Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thomas Weber

Thomas Weber is the author of Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Hitler's life between 1918 and 1926 in your new book?

A: Despite all the books written on Hitler, I felt that we still didn’t understand how Hitler became Hitler. So I decided that I would try and look with fresh eyes at the year that followed World War I. I would dig deeper than other scholars before, and I would dig at different places.

Once I had found what I was looking for, I realized that I had been wrong in my previous assumptions about how Hitler had become Hitler and that I had to take my story forward to the mid-1920s.

Q: What influences shaped his ideas during that period?

A: The starting point of his politicization and radicalization was to figure out why Germany had lost World War I and, more importantly, how Germany had to be recast to survive for all times in a rapidly changing world.

He was shaped here by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 30, 2017

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke's new novel is Robicheaux. From his Q&A with Tampa Bay Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft:

Although readers shouldn’t confuse fictional characters with their authors, you do have a character in Robicheaux who is a novelist. Levon Broussard’s last name is one he shares with some of your ancestors and with Aaron Broussard, the main character of The Jealous Kind. Levon even has a book he considers his best work that has the same title as your historical novel White Doves at Morning. How is he related to Aaron, and to you?

(Laughs.) I kind of wove that in there. He’s Aaron’s cousin.

All of these characters live somewhere in my unconscious. I’d like to lay claim to their virtues, but more often their defects are what I share.

Levon is an antithetically mixed person. He’s a foil to Jimmy Nightingale. They have the same background, the same education, ancestral roots, successful families, the connections to the Confederate Army. But Jimmy Nightingale is not conflicted about that. He exploits it; he exploits racism and fear.

Levon Broussard is torn between his admiration for his ancestors and revulsion. He takes great pride in the flag that hangs in his office, a flag from Shiloh. My own great-uncle was there. Forty percent of his regiment was wounded or killed in the first 15 minutes. There’s blood on that flag that Broussard keeps in an airtight display.

He can’t reconcile the courage, the incredible amount of physical bravery of those acts with the terrible heritage of slavery, and worse with the treatment of people of color during Reconstruction and the days of the White League. The White League was founded right in this area (of Louisiana), and it was worse than the Klan.

As Aaron Broussard comes to understand about their family in The Jealous Kind, never in human history have so many brave men made such sacrifices for such an iniquitous cause.

Was the book’s politician Jimmy Nightingale, with his rabble-rousing speeches and slick dishonesty, ripped from the headlines?

As William Butler Yeats wrote, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." He caught modern times perfectly with that couplet.

Jimmy Nightingale is a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 29, 2017

Barbara J. King

Barbara J. King’s latest book is Personalities on the Plate: The Lives & Minds of Animals We Eat.

From her Q&A with Lauren Choplin at the Nonhuman Rights Project:

First, I hope you know that we at the NhRP are big fans of yours! One aspect of your writing we really appreciate is how you emphasize the importance of asking questions about the kinds of beings other animals are—and being open to acknowledging and acting on the answers. In your view, where in this process do most people get “stuck” (if that’s the right word to use) and why?

Thank you so much—the fan status absolutely goes both ways. I was thrilled to watch Unlocking the Cage at Sundance last year, and some months later on was asked to introduce [NhRP President] Steve Wise at one of his amazing university talks (video below). That was an honor.

So, here you ask an important and hard-to-answer question that gets to the heart of transforming the ways nonhuman animals are treated. More and more, I’m thinking about human exceptionalism and how it is that some people so readily settle on thinking of humans as separate, superior, and special. Many of our institutions that take freedom and autonomy away from nonhuman animals not only put our species at the center, but also implicitly suggest that our needs are the only ones to matter—from research laboratories and zoos to our food systems. Culturally, we are steeped in this mindset so much from childhood on, that even for people who connect emotionally with dogs and cats it can feel that there’s a wall between their own lives and the lives of a chimpanzee in a zoo or a pig in a factory farm.

And let’s face it, it does cost us to tear that wall down—because when we feel empathy, and want to change things, we face obstacles and it really hurts emotionally to feel all the animal suffering in the world. At the same time, there’s such joy when we make a positive difference in animals’ lives, and I do see genuine transformation happening. I think the answer is related to...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Evolving God.

My Book, The Movie: Evolving God.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ragnar Jonasson

Ragnar Jonasson's new novel is Nightblind. From his Q&A with Mike Yawn for the Houston Chronicle:

Q: "Nightblind" has been a hit overseas, but it makes its North American debut this month. Tell us about the book.

A: This novel is part of my Dark Iceland series, but I try to write each novel so that it can stand alone, permitting first-time readers to enjoy them. "Nightblind" features Ari Thor, a young, recently graduated policeman who moves to a town, Siglufjörður, that is isolated and mostly uneventful. Thor establishes himself in this town, and he has a new boss who, in the first chapter of "Nightblind," is shot. Thor has to investigate, and it becomes one of the highest-profile cases in Iceland.

Q: Any time a police officer is shot, it's going to be news, but this is particularly true in Iceland.

A: Yes, no police officer has ever been killed in the line of duty in Iceland. Conversely, in the entire history of Iceland, the police have only fatally shot a suspect one time.

Q: Though the novel addresses a fatal shooting, it also focuses on domestic violence.

A: Iceland doesn't have many murders — maybe two to three per year — so I didn't want that necessarily to be the focus of my novel. But domestic violence...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nicholas Montemarano

Nicholas Montemarano is the author of the novels The Book of Why (2013) and A Fine Place (2002) and the short story collection If the Sky Falls (2005).

His new novel is The Senator’s Children.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Senator's Children?

A: The initial impulse came when I was watching a late-night comedian lampoon a politician whose career had recently imploded in a very public way.

The audience's laughter just didn't sit well with me; it stirred a strong emotional response inside me, and that's something you need, I think, in order to undertake the long journey of writing a novel.

Because a novel can take years to write, and comes with setbacks and doubt, one thing you need—and can return to during the writing process—is a strong emotional response to something and a need to explore it further.

That joke, the audience laughing, and my feeling of sympathy for the politician and especially for his family, given what I assumed they were going through in private—that...[read on]
Visit Nicholas Montemarano's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Book of Why.

Writers Read: Nicholas Montemarano.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Luke Harding

Luke Harding's new book is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. From the transcript of his conversation with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Luke, let me give you a chance because you have you this book out where you believe that the leverage that Putin has over Trump is real. What is the strongest case you would make about that collusion, as you describe it in the -- in your book?

HARDING: Well, I think it's financial. I think Robert Mueller is looking very actively at what dealing Donald Trump did with Russia in past especially after 2008 when he was broke. I think that's the whole question that's being debated all year of kompromat, compromising material, alleged buggings of what may have happened during Trump's kind of Moscow visit in 2013.

And I think there's the sort of basic question of the sort of Russian influence on the Trump team. Wherever you look, whether it's Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, who has an order of friendship from Vladimir Putin, or Michael Flynn who's now admitting lying to the FBI. He was taking money under table from Russian interests.

It seems almost as if Trump's Cabinet was put together from Moscow and we still haven't seen a single occasion when Trump has criticized Russia or Russian foreign policy or Putin personally. And I can confidently predict we will not see that.

ZAKARIA: That is really the central prediction. It would be so easy to dispel some of these rumors by doing that and yet...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 25, 2017

Elaine Tyler May

Elaine Tyler May's latest book is Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How would you compare the level of fear at the start of the Cold War to the level we see today?

A: The fear is different and difficult to measure. In the early days of the Atomic Age, citizens believed there was little or nothing they could do to protect themselves, and the government gave the message that everyone was responsible for their own protection.

That last message has prevailed over the decades, even though the perceived danger is different.

Now it is about crime, with exaggerated fear far out of proportion to any real threat, but citizens still feel they need to protect themselves, with locks, security systems, guns, gated communities, and a bunker mentality that leads to mistrust and more...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: America and the Pill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Francis Wade

Francis Wade is the author of Myanmar's Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim 'Other'.

From the transcript of his NPR interview with Mary Louise Kelly:
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: ... Tell me what you mean by other [in your title].

FRANCIS WADE: The current violence we've seen is the sort of latest iteration of a long campaign of persecution and violence towards Muslim minority in the west of the country. They go by the name of the Rohingya. And they are a stateless group. They number around 1 million in the state and a larger diaspora outside of the country.

KELLY: I'll just note here, you're saying Rohingya, I'm saying Rohingya. They're both acceptable pronunciations for the group?

WADE: They are.

KELLY: So are they integrated into society in Burma at all?

WADE: Not at all. They were after independence in 1948. There were Rohingya MPs, Rohingya were recognized as an ethnic group. Now they are utterly disenfranchised. They are denied citizenship. And since the first wave of violence in 2012, they have been confined to refugee camps, ghettos, villages from which they cannot move. They cannot access health care.

KELLY: Why? What changed?

WADE: Well, there's long been...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles's latest book is The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You write, “Even in Detroit, in the North, and in Canada—places that we like to imagine as free—slavery was sanctioned by law and carried out according to custom.” What role did enslaved people play in the early days of Detroit?

A: The Dawn of Detroit explores how Detroit's first European settlers positioned themselves in relation to land, natural "resources," and people of color; how enslaved people persevered through adversity; and how surprising alliances were sometimes forged between white merchant elites, white working class people, and enslaved people in this borderland space.

Native people and African Americans were both enslaved within the town and along the expansive Detroit River. Both groups were essential to the success of the fur trade, Detroit's chief economic enterprise, as well as to the maintenance of domestic households and family farms. Detroit would not have developed into a major American metropolis without the contributions of Native and black enslaved residents.

Enslaved people were men and women as well as children, Native Americans as well as African Americans. Slave owners exploited unfree labor to develop and further the lucrative international trade in animal furs and to create and sustain the fort town.

Enslaved men packed and carried pelts across vast distances, manned ships that transported items across the Great Lakes, constructed buildings, delivered local goods, and did agricultural labor on farms.

Enslaved women did all manner of work within and around households, including: growing, preparing and serving foodstuff, sewing and cleaning linens and clothing, keeping domestic spaces livable, and caring for the children of their owners. The evidence suggests that ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 22, 2017

Jo Perry

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry. They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

Perry's latest novel is Dead is Good.

From her Q&A with S.W. Lauden:

I just read DEAD IS BETTER. What inspired such an original concept?

Looking back, I think a couple of things inspired me: I’m in my 60s and the fact that I have an expiration date has become impossible to ignore. So I guess I found myself contemplating death in a serious, curious, voyeuristic and prolonged way.

Taking home a dusty, confused and thirsty dog that had been dumped in a Home Depot parking lot on a very hot day in 2008 is what led, I see now, to writing the book. This dog that someone felt could be discarded like trash—we named her Lucy—changed my world and changed me. I’d always had cats and had no instinct for the canine temperament, but Lucy was a very patient teacher. Lucy is one of the smartest, kindest and most interesting beings I know. She and our other dog, Lola (she was dumped in an alley behind our house) will be 10 in February. They’ve led me to new experiences, new friends, and often allow me to see the world from a canine point of view.

And once a dog was part of my life, I was in a position to see the everyday, casual cruelties inflicted upon them. Gross acts of neglect and cruelty make the news, but in parks, backyards and on the street, I witnessed unkindness—too-long periods of confinement; chains; choke collars; prong collars; electronic shock collars, and so many violent yanks of the leash—which made me feel helpless, sick and angry. I once asked a man to stop and he choked his dog again right in front of me. I learned to...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (July 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jacqueline Jones

Jacqueline Jones holds the Ellen C. Temple Chair in Women’s History and the Mastin Gentry White Professorship in Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of several books, including A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America (2013). That book and Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present (25th Anniversary Edition, 2010) were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize; Labor of Love won the Bancroft Prize for 1986.

Jones's new book is Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of Lucy Parsons?

A: Several reasons: When I teach American history, I am always on the lookout for little-known women who did great things and/or lived fascinating lives. Carolyn Ashbaugh’s 1976 biography of Parsons provided a good overview, but LP’s early years—before she moved to Chicago—remained a mystery.

Now, with all the great digitized historical databases available, I thought it was time to revisit Parsons and see what more I could find out about her—the public persona she crafted for herself, as well as her private life.

Too, I wanted to know more about this self-identified anarchist—what that political stance meant in the 1880s and beyond. Parsons fits uneasily within the rigid Left-Right/liberal-conservative categories we use today to label people and their political views.

She thought the federal government was inherently oppressive, and she vehemently rejected what we would call identity politics, arguing that her own background was irrelevant to her message of class struggle. She was a strong proponent of labor unions.

After the early 1880s she never voted for anyone at any time in any kind of election. She believed that money and capitalist interests had thoroughly corrupted the two-party political system.

I was also interested in learning how she came to be so prescient about so many issues that strike us as modern—the...[read on]
Learn more about Goddess of Anarchy at the Basic Books website.

My Book, The Movie: Goddess of Anarchy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

C. Morgan Babst

C. Morgan Babst's debut novel is The Floating World. From her Q&A with Amy Brady at the Chicago Review of Books:

Amy Brady: You’re originally from New Orleans. Did the people and places you actually knew there influence this novel?

C. Morgan Babst: I wrote the novel in New York during what felt like a period of exile. I had wandered there while New Orleans was still under evacuation orders following Katrina—I’d left town with my family the day before landfall—and met my husband, gotten stuck. Terminally homesick, I began writing the novel as a way of transporting myself back, conjuring the city—its post-storm stench and greener fragrances, the sounds of its people and its music—with as much verisimilitude as I could manage.

However, with a couple of touchstone exceptions—Peristyle, The Blue Nile, a snippet of autobiography—the specific houses and characters of the novel were entirely imagined. Considering the magnitude of the losses that so many of my fellow New Orleanians had experienced, I wanted to be very sure my characters weren’t trespassing on anyone else’s property. Instead, I used the book to resurrect older ghosts. Though there are living Boisdorés in New Orleans, the family in my novel descends from an 18th-century man who, as far as I can tell, died without heirs, and I built the Boisdorés’ house on a parking lot on Esplanade where...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Attica Locke

Attica Locke's new novel is Bluebird, Bluebird.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Bluebird, Bluebird, and for your character Darren Mathews?

A: I grew up in East Texas and all of my family roots can be traced to towns along Highway 59, and I wanted to start a book series that is steeped in that world. Imagining small town secrets was half the fun.

Darren came to me as a character when I realized I would need a character who could confront mysteries up and down Highway 59. Texas Rangers have wide jurisdiction and so it seemed like a fit.

Also, writing about a black law enforcement officer who is ambivalent about the badge seemed interesting to me and a perfect character for our time.

Q: How important is setting to you in your work, and could this book have been set in another place besides East Texas?

A: Absolutely...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Attica Locke's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Water Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 18, 2017

Luke Harding

Luke Harding's new book is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. From his Q&A with James Warren for U.S. News & World Report:

What is most central in understanding the Trump-Russia relationship?

The Russian state has been interested in cultivating Trump for three decades. These efforts have been sporadic, with breaks following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The [former British intelligence official Christopher] Steele dossier asserts that the latest operation began five or six years ago. I find the thesis broadly credible.

Even people who follow politics closely are confused about whether there is an unequivocal link between Putin and the presidential campaign and, perhaps more relevant, how impactful it was. Your take?

For almost a year the White House claimed there had been no meetings between Russians and the campaign. We now know of several, (notably) the infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 featuring a Russian lawyer, [Donald] Trump Jr., [former Trump campaign manager] Paul Manafort and [son-in-law and senior adviser to the president] Jared Kushner. Plus other interactions and breakfasts in London between George Papadopoulos and a Maltese professor/alleged Russian asset. We now know the campaign knew in April 2016 that Russia was in possession of hacked Democratic emails. At the time Hillary [Clinton] had no clue. The subsequent release of these emails is indicative of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 17, 2017

David Miliband

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. His new book is Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time.

From his Q&A with Rachel Cooke at the Guardian:

Your book bulges with statistics about the refugee crisis. If you could pick just one, what would it be and why?

It would be that the average duration of displacement for a refugee is 10 years, and that once someone has been outside their own country for five years, that figure rises to 21 years. This demands a complete change in the humanitarian system. We have to recalibrate our vision: aid in the 21st century is about helping people to thrive as well as survive. This means providing education and employment, as well as food aid.

Politicians can be somewhat detached, not to say grand. Has leading the IRC made you more humble?

When I met [in 2009] Tamil women in the Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka whose husbands had been taken from them [“for screening”], that was humbling. But talking to women in a similar position on the Syrian border today was equally humbling. My reaction was the same, even though on the first occasion I was foreign secretary, and on the second I was working for an NGO. Hopefully, I’m someone who’s learning all the time. The upside of an NGO job is that you deal in human stories, and that you have more entrepreneurial freedom; the downside is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee was executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991.

From the transcript of his 1995 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: What was it like for The Post to cover the White House during Watergate? Did your sources there shut you out?

BRADLEE: Yeah, they sure did. And the White House correspondent was Carl Kilpatrick, who was a gentle - really, a brilliant journalist, a gentle man, though, and - from Alabama. And he - we made his life tremendously difficult. And to be called - you know, to sit in the White House briefing room while Ziegler or whoever else it was called your paper liars and - was very difficult. And some of the people calling you a liar were quite - there were politicians who held quite high office....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash's latest novel is The Last Ballad.

From his Q&A with Joel Cunningham at the B&N Reads blog:

Where did The Last Ballad start for you?

I grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, completely unaware of the history of the mill. Firestone purchased the mill not long after the 1929 strike, which was one of the only communist-led strikes in American history. It turned the city upside down, people died, and families were run out of town. But by the time I was born in 1977, Gastonia had completely buried the story of the Loray Mill strike.

It wasn’t until I went to grad school in 2003 that one of my professors learned that I was from Gastonia and mentioned the Loray Mill strike. I researched the name Loray Mill and was shocked to learn that the place I’d always known as the Firestone Plant was the epicenter of one of the most important labor movements in American history. It had all occurred in my hometown, and I had grown up knowing nothing about it. My mother and father were born and raised in mill villages close to Loray in 1945 and 1943 respectively, and they never heard about the Loray Mill or Ella May Wiggins, the woman who would become the face of the strike. This is not surprising, especially because they came of age during the Red Scare, when any mention of communism or anyone with supposed communist ties were reason enough to keep quiet.

I was raised in Gastonia during the Cold War, and many of those restrictions still applied. This is to say that the silence surrounding the history of the strike was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Wiley Cash's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Land More Kind Than Home.

My Book, The Movie: This Dark Road to Mercy.

Writers Read: Wiley Cash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe's break out acting role was in Precious. Her new book is This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: I want to ask you about this chapter in the book devoted to the acronym MYOB, which doesn't stand for mind your own business but pretty close. Explain what that means to you and why it's so important.

SIDIBE: Yeah, MYOB - mind your own body. It's important because I don't happen to have the kind of body that we usually see on television and in films. I am plus-size. I have dark skin. And I am 100 percent beautiful. But I get a lot of flak - oh, you should lose weight. And now that I have lost weight - and I lost weight for health reasons - I get, you look good but don't lose too much weight because your face is starting to sink in. And it's, like, I don't know you, sir. You have no...

MARTIN: So what do you say?

SIDIBE: I say - I literally - someone said, congratulations on your - I see you lost weight, congratulations. And I say, that's a weird thing to congratulate me on because this is my body. This is - and it's not just the male gaze. It's, like, the human gaze. People do this to me. I mean the gaze not gays.


SIDIBE: (Laughter) Yeah, G-A-Z-E.

MARTIN: Not the gays.

SIDIBE: Yeah, people staring at me and like this - but also this has been my body since I was 5-ish, you know? It's been a 30-year thing of other people putting their own stuff on my body. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jason Fagone

Jason Fagone's books include Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, the X Prize, and the Race to Revive America and Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream.

His latest book is The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies.

From Fagone's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her husband, William Friedman, both of whom worked as codebreakers?

A: They were a duo, a team of equals. That's how they saw themselves from the very beginning, when they started working together in 1916, as young people still in their twenties.

It was a true meeting of minds in that sense -- as individuals, they were both pretty good, but when they sat at the same table with their pencils and pads of graph paper, solving these important puzzles together in the era before computers, they felt like they were suddenly way more powerful.

Not just twice as good but four times as good. That's how they felt about it, because...[read on]
Visit Jason Fagone's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Woman Who Smashed Codes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Steven Savile

Steven Savile's new novel is Glass Town.

From his Q&A with Paul Semel:

To start, what is Glass Town about?

Back in 1924, two brothers were in love with the same woman, Eleanor Raines. Eleanor was a promising young actress from the East End of London with the world at her feet. She disappeared during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s debut, Number 13, which itself is now lost. It was the crime of the age, capturing the imagination of the city: the beautiful actress never seen again, and the gangster who disappeared the same day.
Fast forward to the present day, generations have passed and the world has moved on. Everyone involved is long dead, and yet now this long-buried secret is bubbling back to the surface, and old obsessions threaten to tear the city apart.

Finding a twenty-four-year-old letter from one of the brothers claiming to have seen Eleanor that morning, and no matter that she’d been gone seventy years, she didn’t appear to have aged a day, Joshua Raines finds himself drawn into a place where these old hatreds and obsessions are still all too real. The unsolved case his new obsession, his search for the truth about...[read on]
Visit Steven Savile's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 11, 2017

Matthew J. Salganik

Matthew J. Salganik is the author of Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

Bit by Bit devotes a lot attention to ethics.  Why?

The book provides many of examples of how researchers can use the capabilities of the digital age to conduct exciting and important research. But, in my experience, researchers who wish to take advantage of these new opportunities will confront difficult ethical decisions. In the digital age, researchers—often in collaboration with companies and governments—have increasing power over the lives of participants. By power, I mean the ability to do things to people without their consent or even awareness. For example, researchers can now observe the behavior of millions of people, and researchers can also enroll millions of people in massive experiments. As the power of researchers is increasing, there has not been an equivalent increase in clarity about how that power should be used. In fact, researchers must decide how to exercise their power based on inconsistent and overlapping rules, laws, and norms. This combination of powerful capabilities and vague guidelines can force even well-meaning researchers to grapple with difficult decisions. In the book, I try to provide principles that can help researchers—whether they are in universities, governments, or companies—balance these issues and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sofia Grant

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Grant/Littlefield works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Grant's latest novel is The Dress in the Window.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Dress in the Window, and why did you set it in the post-World War II period?

A: As a lifelong seamstress and amateur artist, I’m fascinated with fashion illustration and garment construction.

A number of years ago, I stumbled on historic newspaper accounts of the controversy that greeted French designer Christian Dior’s “New Look” in 1947 after the conclusion of World War II. I had no idea that some Americans resisted the lush new styles that came to symbolize an entire era of fashion.

Combined with my interest in the role of women in the workplace during and after the war, I...[read on]
Visit Sofia Grant's website.

Writers Read: Sofia Grant.

The Page 69 Test: The Dress in the Window.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chris Holm

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015.

Holm's latest novel is Red Right Hand, the second Hendricks novel.

From his 2016 Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: I was initially drawn to your book by its striking cover and its title, which I hoped was a reference to Nick Cave’s song “Red Right Hand.” I was, of course, thrilled to see that you included an excerpt from the song in the epigraph for the novel. Did Cave’s song, or its imagery or themes, in any way influence or guide you as you began to write Red Right Hand?

Chris Holm: Very much so. In The Killing Kind, I introduced the Council, which is essentially a criminal UN comprising representatives from every major organized crime outfit in the country, and the Council’s right-hand man. In Red Right Hand, that man—whose name is Sal Lombino (the birth name of the late, great Ed McBain)—and his machinations on the Council’s behalf take center stage. I envisioned him as a chaos agent, an emissary of evil, the prime mover of a vast criminal conspiracy. Or, as Cave puts it:

You’re one microscopic cog
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
His red right hand

The phrase “red right hand” didn’t originate with Cave, though. He borrowed it from...[read on]
Visit Chris Holm's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Kind.

The Page 69 Test: Red Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes's latest book is Hymn: The Final Volume of the Psalms of Isaak.

From his Q&A with Martin Cahill at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

You’ve been very open about the losses that occurred over the course of your work on The Psalms of Isaak, and it’s not hard to see you working through that in this series. What did it mean to keep writing through everything that happened?

I wrote four of these five books through the hardest circumstances of my adult life: between burying my parents and one of my ex-wife’s parents, along with a grandparent, a nephew, a couple of aunts and a best friend, and ultimately, a marriage. I was already fairly familiar with grief and loss, but my experience with them grew exponentially. The part I wasn’t familiar with was the impact the grief and loss would take on my writing process. I didn’t realize there were things that could simply shut down my writing, and that I did not really have control over it. After a long stretch of years where I could pretty much write whenever I wanted to, this was a difficult discovery, and I resisted to the point of making an even bigger, tangled mess.

Of course, one of the benefits is that it was pretty fantastic research to experience so much stress and loss while crafting this particular series, and I think that it lent an air of truth to the story. It makes the loss and grief [of the characters] palpable. And I think...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Karen L. Cox

Karen L. Cox's latest book is Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South. The book focuses on a 1932 murder case in Mississippi, when an African American woman ended up in prison for a crime she didn't commit.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprise you?

A: There were two things I did at the beginning. I visited Natchez. I went to see it, I wasn’t there to do any research, just get the feel of the town, its geography, its landscape, which I got more and more each time I went.

And the other thing—I started doing basic newspaper research and writing down all the names in the story—the principals, the attorneys, law enforcement, and witnesses. When I really started doing research, I could figure out who they are.

That’s how it began, with newspaper research. Then I began on-the-ground research in Natchez—fire insurance maps to get a sense of where the people lived, court records related to the case of Emily Burns, [the woman who was convicted,] but also records relating to Dick Dana and Octavia Dockery, [eccentric neighbors of the murder victim, who were involved in the case].

One of the places I did research was in an abandoned pie factory in Natchez. Court ledgers were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Brad Abraham

Brad Abraham is the author of Magicians Impossible, creator of the Mixtape comic book series, screenwriter of the films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, writer on the television series The Canada Crew, Now You Know, I Love Mummy, and RoboCop Prime Directives, and a journalist whose work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria.

From his Q&A with Steph Post:

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’ve always been a fan of spy stories, be they in books, movies, or TV shows. Despite largely being billed as an “Urban Fantasy”, I approached Magicians Impossible from the angle of “Espionage Thriller.” It’s very much your classical spy story– the recruit brought into a shadowy world, the battle against a long-standing adversary, the centerpiece mission, the betrayals, the reveal – set in a fantasy world of magic and myth. I grew up on James Bond movies and novels, and those are very much in the book’s DNA. I always wanted to write a spy thriller like Goldfinger or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so writing Magicians was a dream come true. I’ll confess I’m not much of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader, though I have been getting into it a little more as of late– when writing Magicians I deliberately...[read on]
Visit Brad Abraham's website.

The Page 69 Test: Magicians Impossible.

Writers Read: Brad Abraham (September 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stephen R. Bown

Stephen R. Bown's new book is  Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition.

From Bown's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Great Northern Expedition?

A: I’ve had the idea to tell this story for over 15 years now, but I just didn’t think there was quite enough information to truly bring it alive. It was only in the last several years that additional information about the expedition has been uncovered in Russian archives and translated into English.

But the reason that I was initially interested in the story for so long is that it is simply the most incredible exploration story that I have ever read about.

It involves fascinating personalities such as Peter the Great, the famous naturalist Georg Steller (Steller Jay and Steller Sea Lion) and the legendary commander Vitus Bering (the Bering Strait). The expedition explored Siberia and pioneered the Russian discovery of Alaska. And that is just the background.

The real story, the human element, involves storms, scurvy and shipwreck on an uncharted, uninhabited island in the North Pacific. Then they survived a winter, spring and summer on a tiny island – building shelter and hunting for food even though their gunpowder had been ruined in the wreck.

What is fascinating to me is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

The Page 99 Test: White Eskimo.

My Book, The Movie: Island of the Blue Foxes.

Writers Read: Stephen R. Bown (November 2017).

The Page 99 Test: Island of the Blue Foxes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

Alexander Thurston

Alexander Thurston's new book is Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a jihadist group, or rather cluster of groups, that emerged in northeastern Nigeria in the early 2000s. The group has called itself by various names, and “Boko Haram” is a nickname given by outsiders—it means “Western education is forbidden by Islam.” The nickname refers to a central theme that its founder Muhammad Yusuf used in his preaching, namely the idea that Western-style education (and democracy) were anti-Islamic. Boko Haram was involved sporadically in violence before 2009, but its transformation into a sustained insurgency occurred that year, when Yusuf and his followers clashed with authorities. Yusuf was killed during the initial uprising, but his followers regrouped under Abubakar Shekau and began to commit regular assassinations and attacks the next year. Boko Haram began to hold significant amounts of territory in northeastern Nigeria in 2014, which prompted Nigeria’s neighbors to intervene more strongly. In 2015, back on the defensive, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). Boko Haram continues to stage attacks in Nigeria, as well as in the neighboring countries, especially Niger. In summer 2016, a public schism emerged in the group, with one faction remaining loyal to Shekau and another following Abu Mus‘ab al-Barnawi, who has pledged to reduce civilian casualties and refocus Boko Haram’s efforts on fighting states and militaries. Boko Haram is most infamous for its mass kidnapping of 276 teenage schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014.

How has the Nigerian government responded to Boko Haram?

The Nigerian government has used a heavy-handed, military-focused approach to Boko Haram. The approach involves serious and systematic...[read on]
Visit Alexander Thurston's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cristina Garcia

Cristina Garcia's latest novel is Here in Berlin. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Here In Berlin?

A: It came about unexpectedly. I went in search of different kinds of stories…looking for Cubans’ relationship with the Eastern Bloc. I didn’t find much, although I tried really hard. I got despondent. I had rented an apartment [in Berlin] for three months!

Then I just got seduced by the city, the archaeology, and its ghosts, people in the interstices of history. It became its own thing. It evolved very slowly. It became a crazy historical excavation though it takes place in the present time.

Q: The novel features a visitor in Berlin and the various characters she encounters. How did you choose the novel’s structure?

A: That was another huge problem! You’re hitting every long night of despair I had! I just kept collecting these stories, finding them in little airholes of the history books I was reading.

At one point there were over 100 of these voices and I then started organizing them. I started ranking them. It was like a Busby Berkeley routine. Then I ended up...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Helen Benedict

Helen Benedict's new novel is Wolf Season.

From her Q&A with Nichole Bernier at the Huffington Post:

Tell me about your research for WOLF SEASON, and where it fits in the spectrum of research and interviews you’ve done on women and the Iraq War.

BENEDICT: Because I had already spent many years interviewing women veterans, I had no need to revisit that. But for Wolf Season, and its precursor, my novel, Sand Queen, I also interviewed Iraqi refugees. They were all either former interpreters, or the spouses of interpreters, women and men. With great generosity, they told me about their lives in and out of war, helping me to create Naema, her son, Tariq, and her husband, Khalil, the Iraqi family in the novel.

Some of the knowledge I needed to write this book did not come from interviews and conscious research, however, but from chance observations and conversations with veterans and Iraqis I know. At times, it can be the slightest thing, something...[read on]
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Wolf Season.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 1, 2017

Eelco J. Rohling

Eelco J. Rohling is professor of ocean and climate change in the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University and at the University of Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre Southampton. His new book is The Oceans: A Deep History.

From Rohling's Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

How/Why did you become a specialist in past ocean and climate change?

When I was a boy, I actually wanted to become a brain surgeon. But I did not pass the lottery to get into medical school when I went to university. So I thought about what else to study for a year before trying again. I ended up doing geology, and never looked back—I pushed on with that instead of trying medical school again. In geology, I developed a fascination with the past environments in which animals and plants lived that we now find as fossils. So after my BSc, I did an MSc with a major in microfossils and palaeo-oceanography/-climatology, supported by minors in sedimentary systems and physical oceanography/climatology. Things started to really come together when I started my PhD project, for which I started to truly integrate these streams in a research context. That’s when my interest in past ocean and climate change became much deeper and more specific.

Why did you choose to write a book about the history of the oceans?

I discussed a few ideas with my editor Eric Henney, and we gradually brought the various ideas together into this book concept. We strongly felt that the vast existing knowledge about the past oceans (and past climate) needed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Natalka Burian

Natalka Burian's new young adult novel is Welcome to the Slipstream.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Welcome to the Slipstream and for your main character, Van?

A: Van, or at least a proto-Van, was actually a secondary character in another novel I was working on. I wanted to keep writing about her, and realized quickly she needed her own book. That first book never made it out into the world, but I’m glad Van has.

Q: The book is set in Las Vegas and the Southwest. How important is setting to you in your work, and do you think this could have been set elsewhere?

A: For me, the setting is like another character in every story I write. I love the contrast between Las Vegas and the desert, and found it to be kind of an irresistible location for Van’s family to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dennis Glover

Dennis Glover is the author of The Last Man in Europe, a fictionalized account of George Orwell's life as he wrote 1984.

From the transcript of Glover's interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: And that "Last Man In Europe" - that was a working title Orwell had, wasn't it?

GLOVER: Yes, it was the original title of the novel, which he changed at the last minute, I think, at the prodding of his publisher Fred Warburg who thought that "1984" would - was a bit more commercially appropriate. And he's probably right because it gave the book a great renaissance in the actual year 1984.

SIMON: Yeah. And was it also because he was writing in the late '40s? Was it as simple as he wanted to reverse it?

GLOVER: Well, there is a thought that he did it because he simply reversed the four and the eight. I think it's a bit different. If you look at the manuscript and the early typescripts of the novel, what you'll find is it begins April 4, 1980. And then you can see Orwell takes his pen and strikes it over at some later stage and writes '82. And then he strikes it over again and writes '84. I think he was - it took him so long to write the book. He was trying to keep 40 years between the writing of it and the story.

SIMON: By the time we meet Orwell, he is sick and despondent, even though he's become so successful with "Animal Farm."

GLOVER: That's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Deanne Stillman

Deanne Stillman's new book is Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that this book’s inspiration came from a story about a horse that Buffalo Bill had given to Sitting Bull. Can you say more about that?

A: When Sitting Bull returned to Standing Rock after traveling with Cody for four months in 1885, Cody gave him a horse. That was symbolic because the horse had been stripped from the tribes during the Indian wars. It was not enough to deprive them of the buffalo; they had to be dismounted.

Five years later, while Sitting Bull was being assassinated in his cabin doorway, the horse was outside and started to dance as the bullets were flying. That was because it had been trained to do so at the sound of gunfire in the Wild West show.

Sitting Bull’s murder and the dancing horse that echoed it happened at the height of the ghost dancing frenzy  - an apocalyptic call for a return to the old ways and the resurrection of the buffalo. So here was this horse joining in, a ghost horse really, a representative of the Wild West and all that came with it.

While I was working on my book, I called Chief Arvol Looking-Horse, a prominent Lakota spiritual figure, for his insight into this matter.  What he said stunned me, beyond what I already felt, and I talk about all of this in much greater detail in my book.

By the way, I couldn’t shake the image of the dancing horse for years, and it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2017

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's new novel is The Golden House. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So, this is a novel different from some of the other things you've written. It feels very contemporary. It feels like you're describing the world we're living in.

So, I have to ask you as a social observer, what is, to your mind, the dominant reality of America, of New York, of its big cities today?

RUSHDIE: Well, I think it's - first of all, one of the realities is the incredible division between the big city and the hinterland, the fact that New Yorkers think one way and Middle America thinks in a radically different way.

To the extent there's always been that split, that New York and America have never been completely happy with each other. That's true about Paris in France and London in England as well. So, it's something about the nature of the metropolis.

But, right now, that rift is so exaggerated.

ZAKARIA: It's set in the Obama years, very clearly in the Obama years. You made a conscious decision to do that. It's a thing you're told not to do as a writer, which is to write right up against the present moment, to write the book which is about the moment in which the book is being written, and to react, to be reactive to things that happen.

And as a novelist, what strikes you about the Obama era?

RUSHDIE: What I felt was that there was this movement from incredible optimism to its antithesis.

That's to say, I mean, I remember, I was here on the night of the first Obama election. And I was walking around the city in the middle of the night in places where people gather, like Union Square and Rockefeller Plaza, like that.

And just looking at people's faces, the extraordinary joy and hope in those mainly young faces, I thought, was a remarkable thing to witness.

And now...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart's newest book is Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this new book, and how did you pick the mathematicians to include?

A: The idea emerged during a lunch with my editor John Davey, who died recently of throat cancer -- the book is dedicated to him. We often used to bat ideas around to see if anything grabbed us.

Selecting whom to include was tricky. The typical length for a popular science book is at most 100,000 words. The publisher set a target of 90,000, later expanded to 95,000.

So I knew I could include at most 25 people. That’s far too small to cover every really important mathematician! I say explicitly early on that the people featured are a selection. I made an initial list of about 50, and then whittled it down.

I decided that someone got in only if their mathematics was top quality and highly influential, if their personal story was interesting in its own right, and if they were dead. I considered it absolutely vital to include...[read on]
See Ian Stewart's top ten popular mathematics books.

The Page 99 Test: Why Beauty Is Truth.

The Page 99 Test: In Pursuit of the Unknown.

The Page 99 Test: Visions of Infinity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Luke Harding

Luke Harding's new book is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

Terry Gross: Luke Harding, welcome back to FRESH AIR. So the dossier said that the Russian regime had been cultivating, supporting and assisting Donald Trump for at least five years with the goal of encouraging splits and divisions in the Western alliance. You write that the Russians had their eyes on Donald Trump as early as the 1970s when he married Ivana Trump, who is from Czechoslovakia. Why were they keeping an eye on him in the '70s? What were they looking for?

LUKE HARDING: Well, the KGB really forever has been interested in cultivating people, actually, who might be useful contacts for them, identifying targets for possible recruitments possibly to be agents. That's not saying that Donald Trump is an agent, but the point is that he would have been on their radar certainly by 1977 when he married Ivana, who came from Czechoslovakia, a kind of communist Eastern bloc country. And we know from Czechoslovak spy records de-classified last year that the spy agencies were in contact with Ivana's father, that they kept an eye on the Trumps in Manhattan throughout the 1980s. And we also know, from defectors and other sources, that whatever Prague learned, communist Prague, would have been funneled to the big guys in Moscow, to the KGB. So there would have been a file on Donald Trump.

But I think what's kind of interesting about this story, if you understand the kind of Russian espionage background, is Trump's first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987. He went with Ivana. He writes about it in "The Art Of The Deal," his best-selling memoir. He talks about getting an invitation from the Soviet government to go over there. And he makes it seem kind of rather casual. But what I discovered from my research is that there was actually a concerted effort by the Soviet government via the ambassador at the time, who was newly arrived, a guy called Yuri Dubinin, to kind of charm Trump, to flatter him, to woo him almost. And Dubinin's daughter, sort of who was part of this process, said that the ambassador rushed up to the top of Trump Tower, basically kind of breezed into Trump's office and he melted. That's the verb she used. He melted.

GROSS: That Trump melted when he was flattered.

HARDING: Yeah. That Trump melted with this kind of flattery. And several months later, he gets an invitation to go on an all-expenses-paid trip behind the Iron Curtain to Soviet Moscow. Now, a couple of things which were important here. One of them is that his trip was arranged by Intourist, which is the Soviet travel agency. Now, I've talked to defectors and others who say - this is actually fairly well-known - that Intourist is basically the KGB. It was the organization which monitored foreigners going into the Soviet Union and kept an eye on them when they were there. So kind of he went with KGB travel. Now, according to "The Art Of The Deal," he met various Soviet officials there. Who they were, we don't know. But what we can say with certainty is that his hotel, just off Red Square, the National Hotel, would have been bugged, that there was already a kind of dossier on Trump. And this would have been supplemented with whatever was picked up from encounters with him, from intercept, from his hotel room.

You know, we can't say that Trump was recruited in 1987. But what we can say with absolute certainty is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 24, 2017

Catherine Reef

Catherine Reef is the author of Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, a new young adult biography of Queen Victoria.

From Reef's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Queen Victoria in your latest biography?

A: I had written two books on subjects from Victorian England, The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne and Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. I wanted to write one more biography before leaving that fascinating time and place, and I thought, why not focus on the woman who gave her name to the period, Queen Victoria herself?

Looking into her life, I discovered a terrific tale to tell, one that included family drama, palace intrigue, and a great love story, all involving a woman of singular character.

Sir Henry Ponsonby, who was the queen’s private secretary from 1870 until 1895, said this of her: “Never in her life could she be confused with anyone else, nor will she be in history.” How...[read on]
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

My Book, The Movie: Noah Webster.

The Page 99 Test: Florence Nightingale.

Writers Read: Catherine Reef (January 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sujatha Gidla

Sujatha Gidla’s new book is Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India.

From the author's conversation with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Can you explain why someone’s caste in India is so hard to hide? I think a common American response could be, why do you tell people what your caste is?

Oh, caste is a village social institution. The village social institution persisted for a very long time, and it still does because 80 percent of Indians still live in villages. In villages, castes are very distinct by their occupation, for one thing, and second where they live. Each caste has its own colony. That is where they live. All castes don’t live together mingled. Each has separate colonies.

Because of that, everybody knows who you are and also because of what job you do. When it comes to cities, people who came from villages, they still carry those, “Oh, you are such and such person’s relative,” this and that, so they would know. Apart from that, the way you dress, your surname, what you eat, what gods you’re worshiping, and whether you can wear jewelry or not and how you cut your hair. All of these things show your caste. And because the system is 3,000 years old, even if it scientifically does not have a genetic imprint, it has something very close to it. People’s body language—the way they carry themselves—shows what caste they are.

I’m sure their physical health, too.

Oh yeah, of course.

Why are even left-wing political parties in India so casteist?

The Communist Party of India was dominated by the land-owning Kamma caste, and it’s indistinguishable from a caste-based party. That’s why Communists are all upper-caste. … They bring in their own ideology, instead of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jonathan Eig

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

His new biography is Ali: A Life.

From Eig's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did the research involve for this book, and what type of cooperation did you receive from his relatives and friends?

A: I interviewed more than 200 people, dug through Ali’s old business records, found court files showing that Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, listened to old audiotaped interviews with Ali from the 1960s, got the FBI to release case files on Ali, did original research counting every punch of Ali’s career, and conducted a study with speech scientists at Arizona State University to measure the effect of all those punches on Ali’s speech rate.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This was more than four years of work. I poured everything I had into this. Ali’s second and third wives sat for multiple long interviews. His fourth and final wife coached me and answered a few questions but declined to do a long session.

Some of his kids cooperated, some didn’t. Almost all...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

The Page 99 Test: The Birth of the Pill.

My Book, The Movie: Ali: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue