Friday, May 31, 2024

Five of the best escapist books

Francesca Segal is an award-winning writer and journalist. She is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Innocents (2012) and The Awkward Age (2017), and a memoir of NICU motherhood, Mother Ship (2019). Her writing has won the 2012 Costa First Novel Award, a Betty Trask Award, and been longlisted for the Women's Prize.

Her new novel is Welcome to Glorious Tuga.

At the Guardian Segal tagged five favorite escapist books, include:
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked contains one of the most spectacularly hilarious and maddeningly awful boyfriends in contemporary literature. Duncan has an all-consuming obsession with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive American singer-songwriter, and Duncan’s longsuffering girlfriend Annie is forced to live, in a way, with both of them. There is gentle wish fulfilment when Tucker Crowe himself connects with lonely Annie, and a friendship ensues that sustains and empowers each of them. Sheer pleasure.
Read about another entry on the list.

Juliet, Naked is among Matthew Norman's seven titles featuring musicians & the lure of rock stardom and Brian Boone's six notable fictional musicians. Susann Cokal called it "a wonderfully funny, wistful, hopeful book about second chances and reasons to live."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Roger Crowley's "Spice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Spice: The 16th-Century Contest that Shaped the Modern World by Roger Crowley.

About the book, from the publisher:
The story of the sixteenth-century’s epic contest for the spice trade, which propelled European maritime exploration and conquest across Asia and the Pacific

Spices drove the early modern world economy, and for Europeans they represented riches on an unprecedented scale. Cloves and nutmeg could reach Europe only via a complex web of trade routes, and for decades Spanish and Portuguese explorers competed to find their elusive source. But when the Portuguese finally reached the spice islands of the Moluccas in 1511, they set in motion a fierce competition for control.

Roger Crowley shows how this struggle shaped the modern world. From 1511 to 1571, European powers linked up the oceans, established vast maritime empires, and gave birth to global trade, all in the attempt to control the supply of spices.

Taking us on voyages from the dockyards of Seville to the vastness of the Pacific, the volcanic Spice Islands of Indonesia, the Arctic Circle, and the coasts of China, this is a narrative history rich in vivid eyewitness accounts of the adventures, shipwrecks, and sieges that formed the first colonial encounters—and remade the world economy for centuries to follow.
Visit Roger Crowley's website.

Writers Read: Roger Crowley (December 2015).

The Page 99 Test: Conquerors.

The Page 99 Test: The Accursed Tower.

The Page 99 Test: Spice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrew L. Erdman's "Beautiful," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Beautiful: The Story of Julian Eltinge, America's Greatest Female Impersonator by Andrew L. Erdman.

The entry begins:
Julian Eltinge, né William Dalton, was born near Boston in 1881. His dad dragged him and his mom around the Americas in a frontier fantasy, in search of fabled goldmine riches that would never materialize. But with his mom’s encouragement, young Billy began perfecting his remarkable female-impersonating skills. This was a time when many men, from stage luminaries to fraternity bros to business men in Elks’ chapters to military units, had no problem with dragging-up for a good musical comedy or show. It was celebrated. By 1901, Billy Dalton was Julian Eltinge, wowing Boston’s elite in transvestic musicals and on his way to vaudeville, Broadway, and silent screen fame. He would become one of the highest paid, cisgender male actors in the world and virtually define the hugely popular art of precise, nuanced, female impersonation. As his fortunes and health declined in the 1930s, and as fearful, reactionary voices clamped down on sexual and gender nonconformity amid a global economic upheaval and the rise of fascism—sound familiar?—Julian Eltinge and his artistry receded into history. But his story and its era are so lively and relevant that I felt a foolish-joyful drive to write about it all.

Who could play young Billy Dalton as he transitioned into the star named Julian Eltinge? How about Timothée Chalamet?

Who could play his bitter, inebriated...[read on]
Visit Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

My Book, The Movie: Queen of Vaudeville.

The Page 99 Test: Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 30, 2024

What is Eva Gates reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Eva Gates, author of The Stranger in the Library.

Her entry begins:
Summer is my best reading time. Nothing I love more than sitting in the sun by the pool with a good book. But, before the Great Canadian Summer gets into full swing, here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

The Hunter by Tana French. Easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. French is Irish and the book (follow up to The Seeker) is set in a small, rural patch of Irish countryside where the people are not exactly accepting of strangers, and definitely into following everyone else’s business. The plot is interesting, the atmosphere perfect, the characters well drawn and fascinating, but the best part, to me, is French’s skillful use of the Irish accent and idioms that cleverly give the English speaking reader a taste of the dialect without making it something you have to parse through to understand. When...[read on]
About The Stranger in the Library, from the publisher:
Outer Banks librarian Lucy is working on an art show at the library when paintings–and people–start to go missing, in this 11th Lighthouse Library mystery from national bestselling author Eva Gates.

When a traveling show of impressionist art comes to Nags Head, North Carolina, librarian Lucy and the staff at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library are inspired to create an educational display about art history. Their launch of the display is a huge success, but the morning after, they discover that a reproduction of a famous painting has gone missing.

No one knows why anyone would bother stealing it: the picture is of no value–the real, priceless painting is under lock and key at the art show itself. Lucy gets an invite to the glitzy opening night for the real show, where she notices unusual tension among the show’s organizers. Then, the man scheduled to give the welcoming speech fails to arrive, and a party-goer is discovered drowned in a fish pond.

Meanwhile, Louise Jane is totally captivated by Tom Reilly, a handsome, charming art dealer lurking at the edges of the receptions on both nights. Tom slipped away from the party early, and he cannot be located by the police. Who, Lucy asks, is Tom Reilly, the shadowy figure threatening to break Louise Jane’s heart?

Something is afoot in Nags Head, and it’s up to Lucy and her friends to get to the bottom of it before it’s not just paintings being framed.
Follow Eva Gates on Twitter and Facebook, and visit Vicki Delany's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death By Beach Read.

Writers Read: Eva Gates (June 2022).

The Page 69 Test: Death Knells and Wedding Bells.

Writers Read: Eva Gates (June 2023).

Writers Read: Eva Gates.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Hannah Spahn's "Black Reason, White Feeling"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Black Reason, White Feeling: The Jeffersonian Enlightenment in the African American Tradition by Hannah Spahn.

About the book, from the publisher:
The vital influence of Black American intellectuals on the legacy of Thomas Jefferson’s ideas

The lofty Enlightenment principles articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, so central to conceptions of the American founding, did not emerge fully formed as a coherent set of ideas in the eighteenth century. As Hannah Spahn argues in this important book, no group had a more profound influence on their development and reception than Black intellectuals. The rationalism and universalism most associated with Jefferson today, she shows, actually sprang from critical engagements with his thought by writers such as David Walker, Lemuel Haynes, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Black Reason, White Feeling illuminates the philosophical innovations that these and other Black intellectuals made to build on Jefferson’s thought, shaping both Jefferson’s historical image and the exalted legacy of his ideas in American culture. It is not just the first book-length history of Jefferson’s philosophy in Black thought; it is also the first history of the American Enlightenment that centers the originality and decisive impact of the Black tradition.
Learn more about Black Reason, White Feeling at the University of Virginia Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Black Reason, White Feeling.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top mysteries set in luxurious destinations

Jaclyn Goldis is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and NYU School of Law. She practiced estate planning law at a large Chicago firm for seven years before leaving her job to travel the world and write novels. After culling her possessions into only what would fit in a backpack, she traveled for over a year until settling in Tel Aviv, where she can often be found writing from cafés near the beach. She is the author of The Chateau and The Main Character.

At CrimeReads Goldis tagged six favorite mysteries set in luxurious destinations, including:
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

The Queen of Mystery renders one of her finest in this thriller set on a river cruise down the Nile. Agatha Christie spent significant time in her beloved Egypt, both as a child and as an adult traveling with her archeologist second husband. (Her non-fiction account of those times in her memoir, Come, Tell Me How You Live, is not to be missed.) In Death on the Nile, Christie crafts a brilliant, riveting mystery with a most enticing backdrop. As a glamorous steamer boat filled with an array of intriguing passengers makes its way down the river, and excursions embark to pyramids and temples, it becomes clear that something sinister is afoot. Poirot’s little gray cells are in prime form in this, my personal favorite of the entire Christie oeuvre.
Read about another title on the list.

Death on the Nile is among Marisha Pessl's six favorite stories of suspense and Sophia Bennett's top ten books set in the Mediterranean.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Pg. 69: Hart Hanson's "The Seminarian"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Seminarian by Hart Hanson.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the creator of the TV show Bones, The Seminarian is a twisty murder mystery perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen.

Xavier “Priest” Priestly is a snarky former seminarian turned private investigator. Dusty Queen is a hard-as-nails professional stuntwoman and freelance bodyguard. When Dusty’s girlfriend suddenly disappears, a woman in a strange blue wig tries to assassinate Priest, and a twelve-year-old boy shows up claiming to be his son, the two friends are thrown into a maelstrom of intrigue and high-stakes violence that’s as convoluted and dangerous as it is hilarious.

Thankfully, Priest and Dusty don’t have to navigate these tangled mysteries alone. Aided by a lawyer, who’s underwhelmed by their extra-legal methods; a straight-laced detective, who doesn’t trust them as far as he can throw them; and Priest’s father, a notorious bank robber, they are well equipped to deal with potential kidnapping and attempted murder. But whether Priest is up to the challenge of a son with a gun, a backpack full of weed, and a major attitude problem … well, that’s a different story.

With its unforgettable cast, parade of twists and turns, and breakneck pace, The Seminarian showcases Hart Hanson at his best. Packed with action and glistening with snappy dialogue, surprising tenderness, and (mostly) good people doing some exceptionally bad things, this distinctive thriller is as entertaining as it is insightful.
Visit Hart Hanson's website.

Q&A with Hart Hanson.

The Page 69 Test: The Seminarian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Claire Horisk's "Dangerous Jokes"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Dangerous Jokes: How Racism and Sexism Weaponize Humor by Claire Horisk.

About the book, from the publisher:
People often get away with belittling others if they frame their speech as jokes-speech that would be condemned if stated seriously. "It's just a joke," they say. But what is different or special about joking? And if jokes about lawyers and politicians are morally acceptable, then what is wrong with joking about race or gender? Furthermore, if we may joke about a politician's shirts, may we joke about his weight? People who are targeted by demeaning jokes feel their impact but may not be able to pinpoint where the harm lies. Dangerous Jokes develops a novel, well-researched, and compelling argument that lays bare the power of demeaning jokes in ordinary conversations. Claire Horisk draws on her expertise in philosophy of language and on evidence from sociology, law and cognitive science to explain how the element of humor-so often used as a defence-makes jokes more potent than regular speech in communicating prejudice and reinforcing social hierarchies. She addresses the morality of telling, being amused by, and laughing at, derogatory jokes, and she gives a new account of listening that addresses the morality of listening to demeaning speech. She leaves us with no illusions about whether "it's just a joke" is an excuse for demeaning humor.
Learn more about Dangerous Jokes at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dangerous Jokes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifteen great books about jazz

Ed Simon is a staff writer for Lit Hub, the editor of Belt Magazine, and the author of numerous books, including most recently Heaven, Hell and Paradise Lost, Elysium: A Visual History of Angelology, and Relic, part of the Object Lessons series.

In the summer of 2024 Melville House will release his Devil's Contract: The History of the Faustian Bargain, the first comprehensive, popular account of that subject.

At Lit Hub Simon tagged fifteen "literary works with jazz at their center which have given 'special overtones' to words." One title on the list:
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Arguably the greatest American novel of the twentieth-century’s second half, Ralph Ellison’s classic novel of Black disenfranchisement and alienation is still capable of shocking and elucidating the national racial divide all these decades later through the author’s acute existential imagination. What can’t be obscured in that is the central role that jazz plays in the formation of the anonymous narrator’s consciousness, how as Ellison charts the musical transitions from swing to bop, of how music “can profoundly alter how we view the world and our place in it.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Invisible Man comes in second on the list of the 100 best last lines from novels; it appears among Ben Okri's six best books, Matthew Guerrieri's five top books inspired by Beethoven's Fifth, Bruna Lobato's ten must-read classics by African American authors, Peter Dimock's top ten books that rewrite history, five novels that explore the dark side in New York City, Peter Forbes's top ten books on color, Joyce Hackett's top ten musical novels, Sam Munson's six best stoner novels, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best nameless protagonists in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Fiction's Failure

D.W. Buffa's newest novel to be released (July 2024) is Evangeline, a courtroom drama about the murder trial of captain who is one of the few to survive the sinking of his ship.

Buffa is also the author of ten legal thrillers 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 America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa's latest take in his "Third Reading" series for this blog is on Fiction's Failure. It begins:
In the middle of the last century, before everyone had a kindle, or some other small electronic device to keep them entertained, when millions of commuters rode the bus or the train sometimes more than an hour to work, the introduction of the paperback novel revolutionized the reading habits of Americans. Instead of expensive hardcover books, paperbacks, some of which cost less than a dollar, gave the seat-bound commuter four or five hundred pages of page turning fiction, an escape from the crowd around her and the thought of her dull, tedious, and often thankless job. The books were thick, the covers sometimes lurid, the prose, though nothing like as graphic as it is today, fast-moving and easy to understand. A number of writers made a great deal of money writing books like this, but no one was better at writing what the critics, with some justification, called trash, than Harold Robbins, about whom a better novel could be written than any novel he wrote himself.

Harold Robbins loved booze, loved women, and hated writing, hated it so much he had to be locked in a room before he would even start. It is true that it was not a bad room; it was, quite often, one of the most expensive rooms in one of the most expensive hotels in New York. But Plaza suite or jail cell, confinement, as they say, concentrates the mind. The difference was that what they did to Robbins in a New York hotel, no Georgia county sheriff would ever have been allowed to do. The hotel or, rather, Robbins’ friend and agent, who gave direction to the hotel staff, would not send in food. Not until, each day, Robbins had written the requisite number of typed pages.

Among his other contributions to American fiction, Robbins wrote The Carpetbaggers. Based loosely on the life of Howard Hughes, the book was an enormous best-seller when it came out in paperback. Robbins got richer still when Hollywood made a movie out of it, a movie in which the girl who was about to marry the Howard Hughes character, asked what she would like to see on her honeymoon, replied, “Ceilings.” The audience was properly shocked and could not wait to tell their friends. Like everything Robbins wrote, The Carpetbaggers followed the time tested formula of....[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: Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Third Reading: Fiction's Failure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Chloe Wigston Smith's "Novels, Needleworks, and Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Novels, Needleworks, and Empire: Material Entanglements in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World by Chloe Wigston Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first sustained study of the vibrant links between domestic craft and British colonialism

In the eighteenth century, women’s contributions to empire took fewer official forms than those collected in state archives. Their traces were recorded in material ways, through the ink they applied to paper or the artifacts they created with muslin, silk threads, feathers, and shells. Handiwork, such as sewing, knitting, embroidery, and other crafts, formed a familiar presence in the lives and learning of girls and women across social classes, and it was deeply connected to colonialism.

Chloe Wigston Smith follows the material and visual images of the Atlantic world that found their way into the hands of women and girls in Britain and early America—in the objects they made, the books they held, the stories they read—and in doing so adjusted and altered the form and content of print and material culture. A range of artifacts made by women, including makers of color, brought the global into conversation with domestic crafts and consequently placed images of empire and colonialism within arm’s reach. Together, fiction and handicrafts offer new evidence of women’s material contributions to the home’s place within the global eighteenth century, revealing the rich and complex connections between the global and the domestic.
Learn more about Novels, Needleworks, and Empire at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Novels, Needleworks, and Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven novels featuring ghost children

Joel H. Morris is the author of All Our Yesterdays, his debut novel. He has worked most recently as an English teacher and, for the past twenty years, has taught language and literature. Prior to earning a doctorate in comparative literature, he spent several years as a bookseller before joining a small maritime expedition company as a sailor.

At Electric Lit Morris tagged "seven novels involving literal and metaphorical ghost childrenseven novels involving literal and metaphorical ghost children." One title on the list:
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Supernatural children have long been a feature of folklore and fairytales. Often a foundling, the child fills a gap in an otherwise loving couple’s marriage—the ghost space that is yet to be filled. Ivey sets her novel in the wilds of Alaska in the 1920s, with all the challenges of the homesteading life that such a place entails. In the fashion of the Russian fairytale the novel is based on, a childless couple, Jack and Mabel, build a child out of snow. The snow child disappears and in its place a girl named Faina comes each winter to visit. Atmospheric and hopeful, the novel plays with the tension of not knowing whether Faina is real or a delusion that binds Jack and Mabel to one another and to the landscape in which they are trying to survive.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Snow Child is among Emily Burack's twenty-five of the best classic winter books, Idra Novey's top ten retold fairytales, Ashleigh Bell Pedersen's eight magical novels by women writers and M. A. Kuzniar's eight retellings with a bite of darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 27, 2024

Q&A with Hart Hanson

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

Apparently, I am very bad at titles. Everything I’ve ever written has been retitled. My first novel Clear Shallow Water was too hoity-toity so it was re-titled The Driver. My current novel The Seminarian was originally entitled The Irritation Mojo which, I was told, would not do because the word “irritation” is off-putting.

The Seminarian isn’t about a seminarian – my protagonist is a former seminarian who has been thrust back into the real world. However, he approaches his job as an investigator as a seminarian would, so...[read on]
Visit Hart Hanson's website.

Q&A with Hart Hanson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Carl Öhman's "The Afterlife of Data"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Afterlife of Data: What Happens to Your Information When You Die and Why You Should Care by Carl Öhman.

About the book, from the publisher:
A short, thought-provoking book about what happens to our online identities after we die.

These days, so much of our lives takes place online—but what about our afterlives? Thanks to the digital trails that we leave behind, our identities can now be reconstructed after our death. In fact, AI technology is already enabling us to “interact” with the departed. Sooner than we think, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. In this thought-provoking book, Carl Öhman explores the increasingly urgent question of what we should do with all this data and whether our digital afterlives are really our own—and if not, who should have the right to decide what happens to our data.

The stakes could hardly be higher. In the next thirty years alone, about two billion people will die. Those of us who remain will inherit the digital remains of an entire generation of humanity—the first digital citizens. Whoever ends up controlling these archives will also effectively control future access to our collective digital past, and this power will have vast political consequences. The fate of our digital remains should be of concern to everyone—past, present, and future. Rising to these challenges, Öhman explains, will require a collective reshaping of our economic and technical systems to reflect more than just the monetary value of digital remains.

As we stand before a period of deep civilizational change, The Afterlife of Data will be an essential guide to understanding why and how we as a human race must gain control of our collective digital past—before it is too late.
Learn more about The Afterlife of Data at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Afterlife of Data.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books featuring families

Paul Murray was born in 1975 in Dublin. His novels include An Evening of Long Goodbyes, short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award; Skippy Dies, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Mark and the Void, joint winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and one of Time’s Top 10 Fiction Books of the year; and The Bee Sting, one of The New York Times Top 10 Books of the Year.

At the Waterstones blog Murray tagged six favorite books featuring families. One title on the list:
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying was one of the first ‘grown-up’ novels I read. A kind of a Gothic road trip through the Deep South, it recounts the Bundren family’s journey from the badlands of Mississippi to Jefferson to bury their mother, Addie. They carry the coffin on a horse and cart and encounter many obstacles. It’s one of Faulkner’s shorter and less difficult novels – relatively speaking – and has a sly line in black humour. It ended up being a big influence on my novel The Bee Sting, both tonally and structurally; Faulkner lets his characters take it in turns to tell the story, and the conflicting, even contradictory perspectives that emerge within a single family are brilliantly brought to life here.
Read about another entry on the list.

As I Lay Dying is on a list of four books that shaped Carmel Reilly's love of literature, a list of four books that changed Elizabeth J. Church, Jesmyn Ward's list of six favorite books featuring absent parents, Emily Ruskovich's top ten list of rural American novels, Jeff Somers's top five list of books written in very unlikely places, Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's list of eight of the most badass ladies in all of banned literature, Nicole Hill's lists of nine of the biggest martyrs in fiction and five books that, like country and western songs, tell "stories of agony and ecstasy, soaring highs and mighty powerful lows, heartache and hard living," Laura Frost's list of the ten best modernist books (in English), Helen Humphreys's top ten list of books on grieving, John Mullan's list of ten of the best teeth in literature, Jon McGregor's list of the top ten dead bodies in literature, Roy Blount Jr.'s list of five favorite books of Southern humor, and James Franco's six best books list.

The “My mother is a fish.” chapter in As I Lay Dying is among the ten most notorious parts of famous books according to Gabe Habash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Pg. 69: Miya T. Beck's "Through a Clouded Mirror"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Through a Clouded Mirror by Miya T. Beck.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and set in a magical imperial Japan, this is a breathtaking fantasy adventure from the acclaimed author of The Pearl Hunter.

Yuki Snow wishes she were anywhere but here.

She hates Santa Dolores, where her mom and stepdad just moved the family. Her BFF back home, Julio, has already forgotten his promise to stay in touch—and worse, he like likes Yuki’s mortal enemy. At her new school, the kids think she’s either invisible or a know-it-all nerd.

The only friend she’s made so far is the shopkeeper at a Japanese antiques store. Among the treasures there is an ancient brass mirror supposedly once owned by celebrated Japanese writer Sei Shonagon. It’s also rumored to be a portal to Shonagon’s world, which opens every hundred years. So when a woman with long jet-black hair and flowing silk robes appears in the glass, beckoning, Yuki knows there’s only one thing to do—step through to the unknown….
Visit Miya T. Beck's website.

The Page 69 Test: Through a Clouded Mirror.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew L. Erdman's "Beautiful"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Beautiful: The Story of Julian Eltinge, America's Greatest Female Impersonator by Andrew L. Erdman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, female impersonation was a hugely popular performance genre. Long before today's popular television shows, men in colleges, business, and even the military formed drag clubs and put on musicals and variety shows of all kinds with little fear of negative judgment. But no female impersonator was as famous, successful, or highly-regarded as Julian Eltinge (1881-1941). Eltinge, born William Dalton just outside Boston, started playing female characters and imitating women with his mother's encouragement as a child while his father shuttled his family around the Americas in search of a mining fortune that never materialized. The future drag star returned to Boston in his late teens where he quickly rose through the ranks of semi-amateur all-male musicals, then transitioned to vaudeville, and eventually starred in hugely successful musical comedies such as The Fascinating Widow (1910).

For decades, the Julian Eltinge Theatre on West 42nd Street bore testament to his stature. But Eltinge longed to play serious roles which did not require him to impersonate women; it was a lifelong struggle. He constructed a hypermasculine offstage persona-- a cigar-loving former Harvard athlete who beat up anyone who questioned his manliness--most of which wasn't true. But Eltinge's efforts were essential in a culture increasingly focused on separating “real men” from “inverts” and “perverts,” demanding men define themselves in new ways during a time of economic and cultural upheaval. During his heyday, Eltinge published a beauty and advice magazine for women, launched lifestyle-brand makeup and skincare products, and became a paid spokesperson for corsets and women's shoes, all without a hint of irony. Julian Eltinge's success with mainstream audiences, ever avoiding suspicions and scandal, says much about the emergent middle-class white heteronormativity of the era and what we have come to think of as the social construction of gender. Beautiful pays tribute to Eltinge and gives rich insight into his unique contributions to the transformation of cultural ideas about masculinity and femininity.
Visit Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

My Book, The Movie: Queen of Vaudeville.

