Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pg. 69: Jo Perry's "Pure"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Pure by Jo Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
Caught in a pincer movement between the sudden death of Evelyn (her favourite aunt) and the Corona virus, Ascher Lieb finds herself unexpectedly locked down in her aunt's retirement community with only Evelyn's grief-stricken dog Freddie for company.

As the world tumbles down into a pandemic shaped rabbit-hole Ascher is wracked with guilt that her aunt was buried without the Jewish burial rights of purification.

In order to atone for this dereliction of familial duty, Ascher - in her own words 'a profane, unobservant, atheist Jew, frequent liar and grieving loser' -volunteers to become the newest member of Valley Haverim Chevra Kadisha, a Jewish burial society on-call twenty-four-seven during lockdown and performing Mitzvot at no cost to the bereaved.

What follows is a journey through the insanity of lockdown in Los Angeles as Ascher attempts to bring peace to a troubled soul, and perhaps in the end redemption for herself.

In the hands of a lesser-writer a novel set in the time of covid could lead to a cliché ridden trope-fest, but instead with the skill and grace we've come to expect from Jo Perry she has delivered a book that is wise and beautiful and uplifting.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

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

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about human consciousness

Charles Foster is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.

His books cover many fields. They include books on travel, evolutionary biology, natural history, anthropology, theology, archaeology, philosophy and law. Ultimately they are all attempts to answer the questions ‘Who or what are we?’, and ‘what on earth are we doing here?

Foster's newest book is Being a Human: Adventures in 40,000 years of consciousness. It tries to answer the question ‘What sort of creature is a human?’

At the Guardian Foster tagged ten top books about human consciousness, including:
The Hidden Spring by Mark Solms

The market is awash with books expressing blithe optimism that neuroscience is about to tell us what consciousness is, why it’s there, and how it is generated. Solms is with the mainstream materialist cohort in thinking that consciousness is a function of brain activity. I’d prefer to say that brains receive, process, and perhaps broadcast consciousness. But Solms’s book stands out from the herd, marked by fitting wonderment and doubt.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Brad Ricca's "True Raiders"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: True Raiders: The Untold Story of the 1909 Expedition to Find the Legendary Ark of the Covenant by Brad Ricca.

About the book, from the publisher:
True Raiders is The Lost City of Z meets The Da Vinci Code, from critically acclaimed author Brad Ricca.

This book tells the untold true story of Monty Parker, a British rogue nobleman who, after being dared to do so by Ava Astor, the so-called “most beautiful woman in the world,” headed a secret 1909 expedition to find the fabled Ark of the Covenant. Like a real-life version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this incredible story of adventure and mystery has almost been completely forgotten today.

In 1908, Monty is approached by a strange Finnish scholar named Valter Juvelius who claims to have discovered a secret code in the Bible that reveals the location of the Ark. Monty assembles a ragtag group of blueblood adventurers, a renowned psychic, and a Franciscan father, to engage in a secret excavation just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.

Using recently uncovered records from the original expedition and several newly translated sources, True Raiders is the first retelling of this group’s adventures– in the space between fact and faith, science and romance.
Visit Brad Ricca's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.

Writers Read: Brad Ricca (January 2017).

The Page 99 Test: True Raiders.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Q&A with Andrea Wang

From my Q&A with Andrea Wang, author of The Many Meanings of Meilan:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My agent actually came up with the title The Many Meanings of Meilan. I originally called my book The Orchid Variations, but that doesn't do nearly as much work as a title since it assumes that readers know that the second syllable of Meilan's name, "lan," means "orchid" in Mandarin. The current title does a much better job -- right away you know that Meilan is Chinese American and that the story is about the different ways she sees and defines herself by her name.

What's in a name?

Meilan's name is the crux of the book. When the principal of her new school renames her to "Melanie" because it "sounds more American," she...[read on]
Visit Andrea Wang's website.

Q&A with Andrea Wang.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about water

Giulio Boccaletti is a globally recognized expert on natural resource security and environmental sustainability. He is an honorary research associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford. Trained as a physicist and climate scientist, he holds a doctorate from Princeton University, where he was a NASA Earth Systems Science Fellow. He has been a research scientist at MIT and was a partner at McKinsey & Company, where he was one of the leaders of its Sustainability and Resource Productivity Practice, and the chief strategy officer and global ambassador for water at The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest environmental organizations.

Boccaletti's new book is Water: A Biography.

At Lit Hub he tagged ten top books about water, including:
John McPhee, The Control of Nature

Reading McPhee is to immerse oneself in a masterclass of non-fiction writing. If you have not read his work, you are in for a treat. To read him is to be a student of his craft. One cannot help but admire the images he can conjure through character portraits, minute stories, and vivid landscapes. But, if your purpose is to write non-fiction, as was mine when I read this book for a second time, it might set an impossible standard. The first essay of this book, “Atchafalaya”, describes the archetype of our battle with nature through the management of water: that of holding back the Mississippi from its inevitable escape to unbridled freedom.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Control of Nature is among Bill Streever's six favorite books about science and Nick Offerman’s twelve favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Vicki Delany reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Vicki Delany, author of Deadly Summer Nights.

Her entry begins:
I normally like a good bit of variety in my reading but for some reason this has been my summer of psychological suspense.

I picked up The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris because I’d heard a lot of high praise about it, and I was not disappointed. It’s set in the modern American publishing world, and what writer doesn’t want to know the insides of the business they are so dependent upon yet so distant from. At first the plot seems predictable – Woman One meets Woman Two who she expects to be her ally at work but it doesn’t quite turn out that way – and then it takes a very unexpected turn. I loved the plot, the characters, and the writing, but I also loved that it gave me some insight into lives I’m not familiar with. I’m a white Canadian woman living in a rural part of Canada, so there are not (as in none) many Black people in my personal life.

A long time ago, I was a keen reader of...[read on]
About Deadly Summer Nights, from the publisher:
A summer of fun at a Catskills resort comes to an abrupt end when a guest is found murdered, in this new 1950s set mystery series.

It’s the summer of 1953, and Elizabeth Grady is settling into Haggerman’s Catskills Resort. As a vacation getaway, Haggerman’s is ideal, and although Elizabeth’s ostentatious but well-meaning mother is new to running the resort, Elizabeth is eager to help her organize the guests and the entertainment acts. But Elizabeth will have to resort to untested abilities if she wants to save her mother’s business.

When a reclusive guest is found dead in a lake on the grounds, and a copy of The Communist Manifesto is found in his cabin, the local police chief is convinced that the man was a Russian spy. But Elizabeth isn’t so sure, and with the fate of the resort hanging in the balance, she’ll need to dodge red herrings, withstand the Red Scare, and catch a killer red-handed.
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.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in a Teacup.

Writers Read: Vicki Delany.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Five top aviation books

T.J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021.

She wrote much of Falling, her first novel, on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep.

Newman lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite stories set in the world of aviation, including:
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Best-selling author Blume gives an interesting angle on aircraft accidents: the witnesses and survivors on the ground. Set in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s, it’s the story of a community reckoning with the aftermath of multiple plane crashes and the way the tragedies intertwine the lives of family, friends, and strangers.
Read about another entry on the list.

Newman's Falling is among Louise Candlish's six top mysteries set on moving vehicles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ada Ferrer's "Cuba: An American History"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer.

About the book, from the publisher:
An epic, sweeping history of Cuba and its complex ties to the United States—from before the arrival of Columbus to the present day—written by one of the world’s leading historians of Cuba.

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, where a momentous revolution had taken power three years earlier. For more than half a century, the stand-off continued—through the tenure of ten American presidents and the fifty-year rule of Fidel Castro. His death in 2016, and the retirement of his brother and successor Raúl Castro in 2021, have spurred questions about the country’s future. Meanwhile, politics in Washington—Barack Obama’s opening to the island, Donald Trump’s reversal of that policy, and the election of Joe Biden—have made the relationship between the two nations a subject of debate once more.

Now, award-winning historian Ada Ferrer delivers an ambitious and moving chronicle written for a moment that demands a new reckoning with both the island’s past and its relationship with the United States. Spanning more than five centuries, Cuba: An American History provides us with a front-row seat as we witness the evolution of the modern nation, with its dramatic record of conquest and colonization, of slavery and freedom, of independence and revolutions made and unmade.

Along the way, Ferrer explores the sometimes surprising, often troubled intimacy between the two countries, documenting not only the influence of the United States on Cuba but also the many ways the island has been a recurring presence in US affairs. This, then, is a story that will give American readers unexpected insights into the history of their own nation and, in so doing, help them imagine a new relationship with Cuba.

Filled with rousing stories and characters, and drawing on more than thirty years of research in Cuba, Spain, and the United States—as well as the author’s own extensive travel to the island over the same period—this is a stunning and monumental account like no other.
Follow Ada Ferrer on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Cuba: An American History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Avery Bishop's "One Year Gone"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: One Year Gone: A Novel by Avery Bishop.

About the book, from the publisher:
A mother will risk everything to find her missing daughter in this twisty thriller from the author of Girl Gone Mad.

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

Writers Read: Avery Bishop.

The Page 69 Test: One Year Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 27, 2021

Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins

From my Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins, author of An Empty Grave: An Andy Hayes Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Sometimes I start writing a book with a title in mind, other times I’m not sure of the title and wait for inspiration. For the first book in my series about former Ohio State quarterback turned private eye Andy Hayes, Fourth Down and Out, I went with the pun to telegraph Andy’s troubled back story. The second novel involved an arson fire and I settled on Slow Burn early on. The same went for the fourth novel, The Hunt, about Andy’s search for a missing prostitute. An Empty Grave started life as Dead Run, but it became clear early on that that was only a working name. I settled on the final title after realizing how much of the book focused on secrets and mysterious deaths. In any case, I always aim for...[read on]
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave.

Q&A with Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten novels featuring the high country of the American West

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Women Writing the West. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Mizushima's latest novel is Striking Range.

[Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and TessCoffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & HannahMy Book, The Movie: Burning RidgeThe Page 69 Test: Burning RidgeThe Page 69 Test: Tracking GameMy Book, The Movie: Hanging FallsThe Page 69 Test: Hanging FallsQ&A with Margaret Mizushima]

At Crimereads Mizushima tagged ten mysteries in which the rugged terrain and unforgiving elements of the high country of the American West become characters central to the story, including:
Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish

The Cold Dish is New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson’s first of seventeen novels in his Walt Longmire Mysteries. In the television series based on these novels, Johnson’s protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire, comes to life giving us a hero as rugged as the landscape in the setting for his novels, Wyoming’s Absaroka County. Full of memorable characters, this series provides another binge-worthy experience in which avid readers will want to immerse themselves.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Cold Dish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Max Waltman's "Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges by Max Waltman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Pornography has long proven a polarizing and vexing subject in legal and feminist debates. Women's social movements have fought ferociously against pornography since the 1970s, emphasizing its contribution to violence against women. At least two to four of ten young men consume it three times or more per week. The pornography industry exploits poor populations, who are multiply and intersectionally disadvantaged based on gender, race, or other vulnerabilities. A thorough analytical review of empirical studies using complementing methods demonstrates that using pornography substantially contributes to consumers becoming more sexually aggressive, on average desensitizing them and contributing to a demand for more subordinating, aggressive, and degrading materials. Consumers are also often found wishing to imitate pornography with unwilling partners; many demand sex from prostituted people, who have few or no alternatives. While the supporting scientific evidence of harm is growing exponentially, the politics of legal challenges to pornography still constitutes an amalgam of some of the most intractable, thorny, and adversarial obstacles to change.

This book assesses American, Canadian, and Swedish legal challenges to the explosive spread of pornography within their significantly different democratic systems, and constructs a political and legal theory for effectively challenging the sex industry under law. The obstacles to this challenge are exposed as more ideological and political than strictly legal, although they often play out in the legal arena. Legal challenges to the harms are shown to be more effective under legal systems that promote equality and when the laws empower those most harmed, in contrast to state-enforced regulations (e.g., criminal obscenity laws). Drawing on feminist and intersectional theory, among others, this book argues that pornography is among the linchpins of sex inequality, contending that civil rights legislation and a civil society forum can empower those harmed with representatives who have more substantial incentives to address them.

This book explains why democracies fail to address the harms of pornography, and offers a political and legal theory for changing the status quo. These insights can be applied to other intractable problems associated with hierarchies, and will appeal profoundly to political theorists and those invested in civil and human rights.
Learn more about Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pornography: The Politics of Legal Challenges.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The top ten party girls in literature

Marlowe Granados is a writer and filmmaker.

She co-hosts The Mean Reds, a podcast dedicated to women-led films. Her advice column, "Designs for Living," appears in The Baffler. After spending time in New York and London, Granados currently resides in Toronto. Happy Hour is her début novel.

At Electric List she tagged ten favorite titles featuring "glittering characters who pursue pleasure in a world that doesn't want them to succeed," including:
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Two charming flappers cause mischief across New York, London, and Paris. Written in diary form with clever malapropisms sprinkled throughout and a faux-naïf narrator in Lorelei Lee, nothing bad could ever happen to these women, and that’s a design of their own making.
Read about another entry on the list.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is among Jeff Somers's top ten novels that begin “Dear Diary."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Chris Nickson's "Brass Lives"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Brass Lives by Chris Nickson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A dangerous American is in town, but is he really responsible for a deadly crime spree in Leeds?

Leeds, June 1913.
Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper is overseeing a national suffragist pilgrimage due in Leeds. Then Davey Mullen, an American gangster, returns from New York to his city of birth and seemingly triggers a series of chilling events. Is Davey responsible for the sudden surge in crime, violence and murder on Leeds's streets?
Visit Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

My Book, The Movie: Molten City.

Writers Read: Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: Brass Lives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Georgie Blalock's "The Last Debutantes," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Last Debutantes: A Novel by Georgie Blalock.

The entry begins:
If they made a movie of The Last Debutantes, a heavily British cast would be brilliant for bringing the characters and story to life. I would first cast Lily James as Valerie de Vere Cole. I believe she has the range to play a young woman who must overcome her impoverished upbringing to survive the rigors of the 1939 debutante Season while navigating the politics of No. 10 Downing St. Lillie James, through her various roles in Downton Abbey, Darkest Hour and the current The Pursuit of Love miniseries, has shown that she can simultaneously portray strength and vulnerability, a very necessary trait for anyone playing Valerie.

I think Emily...[read on]
Visit Georgie Blalock's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Other Windsor Girl.

The Page 69 Test: The Other Windsor Girl.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Debutantes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels of the 1930s

Alec Marsh is the author of the Drabble & Harris books.

Rule Britannia, a light-hearted historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Abdication Crisis in 1936, is the first in a series featuring protagonists Ernest Drabble and Percival Harris. The second novel in the series, Enemy of the Raj, is set in British India in 1937. The latest installment, Ghosts of the West, sees Drabble and Harris journey to the United States. Marsh is working on the fourth book in the series which will be set in Turkey.

At the Guardian Marsh tagged ten top novels of the 1930s, including:
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

Geoffrey Household’s gritty “man on the run” novel, set in 1938 and published in 1939, tells the story of an unnamed man who has just attempted to assassinate a foreign dictator – readers can assume it was Adolf Hitler – and is now on the run in Britain from his agents who are bent on killing him. Despite a nod to Richard Hannay (Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps was published in 1915), this is nonetheless a political thriller of its day like no other and has cast long shadows of its own, being cited as an influence for none other than the Rambo series.
Read about another entry on the list.

Rogue Male is among Toby Litt's top ten escapes in books, Dan Smith's top ten fictional hunts, Philip Webb's top ten pulse-racing adventure books, Teju Cole's top ten novels of solitude, and John Mullan's top ten chases in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Wray Vamplew's "Games People Played"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Games People Played: A Global History of Sports by Wray Vamplew.

About the book, from the publisher:
This first global history of sports offers all spectators and participants reason to cheer—and to think.

Games People Played
is, surprisingly, the first global history of sports. The book shows how sports have been practiced, experienced, and made meaningful by players and fans throughout history. It assesses how sports developed and diffused across the globe, as well as many other aspects, from emotion, discrimination, and conviviality; politics, nationalism, and protest; and how economics has turned sports into a huge consumer industry. It shows how sports are sociable and health-giving, and also contribute to charity. However, it also examines their dark side: sports’ impact on the environment, the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and match-fixing. Covering everything from curling to baseball, boxing to motor racing, this book will appeal to anyone who plays, watches, and enjoys sports, and wants to know more of their history and global impact.
Learn more about Games People Played at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Games People Played.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 24, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jo Perry

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

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

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

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

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about death and what comes next

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Just Get on the Pill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about lies and liars

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Summer Sons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Six great novels with mysterious protagonists

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: Security.

My Book, The Movie: Security.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 99 Test: Smashing the Liquor Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Top ten books about long-distance relationships

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Louise Guy reading?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Page 69 Test: A Life Worth Living.

My Book, The Movie: A Life Worth Living.

Q&A with Louise Guy (November 2020).

My Book, The Movie: A Winning Betrayal.

The Page 69 Test: A Winning Betrayal.

Writers Read: Louise Guy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Six books with city settings that play a significant role

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

The Page 69 Test: Feral Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue