Saturday, April 20, 2024

Pg. 99: Douglas Dowland's "We, Us, and Them"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: We, Us, and Them: Affect and American Nonfiction from Vietnam to Trump by Douglas Dowland.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Americans describe their compatriots, who exactly are they talking about? This is the urgent question that Douglas Dowland asks in We, Us, and Them. In search of answers, he turns to narratives of American nationhood written since the Vietnam War—stories in which the ostensibly strong state of the Union has been turned increasingly into an America of us versus them. Dowland explores how a range of writers across the political spectrum, including Hunter S. Thompson, James Baldwin, and J. D. Vance, articulate a particular vision of America with such strong conviction that they undermine the unity of the country they claim to extol. We, Us, and Them pinpoints instances in which criticism leads to cynicism, rage leads to apathy, and a broad vision narrows in our present moment.
Learn more about We, Us, and Them at the University of Virginia Press website.

The Page 99 Test: We, Us, and Them.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top thrillers about dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships

K.T. Nguyen's features have appeared in Glamour, Shape, and Fitness. After graduating from Brown University, she spent her 20s and 30s bouncing from New York City to San Francisco, Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei, and has now settled just outside Washington, D.C. with her family. Nguyen enjoys native plant gardening, playing with her rescue terrier Alice and rooting for the Mets.

You Know What You Did is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Nguyen tagged eight thrillers that "explore the darker side of mother daughter relationships ...[and] deliver raw emotion, tension, and complexity." One title on the list:
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Loosely inspired by the Gypsy Rose Blanchard case, Darling Rose Gold quickly departs from its real-life source material to create an even more twisted mother-daughter relationship, predicated on coercive control, simmering rage, and the blinding need for validation. The novel opens as Patty Watts is released from prison after serving five years for poisoning and abusing her daughter Rose Gold in a case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Patty makes the chilling declaration, “My daughter didn’t have to testify against me. She chose to.” So why is Rose Gold now welcoming her mother back into her life? Wrobel expertly wields dual timelines and head-to-head POVs to craft a taut cat-and-mouse story, only the roles of predator and prey shift constantly between mother and daughter in a delightfully destabilizing turn.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Darling Rose Gold.

My Book, The Movie: Darling Rose Gold.

Q&A with Stephanie Wrobel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 19, 2024

Pg. 69: Victor Lodato's "Honey"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Honey: A Novel by Victor Lodato.

About the book, from the publisher:
Meet a woman as tenacious as Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and as irresistible as Andrew Sean Greer’s Arthur Less: Honey Fasinga, the glamorous daughter of a notorious New Jersey mobster, is returning home at last, ready to reckon with her violent past.

As a rebellious teenager, Honey managed to escape her father’s circle of influence and reinvent herself in a world of art and beauty, working for a high-end auction house in Los Angeles. Now in her twilight years, she decides to return home and unexpectedly falls in love. But in her family, nothing has changed. When her grandnephew Michael bursts into her life in what appears to be a drug-fueled frenzy, and her Lexus gets jacked, it’s hard to keep minding her own business. As old cruelties begin to resurface, Honey is no longer sure what she really wants—to forgive or to avenge.

This electrifying literary breakout from PEN USA Award-winning author Victor Lodato is a masterful and deeply moving portrait of love in all its forms, of moral ambiguity, and of inspiring change—a story of female rage that asks the question: What are the limits of compassion in a world gone mad?
Visit Victor Lodato's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mathilda Savitch.

The Page 69 Test: Honey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Kinley's "The Liberty Paradox"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Liberty Paradox: Living with the Responsibilities of Freedom by David Kinley.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do we balance freedom with the responsibilities we owe each other as members of society?

Are we free to do whatever we want? This idea challenges us throughout our daily lives, from how to tackle pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates to how to respond to technological innovations and climate change warnings. In The Liberty Paradox, David Kinley argues that we must rehabilitate the notion of liberty by rescuing it from the myopic demands of freedom without limit and reinstating the essential ingredient of social responsibility.

Combining political, philosophical, and personal reflections as a global human rights lawyer, Kinley examines the implications of this liberty reset for how we negotiate freedom's boundaries in the realms of wealth, work, health, happiness, security, voice, love, and death. With chapters dedicated to each of these life-defining domains and written in a style both engaging and insightful, The Liberty Paradox explores how we try―and often fail―to balance personal desires and public interests. Kinley concludes that preserving liberty and protecting it from radical individualism requires new ways of respecting each other and rebuilding trust in the institutions and people that govern us.
Learn more about The Liberty Paradox at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Liberty Paradox.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books to understand modern China

Amy Hawkins is the Guardian's senior China correspondent.

One of five books she tagged that "are a good place to start if you want to know more about [China] and its people:"
Red Memory by Tania Branigan

What was the Cultural Revolution? The decade of mass killings, political purges and the ruthless assertion of power “is impossible to understand”, writes Branigan, the Guardian leader writer and former China correspondent. Nevertheless, it is central to understanding China today. Rather than focusing on a historical analysis of how such fervour and hatred tore across the country, Branigan focuses on the people whose lives were upended by that period of social remoulding. Crucially, she argues convincingly, the Cultural Revolution is not just a historical curiosity: its terror, and efforts to forget the depravity wreaked by campaign, continue to be felt.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Q&A with Helen Benedict

From my Q&A with Helen Benedict, author of The Good Deed:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think titles are of utmost importance to the writer and the reader. For the writer, they serve to distill, even if subliminally, what the book is actually about and even its mood and point of view, so it's essential to get it right. If the title is ironic or funny, that sets an inescapable tone for the whole book. Likewise, if the title is poetic, quirky, funny, weird, surreal, or deadly earnest. For the reader, the title signals all that and more because basically it's calling out, "See how intriguing I am? Read me!"

Because of all this, I often go through dozens of titles before I find the right one. But best is when a title comes to me right away and sticks. That happened with The Good Deed. It is ironic but serious, implying that a good deed is not all it seems, that it might even be the opposite, just as that road of good intentions is. I hope readers will find the title intriguing and just mysterious enough to make them want to read the inside of the book, too, especially when they see those words over the picture on the cover, which shows an empty lifejacket floating in the sea. Is the book about the good deed of...[read on]
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Wolf Season.

Q&A with Helen Benedict.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas M. Larkin's "The China Firm"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The China Firm: American Elites and the Making of British Colonial Society by Thomas M. Larkin.

About the book, from the publisher:
What roles did Americans play in the expanding global empires of the nineteenth century? Thomas M. Larkin examines the Hong Kong–based Augustine Heard & Company, the most prominent American trading firm in treaty-port China, to explore the ways American elites at once made and were made by British colonial society. Following the Heard brothers throughout their firm’s rise and decline, The China Firm reveals how nineteenth-century China’s American elite adapted to colonial culture, helped entrench social and racial hierarchies, and exploited the British imperial project for their own profit as they became increasingly invested in its political affairs and commercial networks.

Through the central narrative of Augustine Heard & Co., Larkin disentangles the ties that bound the United States to China and the British Empire in the nineteenth century. Drawing on a vast range of archival material from Hong Kong, China, Boston, and London, he weaves the local and the global together to trace how Americans gained acceptance into and contributed to the making of colonial societies and world-spanning empires. Uncovering the transimperial lives of these American traders and the complex ways extraimperial communities interacted with British colonialism, The China Firm makes a vital contribution to global histories of nineteenth-century Asia and provides an alternative narrative of British empire.
Learn more about The China Firm at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The China Firm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven of the best books about John F. Kennedy

Emily Burack is the Senior News Editor for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, and a range of other subjects.

At Town & Country she tagged eleven top books about John F. Kennedy, including:
JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 by Fredrik Logevall

Fredrik Logevall focuses in on JFK's childhood through his time in the Senate in this biography, the first in a two-part planned series. Lovegall explains, "the conceit of the book is that I can tell two stories together: the story of John F. Kennedy’s rise and the story of America’s rise. I believe we can better understand the first half of the so-called American Century through the lens of Kennedy’s life."
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Eight books for Arab American Heritage Month

At B&N Reads Isabelle McConville tagged eight top books to read for Arab American Heritage Month, including:
The Skin and Its Girl: A Novel by Sarah Cypher

A girl with cobalt-blue skin is just the start of an unforgettable and richly imagined story of family mythology and what we do to protect it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Q&A with Sarah Cypher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Verlin Darrow's "The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Verlin Darrow's The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth:
The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth’s protagonist leaves her life as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka when her mother has a major stroke back in California. When her mother and stepfather are murdered, she plays amateur detective to solve the case.

An actor in a movie based on my book would need to able to portray Ivy as someone who has made a great deal of progress spiritually and emotionally, yet finds her inner strength tested as she sorts through the elements of a mystery. I can think of several skilled candidates. These are actors who embody a degree of natural gravitas and, paradoxically, vulnerability. If I were a casting director, I’d have each of them read as if they were a committed Buddhist and then switch to the role of a frightened amateur detective.

Here’s my list (with no attention to age): Uma Thurman (daughter of a prominent Buddhist scholar), Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix), Tilda Swinton, and Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter.) As I write this, I’m trying to narrow down my list to one, but I’m not having success. I fall back on my audition process—that would settle it.

For the all over the place bi-polar sister: Juliette Lewis or...[read on]
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow (May 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow.

My Book, The Movie: The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine novels about grand homes that are filled with secrets

Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba, Our Last Days in Barcelona, and The Cuban Heiress.

Her latest novel is The House on Biscayne Bay.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine of her "favorite novels featuring grand estates that are filled with secrets." One title on the list:
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

In Home Before Dark, Baneberry Hall is a home with a dark history and legacy that rivals that of The Amityville Horror. When Maggie Holt returns to the Victorian mansion where she lived as a child with her parents, her goal is to renovate the estate so that she can sell it. But as secrets from the past come back with a vengeance, Maggie is thrust into the ultimate fight for survival. Riley Sager’s thrilling novel is a page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
Read about another entry on the list.

Home Before Dark is among Philip Fracassi's ten best thrillers with supernatural elements, Ana Reyes's six top books with embedded narratives, James S. Murray's five top books about women fighting their way out and Karen Dionne's eight top thrillers that turn home into a place of mortal danger.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Hajar Yazdiha's "The Struggle for the People’s King"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement by Hajar Yazdiha.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the misuses of Martin Luther King’s legacy divide us and undermine democracy

In the post–civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, from people with disabilities to women’s rights activists and LGBTQ coalitions. Increasingly since the 1980s, white, right-wing social movements, from family values coalitions to the alt-right, now claim the collective memory of civil rights to portray themselves as the newly oppressed minorities. The Struggle for the People’s King reveals how, as these powerful groups remake collective memory toward competing political ends, they generate offshoots of remembrance that distort history and threaten the very foundations of multicultural democracy.

In the revisionist memories of white conservatives, gun rights activists are the new Rosa Parks, antiabortion activists are freedom riders, and antigay groups are the defenders of Martin Luther King’s Christian vision. Drawing on a wealth of evidence ranging from newspaper articles and organizational documents to television transcripts, press releases, and focus groups, Hajar Yazdiha documents the consequential reimagining of the civil rights movement in American political culture from 1980 to today. She shows how the public memory of King and civil rights has transformed into a vacated, sanitized collective memory that evades social reality and perpetuates racial inequality.

Powerful and persuasive, The Struggle for the People’s King demonstrates that these oppositional uses of memory fracture our collective understanding of who we are, how we got here, and where we go next.
Visit Hajar Yazdiha's wesbite.

The Page 99 Test: The Struggle for the People’s King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Gary Zebrun's "Hart Island"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Hart Island by Gary Zebrun.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hart Island has served as a potter’s field for more than a century, holding over a million indigent, unclaimed, or unknown New Yorkers’ bodies—and yet it is little-known even among locals. In this absorbing and elegiac story, on this island shaped like a miniature boot of Italy, Gary Zebrun explores overlapping connections of family, crime, sexuality, and human decency.

Driven out of the Coast Guard during the days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Sal Cusumano hauls coffins to Hart Island with a burial crew of Rikers Island inmates and guards. Only there can he fully leave his family troubles on Staten Island behind: Justin, his adopted brother and lover; his mother, Ida, slipping rapidly into dementia; the memory of Francesco, his father, a bookie gunned down on his stoop; and his brother Antony, a Manhattan homicide detective moonlighting with the mob. But the island ceases to be his sanctuary after Antony ensnares him—and others—in a crime that involves a nocturnal visit to the potter’s field.

This compelling and intricately plotted novel moves through the shadows as its characters yearn for belonging and forgiveness. Set on the eve of the COVID pandemic, it is part love story, part crime novel, and part mystery.
Visit Gary Zebrun's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hart Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

What is Edward Ashton reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Edward Ashton, author of Mal Goes to War.

His entry begins:
I've been spending a lot of time on airplanes recently. Downside? Deep vein thrombosis. Upside? Lots of reading time! Travel is stressful, though, so I tend towards comfort reads when I'm flying. For me, that often means re-reading books that I first grew to love when I was a child.

On my most recent trip, for example, I brought along City, by Clifford D. Simak. This book is a classic--I mean, all of Simak's books are, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It's a collection of eight separate but interrelated stories chronicling the decline and fall of man and the rise of doggish civilization over thousands of years, told through the eyes of the Webster family and their associated dogs, robots, martians, and other assorted hangers-on. Each tale is preceded by a snippet of scholarly discourse among doggish scholars arguing over whether the stories are meant to be taken literally or figuratively, and whether "man" is meant to refer to an actual creature that once lived, or is simply a part of dogs' origin myths. As someone who loves dogs, scholarly discourse, and Simak in roughly equal measure, this book is pretty much tailor-made for me.

When I'm not on the road and I'm able to read things that actually require me to pay close attention, I tend to bounce between...[read on]
Visit Edward Ashton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mickey7.

Q&A with Edward Ashton.

The Page 69 Test: Antimatter Blues.

Writers Read: Edward Ashton (March 2023).

The Page 69 Test: Mal Goes to War.

Writers Read: Edward Ashton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mark Cecil

From my Q&A with Mark Cecil, author of Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I really love my title, Bunyan and Henry; Or, The Beautiful Destiny, which I think does a lot of work.

The initial title of the book was just “Bunyan” because it’s a big, larger than life story about a very famous folk hero. Sort of like, Oedipus Rex, or Hamlet, or Madame Bovary and so on. By the time my publisher acquired it, we changed it to, “Paul Bunyan And The Beautiful Destiny,” because this picks up some of the spiritual and philosophical themes of the work as well.

But by the time we were ready to go to print, the team at my publishing house thought that title could be improved. So we came up with a number of alternatives, and even sent a list of possible titles around at Penguin Random House and at my agency, and people voted on their favorites. I think we got it right in the end.

First, it highlights the unlikely friendship of these two American folklore heroes—white lumberjack Paul Bunyan and Black steel drivin’ man John Henry. The other title didn’t have John Henry in it.

The second part of the title “Or, The Beautiful Destiny,” is great for a few reasons. First...[read on]
Visit Mark Cecil's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny.

The Page 69 Test: Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny.

Q&A with Mark Cecil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew Holmes's "The Graft Hybrid"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Graft Hybrid: Challenging Twentieth-Century Genetics by Matthew Holmes.

About the book, from the publisher:
The global triumph of Mendelian genetics in the twentieth century was not a foregone conclusion, thanks to the existence of graft hybrids. These chimeral plants and animals are created by grafting tissue from one organism to another with the goal of passing the newly hybridized genetic material on to their offspring. But prevailing genetic theory insisted that heredity was confined to the sex cells and there was no inheritance of characteristics acquired during an organism’s lifetime. Under sustained attacks from geneticists, scientific belief in the existence of graft hybrids slowly began to decline. Yet ordinary horticulturalists and breeders continued to believe in the power of grafting. Matthew Holmes tells the story of these organisms—which include multicolored chickens and black nightshades that grew tomatoes—and their enduring influence on twentieth-century biology. Their creators sought a goal as ambitious as the wildest dreams of genetic engineering today: to smash the barriers between species and freely exchange genes between organisms. The Graft Hybrid presents a greater understanding of the controversial history of graft hybrids, offering a crucial intervention in the history of genetics and the future of biological science.
Visit Matthew Holmes's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Graft Hybrid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top magical libraries in literature

Douglas Westerbeke is a librarian who lives in Ohio and works at one of the largest libraries in the U.S. He has spent the last decade on the local panel of the International Dublin Literary Award, which inspired him to write his own book.

His debut novel is A Short Walk Through a Wide World.

At Electric Lit Westerbeke tagged eight books "which are only the smallest sample of the breadth and variety of ideas writers have mined from libraries." One title on the list:
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

To call this a murder mystery is a gross oversimplification. True, it’s about a seven-day investigation of a murder that takes place in a monastery in the 1300s, but it’s also about Christian theology, linguistics, medieval studies, and a vast library cared for by a blind librarian (Jorge Luis Borges was blind, by the way). The library serves as a battleground of ideas, where the Franciscan and Dominican monks argue about the knowledge contained within and the interpretation of that knowledge. A dense and dazzling read, a book about books for all the nerds, sleuths, and armchair philosophers out there.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Name of the Rose is on Juliet Grames's ten books with vanishing narrators, Tessa Arlen’s top five list of historical novels, Sarah Dunant's six favorite books list, D.D. Everest's list of the ten top secret libraries of all time, Carolyne Larrington's top ten list of modern medieval tales, Jeff Somers's list of ten books you should finally have read in 2015, S. J. Parris's list of five favorite historical murder mysteries, Ian Rankin's list of five perfect mysteries, John Mullan's top ten list of the most memorable libraries in literature, Andy McSmith's top 10 list books of the 1980s, and Vanora Bennett's list of five favorite historical novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 15, 2024

Pg. 69: Samuel Burr's "The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers: A Novel by Samuel Burr.

About the book, from the publisher:
An extraordinary, gloriously uplifting novel about the power of friendship and the puzzling ties that bind us

Clayton Stumper might be in his twenties, but he dresses like your grandpa and fusses like your aunt. Abandoned at birth on the steps of the Fellowship of Puzzlemakers, he was raised by a group of eccentric enigmatologists and now finds himself among the last survivors of a fading institution.

When the esteemed crossword compiler and main maternal presence in Clayton’s life, Pippa Allsbrook, passes away, she bestows her final puzzle on him: a promise to reveal the mystery of his parentage and prepare him for life beyond the walls of the commune. So begins Clay’s quest to uncover the secrets surrounding his birth, secrets that will change Clay—and the Fellowship—forever.

The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers is pure joy, a story about love and family and what it means to find your people—no matter what age you are.
Visit Samuel Burr's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fellowship of Puzzlemakers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eileen M. Hunt's "The First Last Man"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The First Last Man: Mary Shelley and the Postapocalyptic Imagination by Eileen M. Hunt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Beyond her most famous creation—the nightmarish vision of Frankenstein’s Creature—Mary Shelley’s most enduring influence on politics, literature, and art perhaps stems from the legacy of her lesser-known novel about the near-extinction of the human species through war, disease, and corruption. This novel, The Last Man (1826), gives us the iconic image of a heroic survivor who narrates the history of an apocalyptic disaster in order to save humanity—if not as a species, then at least as the practice of compassion or humaneness. In visual and musical arts from 1826 to the present, this postapocalyptic figure has transmogrified from the “last man” into the globally familiar filmic images of the “invisible man” and the “final girl.”

Reading Shelley’s work against the background of epidemic literature and political thought from ancient Greece to Covid-19, Eileen M. Hunt reveals how Shelley’s postapocalyptic imagination has shaped science fiction and dystopian writing from H. G. Wells, M. P. Shiel, and George Orwell to Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Emily St. John Mandel. Through archival research into Shelley’s personal journals and other writings, Hunt unearths Shelley’s ruminations on her own personal experiences of loss, including the death of young children in her family to disease and the drowning of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley’s grief drove her to intensive study of Greek tragedy, through which she developed the thinking about plague, conflict, and collective responsibility that later emerges in her fiction. From her readings of classic works of plague literature to her own translation of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, and from her authorship of the first major modern pandemic novel to her continued influence on contemporary popular culture, Shelley gave rise to a tradition of postapocalyptic thought that asks a question that the Covid-19 pandemic has made newly urgent for many: What do humans do after disaster?
Learn more about The First Last Man at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Last Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five inspirational & instructional gardening books

At The Amazon Book Review Seira Wilson tagged five inspirational, and instructional, gardening books, including:
Grow More Food: A Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Getting the Biggest Harvest Possible from a Space of Any Size by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm

If you want to maximize production in your vegetable garden, this is the book for you. McCrate and Halm draw on their years of experience to show readers how to extend the planting season, get the most from their plants, and plan for a big harvest. In short, this book teaches us how to think like a farmer, no matter what size garden you’re working with.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Robert Dugoni's "A Killing on the Hill," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: A Killing on the Hill: A Thriller by Robert Dugoni.

The entry begins:
When I wrote A Killing on the Hill, I thought of a young Matt Damon to play the lead role of William Shoemacher, 19-year-old, naïve reporter who comes to Seattle during The Great Depression and finds himself embroiled in the murder Trial of the Century, a showcase of the wealthy and the poor. Shoemacher soon realizes nothing about the trial is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

While I’m a bit out of touch with today’s up and coming actors, I recently saw ...[read on]
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Agent.

Q&A with Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: In Her Tracks.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

The Page 69 Test: A Killing on the Hill.

My Book, The Movie: A Killing on the Hill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kashshaf Ghani's "Sufi Rituals and Practices"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sufi Rituals and Practices: Experiences from South Asia, 1200-1450 by Kashshaf Ghani.

About the book, from the publisher:
The book is an in-depth study of the lesser-explored history of Sufi practices in South Asia. Covering the formative period of Sufism in this region, the work studies practices like 'sama' (listening to poetry and music) and 'zikr' (remembrance of God) through the careers of the earliest Sufi orders in the region, 'Chishti and Suhrawardi'. The book allows the reader critical insight into 'Sufi exercises', the meaning, structure, and performance of sama, the long debate on the legality of music, dance and poetry as religious practices, tensions between Sufis and the State around the permissibility of sama, zikr as a core Sufi exercise, the practice of sama and zikr across orders, and the importance of etiquette in Sufi communities. The work essentially understands spiritual practices as a critical element in the development of Sufism in South Asia. Moving beyond the limits of the north-south binary, the author also focuses on the Deccan, weaving a seamless narrative that reflects the contributions of generations of important Sufi masters. Shedding light on the private world of Sufi practices, the work, for the first time, introduces English language readers to a full-length translation of a treatise written in defence of listening to music and poetry as an integral spiritual exercise.
Visit Kashshaf Ghani's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sufi Rituals and Practices.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six of the best campus crime novels

Ali Lowe has been a journalist for 20 years. She has written for magazines, newspapers, and websites in London and then Australia, after she moved to Sydney sixteen years ago on a trip that was meant to last a year. She was Features Editor at OK! in London, where she memorably stalked celebrities in Elton John's garden at his annual White Tie and Tiara ball.

Lowe lives on the northern beaches of Sydney with her husband and three young children.

Her newest novel is The School Run.

At CrimeReads the author tagged six of her favorite campus crime novels. One title on the list:
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

This has to be the ultimate in campus crime novels, and it is certainly my favourite. Richard is recounting his years at an elite university in Vermont, and straight away we learn he and a group of fellow students – under the influence of their cult-like Ancient Greek professor – killed an unlikeable student named Bunny. I read this novel in a tent in Kenya on safari several years ago and the eeriness was real as I flipped the pages. It is not so much an action-packed whodunnit but an intellectual thriller that will give you the chills as much for its creepiness as its outstanding cleverness.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Secret History is on Edwin Hill's list of six perfectly alluring academic mysteries, a top ten list of the best Twinkies in fiction, and among Kate Weinberg's five top campus novels, Emily Temple's twenty best campus novels, and Ruth Ware's top six books about boarding schools.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Friedrich Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

D.W. Buffa's latest novel is Lunatic Carnival, the tenth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, most recently, America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

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 Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra begins:
When someone told Friedrich Nietzsche that he had not understood a single word of Zarathustra, Nietzsche replied that “this was perfectly in order: having understood six sentences from it - that is, to have really experienced them - would raise one to a higher level of existence than ‘modern’ men could attain.” It was no better with those who claimed they understood what he had written. “Whoever thought he had understood something of me, had made up something out of me after his own image.” Nietzsche did not expect to be understood. “The time for me hasn’t come yet: some are born posthumously.” The confidence that he would eventually be understood was, at least in part, based on how he could write. After reading him, he insisted, “One simply can no longer endure other books, least of all philosophical works.” The right reader, someone “related to me in the height of his aspiration will experience veritable ecstasies of learning: for I have come from heights that no bird has ever reached in flight, I know abysses into which no foot ever strayed.”

What had Nietzsche learned from the heights he had reached and the depths he had explored? What had he written that no one then living could understand? That Europe, that is to say, the West, was being destroyed by....[read on]
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.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

Third Reading: Naguib Mahfouz’s novels of ancient Egypt.

Third Reading: Main Street.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part I.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part II.

Third Reading: Zarathustra.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jo Perry's "The World Entire"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The World Entire by Jo Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ascher Lieb (PURE) returns in a fast-moving, intense,and layered mystery about a dog accused of murder and a violent group that targets the man Ascher loves.

But love is complicated. And to save the dog, Ascher must find the murderer on her own and risk everything to fulfill an impossible and dangerous promise.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

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

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

Q&A with Jo Perry.

The Page 69 Test: Pure.

The Page 69 Test: The World Entire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nathaniel Wiewora's "Sins of Christendom"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sins of Christendom: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Evangelicalism by Nathaniel Wiewora.

About the book, from the publisher:
Evangelical criticism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dates back to the earliest days of the Church. Nathaniel Wiewora uses the diverse animus expressed by evangelicals to illuminate how they used an imaginary Church as a proxy to disagree, attack, compromise, and settle differences among themselves. As Wiewora shows, the evangelical practice to contrast itself with the emerging faith not only encompassed but also went beyond religious matters. If Joseph Smith was accused of muddling religious truth, he and his followers also faced accusations of immoral economic practices and a sinful regard for wealth that reflected worries within the evangelical world. Attacks on Latter-day Saints’ emotional religious displays, the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, and the dangerous ideas represented by Nauvoo paralleled similar conflicts. Wiewora traces how the failure to blunt the Church’s success led evangelicals to change their own methods and pursue the religious education infrastructure that came to define parts of the movement.
Learn more about Sins of Christendom at the University of Illinois Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sins of Christendom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight personal stories that use horror as a lens

Richard Scott Larson is a queer writer and critic. His debut memoir is The Long Hallway.

Born and raised in the outer suburbs of St. Louis, he studied literature and film criticism at Hunter College in Manhattan and earned his MFA from New York University in Paris. He has received fellowships from MacDowell and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and his work has also been supported by residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Paragraph Workspace for Writers, La Porte Peinte, and the Willa Cather Foundation.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight "books that helped [him] understand how writing about horror can be a way of writing about ourselves." One title on the list:
Night Mother: A Personal and Cultural History of The Exorcist by Marlena Williams

Night Mother offers exactly what its subtitle suggests, as this memoir-in-essays serves up a blend of memoir, criticism, and reported history regarding the original production and reception of The Exorcist in popular culture as Marlena Williams explores complex ideas regarding faith, family, sexuality, womanhood, and grief. “The Exorcist, when you really get down to it,” Williams writes, “is just a story about a mother and a daughter.” The personal obsession at the book’s core is her relationship with her own mother before and after the latter’s death from cancer, as well as how the two women’s powerful responses to William Friedkin’s iconic film connected and bonded them forever. Horror works here as a shared experience and collective memory giving voice to distinct fears and preoccupations, and the film functions now for Williams as a family heirloom of sorts, a site of reckoning with the past as she forges a future without her mother to guide her.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 12, 2024

Q&A with Karen E. Olson

From my Q&A with Karen E. Olson, author of An Inconvenient Wife: A Modern Tudor Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The phrase “an inconvenient wife” was something Henry VIII said to describe his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, when he was trying to divorce her but she was stonewalling the process. Most of his wives were “inconvenient” in some way at some point in their marriages, and as my book is told from the point of view of four of the wives, it has always felt to be appropriate as a title and sets the stage for the reader.

What's in a name?

Since the book is a fictional retelling of history, I played around with the actual names of the historical figures: Henry VIII becomes Hank Tudor; Katherine Parr becomes...[read on]
Visit Karen E. Olson's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Inconvenient Wife.

Q&A with Karen E. Olson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stephanie Lawson's "Regional Politics in Oceania"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Regional Politics in Oceania: From Colonialism and Cold War to the Pacific Century by Stephanie Lawson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Stephanie Lawson's book is by far the most comprehensive study of regional politics in Oceania produced to date. Drawing on a range of interdisciplinary sources, she provides a systematic account of major issues facing the region and presents conceptual and theoretical issues in a sophisticated but accessible manner. She traces the trajectories of regional politics from the earliest human settlements to European exploration and colonization, the period of formal regionalization in the post-war period, decolonization, the Cold War, and key geopolitical developments in the post-Cold War period. She also focuses on identity politics, manifest at various levels from the local through to the national, subregional and regional, as well as broader configurations around the West/non-West divide. This book will be of interest to anyone engaged with the history and politics of Oceania or comparative regional studies, especially given the relevance of themes to Asian, African and Latin American contexts.
Learn more about Regional Politics in Oceania at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Regional Politics in Oceania.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books about siblings

Sophie Ratcliffe is professor of literature and creative criticism at the University of Oxford and a fellow and tutor at Lady Margaret Hall. In addition to her scholarly books, including On Sympathy, she has published commentary pieces and book reviews for the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the Times Literary Supplement, among other outlets, and has served a judge for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and the Wellcome Book Prize.

Ratcliffe's forthcoming book is Loss, A Love Story: Imagined Histories and Brief Encounters.

At the Guardian she tagged five of the best books about siblings, including:
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

A girl begs the authorities to be allowed to bring her twin brother’s body home. The state resists. The story of Antigone is reshaped here for the 21st century, and on a global stage. This time the actors are not warring factions in Thebes but a young man drawn into Islamic State, his family in the UK, and the press that shapes and moulds their stories. With moving characterisation and elegant prose, Shamsie paints a tragedy of faith, loyalty and family on a grand canvas, but stays true to her all-too human characters.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 11, 2024

What is Verlin Darrow reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Verlin Darrow, author of The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

His entry begins:
I’m currently reading Other Plans by Caimh McDonnell, an Irish comedian turned author. This is his latest and I’ve read them all, beginning with the Dublin Trilogy, which is actually four comic crime novels. He’s one of my favorite authors, rivaling Donald E. Westlake. A minor character in his first book was so well-loved that he started another series with this colorful figure. The plotting is tight, the characters are fascinating, the setting interests me, and I laugh out loud while I’m reading. What more could ask for?

Recently, I finished Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg, a complex police/fire fighter procedural with...[read on]
About The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth, from the publisher:
When her elderly mother suffers a stroke, Ivy Lutz leaves her life as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka and returns home to northern California. Her sheltered life is blasted apart by a series of murders, which she attempts to solve with the help of a smitten detective. She understands why someone might want to kill her stepfather, who it turns out is a smuggler on the run, but what about her mother? Was she was murdered, too? As Ivy struggles to live by her Buddhist principles and employ her mindfulness skills, she discovers they both hinder and help in her search for the truth.
Visit Verlin Darrow's website.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow (May 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: Murder for Liar.

The Page 69 Test: The Not Quite Enlightened Sleuth.

Writers Read: Verlin Darrow.

--Marshal Zeringue