The Page 99 Test: Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top dead characters with something to say

Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and author whose films have been selections at major festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and New York. He is the author of the crime novel Better the Blood and the nonfiction book In Dark Places, both of which won Ngaio Marsh awards, making him the first writer to win the award for both fiction and nonfiction. He is also the author of the young adult graphic novel Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas which, along with Better the Blood, was a finalist for the New Zealand Book Award.

At CrimeReads Bennett tagged eight "favourite dead characters from crime fiction, film and television, who come back through the misty veil, and who have something to say (usually, quite a lot)." One book on the list:
THE QUAKER (novel) by Liam McIlvanney

Eagle-eyed readers will notice a few New Zealand connections in this list. Bublitz is a Kiwi author, Edge Of Darkness was directed by Kiwi Martin Campbell, The Lovely Bones was adapted by Peter Jackson. Maybe people from this end of the planet feel at ease with the idea of dead people hanging around. Here’s another NZ connection – McIlvanney grew up in Glasgow but now lives in New Zealand. This is a fictionalised retelling of crimes that haunt Scottish consciousness in the same way the Boston Strangler or Zodiac killings haunt US readers. In late 1960s Glasgow, ‘Bible John’ murders three women after nights out at a dance hall. He’s never caught. McIlvanney uses the real case as a springboard for his award-winning novel, but gives each of the victims – all dead at the start of the novel – a strong voice throughout the story.

We get to know them and feel for them, making their loss deep and impactful, not just a way to kickstart a whodunnit.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Chris Harding Thornton's "Little Underworld," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Little Underworld: A Novel by Chris Harding Thornton.

The entry begins:
Little Underworld is a novel set in Omaha during Prohibition—specifically, during the spring of 1930. Jim Beely, a private investigator, kills the man who sexually assaulted his daughter. While disposing of the body, he runs across a dirty cop, Frank Tvrdik, who helps cover up the crime for a trade. Jim agrees to take down a candidate for city commission by bungling an investigation. When that plan goes awry, Jim and Frank try to figure out what happened. The answers lie in the twisting, turning, and brazenly ridiculous machinations of the city’s corrupt politics.

For better or worse, I write books to be read in one sitting (because that’s how I read them). To me, books are films inside a reader’s head, so I keep the intermissions to a minimum. What kept this book rolling for me, what made it a good time, was the dark humor and the absurdity of the plot. So, ideal directors of an adaptation would be someone like Paul Thomas Anderson or Joel and Ethan Coen, people who can balance intensity and hilarity on the head of a pin. There are only two movies I’ve re-started immediately after first watching them: Phantom Thread and No Country for Old Men. During the initial viewing of both, I was too tense, too sucked in, to fully appreciate how funny they were, so the second watch was solely for laughs.

As for casting, I’d pluck the leads from...[read on]
Visit Chris Harding Thornton's website.

Q&A with Chris Harding Thornton.

My Book, The Movie: Little Underworld.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: T.V. Paul's "The Unfinished Quest"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Unfinished Quest: India's Search for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi by T.V. Paul.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Unfinished Quest, T.V. Paul charts India's checkered path toward higher regional and global status, and sheds important light on its significance as the "swing power" that can mitigate China's aggressive rise in the Indo-Pacific region.

In 2022, India surpassed the United Kingdom, its former colonial ruler, as the fifth largest economy in the world. Since the 1990s, a series of US presidents and secretaries of state have all acclaimed India as a rising major power that deserves to be recognized as a lead actor in the international arena. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council except China have openly acknowledged the need to include India among their ranks. But even now, India has not attained the status of a globally recognized great power.

In The Unfinished Quest, leading international relations and South Asia scholar T.V. Paul charts India's checkered path toward higher regional and global status, covering both the successes and failures it has experienced since the modern nation's founding in 1947. Paul focuses on the key motivations driving Indian leaders to enhance India's global status and power, but also on the many constraints that have hindered its progress. He carefully specifies what counts as indicators of greater status and uses these as benchmarks in his assessment of each era. In this manner, he also brings forth some important insights on status competition and power transitions in the contemporary international system.

Paul's analysis of India's quest for status also sheds important light on the current geo-strategic situation and serves as a new framework for understanding the China-India rivalry, as well as India's relative position in the broader Indo-Pacific theater. As the economies of China and India grow rapidly, the power balance between them will be determined by each country's ability to develop the hard and soft powers needed to outpace the other and solidify their place in the global hierarchy. Whether India can be a "swing power" able to mitigate China's aggressive rise depends on its relative power position in that theater and its own evolution as an inclusive, tolerant democracy that can develop and utilize its most priced asset, the demographic dividend. This sweeping account of India's uneven rise in the global system will serve as the authoritative work on the subject.
Visit T.V. Paul's website.

The Page 99 Test: Restraining Great Powers.

The Page 99 Test: The Unfinished Quest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books featuring superstitions

Jessie Rosen got her start with the award-winning blog 20-Nothings and has sold original television projects to ABC, CBS, Warner Bros., and Netflix. Her live storytelling show Sunday Night Sex Talks was featured on The Bachelorette. She lives in Los Angeles.

Rosen's new novel is The Heirloom.

At Lit Hub she tagged six books that explore superstitions "from every angle. In some an omen defines the character’s struggle, in others its used as a thematic point, and in one the belief runs so deep it’s presented as fact." One title on the list:
Jennifer Weiner, Big Summer

Jennifer Weiner dives into the very tense world that my own main character fears: a wedding weekend. Our eyes in are through Daphne who is cajoled into being the maid-of-honor for her ex best friend Drue. Much has changed in the years since the fight that ended their friendship. Daphne feels like she’s meeting Drue all over again, and at one of the trickiest moments in her life.

Of course superstitions about ensuring a happy marriage enter the mix. Drue insists on one that was new to even me: she believes her wedding will be cursed if she buys her own wedding dress. Here belief systems inform the way we behave as friends and reveal what matters most at the most important times in our life.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2024

Q&A with Ash Clifton

From my Q&A with Ash Clifton, author of Twice the Trouble:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My book is a neo-noir P.I. novel, and I wanted the title to have a slightly retro, pulpy feel. Twice the Trouble fit the bill. It evokes, I hope, the deliberately melodramatic titles of famous P.I. mysteries like The Big Sleep and The Moving Target. So, I’m proud of my title in that regard.

And, of course, it’s a pun on the main character’s name, Noland Twice, which came to me out of the ether for reasons I cannot fathom.

What's in a name?

Names are poetry. It’s that simple. Even if a character’s name is...[read on]
Visit Ash Clifton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Twice the Trouble.

The Page 69 Test: Twice the Trouble.

Q&A with Ash Clifton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kevin J. McMahon's "A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other: The Deepening Divide Between the Justices and the People by Kevin J. McMahon.

About the book, from the publisher:
A data-rich examination of the US Supreme Court’s unprecedented detachment from the democratic processes that buttress its legitimacy.

Today’s Supreme Court is unlike any other in American history. This is not just because of its jurisprudence but also because the current Court has a tenuous relationship with the democratic processes that help establish its authority. Historically, this “democracy gap” was not nearly as severe as it is today. Simply put, past Supreme Courts were constructed in a fashion far more in line with the promise of democracy—that the people decide and the majority rules.

Drawing on historical and contemporary data alongside a deep knowledge of court battles during presidencies ranging from FDR to Donald Trump, Kevin J. McMahon charts the developments that brought us here. McMahon offers insight into the altered politics of nominating and confirming justices, the shifting pool of Supreme Court hopefuls, and the increased salience of the Court in elections. A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other is an eye-opening account of today’s Court within the context of US history and the broader structure of contemporary politics.
Learn more aboutA Supreme Court Unlike Any Other at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Supreme Court Unlike Any Other.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books about west African cities

At the Guardian Eromo Egbejule tagged five top books about west African cities, including:
Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey

Kwei Quartey, an Accra-born physician, has made his name with several crime fiction titles in the last two decades. The most recent one is Sleep Well, My Lady. On the first day of the Accra fashion week, a fashion mogul is found dead in her home in the city’s most expensive neighbourhood. That leads a relative who suspects her socialite boyfriend to engage the services of a young female private investigator to meander past big-city corruption and find out the truth about the tragedy.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Pg. 69: Susan Coll's "Real Life and Other Fictions"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Real Life and Other Fictions: A Novel by Susan Coll.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cassie Klein has always used stories to help her fly, but now her plot points aren’t lining up.

In her 50s, Cassie has already weathered more than most. She was orphaned at the age of two and has never fully understood why her DC-based parents were on a bridge in West Virginia that just so happened to collapse as they drove across it. Her search for answers prompted a failed career in journalism, and now she’s an aspiring novelist teaching at a local community college waiting for her literary dreams to finally come true. She stood by her once-doting husband when his meteorology career took a nosedive, and now she has learned that the man who became an internet meme has been cheating on her.

