Monday, October 25, 2021

Pg. 99: Jules Stewart's "Policing the Big Apple"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Policing the Big Apple: The Story of the NYPD by Jules Stewart.

About the book, from the publisher:
As debates about defunding US police forces continue, this book offers an enlightening historical overview of one of the largest metropolitan contingents: the New York City Police Department.

The NYPD is America’s largest and most celebrated law enforcement agency. This book examines the history of policing in New York City, from colonial days and the formation of the NYPD at the turn of the twentieth century, through 1930s battles with the Mafia to the Zero Tolerance of the 1990s. Jules Stewart explores political influence, corruption, reform, and community relations through stories of the NYPD’s commissioners and the visions they had for the force and the city, as well as at the level of cops on the beat.

This book is an indispensable chronicle for anyone interested in policing and the history of New York.
Visit Jules Stewart's website.

The Page 99 Test: Policing the Big Apple.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Margaret Verble

From my Q&A with Margaret Verble, author of When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky:
What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Certainly, the greatest influence on my writing was the fact that I grew up watching a treaty being broken. When I was young, in Oklahoma the Army Corp of Engineers was stealing the Arkansas River bed from the Cherokees in trucks carrying valuable sand and gravel right down the very section line I portray in Maud’s Line. It was an outrageous theft that went on for several years and it infuriated me. Those trucks ran me to the side of the road more than once and I had to watch the old Indians in my family stomach that theft when I knew they had been stolen from again and again.

Another influence that pertains directly to When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky is the fact that my mother was a fourth grade teacher and the fourth grade was where children in Nashville were first introduced to its history. Which, believe me, consisted of a lot of stories of murderous Indians – who were Cherokees – attacking poor innocent white people for no apparent reason. That, too, infuriated me, both on my own behalf and on my mother’s, who had to teach that nonsense year after year. She...[read on]
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

Writers Read: Margaret Verble (March 2019).

The Page 69 Test: When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky.

Q&A with Margaret Verble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Five top dark and disturbing reads

James Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.

He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves (2017) and Reprieve (2021). He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.

At the Waterstones blog he tagged five favorite dark and disturbing reads, including:
The Changeling by Victor LaValle

This book delivers on so many fronts. It’s deeply disturbing and profoundly moving, exploring issues of family and parenthood while barreling through a world of intense supernatural menace. There are very few authors who can blend the magical with the real so effortlessly, but LaValle is one of them, and this is him in top form.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Changeling is among A.K. Larkwood's five tense books that blend sci-fi and horror, Leah Schnelbach's ten sci-fi and fantasy must-reads from the 2010s, T. Marie Vandelly's top ten suspenseful horror novels featuring domestic terrors and C.J. Tudor's six thrillers featuring missing, mistaken, or "changed" children.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nora C. Benedict's "Borges and the Literary Marketplace"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Borges and the Literary Marketplace: How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading by Nora C. Benedict.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fascinating history of Jorge Luis Borges’s efforts to revolutionize and revitalize literature in Latin America

Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) stands out as one of the most widely regarded and inventive authors in world literature. Yet the details of his employment history throughout the early part of the twentieth century, which foreground his efforts to develop a worldly reading public, have received scant critical attention. From librarian and cataloguer to editor and publisher, this writer emerges as entrenched in the physical minutiae and social implications of the international book world.

Drawing on years of archival research coupled with bibliographical analysis, this book explains how Borges’s more general involvement in the publishing industry influenced not only his formation as a writer, but also global book markets and reading practices in world literature. In this way it tells the story of Borges’s profound efforts to revolutionize and revitalize literature in Latin America through his varying jobs in the publishing industry.
Visit Nora C. Benedict's website.

The Page 99 Test: Borges and the Literary Marketplace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 23, 2021

What is David R. Slayton reading?

Featured at Writers Read: David R. Slayton, author of Trailer Park Trickster.

His entry begins:
The pandemic has me reading a lot of comfort reads. I’ve been revisiting Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate and Terry Pratchett’s books, especially the ones with Granny Weatherwax like Witches Abroad. It’s not all light stuff though.

Tough times make me crave escape, and great characters are especially welcome. I’ve been diving into C.S. Poe’s Magic and Steam series and Gregory Ashe’s gritty detective novels. They’ve been collaborating lately and I recommend A Friend in the Dark. They do such an amazing job of making New York feel like...[read on]
About Trailer Park Trickster, from the publisher:
They are my harvest, and I will reap them all.

Returning to Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the funeral of his mysterious and beloved aunt Sue, Adam Binder once again finds himself in the path of deadly magic when a dark druid begins to prey on members of Adam’s family. It all seems linked to the death of Adam’s father many years ago—a man who may have somehow survived as a warlock.

Watched by the police, separated from the man who may be the love of his life, compelled to seek the truth about his connection to the druid, Adam learns more about his family and its troubled history than he ever bargained for, and finally comes face-to-face with the warlock he has vowed to stop.

Meanwhile, beyond the Veil of the mortal world, Argent the Queen of Swords and Vic the Reaper undertake a dangerous journey to a secret meeting of the Council of Races . . . where the sea elves are calling for the destruction of humanity.
Visit David R. Slayton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trailer Park Trickster.

The Page 69 Test: Trailer Park Trickster.

Writers Read: David R. Slayton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight memoirs of women hiking in the wilderness

Annabel Abbs is an award-winning author and journalist. She writes regularly for a wide range of newspapers and magazines and lives in London, with her husband and four children. Her novels, The Joyce Girl and Frieda, were published to great acclaim.

Abbs's newest novel is Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship.

Her first foray into memoir and her first solo-authored non-fiction book is Windswept: Walking in the Footsteps of Remarkable Women.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books about women walking in nature. One title on the list:
I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain by Anita Sethi

After a traumatic incident in which she was racially abused, Sethi sets out to walk one of England’s wildest, most remote trails: the Pennine Way. On this journey of reclamation, she reflects on issues of belonging and identity, eloquently linking the outer landscape to her inner emotional topography. In the wilderness, she experiences the kindness of strangers, the space to wonder, and the therapeutic properties of untamed nature.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 22, 2021

Pg. 69: Jessica Vitalis's "The Wolf's Curse"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Wolf's Curse by Jessica Vitalis.

About the book, from the publisher:
Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he cried Wolf and was accused of witchcraft. The Great White Wolf brings only death, Gauge’s superstitious village believes. If Gauge can see the Wolf, then he must be in league with it.

So instead of playing with friends in the streets or becoming his grandpapa’s partner in the carpentry shop, Gauge must hide and pretend he doesn’t exist. But then the Wolf comes for his grandpapa. And for the first time, Gauge is left all alone, with a bounty on his head and the Wolf at his heels.

A young feather collector named Roux offers Gauge assistance, and he is eager for the help. But soon the two—both recently orphaned—are questioning everything they have ever believed about their village, about the Wolf, and about death itself.

Narrated by the sly, crafty Wolf, Jessica Vitalis’s debut novel is a vivid and literary tale about family, friendship, belonging, and grief. The Wolf’s Curse will captivate readers of Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island and Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy.
Visit Jessica Vitalis's website.

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis.

The Page 69 Test: The Wolf's Curse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paul Freedman's "Why Food Matters"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Why Food Matters by Paul Freedman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the author of Ten Restaurants That Changed America, an exploration of food’s cultural importance and its crucial role throughout human history

Why does food matter? Historically, food has not always been considered a serious subject on par with, for instance, a performance art like opera or a humanities discipline like philosophy. Necessity, ubiquity, and repetition contribute to the apparent banality of food, but these attributes don’t capture food’s emotional and cultural range, from the quotidian to the exquisite.

In this short, passionate book, Paul Freedman makes the case for food’s vital importance, stressing its crucial role in the evolution of human identity and human civilizations. Freedman presents a highly readable and illuminating account of food’s unique role in our lives, a way of expressing community and celebration, but also divisive with regard to race, cultural difference, gender, and geography. This wide-ranging book is a must-read for food lovers and all those interested in how cultures and identities are formed and maintained.
Learn more about Why Food Matters at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Why Food Matters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight noir novels featuring saps and suckers

Gregory Galloway is the author of the novels The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand and the Alex Award-winning As Simple As Snow. His short stories have appeared in the Rush Hour and Taking Aim anthologies. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Galloway's new novel is Just Thieves.

At CrimeReads Galloway tagged eight "favorite noirs of characters in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong idea, thinking everything will be alright," including:
Ride the Pink Horse, by Dorothy B. Hughes

It’s hard to pick a Dorothy B. Hughes novel that doesn’t have a character who gets into more and more trouble with every page. She likes to sink her characters way in over their heads and see how they’ll make out. Whether it’s Sailor, who’s out to blackmail his old boss, a US Senator, and outwit the cop who may or may not be after him (Ride the Pink Horse, 1946); or Dix Steele, who thinks he can outsmart everyone, including his best friend Brub, a detective looking for a serial killer (In a Lonely Place, 1947); or doctor Hugh Denismore, who has to try and clear himself of the murder of a hitchhiker he’d picked up earlier (The Expendable Man, 1963), as external forces tighten around him.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bethany Ball's "The Pessimists," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Pessimists by Bethany Ball.

The entry begins:
My first choice for Virginia Powers, my main protagonist, is Uma Thurman. I wanted to explore an idea of fading American middle-aged beauty. I’m a little ashamed of the fact that this beauty is very cisgender, blonde, and white. I know it’s changing. But I’ve experienced having a close friend who was blonde and tall and walking down the street with them and feeling utterly invisible. I always wondered what it would feel like to have all eyes on you, to be a “ten” and then to watch as that sort of beauty faded or was actually, as in Virginia’s case, taken away to some extent. My mother would never buy me a Barbie doll because, as she said, she was quite certain I wouldn’t look anything like one. The American or maybe even world obsession with the tall beautiful white blonde is a strong one and my character Virginia has been sort of drifting along on the power of that myth.

Rachel is a transplant from New York City to the suburbs and she was in part inspired, at least physically, by a woman I went to high school with who I see from time to time in New York City...[read on]
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

Q&A with Bethany Ball.

My Book, The Movie: The Pessimists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: José Vergara's "All Future Plunges to the Past"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: All Future Plunges to the Past: James Joyce in Russian Literature by José Vergara.

About the book, from the publisher:
All Future Plunges to the Past explores how Russian writers from the mid-1920s on have read and responded to Joyce's work. Through contextually rich close readings, José Vergara uncovers the many roles Joyce has occupied in Russia over the last century, demonstrating how the writers Yury Olesha, Vladimir Nabokov, Andrei Bitov, Sasha Sokolov, and Mikhail Shishkin draw from Joyce's texts, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, to address the volatile questions of lineages in their respective Soviet, émigré, and post-Soviet contexts. Interviews with contemporary Russian writers, critics, and readers of Joyce extend the conversation to the present day, showing how the debates regarding the Irish writer's place in the Russian pantheon are no less settled one hundred years after Ulysses.

The creative reworkings, or "translations," of Joycean themes, ideas, characters, plots, and styles made by the five writers Vergara examines speak to shifting cultural norms, understandings of intertextuality, and the polarity between Russia and the West. Vergara illuminates how Russian writers have used Joyce's ideas as a critical lens to shape, prod, and constantly redefine their own place in literary history.

All Future Plunges to the Past offers one overarching approach to the general narrative of Joyce's reception in Russian literature. While each of the writers examined responded to Joyce in an individual manner, the sum of their methods reveals common concerns. This subject raises the issue of cultural values and, more importantly, how they changed throughout the twentieth century in the Soviet Union, Russian emigration, and the post-Soviet Russian environment.
Visit José Vergara's website.

The Page 99 Test: All Future Plunges to the Past.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten true crime novels

After a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school early. Working in a number of dead end jobs, all of them badly, before studying at night school to get into Glasgow University Law School.

Mira went on to study for a PhD at Strathclyde, misusing her student grant to write her first novel. This was Garnethill, published in 1998, which won the Crime Writers Association John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.

She has since published more than a dozen novels. Her new novella is Rizzio, based on the true story of a brutal murder in 1566, in the court of Mary, Queen of Scots.

At the Guardian Mina tagged ten top true crime novels, including:
The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

A fat book by an important man who hated women. I resented and enjoyed this Pulitzer prize-winning book about Gary Gilmore, published 13 years after In Cold Blood. It is very readable and set the conventions of the genre for a long time. It begins with a history of the geography and culture of the area, Gilmore’s family background, his early life and then moves onto his crimes and the consequences. If you like fat books by important men, you’ll love this.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Executioner's Song also appears among the six books that most influenced Emily St. John Mandel as a writer, J. Michael Lennon's ten best Mailer books, Ron Hansen's five best literary tales of real-life crimes and Sarah Weinman's seven best true crime books; it is one of five books that made a difference to Josh Brolin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

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 Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire begins:
When someone suggested that Thomas Jefferson had borrowed some of the language of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson replied, in what remains the classic defense against a charge of plagiarism, that his responsibility had been “to be correct, not original.” Lincoln thought the Declaration not just correct, but should become our “civic religion,” taught to children so early that it would become a permanent part of their character. Mention the year l776, we immediately think of the Declaration, but 1776 was also the year in which two of the most important books ever written were published, both of them, like the Declaration, connected with the American experiment.

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, demonstrated, once and for all, that the desire for acquisition, if left free of governmental, or religious, restriction would lead to a constant increase in the wealth of the community. Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire demonstrated how the greatest empire the world has ever seen was destroyed by a religion that taught that the only thing important was not what happened here...[read on]
About Buffa's new novel Neumann’s Last Concert, from the publisher:
Neumann’s Last Concert is a story about music and war and the search for what led to the greatest evil in modern history. It is the story of an American boy, Wilfred Malone, who lost his father in the early days of the Second World War and a German refugee, Isaac Neumann, the greatest concert pianist of his age when he lived in Berlin, but who now lives, anonymous and alone, in a single rented room in a small town a few miles from San Francisco.

Wilfred has a genius for the piano, “a keen curiosity not yet corrupted by vanity” and “a memory that forgot nothing essential.” Neumann, alone in his room, is constantly writing, an endless labyrinth of questions and answers, driving him farther and farther back into the past, searching for the causes, searching for the meaning, of what happened in Germany, trying to understand what had led him, a German Jew, to stay in Germany when he could have left but instead continued to perform right up to the night that during his last concert they took his wife away.

Neumann’s Last Concert is a novel about the great catastrophe of the 20th century and the way in which music, great music, preserves both the hope of human decency amidst the carnage of human insanity and the possibility of what human beings might still accomplish.
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.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Diane Coyle's "Cogs and Monsters"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Cogs and Monsters: What Economics Is, and What It Should Be by Diane Coyle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Digital technology, big data, big tech, machine learning, and AI are revolutionizing both the tools of economics and the phenomena it seeks to measure, understand, and shape. In Cogs and Monsters, Diane Coyle explores the enormous problems—but also opportunities—facing economics today if it is to respond effectively to these dizzying changes and help policymakers solve the world’s crises, from pandemic recovery and inequality to slow growth and the climate emergency.

Mainstream economics, Coyle says, still assumes people are “cogs”—self-interested, calculating, independent agents interacting in defined contexts. But the digital economy is much more characterized by “monsters”—untethered, snowballing, and socially influenced unknowns. What is worse, by treating people as cogs, economics is creating its own monsters, leaving itself without the tools to understand the new problems it faces. In response, Coyle asks whether economic individualism is still valid in the digital economy, whether we need to measure growth and progress in new ways, and whether economics can ever be objective, since it influences what it analyzes. Just as important, the discipline needs to correct its striking lack of diversity and inclusion if it is to be able to offer new solutions to new problems.

Filled with original insights, Cogs and Monsters offers a road map for how economics can adapt to the rewiring of society, including by digital technologies, and realize its potential to play a hugely positive role in the twenty-first century.
Visit The Enlightened Economist blog.

The Page 69 Test: Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science.

The Page 99 Test: The Economics of Enough.

The Page 99 Test: Cogs and Monsters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top books about living in Los Angeles

María Amparo Escandón is the author of the #1 L.A. Times bestseller Esperanza’s Box of Saints and González & Daughter Trucking Co. Named a writer to watch by both Newsweek and the L.A. Times, she was born in Mexico City and has lived in Los Angeles for nearly four decades.

Escandón's new novel is L.A. Weather.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight favorite books about living in Los Angeles, including:
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising is a novel that captures the glamour, the empty façades, and the excesses of a celebrity-oriented surfing family. Malibu is part of the L.A. scene: a mix of money, sport, beach culture, and make-believe in approximately equal parts. Jenkins Reid focuses on the events of a single day when four siblings, children of a famous crooner, are throwing the end of summer party that every partygoer wants to attend. Hundreds show up and the party catalyzes the individual and family tensions until excess turns into mayhem and disaster. The four siblings are surfers and one can gather that the waves and their consequences are a proxy for lives lived on the edge: on the edge of financial, existential and emotional disaster, when the beauty of catching the perfect wave can be followed by a tumble into the angry ocean.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis

From my Q&A with Jessica Vitalis, author of The Wolf's Curse:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The working title for this story was “Death” until very late in the process; not because I thought it was a great title, but because it’s a Grim Reaper retelling and I thought of the story as my “death” book as I was drafting. It wasn’t until I started thinking about querying that I landed on The Wolf’s Curse as the title. I love the ambiguity in that readers can’t be sure if the title means that the wolf is cursed or if the wolf is the one doing the cursing. (You’ll have to read the book to find out!)

What's in a name?

I think names are...[read on]
Visit Jessica Vitalis's website.

Q&A with Jessica Vitalis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Martin Williams's "When the Sahara Was Green"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: When the Sahara Was Green: How Our Greatest Desert Came to Be by Martin Williams.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, equal in size to China or the United States. Yet, this arid expanse was once a verdant, pleasant land, fed by rivers and lakes. The Sahara sustained abundant plant and animal life, such as Nile perch, turtles, crocodiles, and hippos, and attracted prehistoric hunters and herders. What transformed this land of lakes into a sea of sands? When the Sahara Was Green describes the remarkable history of Earth’s greatest desert—including why its climate changed, the impact this had on human populations, and how scientists uncovered the evidence for these extraordinary events.

From the Sahara’s origins as savanna woodland and grassland to its current arid incarnation, Martin Williams takes us on a vivid journey through time. He describes how the desert’s ancient rocks were first fashioned, how dinosaurs roamed freely across the land, and how it was later covered in tall trees. Along the way, Williams addresses many questions: Why was the Sahara previously much wetter, and will it be so again? Did humans contribute to its desertification? What was the impact of extreme climatic episodes—such as prolonged droughts—upon the Sahara’s geology, ecology, and inhabitants? Williams also shows how plants, animals, and humans have adapted to the Sahara and what lessons we might learn for living in harmony with the harshest, driest conditions in an ever-changing global environment.

A valuable look at how an iconic region has changed over millions of years, When the Sahara Was Green reveals the desert’s surprising past to reflect on its present, as well as its possible future.
Visit Martin Williams's website.

The Page 99 Test: When the Sahara Was Green.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books about crime & colonialism at the U.S.-Mexico border

Bruce McCandless III grew up in the shadow of Houston’s Johnson Space Center during the Apollo and Skylab eras. He graduated from the Plan II Honors Program of the University of Texas in 1983 and went on to earn degrees from the University of Reading in England and the University of Texas School of Law. After teaching at Saint David’s School in New York City, he returned to Austin to practice law and retired as general counsel of Superior HealthPlan in 2019. He is the author of Sour Lake (2011), Beatrice and the Basilisk (2014), and, with his daughter Carson, Carson Clare’s Trail Guide to Avoiding Death (And Other Unpleasant Consequences) (2017).

His latest work, In the Land of Dead Horses, is a spine-tingling tale of Texas history and supernatural terror. A prequel to 2011’s Sour Lake, In the Land of Dead Horses reintroduces readers to Texas Ranger Jewel Lightfoot and his macabre world of double-barreled demon hunting.

At CrimeReads McCandless tagged six books "to truly understand the currents of violence and criminality that run just below the surface of U.S.-Mexican relations," including:
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Jupiter of the border fiction solar system, a sort of Bible of blood and bad feeling, McCarthy’s 1985 masterpiece chronicles the relationship of two men—the Kid and the bizarre, possibly supernatural Judge—as they immerse themselves in murder and mayhem from Texas down into Mexico and back again. Set against the horrific true tale of the 1842 Mier Expedition, Blood Meridian has enough apocalyptic prose and dreamlike distancing to double as a script for the end of the world. Truly horrific and stunning, not quite allegorical but not entirely real either, you’ll want to wash your hands after reading this one—and maybe scrub your soul while you’re at it. For a more recent treatment of similar themes, try the 2021 film “The Forever Purge” (seriously).
Read about another entry on the list.

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among Paul Howarth's top ten tales from the frontier, Craig DiLouie’s ten top fantasy books steeped in the Southern Gothic, Graham McTavish's six best books, ShortList's roundup of literature's forty greatest villains, Brian Boone's five great novels that will probably never be made into movies, Sarah Porter's five best books with unusual demons and devils, Chet Williamson's top ten novels about deranged killers, Callan Wink's ten best books set in the American West, Simon Sebag Montefiore's six favorite books, Richard Kadrey's five books about awful, awful people, Jason Sizemore's top five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, Robert Allison's top ten novels of desert war, Alexandra Silverman's top fourteen wrathful stories, James Franco's six favorite books, Philipp Meyer's five best books that explain America, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, David Vann's six favorite books, Robert Olmstead's six favorite books, Michael Crummey's top ten literary feuds, Philip Connors's top ten wilderness books, six books that made a difference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns, Maile Meloy's six best books, and David Foster Wallace's five direly underappreciated post-1960 U.S. novels. It appears on the New York Times list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 18, 2021

Pg. 69: Margaret Verble's "When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble.

About the book, from the publisher:
Louise Erdrich meets Karen Russell in this deliciously strange and daringly original novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Margaret Verble: set in 1926 Nashville, it follows a death-defying young Cherokee horse-diver who, with her companions from the Glendale Park Zoo, must get to the bottom of a mystery that spans centuries.

Two Feathers, a young Cherokee horse-diver on loan to Glendale Park Zoo from a Wild West show, is determined to find her own way in the world. Two’s closest friend at Glendale is Hank Crawford, who loves horses almost as much as she does. He is part of a high-achieving, land-owning Black family. Neither Two nor Hank fit easily into the highly segregated society of 1920s Nashville.

When disaster strikes during one of Two’s shows, strange things start to happen at the park. Vestiges of the ancient past begin to surface, apparitions appear, and then the hippo falls mysteriously ill. At the same time, Two dodges her unsettling, lurking admirer and bonds with Clive, Glendale’s zookeeper and a World War I veteran, who is haunted—literally—by horrific memories of war. To get to the bottom of it, an eclectic cast of park performers, employees, and even the wealthy stakeholders must come together, making When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky an unforgettable and irresistible tale of exotic animals, lingering spirits, and unexpected friendship.
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

Writers Read: Margaret Verble (March 2019).

The Page 69 Test: When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Claudia Goldin's "Career and Family"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity by Claudia Goldin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A century ago, it was a given that a woman with a college degree had to choose between having a career and a family. Today, there are more female college graduates than ever before, and more women want to have a career and family, yet challenges persist at work and at home. This book traces how generations of women have responded to the problem of balancing career and family as the twentieth century experienced a sea change in gender equality, revealing why true equity for dual career couples remains frustratingly out of reach.

Drawing on decades of her own groundbreaking research, Claudia Goldin provides a fresh, in-depth look at the diverse experiences of college-educated women from the 1900s to today, examining the aspirations they formed—and the barriers they faced—in terms of career, job, marriage, and children. She shows how many professions are “greedy,” paying disproportionately more for long hours and weekend work, and how this perpetuates disparities between women and men. Goldin demonstrates how the era of COVID-19 has severely hindered women’s advancement, yet how the growth of remote and flexible work may be the pandemic’s silver lining.

Antidiscrimination laws and unbiased managers, while valuable, are not enough. Career and Family explains why we must make fundamental changes to the way we work and how we value caregiving if we are ever to achieve gender equality and couple equity.
Learn more about Career and Family at the Princeton University Press website and follow Claudia Goldin on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Career and Family.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine books about love, loss, and belonging set in the Caribbean

Myriam J. A. Chancy, Guggenheim Fellow & HBA Chair of the Humanities at Scripps College, is a Haitian-Canadian/American writer born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and subsequently raised there and in Canada. After obtaining her BA in English/Philosophy from the University of Manitoba (1989) and her MA in English Literature from Dalhousie University, she completed her Ph. D. in English at the University of Iowa.

Chancy's new novel on the 2010 Haiti earthquake is What Storm, What Thunder.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine books about love, loss, and belonging set in the Caribbean, including:
Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall

Paule Marshall’s classic tackles themes of lost love, ideals, and spirituality in the journey of her African American protagonist, Avey (short for Avatara) who finds herself compelled to leave a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean. Disembarked in the small island of Carriacou, Avey recovers her African roots through local traditions like the “drum dance” and recalls traditions from her childhood in Ibo Landing in Georgia. Fleeting references through sub-headings and epigraphs to Haitian vodou relate the story to a wider web of African retentions through the Francophone Caribbean.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Pg. 99: Alessandra Tanesini's "The Mismeasure of the Self"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Mismeasure of the Self: A Study in Vice Epistemology by Alessandra Tanesini.

About the book , from the publisher:
The Mismeasure of the Self is dedicated to vices that blight many lives. They are the vices of superiority, characteristic of those who feel entitled, superior and who have an inflated opinion of themselves, and those of inferiority, typical of those who are riddled with self-doubt and feel inferior. Arrogance, narcissism, haughtiness, and vanity are among the first group. Self-abasement, fatalism, servility, and timidity exemplify the second. This book shows these traits to be to vices of self-evaluation and describes their pervasive harmful effects in some detail. Even though the influence of these traits extends to any aspect of life, the focus of this book is their damaging impact on the life of the intellect. Tanesini develops and defends a view of these vices that puts vicious motivations at their core. The analyses developed in this work build on empirical research in attitude psychology and on philosophical theories in virtue ethics and epistemology. The book concludes with a positive proposal for weakening vice and promoting virtue.
Visit Alessandra Tanesini's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Mismeasure of the Self.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books on troublesome Windsor women

Wendy Holden has written numerous books and is a celebrated journalist. She lives in England.

Her latest novel is The Duchess.

At Lit Hib Holden tagged five top books on Troublesome Women in the House of Windsor. One title on the list:
Marion Crawford, The Little Princesses

When this book fell off the shelf in a second-hand bookshop in the North of England, I picked it up to put it back. Then I opened it and read the first page in which Marion Crawford explains that she never intended to work for royalty; her interest was in the children of the Edinburgh slums. I was hooked right there and then and that was without even knowing she was with the King, Queen, and Princesses throughout the seismic events of the Abdication, Coronation, and the whole of World War II, all of which she saw exactly as they did. And yet the reward for her devotion was ostracism. It’s an utterly incredible story and one I made into my 2020 novel The Royal Governess.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Pg. 99: Kate Clifford Larson's "Walk With Me"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larson.

About the book, from the publisher:
She was born the 20th child in a family that had lived in the Mississippi Delta for generations, first as enslaved people and then as sharecroppers. She left school at 12 to pick cotton, as those before her had done, in a world in which white supremacy was an unassailable citadel. She was subjected without her consent to an operation that deprived her of children. And she was denied the most basic of all rights in America—the right to cast a ballot—in a state in which Blacks constituted nearly half the population.

And so Fannie Lou Hamer lifted up her voice. Starting in the early 1960s and until her death in 1977, she was an irresistible force, not merely joining the swelling wave of change brought by civil rights but keeping it in motion. Working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which recruited her to help with voter-registration drives, Hamer became a community organizer, women's rights activist, and co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She summoned and used what she had against the citadel—her anger, her courage, her faith in the Bible, and her conviction that hearts could be won over and injustice overcome. She used her brutal beating at the hands of Mississippi police, an ordeal from which she never fully recovered, as the basis of a televised speech at the 1964 Democratic Convention, a speech that the mainstream party—including its standard-bearer, President Lyndon Johnson—tried to contain. But Fannie Lou Hamer would not be held back. For those whose lives she touched and transformed, for those who heard and followed her voice, she was the embodiment of protest, perseverance, and, most of all, the potential for revolutionary change.

Kate Clifford Larson's biography of Fannie Lou Hamer is the most complete ever written, drawing on recently declassified sources on both Hamer and the civil rights movement, including unredacted FBI and Department of Justice files. It also makes full use of interviews with Civil Rights activists conducted by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, and Democratic National Committee archives, in addition to extensive conversations with Hamer's family and with those with whom she worked most closely. Stirring, immersive, and authoritative, Walk with Me does justice to Fannie Lou Hamer's life, capturing in full the spirit, and the voice, that led the fight for freedom and equality in America at its critical moment.
Visit Kate Clifford Larson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Walk with Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four books featuring paintings that illuminate their characters

Katie Lattari is the author of two novels, Dark Things I Adore (2021), her thriller debut, and American Vaudeville (2016), a small press work. Her short stories have appeared in such places as NOO Journal, The Bend, Cabildo Quarterly, and more. She lives in Maine with her husband Kevin and Alex the cat.

At CrimeReads Lattari tagged four books featuring paintings that reveal emotional truths about their characters. One title on the list:
Duma Key by Stephen King (2008)

After a physically devastating freak accident at a construction site and the collapse of his marriage, Edgar Freemantle moves from Minnesota to Florida in an attempt to heal. Part of his recovery process involves taking up a passion long set aside— sketching and painting. As Edgar gets more into his art, it becomes clear that something else is getting into his art as well—something dark, and dangerous—maybe even deadly.

An evil spirit on Duma Key has infiltrated his works, spurred on by the traumatic past and memories of one of Duma’s other residents, Elizabeth Eastlake. Edgar soon realizes that through this haunting of his works by the entity Persephone, anyone who is in possession of one of his paintings either dies or kills someone close to him, and it becomes the fight of his life to exorcise this demon from Duma and his work.

At first, Edgar thinks his unique, hard-to-explain paintings are showing premonitions of a reality to come, but soon he realizes that the paintings might be influencing reality itself. Edgar’s works both anticipate and precipitate dark events, his art at times the tipping point between life and death. Instead of capturing a fleeting moment in time, like Lily Briscoe, Edgar is given an incredible power: a kind of mastery over a form of fate and legacy, his works able to manifest what comes next. Who lives, who dies, and what will remain.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 15, 2021

Seven funny novels about the internal politics of working at a newspaper

Katherine Ashenburg is the prize-winning author of two novels, four non-fiction books and hundreds of articles on subjects that range from travel to mourning customs to architecture. She describes herself as a lapsed Dickensian and as someone who has had a different career every decade. Her work life began with a Ph.D. dissertation about Dickens and Christmas, but she quickly left the academic world for successive careers at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer; at the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail as the arts and books editor; and most recently as a full-time writer.

[ Q&A with Katherine Ashenburg]

Ashenburg's new novel is Her Turn. In it, Liz, a divorced newspaper editor, finds her tidy life overturned when the woman now married to Liz’s ex-husband submits a personal essay to the column Liz edits. Wife #2 has no idea that she is sending her essay to Wife #1, and Liz decides to keep that a secret, with surprising results. Elizabeth Renzetti writes of it, “It is infused with the joyful spirit of Nora Ephron and lit with a charm all its own.”

At Electric Lit Ashenburg tagged seven funny novels about journalists chasing stories and uncovering intrigue, including:
A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

Mohun Biswas works for the Trinidad Sentinel for a third of his life, evolving as a journalist in tandem with the paper’s transformations. At first, Biswas fits in easily at an unambitious paper that aims to shock and frighten, writing stories about dead babies in brown paper packages and a series about the tallest, shortest, fattest, thinnest, and wickedest Trinidadians. When the Sentinel pivots to greater seriousness (their new motto: “Don’t be bright, just get it right”), so does Mr. Biswas. His vocabulary and the length of his sentences grow, and he becomes a feature writer and later, as the Sentinel’s colonial optimism wanes, the paper’s expert on social welfare. When he dies, he hopes the headline will be “Roving Reporter Passes On.” But fittingly, the Sentinel writes finis to a life of many disappointments and some joys with the bald “Journalist Dies Suddenly.”
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Emily Katz Anhalt's "Embattled"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Embattled: How Ancient Greek Myths Empower Us to Resist Tyranny by Emily Katz Anhalt.

About the book, from the publisher:
An incisive exploration of the way Greek myths empower us to defeat tyranny.

As tyrannical passions increasingly plague twenty-first-century politics, tales told in ancient Greek epics and tragedies provide a vital antidote. Democracy as a concept did not exist until the Greeks coined the term and tried the experiment, but the idea can be traced to stories that the ancient Greeks told and retold. From the eighth through the fifth centuries BCE, Homeric epics and Athenian tragedies exposed the tyrannical potential of individuals and groups large and small. These stories identified abuses of power as self-defeating. They initiated and fostered a movement away from despotism and toward broader forms of political participation.

Following her highly praised book Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths, the classicist Emily Katz Anhalt retells tales from key ancient Greek texts and proceeds to interpret the important message they hold for us today. As she reveals, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Aeschylus's Oresteia, and Sophocles's Antigone encourage us—as they encouraged the ancient Greeks—to take responsibility for our own choices and their consequences. These stories emphasize the responsibilities that come with power (any power, whether derived from birth, wealth, personal talents, or numerical advantage), reminding us that the powerful and the powerless alike have obligations to each other. They assist us in restraining destructive passions and balancing tribal allegiances with civic responsibilities. They empower us to resist the tyrannical impulses not only of others but also in ourselves.

In an era of political polarization, Embattled demonstrates that if we seek to eradicate tyranny in all its toxic forms, ancient Greek epics and tragedies can point the way.
Visit Emily Katz Anhalt's website.

The Page 99 Test: Enraged.

The Page 99 Test: Embattled.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David R. Slayton's "Trailer Park Trickster"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Trailer Park Trickster by David R. Slayton.

About the book, from the publisher:
They are my harvest, and I will reap them all. Returning to Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the funeral of his mysterious and beloved aunt Sue, Adam Binder once again finds himself in the path of deadly magic when a dark druid begins to prey on members of Adam’s family. It all seems linked to the death of Adam’s father many years ago—a man who may have somehow survived as a warlock.

Watched by the police, separated from the man who may be the love of his life, compelled to seek the truth about his connection to the druid, Adam learns more about his family and its troubled history than he ever bargained for, and finally comes face-to-face with the warlock he has vowed to stop.

Meanwhile, beyond the Veil of the mortal world, Argent the Queen of Swords and Vic the Reaper undertake a dangerous journey to a secret meeting of the Council of Races . . . where the sea elves are calling for the destruction of humanity.
Visit David R. Slayton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trailer Park Trickster.

The Page 69 Test: Trailer Park Trickster.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Six top literary works that might be horror novels

James Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.

He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves (2017) and Reprieve (2021). He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.

At CrimeReads he tagged "six books that are widely classified as literary but could have easily made their way over to the horror shelf," including:
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Most people wouldn’t categorize this novel as horror, but really, any frank and brutal depiction of war can and should be categorized as such. What, exactly, is more horrific than mass slaughter dictated and encouraged by idealogue politicians who publicly feign compassion while ordering more of their own youth to kill and be killed? In war, the monster isn’t a vampire or werewolf or disfigured clown, it’s not a singular knife-wielding shadow lurking outside in the woods—no, it’s more horrifying than that. In war, the monster is the invisible force of murderous dogma, the tenets of which always lead to evisceration of some sort. So yeah: This book is rollicking, smart, and often funny, but it’s also terrifying. Its explicit depictions of murder and torture, especially in its last third, have been seared into my brain, and those images have stayed with me for a very long time.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Sympathizer is among Rebecca Starford's six top literary thrillers about espionage, spies, & double agents, Siobhan Adcock's six crime books that explore the experience of veterans, and Shelley Wood's five top epistolary novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James McGrath Morris's "Tony Hillerman: A Life"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Tony Hillerman: A Life by James McGrath Morris.

About the book, from the publisher:
The author of eighteen spellbinding detective novels set on the Navajo Nation, Tony Hillerman simultaneously transformed a traditional genre and unlocked the mysteries of the Navajo culture to an audience of millions. His best-selling novels added Navajo Tribal Police detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to the pantheon of American fictional detectives.

Morris offers a balanced portrait of Hillerman’s personal and professional life and provides a timely appreciation of his work. In intimate detail, Morris captures the author’s early years in Depression-era Oklahoma; his near-death experience in World War II; his sixty-year marriage to Marie; his family life, including six children, five of them adopted; his work in the trenches of journalism; his affliction with PTSD and its connection to his enchantment with Navajo spirituality; and his ascension as one of America’s best-known authors of mysteries. Further, Morris uncovers the almost accidental invention of Hillerman’s iconic detective Joe Leaphorn and the circumstances that led to the addition of Jim Chee as his partner.

Hillerman’s novels were not without controversy. Morris examines the charges of cultural appropriation leveled at the author toward the end of his life. Yet, for many readers, including many Native Americans, Hillerman deserves critical acclaim for his knowledgeable and sensitive portrayal of Diné (Navajo) history, culture, and identity.

At the time of Hillerman’s death, more than 20 million copies of his books were in print, and his novels inspired Robert Redford to adapt several of them to film. In weaving together all the elements of the author’s life, Morris drew on the untapped collection of the author’s papers, extensive archival research, interviews with friends, colleagues, and family, as well as travel in the Navajo Nation. Filled with never-before-told anecdotes and fresh insights, Tony Hillerman will thrill the author’s fans and awaken new interest in his life and literary legacy.
Learn more about the book and author at the official James McGrath Morris website.

The Page 99 Test: Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power.

The Page 99 Test: Eye on the Struggle.

The Page 99 Test: The Ambulance Drivers.

The Page 99 Test: Tony Hillerman: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Bethany Ball

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

Unconsciously I was probably thinking of titles like The Corrections, The Sympathizer, The Immortalists etc. I love how a title like that seems to stand tall and wide with hands on hips and takes a stance. I felt like I was attempting to sum up at least a small portion and a snapshot in time of a generation—Gen X. And it is indeed descriptive of the book. Many Americans have felt increasingly pessimistic since at least the Great Recession in 2008. And I myself fought pessimism every day that Donald Trump was president. On the other hand, I like to end novels with hope. In my last novel, I quote an Arabic aphorism: one day of honey, one day of onion. I try to end a book with a little honey if possible.

What's in a name?

I was really influenced by the time my father became Karl Malden’s Sekulovich in a movie filmed in...[read on]
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

Q&A with Bethany Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The seven weirdest high schools in literature

Bethany Ball was born in Detroit and now lives in New York with her family.

She is the author of What To Do About The Solomons and the newly released, The Pessimists.

[The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.]

At Electic Lit Ball tagged seven "books set in schools where things aren't quite what they seem," including:
Hailsham Boarding School in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I love books where the slow reveal of the reality of a place is the central mystery. Indoctrination is the central theme of Ishiguro’s dystopian novel Never Let Me Go where young students reside unwittingly at a boarding school for future organ donors. The writing is gorgeous and gripping and as both a love story and a mystery, it also manages to explore questions of science decoupled from ethics.
Read about another entry on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Zak Salih's eight books about childhood pals—and the adults they become, Rachel Donohue's list of seven coming-of-age novels with elements of mystery or the supernatural, Chris Mooney's list of six top intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, James Scudamore's top ten list of books about boarding school, Caroline Zancan's list of eight novels about students and teachers behaving badly, LitHub's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Meg Wolitzer's ten favorite books list, Jeff Somers's lists of nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare and "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other" and eight tales of technology run amok and top seven speculative works for those who think they hate speculative fiction, a list of five books that shaped Jason Gurley's Eleanor, Anne Charnock's list of five favorite books with fictitious works of art, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, Sabrina Rojas Weiss's list of ten favorite boarding school novels, Allegra Frazier's top four list of great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, James Browning's top ten list of boarding school books, Jason Allen Ashlock and Mink Choi's top ten list of tragic love stories, Allegra Frazier's list of seven characters whose jobs are worse than yours, Shani Boianjiu's list of five top novels about coming of age, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue