Saturday, February 28, 2015

Richard Price

Richard Price's eighth novel, a New York cop story called The Whites, is being published under a transparent pen name: “Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt.”

From the author's Q & A with Dan Slater for The Daily Beast:

When James Wood reviewed your last novel, Lush Life, he wrote that you have greater ambitions than your genre can accommodate. Are you a genre writer?

No. I think what he’s saying, and what I feel myself, is that I slightly ghettoize myself by continuously writing about cops. But I feel like a literary writer. Not to be grandiose, but would you call Theodore Dreiser, after An American Tragedy, a crime writer? Would you call Dostoyevsky a crime writer?

When you’re looking at a huge phenomenon—such as the crack epidemic and relationships between black kids and cops; or the the amorphousness of the Lower East Side—how do you write about that? It’s a panorama. But where’s your story? A crime, and the investigation that follows, gives you a spine for your panorama, a way into the world. The nature of investigation pulls in so many disparate people: lawyers, witnesses, families, victims, killers. It’s a beautifully built-in way to show all the things you’re fascinated by, but in a pertinent way to the story.

What’s a great crime-centric novel that’s not a genre book?

George V. Higgins’s first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Higgins was a former prosecutor in Boston. The novel was about the Boston underworld. It was a small story about small people. But it was so dead-on. The guy had...[read on]
Learn about Richard Price's five most essential books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 27, 2015

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold's new book is The Question of Miracles.

From her Q & A at Sharpread:

Can you tell us a little bit about The Question of Miracles?

Iris Abernathy, the main character in THE QUESTION OF MIRACLES, has a lot to be unhappy about: her best friend has died, her family has moved her from sunny California to rainy Oregon, and she’s both lonely and unwilling to connect with other people. On top of all that, even her hairless cat Charles is miserable. When Iris meets Boris, a kid at her new school, she figures he’s barely better than no friend at all. But when she learns he’s considered by some to be a LITERAL MIRACLE, she starts to wonder… why do some people get miracles, but not others? Can she get a miracle, too?

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

My favorite thing about being an author is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Elana K. Arnold's website and blog.

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold (November 2012).

Writers Read: Elana K. Arnold (June 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Burning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman's new novel is Hush Hush (Tess Monaghan Series #12).

From the author's BOLO Books Q & A:

BOLO Books: Hush Hush is your first novel in several years to featuring Tess Monaghan as the main character. Did you always intended to return to Tess? And did you expect that any return to her character would have to be with a story in which the crime was attached to motherhood?

Laura Lippman: I expected to return, hoped to return, but I was resigned to the idea that I might have painted myself in a corner by making her a mother. Tess is far from the first mother in PI fiction. (And there are lots of fathers, too.) But my sense is that the people who read and like the Tess books would have very definite ideas about how she should behave and would be unforgiving if she took risks – or put her family at risk. I finally realized that was the story, how motherhood had affected this once impulsive woman.

BOLO Books: The first Tess Monaghan book, Baltimore Blues, was published in 1997. Other than the obvious things such as getting older, marrying and having a child, how is Tess different now than she was back in that first novel?

Laura Lippman: She’s gained a lot of confidence. She’s running a successful business. She’s aware of her strengths and weaknesses, but instead of berating herself for the weaknesses, she finds a partner who complements her.

BOLO Books: Similarly – and again, moving beyond the obvious – how are you different than you were back when you wrote Baltimore Blues?

Laura Lippman: I’m a lot more...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Lippman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Louisa Treger

Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.

Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing. Married with three children, she lives in London.

Treger's new book, her first novel, is The Lodger.

From the author's Q & A with Dorothy Reno at the Washington Independent Review of Books:

The heroine of your book is Dorothy Richardson, a real-life English writer from the first part of the 20th century. Can you summarize her most important work?

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957) was a fascinating figure. In her lifetime, she was considered Virginia Woolf’s peer, and she forged a new style of fiction that became known as stream of consciousness. Her life was as interesting as her writing, for she was deeply unconventional in both. Due to her family’s financial difficulties, she was forced to find employment at the age of 17, working first as a governess and teacher, and later as a dental assistant in London. She attended a wide range of lectures and political and scientific meetings, and lived frugally so that she could afford concert tickets. She associated with political radicals, European exiles, and writers, including H.G. Wells, with whom she had an affair. Wells saw that she had talent and encouraged her to write. In 1917, she married the artist Alan Odle. Dorothy was initially hailed as a literary pioneer, but the early recognition and interest slid from her grasp, and she died in poverty and obscurity.

Dorothy’s life work was a 12-volume autobiographical novel-sequence called Pilgrimage, which focused on the inner development of its protagonist from the time she left home, aged 17, to the moment she became a writer. Dissatisfaction with the conventions of the realist novel — which she perceived as being explicitly masculine — led Dorothy to seek new narrative forms that would render the texture of consciousness as it recorded life’s impressions, life’s minute-to-minute quality. Virginia Woolf noted that Dorothy "has invented, or, if she has not invented, developed and applied to her own uses, a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender."

In The Lodger, Dorothy has an affair with her best friend’s husband, author H.G. Wells. Do you think she’s ever able to forgive herself for perpetrating such a betrayal?

Dorothy is fully aware of the magnitude of her betrayal, though she...[read on]
Visit Louisa Treger's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lodger.

My Book, The Movie: The Lodger.

Writers Read: Louisa Treger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Peter Zeihan

Peter Zeihan is the author of The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder.

From his interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: So, the big point of your book is America is in an enviable position. And it was historically and it will continue to be. But I want to touch on why geography and demography and these structural factors really inform your analysis. So, you start out by pointing out that America has one of the world's most enviable markets because of the rivers. Explain that.

ZEIHAN: Sure, it really comes down to a balance of transport. How easy is it to move things within your system versus beyond your system? Water transport costs about 1/12 of what it cost to move things by land and that's assuming that you already have the infrastructure in place. Once you add in interstate, the roadways, the ports, and everything, it's about a 50-1 advantage.

ZAKARIA: And that's why you point out throughout history civilizations and cities have always started on rivers or ports.

ZEIHAN: Almost all of the successful ones, whether it's the French, the Chinese, the Japanese, or so on. But in modern times, the United States has over 17,000 miles of these waterways that's more than everybody else put together.

ZAKARIA: That's more than the rest of the world put together.

ZEIHAN: Absolutely.

ZAKARIA: By comparison, what it is China and Germany?

ZEIHAN: China and Germany, about 2,000, the entire of the world, just over 100.

ZAKARIA: And so, you have these great river systems that allow you to get goods out. And then talk about America's port advantage.

ZEIHAN: Ports, it's a whole different scale. Because of the Intracoastal Waterway, in essence, half of American frontage is protected. There's these barrier islands that protect everything. You have all these indentations in Texas, which...[read on]
Visit Peter Zeihan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 23, 2015

Martha Hodes

Martha Hodes's new book is Mourning Lincoln.

From a Q & A in the publisher's catalog:

What led you to write a book about personal responses to Lincoln’s assassination?

I was in New York City on September 11, 2001, and I remember the moment of Kennedy’s assassination from my childhood. As a historian of the Civil War era, and as someone who lived through those two modern-day transformative events, I wanted to know not only what happened in 1865 when people heard the news of Lincoln’s death but also what those responses meant.

Did anything surprise you during your research?

Almost everything. Not only did I find a much wider array of emotions and stories than I’d imagined, I also found that even those utterly devastated by the assassination easily interrupted their mourning to attend to the most mundane aspects of everyday life. I also found myself surprised by the unabated virulence of Lincoln’s northern critics and the way Confederates simultaneously celebrated Lincoln’s death and instantly—on the very day he died—cast him as a fallen friend to the white South.

Do personal responses to Lincoln’s assassination tell a larger story about American history?

Very much so. The assassination provoked personal responses that were deeply intertwined with different and irreconcilable visions of the postwar and post-emancipation nation. Black freedom, the fate of former Confederates, and the future of the nation were at stake for all Americans, black and white, North and South, whether they grieved or rejoiced when they heard the news.
Visit Martha Hodes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's latest book is Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances.

From his interview with NPR's Arun Rath:

RATH: You note that usually short story collections or collections like this have some sort of a unifying theme. And you apologize for the fact that this doesn't have a unifying theme. You say it's kind of a hodgepodge. But I would maybe put to you that there's a theme of fiction overtaking reality or dreams doing that - and also it seems like this idea of forgetting and memory.

GAIMAN: I think that's true. In some ways, it's me tipping my hat both to the human imaginative facility - the fact that we can imagine - and it's also a way of trying to celebrate aspects of and creatures of and people of the imagination that I've loved, which is why it contains a Sherlock Holmes short story, which is why it has a tribute to Bradbury in there, which is why it has a Jack Vance story. There are things in there that are just ways of tipping my hat to things and fictions and acts of imaging that I have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 20, 2015

James McGrath Morris

James McGrath Morris is an author, columnist, and radio show host. He writes primarily biographies and works of narrative nonfiction.

His newest works are Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press and the best-selling Kindle single, Revolution by Murder: Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and the Plot to Kill Henry Clay Frick.

From Morris' Q & A with Kevin Nance for the Chicago Tribune:

Q: What would you say were some of the highlights of [Ethel Payne's] coverage of the civil rights movement?

A: When things started to happen in the South, she begged to be sent there, and at first the Defender refused because they were concerned about her safety. Perhaps the most significant moment was when she went to Montgomery right after the bus boycott. This was a time when the nation wasn't paying much attention; it was still not a national story. She went down there to cover it, and what she discovered was quite profound, which was that there was a new kind of leadership emerging in the South, where the clergy were taking over the movement.

Q: Another important aspect of her journalism at that was her writing style, which you describe as "folksy."

A: She understood her audience very well. You have to remember that African-Americans at the end of the 19th century were highly illiterate, and in the '50s when she was writing for the Defender, their literacy level and education level was far lower than whites. So she was constantly striving to write in a way that her readers would understand. I compare her to Ernie Pyle in World War II. It's a very personal form of journalism, and looking back at it, her reporting is diminished in the eyes of some because it doesn't have the analysis and the sophistication of some of the white reporters when they arrived on the scene. But they were writing for a different group.

Q: Another thing that distinguished her as a journalist was her relationship to the concept of objectivity. She saw herself as "an instrument of change."

A: She felt she was part of the story, so she abandoned the idea of objectivity. Whenever she asked a question about race, it involved her directly. She thought it was sort of fake to remain objective. Instead, she...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at the official James McGrath Morris website.

The Page 99 Test: Eye on the Struggle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg's new novel is Find Me.

In it, her main character Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune.

From the author's interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: So what's this sickness?

VAN DEN BERG: The sickness is an epidemic that destroys memory. And in the early incarnations of the book, the sickness actually got a much more realistic treatment, sort of "Contagion"-esque if you will. But the more I worked on the book the longer it began to move into this surreal direction. And then when I uncovered the part about memory loss, I finally understood how the larger story of the sickness locked together with Joy's interior story.

SIMON: Joy's interior story - for example, why is she always swilling cough syrup?

VAN DEN BERG: Yes, I mean, Joy is a character who, ironically, wants to forget. She's had a childhood trauma that is somewhat repressed and over the course of this story she has to...[read on]
Learn more about Find Me, and isit Laura van den Berg's website.

Learn about Laura van den Berg's 6 favorite unconventional mystery novels.

Writers Read: Laura van den Berg (January 2010).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Todd Purdum

Todd Purdum is the author of the book An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From his 2014 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: What impact did the Civil Rights Act and its passage have on President Johnson's relationship with the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement?

PURDUM: Well, the immediate effect was a positive one. He became quite close to them - many of them - and they work cooperatively through the Voting Rights Act. But as the '60s went on, and particularly as Martin Luther King and others began to oppose very vocally President Johnson's policies on Vietnam, an estrangement grew up. And by the time of King's assassination in 1968, he and Johnson were not on speaking terms anymore.

So that also is a very poignant - I mean, the two of them really combined to pass this landmark legislation and by the end of King's life they were really not speaking.

GROSS: You know, another ripple effect of the passage of the Civil Rights Act was the change in voting habits in the - the voting patterns in the American South. You want to just describe that?

PURDUM: Well, the night he signed the bill, Johnson told his friend Bill Moyers that he had a premonition that they'd just delivered the South to the Republican Party for years to come. And in fact, beginning in the 1960s and up to the present day, that really came true, as white backlash and resentment against these laws conspired to help revive and revitalize the Republican Party throughout the South.

The Republican Party in the South had been basically a black party and by the, you know, end of the 20th century was almost a completely white party. And the Republican Party's source of national strength is and remains the South.

GROSS: What did you learn writing this book on how the Civil Rights Act was actually passed about how Congress really works?

PURDUM: Well, I learned several things. One is that there was a lot of advantage to having a backroom deal, having quiet negotiations out of public view where people could test their ideas, not posture, not preen for the cameras, but just talk to each other as people. Secondly, they...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Holly LeCraw

Holly LeCraw is the author of The Half Brother.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

Families. Secrets. The things we do—or don’t do—for love. All these themes permeate your wonderful novel. Why do you think love, the most important thing in life, is always the most difficult thing to maneuver? Why does it bring out the best—and the worst—in us?

Charlie’s obsessed with questions of identity, and identity begins with one’s family. This is a guy born with imposter syndrome, because he has no father, and because he senses that there is a secret he’s not being told, in the way that all of us, especially when we’re children, can sense secrets.

I myself was attracted by the notion, the problem, of nature vs. nurture, of genetics, of the source of identity—for whatever reason that presented itself as one of the central questions of the book. Charlie assumes identity comes from parentage, which of course it does, in part; but that’s just one way he’s letting others define him. He has a very old-fashioned, classical, even Biblical belief in this biological determinism. It isn’t until he comes to Abbott, and really until he falls in love, that he feels like he has a little bit of agency, that he is finally himself, an individual. And then that goes south, rather spectacularly.

It’s one of the hallmarks of falling in love, that one feels...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mike Chasar

Mike Chasar is the author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America.

From his 2014 Q & A at Critical Margins:

You refer to “old-time radio poetry shows.” I had never heard of those. What are some examples of them?

In the late 1920s and early 30s, many American radio networks experimented with broadcasting poetry. A.M. Sullivan hosted the New Poetry Hour. Eve Merriam ran Out of the Ivory Tower, which featured interviews with politically progressive poets like Muriel Rukeyser, Kenneth Fearing, and Genevieve Taggard. As early as 1926, David Ross was broadcasting readings of Christopher Marlowe, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, Matthew Arnold, and Robert Frost. John Holland read poetry regularly on the Little Brown Church of the Air. Don McNeill read poetry on The Breakfast Club. So on and so forth.

From what I can determine – the archives for old radio are sketchy and incomplete – the two most popular poetry radio shows were Between the Bookends with host Ted Malone and R Yuh Listenin’? with host Tony Wons, both of which read poetry over the air and fielded poem requests from listeners in what amounted to some of the first “long-distance dedications.” Between the Bookends was so popular that, at the height of its popularity, it received over 20,000 fan letters per month – per month! – and word of its cancellation at least once led to outpourings from fans that kept the program on air. Both shows also had successful print tie-ins...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Elisa Albert

Elisa Albert's new novel is After Birth.

From the author's interview with Shin Yu Pai at The Rumpus:

Rumpus: At the Festival of Writers event this past summer, you talked about writing After Birth so you could “feel less angry about birth when talking about it at dinner parties.” Can you please talk about this anger, as it is reflected in your main character Ari? What motivates the frustration that Ari feels with other women who choose to outsource their birth experiences to medical providers and to avoid educating themselves on their options? Why do you think women and society choose to ignore the empowering and transformative aspects of giving birth?

Albert: It’s a taboo, talking about women’s bodies in birth, because it brings us dangerously close to having to negotiate simplistic ideas about choice and control. Who controls women’s bodies? We don’t want to be raped or executed for adultery or denied the right to terminate pregnancy. We want rightful dominion over our bodies. But when time comes to give birth, it all goes out the window. We’ve collectively bought into some big misconceptions: that birth is problematic by nature, that it is likely to go awry and must therefore be handed over to the “authorities,” that it is “safe” to be completely passive in birth, that if we question, we put our own lives and the lives of our babies at risk. It’s a very old lie. The methodologies used to implement this lie have shifted over time, but the lie remains the same.

The rituals of birth in 21st century United States are harmful to the majority of women and babies. These rituals not only don’t improve outcomes overall, they actually cause injury and illness when used routinely. They are rituals of a culture that fears and despises women’s bodies. That women comply so willingly is perhaps the strangest part.

Why? That’s harder. Because to insist on embracing and embodying the magnificent power of normal birth would be to inhabit the kind of exclusively feminine power that has so threatened patriarchy since time immemorial? Because we remember trans-generational trauma from having been burned at the stake? Because pathologizing normal pregnancy and birth is quite profitable? Because fear is so seductive and overwhelming? I don’t know. This stuff...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Elisa Albert's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Book of Dahlia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 13, 2015

Matt Burgess

Matt Burgess is the critically acclaimed author of Dogfight, A Love Story. A graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Minnesota's MFA program, he grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens.

His new novel is Uncle Janice.

From Burgess's Q & A with Ethan Rutherford at the Tin House blog:

Ethan Rutherford: First off, congratulations on Uncle Janice. I thought it was a terrific book, and though I hesitate to call it timely, to a certain degree, it is: things between the NYPD and the community it’s intended to serve are incredibly tense right now. And here’s a book about a young New York City cop, working undercover narcotics in Queens, under a lot of pressure to make drug-buys and survive long enough to make detective. The story very much belongs to Janice—and if it is interested in the issues of policing, it’s all filtered through her—but the book is set in 2008, in the wake of the Sean Bell shooting, which was another crisis point for the NYPD. Can you talk a little about how you came to set the book in the time/place you did? I’d also be interested in hearing what you think fiction can bring to these issues that, say, other media cannot.

Matt Burgess: Well, the book is set in Queens because I grew up there and I can’t yet seem to get myself to daydream about anywhere else. Stoops, park benches, pool halls, alleyways: they’re these charged spaces for me. I grew up telling and listening to stories, and it’s almost impossible for me to segue to fictional storytelling as a novelist without taking those places with me. When I was last in Queens, a couple weeks ago to promote the book, my friend Timmy was walking down a crowded sidewalk and there’s this woman coming from the opposite direction, talking to herself, and he accidentally makes eye contact with her, and when he does, she punches him in the stomach. She kept walking, everyone around him kept walking, and after a brief moment of confusion he kept walking too. What’s he going to do? Say something to her? Escalate it? Instead, later that night after work, he goes to the bar and tells us about it. That’s what we do. We try to cope with all this craziness by turning it into stories, and that’s what my books are trying to do.

But why 2008? I’m not quite sure. My previous book was set in the recent past as well, and it’s something the Coen Bros. frequently do in their movies (The Big Lebowski, which came out in 1998, takes place during the first gulf war.) I write blindly, in longhand, in black-and-white composition books, without any idea of where I’m going plot-wise; I think setting the book in a precise historical moment at least gives me something to hold onto. I don’t know what the characters are going to do on a particular day, but I do know what tabloid headlines they might be talking about. Plus, 2008 was particularly bananas for New York: the economic crisis, the governor sleeping with hookers, the Sean Bell trial, the Giants winning the Super Bowl. The nice/tragic thing about writing an NYPD novel, though, is that...[read on]
Visit the official Matt Burgess website.

The Page 69 Test: Dogfight, A Love Story.

The Page 69 Test: Uncle Janice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Amanda Czerniawski

Amanda M. Czerniawski is the author of Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling.

From a Q & A at her publisher's blog:

Besides criticizing the impossible ideal body type created in media, your book also mentions the image manipulation of “plus-sized” women as a marketing strategy. Are you suggesting a problem more complicated than skinny or fat here?

Studies suggest that an increased presence of plus-size models (i.e., larger bodies) in fashion may alleviate the trend of bodily dissatisfaction; however, these plus-size models are not average women. So, the mere presence of these models in the media landscape should not be our only focus and, in fact, may contribute to the persistence of bodily dissatisfaction. Let me explain.

While a plus-size model is, arguably, closer in size to the average woman, her body is still atypical in terms of symmetrical facial features and proportional frame. A fashion expert chose her because she was a standout among the crowd. Then, as a fashion model, she is a blank canvas. A slew of aesthetic professionals—her agent, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and hair professionals—work on her. On top of that, photographers and image editors manipulate the photos either by airbrushing or photoshopping, a practice exposed in Dove’s Evolution commercial.

The final product that appears in print or the Internet is, ultimately, a carefully constructed fantastical image, i.e., an illusion. These images reveal a fun, flirty, and fashionable woman but hide...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bartholomew Sparrow

Bartholomew Sparrow is a professor in the department of government at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches American political development. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, and has been awarded the Leonard D. White and the Franklin L. Burdette Pi Sigma Alpha awards from the American Political Science Association. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.

Sparrow's new book is The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security.

From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger, with whom he worked for many years?

A: The two have been close friends ever since 1971, when Scowcroft first started working with Dr. Kissinger in his capacity as military assistant to President Nixon and Kissinger was serving as national security advisor.

Scowcroft and Kissinger shared similar views on U.S. foreign policy and international relation, both were familiar with European, Russian, and world history, and both were expert in nuclear strategy.

Although they began as boss and assistant when Kissinger hired Scowcroft as his new deputy in 1973—the former a famous Harvard University professor and author, the latter a reserved and not-well-known one-star general—their relationship became more balanced as Scowcroft acquired more experience.

It especially shifted when Kissinger became secretary of state in September 1973 and Scowcroft acquired more responsibility and then in November 1975 when Scowcroft became national security advisor (Kissinger continued as secretary of state). Scowcroft became more willing to question or disagree with Kissinger and to make independent recommendations to the president.

The two worked well together. Scowcroft’s personality almost perfectly complemented that of Kissinger, the former being steady, poised, and more straightforward, and the latter often mercurial, intemperate, and less straightforward.

They continued to work together after the Ford administration. Scowcroft helped found Kissinger Associates in 1982, and they worked together for several years until Scowcroft became national security advisor under Bush 41.

As national security advisor, Scowcroft consulted frequently with his friend, not that he, President Bush, or Secretary of State James Baker took Kissinger’s advice.

In the two decades since 1993 and the end of the first Bush administration they have kept in touch, speaking frequently by telephone, occasionally serving on the same boards and discussion panels, and seeing each at the same functions and events.

They have their differences. Scowcroft was...[read on]
Learn more about The Strategist at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Strategist.

The Page 99 Test: The Strategist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby's best-known books are the internationally bestselling novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down and Juliet, Naked. His non-fiction books include the football memoir Fever Pitch and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of his essays on books and culture. He is also the author of Slam, which is vintage Hornby for teenagers.

Hornby's new novel is Funny Girl.

From his Q & A with Dan Kois for Slate:

I watched An Education again last night, and Funny Girl feels to me a little bit like an answer to that movie. Sophie becomes a TV star and she gets to live the life, in a way, that Jenny wanted for herself.


But Sophie isn’t punished for her big dreams. Was that something that you shared when you were a kid? Did you have these dreams, or did you ever anticipate any sort of creative life for yourself?

All forms of culture were really important to me from about the age, well, starting with football, age 11. And then rock music and then books. And I was consumed by all of that stuff. And I grew up in a town outside London where, you know, I had to get on a train to get books. I had to go to London to watch football. Obviously to see bands, to buy records even. So there was always that thing of being pulled towards the city because the city was where culture happened. It wasn’t necessarily where you could achieve ambition. It’s just that there was all this stuff there, and I wanted that stuff.

I can remember going to see Springsteen in, I think, 1981—the first time I’d seen him—and being sort of transformed by the show. It was one of those 3-hour shows. We had magical tickets, in the true sense of the word, tickets where we just kept being shown forwards until we reached the front rows. It was a group of about eight of us, and we were all completely knocked out by the show. But I could see that the other seven, that was it, that was the end of it. Whereas, for me, it was, I have to do something that is somehow connected to what I just saw. And I knew that that was going to separate me from proper jobs and all sorts of things. There was a sense that it made me quite weary and when I was 28, 29, and all my friends had mortgages and money and jobs, I was anxious about it. But there wasn’t anything I could about it.

So I completely understand Sophie and I completely understood Jenny in An Education—I understood that that was the middle-class girl’s way of doing it. And, in fact, the Oxford route, which was the route she had to take, is a lot harder and less rewarding than the instant glamour route that Pete Sarsgaard’s character was offering. But, in Jenny’s case, it’s mostly high culture. And, in Sophie’s case, it’s popular culture—but it’s still...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 9, 2015

Stephanie Kegan

Stephanie Kegan's new novel is Golden State.

From a Q & A at her website:

What is your writing process like? Do you create a detailed outline, or do you let the characters and the plot determine the course of the narrative?

This book was really determined for me by the characters. When I started, I only knew two things. One was that the main character would be a wife and mother who discovers that the murderer in the news is her estranged brother. The other was the family had some connection to California history. My first task when I started writing was to figure out the brother’s crime. It took me a while, but I finally hit upon a mail bomber. That decision sent the story in a certain direction. The same was true about the choices with the other characters. What the father did for a living, for example, and Natalie—and so on. I also discovered the characters—and by extension the novel—in the writing of scenes. For example, I’d put two characters in a room and let them define themselves in interaction. Sometimes they went in a completely different direction than I’d planned.

Natalie and Sarah are very different, very complex individuals. Which sister do you relate the most with?

I suppose that Natalie is more like me. She leads a relatively conventional life. She’s a wife and mother. I feel great empathy with her. She’s pulled in so many directions, trying to balance the needs of her own family while she deals with the crisis in her original family. A part of her just wants to get out from under, but she understands that might never happen. As Bobby’s sister, she also carries a heightened awareness that children can be lost. That said, there’s a lot of me in Sara. I was the oldest child in my family and somewhat oblivious to the lives of my younger siblings. Like Sara, I just wanted to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Emma Hooper

Emma Hooper is an author, musician and academic. Her debut novel is Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what sparked a particular book? What was the question that haunted you?

I think the question that drove a lot of this book was “Why not?” Why not walk 3,000 miles? Why not go find the caribou? Why not make paper maché animals until all the space in your yard and heart is filled up? These Why Nots are what built the story. First them, and then their partners, the just-plain whys. Okay, there’s no reason why Etta can’t walk all the way to the ocean one way or another, now we need to figure out why she’d want to... It was like a persistent three year old asking why? why? why? I suppose that’s a bit of a cheeky answer, because that’s, I imagine, how most every story is made, but, still, in this case, that’s what happened, my imagination said:

Why not have a character walk across Canada?

And my brain replied:

No real reason why not… now tell me why she would want to…?

And so on.

This is your debut, and it’s an astonishing one. What was it like writing this book? What kind of writer are you? Do you make outlines? Do you have rituals? And do you already have something else you are working on?

Writing this book was very… sporadic. I’ve got three other jobs, as a freelance musician, an academic at Bath Spa University and a violin teacher, so the writing of this book took place in all the little gaps and spaces in between other things. Lots of writing on the train! (I’m actually writing these answers to you on the train right now… :) ).

I don’t make outlines, I prefer to start each writing session having ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 6, 2015

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 is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Stanley's latest novel in the series is City of Ghosts.

From the author's Q & A at Evette Davis's blog:

I noticed that some reviewers disliked [Miranda Corbie's] smoking, but it’s a very realistic habit for the time. When you work on your characters do you ever worry about “going too far” or making them unlikeable?

Here’s the thing: I write psychological realism, not two-dimensional shadow plays. Miranda is complex: like most people, what is on the surface can be very different than what is under it. Unfortunately, a segment of our society reads only to see what they want to see, and that’s what entertains them … a reflection of their own biases and limitations. They don’t want to be challenged; they don’t want realistic protagonists; they want to skim the surface and find comfort and affirmation for their own specific set of mores. For such readers, Miranda could be termed “unlikable” – though I would be willing to bet that, for the same readers, a male protagonist with identical characteristics would not be so considered.

She drinks—she smokes—she uses profanity. Like Ava Gardner (as noted in a recently published memoir), Miranda swears like the proverbial sailor partly in order to keep off “the gaze”—unwanted sexual attention from the various men she encounters in life and on her cases.

She is also my attempt to write a “femme fatale” as a hardboiled protagonist, thus turning noir’s misogynistic conventions inside out.

For the record, I write what I write and live up to my own literary and personal integrity. I try to make people aware of the nature of my books by posting reviews, synopses, questions, interviews, videos, et. al. on my website. If someone wants to read and live in a G-rated world, more power to them—just don’t read my work.

Miranda Corbie is a damaged soul, a broken idealist, a woman who is trying to find something to live for. Her actions betray a compassionate heart empathetic to the plight of the underdog and the downtrodden. What’s so...[read on]
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Ghosts.

My Book, The Movie: City of Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sandeep Jauhar

Sandeep Jauhar was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley when a girlfriend’s incurable illness made him yearn for a profession where he could affect people’s lives directly. Once situated at a New York teaching hospital, Jauhar wrestled with his decision to go into medicine and discovered a gradual but deepening disillusionment with his induction into the profession. Jauhar’s conception of doctoring and medicine changed during those first eighteen months as he asked all the hard questions about medicine today that laypeople are asking—and reached satisfying and often surprising conclusions about the human side of modern medicine. Today he is a thriving cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for the New York Times. He lives with his wife and their son and daughter on Long Island.

Jauhar's new book is Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician.

From his Q & A with Alex Blau at Doximity:

AB: If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about healthcare in the US, what would it be?

SJ: Increased pay to primary care physicians, so they don’t have to run on a demoralizing treadmill everyday, seeing patients every 10-15 minutes. Besides being the right thing to do for a segment of our profession that, in my view, is underpaid and under-appreciated, I believe increasing “cognitive care” reimbursement will have the added benefit of reducing unnecessary consultations and tests (or rather, tests and consultations that are necessitated by the lack of time doctors have to devote to their patients).

I wrote a piece in the New York Times recently in which I note that physician incomes make up only 10-20% of healthcare costs. However, our decisions (whether to hospitalize a patient, order that MRI, etc) determine close to 80% of healthcare spending. Take doctors off the office treadmill — the biggest driver of that treadmill is decreasing reimbursements — and you will likely see healthcare savings....[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

The Page 99 Test: Doctored.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Josh Weil

Josh Weil is the author of the novel The Great Glass Sea (Grove Atlantic, 2014) and the novella collection The New Valley (Grove Atlantic, 2009).

From his Q & A with James Scott at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: What was the first inspiration for The Great Glass Sea? Where on the timeline with The New Valley did that happen?

Josh Weil: It’s so hard to trace first inspirations. For me, stories are often gestating for a long time and, even when they seem to come all of a sudden, they draw on things that have been circling my insides for a while. But there were some clear starts to what became this novel. There was the time I first heard about Russia’s experiments with mirrored satellites intended to carom sunlight down onto dark cities and rid those corners of the northern world of nighttime. I was in a cabin in Appalachia listening to the local NPR station and caught an interview with a professor at the local college: he’d written a book about the history of nighttime and mentioned, in passing, that the Russians had done this. And I thought: holy crap, that is crazy. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

This was in, I think, 2005, when I heard the story. I wrote a couple stories that included elements of that and realized that I was working on a collection that sprang from it so, at first, The Great Glass Sea was meant to be a short story in that collection—ha! I know, a short story! I began work on it in the spring of 2008. I have an entry scribbled in my notebook from the time: “Will he ever get quiet house with his brother again? Just the two of them side by side for a long day? No wives, no children?” But by ‘began work’ I mean that I wrote the opening paragraph—not all that different from the one that remains—and then thought, Oh my God, I can’t do this, all Russian characters and an alternate present, half-fable and half-real—and I put it away. That was also about when I sold The New Valley.

That fall, I went down to the cabin in Appalachia again and lived there for seven or eight months and it was there, in the spring of 2009...[read on]
Writers Read: Josh Weil (July 2014).

The Page 69 Test: The Great Glass Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mark Wisniewski

Mark Wisniewski's new novel is Watch Me Go.

From his Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked the writing of Watch Me Go? What idea was haunting you that pushed you forwards?

The notion that someone like Deesh could simply be trying to survive economically--then become imprisoned and hated because his friendships and efforts to merely earn rent backfired--struck me as the underpinning of a potentially tense, suspenseful, and even horror-laden novel. Back when I was in academia, I experienced a chain of events along those lines. A situation like that can, despite your best intentions, keep getting worse, and the number of wise choices available to you keeps diminishing while the stress keeps building. And at some point you know you're in for hell yet you still hope--but trying to fight back or leave simply makes matters worse. In Deesh's case, he is black, and some people out there will always hate him because he's black, and that's an imprisonment he'll never escape--and that horrifies me.

The novel is just gorgeously written, and is being called a literary crime novel--which I love, because it elevates the genre, or perhaps, creates a brand new one. Can you talk about this?

Watch Me Go took twenty-five years to write and publish, so there were countless drafts and revisions, so in theory...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 2, 2015

E. O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than twenty books, including The Creation, The Social Conquest of Earth, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

His new book is The Meaning of Human Existence.

From Wilson's Q & A with Penny Sarchet, for New Scientist and reprinted in Slate:

Why does our species seem to ignore scientific warnings about Earth's future?

I think primarily it’s our tribal structure. All the ideologies and religions have their own answers for the big questions, but these are usually bound as a dogma to some kind of tribe. Religions in particular feature supernatural elements that other tribes—other faiths—cannot accept. In the United States, for example, if you're going to succeed in politics, it’s a prerequisite to declare you have a faith, even if some of these faiths are rather bizarre. And what they’re saying is “I have a tribe.” And every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving, and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes. What’s dragging us down is religious faith.

Is atheism the answer?

In fact, I’m not an atheist—I’m a scientist. Atheism is the belief that there is no god, and you declare there is no god: “Come, my fellow atheists, let us march together and conquer those idiots who think there is a god—all these other tribes. We’re going to prevail.”

I would even say I’m agnostic because I’m a scientist. Being an agnostic means saying, dogmatically, that we will never be able to know, so give it up. The important thing is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue