Thursday, June 30, 2022

Top ten stories of male friendship

Benjamin Markovits is an author and critic. He teaches creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

His new novel is The Sidekick.

At the Guardian Markovits tagged ten "great stories about male friendship, with all its problems and consolations." One title on the list:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

About the last days of the American West. The heroes are two Texas Rangers, Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, and their friendship is at the heart of the story. What binds them is partly a shared competence, and partly a shared code. Though the two men are very different from each other, they trust and make use of those differences in a way that’s just as intimate as a conversation. When Gus dies, the world for Woodrow becomes a less interesting place to succeed in.
Read about another entry on the list.

Lonesome Dove may just be The Great Texas Novel. It is among Bud Smith's nine top road trip novels, Louis De Berniéres's six best books, and Ann Brashares' six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Tanya Stivers's "The Book of Answers"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Book of Answers: Alignment, Autonomy, and Affiliation in Social Interaction by Tanya Stivers.

About the book, from the publisher:
Imagine for a moment the only way to confirm a yes-no question was by saying Yeah. How different would this make our communication? Relying on a large corpus of naturally occurring recordings of spontaneous social interaction, this book explores all of the ways that we confirm questions in our everyday social lives.

Tanya Stivers analyzes what these different ways of responding allow us to do that is unique to each answer type. When do we answer with Yeah rather than He is, for instance; or when do we use more complicated forms of confirming? This information provides us with the basic response possibility space. From that point we can examine what the range of responses, in particular answers, tells us about what is important to us in managing social relationships through social interaction. The book explains that we can conceptualize the response possibility space as having three dimensions: alignment, autonomy, and affiliation. Speakers rely on the details of their response to position themselves at a particular point in that three-dimensional space, sometimes accepting trade-offs among the dimensions to achieve a stance that is higher in alignment and autonomy and lower in affiliation or higher in affiliation and autonomy but lower in alignment.

The Book of Answers uses real-life conversations to find hidden patterns in how we do things together such as reach decisions, tell stories, or arrive at agreement or disagreement. Delving into the science of how we talk, this book investigates what those patterns tell us about human communication and our social lives.
Learn more about The Book of Answers at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Book of Answers.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Vercher's "After the Lights Go Out," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: After the Lights Go Out by John Vercher.

The entry begins:
As a film and television fanatic, I tend to think cinematically when writing a book. For me that means envisioning the actors who I think could embody my main characters on the screen. This was especially true for the After the Lights Go Out. Who’s here I would love to see in the main roles.

Jesse Williams as Xavier “Scarecrow” Wallace – Williams would bring both the physicality and nuance to Xavier’s challenges of his deteriorating mind and body.

Brian Tyree Henry as Shemar “Shot” Tracy – I’m a huge fan of the show Atlanta and my love for it almost all centered on Henry’s portrayal of Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles. He is equal parts subtle and explosive, and I can’t picture anyone else playing Shot, the cousin Xavier loves and fears in...[read on]
Visit John Vercher's website.

Q&A with John Vercher.

My Book, The Movie: After the Lights Go Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Eight novels exploring the transgressions of young women

Alanna Schubach is a fiction writer, freelance journalist, and teacher. Her debut novel, The Nobodies, is now out from Blackstone.

She was named a NYC Emerging Writers Fellow with the Center for Fiction in 2019, and a Fellow in Fiction with the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2015. Her short stories have appeared in Shenandoah, the Sewanee Review, the Massachusetts Review, Electric Literature, and more, and she has attended residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and MacDowell. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

Schubach teaches fiction and non-fiction for the Gotham Writers Workshop and privately mentors students in creative writing.

At CrimeReads Schubach tagged eight favorite "tales of young women overstepping boundaries, not only committing crimes in the traditional sense, but also transgressing against expectations in other ways, as well." One title on the list:
The Power, by Naomi Alderman

Who hasn’t heard the (dubious) claim that if women were in charge, the world would be a more peaceful place? This novel delivers a jolting refutation to that idea in its depiction of a world in which the power is suddenly awakened in nearly every girl to deliver fatal electric shocks through touch. Soon all the familiar scripts are flipped: it is boys, not girls, who must be wary of walking home alone at night; it is women who form rebel groups and violently overthrow governments; it is women who maraud, assault, and silence men. Through these reversals of fortune Alderman suggests that whoever holds the power will be twisted and rendered sadistic by it, whether male or female. A fascinating framing device hints at how far-ranging such upheaval could be.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jessamyn R. Abel's "Dream Super-Express"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Dream Super-Express: A Cultural History of the World's First Bullet Train by Jessamyn R. Abel.

About the book, from the publisher:
A symbol of the "new Japan" displayed at World's Fairs, depicted in travel posters, and celebrated as the product of a national spirit of innovation, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen—the first bullet train, dubbed the "dream super-express"—represents the bold aspirations of a nation rebranding itself after military defeat, but also the deep problems caused by the unbridled postwar drive for economic growth. At the dawn of the space age, how could a train become such an important symbol? In Dream Super-Express, Jessamyn Abel contends that understanding the various, often contradictory, images of the bullet train reveals how infrastructure operates beyond its intended use as a means of transportation to perform cultural and sociological functions. The multi-layered dreams surrounding this high-speed railway tell a history not only of nation-building but of resistance and disruption. Though it constituted neither a major technological leap nor a new infrastructural connection, the train enchanted, enthralled, and enraged government officials, media pundits, community activists, novelists, and filmmakers. This history of imaginations around the monumental rail system resists the commonplace story of progress to consider the tug-of-war over the significance of the new line. Is it a vision of the future or a reminder of the past, an object of international admiration or a formidable threat? Does it enable new relationships and identities or reify existing social hierarchies? Tracing the meanings assigned to high-speed rail shows how it prompted a reimagination of identity on the levels of individual, metropolis, and nation in a changing Japan.
Learn more about Dream Super-Express at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dream Super-Express.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Stewart Taylor's "The Drowning Sea"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Drowning Sea: A Maggie D'arcy Mystery by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Drowning Sea, Sarah Stewart Taylor returns to the critically acclaimed world of Maggie D’arcy with another atmospheric mystery so vivid readers will smell the salt in the air and hear the wind on the cliffs.

For the first time in her adult life, former Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is unemployed. No cases to focus on, no leads to investigate, just a whole summer on a remote West Cork peninsula with her teenage daughter Lilly and her boyfriend, Conor and his son. The plan is to prepare Lilly for a move to Ireland. But their calm vacation takes a dangerous turn when human remains wash up below the steep cliffs of Ross Head.

When construction worker Lukas Adamik disappeared months ago, everyone assumed he had gone home to Poland. Now that his body has been found, the guards, including Maggie's friends Roly Byrne and Katya Grzeskiewicz, seem to think he threw himself from the cliffs. But as Maggie gets to know the residents of the nearby village and learns about the history of the peninsula and its abandoned Anglo Irish manor house, once home to a famous Irish painter who died under mysterious circumstances, she starts to think there's something else going on. Something deadly. And when Lilly starts dating one of the dead man's friends, Maggie grows worried about her daughter being so close to another investigation and about what the investigation will uncover.

Old secrets, hidden relationships, crime, and village politics are woven throughout this small seaside community, and as the summer progresses, Maggie is pulled deeper into the web of lies, further from those she loves, and closer to the truth.
Visit Sarah Stewart Taylor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild.

The Page 69 Test: A Distant Grave.

Q&A with Sarah Stewart Taylor.

The Page 69 Test: The Drowning Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Q&A with John Vercher

From my Q&A with John Vercher: After the Lights Go Out:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Speaking only regarding my own personal preferences, I’d say titles matter for both active and potential readers (as well as writers). As a writer, I love the process of coming up with a title that engages a reader’s curiosity, especially a title that doesn’t quite have its meaning revealed by the back cover copy. It’s fun to imagine the feeling of discovery when they encounter a passage or line that reveals the title’s importance to the novel. It’s fun to imagine this because it’s enjoyable for me as a reader to experience as well. It can be tempting to make the title gimmicky, so to that end I strive to keep the title relevant to the overall themes of the book and perhaps doing the work of hinting at...[read on]
Visit John Vercher's website.

Q&A with John Vercher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rebecca Cypess's "Women and Musical Salons in the Enlightenment"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Women and Musical Salons in the Enlightenment by Rebecca Cypess.

About the book, from the publisher:
A study of musical salons in Europe and North America between 1760 and 1800 and the salon hostesses who shaped their musical worlds.

In eighteenth-century Europe and America, musical salons—and the women who hosted and made music in them—played a crucial role in shaping their cultural environments. Musical salons served as a testing ground for new styles, genres, and aesthetic ideals, and they acted as a mediating force, bringing together professional musicians and their audiences of patrons, listeners, and performers. For the salonnière, the musical salon offered a space between the public and private spheres that allowed her to exercise cultural agency.

In this book, musicologist and historical keyboardist Rebecca Cypess offers a broad overview of musical salons between 1760 and 1800, placing the figure of the salonnière at its center. Cypess then presents a series of in-depth case studies that meet the salonnière on her own terms. Women such as Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy in Paris, Marianna Martines in Vienna, Sara Levy in Berlin, Angelica Kauffman in Rome, and Elizabeth Graeme in Philadelphia come to life in multidimensional ways. Crucially, Cypess uses performance as a tool for research, and her interpretations draw on her experience with the instruments and performance practices used in eighteenth-century salons. In this accessible, interdisciplinary book, Cypess explores women’s agency and authorship, reason and sentiment, and the roles of performing, collecting, listening, and conversing in the formation of eighteenth-century musical life.
Learn more about Women and Musical Salons in the Enlightenment at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Women and Musical Salons in the Enlightenment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top novels with devilishly unreliable narrators

Benjamin Buchholz served in Yemen as the Chief of Attaché Operations at the US Embassy during and up to the Houthi overthrow of the Yemeni government. He is the author of the novels One Hundred and One Nights and Sirens of Manhattan, and the non-fiction book Private Soldiers.

[The Page 69 Test: One Hundred and One Nights; My Book, the Movie: One Hundred and One Nights; Writers Read: Benjamin Buchholz (January 2012)]

Buchholz's new book is The Tightening Dark: An American Hostage in Yemen, a memoir co-written with Sam Farran.

At Shepherd Buchholz tagged five favorite novels with devilishly unreliable narrators, including:
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Let me tell you, this is the mother of all unreliable narrators. We probably all know the moment when it happens, when we realize that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, errr, Tyler Durden, can no longer be considered reliable in their telling of the tale. But how much better to read the words Palahniuk wrote, find in them the genesis of the movie, than to just get them fed to you while you're tied to an office chair with a gun in your mouth? Read it. You'll feel dirty and smart all at once.
Read about another entry on the list.

Fight Club is among Camilla Bruce's ten best books about imaginary friends, Catherine Steadman's six favorite books that feature unreliable narrators, Sarah Pinborough's top ten unreliable narrators, Richard Kadrey's top five books about awful, awful people, Chris Moss's top 19 books on how to be a man, E. Lockhart's seven favorite suspense novels, Joel Cunningham's top five books short enough to polish off in an afternoon, but deep enough to keep you thinking long into the night, Kathryn Williams's eight craziest unreliable narrators in fiction, Jessica Soffer's ten best book endings, Sebastian Beaumont's top ten books about psychological journeys, and Pauline Melville's top ten revolutionary tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 27, 2022

William Martin's "December ’41," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: December ’41 by William Martin.

From Martin's entry:
On the day after Pearl Harbor, a German assassin evades an FBI dragnet and begins preparations for a trip. He's going to Washington to shoot Franklin Roosevelt on Christmas Eve, as the president lights the National Christmas Tree. A failed actress travels with him, playing his faithful wife and - unbeknownst to her - covering for him. A disappointed Hollywood screenwriter crosses paths with him and comes under suspicion himself. A dogged FBI agent pursues him. Meanwhile, a wisecracking female private detective teams up with the FBI agent.

So who did I imagine in the roles? Well, since the book opens in Los Angeles, where everyone uses the movies as reference points, I'm not the only one who imagines these characters as movie actors in the book. A lot of the other characters do, too.

The German assassin, Martin Browning, should have a strong presence but a slight and unthreatening appearance. Some of his Nazi friends call him "Ash" because they think he looks like the actor who plays Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. Before long, the FBI is looking for a guy who resembles Leslie Howard. So call Leslie Howard's agent.

The failed actress, Vivian Hopewell, has been told that she looks like a young Marlene Dietrich. So that's easy, even though one of the characters tells her that she reminds him more of...[read on]
Visit William Martin's website.

Q&A with William Martin.

My Book, The Movie: December ’41.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alexander M. Martin's "From the Holy Roman Empire to the Land of the Tsars"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Land of the Tsars: One Family's Odyssey, 1768-1870 by Alexander M. Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a manuscript in a Russian archive, an anonymous German eyewitness describes what he saw in Moscow during Napoleon's Russian campaign. Who was this nameless memoirist, and what brought him to Moscow in 1812? The search for answers to those questions uncovers a remarkable story of German and Russian life at the dawn of the modern age.

Johannes Ambrosius Rosenstrauch (1768-1835), the manuscript's author, was a man always on the move and reinventing himself. He spent half his life in the Holy Roman Empire, and the other half in Russia. He was a barber-surgeon, an actor, and a merchant, as well as a Catholic, a Freemason, and a Lutheran pastor. He saw the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, founded a business that flourished for sixty years, and took part in the Enlightenment, the consumer revolution, the Pietist Awakening, and Russia's colonization of the Black Sea steppe. A restless wanderer and seeker, but also the progenitor of an influential merchant family, he was a characteristic figure both of the Age of Revolution and of the bourgeois era that followed.

Presenting a broad panorama of life in the German lands and Russia from the Old Regime to modernity, this microhistory explores how individual people shape, and are shaped by, the historical forces of their time.
Learn more about From the Holy Roman Empire to the Land of the Tsars at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Land of the Tsars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best books about underdogs

Michael Loynd is chairman of the St. Louis Olympic Committee, a representative on the International Olympic Committee’s World Union of Olympic Cities, a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, and a sports attorney and lecturer. He is the author of All Things Irish: A Novel.

Loynd's new book is The Watermen: The Birth of American Swimming and One Young Man's Fight to Capture Olympic Gold.

At Lit Hub Loynd tagged seven of his go-to books about underdogs, including:
Wayne Coffey, The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

Al Michael’s words in the last few seconds of the 1980 USA vs USSR Olympics hockey game are legendary: “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” Wayne Coffey takes us behind the scenes of all the sacrifices, hardship, and bonding that had to come together to make this ragtag group of college kids the greatest hockey team in the world—if just for that one night. Never has a sports game played such a part in our nation’s trajectory to recapture America’s lost swagger and confidence that had been lost after Vietnam and Watergate—and restored on this ice rink in Lake Placid. You’ll feel that way too.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Pg. 69: Alex Jennings's "The Ballad of Perilous Graves"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings.

About the book, from the publisher:
Music is magic in this vibrant and imaginative debut novel set in a fantastical version of New Orleans where a battle for the city's soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and enjoy this song for New Orleans, the city of music, magic, and dreams.
Visit Alex Jennings's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino.

My Book, The Movie: The Ballad of Perilous Graves.

The Page 69 Test: The Ballad of Perilous Graves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books about young women in (and out) of love

Lauren Hutton is a writer and journalist with double majors in English (creative writing emphasis) and women's studies from Colgate University. She is currently an editorial intern for Electric Literature.

At Electric Lit Hutton tagged ten "nuanced stories [that] are less interested in happy endings than allowing the women at the heart of
these dalliances to uncover how universal concerns can play out on the most intimate of stages." One title on the list:
The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This novel follows Turkish American Selin throughout her freshman year at Harvard and an ensuing summer of European travels. Selin completely understands the limits of her experiences and it is this self-awareness that allows for her brilliance as a narrator, her ability to interrogate society and her role in it as she falls in love for the first time. She unpacks the limits of language and culture in the same way she studies her feelings for older mathematics student Ivan, with whom she exchanges emails and ultimately follows to his native Hungary. In scrutinizing both intellectualism and desire, she unveils the very universal need to understand the world and be understood by it. In short, the book takes her seriously as a thinker, not in spite of her being a young woman in love, but because of it.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Idiot is among Katherine Heiny's eight of the best books about modern dating.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Austin Sarat's "Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution by Austin Sarat.

About the book, from the publisher:
With a history marked by incompetence, political maneuvering, and secrecy, America's "most humane" execution method is anything but.

From the beginning of the Republic, this country has struggled to reconcile its use of capital punishment with the Constitution's prohibition of cruel punishment. Death penalty proponents argue both that it is justifiable as a response to particularly heinous crimes, and that it serves to deter others from committing them in the future. However, since the earliest executions, abolitionists have fought against this state-sanctioned killing, arguing, among other things, that the methods of execution have frequently been just as gruesome as the crimes meriting their use. Lethal injection was first introduced in order to quell such objections, but, as Austin Sarat shows in this brief history, its supporters' commitment to painless and humane death has never been certain.

This book tells the story of lethal injection's earliest iterations in the United States, starting with New York state's rejection of that execution method almost a century and half ago. Sarat recounts lethal injection's return in the late 1970s, and offers novel and insightful scrutiny of the new drug protocols that went into effect between 2010 and 2020. Drawing on rare data, he makes the case that lethal injections during this time only became more unreliable, inefficient, and more frequently botched. Beyond his stirring narrative history, Sarat mounts a comprehensive condemnation of the state-level maneuvering in response to such mishaps, whereby death penalty states adopted secrecy statutes and adjusted their execution protocols to make it harder to identify and observe lethal injection's flaws.

What was once touted as America's most humane execution method is now its most unreliable one. What was once a model of efficiency in the grim business of state killing is now marked by mayhem. The book concludes by critically examining the place of lethal injection, and the death penalty writ large, today.
Learn more about Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty.

The Page 99 Test: Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Q&A with William Martin

From my Q&A with William Martin, author of December '41:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I toyed with many titles for my new thriller, in which a German assassin plans to kill Franklin Roosevelt as he lights the National Christmas Tree on December 24, 1941. But Killing Roosevelt sounded too much like other titles. Saving Roosevelt sounded too on-the-nose. And December 8, 1941, the day that the book begins, sounded too specific, especially since the book unfolds over 19 days. I almost called it 19 Days in December, but I didn't like that, and it could be any December. It could be a Christmas books. So I settled on December '41. There's not a lot of mystery in the title. It's telling you when the story is set, and since the whole month is filled with one earth-shaking event after another, a reader is likely to pick it up to see what it's all about, or what event will be the focus of this book. Then they read a about the plot, and I know...[read on]
Visit William Martin's website.

Q&A with William Martin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten essential works of fabulist fiction

Kathryn Harlan received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she now teaches writing. She was the recipient of the 2019 August Derleth Graduate Creative Writing Prize. Her work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere.

Harlan's debut short story collection is Fruiting Bodies.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten favorite works of fabulist fiction, including:
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

For me, Her Body and Other Parties was a lesson in what a talented writer could do with genre. The collection embraces its genre influences, regarding them with an eye that is sometimes loving and sometimes critical, but always fascinated. Machado’s stories are adventurous in both form and content—“Especially Heinous” is told through a series of imagined Law & Order SVU episodes, while “Inventory” grants us glimpses of an unfolding apocalypse through the narrator’s descriptions of her sexual encounters—and each offers its own unique angle on themes of identity, intimacy, and violence.
Read about another entry on the list.

Her Body and Other Parties is among Ruth Gilligan's eight books about feminist folklore.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Katie Tallo reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Katie Tallo, author of Poison Lilies: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
I just finished Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays. The character is an emotionally fragile actress whose marriage and career have fallen apart. It’s moody and shocking and raw. It captures the 60s vibe really well yet feels so relevant and timeless. Emptiness and apathy exist in any era I suppose. I think I can learn a lot from Didion’s writing. She's fearless and witty and does it all with little flourish. Her prose is...[read on]
About Poison Lilies, from the publisher:
In this eerily riveting thriller—the follow-up to the international bestseller Dark August—Gus Monet becomes dangerously entangled with a powerful family whose wealth and success are built on dark and deadly secrets.

After moving back to her hometown and solving her mother's murder, Augusta (Gus) Monet thought she was finally settled. Content for the first time in her life. Done with digging into the past.

But it’s not to be. Cue hard reset number whatever.

When Gus makes a mistake she can’t undo, she does the only thing she can: cuts and runs. Packs all her things in the dead of night and takes off. Gus lands at The Ambassador Court, an art-deco apartment building with cheap rent in one of Ottawa’s oldest neighborhoods where no one knows her. The perfect place for a fresh start—or at least a good place to hide.

She soon meets Poppy Honeywell, her reclusive elderly neighbor who wanders about in a pink kimono like an aging Hollywood starlet and who happens to be a descendant of the Mutchmores, one of the city's founding families. When a body emerges from an icy pond in a nearby park, Gus’s growing curiosity with Poppy and her influential family suddenly takes a perilous turn with deadly consequences.

The Mutchmores have been hiding a treacherous secret for decades—one they are willing to sacrifice anything—and anyone—to keep buried. Little do they know, that’s just the kind of secret Gus can’t resist.
Visit Katie Tallo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark August.

Q&A with Katie Tallo.

Writers Read: Katie Tallo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 24, 2022

Four books featuring female con artists

Julie Clark is the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight. It has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and the New York Times has called it “thoroughly absorbing”. It’s been named an Indie Next Pick, a Library Reads Pick, and a Best Book of 2020 by Amazon Editors and Apple Books. Her debut, The Ones We Choose, was published in 2018 and has been optioned for television by Lionsgate.

Clark's new novel is The Lies I Tell.

[Coffee with a Canine: Julie Clark & Teddy]

At CrimeReads she tagged female con artists in shows, podcasts, and in four books, including:
The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

This book was never far from my side as I wrote The Lies I Tell as it goes into great detail about the psychology of con artists, both men and women. It’s filled with fascinating stories about the most famous con artists throughout time and how they continue to find willing victims.
Read about another book on the list.

The Confidence Game is among Aja Raden's top ten books about lies and liars. Erica Bauermeister called it "a thorough, entertaining look into the perplexities and complexities of human behavior." Lisa Black says it "is a dive into the psychology of belief, why we trust, why intelligent, successful people fall for what seems, in hindsight, the most fantastical bald-faced lies ever to fall on all-too-willing ears."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan H. Brandt's "Women Healers"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia by Susan H. Brandt.

About the book, from the publisher:
In her eighteenth-century medical recipe manuscript, the Philadelphia healer Elizabeth Coates Paschall asserted her ingenuity and authority with the bold strokes of her pen. Paschall developed an extensive healing practice, consulted medical texts, and conducted experiments based on personal observations. As British North America’s premier city of medicine and science, Philadelphia offered Paschall a nurturing environment enriched by diverse healing cultures and the Quaker values of gender equality and women’s education. She participated in transatlantic medical and scientific networks with her friend, Benjamin Franklin. Paschall was not unique, however. Women Healers recovers numerous women of European, African, and Native American descent who provided the bulk of health care in the greater Philadelphia area for centuries. Although the history of women practitioners often begins with the 1850 founding of Philadelphia’s Female Medical College, the first women’s medical school in the United States, these students merely continued the legacies of women like Paschall. Remarkably, though, the lives and work of early American female practitioners have gone largely unexplored. While some sources depict these women as amateurs whose influence declined, Susan Brandt documents women’s authoritative medical work that continued well into the nineteenth century. Spanning a century and a half, Women Healers traces the transmission of European women’s medical remedies to the Delaware Valley where they blended with African and Indigenous women’s practices, forming hybrid healing cultures.

Drawing on extensive archival research, Brandt demonstrates that women healers were not inflexible traditional practitioners destined to fall victim to the onward march of Enlightenment science, capitalism, and medical professionalization. Instead, women of various classes and ethnicities found new sources of healing authority, engaged in the consumer medical marketplace, and resisted physicians’ attempts to marginalize them. Brandt reveals that women healers participated actively in medical and scientific knowledge production and the transition to market capitalism.
Learn more about Women Healers at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Women Healers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julie Clark's "The Lies I Tell"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lies I Tell: A Novel by Julie Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two women. Many aliases.

Meg Williams. Maggie Littleton. Melody Wilde.
Different names for the same person, depending on the town, depending on the job. She's a con artist who erases herself to become whoever you need her to be—a college student. A life coach. A real estate agent. Nothing about her is real. She slides alongside you and tells you exactly what you need to hear, and by the time she's done, you've likely lost everything.

Kat Roberts has been waiting ten years for the woman who upended her life to return. And now that she has, Kat is determined to be the one to expose her. But as the two women grow closer, Kat's long-held assumptions begin to crumble, leaving Kat to wonder who Meg's true target is.

The Lies I Tell is a twisted domestic thriller that dives deep into the psyches and motivations of two women and their unwavering quest to seek justice for the past and rewrite the future.
Visit Julie Clark's website.

Writers Read: Julie Clark (May 2018).

Coffee with a Canine: Julie Clark & Teddy.

The Page 69 Test: The Lies I Tell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Alex Jennings's "The Ballad of Perilous Graves," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings.

The entry begins:
Dream casting is such a strange process because I’ve been working on this book for so long that the project has grown beyond its original bounds to take over every aspect of my imagination. I only just admitted to myself last week how much I would love to see Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins, or Regina King direct an adaptation of The Ballad of Perilous Graves. The director would need to understand this story as one that features children and whimsy, but is not aimed at kids. The book was conceived as something of a musical—a blaxploitation Pippi Longstocking adventure for adults set in an alternate New Orleans where music is a kind of magic. It’s full of living graffiti tags, jazz and blues songs come to life, talking animals, and there’s even a carefully curated Spotify playlist to go along with it, which you can find here.

Ideas of the supporting characters are the ones that come to me first. I imagine Clark Peters playing Daddy Deke, the patriarch with a secret he keeps even from himself. Regina King herself would make an excellent Mama Lisa. I imagine Brian...[read on]
Visit Alex Jennings's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino.

My Book, The Movie: The Ballad of Perilous Graves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about terrible jobs

Lara Williams is the author of A Selfie as Big as the Ritz, which was shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, the Edinburgh First Book Award, and the Saboteur Awards, and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She is also the author of Supper Club, which won the Guardian “Not the Booker” Prize and was named as a Book of the Year 2019 by TIME and Vogue.

At the Guardian Williams tagged ten top books featuring memorably awful occupations, including:
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

Set on the Microsoft campus in Washington state, Microserfs explores the feudal-like work culture at the company: the employees the novel follows are the serfs presided over by Bill Gates. It was one of the first novels to anticipate a dystopian culture in the tech industry that would soon become the norm, and one particular scene in which an employee slips “flat foods” (such as slices of processed cheese) beneath the office door of another employee, to ensure that they actually eat while working, has haunted me for 20 years.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Paisley Currah's "Sex is as Sex Does"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sex Is as Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity by Paisley Currah.

About the book, from the publisher:
What the evolving fight for transgender rights reveals about government power, regulations, and the law

Every government agency in the United States, from Homeland Security to Departments of Motor Vehicles, has the authority to make its own rules for sex classification. Many transgender people find themselves in the bizarre situation of having different sex classifications on different documents. Whether you can change your legal sex to “F” or “M” (or more recently “X”) depends on what state you live in, what jurisdiction you were born in, and what government agency you’re dealing with. In Sex Is as Sex Does, noted transgender advocate and scholar Paisley Currah explores this deeply flawed system, showing why it fails transgender and non-binary people.

Providing examples from different states, government agencies, and court cases, Currah explains how transgender people struggle to navigate this confusing and contradictory web of legal rules, definitions, and classifications. Unlike most gender scholars, who are concerned with what the concepts of sex and gender really mean, Currah is more interested in what the category of “sex” does for governments. What does “sex” do on our driver’s licenses, in how we play sports, in how we access health care, or in the bathroom we use? Why do prisons have very different rules than social service agencies? Why is there such resistance to people changing their sex designation? Or to dropping it from identity documents altogether?

In this thought-provoking and original volume, Sex Is as Sex Does reveals the hidden logics that have governed sex classification policies in the United States and shows what the regulation of transgender identity can tell us about society’s approach to sex and gender writ large. Ultimately, Currah demonstrates that, because the difficulties transgender people face are not just the result of transphobia but also stem from larger injustices, an identity-based transgender rights movement will not, by itself, be up to the task of resolving them.
Visit Paisley Currah's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sex Is as Sex Does.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Caroline Woods

From my Q&A with Caroline Woods, author of The Lunar Housewife: A Novel:
photo credit: Anastasia Sierra
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Lunar Housewife is my original title, although we toyed briefly with some others (the one that came closest was How To Spot a Communist, named for a newsreel that aired in the fifties). I love The Lunar Housewife because it does a lot of work to let the reader know that this is a historical novel (the word "housewife" does that--now we say "stay-at-home-mom") with kitschy, sci-fi elements. Its one limitation is that "The Lunar Housewife" is actually the title of the novel within the novel, the one Louise Leithauser, my protagonist, is writing, about an American woman who goes to live in a lunar colony with a Soviet man. But I think that's okay. In a metaphorical sense, Louise herself becomes a lunar housewife; she's slowly isolated, and fenced more and more into a domestic role, by the...[read on]
Visit Caroline Woods's website.

Q&A with Caroline Woods.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Five books about the history we never learned

Robert N. Wiedenmann is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Arkansas. He received a BS in ecology and PhD in entomology, both from Purdue University. He is Past-President of the Entomological Society of America.

Wiedenmann was inspired to write The Silken Thread: Five Insects and Their Impacts on Human History (with J. Ray Fisher) after teaching a course at Arkansas called, "Insects, Science and Society."

At Shepherd he tagged five of the best books about the history we never learned, including:
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

This book is amazing. In addition to being encyclopedic in scope and detail, this highly readable "reference" book accounts for much of human history. Frankopan focuses on some two dozen 'roads'—some ancient, others recent, and several metaphorical 'roads' that were more historical processes than defined routes. He includes major historical events, but he also gives details that fill out and bring to life the greater stories. He begins with the role that the Silk Roads played on the history of silk, but those roads also were the basis of much of Eurasian history for millennia. This engrossing book is so well written that several times when I looked up a reference, I found that I had read another 20 pages.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Silk Roads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matt Easton's "We Have Tired of Violence"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: We Have Tired of Violence: A True Story of Murder, Memory, and the Fight for Justice in Indonesia by Matt Easton.

About the book, from the publisher:
“The truth about who killed Munir is the only antidote to Indonesia’s poisoned justice system.” —The New York Times

On a warm Jakarta night in September 2004, Munir said goodbye to his wife and friends at the airport. He was bound for the Netherlands to pursue a master’s degree in human rights. But Munir never reached Amsterdam alive. Before his plane touched down, the thirty-eight-year-old—one of the leading human rights activists of his generation—lay dead in the fourth row.

Munir’s daring investigation of the killings and abductions that occurred over three decades of authoritarian rule by the former president, Suharto, had earned him powerful enemies. Undeterred, Munir’s wife, Suciwati, and his close friend, Usman Hamid, launched their own investigation. They soon uncovered a conspiracy involving spies, a mysterious co-pilot, threats of violence and black magic, and deadly poison.

Drawing on interviews, courtroom observation, leaked documents, and police files, this book uncovers the dramatic murder plot and the titanic struggle to bring the perpetrators of Munir’s death to justice. Just as Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing did for Northern Ireland, We Have Tired of Violence tells the story of a shocking crime that serves as a window into a captivating land still struggling to shake off a terrible legacy.
Visit Matt Easton's website.

The Page 99 Test: We Have Tired of Violence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Anna Evans's "The Physicists' Daughter"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Physicists' Daughter: A Novel by Mary Anna Evans.

About the book, from the publisher:
No one can be trusted. The fate of a country is at stake. And everything depends on the physicists' daughter.

New Orleans, 1944.

Sabotage. That's the word on factory worker Justine Byrne's mind as she is repeatedly called to weld machine parts that keep failing with no clear cause. Could someone inside the secretive Carbon Division be deliberately undermining the factory's Allied war efforts?

Raised by her late parents to think logically, she also can't help wondering just what the oddly shaped carbon gadgets she assembles day after day have to do with the boats the factory builds. When a crane inexplicably crashes to the factory floor, leaving a woman dead, Justine can no longer ignore her nagging fear that German spies are at work within the building, trying to put the factory and its workers out of commission.

Unable to trust anyone—not the charming men vying for her attention, not her unpleasant boss, and not even the women who work beside her—Justine draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country, and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home.
Learn more about the author and her work at Mary Anna Evans' website.

The Page 69 Test: Floodgates.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans (October 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Strangers.

My Book, The Movie: Strangers.

The Page 69 Test: Plunder.

Writers Read: Mary Anna Evans (November 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Rituals.

Q&A with Mary Anna Evans.

My Book, The Movie: The Physicists' Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: The Physicists' Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Seven great crime novels with first person narrators

Scott Blackburn is an English instructor and a 2017 graduate of the Mountainview MFA program. He lives in High Point, North Carolina with his wife and two children. When he is not writing and teaching, Blackburn enjoys training in combat sports such as boxing, Muay Thai, and Ju-jitsu, in which he holds a black belt.

At CrimeReads he tagged seven top first person narrators from crime novels, including:
Billy Lowe, from Eli Cranor’s debut Don’t Know Tough

In this novel, which is touted as a dark, Southern Gothic take on Friday Night Lights, many of the chapters are narrated by Billy Lowe, a temperamental, tough-as-nails teenage running back who has faced the hardships of poverty and abuse since he was a young boy. While trying to stay focused on the field and keep out of trouble off the field, Billy’s abuser is murdered, putting him at the center of an intense investigation. The story itself had me plenty engaged, but Billy’s voice was the chef’s kiss that really hooked me from jump street. Billy is from the Delta region of Arkansas, and the dialect that Cranor, an Arkansas native, used in writing his sections is spot on, resulting in a slow, punchy cadence that truly haunts the page.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Know Tough.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew E. Kahn's "Going Remote"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Going Remote: How the Flexible Work Economy Can Improve Our Lives and Our Cities by Matthew E. Kahn.

About the book, from the publisher:
A leading urban economist's hopeful study of how shifts to remote work can change all of our lives for the better.

As COVID-19 descended upon the country in 2020, millions of American office workers transitioned to working from home to reduce risk of infection and prevent spread of the virus. In the aftermath of this shift, a significant number of workers remain at least partially remote. It is clear that this massive experiment we were forced to run will have long-term consequences, changing the shape of our personal and work lives, as well as the urban landscape around us. How will the rise of telecommuting affect workers' quality of life, the profitability of firms, and the economic geography of our cities and suburbs? Going Remote addresses the uncertainties and possibilities of this moment.

In Going Remote, urban economist Matthew E. Kahn takes readers on a journey through the new remote-work economy, revealing how people will configure their lives when they have more freedom to choose where they work and how they live. Melding ideas from labor economics, family economics, the theory of the firm, and urban economics, Kahn paints a realistic picture of the future for workers, firms, and urban areas, big and small. As Kahn shows, the rise of remote work presents especially valuable opportunities for flexibility and equity in the lives of women, minorities, and young people, and even for those whose jobs do not allow them to work from home. Uncovering key implications for our quality of life, Going Remote demonstrates how the rise of remote work can significantly improve the standard of living for millions of people by expanding personal freedom, changing the arc of how we live, work, and play.
Follow Matthew E. Kahn on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Heroes and Cowards.

The Page 99 Test: Going Remote.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino.

The author, on how he and Karate were united:
During the first few months of the Pandemic, my roommate Kytara and I were overwhelmed by that buried-alive feeling of being stuck in our apartment trying to be good citizens, knowing even as we did that Covid 19 wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I was feeling pretty bad about the Covid weight I’d gained, and we decided that we needed something to cut through that loneliness and despair and help us be more active. We started looking for a dog and Karate wasn’t the first one we tried for, but when I saw his photo on the Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) website, I sensed that he was my dog.

We went out to Harahan, which was relatively distant to us as neither of us drives or has a car, and as we walked Karate (then erroneously named “Soldier”), I began to worry that we wouldn’t be able to complete the adoption on the spot and that I’d be separated from this guy who was clearly our dog. It turned out...[read on]
About Alex Jennings's The Ballad of Perilous Graves, from the publisher:
Music is magic in this vibrant and imaginative debut novel set in a fantastical version of New Orleans where a battle for the city's soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and enjoy this song for New Orleans, the city of music, magic, and dreams.
Visit Alex Jennings's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Alex Jennings & Karate Valentino.

--Marshal Zeringue