Sunday, April 30, 2017

Robert K. Wittman

Robert K. Wittman is the co-author, with David Kinney, of The Devil's Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich. From Wittman's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You were involved in the efforts to retrieve Nazi official Alfred Rosenberg's missing diary. How did you and David Kinney end up writing a book about Rosenberg and the diary?

A: After we did the recovery in 2013, the diary was so important, and had never been transcribed or translated—it was in the files in Nuremberg during the trial, but the prosecutors didn’t really use it in the trial.

The diary was to be sent back to the National Archives, but…Robert Kempner [a German-born lawyer who worked on the trial] acquired it—he kept that and 8.000 pounds worth of documents that he did not turn over. He had it shipped to his home in Pennsylvania…

[Once it was recovered,] we wanted to do something to educate the general public. There is a historians’ group that studies World War II, and who are very familiar with it, but that’s probably one percent of the population.

We wanted to take a very important diary and put it in context—how it was discovered, who took it, the contents of the diary itself—and write it in a way that they general public could understand.

If you’re a historian, you’re probably not going to get a new perspective, but if you’re a general Joe, like me, you will learn a lot…This is the guy who indoctrinated the Nazi party. That’s...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout's latest novel is Anything Is Possible.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I absolutely loved Anything is Possible. Why did you bring back Lucy Barton?

You know, I really wasn’t sure about Lucy in this novel. I just wasn’t sure what to do with her. I wanted her there, but I didn’t want to tarnish her voice from My Name is Lucy Barton. So I played around with a few different things, and they didn’t work, and I almost gave up on her for this book. But then I thought: Oh, if I just show her, without getting into her head – and that story is all third person Pete’s point of view – then I thought, That may work. And so I decided to do it that way, to keep the camera sort of far away from her in a way. If you see what I mean.

I'm fascinated by how writers write. How do you?

I never map things out. My head just doesn’t work that way. In truth, I’m not sure how it works, but I do know that I never write anything from beginning to end, not a story, not a book, nothing do I do from start to finish. So I might be...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Strout's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 28, 2017

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles new young adult novel is The Edge of Everything.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Edge of Everything, and for your characters Zoe and X?

A: I was still working at Entertainment Weekly when I started thinking about giving a young adult novel a shot. I knew that I wanted it to be a blend of fantasy and reality (more on this in a second).

And then, one day at work, an opening scene popped into my head: A 17-year-old girl goes into a blizzard to save her little brother and their dogs, and stumbles on two men fighting on a frozen lake.

One of the guys is trying to drown the other in a hole in the ice. The girl doesn’t want to see anyone die that way—so she gets involved, and it changes her life. The more I thought about the scene, the more it felt like something I could build on.

The next step was just trying to figure out who everyone in the scene actually was. I decided to set the book in Montana because I’ve spent a lot of time here.

The girl became Zoe, who has just lost her dad, and the “murderer” turns out to be a bounty hunter from a Hell-ish dimension called the Lowlands, who’s come to Montana to take an evil soul.

When I was thinking about what sort of hell I wanted the Lowlands to be, I thought it would be interesting if no one had names, because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Peter Tinti

Peter Tinti is co-author, with Tuesday Reitano, of Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Savior.

From his Q&A with Phil Treagus for The Reading Lists:

Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far? How did it impact it?

George Packer’s memoir of his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, The Village of Waiting, had a profound impact on my career. I was a fan of Packer’s writing and reporting when I was an undergraduate student, and I had no idea that he was ever a Peace Corps Volunteer or that he wrote a book about his Peace Corps experience. I stumbled across The Village of Waiting as I was preparing to start my own stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa. It was just so much more honest and insightful than any of the other “westerner in Africa” books people were recommending to me. It would be interesting to revisit the book now that I am older, having spent several years living and working in West Africa, but at the time, as I was preparing to embark upon a pretty significant life event, the book resonated with me. More than anything, it made me want to write.

What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?

I am almost never asked for book recommendations. Given that there is so much good TV being made these days, it seems like I only ever get asked “what shows are you watching?” That said, I tell people who enjoy shows such as The Wire, Justified, and Breaking Bad that they should check out Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, and Don Winslow. Those guys are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of over sixteen picture books and novels. Her earlier picture books include Enough, Silver Threads, Daughter of War, Aram's Choice and The Best Gifts. She won the Silver Birch Fiction Award for Making Bombs for Hitler and the Red Cedar Award for Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Making Bombs for Hitler?

A: It’s been in my mind for a long, long time. Both of my in-laws survived World War II in Ukraine and [a friend’s] parents survived under similar circumstances. I was hearing stories, but never seeing it in books—it made me curious.

I didn’t start on this topic until many years later [after my first book]—I couldn’t get people to talk to me. If they were found out, they could be sent to the Soviet Union, and later they were still afraid. Under Putin’s regime, too, it was not much better. People who escaped from there are...[read on]
Visit Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's website.

My Book, The Movie: Making Bombs for Hitler.

Writers Read: Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

The Page 69 Test: Making Bombs for Hitler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yascha Mounk

Yascha Mounk is a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University's Government Department and author of a new academic book, The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice and the Welfare State.

From his December 2016 Q&A with Zachary Laub for the Council on Foreign Relations:

Are illiberal politicians and states more effective messengers than their liberal counterparts?

It’s always easier in politics to be critical than to be constructive. But the establishment has to take this as a serious wake-up call, and they face a difficult task. They have to communicate clearly that many things about how the political system has functioned for the last twenty-five years need to change, and to be a credible messenger on this, they have to show that they really are dismayed with the status quo. At the same time, they need to combine this criticism with a positive vision for what measures they want to enact to improve people’s lives, and to make a passionate case for what about the current system needs to be preserved—liberal norms like the separation of powers or the insistence on treating all citizens equally.

We’ve seen a lot of cross-border connections among these parties, like Brexit leader Nigel Farage campaigning for Trump in Mississippi. How are these parties and candidates linked?

First are the empirical linkages. Russia is financially supporting a lot of radical parties in the West, both on the far left and far right. And of course Russia’s email hacks helped get Trump elected.

But that matters less than what sociologists would call diffusion. Five years ago, I was already worried about people falling out of love with democracy....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2017

Randy Susan Meyers

Randy Susan Meyers is the bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage, The Comfort of Lies, and The Murderer’s Daughters. Her books have twice been finalists for the Mass Book Award and named “Must Read Books” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

Meyers's new novel is The Widow of Wall Street.

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

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel, and how closely are Jake and Phoebe based on Bernie Madoff and his wife, Ruth?

A: The idea did come just when the Madoff case first broke, and it fascinated me. How do you pull something like that off? As I saw all the people he had fooled, these were not naïve people! I thought, what is it like to be this family, and I didn’t think Ruth had done it. When everyone started hammering on her, I wondered, what is it like to be her?

I started doing a lot of reading. Some books came out immediately, but the book that really had me was The Wizard of Lies by Diana Henriques, a New York Times reporter. I read it six times. I found the details of how it was done incredible.

I was fascinated on two levels—very much on a human level, what would it be like to wake up and realize your marriage of 40 years was based on a huge lie?

And how it was done fascinated me, to the point that the book took a long time. I started reading court records…I had to let all that research go and start writing the book.

The hardest part was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Randy Susan Meyers' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Murderer's Daughters.

The Page 69 Test: The Widow of Wall Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss & J. Richard Gott are the authors of Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour. From their Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What is the Cosmic Perspective?

NDT: A view bigger than your own that offers a humbling, yet enlightening, and occasionally empowering outlook on our place as humans in time, space, on Earth and in the Universe. We devote many pages of Welcome to the Universe to establishing our place in the cosmos – not only declarations of that place, but also the reasons and the foundations for how we have come to learn how we fit in that place. When armed with a cosmic perspective, many earthly problems seem small, yet you cultivate a new sense of belonging to the universe. You are, in fact, a participant in the great unfolding of cosmic events.

What are some of the takeaways from the book?

NDT: If you read the entire book, and if we have succeeded as authors, then you should walk away with a deep sense of the operations of nature, and an appreciation for the size and scale of the universe; how and why planets form; how and why we search for planets orbiting around other stars, and alien life that may thrive upon them; how and why stars are born, live out their lives and die; what galaxies are and why they are the largest organizations of stars in the universe; the large scale structure of galaxies and space-time; the origins and future of the universe, Einstein’s relativity, black holes, and gravitational waves; and time travel. If that’s not enough, you will also learn about...[read on]
See Neil deGrasse Tyson's 6 favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cammie McGovern

Cammie McGovern's latest book is Chester and Gus.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Chester and Gus?

A: There was a wonderful in-class “therapy dog” in my son’s second grade classroom who all the kids loved. My son would come home with funny stories about how the kids included “Brody” in reading time and math and dealt him cards to play Uno with them.

When I finally asked the teacher about the dog’s background, she told me he had failed out of service dog training and she just brought him to school with her because he was too young to leave at home alone. He wasn’t really a “therapy” dog but she had to admit, he was so smart and so sensitive, he’d performed that job many times during the course of that year.

It got me thinking about all the amazing jobs dogs do for people and how connected they are to the sense of “having a job.” Watching Brody in action, it seemed very clear to me that Brody was continuing the work he was born to do but...[read on]
Visit Cammie McGovern's website.

Writers Read: Cammie McGovern (July 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jerald Podair

Jerald Podair is professor of history and the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His new book is City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles. From the author's Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

In your book, you discuss the political cultures of New York and Los Angeles in the years following World War II. How did they differ?

JP: I think the very different political cultures of New York and Los Angeles determined that Walter O’Malley would get what he needed—affordable land on which to build his privately financed ballpark—from one city but not from the other. New York’s municipal politics in the 1950s featured a strong orientation toward the public sector and organized labor that, while not necessarily anti-capitalist in nature, did not offer an entrepreneur like O’Malley a particularly sympathetic atmosphere. This meant that when he asked for assistance from New York City officials in acquiring land parcels in Brooklyn that were beyond his individual financial means in order to construct a stadium with his own funds, he was branded—unfairly, in my view—as seeking a “giveaway.” But in Los Angeles, publicly owned land at Chavez Ravine overlooking downtown was made available to O’Malley in exchange for property he owned elsewhere in the city. Los Angeles officials were thus willing to do what their counterparts in New York were not.

In my view, this was because the political culture of Los Angeles—where the statist reforms of the New Deal had less staying power than in New York—was more hospitable to businessmen, especially one like O’Malley whose private undertaking promised to advance the public good. In New York, the focus was almost obsessively on O’Malley’s profits; that the city would benefit from a new Dodger ballpark was deemed of lesser importance. In Los Angeles, the weight accorded these considerations was reversed. In deciding a taxpayer suit seeking to void the Dodger Stadium contract in favor of O’Malley, the California Supreme Court said as much. The Dodgers were permitted to make money on the deal, the court ruled in 1959, as long as there were tangible benefits accruing to the people of Los Angeles. Those benefits—a world-class stadium, not to mention millions of dollars in property taxes paid by the privately held stadium—were enough to justify state assistance to a private entrepreneur. O’Malley moved to Los Angeles for this very reason. Although O’Malley was a businessman and not a philosopher and probably would not have used the term “political culture” to explain his decision to leave New York, this is clearly what he had in mind. Had New York’s political culture been different, he...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue