Saturday, August 19, 2017

Allan J. Lichtman

Allan J. Lichtman is Distinguished Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC, and formerly Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Chair of the Department of History. His books include FDR and the Jews (with Richard Breitman), which won the National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish History, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History. He has also been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Lichtman's latest book is The Case for Impeachment.

From the author's April 2017 Q&A with Jay Willis at GQ:

Aside from treason, which potential grounds for impeachment do you think are most likely to stick?

Conflicts of interest. The White House makes numerous decisions that are going to impact the profitability of Trump's businesses around the world, and although he might not be running them anymore, he knows in broad terms what policies would impact them and generate profit for them. Nonetheless, he refused to fully divest himself of his business interests before taking office. I understand that doing so might be complicated, and that he might take a financial hit in doing so, but no one forced him to run for president. He holds the most powerful position in the world, and if he has to make sacrifices to hold that position honorably, so be it.

There are specific constitutional provisions and laws that his conflicts of interests may violate. There has been a lot of discussion of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from taking things of value from a foreign power or their agents—even if the president gets nothing in return. For example, Trump recently obtained trademarks in China that had previously been held up there for a very long time. To what extent is his administration's China policy being influenced by those trademarks? We don’t know how his private interests are intertwined with the national interests, and that’s exactly what...[read on]
Visit Allan J. Lichtman's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman.

The Page 99 Test: White Protestant Nation by Allan J. Lichtman.

The Page 99 Test: The Case for Impeachment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 18, 2017

Claire Cameron

Claire Cameron's latest novel is The Last Neanderthal.

From her Q&A with Amy Shearn at JSTOR Daily:

JSTOR Daily: What was the finding about Neanderthals that sparked this story? How did you come across it? How did you decide you wanted to write fiction in response?

CLAIRE CAMERON: I am an avid reader of New Scientist magazine, which had an article about about Svante Pääbo, a palaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and his team who sequenced the first draft of the genome. He made a comment about how Neanderthals were much more like us than we had previously imagined. Coming from a scientist who works at the micro level, this really struck me. It was also evidence of interbreeding, which made me curious about how modern humans and Neanderthals made contact.

The more I read, the more I came to understand that scientists can only speculate so far. It might be up to a novelist to take the risk of imagining answers.

JD: Tell us about the Lovers of Valdaro, and how that photograph changed your creative process.

CC: The Lovers of Valdaro are two skeletons found near Montova, Italy. They were positioned in an embrace with their skulls facing each other, as if they were...[read on]
Visit Claire Cameron's website and Facebook page.

See Cameron's five notable stories about unlikely survivors.

My Book, The Movie: The Line Painter.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Neanderthal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jennifer Fenn

Young adult author Jennifer Fenn has been filling notebooks since she was in elementary school. She’s never without a book! Fenn is terrified of corn fields but has jumped out of a plane, eats her cereal without milk, and has run a marathon.

She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College’s MFA program, and lives with her husband, daughter and Scottish terrier in Downingtown, PA.

Fenn's new YA novel is Flight Risk.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Flight Risk was inspired by a true story. What intrigued you about it, and at what point did you decide it would make a good book?

A: Flight Risk was inspired by the story of Colton Harris-Moore, dubbed The Barefoot Bandit, a teenager who evaded police for two years and stole several planes before he was eventually caught in Bermuda.

His story is fascinating. As a teenager without any flight training, how did he pull it off? And perhaps more importantly, why?

I became aware of this story while Harris-Moore was still on the run, and I found myself—a writer, a teacher, a generally law-abiding citizen—rooting for him not to get caught, which led me to examine why society loves certain anti-heroes, including fictional ones, like Walter White and Tony Soprano, for instance.

The basic facts of the story...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Fenn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Flight Risk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kristi Belcamino

Kristi Belcamino's recent books include City of Angels, her first YA novel, and Blessed are the Peacemakers, the latest installment in her Gabriella Giovanni mystery series. From her Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: Nikki Black, the teenage protagonist of City of Angels is as badass in the story as she looks on the novel's cover. What prompted you to create a young, but tough-as-nails, heroine for your book?

Kristi Belcamino: I don’t have a profound answer except to say that I love reading about tough-as-nails heroines and love writing them even more!

SP: One of the elements of City of Angels that really sets it apart from other young adult novels is the setting of the '90s underground L.A. scene. How important do you think the setting of the novel is to its story and to its framing of Nikki's character?

KB: This is one of my books where I feel like the setting needed to be its own character. The atmosphere, the pervasive feeling of living in L.A. during that time, the deep knowledge that history was being made, is, in a way, that same feeling of being young and free of major responsibilities, just stepping out into the world with your whole life ahead of you. When I lived in Los Angeles at the time it felt like ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's latest novel is Mercury.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first come up with the idea for your novel Mercury?

A: There were two things that propelled me. One was writing a column for The Boston Globe. I was a guest editor for six weeks, and I wrote a couple of columns, and then there was a massacre in Binghamton, New York.

I was struck by the [fact that] the perpetrator was a fairly recent immigrant to the States, and he had known how to get a bullet-proof vest, a weapon, ammunition. I have been here off an on for 30 years, and had no idea how to get a gun. I decided to write my next column about that—how to get a gun in Massachusetts.

Happily, it turned out to be hard to do. I didn’t explicitly make clear my views on gun control, but you could tell my attitude. The day it was published, I got 120 emails, and messages on my home answering machine.

Five men called, none identified themselves, and each said slightly threatening things. I was really interested. Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states and yet this was a really volatile issue. I was hard at work on another novel [at the time].

A couple of years later I was having a drink with an old friend who happened to be Scottish, who told me he was searching for something in the trunk of the car and found a gun...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eva Dillon

Eva Dillon's new book is Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War.

