Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Michael Wiley

Michael Wiley’s most recent novel is Monument Road, about an exonerated death-row inmate investigating the crime that sent him to prison. He also writes the Daniel Turner Thriller series (Blue Avenue, Second Skin, Black Hammock) and the Shamus Award-winning Joe Kozmarski Private Detective series (A Bad Night’s Sleep, The Bad Kitty Lounge, Last Striptease).

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Wiley's reply:
Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress is as fresh and powerful today as when it first was published in 1990. Set in 1948 Los Angeles, it also speaks straight to our current American moment. I’ve just reread it for the fourth time.

The first of Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels—and the winner of the 1990 Shamus Award for Best First P.I. novel—Devil at once operates within and upends the detective fiction genre. Mosley knows and loves his Raymond Chandler, but Easy Rawlins is no Philip Marlowe. He’s an African-American WWII vet, brutalized by the justice system where Marlowe gets his training. In the opening line of the novel, Easy says, “I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy’s bar,” and the book remains to the end a story of black and white ... and also of noir and California sunshine ... and sometimes of devilish blue and ruby red ... and, finally, of a conflicted color we might call blackwhite.

As for the story, it’s a blast. This is a classic missing-person novel—the missing person being the chameleon-like Daphne Monet—but, as in some of the best tales of this kind, the main person Easy seems to find in the closing pages is himself. There’s gunplay. There’s crackling dialogue. In the music of this book, not a note misses. Devil in a Blue Dress is among the great ones.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael Wiley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Striptease.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Striptease.

The Page 69 Test: A Bad Night's Sleep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Shelley Tougas Tougas is an award-winning writer of nonfiction for children, including Little Rock Girl 1957, and the author of the novels The Graham Cracker Plot, Finders Keepers, and A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids.

Her latest novel is Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life.

Recently I asked Tougas about what she was reading. Her reply:
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard loves her homonyms—so much that she names a dog found lost in a storm “Rain” (rein, reign). Rose, who has autism, is pushed to her limits when Rain disappears again, and she has to make the toughest decision of her life. This tugs at your heart but never goes over the top with sentimentality. Lovely.

Slider’s Son by Rebecca Fjelland Davis

I haven’t read a novel where the Depression era comes to life like this one. This is a middle-grade mystery set during the bone-cracking cold of a North Dakota winter, but the heart of the story is the boys’ friendship―a friendship so authentic you’ll want to bundle up, call your best friend and go sledding.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (book one) by Rick Riordan

My daughter wouldn’t stop bugging me until I read the first Magnus Chase novel, and for once I’m grateful for her persistence. I’ve never had so much fun in the pages of a book. Riordan is obviously a master of mythology, but to me, he’s a master of humor. Just one question: Where’s the movie?

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I read this one nearly every year because it’s my favorite Laura book. The Long Winter is a nail-biting survival story. Researchers say Laura’s descriptions of the infamous winter match the historical record. It’s also the first time readers meet Laura’s husband Almanzo, who’s as dashing a hero as any in literature.

Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe

I met Julie a few years ago at a book event. When Wren Jo Byrd was released, I bought it before I saw all the great reviews. She nails the voice of a kid confused and frustrated by her parents’ split. This novel is utterly charming. I hope she’s celebrating the accolades.
Visit Shelley Tougas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Irene Radford

Irene Radford, author of the Dragon Nimbus (The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician, The Wizard's Treasure) and the Dragon Nimbus History (The Dragon's Touchstone, The Last Battlemage, The Renegade Dragon) series, often appears at conventions in the Oregon-California area. She is the author of the Stargods and Merlin's Descendants series as well, and is also one of the founders of the Book View Cafe.

Radford's new novel is A Spoonful of Magic.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
When I am writing Urban Fanatsy I cannot read Urban Fantasy. When I’m writing Historical Fantasy, after I’ve done the initial research, I cannot read a similar genre. My default popcorn books are cozy mysteries, with or without ghosts and paranormal elements as long as the mystery is the core of the story. Rhys Bowen and Carola Dunn are current favorites in historically set (early 20th C) cozies. Lea Wait, Joyce Tremel, and Lynn Cahoon are my current favorite authors. But I’ve been reading the genre for a long time and have devoured the entire lexicon of some older favorites like Jill Churchill, and Kaitlyn Dunnett, Susan M. Boyes. I will admit to being jaded. I cannot tolerate heroines who are whiney doormats, conned into doing what they know will be risky because the “owe” people they don’t like.
Visit Irene Radford's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Broken Dragon.

The Page 69 Test: The Broken Dragon.

My Book, The Movie: A Spoonful of Magic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tara Goedjen

Tara Goedjen adores fairytales, mysteries, and ghost stories.

She wrote her first story at age eleven about children who disappeared at midnight, and she’s been writing ever since. Mostly raised in Alabama, she played college tennis in Iowa and then moved to Alaska and Australia before heading back to the continental US.

While completing grad school, Goedjen worked as a tennis coach, a yoga instructor, a university writing teacher, and as an editor for a publishing house. These days, when she’s not making up stories, she's probably going for a hike, staring at a to-do list, reading a novel, or eating all of California’s seasonal fruit.

Goedjen's new novel is The Breathless.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been touring for The Breathless and have just gotten the chance to pick up a book by a writer friend, Amanda Searcy, called The Truth Beneath the Lies. Since I write within the mystery/thriller genre, I tend to reach for those books first, and the cover of Searcy’s novel makes me want to read it: the jagged streaks of color hint at the darkness and danger within. Karen McManus, another writer I admire, described it as “A smart, suspenseful, and unpredictable thriller that will keep readers turning pages until every last lie is revealed.” These are the sorts of books I love: full of twists and turns that keep me guessing, which brings me to…

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, the first in the Brooklyn Brujas series about bruja Alejandra (“Alex”) Mortiz, a teenager who belongs to a powerful family of witches. I recently finished reading this one and loved how Córdova portrayed the relationships between her characters, which both surprised and delighted me. In the same way that Córdova’s plot points kept me guessing what was to come, I also wondered how Alex would grow on her journey, and which direction her heart would take her. It’s no wonder that Labyrinth Lost was named’s Best YA SFF of 2016—and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Visit Tara Goedjen's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Breathless.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler's new novel is The Forsaken Throne, the latest installment of The Kingfountain Series, which began with The Queen's Poisoner.

Recently I asked Wheeler about what he was reading. His reply:
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

I was recently given a copy of this book while visiting its publisher in New York. My friend, and previous editor, said it was the book he was looking forward to most. City of Brass is story of djinn and ancient magic set in Napoleonic Egypt. I’m not done yet but it’s reminded me a bit of the Bartimaeus novels by Jonathan Stroud, which I loved. Interested to see where it is going.

Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

It’s not unlike Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis but with a more deliberate focus. This manuscript was unpublished for seventy years because it was deemed to be too controversial for its time and was finally released (posthumously) recently. Imagine someone interviewing the devil and finding out how he controls society today in subtle, malicious ways. No institution is safe from scrutiny. This book certainly challenges your thinking. In fact, its purpose is to make you think hard about yourself and your assumptions. Even better, imagine learning how to avoid the traps that have been set in motion for decades to control our thinking. As a student of history and a fan of Hill’s previous works, I thought it was worth a second read. It was.
Visit Jeff Wheeler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Poisoner.

My Book, The Movie: The Queen's Poisoner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A.J. Cross

A.J. Cross, like her heroine Kate Hanson, is a Forensic Psychologist with over twenty years' experience in the field. She lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband.

Cross's latest novel is Something Evil Comes.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Crime fiction has been one of my joys over many years. However, since I began writing it myself I read much less of it. The reason? I appear to have acquired a possibly irrational fear that I might subconsciously purloin another author’s plot, theme or twist as my own. Consequently, I tend to read biographies or, in this case a diary: Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On. It is very heavy but only in terms of its seven hundred-plus pages. It is exactly what one might expect of Bennett but there’s another aspect which I found completely unexpected.

What was anticipated of course  was the humour: consider this, the single entry for 18th October, 2005 where Bennett quotes a critic remarking that  he can have too much of Alan Bennett to which Bennett adds: ‘I wonder how he thinks I feel.’ Economical, modest and understated. I’m willing to bet that response wasn’t worked for but arrived as quick, clean truth. There’s a precision about his observations of people, creatures and things which is a delight. He describes the inside of a bean pod, ‘shaped to the bean and furred like the inside of a violin case.’ It’s not necessary to have seen the pod. Thanks to Bennett, we know it. We can picture it.

Despite his enormous success as a playwright and commentator on ‘ordinary’ people’s lives, the diary describes Bennett’s own modest way of living. He and his partner, Rupert spend a lot of their leisure time visiting National Trust buildings. On these jaunts they take sandwich lunches with them. The overall impression is of a modest, unpretentious man who takes pleasure in simple things. I have searched the index and the 700-odd pages of the diary and failed to locate his description of attending what I believe was a premiere of his in America, but I wanted to include it because it fits with my impression of that modesty and honesty. Picture a hotel corridor of several doors, beyond which the famous and the feted are being interviewed. Bennett describes being taken along that corridor as a potential interviewee, each door being opened and the question asked of whoever is inside: ‘Do you want him?’ at which the reply is invariably, ‘No.’ and on, eventually to a door at the very end of the corridor which opens and Bennett finds himself outside the building in the rain. I can’t imagine any situation in which the words ‘Do you know who I am?’ would ever be said by him.

So, what was so unexpected? It was the anger. Having been drawn in and beguiled by Bennett’s writing to expect someone who is avoidant of unseemly fuss about almost anything, in Keeping On he fires off some furious broadsides at the UK’s political parties. It seems to be the political right which earns much of his vitriol. Which is hardly surprising, given his expressed appreciation of his own state-provided education and his fury at the injustice of dismantling of the welfare state. He likens the closure of libraries to child abuse.

Keeping On Keeping On is a gentle read but it has very sharp teeth.
Learn more about Something Evil Comes.

My Book, The Movie: Something Evil Comes.

The Page 69 Test: Something Evil Comes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hilary Bonner

Hilary Bonner is the author of many crime novels and five non-fiction books. A past Chair of the Crime Writers' Association, she was previously the showbusiness editor of the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mirror.

Her latest novel, Deadly Dance, is the first in an intriguing new series featuring Bristol detective, DI David Vogel.

Recently I asked Bonner about what she was reading. Her reply:
As is so often the case I am reading Agatha Christie, this time re-reading a first edition of a great favourite - given me by my partner, who scours markets and car boot sales looking for early Christies to add to my collection.

It’s the famous one with the unreliable narrator. I will not name it, it because for any new reader unaware of the premise of this novel, it would then be ruined. Those who know, know!

Christie only used an unreliable narrator once in her 66 novels. Indeed, it is probably a ploy that even the prolific queen of crime would not dare repeat.

Partly inspired by Agatha, I too chose an unreliable narrator for one of my 13 novels, and again everything would be given away if I revealed which one. It’s a fascinating concept, and technically very challenging for an author.

Agatha’s book caused quite a stir when it was published. The great dame was even accused of cheating.

One Amazon reviewer accused me of producing an ending which was quite impossible, and another said the ending was obvious and she’d guessed it on page two.

So, I reckon I probably got it about right. And there’s no doubt at all in my mind that Agatha Christie produced a bit of a masterpiece.

I also particularly like to read books written by friends. I have two on the go at the moment. Handsome Brute is true life crime; the story of notorious British serial killer Neville Heath, written by Sean O’Connor who is also an acclaimed UK based producer and director working in film, TV and theatre. It’s a masterful piece of work, not for the squeamish!

North Facing is a haunting journey back in time to 1962 South Africa, in the days of apartheid, seen through the eyes of a central character now in his sixties and living abroad, who returns to the country of his youth, and finds himself confronted with the disturbing consequences of his own childhood behaviour. Written by South African born Tony Peake, my agent for nearly 25 years, and a most accomplished novelist, this is probably his finest yet.
Visit Hilary Bonner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 3, 2017

David Walton

David Walton is a science fiction and fantasy author with a growing number of novels in publication. His first, Terminal Mind, won the 2008 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel.

Walton's latest novel is The Genius Plague.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Walton's reply:
The books I'm currently reading are Infomocracy, by Malka Older, and Noumenon, by Marina Lostetter.  I had wanted to read Infomocracy for some time, because I liked the idea of exploring a new political concept.  The book explores the idea of "micro-democracy", where every group of 100,000 people around the world gets to vote on which one of a set of available governments they want, once every ten years.  I'm most of the way through the book now, and enjoying it -- great mystery, great characters, and interesting political concepts to consider.  Noumenon I just started, but it hooked me right from the beginning, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

Other books I've enjoyed recently are N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy; Version Control, by Dexter Palmer; and The Boy on the Bridge, by M.R. Carey, which was every bit as good as The Girl With All The Gifts.  The Broken Earth trilogy raises a lot of difficult issues about groups of people who are mistreated by people in power, and what happens, or what should happen, when the power dynamic shifts the other way.  Version Control covers a lot of interesting ground, including the impacts of Internet technology on social interactions and dating websites, but it's ultimately a time travel novel.  Unlike most such novels, however, the time traveler--just like everyone else--has no memory of the previous timeline once a new one is made.  We as readers therefore get to see several possible versions of the characters' lives, even though the characters themselves don't--and can't--know that there has been more than one.
Visit David Walton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Quintessence.

My Book, The Movie: Quintessence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 1, 2017

Julie E. Czerneda

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction. She’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Czerneda has edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners. Her latest is SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, and her next will be an anthology set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, is To Guard Against the Dark.

Recently I asked Czerneda about what she was reading. Her reply:
In 2008, I bought a story for my anthology, Misspelled. The story was by a friend, someone I knew would write something remarkable. Editors will tell you. We know a great storyteller when we hear one; the wordcraft shines even when they’re just telling you about their day. The harder part, the discipline to put that craft in action, to put it out there, to write yet another story and another?

That’s the difference-maker.

The story I bought? Brilliant indeed, and I’ve been a devoted fan of Lesley D. Livingston’s work ever since. My reward has been that she’s gone on, doing the hard things, and is publishing novel after novel after novel. Check out her list—or my bookcase. From time travel to realms of the fae—in New York City--to saving a drive-in theatre from aliens* (*co-authored with the talented Jonathan Llyr)--every one has her signature voice and bright spirit.

And each? Better than the last. That’s the other thing. Lesley keeps upping her game, to readers’ delight, especially mine. When her latest arrived on my shelf, The Valiant, I plunged in, to be blown away yet again.

Lesley has two significant strengths as a writer, in my opinion. Her characters live and breathe—they’re unforgettable. Real. So are her worlds. Much of her work is set in historical times and she does her research. The Valiant begins a series where a Celtic princess, in training to be a warrior for her people, is captured and sold into slavery to become a female gladiator for Julius Caesar.

In the hands of another writer, I wouldn’t have been interested. My taste runs to science fiction and fantasy, with a side order of science, and I’ve little time to read outside. Such is my trust in Lesley’s work, I leapt in without hesitation. And yes, it is her best book yet. It reminds me of one of my favourites from high school, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, the first I read where an unknown past came so vividly to life and made me care, deeply. Yet The Valiant is more. The perspective of a woman—women--in this culture, the attention to detail bringing all aspects to life, the heart-pounding battle scenes—did I mention an upcoming TV series--

Oh, go get your copy. Start your Livingston collection. Let discovering this wonderful author be my gift, to you.
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Guard Against the Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sarah Rayne

Sarah Rayne is the author of a number of acclaimed psychological thrillers and haunted house books. Her new novel is Chord of Evil.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Rayne's reply:
I read masses of fiction of almost every kind, but these four books are my all-time favourites, and I’m currently halfway through Broome Stages for at least the tenth time – with Gaudy Night in line to be re-read next.

Broome Stages by Clemence Dane

Written in 1930. Clemence Dane was a highly thought-of novelist and playwright of her era. (Best known plays are Will Shakespeare, Granite, and Bill of Divorcement).

I discovered this book about thirty years ago and lost an entire four-day bank holiday reading it. Saying you read a book in four days is a huge compliment to pay an author, but there’s a curious downside to it.  On the one hand it’s terrific that the book was so compelling you couldn’t put it down – on the other hand, the author probably spent a minimum of a year writing and researching it.

Broome Stages is a very long book indeed – 700 pages – and in a very general way is a family saga.  But it’s like no family saga I’ve ever read, before or since. It spans the years between 1715 and 1930, and it covers seven generations of a theatrical family.  The story begins with travelling players in tavern courtyards, and traces the family’s rise – through the marvellous fruity old Victorian actor managers who re-wrote Shakespeare to suit themselves, and into the early years of the 20th century, with the dawn of the early movies. It’s about the changing world of the theatre, but it’s also about the Broomes themselves – their loves and hates, and feuds and plots.  It’s about their fortunes in the theatre world – the buying of theatres, the building of a theatrical dynasty.

The writing is exquisite – polished and lovely, and the characters and their backgrounds are so vivid that the present-day dissolves as you read.

One of the reviews of the time had this to say:
Broome Stages is more than a novel.  It is a social-history and a social-comedy, an epic.  The genealogy is so intricately and ingeniously mapped and explained, they make that other famous family in fiction, Mr Galsworthy’s Forsytes, seem like a pack of Victorian upstarts.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers

This marvellous, multi-layered story set in an Oxford College, sees Harriet Vane returning to her alma mater to help her former tutors with a poison pen mystery.  The mystery itself is engrossing, but woven into the plot is the gradually developing emotion between Harriet and Lord Peter Wimsey, and Harriet’s own struggles to come to terms with her turbulent past.

Every time I read this, I’m pulled straight into that world, and made part of it by DLS’s excellent writing.

The Destiny Man by Peter van Greenaway

This is another book that  I bring back to my reading stack regularly.

It’s a terrific and, to my mind, a very unusual, story of how a has-been actor, living on his past glories, finds a yellowing Shakespearean folio on the tube, and how he manages to bring the play to production at Stratford (where else?).

The play’s subject is the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower, during James I’s reign – James himself was rumoured to have been slightly involved in that plot, so it’s very credible that if Will, living at the start of James’s reign by then, had written such a play, he would have kept it quiet.

Mr van Greenaway sprinkles his text beautifully with Bardic phrases – when the antiquarian bookseller Elias Pouncefoot is found murdered, he describes the reactions in these words:
The news broke about five, perfectly timed for radio, TV and late evening paper coverage.  A new, unpublished, unknown play, never before performed until soon – there was matter enough to generate interest.  But this new circumstance (ie the murder of Pouncefoot), almost melted wires and made the ionosphere crackle audibly as news of it girdled the Earth…   Here was a combination of events devoutly to be wished.
Sadly, this is no longer in print, but it can be obtained through most of the secondhand book sellers, and is well worth searching out.

The Hopkins Manuscript (also published, in edited and abridged version as The Cataclysm) by R C Sherriff

Sherriff is probably best known for his classic play about the Great War, Journey’s End, and his screenplays for famous films such as Goodbye Mr Chips, Home at Seven, and The Dam Busters. However, he also wrote a few novels, and The Hopkins Manuscript is something I’ve read many times.

The opening line is a terrific hook:
When the Royal Society of Abyssinia discovered The Hopkins Manuscript two years ago in the ruins of Notting Hill, it was hoped that some valuable light would at last be thrown upon the final tragic days of London.
It’s the story, written in first-person narrative, of a rather self-important, but ultimately surprisingly courageous and heroic retired schoolteacher, who finds himself caught up in cataclysmic events.  The moon has veered off course, and is set to crash into Earth.  The book is the story of how Edgar Hopkins, and the people immediately around him, deal with this - in practical as well as emotional terms.
Visit Sarah Rayne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue