She...[read on]
Visit Hermione Hoby's website.

Writers Read: Hermione Hoby (January 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Virtue.

Q&A with Hermione Hoby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 23, 2021

Ten crime novels full of style, plot & dark humor

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel.

Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller. Her third thriller, For Your Own Good, is now out in the US.

[The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife; The Page 69 Test: He Started It].

She currently lives and works in New Orleans.

At CrimeReads Downing tagged ten "books that influenced my style, plot, and the dark humor I love so much." One title on the list:
The Partner by John Grisham

I’ve read a number of Grisham books, but this is the one I’ve reread countless times. Patrick is a lawyer who has stolen a lot of money from a client and now lives in hiding in South America. At the beginning of the book, he’s found. The cat-and-mouse game that follows is fast-paced, packed with surprises, and it kept me up late more than once. And the ending…the ending. Obviously I won’t spoil it here, but one of the best endings I’ve ever read. Even today, I still think about this ending when I write my own.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Will Mari's "The American Newsroom"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The American Newsroom: A History, 1920-1960 by Will Mari.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of the American newsroom is that of modern American journalism. In this holistic history, Will Mari tells that story from the 1920s through the 1960s, a time of great change and controversy in the field, one in which journalism was produced in “news factories” by news workers with dozens of different roles, and not just once a day, but hourly, using the latest technology and setting the stage for the emergence later in the century of the information economy. During this time, the newsroom was more than a physical place—it symbolically represented all that was good and bad in journalism, from the shift from blue- to white-collar work to the flexing of journalism’s power as a watchdog on government and an advocate for social reform. Told from an empathetic, omnivorous, ground-up point of view, The American Newsroom: A History, 1920–1960 uses memoirs, trade journals, textbooks, and archival material to show how the newsroom expanded our ideas of what journalism could and should be.
Follow Will Mari on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The American Newsroom: A History, 1920-1960.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Neil Sharpson's "When the Sparrow Falls"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Life in the Caspian Republic has taught Agent Nikolai South two rules. Trust No One. And work just hard enough not to make enemies.

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path – your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains.

But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

WHEN THE SPARROW FALLS illuminates authoritarianism, complicity, and identity in the digital age, in a page turning, darkly-funny, frightening and touching story that recalls Philip K. Dick, John le Carré and Kurt Vonnegut in equal measure.
Visit Neil Sharpson's website.

The Page 69 Test: When the Sparrow Falls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 22, 2021

What is Joe Clifford reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Joe Clifford, author of The Shadow People.

His entry begins:
I’m (almost) always reading more than one book. As I write this, I have just returned from vacation, where I finished three. I am starting a new one tonight. So it’s the rare time I’m technically not reading anything. (Give it an hour.)

You have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about Shawn Cosby, whose Blacktop Wasteland and now Razorblade Tears are taking the crime world by the lapels and shaking the shit out of it. I just finished the former, which was as advertised: amazing. I also...[read on]
About Clifford's The Shadow People, from the publisher:
A riveting, twisty psychological thriller from acclaimed author Joe Clifford, perfect for fans of Alex North's THE WHISPER MAN and Riley Sager's LOCK EVERY DOOR

Brandon Cossey is finishing his last semester as an undergrad when he learns his childhood best friend, Jacob Balfour, has committed suicide. The news about Jacob, who had long battled schizophrenia, does not come as a surprise―but the bizarre details surrounding his death do. Jacob was found several states away, in a quarry, burned alive. Brandon returns to his hometown and discovers Jacob had been moonlighting as an amateur DIY reporter. As sole author and editor of the homemade zine Illuminations, Jacob has been covering a wide array of conspiracy theories.

When Jacob’s estranged grandfather, Francis, who also suffers from schizophrenia (but chooses to go untreated), arrives for the funeral, he tells Brandon that Jacob didn’t kill himself; Jacob stumbled upon a secret so deadly he was murdered to keep it quiet. Soon afterwards, Brandon’s life takes a turn for the strange. He notices odd cars and lookalikes following him, his personal property is hacked and stolen, and Brandon can no longer trust what he thinks he sees. As his grasp on reality recedes and falters, Brandon must question whether a sinister gang of doppelgängers, whom Jacob dubbed “the Shadow People,” are really responsible.
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse.

My Book, The Movie: The Lakehouse.

Q&A with Joe Clifford.

My Book, The Movie: The Shadow People.

Writers Read: Joe Clifford.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Linsey Miller

From my Q&A with Linsey Miller, author of What We Devour:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I always want my titles to prepare readers for what they’re about to read, and I knew What We Devour was going to be a very specific type of dark fantasy. It’s about a young girl navigating the politics of a world in which humans gained magic by eating the immortal creatures who previously oppressed them, and it deals heavily with issues of class inequality and the ethics of magic/academia. My publisher and I bounced around a few ideas—they liked Pretty Beasts, What We Destroy, and We All Devour, and I liked A Monstrous Feast and What We Wrought. Eventually, we all agreed on What We Devour. I am particularly drawn to it since it prepares readers for the main metaphor and themes of the book.

What's in a name?

The main character’s name—Lorena Adler—came from...[read on]
Visit Linsey Miller's website.

Q&A with Linsey Miller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Allyson Brantley's "Brewing a Boycott"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism by Allyson P. Brantley.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the late twentieth century, nothing united union members, progressive students, Black and Chicano activists, Native Americans, feminists, and members of the LGBTQ+ community quite as well as Coors beer. They came together not in praise of the ice cold beverage but rather to fight a common enemy: the Colorado-based Coors Brewing Company. Wielding the consumer boycott as their weapon of choice, activists targeted Coors for allegations of antiunionism, discrimination, and conservative political ties. Over decades of organizing and coalition-building from the 1950s to the 1990s, anti-Coors activists molded the boycott into a powerful means of political protest.

In this first narrative history of one of the longest boycott campaigns in U.S. history, Allyson P. Brantley draws from a broad archive as well as oral history interviews with long-time boycotters to offer a compelling, grassroots view of anti-corporate organizing and the unlikely coalitions that formed in opposition to the iconic Rocky Mountain brew. The story highlights the vibrancy of activism in the final decades of the twentieth century and the enduring legacy of that organizing for communities, consumer activists, and corporations today.
Visit Allyson Brantley's website.

The Page 99 Test: Brewing a Boycott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about Sicily

Jamie Mackay is a writer and translator based in Florence. His work has appeared in the Guardian, the TLS, Frieze and elsewhere.

The Invention of Sicily: A Mediterranean History is his first book.

At the Guardian he tagged ten books "that show the island’s miscellaneous character, leaving the mafia in the margins where it belongs." One title on the list:
Terroni: All That Has Been Done to Ensure That the Italians of the South Became ‘Southerners’ by Pino Aprile

Terroni is a term, analogous to “redneck” in the US, that north Italians invented in the postwar years to distance themselves from their poorer, southern compatriots. Living in Tuscany, I’m frequently shocked by how casually people here use the slur. Here, Aprile traces anti-southern discrimination further back, to 1861 and the founding of the Italian nation-state. Italy, he argues, is not actually a unified country but a colonial project that the Savoy monarchy in Turin devised to pay off their war debts from fighting Austria. Polemics aside, this is a marvellous piece of research and a valuable catalogue of uncomfortable truths about the origins of southern Italy’s economic woes.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Pg. 69: TJ Klune's "Flash Fire"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Flash Fire: The Extraordinaries, Book Two by TJ Klune.

About the book, from the publisher:
Flash Fire is the explosive sequel to The Extraordinaries by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.
Visit TJ Klune's website.

Q&A with TJ Klune.

The Page 69 Test: Flash Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael K. Miller's "Shock to the System"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Shock to the System: Coups, Elections, and War on the Road to Democratization by Michael K. Miller.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do democracies emerge? Shock to the System presents a novel theory of democratization that focuses on how events like coups, wars, and elections disrupt autocratic regimes and trigger democratic change. Employing the broadest qualitative and quantitative analyses of democratization to date, Michael Miller demonstrates that more than nine in ten transitions since 1800 occur in one of two ways: countries democratize following a major violent shock or an established ruling party democratizes through elections and regains power within democracy. This framework fundamentally reorients theories on democratization by showing that violent upheavals and the preservation of autocrats in power—events typically viewed as antithetical to democracy—are in fact central to its foundation.

Through in-depth examinations of 139 democratic transitions, Miller shows how democratization frequently follows both domestic shocks (coups, civil wars, and assassinations) and international shocks (defeat in war and withdrawal of an autocratic hegemon) due to autocratic insecurity and openings for opposition actors. He also shows how transitions guided by ruling parties spring from their electoral confidence in democracy. Both contexts limit the power autocrats sacrifice by accepting democratization, smoothing along the transition. Miller provides new insights into democratization’s predictors, the limited gains from events like the Arab Spring, the best routes to democratization for long-term stability, and the future of global democracy.

Disputing commonly held ideas about violent events and their effects on democracy, Shock to the System offers new perspectives on how regimes are transformed.
Follow Michael K. Miller on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Shock to the System.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six thrillers in which the natural world is a character

Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the critically acclaimed author of four books: the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated short story collection How to Get Along with Women (2012), the literary thriller The Devil You Know (2015), and the 1950s-era Hitchcock-style thriller, Hysteria (2018), both of which were named Globe and Mail Best Books of the year, and shortlisted for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize.

Her newest novel, The Retreat, is about a dancer who must separate truth from lies in order to survive a deadly storm at a remote mountain arts retreat.

At CrimeReads de Mariaffi tagged six favorite "books that use monstrous nature not only as a setting—but as a true character in the story." One title on the list:
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Wild animals are again a theme in this suspense novel about Joan, a mother on what seems like a regular afternoon trip to the zoo with her young son—until a shooter comes through the gate just before closing time. Joan has to use her knowledge of the zoo’s pathways and exhibits to survive a deadly game of hide-and-seek—keeping herself and her four-year old safe from a gunman who is hunting humans.
Read about another entry on the list.

Fierce Kingdom is among Jenny Milchman's ten thrilling mothers in fiction, Christina McDonald's eight thrillers featuring moms on a mission, Sarah J. Harris's eight mysteries with images that might stay with you forever and Mary Kate Carr's eleven recent novels that powerfully tackle gun violence.

The Page 69 Test: Fierce Kingdom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Q&A with Amy Makechnie

From my Q&A with Amy Makechnie, author of: Ten Thousand Tries:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Ten Thousand Tries immediately alludes to a theory that Malcom Gladwell made famous and which my main character, Golden, seizes upon: that you can master anything by doing it ten thousand times. (Gladwell also says this does not apply to sports, but I wasn’t about to tell Golden that!) Golden is convinced that with enough effort, he can take his team to the soccer championship, stop Lucy Littlehouse from moving away, and prevent his dad from losing to the three worst letters in the alphabet: A-L-S. The title is wonderfully alliterative and works well, but the original title was When We Were Golden. Even now I am...[read on]
Visit Amy Makechnie's website.

Q&A with Amy Makechnie.

--Marshal Zeringue