From her Q&A with Alicia Jackson at NY Literary Magazine:

Tell us about your CIA father…

Growing up, I always thought that my father’s job at the State Department explained our peripatetic lifestyle as we moved from continent to continent. Then, when I was seventeen in New Delhi, India, his diplomatic cover was blown, exposing his real career with the CIA to me and my six siblings. However, it would be decades before the extent of his clandestine activities became clear to us.

What we ultimately discovered: his role as a handler for the CIA’s most valuable Soviet double agent during the darkest moments of the Cold War.

Code-named TOPHAT, Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov was a World War II hero turned military intelligence officer who volunteered his services to the United States when he was under cover at the UN in 1961. A principled man motivated by his love of his country, he wanted neither money nor asylum. Instead, by alerting the US government to its deficiencies in the arms race via a wealth of classified material, he sought to prevent a superpower face-off, helping to keep the Cold War from becoming hot. My father and Polyakov developed a close friendship over the years that transcended the ideological divide and endured until their respective tragic final days.

When I discovered the relationship my father had with the Cold War’s highest-ranking, longest-serving Soviet asset, I wanted, primarily, to honor General Polyakov and his service. But the more tactical and emotionally motivating factor for me was when I learned that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wendy Wahman

Wendy Wahman is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book, Rabbit Stew.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Rabbit Stew, and—of course, without giving away the ending!—did you know how it would end before you started writing the story?

A: I make my dog’s food. Years ago, I was mixing up a massive pot of meat and veggies for them, and “rabbit stew” popped into my head. The ending was the thought, so yes, I knew instantly. It's all in the title, isn’t it. Depending on how you read it.

At first the chefs were a brother and sister. My friend, author/illustrator, Nina Laden suggested making them foxes, and the...[read on]
Visit Wendy Wahman's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Wendy Wahman & LaRoo and Jody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Christina Kovac

Prior to writing fiction, Christina Kovac worked in television news. Her career began with a college internship at Fox 5’s Ten O’Clock News in Washington, DC that turned into a field-producing job—making minimum wage while chasing news stories, gossiping with press officers, and cultivating sources—while somehow making rent on a closet-sized apartment on Capitol Hill. After a stint as weekend editor at WRC TV and senior editor at the ABC affiliate, she went on to work at the Washington Bureau of NBC Network News, as a desk editor and news producer in such stories as that of missing DC intern, Chandra Levy.

After being late to pick up her kids at daycare one too many times, Kovac left television to start a writing career. Now she writes psychological thrillers set in Washington, DC.

Kovac's debut novel is The Cutaway.

From her Q&A with Elena Hartwell at Arc of a Writer:

You've spent years working in television news, how did that prepare you to write a novel?

Writing a novel and working on a two-minutes story with video are such entirely different beasts, and none of my friends in TV could understand why it was taking me so long. Our deadline was always 6:30:00. Every night. The show had to get done.

One of my friends used to joke that he’d use his social security payment as a book marker for whenever I finished my debut (I got it done before his retirement, so ha! But long after the many stories he wrote for the Today show).

That said, working television news gave me stories that somehow weave together into novel form, as well as opportunities to observe and talk to people I may never have met otherwise, and these people sneak up on the page. The DC metropolitan area is so vibrant and diverse, so beautiful and misunderstood, and sometimes quite dangerous, which is perfect for...[read on]
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

Writers Read: Christina Kovac.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Devoney Looser

Devoney Looser is the author of The Making of Jane Austen.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book by stating, "She was not born, but rather became, Jane Austen." What were some of the key factors along the way that turned her into the Jane Austen we're familiar with now?

A: Austen has long been an author who enjoyed both critical acclaim and popular worship. (Or we could say critical worship and popular acclaim!)

I think we've done a better job charting how critics and family descendants helped launch Austen’s reputation than we have the early popular aspects of its growth.

Popular media, including book illustration, dramatic adaptation, and film adaptation, gave Austen’s name and image new dimensions. These things put her in front of bigger audiences, and recovering that history shows us that there were debates about the kind of author she was from a pretty early point in her afterlife.

It’s really interesting to me that there was a time in the 1890s when...[read on]
Visit Devoney Looser's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ariel Levy

Ariel Levy's memoir is The Rules Do Not Apply. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:
GROSS: So having lost a baby after carrying it for five months, has that helped you understand - and having, like, fallen in love with this baby who died, like - I don't know - minutes or hours after he was born...

LEVY: Yeah, like, 10 minutes, yeah.

GROSS: Has that helped you understand people who are really staunchly anti-abortion and who consider every fetus to be like this baby that you fell in love with?

LEVY: I've never thought that that thinking was insane or incomprehensible even though I'm passionately pro-choice and I was raised by people who are passionately pro-choice. I mean I was sort of raised in the pro-choice movement because my dad worked for NARAL and NOW and Planned Parenthood.

But I've never thought it was incomprehensible. You know, I've always - it's always made sense to me that if you thought this was a life and you thought people were ending other people's lives, that that would be horrifying to you. I've always understood that point of view. I just don't think that that should trump the life of the mother, who, you know - there's no question about her consciousness, right? I mean it - we don't - it's, like, you don't know what's there in terms of a soul when you have a fetus. But you know this mother has a soul (laughter) and a life and that she should be self-determining and that she knows better than someone else what's going to be the best outcome for her life and her child's, you know?

And I - that just hasn't - I've always felt - I don't know what to say - sympathetic. I mean that sounds condescending, and I don't mean it that way. I've just always felt that I - it - I didn't - I never found the other side...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, This Is Where We Live, and the newly released Watch Me Disappear.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Watch Me Disappear?

A: There wasn’t one particular genesis. It was a slow process. It changed a lot of times.

A couple of things—my husband has temporal lobe epilepsy. I was always fascinated by the way his brain works, the fact that he has experiences where reality shifts. He has experiences of the world that I don’t have. I knew I wanted to write about that—I had an image of a teenage girl who sees her dead mother. Is it real or is it epilepsy? It grew from there.

Also, I had a friend who was a problematic character, who vanished from my life for a while.

I realized I was writing a mystery. I got halfway through and had to rethink things.

Q: The book looks at how well we know people we’re close to. What intrigues you about that topic?

A: I think we have a notion that once you love someone and are loved back, you become...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

The Page 69 Test: Watch Me Disappear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Al Franken

Senator Al Franken graduated from Harvard College. Before running for office, he spent 37 years as a comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host, and has taken part in seven USO tours, visiting our troops overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Franken was first elected to the United States Senate in 2008 and re-elected (by a much larger margin) in 2014. His new book is Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

From the transcript of Franken's interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick:

REMNICK: What’s your understanding of Russia and the Trump Administration, broadly defined? It seems to me that it may not be that the Trump Administration or Trump officials overtly colluded, in a kind of spy-movie, apocalyptic sort of way, but they opened themselves up—Trump, in particular, in his business dealings over the years—to compromise in a way that now affects policy. It’s not just a matter of embarrassment of the Trump Administration, but policy—how he behaves vis-à-vis foreign policy.

FRANKEN: Well, ironically, of course, he’s signing the sanctions—because he has to, or he’d be overridden—against the Russians. You know, we will see. I have faith that Mueller will get to the bottom of this. I think he’s tough, smart. I think he’s hired great people. He’s hired people to look at those financial dealings. I mean, it’s clear that Donald [Trump], Jr., said, in 2008, that a disproportionate amount of money in their operation was coming from Russia. I mean, there’s no question. And the Russians have a way of compromising people so they’ve got them. I think we will find out that aspect of it, I think, through Mueller. And that’s why I think it becomes a constitutional crisis if Trump fires him. If he fires him, it will be without cause, and that will create a crisis.

REMNICK: Clearly, Donald Trump, on some level, has talent, performative talent, at the microphone. He appeals to people in a way that reaches their gut and their funny bone, even, whether you like it or not. And as somebody who’s spent so much time in comedy, and in front of the camera, and writing for “Saturday Night Live,” does he remind you of anybody? Is he an Andrew Dice Clay figure? How would you assess his comedic talent?

FRANKEN: I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 7, 2017

Kiera Stewart

Kiera Stewart is the author of three novels: Fetching, How to Break a Heart, and The Summer of Bad Ideas.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What does the novel's title signify for you?

A: Truthfully, I’m sort of into bad ideas. And I might also have a little obsession with failure. I write a little about this sort of thing in the acknowledgments for SOBI, but here’s what I believe.

If you stay on “safe” grounds, you limit your ability to grow. If you strive only for perfection, you’ll stifle your creativity and resourcefulness. Good ideas sometimes lead to bad outcomes, and bad ideas sometimes lead to good outcomes.

Obviously, I’m not in favor of outright recklessness (up with safety belts and smoking bans!), but if there’s a good intention behind that seemingly bad idea and you embrace whatever happens, chances are even failure will mean success.

Here’s something that Winston Churchill once said: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” And I...[read on]
Visit Kiera Stewart's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kiera Stewart & Casper.

Writers Read: Kiera Stewart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Neal Ascherson

Neal Ascherson is a former foreign correspondent for the Observer. He has just written his first novel, The Death of the Fronsac. From his Q&A with Andrew Anthony for the Guardian:

You grew up in Edinburgh but went to Eton. How did you fit in?

I got a scholarship. In those days it was still the old 70 poor scholars deal, established by Henry VI, so my parents paid about £50 a year. The scholars were segregated in the original college building. We felt we were more intelligent than the thousand lumpen upper-class boys out there, so there was a certain tension. But I certainly learned a lot – a great deal about English entitlement. I’ve always been a wee bit puzzled by the attitude of Eton boys to their teachers, the “beaks” as they were called. They weren’t afraid of them. And it dawned on me only a few months ago: of course, they’re servants! That’s how they regard them.

Earlier this year, you made a confession of killing two mortally wounded insurgents during the Malayan emergency. Was it something you’d been thinking about for a while?

Well, for many years I didn’t think about it at all. I don’t think it was suppression, it was just that when it happened I was very young and quite ferocious, as young men are. And I thought, well, what else was I supposed to do? End of story. So I didn’t bother about it. It’s only when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Laura Dave

Laura Dave's new novel is Hello, Sunshine.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Truthfulness is a major theme in your new novel. Why did you choose to focus on that, and on the impact that social media can have on how people present their lives?

A: There are many people who thrive on social media, though I've always preferred person-to-person connections. I feel there is a cost to ignoring the person sitting across the table from you in order to write a post to friends on the internet.

And, in trying to win over those friends on social media, everyone presents an altered view of themselves. Who isn't guilty of it?

And while a small fabrication or carefully crafted status update in it of itself isn't dangerous, these small removes from the truth seem like they will take you away from yourself a little bit of a time. And this was what I wanted to explore in...[read on]
Visit Laura Dave's website.

Writers Read: Laura Dave (June 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gideon Rachman

Gideon Rachman is the Financial Times's chief foreign affairs columnist and author of the book Easternization: Asia's Rise and America's Decline from Obama to Trump and Beyond. From the transcript of his Q&A with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: What you do in the book is you describe how already, on the ground, foreign policy is changing; international politics is changing. And in particular, the rise of China has really transformed international politics, which used to be, for the last 20 or 30 years, you know, single-pole -- unipolar -- the United States running everything. China is now increasingly assertive, right?

RACHMAN: Yeah. I think it's -- it's both a phenomenon mainly in Asia, but also it has global ramifications. I mean, in Asia itself, particularly with the coming of Xi Jinping to power in 2012, you definitely get a more assertive China, a China that most obviously has started building these islands in the South China Sea to reinforce its very controversial claims there.

And this slightly confused reaction of the U.S. of how much can they push back told you something. China has got away with something, and everyone had, sort of, noted that.

But also, I found in my travels around the world -- because I've got this, sort of, global politics job, that people are beginning to, sort of, factor the rise of Asia, the rise of China, into their thinking.

So just to give you a couple of examples, in Turkey, which is a country which, for 100 years, has just seen its destiny as Europe, essentially -- they've begun to, sort of, re-think the way they look at the world and say, "Well, maybe Europe's not where it's at; maybe Asia is where it's at."

And even Russia, in their post-Crimea break with the West -- you talk to Russian intellectuals after that, they would say, "You know, maybe it was a mistake to think that we would converge with the West; we're in some ways an Asian nation as well." And they're looking to build a special relationship with a resurgent China.

So it's affecting the whole of global politics.

ZAKARIA: And you point out that even Western countries are much more aware of their Eastern destinies, so that Germany -- the largest trading partner for Germany now is not the United States but China.

RACHMAN: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, Merkel ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Daniel Riley

Daniel Riley's new novel is Fly Me.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Fly Me, and for your main character, Suzy?

A: I grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, the South Bay of Los Angeles near the airport. That’s what [the book’s location] Sela del Mar is based on. I had family and their friends hanging around who had flown as stewardesses in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.

My grandmother’s cousin worked at LAX and started a museum there, the Flight Path Museum. I was there after I graduated from college, spending time with people who had been stewardesses in the 1970s and looking at diaries of theirs and old uniforms.

I was thinking about the early ‘70s, what happened in the beach towns were the pilots and stewardesses lived. What kind of person is that?

With Suzy, I wanted an outsider…I grew up with women in my life; I triangulated the strange and specific consciousness of this character—growing up tomboyish but working in a feminized industry.

I was figuring out what it was like to be a man versus a woman, what happens when you’re born a...[read on]
Visit Daniel Riley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

David Abrams

David Abrams's new novel is Brave Deeds.

From his Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

What was your research like?

My research consisted of going to war in Iraq in 2005. That sounds flippant, but personal experience can be the best kind of research. An immersive experience (like combat, like childbirth, like losing your virginity) can provide the kind of sensory details that dry facts and figures on a piece of paper or a screen could never duplicate.

That being said, I should point out that, unlike Fobbit, the characters in my book have a very different war experience than I did when I deployed with the Army’s Third Infantry Regiment in 2005. My characters are infantry, I was a support soldier; they steal a Humvee, I never even drove a Humvee (at least not in Iraq); they walk through hostile territory, I only left the security and comfort of the Forward Operating Base once (and that was for a 20-minute ceremony near the Green Zone). I was out of my comfort zone writing Brave Deeds and it felt good. I needed to stretch and take risks.

As for the more traditional kind of research, I looked up information about weaponry, studied maps, and stared at lots and lots of pictures that showed daily life in Baghdad. But...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at David Abrams' website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.

Writers Read: David Abrams (March 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Joshua Green

Joshua Green's new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

How deeply do you think race and racial paranoia play into who Bannon is and his ideological makeup?

A lot of media people, I think including you, like to portray him as white nationalist and racist and all that, and I understand why people would do that. I personally think that’s the wrong vector or the wrong strain of bigotry through which to analyze him. I think that it has much more to do with religion. Bannon has this very strange, very odd, but very well-developed intellectual and religious foundation for what it is that he actually believes, and at the heart of that is this apocalyptic clash of civilizations worldview. I thought initially that this was just part of the whole self-generated Bannon mythos, but after having talked to him about it a while back, I think he really believes this stuff.

Bannon went to this right-wing, Catholic, Benedictine military academy in Virginia where they were fed a hardcore Catholic version of Western Civ. That was the curriculum. A classmate told me in the book that they were essentially taught that Christendom is always under assault from outside forces, that true believing Catholics always need to be willing and able to jump into the breach and defend our world—Western civilization. I think that idea burrowed itself into Bannon’s mind and fed into his own natural grandiose sense of himself as someone who was going to be an important actor in history.

OK but—

Wait, wait, wait. To get back to your question. Just in all the interviews over the years, I’ve heard him be sexist, I’ve heard him be anti-Muslim, I’ve heard him be anti-immigrant, and I tried wherever I could to put these quotes on the record in the book. He called Hillary Clinton a “fucking bull dyke” and some of the other stuff. I never heard him say anything that was personally racist. I asked him about this. He pointed out Breitbart has black staffers and this and that. I said, yeah but look at the headlines you guys write about black crime and this and that. He just shrugs it off.

His abiding passion is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 31, 2017

Jenni L. Walsh

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Walsh's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume.

Becoming Bonnie, her debut novel, tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. The sequel Being Bonnie will be released in the summer of 2018.

From Walsh's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've noted that you originally wrote about Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree, before turning to telling Bonnie's story. Why did you decide to focus on Bonnie?

A: Yes, when I first began writing, I had every intention of telling their crime spree story. While there are various nonfiction accounts of Bonnie and Clyde’s life on the lam, I saw an opening for a fictional retelling.

I dove in, but Bonnie and Clyde’s background came as a surprise to me. There isn’t much known about Bonnie’s adolescent years, but from what I gathered, she started life as a very wholesome individual. Bonnie sang at church, received straight As, won spelling bees, and participated in beauty pageants.

I had this moment where I thought… but she ended up as a fugitive? How? So...[read on]
Visit Jenni L. Walsh's website.

Writers Read: Jenni L. Walsh.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming Bonnie.

My Book, The Movie: Becoming Bonnie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Megan Frampton

Megan Frampton's newest novel is Lady Be Bad.

From her Happy Ever After / USA Today interview with Joyce Lamb:

Joyce: Welcome to HEA, Megan! Please tell us a bit about your new release, Lady Be Bad.

Megan: Lady Be Bad is the first in a new series called The Duke’s Daughters — basically, it’s riffing off the Bennet sisters, only in my situation, the runaway daughter remains a runaway, and the other sisters have to clean up the mess.

Joyce: What inspires your book ideas?

Megan: The characters themselves. I usually start off with a strong feeling for who these two are, and how they first meet one another.

Joyce: Do you have any particular rituals that help you get into the writing frame of mind?

Megan: A liter bottle of seltzer at my side. Other than that, no.

Joyce: Do you have a pet that hangs out with you while you’re working?

Megan: Kiki, my...[read on]
Visit Megan Frampton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Karin Tanabe

Karin Tanabe's new novel is The Diplomat's Daughter. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Your new novel features three main characters, two of whom are men. What was it like to write from a male perspective this time?

A: I knew I wanted Emi to be the object of two men’s affections when I started to write, but I wasn’t sold on also writing the male perspective, especially twice!

But in the end, I decided I wanted to take the book around the world, and the only good way to do that was to also show Christian and Leo’s stories up close and personal. Christian and Leo both experience the violence of war very differently than Emi, and I liked being able to reveal what each gender went through.

In the end, I really enjoyed writing from the male perspective, and would definitely be open to doing it again!

Q: The novel includes scenes set during the World War II era in Europe, Asia, and the United States, which must have involved a great deal of research. Can you say something about how you researched the novel, and did you learn anything that particularly surprised you?

A: The research was certainly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ed Lin

Ed Lin's latest book is Incensed. From his Q&A with TAP-NY:

Can you tell us about your latest novel, Incensed?

Incensed is the sequel to the first book, Ghost Month. It’s very timely in that it discusses LGBTQ issues in Taiwan while in the convention of a mystery set during the Mid Autumn Festival, when family is traditionally together–the Taiwan take on it is eating barbecue together and going into the country to see the full moon, which symbolizes the family together.

What was the inspiration behind the series?

I’m trying to explore Taiwanese history and culture. Each book is centered on a different holiday in Taiwan. The country has so much to offer the world. Other island nations, such as Ireland and Jamaica, have made their story well-known globally but Taiwan hasn’t bridged that gap yet.I remember reading an interview with the director Wei Te-sheng and he said that Taiwan has never been the...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Lin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

My Book, The Movie: Ghost Month.

Writers Read: Ed Lin (October 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jennifer Kitses

Jennifer Kitses's new novel is Small Hours. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Small Hours, and for your characters Helen and Tom?

A: For me it was all pretty tied together—I had the situation, I had Tom’s storyline I wanted to deal with. I wanted to capture the feeling of how much can happen in a single day.

I have twin daughters—they were in preschool, I was freelancing and trying to take care of them. Going back and forth between Tom and Helen—that was the kind of life I was living. My husband and I were having intense days that weaved together. [It’s the idea of] having separate days in separate worlds.

Q: So you knew from the beginning that you would go back and forth between them?

A: I had the two storylines, and I wanted to go back and forth.

Q: How did the idea that the action would take place in one day affect the writing process?

A: There were constraints because of that. I was checking train times to my imaginary town. Devon isn’t real but I didn’t want to create a train that wasn’t there. Even the sunrise time [which plays a role in the story].

The other part is that I allowed myself the ability to...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Kitses's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Richard Reeves

Richard Reeves's new book is Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It. From his MarketWatch interview with John Coumarianos:

MarketWatch: As an immigrant to the United States, how long did it take you to realize how stratified the classes were here?

Reeves: It was a combination of looking at transitional matrices [tables showing mobility] during the day — the U.S. is pretty sticky at the top — and listening to people talk and operate on the weekends and evening. In the U.K. we do class in plain sight. Here’s it’s more quiet. There’s a kind of collective national self-denial about it.

Q: You write: ‘Far from abandoning marriage, college-educated Americans are busily rehabilitating the institution for the modern age, turning it into a child-rearing machine for a knowledge economy.’ All of that sounds like a pretty unerotic business.

A: America is where the most powerful women in the history of the world are more likely to get and stay married. It might have been hard to imagine that the most educated and economically powerful women would get married at high rates. But there is an acknowledgment that this is the best way, especially for the kids. If it’s not “‘til death do us part,” it’s at least “til the last high-schooler departs.” So there is some empty-nest divorce, but not much. People are getting married later so they have their more romantic experiences...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gian Sardar

Gian Sardar's new novel is You Were Here. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that you've "always been fascinated with invisible layers." How did that fascination lead to the creation of You Were Here?

A: I love the idea that we’re inside a living, breathing history. That everywhere and everything we touch is full of a life we just can’t see, and that sometimes we might sense those past stories in ways that don’t seem logical; a strange moment of pause on a street corner where someone took their last breath, an unexpected feeling of happiness in a place where someone said “I do,” or a feeling of loss in a place where someone said a final goodbye.

I’ve always been fascinated by those invisible worlds that came before us, as well as with the stories of the past that create our present, yet another layer.

Everything that came before us forms the platform on which we stand and I love to imagine how far back that might stretch - whether it’s your life, your parents’ lives, or even a life you could have lived before.

In so many ways our histories began long, long ago, and it’s that idea and that fascination that led me to write a book in which one layer is exposed.

In You Were Here, you see the past, and with that you understand the history of objects and places, as well as glimpse the components that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jesse Eisinger

Jesse Eisinger is a senior reporter and editor at ProPublica, and the author of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives. From his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Pulitzer-Prize-winning business reporter Jesse Eisinger, who's a senior reporter and editor with ProPublica and author of the new book "The Chickens Club: Why The Justice Department Fails To Prosecute Executives." And the book tries to answer the question, why were no executives punished with the exception of one after the financial meltdown of 2008?

So when you ask the question, why weren't more individuals prosecuted, you know, after the financial meltdown, I expected the answer to be, well, there was this word that came down, like, protect the banks or, you know - that's not what you found. It's not...


EISINGER: No.

GROSS: Yeah, you found that - I mean the big picture I think is that you found that the Department of Justice lost a lot of prosecutorial tools that it used to have.

EISINGER: Yeah. The Department of Justice suffers a series of fiascos, losses. And they lose tools and there are bad rulings from the courts. And that ends up depriving the prosecutors of tools to prosecute these individuals. And they lose that focus and end up settling on corporations. So yes, it wasn't Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, calling up Eric Holder and saying, lay off the banks. It was a kind of slow evolution.

GROSS: What's an example of a tool that you think could have been used to good effect after the financial meltdown that the Justice Department no longer was able to use?

EISINGER: Well, prosecutors used to be able to say to companies, if you want to claim that you're cooperating with our investigations, then you have to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Anne Sibley O'Brien

Anne Sibley O'Brien's new novel for kids is In the Shadow of the Sun.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: As you noted, you grew up in South Korea. How did that affect the writing of this novel?

A: I can't imagine how I could have managed without that experience. One of the issues of writing across cultures is understanding your own lens as an insider or outsider.

Growing up in Korea I was both, a foreign, high-status American child, while living in the Korean community, absorbing Korean life and language through my young eyes and ears, skin and bones.

It's given me the gift of lifelong relationships with close friends and extended and immediate family who are Korean — including our daughter — and so many connections within the Korean American community. All of this...[read on]
Visit Anne Sibley O'Brien's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Steven Pinker

Stephen Pinker's books include The Better Angels of Our Nature and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. From his Q&A at Undark Magazine:

UD — On Twitter [in 2016], you wrote that “all words have [more than] one meaning” and also that “mature adults resist taking pointless offense.” We wonder about the word “all” here. How do you square that, for example, with unambiguous, sexually or racially derogative words?

SP — Actually, it’s not easy to find words that are unambiguously derogatory; it always depends on the context. The most offensive word in contemporary English is “nigger”(from negro, Spanish for “black”), but it was far less incendiary in the antebellum South. … And today the term is famously used in a teasing or affectionate manner among African Americans, as if to say “We’re so intimate that we can call each other offensive names without taking offense.” “Queer,” “dyke,” and “bitch” have also been appropriated by their original targets, and there is a magazine for hip young Jews called Heeb.

Of course the speaker and tone are everything. In the movie “Rush Hour,” Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong detective who innocently follows the lead of his African-American partner and greets the black patrons of a Los Angeles bar with “Wassup, my nigger!” A small riot breaks out.

Even putting aside these consciously defiant acts of reclaiming, most taboo words have, or had, non-taboo senses. Many racist and misogynistic terms started out as metonyms, in which people were demeaningly referred to by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sarah Creech

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to set [The Whole Way Home] in the world of country music, and how did you come up with your character Jo?

A: I chose Nashville for a few reasons: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great musicians like Margo Price, Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, Dale Watson, Jack White (this list goes on and on), and at one point or another in their musical careers, they’ve made Nashville their home.

This musical city full of so much diverse talent captured my imagination and I knew I wanted to explore it. Also, I chose this world because it has such a rich narrative tradition and blends so many different styles that define America, from Appalachian folk songs to African American spirituals, yet the genre itself has been largely overlooked by scholars.

My female protagonist, Jo Lover, was born from deep reading about women’s roles in the history of country music. Her background and her present circumstances are curated from the history I encountered. Her transformation from a world of poverty to a world of fame is a familiar one. (Dolly, Loretta, and Elvis too).

I was drawn to the experience of women in male-dominated fields and what kind of persona a woman must present to navigate those power dynamics.

I’m fascinated too by...[read on]
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Way Home.

Writers Read: Sarah Creech.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Joshua Green

Joshua Green's new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Steve Bannon has said with pride that he created the alt-right. And during the Trump campaign, there was a lot of anti-Semitism and racism being unleashed on the Internet, particularly on Twitter. And as you point out in the book, a lot of journalists were getting a lot of anti-Semitic imagery and language directed at them, particularly Jewish journalists. Do you think Steve Bannon is implicated in that at all?

GREEN: Oh, I think he's implicated, yeah. You know, in all the time I spent with him, I never heard Bannon say anything anti-Semitic. And if you talk to people who worked at Breitbart and left who are critical of him, they don't think he is either. You know, I heard Islamophobia and sexism and all sorts of things which I, you know, include - never heard anti-Semitic.

But I think the best answer to the question came in an answer that Bannon gave in a 2014 Vatican conference. A tape of this resurfaced over the last six months or so through BuzzFeed where he's asked about the racism and the anti-Semitism that seems to be a big part of the far-right wing. Bannon's answer was to kind of shrug his shoulders and say, well, I think all of that stuff is just going to wash out in the end. He seemed to think of it as kind of a necessary evil and that if he was going to storm the gates of the establishment fortress, that he really couldn't pick and choose between who his allies were. And so he was happy to align himself with people who had very, very ugly viewpoints. And I think that became, in a worrisome sort of way, part of Trump's appeal to a pretty important bloc of voters who wound up supporting him.

GROSS: Do you see Steve Bannon as a true believer?

GREEN: Absolutely. You know, early on when I first met him, I thought he was a typical Washington grifter who was kind of glomming on to the Tea Party-Palin thing as a way to make money. And it became clear pretty early on that, no, Bannon really believes this stuff to a degree that's almost scary. And he will keep fighting for this idea of an anti-immigrant nationalism come hell or high water.

GROSS: And what about President Trump? What drives him? Do you think he's a true believer?

GREEN:...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rachel Kadish

Rachel Kadish's new novel is The Weight of Ink. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've written that the inspiration for The Weight of Ink came from thinking about a question Virginia Woolf asked about Shakespeare's sister. How did that question end up turning into this novel, and what do you think your book says about the role of women in the 17th century?

A: I often start writing when something bothers me and I don’t know why. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf posed the question: what would have happened to an equally talented female Shakespeare? Woolf’s answer, “she died without writing a word,” haunted me. I thought: what would it take for a woman of that era not to die without writing a word?

Well, for one thing, she couldn't have been obedient. She would have had to be a genius at breaking rules.

I realized I wanted to write a story about what it might take for a woman not to be defeated when everything around her is telling her to sit down and mind her manners.

Q: The book includes both historical and modern-day characters. Did you have a preference when it came to writing the different sections of the book?

A: It was definitely easier writing the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Simon Toyne

Simon Toyne is the author of The Boy Who Saw: A Solomon Creed Novel.

From his Q&A with Mark Rubenstein at the Huffington Post:

It’s clear that “The Boy Who Saw” explores some dark themes based on some recent political events. Will you tell our readers what those events are and how they relate to the novel?

The central story revolves around a killer who has murdered a tailor and is trying to get the names of other people to kill. Along with the body of this tailor, the police discover a wall in his shop on which is written in blood, ‘Finishing what was begun.’ The ritualistic murder suggests it had something to do with the Nazi death camps. The victim, this tailor, was one of only four survivors from a specific death camp.

As the anniversary celebrating the end of the Second World War looms, someone is trying to complete the murders that began seventy years earlier. The novel is also set amidst the current political shift in both America and Europe—the turning toward hard, nationalistic right wing politics. The nationalists are looking for scapegoats, just as the Jews were scapegoated by Germany in World War II.

The entire story is really about the importance of remembering our history; otherwise, it will repeat itself. While it’s a thriller, with Solomon becoming a suspect who must escape and clear his name, it deals with modern themes and larger concerns set against the backdrop of a survivor’s memoir which ties it into what is happening today.

I like to explore...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at 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.

Writers Read: Simon Toyne (October 2015).

The Page 69 Test: The Searcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman's new novel is Dark at the Crossing.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Dark at the Crossing and for your character Haris?

A: I had started to travel to southern Turkey in 2013 when I was covering the civil war there, and became friendly with a number of people who were activists in the revolution.

I was interested in the idea of how you tell the story of the revolution. It can seem impenetrable when you get into the different fighting groups. The more I’d spend time with the revolutionaries, they’d say, “I fell in love with the revolution, the idea that we could reimagine the country, and when it failed, I found myself heartbroken.”

I thought maybe I could tell a story that follows that emotional arc. What is the emotional equivalent of going through a failed revolution? A failed marriage. When it doesn’t work out and you’re left with the emotional wreckage.

To the characters in the book—I wanted to tell a story. I had the idea of a guy, Haris Abadi, a man of two identities. The spelling of his name was intentional. It’s a Western-sounding name with the Arab spelling. It’s a good framework to tell the story.

Since the book came out, I’ve been asked why I have protagonists who aren’t...[read on]
Visit Elliot Ackerman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Dark at the Crossing.

The Page 69 Test: Dark at the Crossing.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sam Wiebe

Sam Wiebe's novel Last of the Independents won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and an Arthur Ellis Award, and was nominated for a Shamus award. His second novel, Invisible Dead, was published by Random House Canada and Quercus USA. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. He lives in Vancouver.

From Wiebe's Q&A with Maggie Meyers at BookTrib:

BT: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? (If any)

SW: I’ve been to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, John Rebus’s watering hole. And I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon.

BT: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

SW: I read John McFetridge’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and thought it was the first crime novel by a Canadian that was as good or better than anything published in the US or UK. He writes social-realist, working-class fiction about...[read on]
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

Writers Read: Sam Wiebe.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Phaedra Patrick

Phaedra Patrick's new novel is Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone. From the author's Q& A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your character Benedict, and why did you choose gemstones as a focus for your new novel?

A: I was always aware, as a child, that each month of the year has a gemstone connected to it. My birth month is August, so my stone is a Peridot and I used to be a little jealous that other months had (what I thought were) more glamorous gems, such as Garnet, Amethyst and Emerald.

When I got engaged I chose a silver ring with a Peridot and decided to find out more about the gem. Peridots are supposedly good for easing tension, stress and anxiety in relationships – quite a good thing before getting married! I wanted to find out more about other gemstones so I started to read about those too.

I thought that Benedict would make a good character to take on a journey of discovery. He’s a large man, a jeweller, and stuck in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dina Nayeri

Dina Nayeri's new novel is Refuge.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: In the new novel "Refuge," Dina Nayeri tells a story very much like her own. Nayeri left Iran with her mother when she was 8 years old. Her father stayed behind. The same is true of this book's protagonist, a character named Niloo. Niloo's father even comes from the same Iranian small town as Nayeri's father. Here's how the author describes it.

DINA NAYERI: Ardestoon, my father's childhood home, is an ancient village of unpaved roads, dotted in crushed mulberries, hand-crafted outdoor rugs swept with brooms, rows of pickle jars the size of children lining every house.

It has two rivers, two gardens, an orchard connected to a natural pool with ducks, a mosque, a medium-sized mountain and a famous two-story aqueduct, an 800-year-old structure that the people of the village don't even realize they should be proud of because they are too busy living uncomplicated lives that Baba calls overflowing and poetic.

SHAPIRO: Dina Nayeri's mother converted to Christianity, so she had to flee Iran with her children to escape persecution. While Nayeri's father continued his familiar Iranian life, his daughter traveled the world, moving to the United States and then to Europe. The divide between father and daughter helped define Dina Nayeri's life, and it defines this novel, "Refuge."

NAYERI: I remember a professor telling me that, you know, you can either have...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Dina Nayeri's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea.

My Book, The Movie: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea.

Writers Read: Dina Nayeri (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Melissa Savage

Melissa Savage's new novel for kids is Lemons.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Lemons, and for your main character, Lemonade?

A: I wanted to provide some very patient and supportive people along Lemonade’s journey of grief that would navigate that loss with gentle guidance and love. Supportive people with the ability to help Lemonade to embrace the memories of the past versus trying to forget to ease the pain.

I wanted to write a story about people who embrace the special loved ones they’ve lost with gratitude and joy in addition to the sadness that inevitably comes with grieving.

Q: The book is set in 1975--why did you choose that time period?

A: I find that we are all so focused on technology and I wanted to take a break from that and let kids of today experience what it was like when we didn’t have Google at our fingertips.

Q: One of the themes in the book is the search for Bigfoot. Why did you decide to focus on that?

A: I love the mystery of Bigfoot, mostly because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rick Wartzman

Rick Wartzman's new book is The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: You know, we were talking earlier about unions and how early on, like, Kodak didn't unionize because the workers felt that the benefits at Kodak were good enough. Kodak tried to be on its own competitive with unions. How has the union situation in the four companies you profile changed in the past few years? Like, what is the importance of unions in those organizations now, and how powerful are they compared to the power they had in the past?

WARTZMAN: Well, in terms of how much - how powerful they are, they're a shadow of themselves. But you know, now the auto workers - you know, after the bankruptcy, there have been some gains restored. But you know, they had to go to a two-tier wage structure where even unionized employees coming into General Motors were starting at much lower wages. And suddenly auto workers were facing something they never did before. Again, this used to be a path to a really solid middle-class life. And now even auto workers, you know, are struggling to get by.

At other companies like General Electric, unions just have - you know, they're still there, and - but they've become much less a presence as the company has shifted into this kind of new economy and digital economy. And there are just fewer and fewer union jobs at a company like that. And that is reflective of what's happening across America. We're now at a point where fewer than 7 percent of private sector workers are unionized in this country. And it's just clearly not enough to have the kind of collective voice and countervailing power against corporate power that, again, was able to lift wages and benefits for all folks, not only those carrying union cards but other blue-collar workers and even white-collar workers in the past.

GROSS: What do you see as one of the big turning points in the weakening of unions?

WARTZMAN: Well, there were a couple of things going on. Unions definitely...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Rick Wartzman's Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mark Lukach

Mark Lukach's new memoir is My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you started working on this book around the time that your wife was first hospitalized. Did you know early on that you would be writing a book about your experiences?

A: I had no idea this would be a book. I’m a history teacher. Writing was something I was doing at night when Giulia was going to sleep. In addition to running on the beach, I’d send emails to my parents and her parents. They were really long.

They were a way of making sense of what was going on. If I was trying to explain the unpredictable, irrational things to my parents and her parents, I had to sort out my thinking. It was a private email thing.

When Giulia got better, I needed her to understand my experiences. I had done a lot of research, and she was so consumed by her [experiences], she took for granted that the cheery disposition I was putting on was authentic. I was trying to hold myself together.

Post-recovery, I was feeling pretty bad. Giulia had a hard time hearing it. There was a disconnect. I started writing mostly for her. That became a much more manageable medium for her. It seemed like a launching point for discussion.

The book was so personal in the beginning. We both realized [it would be good to] make it available to the public at large. Especially from...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 10, 2017

Paul Beatty

In 2016, Paul Beatty became the first American to win the Booker prize with his fourth novel, The Sellout. From his Q&A with Kate Kellaway at the Guardian:

When you started The Sellout, to what extent did you know where you were going with it?

I started with the idea of rendering segregation in a contemporary context. I was asking myself: how do you segregate something without having any power? I was intrigued to try to figure it out. I have a pretty good sense of direction, although I don’t know how I’m going to get there. But the real seed for the book was the character of Hominy [former child actor and latter-day, self-appointed slave]. I tend to like underappreciated characters: you think you see one thing, you might be seeing something else.

I was affected by what you said when you received the Booker prize – you were visibly moved yourself – about writing having given you a life…

I am fortunate in having found something I enjoy, even though I hate doing it too. Writing is a struggle, full of weird contradictions.

As a satirist, do you think there is anything that ought to be satire-proof?

No… but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Janet Benton

Janet Benton's new novel is Lilli de Jong.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you came up with the idea for the book when you were caring for your baby. What specifically inspired the creation of Lilli?

A: That’s where the mystery comes in, where her specific voice came from. I was learning about wet nurses in history and nursing my daughter, and I started hearing a young wet nurse railing about the unfairness of her circumstances. The young man paid no price for their night of indiscretion, and look at her. It was an act of empathy, I suppose. A character began to take shape.

Q: What kind of research did you do to recreate Philadelphia in the 1880s, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: I was surprised at how much people hated and still hate unwed mothers. They had sex without being married, whether it was consensual or not, yet these people didn’t and don’t hate the woman’s partner or rapist. The woman alone bears the shame and the hatred.

In my research, I learned that these young women were shunned, hounded on the streets, victimized over and over. They would hide their pregnancy with tightly laced corsets, but that eventually would become too painful, and imagine what that would have done to the baby.

And most hospitals were...[read on]
Visit Janet Benton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue