Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scott Reintgen

Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.

Reintgen's latest novel is Nyxia.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m always reading several books at a time. Right now, I’m halfway through Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb. I’ll humble brag and say that I picked the series back up after sitting down for drinks with Robin and a handful of other authors at San Diego Comic Con. She is such a delight, and her writing always casts a spell over me. It’s such traditional fantasy, and follows a character in Fitz who we know is worth following.

I’m also reading Dear Martin by Nic Stone. It’s a brilliant and quick read about a young man wrestling with racial injustice by writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It doesn’t release until October 17th, getting to read it early is just one of the many perks of being an author with Random House.

And last but not least, I’ve started edging my way (finally) into Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It’s received such praise and I’m eager to have time for it.
Visit Scott Reintgen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Nyxia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lisa Berne

Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer book at fourteen, and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a teacher, and a grant writer — and is now an author of historical romance.

Berne's latest novel is The Laird Takes a Bride.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m slowly making my way through Jane Austen’s Letters, a great thick volume which is so interesting — so funny — so revelatory — and also such an important contrapuntal to her fiction, that I’m in no rush to finish it. I’ve long felt that a true understanding of Austen’s work depends on having at least a passing familiarity with her life and times, and her letters provide tremendous illumination — particularly so as she left behind no diary or journal and remains, essentially, a mysterious person.

I’m also reading Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night and really enjoying it for a variety of reasons. One is the sheer exuberance of discovering a new-to-me author and a narrative style which is enthralling. Another is that it provides a glimpse into 19th-century Paris — a very exotic and seductive world. And third, as someone who writes a variant of historical fiction, I’m intrigued by Chee’s approach to the genre. For example, he recently said on Twitter:

“Projecting the present into the past can make the real history invisible, and hopefully that history is what interests you more.”

That has a lot of resonance for me, both as a reader and as a writer.
Visit Lisa Berne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Laird Takes a Bride.

The Page 69 Test: The Laird Takes a Bride.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Robin Merrow MacCready

Robin Merrow MacCready is the author of Buried, recipient of the Edgar Award for Best YA novel. She teaches reading and writing to middle school students, and lives in Maine with her family.

MacCready's latest YA novel is A Lie for a Lie.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading list is a combination of books for kids and whatever my current writing project requires. At school I’m reading Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. This book is set in the sixties and is partially based on the author’s life, though obviously (and hysterically) exaggerated. There’s nobody who does cringeworthy growing pains better than Gantos. It’s a great read aloud and has won numerous awards, including the 2012 Newbery for best Children’s Book.

I’m also reading Took by Mary Downing Hahn. I’m not far in, but it promises to be creepy story of family, fear, and change.

My current work-in-progress takes place in the mid-19th century, so I’m reading and researching about that time. American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever is a fascinating read about Concord, Massachusetts and the very creative cluster of artists that lived there during that time. The Alcotts, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were friends and neighbors in Concord during a time when they produced some of their best works. It was so beautifully written that I didn’t want it to end!
Visit Robin Merrow MacCready's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Lie for a Lie.

The Page 69 Test: A Lie For A Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.

His books include Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Songs of Willow Frost, and the new novel Love and Other Consolation Prizes.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Ford's reply:
I just finished The Burning Women of Far Cry by Rick DeMarinis.

Darkly comic and masterfully written, this is one of those books that defies categorization. Like a richer, funnier, more textured version of Confederacy of Dunces, with a bit of Thomas McGuane and Tom Robbins thrown into the mix. It’s your classic, coming-of-age tale, like the journey of Holden Caufield, but in a warped, hilarious, blue-collar Twilight Zone.

I absolutely loved this book and am saddened that it’s been out of print for 30 years.

But, there is an Indiegogo campaign to give it new life.
Visit Jamie Ford's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

Temple Mathews

Temple Mathews, a graduate of the University of Washington and a producer at the American Film Institute, has written dozens of half-hour animation TV episodes and several animated and live action features and direct-to-DVD and video films. His credits include the Walt Disney animated feature films Return to Neverland and The Little Mermaid 2 and the MGM feature film Picture This!

Mathews's new novel is Bad Girl Gone.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne.

I found it compelling and was able to slip into the writer's fantasy land quite easily. The lead characters are immoral, yet intriguing and I was really happy how the book ended, sans the usual hoisted by their own petard kind of thing.
Visit Temple Mathews's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bad Girl Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Bad Girl Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 14, 2017

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His new book, the latest Stewart Hoag mystery, is The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes.

Recently I asked Handler about what he was reading. His reply:
As the warm, lazy afternoons of summer have begun to wind down I’ve been finding myself hungering for a big, juicy, old-fashioned novel to lose myself in on my garden bench. Something other than my usual rat-a-tat hard-boiled crime fare.

And so right now I’m totally immersed in re-reading Frank Conroy’s enthralling 530-page saga Body and Soul, which was published in 1993. Body and Soul, a sweeping period novel that starts out in New York City in the 1940s, is the story of an earnest, lonely six-year-old urchin named Claude Rawlings who happens to be a child prodigy on the piano. In fact, Claude, who lives in a dingy basement apartment with his single mother, a cab driver, is about to grow up to become one of the classical music world’s greatest pianists and composers.

Body and Soul is more than a fascinating page-turner. Conroy manages to take us inside Claude’s mind with such incredible insight that we are actually able to get an inkling of how composers do what they do. People often ask me how a writer writes. Me, I’ve always wondered how a composer composes. Where does the music come from? What is Claude hearing? What is going on inside of his head? Conroy is able to take us there. It’s truly fascinating.

And Conroy was a truly fascinating man. Before he wrote Body and Soul, which is his one and only novel, he was best known for his brilliant 1967 childhood memoir Stop-Time, which I keep it on my bookshelf right next to The Catcher in the Rye. The man knew music. He was an accomplished jazz pianist who sat in with the likes of Charlie Mingus. And he knew writing – he was the director of the famed Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa for 18 years until his death in 2005 at the age of 69.

If you’ve never read Stop-Time you simply must. It’s a genuine classic. If you’ve never read Body and Soul you’re missing out on a truly major reading experience. And if the name Frank Conroy is new to you, well, all I can say is that you need Frank Conroy in your life. Please, just trust me on this one.
Learn more about the book and author at David Handler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kelly Simmons

Kelly Simmons is the author of Standing Still, The Bird House, One More Day, and The Fifth of July.

Recently I asked Simmons about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am a scaredy-cat, a bad sleeper, a person who thinks the sound of cats jumping off sofas and the sound of armed men climbing in windows is precisely the same. So I read thrillers by day and try to read lighter things by night -- humorous memoirs, character-driven literary fiction, etc.

But every once in a while, I find a book that kind of works for me round the clock. What a joy! To be a little on edge -- while laughing occasionally and enjoying the characters.

A book I just finished, about an immigrant family tangled up with their Wall Street employer -- filled me with dread, worry and tension --- yet I loved the characters, and understood their decisions both good and bad -- as I was soothed by their tender justifications.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. It's getting a great deal of praise, but for me the highest praise is this -- I enjoyed it every hour of the day.
Visit Kelly Simmons's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Eric Brown

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, and his novel Helix Wars was shortlisted for the 2012 Philip K. Dick award. He has published sixty books, and his latest include the crime novel Murder Take Three, and the short story collection Microcosms, with Tony Ballantyne. His novel Binary System is due out in Autumn. He has also written a dozen books for children and over a hundred and forty short stories. He writes a regular science fiction review column for the Guardian newspaper and lives in Cockburnspath, Scotland.

Recently I asked Brown about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve just finished the 1984 crime-suspense novel Cul-de-Sac by John Wainwright, a tour de force of psychological realism and a captivating study of dogged detective work. It’s set in the eighties in West Yorkshire, England, and begins with the diary entry of John Duxbury, the successful owner of a print works. The unreliable narrator charts his unhappiness, his failed marriage, and the eventual death of his wife. The viewpoint then switches to several other characters involved as either witnesses to the death, or investigating the events surrounding it, as it becomes clear that his wife’s fall from a cliff was more than just the accident it first appeared to be. The detective, Harry Harker, solves the crime by applying acute psychological analysis to the case, and lays bare the psyche of the suspect, John Duxbury. What is amazing about the novel is this gradual unravelling, in the final chapters, of Duxbury’s fragile character, and the depth of the detective’s sympathy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the master of the psychological crime novel, George Simeon, called Cul-de-Sac ‘An unforgettable novel’… Born in 1921, Wainwright was a police constable for twenty years before becoming a full-time novelist in 1965. In just thirty years he wrote a remarkable eighty-plus novels, many of them of a high quality. It’s perhaps because of his prolificacy, and the fact that he shunned publicity and lived not in literary London but in Leeds, Yorkshire, that he is little regarded these days. It’s a great shame. A re-evaluation of his considerable ability is long overdue.

At the moment I’m reading William Cooper’s Scenes from Metropolitan Life, published in 1982. It’s the follow-up to his ground-breaking 1950 novel Scenes from Provincial Life, about the life and loves of schoolteacher Joe Lunn in a lightly-fictionalised city of Leicester. In Metropolitan…, Joe has moved to London and is working as a civil servant; the novel follows his life at work in a government acquisitions department, and his courting of the love of his life, Myrtle. It’s a gently humorous novel, full of sly, witty asides and wry observations of the human condition. Cooper wrote two further novels about Joe Lunn, Scenes from Married Life and Scenes from Later Life, neither of which were as popular or as well reviewed as the first book of the series, which ushered in the age of kitchen-sink realism to British fiction, and influenced other ‘Angry Young Men’ writers such as Kingsley Amis, John Braine, and Alan Sillitoe, among others. William Cooper was the pseudonym of Harry Summerfield Hoff, who wrote three novels under his own name before the war, and in 1950 began writing as Cooper and penned a further eight novels under that pen-name… I’m reading a lot of books written or set in the fifties at the moment as a way of researching the age, as my Langham and Dupré mystery novels are set in that decade. It’s one of the best ways of researching the period, of understanding the social mores and manners of the time – quite apart from eavesdropping on the dialogue of the fifties.
Visit Eric Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: Murder Take Three.

The Page 69 Test: Murder Take Three.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Josh Dean

Josh Dean is a magazine journalist and author based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

His new book is The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History.

Recently I asked Dean about what he was reading. His reply:
Because of the nature of my book — it’s a historical narrative — I’ve tended to read only books that serve to inspire or inform the writing. And even though my book is finished, I haven’t been able to shake that. I guess I should admit to myself that this is just the genre I like most, as a writer and a reader. That means, authors like Erik Larson, Laura Hillenbrand, and David Grann, who can recall historic events in incredible detail and in kaleidoscopic color. Anyone who reads to the end of my book will see that there’s a bit of a link there, between it and Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. But I finally got to read that book recently, and it’s predictably awesome. How this story was lost to time I’ll never understand. But Grann is a master of the riveting non-fiction narrative, and this book is no exception.

The book I want to read next, if I can get my hands on a galley, is Jason Fagone’s The Woman Who Smashed Codes. Jason is a friend and fellow journalist and it’s just an accident that we both ended up devoting two years to books about spies, but the eras, and subjects are very different. He’s one of the best writers in today’s magazine world, so I have no doubt that it will be great.
Visit Josh Dean's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Taking of K-129.

The Page 99 Test: The Taking of K-129.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Roger Johns

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. Johns was born and raised in Louisiana. He and his wife Julie now live in Georgia.

Dark River Rising is his first novel.

Recently I asked Johns about what he was reading. His reply:
As usual, I’ve got a few books underway at once. I’m in the middle of Mississippi Blood––the first volume of Greg Iles’s epic saga about the present-day echoes of some stunningly nasty, long-ago attempts by some truly horrible people to thwart the Civil Rights movement. For years I’ve enjoyed reading Amy Tan’s novels because she so beautifully shows how the sins of the past plague us far into the future. Greg Iles is proving to be just as skillful in that regard.

Two weeks ago, I finished The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda. This is psychological suspense at its best. The casual sociopathy of her villain is very well written and the villain’s identity is so cleverly hidden until the end––a real ‘shiver me timbers’ kind of story. Several years ago, I read When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan, about a time when criminals weren’t incarcerated, they were “chromed”––their skin was turned a bright color, with a particular color assigned to specific types of crimes. The Perfect Stranger made me wish there was some similarly obvious, unmistakable way for us to identify the sociopaths among us.

A few days ago, I finished Murderabilia by Scottish crime novelist Craig Robertson––a really disturbing story that takes place against the backdrop of the bizarre hobby some people have of collecting souvenirs associated with killers and their victims. I’ll be appearing on a panel with Craig at the Bouchercon 2017 mystery writers and readers convention in October, so I wanted to be familiar with his work. It’s proving difficult to stop thinking about the book, which, to my way of thinking, means he told a powerful story.

Later today, I’ll start reading These Honored Dead, by Jonathan Putnam. This is the first in his Lincoln and Speed mystery series, in which the new attorney and pre-presidential Abraham Lincoln, and his businessman friend and landlord Joshua Speed, solve crimes and attempt to bring order and justice to a dangerous and chaotic time. I’ve been looking forward to this book topping my To-Be-Read stack for a long time.

Next week, I’ll start an advance copy of Eclipse Alley, by David Fulmer. This is the latest installment in his Valentin St. Cyr mysteries set in early twentieth century New Orleans. I loved the earlier ones. As a native of Louisiana, I know a thing or two about New Orleans, so I feel comfortable saying his books feel very authentic. Full disclosure: David is also a writing instructor and he taught me how to write novels.
Visit Roger Johns's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dark River Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue