Thursday, April 19, 2018

Teresa Dovalpage

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1966. She earned her BA in English literature and an MA in Spanish literature at the University of Havana, and her PhD in Latin American literature at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of twelve other works of fiction and three plays, and is the winner of the Rincón de la Victoria Award and a finalist for the Herralde Award.

Dovalpage's new book is Death Comes in through the Kitchen.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished reading Halsey Street by Naima Coster, released early this year. It deals with family issues, particularly-mother daughter relationships, and I am fascinated by the way they are portrayed. You won’t find the idealized, always self-sacrificing, long-suffering, tamale-making Latina mother there. Mirella, the main character’s mother, is everything but. Ay, que relief! The novel also tackles big issues like poverty, gentrification, and race, but (another big sigh of relief here) without preaching. The story is nuanced with flawed, vulnerable and true-to-life characters. Will there be a second part? I hope so…

I also read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen. I chose it because Hobbs, where I am living now, is home to a strong Mennonite community and I was curious about them. The memoir is funny, well written and very informative about the Mennonite culture. I really enjoy the list of shame-based foods!

Rereading is my guilty pleasure, an act akin to coming home. I am currently back to one of my favorites, Los amantes clandestinos (The Secret Lovers) a novel by Ana Cabrera Vivanco that spans three generations and two continents. A wonderful saga that takes place in Cataluña, Havana and Miami, this literary jewel that deserves to be translated into English soon.
Visit Teresa Dovalpage's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mariah Fredericks

Mariah Fredericks was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives today with her family. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in history. She has written several novels for young adults; her novel Crunch Time was nominated for an Edgar in 2007.

Fredericks's new book is A Death of No Importance, her first mystery for adults.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Confession: I am a book slut. I flit from read to read, and it’s rare I read just one book all the way through. I read a lot for research, so I always have a fiction and non-fiction going. And usually one re-read.

My mystery series is set in 1910s New York, so when Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace’s follow up to his magisterial Gotham, came out, I went straight to the bookstore and told them to bring it up from the stockroom. I could say I’m reading this book, but it’s more like I’m married to it. This is what my copy looks like [image left].

You want to know which blocks Irish immigrants in the building trade lived on? Wallace will tell you. You want to know when Sophie Tucker gave up black face and why? The Italian experience of the ILGWU? Wallace will tell you. And he writes beautifully. If he ever felt less than enthralled by any aspect of the city’s history, I would never know.

For fiction, I’m reading The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. It’s easy to get distracted by the bustles and beaver hats with a turn-of-the-century author. But even after decades of reading Wharton, I’m amazed at her witty, compassionate take on the intersections of sentiment and commerce, especially in the lives of New Yorkers. In the first story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” a lonely woman faces a crisis when her neighbor’s extension threatens her beloved view. What does the fragile, genteel lady do? She burns down the damn extension. Now that’s a New Yorker.

My re-read for this month was Presumed Innocent—so good on the jagged edges of human nature and how we torment one another. It has aged less well in some of its stereotypes, which Turow acknowledges but doesn’t entirely fix with the sequel, Innocent.

Finally, at my 11 year old’s recommendation, I’m reading Marvel Comics’ Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Which is every bit as wonderful as the title would suggest.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sam Wiebe

Cut You Down, the latest novel in Sam Wiebe's series featuring Vancouver PI Dave Wakeland, is garnering rave reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He's also the author of Invisible Dead and Last of the Independents, and the editor of the forthcoming Vancouver Noir. Wiebe lives in Vancouver.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wiebe's reply:
Sheena Kamal’s follow-up to her best-selling debut The Lost Ones is titled It All Falls Down. It takes flawed heroine Nora Watts from Vancouver to Detroit in search of clues to her father’s mysterious death, and to her own fractured family life. It builds on the strengths of the first book, while adding new dimensions to the character and delving into topics like North America’s treatment of refugees and soldiers. I really like Nora’s (and Kamal’s) sense of humour, which veers between acidic and absurd.

I’ve also been reading Joe R Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series, trying to keep ahead of the TV series. Mucho Mojo finds Leonard, a gay black Vietnam vet, inheriting a house from his uncle, only to find the body of a child buried beneath the floorboards. Narrated by Hap, an ex-prisoner and conscientious objector, the story unfolds like a John D. MacDonald novel told by Mark Twain. Darker than the first book, but leavened by the terrific interplay between characters, Mucho Mojo led me to immediately pick up the third book, The Two-Bear Mambo, which has one of those great James Crumley-esque opening paragraphs. Pick it up and see for yourself.
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Spencer Kope

Spencer Kope is the Crime Analyst for the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. Currently assigned to Detectives Division, he provides case support to detectives and deputies, and is particularly good at identifying possible suspects. In his spare time he developed a database-driven analytical process called Forensic Vehicle Analysis (FVA) used to identify the make, model and year range of vehicles from surveillance photos. It's a tool he's used repeatedly to solve crimes. One of his favorite pastimes is getting lost in a bookstore, and he lives in Washington State.

Kope's new novel is Whispers of the Dead.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I recently finished Ready Player One, and what a cool ride. I loved the story, not just because it paints an accurate picture of what I believe our dystopic future might look like, but because it also looks back to the best decade of my life: the 1980s. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read in a while, so I also picked up a first printing to add to my collection of first editions. Now that the Spielberg movie is out, I’ll be lining up to see it at the theater in the next week or so.

I’m currently reading Suspect by Robert Crais, which is shaping up to be a great story, and before that it was Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle, which I really enjoyed.

Much as I’d like to spend my life in novels, I also read a lot of non-fiction. Some of this is research for books I’m writing, other times it’s just because I’m curious by nature. I recently took a load of grief from family members who thought it was hilarious that I was reading a book about salt. They wanted to know if the sequel was called Pepper. The book was Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, and it was fascinating—or at least I thought so.

Another non-fiction title I recently finished was Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. This one was research for my crime series, which features a recurring villain nicknamed Leonardo because of the subtle depiction of the Vitruvian Man that he leaves behind. Finally, one of my all-time favorite non-fiction titles remains Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Pure gold.
Visit Spencer Kope's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Nell Hampton

An avid foodie and writer, Nell Hampton (AKA Nancy J. Parra) decided to finally combine her two loves. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Her new novel is Lord of the Pies.

Recently I asked Hampton/Parra about what she was reading. Her reply:
Oh, gosh so many wonderful things. I’m really into research right now for my next book and I’ve been reading British cook books. I have this great one called The Royal Touch by Caroline Robb. She was Princess Diana’s personal chef when the boys were young and the stories that she intersperses with her recipes are wonderful. I like the insight into how the Princes grew up.

I also am reading some great history books on London and Kensington palace. The workings of large households fascinate me.
Visit Nell Hampton / Nancy J. Parra's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Nancy J. Parra and Little Dog.

The Page 69 Test: Lord of the Pies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Emma Berquist

Emma Berquist grew up in Austin, Texas and sunburns easily.

She currently lives in New Zealand and avoids the beach.

Her new novel is Devils Unto Dust.

Recently I asked Berquist about what she was reading; her reply:
I’ve recently been treating myself to some middle grade books and I just finished Merrill Wyatt’s Ernestine, Catastrophe Queen. Even if I didn’t know the author, I’d have to pick this one up because it’s about a precocious girl trying to start the zombie apocalypse, and I’m all about zombies. This book is so enjoyable, a fast-paced mystery with an irrepressible main character and a cast of farcical elderly patrons. Since I’ve been all kinds of anxious about my first book releasing, I really needed a laugh and a distraction, and this hit the spot exactly.
Visit Emma Berquist's website.

The Page 69 Test: Devils Unto Dust.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2018

David Drake

The Army took David Drake from Duke Law School and sent him on a motorized tour of Viet Nam and Cambodia with the 11th Cav, the Blackhorse. He learned new skills, saw interesting sights, and met exotic people who hadn’t run fast enough to get away.

Drake returned to become Chapel Hill’s Assistant Town Attorney and to try to put his life back together through fiction making sense of his Army experiences.

He describes war from where he saw it: the loader’s hatch of a tank in Cambodia. Drake's military experience, combined with his formal education in history and Latin, has made him one of the foremost writers of realistic action SF and fantasy. His bestselling Hammer’s Slammers series is credited with creating the genre of modern Military SF. He often wishes he had a less interesting background.

Drake's new novel is Though Hell Should Bar the Way.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Drake's reply:
At the moment, I'm actively reading two books:

Log-letters from "The Challenger" by Lord George Granville Campbell. I'm honestly not sure what Campbell's position during the Challenger Expedition of 1872 was--he may have been aboard simply because he was the (third) son of the Duke of Argyle. He certainly wasn't a scientist but he may not have had naval rank either.

Regardless, he has left a lively and informative account of this famous Royal Society scientific expedition--a 19th century predecessor of the International Geophysical Year of my youth.

Mosquito Pathfinder by Albert Smith, the memoir of an RAF navigator during WW II. This has many virtues, starting with the fact that it's clearly and entertainingly written. Smith was very much an oick, the son of a truckdriver from Salford--who happened to be very good at math. Most such memoirs are written by officers with at least a brushing acquaintance with the better classes.

Smith did his job in a variety of aircraft and theaters, describing the problems of living with scorpions and centipedes in North Africa as well as flak and night fighters over Essen in a Wellington.
Visit David Drake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Susan Henderson

Susan Henderson is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. She is the author of the novels Up from the Blue (2010) and The Flicker of Old Dreams (2018).

Recently I asked Henderson about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently reading Jennifer Haupt's In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, inspired by her time spent as a journalist in Rwanda. It digs deep into trauma to find hope, grace, and a sense of resolution.

Two books I read recently and loved were Hala Alyan's Salt Houses -- a particularly poetic story of a Palestinian family in exile, and Max Porter's Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, that I've now read four times. It's not really a novel (though it says on the cover that it is) and it's not really poetry. It's just a weird and fantastic emotional ride of a family coming to terms with death, with one of the narrators being a crow.
Visit Susan Henderson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Blue.

The Page 69 Test: The Flicker of Old Dreams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe's new novel is The Fairies of Sadieville, the sixth book in his Tufa series.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
In fiction, I’m currently reading an advance copy of The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley (out June 28 from St. Martin’s Press). I’m friends with his agent, who sent it to me because a) he correctly thought it would be right up my alley, and 2) Finley, like me, is a Tennesseean.

There are two things about it that immediately grabbed my attention. One is the topic: possible alien abduction of a child. Two is the first-person protagonist, a sharp, tenacious elderly grandmother. There are inevitably some X-Files moments, but for the most part the story stays focused on the emotional reality of the characters, rather than the intricacies of plot or conspiracy. I’ve just hit a point near the end where something totally unexpected has happened, that both clarifies some of the mystery and opens up many new ones.

In non-fiction, I’m reading an advance copy of collected film reviews by the late Jim Ridley, People Only Die of Love in the Movies (out June 21 from Vanderbilt University Press). Ridley was the award-winning film critic for the Nashville Scene, an independent weekly, and I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of times when I lived there. His reviews cover both then-current titles and older films featured at revival showings, and both his love of movies and his wit are on full display here (he refers to the Spartan War film 300 as “the movie equivalent of a Molly Hatchet album cover”).
Visit Alex Bledsoe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fairies of Sadieville.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 9, 2018

Harold Schechter

Harold Schechter is an American true-crime writer who specializes in serial killers. Twice nominated for the Edgar Award, his nonfiction books include Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, The Serial Killer Files, The Mad Sculptor, Man-Eater, and Killer Colt.

Schechter's new book is Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Schechter's reply:
I’m currently working on a book about fictional movies inspired by true crimes. Since many of those movies are adaptations of novels, I’m mostly reading those novels, as well as any non-fiction books dealing with the actual cases. For example, I recently finished an entry on Richard Brooks’ film version of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which necessitated my (re)reading Judith Rossner’s 1975 bestseller along with Lacey Fosburgh’s Closing Time: The True Story of the “Goodbar” Murder. Before that, in preparation for writing about the movie version of BUtterfield 8, I read John O’Hara’s original novel and several books about the mysterious death of Starr Faithfull, who served as the model for BUtterfield’s doomed protagonist, Gloria Wandrous.
Visit Harold Schechter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Killer Colt.

The Page 99 Test: Hell's Princess.

My Book, The Movie: Hell's Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Steven J. Zipperstein

Steven J. Zipperstein is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. His new book is Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Zipperstein's reply:
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, published in 1963 and which I reread recently, remains surprisingly fresh. This all the more surprising since so much of it is devoted to Baldwin’s dinner with then-Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad which itself provides a brilliant portrait of the underpinnings of African-American rage. Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer is, on rereading, as crystalline, as gorgeous as the best of Ivan Turgenev. Tova Mirvis offers as clearheaded a portrait as is available in the English language for the joys and constraints of living as an Orthodox Jew in her recent memoir, The Book of Separation. Astonishing in its detail and subtlety is Yuri Slezkine’s latest book The Government House. Haruki Murakami’s new collection of short stories, Men Without Women, is characteristically spare and tender and haunting.
Discover more about Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History, and learn more about Steven Zipperstein's scholarship at his Stanford webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 6, 2018

Christina Lynch

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Lynch is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias.

Lynch's debut novel is The Italian Party.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m always half way through several things that are strewn all over the bed. Right now those are:

The Italians and the Holocaust by Susan Zuccotti. This is an older book but a really excellent study of something you just don’t hear that much about—the experiences of Jews in Italy during World War II. Some of the stories are as heartbreaking as those from other parts of Europe, but there are some heroic stories of Italians risking their own lives to hide Jews from the Fascists and the Germans, and using their own famously muddled bureaucracy to keep them safe.

Travels With Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn. This is Gellhorn’s memoir about traveling with Hemingway, who is never named in the book, but only referred to as “U.C.” for “Unwilling Companion.” Gellhorn is a terrific writer—funny, smart, and much braver than I will ever be. Given her predilection for rickety airplanes, rusty boats and war zones, it’s amazing that she lived to a ripe old age.

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch. Someone else mentioned this in their list of favorite books, and it sounded so good that I sent off for it immediately. It’s a darkly funny story of a washed up writer. I’m only a few pages in but I’m laughing and wincing already at the arrogance of the main character.

I recently finished a couple of books I’d like to recommend:

Educated by Tara Westover. This is the hot memoir of the moment, and it’s deserving of all the attention it’s getting. It’s the story of the author’s upbringing in a family of Mormon survivalists in rural Idaho who neither sent her to school nor homeschooled her. She taught herself enough to get into Brigham Young, and eventually went on to Harvard and Cambridge. It’s a phenomenally gripping story of family, home, and what it means to get an education.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer. This, like Under the Net, is the story of a not very successful novelist. I laughed so hard reading it that my dogs woke up and were worried that something was terribly wrong. I was shrieking with laughter.
Visit Christina Lynch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Italian Party.

The Page 69 Test: The Italian Party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jamey Bradbury

Jamey Bradbury's work has appeared in Black Warrior Review (winner of the annual fiction contest), Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Bradbury's first novel is The Wild Inside.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading habits tend to reflect my current state of mind. Last year, for instance, while I concentrated on a draft of what I hope will be my next novel, I was also hyperfocused on whatever I was reading—and I read a lot. I finished 57 books over the course of 2017, many of them long, hefty novels.

This year, as promotion for The Wild Inside has ramped up and I find my attention divided between several projects, my attention is also divided between several books at once. I keep starting things, then starting other things, then going back to what I’d started before, depending on my mood. There are books all over my house, waiting to be picked up when I sit on the couch, wait for food to warm in the microwave, curl up in bed…procrastinate writing.

So, by location, here’s what I’m reading: First in the bathroom (don’t tell me everyone doesn’t have a bathroom book), there’s Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime from Tin House, which includes stories by fabulist female writers I love like Kelly Link and Samantha Hunt, plus lots of stuff by writers new to me, like Julia Elliot and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. Lately I’ve been very interested in how women writers use fabulist elements to talk about domesticity or “women’s issues” in interesting and subversive ways.

More of the fantastic awaits me in the hallway with Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster. I’m just dipping a toe into these “tales of everyday horror,” which play with gender in unexpected ways and are very smart about how we use storytelling to subvert some ideas and reinforce others.

Next to the bed is Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend, a meditation on grief and friendship and loneliness. This is the kind of book that makes writing look easy, but it’s deceptive: There’s so much complexity going on under that façade. Its quiet, spare language is perfect for calming my mind right before bed.

I recently got hold of an advance copy of Lauren Groff’s new story collection, Florida; I practically shoved a woman out of the way at a book fair to get my hands on it. Now it tempts me from the coffee table. Groff’s ability to compress an entire life into just a few pages, but still deliver the fullness of that life without losing any of its richness is remarkable. She paints characters that are so complex and vivid, and she does it with just a few brushstrokes—it’s masterful.

In the kitchen, in the best-lit room in the house, is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the book true crime journalist Michelle McNamara was working on when she died. I know this is going to be a tough read, not just because of the crimes committed by the Golden State Killer, but because of the knowledge that McNamara didn’t get to see the end of the case that so obsessed her.

Finally, on my desk, waiting to be recorded on the list I keep of the books I read, is Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. I haven’t been able to stop talking about this book since I read it. Yes, it’s timely and politically charged—it’s set in a not-too-distant future U.S., where abortion has been completely outlawed—but what I found most enthralling is the portrait it paints of the five women whose lives are in some way touched by these laws. They’re so vivid and complete, and regardless of whether you agree with the decisions they make or not, Zumas allows you to empathize with each one.

Up next? Probably My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. (Currently located on the bookshelf.)
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wild Inside.

My Book, The Movie: The Wild Inside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

J. Todd Scott

J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.

His debut novel, The Far Empty, was published in 2016.

Scott's new novel is High White Sun.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
At any given time, I’m reading maybe half a dozen books simultaneously, both on my Kindle and the “real thing,” all stacked up on my nightstand. Here are a few now: Laura Lippman’s Sunburn, which is absolutely fantastic; Alma Katsu’s The Hunger, which reimagines the Donner Party story as horror (as if real facts aren’t horrific enough); Willy Vlautin’s Don't Skip Out on Me, which has a unique, lyrical voice that’s not surprising since Willy’s an accomplished musician as well. I’m doing a book event with Willy at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, and I can’t wait to meet him; Brad Meltzer’s The Escape Artist; Tad Williams’s The Witchwood Crown (which some might find surprising, but I’ve always loved a good epic fantasy; in fact I’m also reading Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon); and I have both Taylor Brown’s Gods of Howl Mountain and Michael Farris Smith’s The Fighter queued up. I didn’t write seriously for nearly twenty years, but I definitely read a lot, and still do.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sara Sheridan

Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers.

Sheridan's new novel is England Expects.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Sheridan's reply:
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower: loved this. It’s set in Georgian London (one of my favourite periods) and it’s full of lush period detail that really brings that world alive. And of course there are mermaids too, so that makes it even better!

Dark Star by Lorna Moon: This is from the early 20th century - Lorna Moon is an amazing writer - the modulation of her stories is breathtaking. She died young so this is her only novel and I loved it - the story of an illegitimate daughter who grows up and works her way to respectability only to be ruined by a love affair. It’s set in the Highlands of Scotland (where I have just finished setting the 8th Mirabelle Bevan mystery) and opens a window onto rural Scotland of the period - you can feel the villagers peering over your shoulder!

Vittoria Cottage by DE Stevenson: DE is the second cousin of Robert Louis and her books were a smash in the 1950s. She sold around 7 million copies and is now almost completely forgotten. This is a post-war domestic family drama and it’s really engaging. I loved it! She’s a cracking writer.
Visit Sara Sheridan's website.

My Book, The Movie: England Expects.

The Page 69 Test: England Expects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley's latest Miranda Corbie Mystery is City of Sharks.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
When a novel is gestating, I rarely read fiction—I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced. While I sometimes make exceptions to this rule, I’m never without at least one history book on my nightstand.

Today, that book is the brilliant American Colonies, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor.

The subtitle of this transcendental, urgent and at times transgressive work is “the settling of North America.” Not just the English-Pilgrim-Madison Avenue Americana history most of us over forty were saddled with in elementary school, but a wide view lens on Native American cultures and the various European powers who colonized, commodified and enslaved the land and the peoples of North America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Great non-fiction always gifts the reader with an “ah ha!” moment—that nano-second when your brain connects dots heretofore unthought and unexamined, and disparate threads knit together to make a whole. American Colonies is awash in such connective revelations … for example, you will understand how embedded racism is in this country and why it was (and still is) inculcated as a means of dividing lower economic classes into powerlessness. Though I was already familiar with this general premise, Taylor made me realize the depth and specific motivation for the cultivation of racism as the ultimate economic weapon.

Given the current and unprecedented conflict this country is in—fighting for independence not only from Russian interference and influence over our electoral process, but also for a cultural identity and political reality that does not espouse hatred or undermine human rights and democracy—American Colonies is a very timely read, and one I highly, highly recommend.
Visit Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Sharks.

My Book, The Movie: City of Sharks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Damian Dibben

Damian Dibben is the creator of the internationally acclaimed children's book series the History Keepers, translated into 26 languages in over 40 countries. Previously, he worked as a screenwriter, and actor, on projects as diverse as The Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots and Young Indiana Jones. He lives, facing St Paul's Cathedral, on London's Southbank with his partner Ali and dog Dudley.

Dibben's new novel is Tomorrow.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
So I have finally got round to reading The Goldfinch. Often I fear picking up long books, worried I won't have the time - or possibly the patience - to finish them (I'm a ridiculously slow reader..) This book was an exception. It is long, yes it could have been shorter if it had to be, but crucially I didn't want it to be.

The hook is the thing, I've never know one to have such a hold on me, to keep me rapt for more than 700 pages. We fall for young Theo. We fall for his mother too. When visiting an exhibition of Dutch old masters at the Met, there's a bomb. She dies, he lives. In a vast city, she was the only person of meaning in his world. In the dreamy aftermath of the explosion - one of the best early scenes I have ever read in a novel - Theo comforts another man who also dies, before exiting the gallery with a tiny but indescribably rare painting: the Goldfinch. As Theo grows up into a man, dealing or not dealing with his grief, he keeps the painting hidden. His secret, no one else's. In the same way as his grief is only his too, but just as epic and priceless and eternal. The question of how he'll turn out, how he'll survive the catastrophe, is locked inextricably to the question of whether he'll ever reveal his secret - and this provides the tension of the book, and its motor.

Of course, there is so much more, the language is extraordinary, painted on the page in an almost impressionistic way. The conversation Theo had had with the dying man leads him into the fascinating sphere of that man's loved ones. Art itself is a presence, a character, and not always a kind one. Between the lines of the book, there is the sense of the sweep of history, of the power of art through time. There are brilliantly drawn characters, the 'gliding' Hobie, the tricksy Boris, - almost a medieval construct, a devilish counterpoint to Theo, his dark shadow - and the Barbours, the high society New York family that take Theo in, are fascinatingly detailed - most pointedly in their own demise. At one point, the story seems to take a strange turn and we find ourselves in brash, post-crash Vegas, but this - we realise perhaps later on - is vital and resonant: it's a key part of Theo's odyssey and sets off the jewel like world of Manhattan. Similarly it's fitting the denouement takes place in Amsterdam, the heart of the 'ancient world' of the story. It's right that as the story reaches its climax - as also do the battles in Theo's mind & soul - the genre shape-shifts to murderous thriller.

And finally, there's the Goldfinch itself: it is enigma in its own way, a painting, tiny & great, that connects the old world of art to the new. The bird is beautiful, but has a little chain prisoning it to a perch and we wonder too if it will ever find its freedom...

A book on the grandest scale, about loss, love money, art, demons & angels, crime & redemption - and the very history of the world.
Visit Damian Dibben's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tomorrow.

The Page 69 Test: Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue