Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jamie Blaine

Jamie Blaine is a licensed psychotherapist and crisis interventionist who has worked in mental hospitals, megachurches, rehabs, radio stations, and roller rinks. His writing has been featured in such outlets as Salon, OnFaith, Bass Guitar, Drummer UK, The Weeklings, The Nervous Breakdown, and Ultimate Classic Rock.

Blaine's new book is Midnight Jesus: Where Struggle, Faith, and Grace Collide....

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Blaine's reply:
One of the great blessings of working in the publishing industry is getting advance copies of all the great books out there. I have shelves overflowing with books and a kitchen table stacked with more galley copies than I have time in the day to read. What a wonderful problem to have.

Greg Renoff’s Van Halen Rising is everything I’m looking for in a rock biography. Rock books are hot right now and what works for me is something that captures the mood of the music. I don’t like rock books that take an academic approach. Be fun, be light, be well written. Greg’s book does all of those things. Best music book of the year, for me. Also with that is the AC/DC FAQ by Susan Masino, The Eagles FAQ by Andrew Vaughn and Sinister Urge, a new Rob Zombie bio by my friend (and boss) Joel McIver. When I was eleven, I wanted nothing more than to be a rock writer. That’s one dream that came true.

Inspiration wise, I’m reading Jimmy Wayne’s Walk to Beautiful, Seth Haines’ Coming Clean and Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow. The honesty in three books encourages me greatly about the state of Christian publishing. It doesn’t have to be all motivational speeches, transcribed sermons and quick-fix blogs.

Just for fun? There’s As If! The Oral History of Clueless and We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy.

Neil Strauss is one of my favorite writers and a great influence of mine. His new book The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book on Relationships is a harrowing read. But an incredibly important book. If it doesn’t shake you, it should.
Visit the Midnight Jesus website.

The Page 99 Test: Midnight Jesus.

My Book, The Movie: Midnight Jesus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Shane White

Shane White is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. He has authored or co-authored several books, including Playing the Numbers, and collaborated in the construction of the website Digital Harlem.

White's latest book is Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
To tell the truth, leaving aside reading specifically related to my work, much of my “reading” is actually “listening.” Most days of the week, I spent 80-90 minutes walking around the shore of Sydney Harbor. Initially, as I walked, I used to write in my head, but I found that I’d write, or work, for 15 minutes and then drift off into dreams of how the New York Times would review my next book or what I would do if I won the lottery (a particularly futile exercise as I don’t buy tickets). Audible books transformed this part of my day. The first book I listened to, three or four years ago now, was Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I’d never read it, but listening to it being read spoken was wonderful. Even though it bucketed down with rain for several days, I was so hooked, that I ignored the weather, and trudged off into the deluge. I had to get my 90 minute fix. Many people (my family for instance) thought I was insane.

The last book I listened to that bowled me over was John Lahr’s Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (2014). Lahr’s writing is terrific. The opening long set piece of the Broadway first night of one of his plays is wonderful, drawing you in to the story of his life in a most effective fashion. You couldn’t get a book more distant from my Prince of Darkness. I had to try and exploit shards of evidence—a sentence here and a few words there. Lahr, on the other hand, had letters, diaries, interviews, oral histories and of course Williams’s magnificent plays themselves, providing him with reams of material that allowed him to know what Williams was thinking and feeling. Lahr gives the impression of being in total control of this blizzard of paper. For me, one of the perverse pleasures of this book, was walking around Sydney’s magnificent harbour, in the midst of thousands of other Balmain and Rozelle gentrifiers all nattering away about their precocious children’s educations, while I was listening to the rather steamy details of Williams’s sexual meanderings and philanderings.

I love reading crime/noir fiction. Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, the usual suspects are staples. Mostly though I only read them on my summer break in December and January when I go away up the coast. However, in the last couple of months I have flown 50,000 miles. My jetlag recovery book that I read (and I mean read, not listened to) at all sorts of odd hours of the night in Istanbul, Marseilles, Aix, Paris, London and New York was Don Winslow, The Cartel: A Novel (2014). He needed that postcolonic title—for much of it reads as if it is very closely based on fact. It and its prequel, are some one thousand gruesome pages about the misery the United States has visited upon Mexico over the last forty years in the war against drugs. The Cartel is hardly an enjoyable read, and you could not really laud it for character development etc etc. And you know from the start it is never going to have a happy ending. But once you get into the book, Winslow draws you in, in the most mesmerising of fashions. When I recommend the book, I do warn people only to start if they know they can cope with learning how much agony someone can inflict on a human being with a chain saw.
Learn more about Prince of Darkness at the St. Martin's Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Prince of Darkness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Molly MacRae

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

MacRae's latest book is Knot the Usual Suspects, her latest Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually gravitate toward funny books. A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup doesn’t fit that pattern, unless you count the funny looks it gets from people who see it on the shelf next to my thermos of tea at work. Harkup is a former research chemist who discusses fourteen of Christie’s novels and the poisons used in them. Christie had extensive knowledge of poisons and chemistry. She’s one of my writing heroes, and I think of this book as a little light research.

Another nonfiction book I’m reading is Treasure Island: The Untold Story by John Amrhein. Amrhein tells the story of Owen and John Lloyd, two respected merchants in Hampton Roads, Virginia, who, in 1750, perpetrated the most audacious and lucrative act of piracy of the 18th century. They made off with more than fifty chests of silver doubloons and buried it on an island in the Caribbean. John Lloyd had a wooden leg. Amrhein goes on to make convincing connections between that story and R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

To get my dose of funny in, I recently read Leigh Perry’s A Skeleton in the Family. It’s the first in her light-paranormal cozy mystery series about adjunct English Professor Georgia Thackery and Sid the animate skeleton who’s been her best friend since she was six. Neither Sid nor Georgia can explain how it’s possible for Sid to walk, talk, and surf the Internet, but there he is. This is a smart series full of bone jokes, bad puns, and proof of the power of friendship and family.

Part of my job at the public library is checking in the new children’s books, and I take that opportunity to “shop” for my one-year-old grandson. Two books stood out recently. The first is Chameleon Sees Colors by Anita Bijsterbosch, a joyfully bright, bold book of colors. It’s a board book, which makes it perfect for the youngest readers, and the cover is predominantly red, which makes it perfect for my grandson, because that’s his favorite color. The second book is The Alphabet of Bugs: An ABC Book, by Valerie Gates and illustrated by Ann Cutting. It’s beautiful, alliterative, informative, and has a sense of humor. It also introduces a lovely range of colors. Who couldn't like a beetle that balances a bittersweet background?
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Knot the Usual Suspects.

The Page 69 Test: Knot the Usual Suspects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Craig Packer

Craig Packer is professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior and director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

His new book is Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns.

Recently I asked Packer about what he was reading. His reply:
I had the good fortune of getting to know Cormac McCarthy during my stay at the Santa Fe Institute this past winter. By the time of our initial meeting, I had only read No Country for Old Men, The Road and All the Pretty Horses, but I confessed to him that I had finished The Road the very day that I drafted the concluding passage to Lions in the Balance and that his writing had inspired the spirit and rhythm of my final sentences. He asked why, and I replied that I had fought a largely losing battle against corruption and chaos in Africa, and his ending for the downward spiral in The Road was perfect: no matter how horrible and hopeless life may seem, we have to keep going. And his reply was instant, “It is my belief that none of us are descended from quitters.” We talked a lot about life and literature over the next few months, during which time I twice read Blood Meridian, and it was a true privilege to be able to discuss his works with him. By the time I left Santa Fe, I was wishing that I could write fiction. Lions in the Balance has plenty of real-life danger and mayhem, but these events had to happen of their own accord – and it will likely take decades before I can fill another book with so much intensity.
Learn more about Lions in the Balance at the University of Chicago website.

My Book, The Movie: Lions in the Balance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gil Troy

Gil Troy has been a professor at McGill University since 1990. Maclean’s Magazine has repeatedly identified him as one of McGill’s “Popular Profs” and History News Network designated him one of its first “Top Young Historians.” His many books include Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism.

Troy's latest book is The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished a wild, creative, self-proclaimed “philosophical rampage” by Ze’ev Maghen called Imagine: John Lennon and the Jews. More than a book about John Lennon or Jews, the book is really about the existential crisis facing modern America – and the West. The book dissects Lennon’s classic song “Imagine,” using that to symbolize much of what ails us.

Maghen is a charming, cranky particularist, who fears “Imagine”’s universalism, its faux cosmopolitanism. Maghen doesn’t want to live in a world with no countries and no loyalties and no tribes and no boundaries, which makes you just live for “today-ay-ay.” He believes that human beings need tribes, commitments, communities, stories, as frameworks that make them work together – and build a better world together, which is what Judaism seeks. The universalist all too often loves humanity abstractly, in theory not in practice. The particularist, the nationalist, the loyalist, has to learn to love his or her allies in real life. While, of course, that love can turn into xenophobia and bigotry, it is also the only real way to love truly.

In Maghen’s best riff, he talks about proposing to a young lady, starting with “I love you” but making that love Lennonist (not Leninist), saying “I love you as much as I love that waiter there, that woman here, etc.” If you universalize love you lose it.

Maghen’s work resonates with another influential book I read lately, Liquid Modernity. In it, the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman diagnoses our modern malaise using the classic line from the Communist Manifesto, arguing that, under capitalism’s compulsive pressure to update, to change, “all that is solid melts into air, the sacred becomes profane.” Bauman argues that modernity’s defining condition, liquidity, dissolves ties, commitments, bonds, pushing us toward what Maghen might call “Imagine”’s universalist nightmare.

After reading Bauman, I started seeing relationships, families, politics, computers, technology, modern ideology, through this solid v. liquid, sacred v. profane lens, a lot more things about our times made sense. It inspired me in my book on Clinton and the 1990s to talk about the tension in America as we went from being a Republic of Something, having some core ideals, to a Republic of Nothing –liquid, adrift, so open our brains fall out – balanced, at least, by being a Republic of Everything, more open, welcoming, pluralistic than ever.

Our challenge becomes clear: Embracing all the openness in today’s magical world, while remaining rooted, grounded, anchored, standing for something not just believing in so much of everything it becomes nothing serious.
Visit Gil Troy's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Moynihan's Moment.

My Book, The Movie: Moynihan's Moment.

My Book, The Movie: The Age of Clinton.

The Page 99 Test: The Age of Clinton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sofie Kelly

Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of young adult writer and mixed-media artist, Darlene Ryan. Sofie/Darlene lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores.

Her new novel is Faux Pas.

Recently I asked Kelly about what she was reading. Her reply:
I almost always have more than one book on the go—usually one I’m reading on my Kindle and one that’s a paper copy. The “physical” book I’m reading right now is Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra L. Brown. Recently I watched The Psychopath Next Door, a documentary about non-criminal psychopaths. (Experts estimate between one and two per cent of the general adult male population fits the definition of psychopath--a lack of empathy and remorse among other traits. Most psychopaths aren’t violent criminals, but they’re not someone you’d want to be in a relationship with, either.) Brown’s book was one of several mentioned in the documentary and I found it at my local library. It’s a fascinating read. I had a college professor, who in retrospect, fits the criteria. (Seriously!)

On my Kindle I’m reading Single by Saturday by Catherine Bybee. A friend kept insisting I should read anything from Bybee and this book in particular. And she was right. I’m really enjoying the story. This is not a traditional romance. The heroine is married to the hero’s brother. (I’m not giving anything away by saying this is a marriage of convenience.) I know things are going to end happily ever after, but I’m not sure how the author is going to get to that point.

Waiting on my To Be Read pile: Look Both Ways by Carol J. Perry, the third in the Witch City mysteries, and Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, a non-fiction book about toxic plants. (I’m starting to see why I sometimes get odd looks at the library when I’m waiting to check out with my stack of books.)
Visit Sofie Kelly's website.

My Book, The Movie: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Michelle Sassa

Michelle Sassa is the author of Copygirl which Publishers Weekly says is "wickedly funny and smartly sweet."

Recently I asked Sassa about what she was reading. Her reply:
As a working mom of three busy school children, my reading time is beyond limited. Usually I manage five minutes a night in my bed before passing out cold, book still in hand, light on. Lately, my reading pile has consisted of a ridiculous number of school notices, sports forms, and my kids’ homework. In between this, I manage to slip in an occasional People magazine article, usually while waiting to pick up one of the children or, ahem, whilst hiding behind a locked bathroom door. But the last week of summer, we vacationed down the shore and I got to spend hours at a time with my head in a book. My selection? The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. It had been voted best beach read by countless magazines, and I got it in right before Labor Day, in the nick of time (whew!) I didn't just read The Knockoff, I devoured it. I like my fiction fast and fun, with strong characters and observations that resonate, and this really delivered. I could totally relate to heroine Imogen Tate trying to keep up in this fast paced world of apps and twattering, and I was rooting for her the whole way. It was a wonderful commentary on the value of working women of every age. Plus, I got a kick out of the 'gentle skewering' of millennials who spend their whole lives with their faces stuck to a screen. Maybe if I could get my face out of a screen, I could find the time to whittle down the stack books on my nightstand.

For my birthday, my husband got me The Status of All Things, which was written by two co-authors, just like The Knockoff and my own novel, Copygirl. I’m happy to be supporting the sisterhood of chick lit writing teams, and hope to crack that open soon. Then I’ve got Jennifer Weiner’s latest, Who Do You Love, waiting patiently for me—I read every book that she writes. I just need another hurricane to come through, so all the kids’ activities get cancelled. (It is so hard to read while driving).
Visit Michelle Sassa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Simon Toyne

Simon Toyne is the bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy: Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower. A writer, director, and producer in British television for twenty years, he worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages and published in more than fifty countries. He lives with his wife and family in England and the south of France, where he is at work on his second Solomon Creed novel.

Toyne's latest novel is The Searcher, the first novel in the Solomon Creed series.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I always have a bunch of things on the go at any one time. My current crop includes They All Love Jack by Bruce Robinson, Stolen by Daniel Palmer, and The Son by Philipp Meyer.

They All Love Jack is a glorious bare-back ride of a book through the deepest depravities of Victorian England and the thick London fog of the Jack the Ripper legend. Bruce Robinson wrote the Oscar nominated script for The Killing Fields and also wrote and directed Withnail and I, amongst others, and this book has the same furious energy in the language as that. It’s a Quixotic book, not a novel, not really a chronological dissection of the case, and the windmill Robinson tilts at are the monarchy, the aristocracy, the Freemasons and the establishment in general. It’s glorious and I urge everyone not to be put off by its 800 plus pages, I’m 300 pages in and am already fearful that I’m reading it too fast.

Stolen is a great, old-school, Hitchcock-ian style thriller about a guy who steals the cyber identity of someone in order to make use of his medical insurance to get meds for his cancer stricken wife. He picks the wrong guy and things spiral out of control. Daniel is a great, no-nonsense, skilled craftsman when it comes to these things and I love reading his books. They’re always like going on a rollercoaster ride and this one is proving to be no exception.

The Son is a sprawling epic tracing several generations of a Texas dynasty, from a teenage boy being taken and raised by Indians to his oil baron great-great-granddaughter watching the blood line slowly dwindle away to dust. It’s beautifully written and properly sweeping in scope and I don’t want that to end either.
Visit Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Searcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley is the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries, the Teddy Thurber Mysteries, and the Madeline Mann Mysteries. She’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Romance Writers of America, as well as the Chicago Writers Association. Buckley has taught high school English for over twenty years.

Her latest novel is The Big Chili.

Recently I asked Buckley about what she was reading. Her reply:
Every year I teach Crime and Punishment to my senior world literature class, and we are immersed in the book yet again. I first read it in high school, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve read it since, but I am still madly in love with this book. Why? First, because Fyodor Dostoevsky was a genius whose understanding of human behavior adds authenticity to his prose; of his work Nietzsche wrote, in 1887, “he is the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn.”

The book, as most probably know, focuses on a young man tormented by a theory which drives him to kill. In the aftermath, his psyche unravels, and Dostoevsky deftly accomplishes some daunting tasks: he makes us sympathize with an ax murderer; he helps us to understand the pain and torment of deep guilt; and he encourages us to consider the true meaning of redemption.

Every time I teach this novel I have new insights and new questions, and I appreciate anew this work of depth and brilliance, this perfect piece of erudition.

(If you look on my website, you’ll see it listed among my favorite mysteries of all time).
Visit Julia Buckley's website and blog, Mysterious Musings.

My Book, The Movie: The Big Chili.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Chili.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Amy Sue Nathan

Amy Sue Nathan was born and raised in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism (a degree she actually uses). She has called the Chicago area home since the late 1990s, and is the proud mom of two grown children (her favorite oxymoron). In addition to being a writer, editor, and blogger, she's a dog-lover, vegetarian, not-so-secret crafter, and lover of all things wine and chocolate.

Nathan's debut novel, The Glass Wives, was published by St. Martin’s Griffin in May 2013.

Her new novel is The Good Neighbor.

Recently I asked Nathan about what she was reading. her reply:
What I’m reading right now might surprise you. I’m reading books that aren’t published. Not yet, anyway. You know the endorsements or blurbs you see on the front, back, and inside cover of books? Those are written by authors who’ve been asked to read the book before it goes out to booksellers or readers. Usually authors asked to blurb write similar books, so that his or her name will be familiar to someone who might like the new book. Even when I’m busy getting ready for a book launch (now) and writing another novel (now), I always make time to read, especially if I’m reading for a blurb. Helping other authors is high on my list of priorities and I always try to fulfill my promises. Since I write women’s fiction (or what some call book club fiction) those are usually the books I’m asked to blurb.

Right now I’m reading The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough, about a widow and her two children who leave the familiarity of their Brooklyn home for what they think will be the New Hampshire wilderness to build a new life. Though I’ve not yet finished the book, it has captured my heart with its themes of motherhood and family – and some secrets they find in the attic.

On the “reading just because” list is After You by Jojo Moyes. Because I host a book and writing blog,, I have early access to many books. It’s one of the best parts of that job (which isn’t really a job). I enjoy reading Jojo Moyes because of her ability write loveable quirky characters I wish I knew, and twisting them into somewhat unthinkable situations. When I read Jojo Moyes I often wonder, “How on earth did she come up with that?” To me – that’s the sign of a great book.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Sue Nathan's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Amy Sue Nathan & Mitzi and Lizzie.

My Book, The Movie: The Glass Wives.

The Page 69 Test: The Glass Wives.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Neighbor.

My Book, The Movie: The Good Neighbor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 16, 2015

Anna Mitchael

Anna Mitchael is the author of Copygirl which Publishers Weekly says is "wickedly funny and smartly sweet." She also recently published the Kindle Single Rooster Stories: Farm-Raised Tales of Life, Love and Motherhood. Her rooster, Kenny, gave it two spurs up.

Recently I asked Mitchael about what she was reading. Her reply:
What I wish I would read

There is a book on my nightstand that brings out all kinds of good intentions. But when push comes to shove, the big lights go off and the night light comes on, when I am waiting for that gentle shove into the grand canyon of sleep, apparently the last thing I want to open is....

A Woman’s Book of Yoga by Machelle M. Seibel

There is every reason to believe this book is fabulous. It was recommended to me by a wise, wonderful yoga master who can touch the top of her head with her big toe and also says ‘zen’ in a way that makes you feel good, and not like punching her in the face.

Maybe you are looking for a book to read about yoga? If so, please choose this one. That might heal my bad karma for skipping it… not to mention the bad karma for thinking about punching all those innocent (and zen!) people.

What I read a little of (almost) every day:

Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits

My purse started small. A little box for my phone, some lip gloss, the usuals. But over the years it has somehow exploded evolved into what can only be described as a bottomless pit. In fact my purse has become so large I’ve learned most people classify it as a bag. So when I see signs that say ‘Check your bag here’ I have to stop and show them my purse, otherwise they will chase me through the store, yelling at me like I’m a delinquent who might ‘accidentally’ start dropping non-purchased items into my ‘purse.’ So, last time I visited BookPeople in Austin I saw a sign like this at the entry so obediently I stopped. The guy working the bag cubbyhole system took one look at my diaper animal cracker loose leaf paper catastrophe purse and said, ‘Why don’t you just keep it with you today. But do you have any books in there that we might sell?’

So I reached in and the book I had with me was my much-loved, million-times-read, copy of Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. The guy took one look at the copy in my hand and said, ‘You should know we would never sell a book in that condition in this store.’

I took my purse into the store with me but now I realize I should have left the book behind for that guy. He needed a good laugh. And apparently I could use a new copy.

What I just finished:

This Running Life by Dr. George Sheehan

Spoiler Alert: This book says it is about running. But more than that, it’s about living. I don’t recommend it to runners who want to figure out how to hit the finish line faster. I recommend it to people (and yes, to those people who only run when chased) who are interested in completing the larger life race with purpose, precision and—when possible—joy.

“I am filled with what Joan Didion called “that low dread” of having to go out and better myself. I move through days filled with failure of the body and the mind and the spirit—still trusting I am going on in the right direction, hoping that the real me is infinitely better than the acceptable me I am leaving behind. We are always in the process of becoming. We have a commitment strongly spent or weakly kept, as Robert Frost said, to the work or career of person in progress.”

What I just started:

Delancey, A Memoir by Molly Wizenburg

Most of my free time on the internet is spent reading food blogs. I would never have the patience to tweak and tweak and tweak a recipe 1000 times to get it perfect. And so I am really interested in the minds of people who do. Molly Wizenburg’s blog Orangette is one of the food blogs I enjoy plus she is also from Oklahoma, where I spent a good portion of my growing up years, and I like to support the homies.
Visit Anna Mitchael's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 15, 2015

David O. Stewart

David O. Stewart is the author of several works of history, including Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, which have been awarded the Washington Writing Award and the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize.

His new novel is The Wilson Deception.

Recently I asked Stewart about what he was reading. His reply:
Writing The Wilson Deception, which is set at the Paris Peace conference of 1919 following World War I, has only increased my interest in exploring the mad, brutal world of that war.

The Fall of the Ottomans, by Eugene Rogan, examines the war as it was fought in the Middle East. Though we often think of that conflict as the sandbox where Lawrence of Arabia gave freedom to the Arabs, the reality is much more complicated and compelling, involving such hideous episodes as the Armenian Genocide and a famine in Syria in 1916. That conflict brought us modern-day Syria, Iraq, and Israel, so there is no more important chapter to study (though skipping over some of Rogan’s detailed recreations of individual battles is permitted; I did).

Ashenden, by W. Somerset Maugham, is a collection of related stories about a British spy during the war, based on Maugham’s own experiences as a secret agent. The writing is wonderful, the judgments of people and nations are hard-eyed, and the stories represent the birth of modern spy fiction.

Secessia, by Kent Wascom is, admittedly, not about World War I, but is set in New Orleans during America’s Civil War. Wascom’s lush prose anticipates the doom of the Confederacy’s slave society and is a delight to read, though sometimes best consumed in small-ish doses. A sequel to Wascom’s brilliant The Blood of Heaven.
Visit David O. Stewart's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Wilson Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam is the bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including the #1 New York Times memoir Rocket Boys, which was adapted into the popular film October Sky. A writer since grade school, he is also a Vietnam veteran, a former coal miner, a scuba instructor, an avid amateur paleontologist, and a retired engineer.

Hickam's new novel is Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Bernard Cornwell's excellent history, Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles. I am fascinated by the Napoleonic era, a period in history that changed the world. The resolution of the wars caused by Napoleon's attempts to force European hegemony under his rule left Britain free to develop its empire while France began a long decline in power, prestige, and energy. Cornwell, who is also known for his fine historical fiction, has long been interested in this pivotal battle that sealed Napoleon's fate. Without a scintilla of knowledge of the wars that the French Revolution sparked, or of the man who came very close to conquering Europe, a reader will learn a great deal about both by reading this well-written history.
Visit Homer Hickam's website.

My Book, The Movie: Carrying Albert Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 12, 2015

Steve Knopper

Steve Knopper is a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson (2015) and Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Business in the Digital Age (2009).

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Knopper's reply:
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer. I have no idea why I cracked this 1,147-page, meticulously footnoted beast of a classic World War II history. At first I was totally lost with all the German names and formal titles, and the elaborate Mein Kampf quotations were giving me a headache. But as I kept reading, Shirer's crushing thoroughness, drawn from secret Nazi papers, Nuremburg trial transcripts, an exchange of letters with an actual German general and his own observations, took on a sort of poetry. "Thus, it happened," he writes, "that I was in Vienna on the memorable night of March 11-12, 1938, when Austria ceased to exist." And the details! The tattooed concentration-camp victims whose skin became desirable black-market lampshades for the "Bitch of Buchenwald." The description of the unusual table-leg that saved Hitler's life by protecting him from a conspirator's briefcase bomb. What explains Nazism? Reading Shirer, it's obvious to me that post-World War I Germany was a rare moment in time that a group of manic serial killers was allowed to achieve total power.

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, by RJ Smith. More than any other book, Smith's definitive work on the Godfather of Soul inspired "MJ" -- I even pitched it to my agent as "The One, only with Michael Jackson." For the prologue, Smith reaches back into Georgia history, long before JB, beautifully describing the rebellious importance of drums and rhythm to slaves in 1700s South Carolina. "For James Brown, the One," Smith writes, "was an anchor, an upbeat that put him in touch with his past and who he had become." Smith's concise chronicle of Brown's genius, temper, guns, wives, mistresses, sidemen and music makes you wish for more than 385 pages.

Metropolis, by Elizabeth Gaffney. Due to the aforementioned slog through The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I'm only a bit more than halfway through this terrific 2005 novel about a German immigrant who finds himself trapped in a complex conspiracy involving arson, gangs and (at least, so far) unrequited love. At one point I had a rare idea for a work of historical fiction and picked up this 1930s-era New York City streetscape, hoping it would serve as a sort of how-to. I realized quickly I have a lot more work to do—Gaffney weaves in the historical setting with the characters and plot so seamlessly that you forget none of this actually happened, even when the developments become absurd (the menacing gang members secretly communicate to each other, delightfully, by singing).
Visit Steve Knopper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vicki Delany/Eva Gates

Eva Gates is the national bestselling author of the Lighthouse Library cozy series from Penguin Obsidian, set in a historic lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first in the series is By Book or By Crook, and Booked for Trouble was released on Sept. 1st, 2015. Eva is the pen name of Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah for my book club. I was one of the few members of the club who didn’t love it. I thought the writing of descriptive passages was excellent, but the two main characters had very little depth. But mostly, there wasn’t a single original or unexpected idea in the entire book. Every plot twist was signalled way ahead. The story of the occupation of France during WWII and of the resistance has been told many times, as well as the vital importance women played in it. Hannah brought nothing fresh to it.

Once book club duties were over I dived into nEvermore an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe-related short stories. I don’t read many short stories, as I prefer novels, but several of my author friends have stories in this collection and I found the concept compelling. I am not finished so won’t comment on which stories I liked best or which I found wanting, but so far I am enjoying it very much.

The next book on my night table is The Marsh Madness by Victoria Abbott. This is the fourth in the Book Collector mysteries, and so far the books have been a joy. Very witty and full of the author's love of the golden age of mystery.
Visit Eva Gates's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch. Visit Vicki Delany's website and look for the first in her Year Round Christmas series, Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen, from Berkley Prime Crime, on Nov. 3rd.

The Page 69 Test: Booked for Trouble.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Emily Holleman

Emily Holleman is a Brooklyn-based writer. After a two-year editing stint at where she had to worry a lot about politics, celebrities and memes, she returned to her true passion: fiction. She's currently working on a set of historical novels that reimagines the saga of Cleopatra from the perspective of her younger sister, Arsinoe. The first of these, Cleopatra's Shadows, is currently available from Little, Brown.

Recently I asked Holleman about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins. It’s one of those books that tears through you and reminds you of the brilliance of fiction, why you wanted to write it in the first place. It tells the story of Teddy Todd—Ursula’s often ill-fated younger brother, for those who read Life After Life—as he survives a harrowing stint as a British bomber pilot in World War II and continues onto a life he’d never thought he’d had, full of the “ordinary” middle-class mishaps, tragedies and occasional wonders. Atkinson manages to distill great and small moments of the human experience with exquisite precision: a parent’s heart-wrenching disappointment in a child, the daunting secrets and sacrifices of a married couple, an old man’s deep-seeded longing for the imperfect idyll of his childhood. The novel spans much of 20th century British history—the senseless violence of the Second World War, the soul-searching and bucking up of its aftermath, the Flower Child ethos ebbing away into something sterner, more sensible, perhaps. And—miraculously! in the same damn book!—Atkinson also manages to confront the form of the novel itself: why we imagine these lives that have never been and why, given the epic bloodshed that marred the past hundred years, this imagining matters.

On the other end of both the modern-ancient and fiction-non-fiction divide, I’m in the midst of Adrian Goldsworthy’s Caesar. I’m not entirely sure if this one counts, as I’m reading it in part as background research for my next novel (a sequel to Cleopatra’s Shadows in which Julius Caesar plays a pivotal role.) But, in any event, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in antiquity or the extent to which “great men” do—or don’t—shape history. The book is one of the most comprehensive biographies of the Roman general out there; it not only covers Caesar’s life in exquisite detail, it also casts a lens on the man and the fascinating, vaguely traumatized Rome in which he lived, teetering between its pride in its unique political system and the recent horrors of political violence that system had wrought.

Next up: Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus.
Visit Emily Holleman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue