Saturday, February 13, 2016

Nicholas Searle

Nicholas Searle grew up in the southwest of England and studied languages at the University of Bath. He spent more years than he cares to remember in public service before deciding in 2011 to leave and begin writing fiction. He lives in the north of England.

Searle's debut novel is The Good Liar.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The Green Road by Anne Enright
It’s an embarrassment that I haven’t read this sooner as I love Anne Enright’s writing, but I have had so many books stacking up. Cool, crystal-clear prose and while we can sense where we’re heading (I’m between a third and half way through) we’ve no idea yet what lies at our destination. It’s written episodically through the main characters’ different points of view and Enright varies her voice accordingly. Very impressive.

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
This book says the things introverts already know but could never say themselves. Among other things it describes the myth of charismatic leadership, how extrovert behaviours have only relatively recently become the cultural norm, and how the risk-averse introverts failed to be heard by their less cautious extrovert counterparts before the financial crisis. There’s also a fascinating self-analysis section. Not entirely convincing but I’m again (this is a re-read) finding it a good read.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello
I’ve spent some time skimming for interesting snippets and dipping in, and preparing myself to dive into this long read – which will require a concentrated, single-focus effort. I love Costello’s music and he seems a fascinating guy. This autobiography confirms that. He’s erudite and thoughtful, if sometimes rather too hard on himself. The chronology of the book is all over the place but it works. This far from the standard rock autobiography; it’s a soul exposed, sometimes painfully.
Follow Nicholas Searle on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Liar.

My Book, The Movie: The Good Liar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 12, 2016

Bethanie Murguia

Bethanie Deeney Murguia was raised in Western New York near the Grand Canyon of the East and many, many cows. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Rochester with a BA in psychology and fine art, she moved to New York City where she worked as an art director for Hearst Magazines. While in New York, Bethanie received her MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts.

Murguia now lives in the Bay Area where she has worked for a variety of design and marketing firms. Her illustrations have appeared on packaging and in various children’s publications, including Ladybug and My Big Backyard. Since 2011, she has focused exclusively on writing and illustrating picture books. Her illustrations and books have been honored with numerous accolades, including Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Awards and Bank Street College Best Books of the Year. Her new book is Cockatoo, Too.

Recently I asked Murguia about what she was reading. Her reply:
There are currently two books on my nightstand. The first is The Adventures of Miss Petitfour, by Anne Michaels. What’s not to adore about a book in which the main character and her sixteen cats fly, ala Mary Poppins, with the aid of various tablecloths? My six year old and I are enjoying it together. It’s delightfully written, fun to read aloud, and we love Miss Petitfour’s antics.

The second is A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. I picked this one up from a tiny bookstore while on vacation. I’ve really enjoying getting to know the cast of characters, including curmudgeonly Ove. They’re all rendered with humor and compassion. Ove’s wife believes that in relationships, over time, you come to love people's familiar imperfections more than the things that initially attracted you. That’s exactly how I feel about these characters as I’m nearing the end of the book.
Visit Bethanie Deeney Murguia's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kate Hilton

Kate Hilton is the author of The Hole in the Middle and Just Like Family (2017). She also co-authors a non-fiction blog, The Pen Pal Project. Before turning to fiction, Hilton worked in law, higher education, public relations and major gift fundraising. She has an English degree from McGill University and a Law degree from the University of Toronto. She is a working mother, a community volunteer, a voracious reader and a pretty decent cook. Hilton lives with her family in Toronto, where she is working on her third novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a fairly balanced diet of fiction and non-fiction, and I usually have one of each on the go at any given time.

On the fiction side, I’ve been on a historical novel binge lately. Delicious. I like my historicals to be meticulously researched, with elegant prose and a little romance.

My most recent read, Jennifer Robson’s Moonlight Over Paris, fit the bill admirably. I adored it. I’m a fan of Robson’s work, and I was waiting for this one to arrive so that I could gobble it down. There is something particularly irresistible about Paris in the 1920s, a time and place of immense creativity and rebirth. I cheered for the romantic leads, Helena and Sam - for their relationship with each other, but also for each character's development from a citizen of the pre-war world into an individual of the modern age. Robson handles these vast social transitions with the subtlety and care of a serious historian - which, of course, she is.

And now I am reading RenĂ©e Rosen’s White Collar Girl. I’ve only just started, but I’m already breathing the air of a 1950s newsroom in Chicago, and rooting for Jordan, the young female reporter who wants to make her mark in a male-dominated profession.

On the non-fiction side, I finally finished Andrew Solomon’s Far From The Tree. I say ‘finally’, not because it was a chore, but because this book is so rich and thought provoking that I had to take breaks in order to absorb the astonishing ideas contained within it. Solomon explores a seemingly diverse collection of ‘differences’ – among them dwarfism, autism, criminality, genius, and Down Syndrome – and explores what it means for a family to raise a child who falls into one of these categories. His findings are nothing short of revelatory – about the parent-child relationship, about what it means to have an identity, about the nature of love, and about what it is to be human. I mean it when I say that this is the most powerful piece of writing I’ve read in years.

Right now, I’m reading Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life On The Road. What a life! And how much we all owe to it! I first saw Steinem speak when I was an undergraduate, and I was captivated by her warmth, humor, wisdom, and most surprisingly (to a young and outraged activist), optimism. In this book, I can hear that voice, and it inspires me all over again. In her words: “Altogether I’ve seen enough change to have faith that more will come.”
Visit Kate Hilton's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jennifer Longo

Jennifer Longo was a ballerina from ages eight to eighteen, until she eventually (reluctantly) admitted her talent for writing exceeded her talent for dance. The author of Six Feet Over It, she holds an MFA in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University, where her obsessive love of Antarctica produced her thesis play about Antarctica’s Age of Exploration.

Longo's new novel is Up to This Pointe.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Only Child by Guojing

China's 'One Child' policy has ended, and now a generation of only children has grown up. This gorgeous book tells a story in black and white images of one Only Child, left home alone one day, who ventures out into the wintery world to find her grandmother's house. She falls into peril and is rescued by a stag who takes her on a magical journey. It is a deeply emotional exploration of loneliness, bravery, imagination and love, based on the author's experience growing up with no siblings. This book is gorgeous, but tape a pack of tissues to the bow when you wrap it. The reader will need them.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

I love memoir, and this book is written by the woman credited with starting the modern revived popularity of the form. Karr is the author of the intense memoirs The Liar's Club, Cherry, and Lit. This book describes her own memoir teaching methods (She's a Literature professor at Syracuse University) and those of her students (such as Cheryl Strayed and George Saunders) who have influenced her own writing. She presents techniques for mining memory and details for creating non-fiction narrative in a way that feels like an intimate conversation. It sparked my own memories and made me want to tell stories in a truer, more vivid and honest way. Each chapter is short, smart, and funny, and the end result is a book that reads like a fiction novel told from the point of view of a friend you're having drinks with in a quiet corner at a crowded party. I absolutely loved it.
Visit Jennifer Longo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Six Feet Over It.

My Book, The Movie: Six Feet Over It.

The Page 69 Test: Up to This Pointe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gigi Pandian

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Accidental Alchemist mysteries and the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world by her cultural anthropologist parents, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pandian’s debut was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, the follow-up won the Left Coast Crime Rose Award, and her locked-room mystery short fiction has been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards.

Pandian’s latest novel is The Masquerading Magician, the second Accidental Alchemist mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I was an avid mystery reader long before I became a writer. The majority of what I read still falls into the mystery genre, but lately a lot of my “mystery fix” has come from nonfiction. I thought I’d share two great nonfiction books and two great mysteries I’ve read recently:

The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
This is an engrossing history of the Detection Club, the private club of mystery novelists that began in England during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Edwards focuses most on three of the founding members, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anthony Berkeley, all of whom had fascinating hidden lives. There are also stories about other club members, including my personal favorite Golden Age writer, John Dickson Carr. My copy of the book is now filled with notes in the margins about new-to-me classic mysteries I plan to seek out.

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson
Pirate Hunters is a nonfiction book that read like a thriller. I love treasure hunts that steeped in real history (which is why I created the Jaya Jones treasure hunt mystery series), and this is a real-life underwater treasure hunt for a pirate ship. The real life stakes are as high as in fiction: the ship they’re after would be only the second pirate ship every positively identified, the heroes crisscross the globe in search of clues, and less scrupulous competitors are hot on their heels.

The Fourth Door: The Houdini Murders by Paul Halter
French mystery novelist Paul Halter has been hailed as this generation’s John Dickson Carr—the master of locked-room “impossible crime” mysteries—and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Many of Halters books are available in English, with more on the way. His American publisher, Locked Room International, specializes in translating locked-room mysteries into English. I don’t speak French well enough to enjoy books in French, so I’ve been devouring Halter’s books as they get translated into English. The appeal of this type of classic mystery is the baffling fair-play puzzle of a seemingly impossible crime that looks like it must have been committed through supernatural means—but there’s a brilliant explanation at the end. The Fourth Door is one of Halter’s most satisfying mysteries I’ve read, featuring a supposedly haunted room and a man who believes he’s the reincarnation of Harry Houdini.

A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder by Victoria Laurie
Reading the tenth book in the Ghost Hunters mystery series was like sitting down with old friends. This lighthearted paranormal mystery series has been one of my favorites for years, and A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder provides a great ending to the series.

Now that I’ve got my own book deadlines, I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, but I always curl up with a book before bed. After a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, I gave up finishing books I don’t love (life’s too short!), so I often find myself staying up way too late to read “just a few more pages” of a great book. These four books fell into that category. That’s what coffee is for, right?
Visit Gigi Pandian's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chad Pearson

Chad Pearson is Professor of History at Collin College. His new book is Reform or Repression: Organizing America's Anti-Union Movement.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Pearson's reply:
During the course of researching what became my book, I discovered that employers, all of whom wanted control over their workforces, could be rather violent. Several employers active in the turn-of-the-century anti-union open-shop movement were once active in Civil War-era vigilante organizations. For example, Wilbur F. Sanders, one of the leaders of the anti-union Citizens’ Industrial Association of America, served as the lawyer for the Montana Vigilantes in the 1860s. And N. F. Thompson, another prominent Progressive Era union opponent, had served in the Ku Klux Klan with Nathan Bedford Forrest while he lived in Middle Tennessee. More than three decade later, Thompson called for a “justifiable homicide law.” Thompson believed that employers and non-union workers deserved the right to murder union activists responsible for seeking to prevent strikebreakers from entering workplaces. One of my book’s themes explores the long history of employer violence.

Questions about labor-management tensions--and employers’ belligerency in particular-- continue to interest me, and I’m currently looking at underexplored events to better understand these questions. Rather than focus exclusively on the industrialized northeast or Midwest, I have been drawn to the nineteenth century South. Military conflicts offer some useful examples for scholars of labor and management. In recent years, a number of scholars have re-introduced readers to the important insights found in W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1935 Black Reconstruction, an outstanding class struggle study that takes seriously the agency of the close to four million slaves during the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. He famously calls their involvement “a general strike.” A number of terrific books, including David Roediger’s Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All, David Williams’s I Freed Myself: African Americans Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era, and Mark Lause’s Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of an American Working Class  add dimensions to Du Bois’s thesis, and offer scholars of management much to ponder. For example, I think it is useful to treat white supremacist organizations like the first Ku Klux Klan and Knights of the White Camelia, organizations that sought to contain the gains of emancipation, as employers’ associations.

I have found useful information from studying other nineteenth century military conflicts as well, including the Second Seminole War. John K. Mahon’s classic account, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842, is a good general introduction to this war, and he helps management historians understand the class interests of those involved in fighting it. Indeed, the most passionate supporters of the war were slave-owners, individuals deeply upset that the Seminole Indians offered solace to escaped slaves. For plantation owners throughout the Southeast, the war offered them a way to resolve a serious management problem. Indeed, the Second Seminole War was, as historian Larry Eugene Rivers points out in Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation, “a massive slave revolt.” Rivers reminds us of the possibilities of applying Du Bois’s useful observation to earlier conflicts. What lessons did plantation managers learn in the aftermath of this war? How did they change their ways?

All of these books have helped me better understand power relations and inequality, problems we continue to grapple with today.
Learn more about Reform or Repression at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Reed Farrel Coleman

Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR and the “noir poet laureate” in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman is the New York Times bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series. He is a three time Shamus Award winner for Best PI Novel of the Year and a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, Anthony, and Audie awards. Best known for his critically acclaimed Moe Prager Mystery series, Coleman is releasing the first book (Where It Hurts) in a new series featuring retired Suffolk County (Long Island) cop, Gus Murphy.

Brooklyn born and bred, Coleman began publishing poetry in his mid-teens, continued to do so throughout college, and after he began working in the shipping industry. After taking a night class in American Detective Fiction, he quit his fulltime job and began writing his first novel. Where It Hurts marks the publication of his twenty-third novel. He is a former Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, helped found Mystery Writers of America University, and has taught as an adjunct instructor at Hofstra University. He resides on Long Island.

Recently I asked Coleman about what he was reading. His reply:
Unfortunately, a lot of the reading I do these days is for blurbs. Not that I’m complaining. I know how uncomfortable asking for blurbs can be and I am happy to help if I can. And I’m honored that my colleagues think my name on their books has some meaning. However, it does cut down on my time for reading strictly for pleasure. I was very lucky in that the most recent book I read for a blurb was Alex Segura’s Down The Darkest Street, featuring ex-journalist Pete Fernandez. I like to think of Alex’s work as hot house noir because it’s set on the steaming, humid streets of Miami. Segura does a nice job of harkening back to classic PI novels while keeping his plots and characters in the here and now. Prior to that I read Peter Spiegelman’s latest, Dr. Knox. Due out in July, it’s the first book in a new series featuring a LA physician who runs a free clinic on Skid Row by day and who practices a very different kind of medicine by night in order to support the clinic. Knox is assisted in his adventures by Sutter, an ex-special forces type acting as Knox’s agent and protector. LA is as much a character in the novel as in any of Ellroy’s and that’s saying something.

On the books I’ve read recently that are already out, there is Ben H. Winters’ World Of Trouble. This is the third book in a trilogy featuring Hank Palace, a cop who has the misfortune of making detective as the world is about to be ended by an asteroid. He takes an interesting approach to a man trying to do his duty in the face of absurdity. All three books are worth your time and money and will have you thinking long after you close their covers.

On deck for me is a treat by one of my favorite authors writing one of my favorite characters. It’s Philip Kerr’s next Bernie Gunther novel The Other Side of Silence. Kerr is as consistently fine an author as there is working today. He covers ground not dissimilar in its absurdity as Ben H. Winters because Bernie Gunther is a homicide detective cum PI working in Berlin between the wars. Tough to be a homicide detective in a society that views certain human life as very cheap and sees murder and torture as acceptable means to any end. Kerr has expanded the series so that we follow Bernie’s adventures pre, during, and post WWII. It is an amazing series and I can’t wait to get started.
Visit Reed Farrel Coleman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Hollow Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Where It Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ann Morgan

Ann Morgan is a freelance writer and editor. Her book Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, inspired by her year-long journey through a book from every country, was published in the UK by Harvill Secker in February 2015 and as The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe in the US by Liveright Norton in May 2015.

Morgan's new novel is a psychological literary drama called Beside Myself.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I have several books on the go at the moment. As I choose one title from around the world to feature on my A Year of Reading the World blog each month, I'm nearly always reading something in translation. Right now, I'm exploring Thai literature, and am in the grip of an amazing novel called The White Shadow by Saneh Sangsuk, translated from the Thai by Marcel Barang. Like many literary novels, the narrative follows the struggles of an aspiring author, but the writing is so fresh, inventive and daring that it feels like a new departure rather than a variation on a familiar theme.

As well, as this, I'm also reading Instrumental by British concert pianist James Rhodes. It's a memoir charting his journey through profound trauma, abuse and mental illness. As the main character of my novel, Beside Myself, goes through some similar experiences, I was very interested to try it. So far, it's proved to be a harrowing, engrossing and brutally honest read.

Another book that I'm working my way through is M Train by the singer-songwriter, poet and artist Patti Smith. It's a collection of mini essays, memories and reflections on her life - and is beautifully written and very evocative. It's so rich and delicious that I'm treating it as I would a fine dark chocolate - breaking off a small piece now and then to savour, usually after dinner.
Visit Ann Morgan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson is the author of three novels set during and after the First World War: Somewhere in France, After the War is Over, and Moonlight Over Paris.

She holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar and an SSHRC Doctoral Fellow.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Robson's reply:
I’m one of those people who always seem to have three or four books on the go—some for research, some because I’ve been asked for a quote or “blurb,” and always at least one book that’s just for fun.

As far as research goes, I’m right in the middle of writing my next book, which is set in London during the Second World War. Although I’m very familiar with the history of the period—much of my doctoral thesis focused on the home front in Britain—I’ve been madly trying to learn as much as I can about woman journalists during the war. I just finished Sketches from a Life by Anne Scott-James, a journalist and writer who was at Picture Post during the war, and I’m now reading My Day, a collection of Eleanor Roosevelt’s newspaper columns, as I’m thinking of including her as a minor character in the book.

I have two books to read with a view to providing a quote, which is technically work but actually very enjoyable. I’ve almost finished The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper, which tells the story of Charlotte Bill, who was the beloved nanny of the tragic Prince John, brother to Edward VII and George VI. It is really good—she has a wonderful grasp of the period—and I feel certain that anyone who enjoys my work will love this book, too. Next up is The Fifth Avenue Artists Society, a debut work of historical fiction by Joy Callaway. The cover is gorgeous (I’m just as susceptible to a beautiful cover as the next person) and the book’s synopsis is so interesting—I can hardly wait to dig in!

For fun I often like to read cookbooks, believe it or not. Right now I have Zahav on my bedside table—its author is a native of Pittsburgh and runs several restaurants there—and it’s a wonderful exploration of modern Israeli cooking. The only difficulty is that I keep looking at it late at night, just before going to bed—and the recipes and pictures make me so hungry I have trouble falling asleep!
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Abby Geni

Abby Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of an Iowa Fellowship. “Captivity” won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and was included in The Best American Short Stories 2010; it was also selected for inclusion in New Stories from the Midwest.

She is the author of the novel The Lightkeepers and the story collection The Last Animal.

Recently I asked Geni about what she was reading. Her reply:
There is nothing better than a good mystery. Whenever I have the chance to read for pleasure, rather than research or work, I gravitate toward the pillars of the golden age of mysteries: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, and Arthur Conan Doyle. I enjoy the way mysteries return me to my childhood—staying up late with the lights burning, eyes heavy with sleep, at once horrified and thrilled, promising myself I’ll stop reading and get some rest after the next chapter, and then the next chapter, and then the next chapter.

It’s always a sad day when I have read everything ever written by of one of my favorite authors. When I had exhausted Agatha Christie’s marvelous canon, I was crushed. When I got to the end of Sherlock Holmes, I was devastated. It’s terrible to feel that there are no new books to discover, no new mysteries to solve. I try to remember that there’s always another great option out there. Still, it can be hard to take the leap of faith and move from an author I adore to one I don’t know.

Lately I’ve been reading the works of Margery Allingham. Though I’m just starting her Albert Campion series, I’m already struck by her wit, her propulsive plotting, and her intricately drawn characters. On my shelf right now is Police at the Funeral, with Flowers for the Judge and Look to the Lady up next. I won’t spoil the plot by giving too much, but I will say that I recommend Allingham highly for anyone who loves mysteries.
Visit Abby Geni's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lightkeepers.

--Marshal Zeringue