Saturday, August 31, 2013

Candy Gunther Brown

Candy Gunther Brown is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. She is the author of Testing Prayer: Science and Healing and The Word in the World, and she is the editor of Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and The Daily.

Brown's new book is The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Brown's reply:
As a professor of religious studies, much of my reading is goal-directed: focused either on research or teaching. I just finished Steven Green’s The Bible, the School, and the Constitution, a fascinating book that offers fodder for both my writing and my classrooms. The book reveals that many of today’s controversies over religion in public schools have been stewing since the nineteenth century. I came to this book having just finished testifying as an expert witness in a trial of yoga in public schools in Encinitas, California. The judge accepted the defense’s argument that yoga can be taught in public schools—even though it is religious—because it is not limited to any single religious sect or denomination and its moral character teachings align with universal values. What caught my attention is that these exact same arguments were used to promote prayer and Bible reading in public schools in the nineteenth century. But in the 1960s, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot promote religion—including nonsectarian prayers and moral character teachings such as the Bible’s Ten Commandments, even if they are almost universally accepted. It will be interesting to see whether courts will learn from historians such as Green to see parallels between today’s controversies over yoga and meditation and earlier debates on prayer and Bible reading.
Learn more about The Healing Gods at the Oxford University Press website, and follow Candy Gunther Brown on Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wilton Barnhardt

Wilton Barnhardt is the author of the novels Lookaway, Lookaway, Emma Who Saved My Life, Gospel, and Show World. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he teaches fiction in the master of fine arts in creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what he was reading. Barnhardt's reply:
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Since my own publisher approached Ms. Fowler for a blurb, I admit I felt obligated to read something new of hers (I remembered her first novel, Sarah Canary, as a quiet masterpiece). Her latest is simply one of the best, most moving, important, humane books I’ve read in years. There are not many original family sagas left to tell, but, somehow, Fowler has thought of a new one. (I suspect there are many nonfiction models for accounts of family life where some Skinner-like research experiment has played out, seemingly harmless and engrossing at the time but with later dire consequences, but there is no fiction I have ever heard of with Fowler’s particular subject.) I won’t say much more about it—it is full of surprises which I have no intention of spoiling. The narrator is winning, funny, wry, which doesn’t quite prepare you for the heartbreak and profound sadness ahead.

Edmund White, Jack Holmes and His Friend

White is a master of felicitous prose, particularly when describing the Jamesean intricacies of human relations—and, yes, he can write sex better than most, and gay sex better than anyone! White, for my money, has been too melancholy in some of his books and his trademark moroseness is here, too (with good reason—existential New York miasma, AIDS, literary failures), but the spark of love and friendship, between the gay hero and his straight friend, in the end suggests hope, is a life raft to cling to. And White’s narrative legerdemain arrives once a paragraph, page after page, description after gorgeous description—spiced up by some of his wittiest dialogue as well.
Visit Wilton Barnhardt's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

David Rich

David Rich has sold screenplays to most of the major studios and to production companies in the United States and Europe. The author of Caravan of Thieves, he lives in Connecticut.

Rich's new novel is Middle Man, the sequel to Caravan of Thieves.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading.  Rich's reply:
An old friend recently said, “I finally read that Irwin Shaw story you used to talk about, the one you said was perfect.” I had no idea what he was talking about. “'Tip on a Dead Jockey',” he said. I remembered reading it but not giving it that recommendation so I reread it. It is perfect. And that led to other Shaw stories like “The Greek General,” “Love on a Dark Street,” and my favorite, “Girls in Their Summer Dresses.”

Irwin Shaw gets guys – tough guys, soft guys, self destructive guys, lucky and unlucky guys. He gets guys as clearly as anyone - Hemingway, Updike, doesn’t matter. There are guys who over estimate themselves and over trust their buddies like Alex in “The Greek General.” And there are guys who underestimate themselves and pass on a good bet the way Barber does in “Tip on a Dead Jockey.”

For Shaw it’s never unrealistic histrionics or dramatic displays of anger that define his men; it’s the bizarre, illogical logic of everyday decision making. Barber is a tall, blonde California guy, a guy the women run to, and other guys want to hang with. He is hiding out in Paris; he won’t answer his letters, won’t go home, and won’t take the big chance when it comes along. But he will hand over a large portion of his remaining cash to a friend’s worried wife and offer false reassurance because she looks like she needs it.

Barber weighs the pros and cons of Bert’s proposition, considers his instincts, his fears of flying over water and of Egyptian jails, his experience with people, but the decision is made when the horse in the seventh race falls and the jockey dies. For Richardson, though, the same event has the opposite meaning. The story has the graceful symmetry of an O. Henry story told with calm, resolute cynicism.

In “Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” Michael is out with his wife and she keeps catching him looking at women and forces him to talk about it.
“Michael sighed and closed his eyes and rubbed them gently with his fingertips. "I love the way women look. One of the things I like best about New York is the battalions of women. When I first came to New York from Ohio that was the first thing I noticed, the million wonderful women, all over the city. I walked around with my heart in my throat.”

And she presses more and gives more and then, “You want them," Frances repeated without expression. "You said that."

"Right," Michael said, being cruel now and not caring, because she had made him expose himself. "You brought this subject up for discussion, we will discuss it fully."

Frances finished her drink and swallowed two or three times extra. "You say you love me?"

“I love you, but I also want them. Okay."
Irwin Shaw gets guys.
Learn more about the book and author at David Rich's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Caravan of Thieves.

My Book, The Movie: Middle Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Steve Yarbrough

Born in Indianola, Mississippi, Steve Yarbrough is the author of novels Safe from the Neighbors, The End of California, Prisoners of War, The Oxygen Man, and Visible Spirits, and three collections of stories. A PEN/Faulkner finalist, he has received the Mississippi Authors Award, the California Book Award, the Richard Wright Award, and an award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. He now teaches at Emerson College and lives with his wife in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

Yarbrough's new novel is The Realm of Last Chances.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what he was reading. Yarbrough's reply:
Right now, I'm on something of a Hungarian fiction binge. Presently I am reading Peter Nadas's ambitious and challenging Parallel Stories. This comes on the heels of a Gyula Krudy collection from NYRB titled The Adventures of Sindbad. I have another Krudy novel on-deck, Sunflower, again from NYRB. The impetus for all of this is that some years ago, I became infatuated, like one of the characters in my own new novel The Realm of Last Chances, with the work of the Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai (Embers). Earlier this summer, I read a memoir by Marai, and started jotting down the names of the writers he mentioned, and I was pleased to discover that a great many of them are in print here, thanks mostly to NYRB. Many national literatures tend to be most impressive in a particular genre; in Poland, it's poetry, but in Hungary it's definitely the novel. Imre Kertesz and Gyorgy Konrad are two others I've long admired.
Visit Steve Yarbrough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tracy Guzeman

Tracy Guzeman lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories.

Her new book, The Gravity of Birds, is her first novel.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Guzeman's reply:
After working on a long project (first novel) and starting another (second novel), I’m drawn to the crisp borders of the short story. Right now I’m reading Andrea Barrett’s new collection, Archangel, and Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. I am an ardent Andrea Barrett fan; I confess to semi-stalking her at a writing conference where my efforts were rewarded when I found myself standing in back of her in the coffee line. In both her novels and story collections, her characters are people I’m fascinated by: individuals with a passion for defining the unknown and explaining the unfathomable, by setting ablaze the precise boundaries of science and illuminating its cold, dark corners. Science writers, x-ray technicians, geneticists… what happens when their elegant theorems are transmogrified into messy human behavior? I can never wait to find out. Rebecca Lee’s stories are a revelation, with their sharp humor and often sad, insightful wisdom. From her story “Settlers,” how I would love to have written, “I was there with David Booth. He had even picked me up in his little car. Looking back, this was the night I silently broke up with him, even though we weren’t dating.” I can immediately picture the two of them in that little car, and feel the narrator’s silent regret for the couple she has imagined they might be, and then is forced to dismiss.

I’m also devouring Abelardo Morell’s gorgeous book of photographs, The Universe Next Door. Not being a photographer in any way, shape or form, and being unfamiliar with the correct terminology, I can only tell you that his camera obscura photographs, with landscapes projected onto interior walls, make you feel like you’ve traveled through the looking glass. It’s a wonderful book to spend time with when you need to transport yourself to some other, slightly off-kilter realm. And what fiction writer doesn’t want to be in a world like that?
Visit Tracy Guzeman's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Todd Ritter

Todd Ritter is the author of Death Notice, Bad Moon, and Devil's Night, the first novels in the mystery series featuring small-town police chief Kat Campbell. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, he now lives in suburban New Jersey.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what he was reading. Ritter's reply:
I’ve been working on a historical mystery, so this summer is all about nonfiction for me. Not for research purposes, although there has been a bit of that, but to get a feel for how nonfiction writers use historical detail to enhance their stories.

Right now, my nonfiction book of choice is The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. It’s an excellent example of a writer using telling details — clothing, weather, headlines — to really immerse readers into the world of the story. Brown doesn’t drown the reader in facts, figures and exhaustive descriptions, like some authors do. Instead, he lets the story flow, using his research to accentuate, not overwhelm, the plot at hand.

Next, I plan to dive into A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson for the very same reasons listed above.
Learn more about the book and author at Todd Ritter's website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2010).

The Page 69 Test: Todd Ritter's Death Notice.

My Book, The Movie: Death Notice.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter (October 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dennis Bock

Dennis Bock has been hailed by The Globe and Mail as “Canada’s next great novelist.” His books have been shortlisted for the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Regional Best Book). His collection of stories won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Canadian Authors’ Association Jubilee Award, and the Betty Trask Award in the UK. The Ash Garden won the 2002 Canada-Japan Literary Award and has been published in translation in Spain, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, and Greece.

Bock's new novel is Going Home Again.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what he was reading.  Bock's reply:
One of the pleasures of living in a city like Toronto is meeting someone, quite by chance, who’s written a good novel or two. This happened to me not long ago, and so what I did was pick up a copy of Louisa McCormack’s second novel, The Catch, narrated by a perfectly drawn 40 year old TV producer who takes time out from the big city and heads back east to deal with some family business. McCormack’s first-person voice is a high-wire performance, superb dialogue and detail. You can tell this writer really gets off on language, really understands it as a tool, as a play-thing, and a means of getting closer to a character’s thinking. Her focus on the interior landscapes of the heart, and the sea and landscapes of Prince Edward Island, is truly wonderful.

The last non-Toronto writer I read was probably Paul Auster. I don’t know where that cat lives but he sure can write. I plowed through The Book of Illusions like it was the story of my own life and I just had to power to the end to see if I got out alive. I read manuscripts all day long, though—writing students who’re cobbling together books of their own. It’s always a great ride, stepping into so many books all at the same time.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Bock's website.

The Page 69 Test: Going Home Again.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2013

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Handler's new novel is Runaway Man.

A week or so ago I asked the author about what he was reading.  Handler's reply:
It never fails. Whenever I start to get all tangled up in the maddening little plot threads and character details of one of my own books I find myself reaching for The Hunter. I’m reading a dog-eared paperback copy of it right now for what must be the tenth time. The Hunter was the very first of the lean, mean, hard-boiled Parker novels that the masterful Donald Westlake took to writing in 1962 under the name of Richard Stark. He wrote 16 Parker novels in quick succession before he took 23 years off and then started up again with eight more.

The Parker series is one of the most remarkable in all of crime fiction. I think of the books as no frills police procedurals that just happen to be told from the point of the view of the criminal. Parker is not your typical hero. He’s a professional heist artist who is amoral, asocial, ruthless and downright brutal. He is also a man who is so devoid of personality that that’s his personality. Only a writer as breathtakingly gifted as Westlake could make hay with a lead character who has no wit, warmth or humanity to offer. And yet Parker is strangely likeable in his own ice cold way. He’s a man of his word. He’s loyal to his business associates. He simply chooses to live by a different set of rules than you and I do.

When we first encounter him in The Hunter – which, by the way, was turned into the great Lee Marvin movie Point Blank -- Parker has just broken out of a prison farm and is hell bent on revenge. He’s been betrayed and left for dead by his wife, Lynn, and by Mal, the scheming louse who stole Parker’s share of the take on their last heist. Parker vows to a) get his money back b) get even. How he goes about doing that is what The Hunter is all about.

Why do I reach for The Hunter whenever I’m lost in the middle of one of my own books? Because, for me, reading it is like a therapeutic smack in the face. Westlake’s terse, propulsive prose always reminds me that my single most important job as a crime writer is to just tell the damned story. Keep it simple. Keep it moving. Don’t get lost in all of the character flourishes. Just focus on the story. The rest will take care of itself.

Trust me, even though I’ve just published my 21st book I still need a master like Westlake to remind me of these things.

Despite the fact that I know exactly how The Hunter is going to turn out I always read it to the very last page. And then I immediately start in on book two, The Man With the Getaway Face. Before I know it I’m on to The Outfit and then I end up reading the whole series all over again. Once I start reading the Parker series I can’t stop. Don’t want to. I think it may be the most thoroughly addictive series anyone has ever written. That’s because Donald Westlake was the best of the best.

And it all starts with The Hunter.
Visit David Handler's website and blog.

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2011).

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bill Crider

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

His new novel is Compound Murder, the 18th Dan Rhodes Mystery.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what he was reading.  Crider's reply:
I'm currently reading The Kill, a 1985 private-eye novel by Douglas Heyes. If you do a search for Heyes on the Internet, you'll find mostly references to his TV and movie work. He was a writer, producer, and occasionally an actor. He worked on some well-known movies and some obscure ones. The Wikipedia article on Heyes doesn't even mention his fiction writing, though your search might have turned up my review of The Kiss-Off, his first crime novel, and a review by J. Kingston Pierce of The Kill. By coincidence, both reviews appeared the same week in 2011.

The Kill is set in Los Angeles in 1938, and the setting is convincing. So is the writing style., which is obviously a tribute to the pulps of that era. Except for some up-to-date cussing, it's as if the book had been written 80 years ago. I was grabbed by the opening paragraphs:
I won't be taken alive.

Not that I wouldn't rather be.
Obviously the narrator, Rip Ripley, is in big trouble, and the book tells us how he got there. He's a former corrupt cop, now a P. I. with something of a conscience. He's flat broke and is about to try a sad trick to make some money when he's hired to investigate an old friend's mistress. Before he can even talk to her, she's murdered, and Ripley, believe it or not, is accused of the crime.

Things go downhill from there, and while I haven't reached the final paragraph, I'm certainly ready to believe the Ripley might not get out of the mess he's in. For a long-time fan of hardboiled noir fiction, The Kill is a treat.
Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

Ed Gorman has praised Crider's "skills with characterization and milieu" and called the author "a master plotter."

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, and Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen.

Learn about Crider's choice of actors to portray Dan Rhodes on the big screen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of The Surrender Tree, recipient of the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino/a. Other novels in verse about the island include The Poet Slave of Cuba, Hurricane Dancers, The Firefly Letters, Tropical Secrets, The Wild Book, and most recently, The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. Engle has received two Pura Belpré Awards, two Pura Belpré Honors, three Américas Awards, and the Jane Addams Peace Award, among others. Books for younger children include Summer Birds, When You Wander, and Mountain Dog.

Engle lives in central California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for various wilderness search and rescue dog programs.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading.  Engle's reply:
I have always been a passionate and voracious reader, but my reading follows moods. I start every day with poetry, but when I read prose, I tend to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, grownup books, and children’s books. Right now, my reading mood is autobiography. [photo right-- Engle at antique book fair in Havana; click to enlarge]

My reading day is also divided into moods. Dawn is for poetry. Each day at sunrise, I’m currently re-reading a bilingual edition of Times Alone, Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly, who says of Machado, “His poetry secretes in itself the rhythm of the walker.” I’m a walker too, so I feel a deep kinship with Machado. His poems speak of attention to the invisible:

Tras el vivir y el sonar

está lo que más importa:


Beyond living and dreaming

there is something more important:

waking up

Machado’s verses also speak of compassion:

¿Dices que nada se crea?

No te importe, con el barro

de la tierra, haz una copa

para que beba tu hermano.

You say nothing is created new?

Don’t worry about it, with the mud

of the earth, make a cup

from which your brother can drink.

After reading poetry and walking the dogs with my husband, the rest of the morning and early afternoon belong to writing. Later in the day, I often read research materials about a particular time and place--usually Cuba. Eventually, it’s time to relax, swaying in a hammock when the weather allows.

I’ve ordered a lot of happy children’s books from the library and two local independent bookstores. When I need an emotional break, I re-read my favorite Psalm (52:8), which calls me a green olive tree in the house of God, and helps me feel like growth and a peaceful future are possible.
Visit Margarita Engle's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Margarita Engle & Maggi and Chance.

My Book, The Movie: Mountain Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 19, 2013

Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer is the author of many books for teens, including the New York Times best-selling novel Life As We Knew It, which was nominated for several state awards, and its companion books, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In, and The Shade of the Moon.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Pfeffer's reply:
When I went to college, I decided to major in film because of my intention of becoming a Great Film Director.

Sadly, after only a production class or two, I realized that I didn't even stand a chance of becoming a Lousy Film Director. I lacked every single attribute needed to be a director except love of movies.

Having no desire to major in anything useful, I switched to film history and criticism, figuring I'd be a Great Film Historian and Critic. That seemed like an even better ambition, since I'd get to spend my time watching movies and not actually have to work.

But by my last semester in college, I'd come to realize I had no future in film history and criticism either. So in a desperate (and fortunately successful) effort to keep from ever getting a real job, I wrote a young adult novel, which sold almost immediately. I've been writing children's and young adult novels ever since (my latest, The Shade Of The Moon, is number 78).

This January, I made a New Year's resolution to read the books that have been sitting on my shelves since Gutenberg invented the printing press. This is the best kind of resolution since you can see progress being made without the sacrifice of chocolate.

So far, I've read over 30 of these books. Out of the 30, about a quarter are film history books. I've read books about film noir and early musicals and movies of the 1940s and World War Two combat films and the portrayal of Jews in American movies.

Now I'm reading Seeing Is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us To Stop Worrying And Love The Fifties, by Peter Biskind. I'm halfway through, and have learned about the effect of 1950s politics on westerns and sci fi and war movies.

What I also learned from reading Peter Biskind's Wikipedia profile is that he's made a living writing film history and criticism. We can think of him as having the exact same career as a Great Film Historian and Critic that I'd dreamed of all those years ago.

Humph. I wonder if I could convince him to write a young adult novel and leave the movies to me!
Visit Susan Beth Pfeffer's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Douglas Corleone

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. His third novel Last Lawyer Standing is his latest book featuring criminal defense attorney Kevin Corvelli. Corleone’s first international thriller Good As Gone, introducing former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, will be released this week.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what he was reading. Corleone’s reply:
I just finished reading Jeff Abbott’s Downfall, the third book in his series of action thrillers featuring former CIA spy Sam Capra. I’ve been hooked on Jeff Abbott’s Sam Capra since reading the first book in the series, aptly titled Adrenaline, in 2011. Adrenaline was released while I was in the middle of writing my new novel Good As Gone, and Abbott’s book was like a shot in the arm. In my opinion, Adrenaline is the perfect action thriller, and it provided a catalytic reaction in my own writing. In the thirty days following my reading of Adrenaline, I wrote 52,000 words and nearly finished the book I’d been researching and writing for months. Abbott’s second Sam Capra book, The Last Minute, won an International Thriller Writers award, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Downfall follows suit.
Visit Douglas Corleone's website.

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone (May 2011).

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone (August 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2013

Michael Fullilove

Michael Fullilove is the executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and the author of Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World (The Penguin Press, 2013).

The Financial Times said Rendezvous with Destiny is “desperately romantic and impossibly consequential… a rare combination of diplomatic thriller and original history, well-paced and expertly told.” The Wall Street Journal declared: “Mr Fullilove infuses each chapter with the danger, romance and deadly seriousness of war.” The Weekend Australian called Rendezvous with Destiny “an unforgettable book… one of the most fascinating works of history I have read in many years.” Time said it is “real Team of Rivals stuff: smart, engaging, historical storytelling.”

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Fullilove's reply:
I have almost finished Colum McCann’s wonderful novel TransAtlantic. It is that rare literary novel that will appeal as much to nonfiction readers as fiction readers, and to men as much as women. TransAtlantic describes the journeys of a series of real-life visitors from North America to Ireland – Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, who made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1919; Frederick Douglass, who undertook a lecture tour of Ireland in 1845-46, during the Great Famine; and George Mitchell, who negotiated the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998. I’d love to know what Senator Mitchell thinks of McCann’s efforts to reconstruct his interior life. The female characters who link these men across the centuries are equally strong.

The book has drawn some flak from critics but I find it moving in its portrayal of the remarkable courage and imagination of all these transatlantic voyagers.

Piled on the bedside table are Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places, Richard Flanagan’s new novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and a series of recent speeches that I’m considering for inclusion in the second edition of Men and Women of Australia: Our Greatest Modern Speeches.
Visit Michael Fullilove's website.

Writers Read: Michael Fullilove (May 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is the author of The Guardian Angel’s Journal (2011), The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), and the award-winning poetry collection Inroads (2010).

A few days ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Jess-Cooke's reply:
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

This collection of poetry is about the end of a thirty-year marriage and recently received a number of prizes, and no wonder. I can’t stop reading it. Olds’ poems are raw and true – so much so that they can be hard to read. Michael Ondaatje described her work as ‘pure fire in the hands’, and he’s right.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I was always intrigued by the premise of this book – a teenage shipwreck survivor crosses an ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger – but couldn’t make it through the first chapter on my first reading. A student encouraged me to read the second half, and I’m so glad I did – it is an astonishing book. Martel’s writing is so vivid that it hoisted me off my chair and plonked me on that boat with the sea wind in my hair, fish skins drying on the bow and a panting tiger nearby. Amazing.

A Mother’s Book of Secrets by Linda Eyre and Shawni Eyre Pothier

I tend to roll my eyes when I see parenting books on the shelves, particularly ones directed at mothers. Generally I find them patronizing and full of the same text-book advice. I don’t want advice, thank you – I just want to know I’m not the only mother who sometimes feels like I’m wading through lakes of quicksand. I enjoy dipping in and out of this little book, though I’m finding that the chapter titled ‘The Trenches’ tends to flip open every time I turn to it.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

I’m just over halfway through this and will be taking it with me on holiday to Cornwall next week. I adore the character, Quoyle, and his self-conscious covering of his chin when he feels vulnerable. Wonderful, exact prose.
Visit Carolyn Jess-Cooke's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dayna Lorentz

Dayna Lorentz is the author of the Dogs of the Drowned City series (Scholastic) and No Safety in Numbers.  Her latest book is No Easy Way Out, the sequel to No Safety in Numbers.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Lorentz's reply:
I just finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which I read with a high school student I’m mentoring. I loved how the book played with my expectations. The story went exactly where I thought it would—the journey from Inside to Outside and back again—but in a completely unexpected and wonderfully jarring way.

In terms of the science and technology of the story, it was interesting what advances Huxley could not envision—the Internet, for example, or computer-operated elevators, or jets. It made me think about the limits of my own imagination, or any author’s: how writers’ creative powers are constrained by the times, and particularly the scientific paradigm, in which they find themselves.

I’m also reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky with my book group. At one point in Part Two, a significant fact is revealed that changes the reader’s entire understanding of everything that has come before. My book group had an intense discussion about whether this was Dostoevsky screwing up and not being able to go back and edit once he was so far into the manuscript (Would he have done things differently if given a word processor, or even a typewriter and some Wite-Out?), or whether there was a plausible, character-based reason for why this critical fact was not revealed earlier.

Also on my nightstand is Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Having watched the TV show version of the story, I’m finding it fascinating to go back and see how the story is different—not in fact, but in feel—experiencing events not through the cold, objective eye of the camera, but through the constricted, subjective viewpoints of the various characters.

Finally, I’m reading in a rather scattershot way Letters to a Fiction Writer, edited by Frederick Busch. It’s wonderful to peek into the writing lives of others. Writing is such a lonely profession—most days, it’s just me and my imaginary friends—that it’s a comfort of sorts to know that there are so many others out there, struggling alone with their imaginary friends, too.
Visit Dayna Lorentz's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Dayna Lorentz & Peter and Kerry.

My Book, The Movie: No Safety in Numbers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brad Smith

Brad Smith was born and raised in southern Ontario. He has worked as a farmer, signalman, insulator, truck driver, bartender, schoolteacher, maintenance mechanic, roofer, and carpenter. He lives in an eighty-year-old farmhouse near the north shore of Lake Erie. Run Means Red, the first novel in his Virgil Cain series, was named among the Year’s Best Crime Novels by Booklist.

Smith's new novel, Shoot the Dog, is the third Virgil Cain mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading.  His reply:
I recently finished Devil In The Grove, Gilbert King’s terrific book about racial injustice during the Jim Crow days in Florida, circa 1950. It’s an account of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s attempt to exonerate three young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman. Coincidentally, the George Zimmerman trial was underway as I was reading. We’d like to think that we’ve put a lot of distance between ourselves and those dark days 60 years ago. The Zimmerman verdict proved that we haven’t.
Visit Brad Smith's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Amy Gail Hansen

Born in the Chicago suburbs, Amy Gail Hansen spent her early childhood near New Orleans. She holds a BA in English from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A former English teacher, she works as a freelance writer and journalist in suburban Chicago, where she lives with her husband and three children. The Butterfly Sister is her debut novel.

About as week ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Hansen's reply:
I have always found it hard to read more than one fiction book at a time, so I am a one-book girl when it comes to novels. My current read? The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood. I picked it up because I was enchanted by the cover image and the title (I used to write obituaries and gave the job to my heroine in my debut novel, The Butterfly Sister.) Hood writes from two different points of view—one is Claire, a suburban housewife in the 1960s and the other is Vivien, an obituary writer in 1919. I was hooked from the very first line, which mentions the words affair and missing boy in the same sentence. I am mesmerized by Hood’s writing—her ability to evoke so much emotion in such few words. I have recognized parts of myself in both of the main characters, as Hood captures the female mind beautifully, and this only connects me to her story more.

I like to balance fiction with non-fiction, so the two sides of my brain are both happy, so I’m also reading The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster, a hilarious memoir about a woman who tries to emulate Martha Stewart for an entire year. I bought the book at Lancaster’s recent Chicago area signing but I would have picked it up regardless, since I am a wanna-be Martha. I am in love with everything house and home, and try to be a domestic diva, many times with devastating results. Lancaster’s book is fresh, funny, and endearing.
Visit Amy Gail Hansen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 9, 2013

Paul D. Miller

Paul D. Miller is a political scientist in the National Security Research Division at the RAND Corporation. He served as Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff from 2007 through September 2009. Prior to joining RAND, Miller was an assistant professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., at which he developed and directed the College of International Security Affairs' South and Central Asia Program. He also worked as an analyst in the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of South Asian Analysis, and served in Afghanistan as a military intelligence officer with the U.S. Army.

Miller's new book is Armed State Building: Confronting State Failure, 1898–2012.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Miller's reply:
It's not often I get bragging rights for my reading list, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I actually recently read Tolstoy's War and Peace. I've been trying to read the classics that I never got around to earlier in life, and this was the big one. It reads like Pride and Prejudice and Blitzkrieg: a story of the lives and loves of a bunch of 19th Century European aristocrats as the apocalypse happens around them. I loved it. Tolstoy is famed for his minute descriptions of the manners and inner lives of his characters; as a veteran, I found his battle scenes equally vivid and believable. Of course, Tolstoy uses the grand narrative of Napoleon's invasion of Russia (which doesn't actually happen until page 603) as an excuse to pontificate on his idiosyncratic, somewhat fatalistic view of free will and historical determinism. It's a view I don't agree with, but it is one which with it is worth grappling.

Professionally, I am working my way through Henry Nau's book on international security and U.S. foreign policy At Home Abroad. It attempts to blend realism with the insights of the democratic peace literature. The theoretical section is brilliant—I am both chagrined and relieved to find I have really no original thoughts of my own at all—but the application is a bit out of date, as the book is over a decade old.
Learn more about Armed State Building at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stewart Lewis

Stewart Lewis is a singer-songwriter and radio journalist and is the author of You Have Seven Messages. He lives in Washington, D.C.

His new novel is The Secret Ingredient.

Not so long ago I asked Lewis about what he was reading. His reply:
What am I reading? The question is what am I not reading. I read voraciously. Recently, to brush up on YA, I read The Fault in Our Stars. I felt it was well written, but slightly overrated. It seemed like every character, kids and adults, were too clever. Still, do I wish I wrote it? Yes. The thing has sold a kajillion copies. My first YA novel, You Have Seven Messages, was displayed next to it at Barnes and Noble. I was thrilled.

I recently read the adult novels, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Beautiful Ruins. They were both captivating and stellar. WYGB for it's unique format (told basically in letters) and it's laugh-out-loud hilariousness, and Beautiful Ruins for it's nostalgia, and the way it gave me a sense that anything was possible.
Visit Stewart Lewis's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

George Bishop

George Bishop holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has spent most of the past decade living and teaching overseas in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.

Bishop's stories and essays have appeared in The Oxford American, Third Coast, Press, American Writing, and The Turkish Daily News, among others.

His first novel, Letter to My Daughter, was published by Ballantine Books in 2010. His new novel, also by Ballantine, is Night of the Comet.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Bishop's reply:
Instead of describing what I’m reading now, I thought it might be more interesting to look at what I was reading while I was writing my latest novel, The Night of the Comet.

During the thick of working on Comet, I read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace for the first time. It might not be all that evident, but Tolstoy’s novel had a profound impact on the eventual tone and even the shape of my book. Going into Comet, I remember wanting to write something smart, edgy, modern, ironic—the kind of literary fiction that seems to attract attention and praise these days. But Tolstoy’s humanism, his calm, patient, sympathetic voice, reformed me, and I began to aspire to write something that he might’ve approved of. It’s a tall order, I know. But as writers, we only have so much time and so many books in us, and so why aim for anything less than the best? I find this attitude reflected more and more both in my reading and in what I try to accomplish as a writer. Entertaining is good, shocking is fun, innovative is interesting, but profound and meaningful and relevant: that’s much better, isn’t it?

That’s not to say I’ve achieved any of that with The Night of the Comet. But I hope I was able to capture at least a hint of Tolstoy’s breadth, compassion, and honesty in my little book.

About the shape of my novel: I was having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to divide up the chapters, because the story jumped around so much in time and focus. Then I saw how brief the chapters were in War and Peace, and I reasoned that if it was good enough for Tolstoy, it was good enough for me. That’s how I eventually decided to section my novel into fifty or so relatively short chapters.
Visit George Bishop's website.

--Marshal Zeringue