She’s had enough. She scoops up a teething puppy and embarks on a road trip that’s heavy on impulse and light on planning. She’s not sure where she’s going, but she knows she might as well start at the beginning. What really happened to her parents all those years ago?

In this comically surreal, warmhearted journey, she encounters people she never knew existed—chief among them, an enigmatic cryptozoologist, who helps her in the quest to discover her past. And along the way, she looks for answers regarding curious sightings of a creature known as the Mothman in the months before her parents died. As the line between real life and fiction blurs, Cassie finds herself grappling with the nature of stories, myths, and who gets to write the endings.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Coll's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Susan Coll & Zoe.

The Page 69 Test: Acceptance.

The Page 69 Test: Beach Week.

The Page 69 Test: The Stager.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life and Other Fictions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eric Jay Dolin's "Left For Dead"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Left For Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World by Eric Jay Dolin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The true story of five castaways abandoned on the Falkland Islands during the War of 1812―a tale of treachery, shipwreck, isolation, and the desperate struggle for survival.

In Left for Dead, Eric Jay Dolin―“one of today’s finest writers about ships and the sea” (American Heritage)―tells the true story of a wild and fateful encounter between an American sealing vessel, a shipwrecked British brig, and a British warship in the Falkland archipelago during the War of 1812.

Fraught with misunderstandings and mistrust, the incident left three British sailors and two Americans, including the captain of the sealer, Charles H. Barnard, abandoned in the barren, windswept, and inhospitable Falklands for a year and a half. With deft narrative skill and unequaled knowledge of the very pith of the seafaring life, Dolin describes in vivid and harrowing detail the increasingly desperate existence of the castaways during their eighteen-month ordeal―an all-too-common fate in the Great Age of Sail.

A tale of intriguing complexity, with surprising twists and turns throughout―involving greed, lying, bullying, a hostile takeover, stellar leadership, ingenuity, severe privation, endurance, banishment, the great value of a dog, the birth of a baby, a perilous thousand-mile open-ocean journey in a seventeen-foot boat, an improbable rescue mission, and legal battles over a dubious and disgraceful wartime prize―Left for Dead shows individuals in wartime under great duress acting both nobly and atrociously, and offers a unique perspective on a pivotal era in American maritime history.
Visit Eric Jay Dolin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.

The Page 99 Test: When America First Met China.

The Page 69 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

The Page 99 Test: Brilliant Beacons.

The Page 99 Test: Black Flags, Blue Waters.

The Page 99 Test: A Furious Sky.

Writers Read: Eric Jay Dolin (May 2022).

The Page 99 Test: Rebels At Sea.

The Page 99 Test: Left For Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about Black people who pass as white

Kuchenga Shenjé is a writer, journalist, and speaker with work on media platforms including Stylist, British Vogue, and Netflix. She has contributed short stories and essays to several anthologies, most notably It's Not OK to Feel Blue (And Other Lies), Who's Loving You, and Loud Black Girls. Owing to a lifelong obsession with books and the written word, Kuchenga studied Creative Writing at The Open University. Her work is focused on the perils of loving, being loved, and women living out loud throughout the ages. Her debut The Library Thief, is the ultimate marriage of her passions for history, mystery, and rebels. Kuchenga lives in Manchester, where she is determined to continue living a life worth writing about.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "stories that delve into race and identity in the U.S. and U.K." One title on the list:
Passing by Nella Larsen

The now seminal text portraying vignettes into the life of the ridiculously reckless Clare Kendry and the endlessly anxious Irene Redfield has captivated readers for a century. A sky-scraping achievement from a writer of the Harlem Renaissance, the queer coded depiction of a woman who uses her ability to pass as white to play in the face of a racist, will continue to be argued as an act of Black feminist defiance. Snatching racial privilege out of the mouth of the lion in the age of Gatsby which lasted only as long as it could. My mind remains made up, but I’ve never recovered from the “did she or didn’t she” of the last scene. Possibly the most perfect novella ever written.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Kate Feiffer's "Morning Pages," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Morning Pages by Kate Feiffer.

The entry begins:
This extraordinary Morning Pages dream cast will be announced by a scowling dream anchorman (George Stephanopoulos), who would prefer to be interviewing politicians rather than announcing dream casts on a dream morning show:

Morning Pages is Elise Hellman’s story. Elise (Jennifer Aniston) is a 48-year-old playwright. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s clumsy. She's been divorced for two years, but still has feelings for her ex (Jason Bateman). She’s dating, unsuccessfully (Jarvier Bardem, Edward Norton). She’s the mother of an 18 year old (Gaten Matarazzo), who she acknowledges...[read on]
Visit Kate Feiffer's website.

Writers Read: Kate Feiffer (May 2011).

The Page 69 Test: Morning Pages.

Q&A with Kate Feiffer.

My Book, The Movie: Morning Pages.

--Marshal Zeringue