Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stephen Metcalfe

Stephen Metcalfe's latest novel is The Practical Navigator. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How was your new novel's title selected, and what does it signify for you?

A: The title refers to a book on marine navigation. The American Practical Navigator is by Nathaniel Bowditch. It starts with – and I quote – “Marine navigation blends both science and art. The science of navigation can be taught, but the art of navigation must be developed from experience.” This sounded a lot like everyday life to me.

Q: As a parent of a son with autism, how did your own life affect your creation of the characters of Michael and Jamie?

A: I am the proud father of an 18-year old-son on the autism spectrum. The last thing I ever expected. A life changer. Asperger’s, the doctor’s assistant said.

My wife and I didn’t even know what the word meant. We looked it up. It was 2002, the net was in its infancy and there wasn’t a lot out there, but what there was suggested...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 30, 2016

Patricia Smiley

Patricia Smiley's latest mystery is Pacific Homicide. From her Q&A with Holly West at Do Some Damage:

Holly West (HW): Your new book, PACIFIC HOMICIDE, [came] out on November 8. What’s it about?

Patricia Smiley (PS): I’ll borrow from a blurb written by the talented Kim Fay, author of THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES, who so beautifully encapsulated the essence of the novel. It’s about “…the emotional wounds that drive the best of cops to buck the system in search of justice.”

Some people may not know this, but patrol officers in high crime areas may draw their weapons every workday but most cops spend their entire careers without firing a gun in the line of duty. Davie Richards is a petite, red-haired woman, a second-generation LAPD detective, and an expert marksman. She’s also an outlier, a cop who killed a suspect to save her partner’s life.

While she waits for the police commission to rule that the shooting was within policy, she’s called out to investigate the gruesome murder of a young Russian girl whose body is found in the Los Angeles sewer system. As she hunts for the killer, somebody from her past is hunting her…and it’s no longer just her job that’s on the line.

HW: The Los Angeles police procedural is well trod, but always compelling, territory. Still, it’s important to set oneself apart. With this in mind, what when into planning the Davie Richards series, particularly Davie Richards herself and the West Los Angeles setting?

PS: Davie Richards is a composite of...[read on]
Visit Patricia Smiley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher's final book is The Princess Diarist. From the transcript of her November 2016 interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: So what's really made news from your book is your affair with Harrison Ford when you were making "Star Wars." He was in his mid-30s and married. You were 19. Did you tell him you were going to write about it before you actually published the book?

FISHER: Oh, yeah. I don't think...

GROSS: I'm relieved to hear that (laughter).

FISHER: You're relieved to hear it?

GROSS: I'm relieved, yeah.

FISHER: Oh, no, I wouldn't have ambushed him like that. But it's still - no matter if I told him or not, it would - it probably feels like an ambush. It feels like an ambush to me, and I'm the one that wrote it.

GROSS: Did you tell him or did you ask him for permission?

FISHER: No. I said, I found the journals that I kept during the first movie, and I'm probably going to publish them. And he just sort of raised his finger and said, lawyer.

GROSS: (Laughter).

FISHER: And then I said, no, I won't, you know, write anything that you don't want. I mean, I'll show it to you before and you can take anything out that you want taken out. I don't want to, you know, make you uncomfortable, which I, of course, have - unduly uncomfortable.

GROSS: So he read it before it was published. And did he ask for any changes?

FISHER: I sent it to him. I called him. I said, where are you, you know? And I sent it to him. And I never heard back so I can't imagine that he wasn't - that he was comfortable with everything that was in it. But it's not like it's negative about him. It's just a personal story that's been a secret for a long time.

GROSS: Well, you do describe him as being kind of quiet and maybe kind of cold.

FISHER: Well, he's not the warmest person. He's not accessible, let's say that. He doesn't talk a lot, and I'm very extroverted. And so that - it sort of was going nowhere. It was sort of one half of a conversation was happening. You know, he's not a big talker. That's all. He just - he's very quiet and chews...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Michael Scott

Michael Scott's new book is Ancient Worlds: A Global History of Antiquity. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You divide the book into three sections focusing on politics, war, and religion. How did you decide on the organization of the book?

A: This is the most difficult step with global history – how do you make the story manageable without creating your own artificial boundaries – either temporal or geographical.

To me, these three moments in time – end 6th century BC, 3-2nd century BCE and 4th century CE – seemed to me fascinating moments when all the parts of the ancient world was changing - sometimes independently of one another and sometimes because of one another.

And those moments in time seemed to me to be about different things: politics, warfare and empire building, and religious...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Victor Gischler

Victor Gischler's books include Gestapo Mars. From his 2015 interview at My Bookish Ways:

Gestapo Mars sounds like a ton of fun! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

I’m a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan and was always fascinated by his “alter ego” Kilgore Trout, so I invented an old school dime novel author of pulp sci-fi named Emerson LaSalle. My ambition had been to write a series of over the top, pulp sci-fi novels under the LaSalle name, but there just was never the time to develop the idea fully. But one novel Gestapo Mars kept nagging at me like it really wanted to be written. So eventually I did write it but under my own name rather than LaSalle’s.

Why do you think Carter Sloan is a compelling character? Why do you think readers will root for him?

I think he is compelling because there is so much in his makeup that’s familiar. He’s part James Bond, part Buck Rogers, and Part Mike Hammer. Those readers who “get it” won’t have any trouble rooting for him.

Will you tell us more about the “world” of Gestapo Mars?

I guess technically it’s “alternate history.” Or maybe the future of an alternate history. It’s a universe in which the Nazi’s...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Victor Gischler's Blogpocalypse.

The Page 69 Test: Shotgun Opera.

My Book, The Movie: Shotgun Opera.

The Page 69 Test: Go-Go-Girls of the Apocalypse.

The Page 69 Test: Vampire a Go-Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 26, 2016

John Pipkin

John Pipkin's latest novel is The Blind Astronomer's Daughter. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you research your new book, and was there anything that especially surprised you in the course of your research?

A: I spent a lot of time doing archival research, not only in the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, but also at the British Library in London, and at the National Irish Library in Dublin, and I also traveled to many of the locations described in the novel in Ireland, England, and Scotland.

What surprised me most in researching astronomy during this time period was just how dangerous this pursuit could be. First there were the immediate physical dangers of running around in the dark, often on rooftops, and working with heavy equipment without the aid of lights or machinery. Caroline Herschel herself tripped over a chain in the dark and severely gouged her thigh on a hook anchoring the telescope.

In addition, remaining exposed to the cold, damp air, night after night, left many astronomers vulnerable to sicknesses in an era when something as simple as a fever or a sore throat cold be fatal. And there were also some reports of astronomer's staring at the sun through filtered lenses that shattered under the heat of sunlight. Previously I had not..[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at John Pipkin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Woodsburner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Meg Little Reilly

Meg Little Reilly is a writer, environmentalist, crafter, hiker of mountains, swimmer of lakes, and reader of everything.

Before she got serious about writing books, she worked for President Obama as Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget; and prior to that, as Spokesperson at the U.S. Treasury. She has worked at the Environmental Defense Fund, a couple great consulting firms, and had more political internships than she can count.

Reilly's debut novel is We Are Unprepared.

From her Q&A with The Book Report Network’s Megan Elliott:

TBRN: WE ARE UNPREPARED takes a concept that's abstract to a lot of people --- global warming and major environmental change --- but approaches it in a very human way. How did you go about marrying the story of Ash and Pia’s journey as a couple with the overarching drama of The Storm?

MLR: I chose to write about a storm because it’s one of the few manifestations of climate change that feels immediate and urgent. You simply can’t look away. I didn’t know I was going to write about a troubled marriage, though…that part snuck up on me. I wanted to explore how fear can corrode our personal lives, and as I kept peeling back layers of that fear onion, it took me to a very intimate place. This is as much a story about how we live together in fearful times as it is about changing weather patterns.

TBRN: I was struck by the detailed descriptions of the weather patterns leading up to The Storm. What kind of research did you do for these parts of the novel? Is a storm of the magnitude you describe really a possibility? Should everyone on the eastern seaboard take a cue from survivalists like Crow and start building bunkers in their backyards?

MLR: I researched my fictional storm by looking at forecasts and reports from all the largest storms on the eastern seaboard in recent history. This storm is a composite of all the worst-case scenarios projected for past storms...[read on]
Visit Meg Little Reilly's website.

Writers Read: Meg Little Reilly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2016

Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of novels such as A Wedding in Great Neck and You Were Meant for Me as well as dozens of books for children, including the newly released The Bicycle Spy. She is the editor of and a contributor to The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty, as well as All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.

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

Q: The Bicycle Spy, your new novel for kids, takes place in World War II-era France. Why did you decide on that setting, and how did you research the book?

A: In this case, I was tapped by an editor at Scholastic and given a very brief synopsis which I was invited to expand. I also wrote a few sample chapters.

Researching the book was a pure delight because I love historical fiction and am a total Francophile besides. So I read books, scoured the Internet, and consulted with a professor of French history at Vanderbilt University. There is so much material on this period that the issue was not finding it, but selecting it.

…I loved researching the Tour de France, and especially enjoyed...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Willa and Holden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Steve Coll

Steve Coll is the author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. From the transcript of his December 2016 Q&A with Fresh Air's Dave Davies:

DAVIES: You know, you write that an oil company needs stability in the places it operates. It - drilling wells is expensive. It takes decades to get the return from them, so they want places that will be stable. So they have to - so Exxon has dealt with a lot of authoritarian regimes, some of which, you know, are ruled by dictators who enrich themselves. What's [Exxon CEO Rex] Tillerson's record when it comes to dealing with those kinds of governments?

COLL: Well, he's been successful at making arrangements with authoritarian governments in many places in the world, certainly in Vladimir Putin's Russia, in West Africa, in Equatorial Guinea, in Chad and in other places across the Middle East. In Qatar, they have a strong presence, and elsewhere in the Gulf states, ExxonMobil's very active. You know, they also operate in more raucous environments.

But, generally, they've had better success economic and business success in environments that are stable because of authoritarian government than in a place like Alaska where Tillerson has repeatedly expressed frustration that ExxonMobil can't get stable terms to the deals it wants to make because the government keeps changing. Well, that's because we have elections in Alaska, and politics of oil up there are pretty - you know, pretty raucous. So I'm not saying that that means he's anti-democratic, but I am just saying he's been conditioned by experience to work productively and without a lot of criticism or interference in politically authoritarian environments.

DAVIES: You know, there are a lot of decisions that companies that work in - with authoritarian regimes have to make. And it's one thing to say, well, we're not going to, you know, seek the overthrow of an authoritarian regime. But there are other decisions you can make. You can participate in bribing officials or facilitating, you know, the extraction of large amounts of assets for the - for royal families. Do you have any sense of how Exxon and Tillerson's - any sense of their record in terms of the extent to which they violate things like the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act? And what's their...

COLL: They're - they're...

DAVIES: ...What's their record of integrity in that area?

COLL: Well, we talked before about their rulemaking and their adherence to rules. And I do think that they use the law as a - as an organizing principle everywhere. And they're very - very devoted to trying to figure out how not to get outside of the law and also to promote the rule of law internationally because that aids their business model in the sense that it makes contracts enforceable. And it also gives them a way to avoid the kinds of dilemmas that are presented when dictators' relatives come around looking for contracts or for favors. ExxonMobil can say, hey, we follow the law everywhere. This is not legal. We're not going to do it. And so it's a way to be consistent. You know, where it gets more subtle is outside of the direct corruption of enabling capital flight or taking payoffs or making payoffs.

You know, what do you do in these societies while you're there to promote better humanitarian conditions, better governance? Are you willing to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Anne Korkeakivi

Anne Korkeakivi's new novel is Shining Sea. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Shining Sea, and for the Gannon family?

A: When my father died four years ago, my mother and sisters and I discovered he was still carrying his honorable discharge card from the U.S. Army in his wallet. My father had served in Italy during World War II—i.e., 60 years earlier. That’s how much his army service meant to him.

Meanwhile, I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s two blocks from the main gates of Columbia University. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching anti-Vietnam War protests and the nightly body count on the TV news. So, my own first understanding of U.S. involvement in war was overwhelmingly negative, opposite to my father.

This got me thinking. How do war experiences—or experiences of any conflict--trickle down through generations? How might members of the same family respond differently? And what might all this mean to the cohesion of a family and to the lives of the individuals within it?

I didn’t want the story to become in any way autobiographical, so I ...[read on]
Visit Anne Korkeakivi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Oswald Schmitz

Oswald Schmitz is Professor of Population and Community Ecology at Yale University.

His new book is The New Ecology: Rethinking a Science for the Anthropocene.

From Schmitz's Q&A with Jessica Ganga at the Princeton University Press blog:

The term Anthropocene is cropping up a lot nowadays in discussions about the environment. What does this term refer to?

OS: The Anthropocene essentially means the Age of Humans. Science has characterized the history of the Earth in terms of major events that have either shaped its geological formations or have given rise to certain dominant life forms that have shaped the world. For example, the Mesozoic is known as the Age of the Dinosaurs, the Cenozoic includes the Age of Flowering Plants, Age of Insects, Age of Mammals and Birds. The Anthropocene characterizes our modern times because humans have become the dominant life form shaping the world.

You’ve written several books about ecology. What’s different about this one?

OS: My goal is to communicate the exciting scientific developments and insights of ecology to a broad readership. I hope to inspire readers to think more deeply about humankind’s role as part of nature, not separate from it, and consider the bigger picture implications of humankind’s values and choices for the sustainability of Earth. As such, the intended audience is altogether different than my previous books. My previous books were technical science books written specifically for ecologists or aspiring ecologists.

What inspired you to write this particular book?

OS: The ecological scientific community has done...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jane Alison

Jane Alison is the author of the new book Nine Island. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You said in an interview with UVA Today that you've "grown impatient with so-called distinctions among genres that, in truth, overlap so much," and you've defined Nine Island as a nonfiction novel. How does it incorporate elements of each genre?

A: I began writing Nine Island after writing three novels and a memoir, as well as having translated portions of Ovid's poetry. I wanted the new project to have almost as much truth as memoir but also the flexibility and flights of fiction and the music (and even line-breaks) of poetry.

Almost all the incidents in the book, as well as the figures and places, are drawn closely from life. I did compress time, though.

Q: Like you, your protagonist J writes about Ovid. What are some of the connections between Ovid's work and J's life in present-day Miami?

A: J is contemplating life-changes: her mother's declining body, her poor old cat's deafness and blindness, the grounding of a duck, and her own slide into late-ish middle age, with her decision that it might be time to retire from love. That is: gently extinguish her erotic self. She's thinking about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Gene: An Intimate History. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So in this book, what you say is that, in this area in biology, like in other areas of science, the big news is that we have finally gotten down to the fundamental unit of analysis. Explain what you mean.

MUKHERJEE: Well, the gene is the fundamental unit of analysis in biology, in the same way that the atom is for matter or the bit or the byte is for computing. We've known genes -- about genes for a long time. But the idea -- I mean, the way that we're understanding, the depths and the clarity with which we're understanding genes today and its influence on our lives, on our social lives, our biological lives, is enormous, just like, you know, the understanding of the atom changed the world of physics and just like the understanding of, you know, digitized information changed the world of computing.

ZAKARIA: So if you look at that analogy, what you're saying is really that, when you are able to go down to the essential element of matter in physics, the atom, you are able to then figure out how to manipulate it, how to read information. When you are able to get down to the fundamental unit of information, the bit or the byte, you are able to move it around. Each of them produced an explosion of knowledge and then of applications.


ZAKARIA: Is the same thing happening...

MUKHERJEE: That's happening right now. We are learning to read and write genes, the language of genes, in a way that we hadn't even 10 or 15 years ago. And by that I mean...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Stephanie Gangi

Stephanie Gangi's new novel is The Next. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Next and for your character Joanna?

A: The Next was conceived after a convergence of my own upheavals. I’d had some health issues and I’d had a heartbreak – and in my vulnerable state, I realized that my thoughts were more consumed with the details of the lost love, and the narrative I was building in my head, than with my health! Luckily I got my priorities straight, but I was intrigued with the idea of a woman who becomes obsessed with a foolish love on her deathbed.

The universal soundtrack the year I began the novel was Adele’s 21, which played everywhere, and was filled with so much bittersweet lust and loss and need for vengeance. I felt Adele was speaking to – and for – so many women who lose themselves in relationships.

As far as Joanna, I loved the idea of an angry woman hell bent on revenge against an unworthy man, and ranting and wreaking havoc all over contemporary Manhattan. Because I’m not so comfortable with anger and violence myself, I used the ghost concept to add some other-worldly distance to Joanna’s fury.

Also, importantly, I was a woman in my late 50s, suddenly single. My visibility factor in the world had changed, noticeably. I thought having my protagonist be...[read on]
Visit Stephanie Gangi's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Gangi & Enzo.

My Book, The Movie: The Next.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 16, 2016

Robert E. Lerner

Robert E. Lerner is the author of Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life. From his Q&A with Debra Liese at the Princeton University Press blog:

You have written a number of books on history before, but this is your first biography. What led you in this direction?

RL: My subject, Ernst Kantorowicz (1895-1963), author of celebrated works in history, was wounded at the battle of Verdun in 1916, fought against red revolutionaries in Munich in 1919, was a prominent member of a bizarre poetic circle in Germany during the Weimar era, spoke publicly in opposition to Nazism in 1933, eluded Gestapo arrest in 1938, lead a fight against a McCarthyite Board of Regents at the University of California in 1949-50, and was a central personality at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Moreover, he was a major intellectual figure of the twentieth century. Is that enough?

But why did you decide to write it now, when previously you have written almost exclusively on medieval topics?

RL: Actually, the project had been taking shape for decades. I met Kantorowicz once when I was a graduate student at Princeton, and he left an unforgettable impression. Later, in 1988, I was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ratika Kapur

Ratika Kapur's new novel is The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel and for Mrs. Sharma?

A: Like most ideas for novels, this one had clearly been germinating in my head for a while, nourished by the occasional sighting of a face on a metro station platform, at a traffic signal, or at a mall.

Perhaps the fact that my world is adjacent but disjoint from the world of those women who live in Mrs. Sharma's world engendered a curiosity--a yearning almost--to reach out and try and enter that world.

Q: The story is told from Mrs. Sharma’s point of view. Would you describe her as a reliable or unreliable narrator?

A: We are all, in a sense, unreliable narrators of our lives, aren't we? We hide things from each other and from ourselves. I think the notion of the reliable narrator is really just a fantastical notion, like a unicorn or the Yeti; it resembles things that exist in the world but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Michael Lewis is one of the most successful book authors, ever since his debut "Liar's Poker." He has written "Moneyball," "The Blind Side" and "The Big Short," all later turned into movies.

"Moneyball" was about the Oakland As baseball team and its real-life quest to pick the best prospective players. The team figured out how to game the system by, as Lewis says, using better data and better analysis of that data to find market inefficiencies.

Now, there was a review of "Moneyball" by the academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who pointed out that much of what the As were doing was stripping human bias out of the equation of managing a ball team. That kind of analysis had been pioneered, they pointed out, by a pair of Israeli social scientists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who did groundbreaking work on behavioral economics, as Lewis says, a field that focuses on the biases and irrational behavior of human beings.

Lewis had never heard of Kahneman and Tversky, so he dug into the topic and ended up writing a book about the duo, "The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds."

Welcome back, Michael.

LEWIS: Thank you, Fareed. Good to see you.

ZAKARIA: So one of the things that we always talk about nowadays is the way in which people act, sort of, irrationally. And "irrationally" sounds bad, but not in a way that can be predicted easily.

So even in this election, people point out that, you know, people who think they're acting in their economic interests don't act in their economic interests. So there are all these irrational or hidden biases we have. To put it very simply, what is it that Kahneman and Tversky have made us understand about this field?

LEWIS: Generally, what their work was about was showing that the mind is, though roughly well-equipped to, kind of, get us through life and the judgments we have to make, it's not wired to make probabilistic judgments. And so when it's faced with, like, probabilistic situations, it doesn't do statistics; it tells stories. And sometimes -- and those stories are skewed in predictable ways, by memory, by the way we think in stereotypes, by -- I mean, there are a whole range of things that are (inaudible) but in ways that are predictable and -- and systemic.

So if people can be systematically irrational, then markets can be systematically irrational, which is why...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Charles Fernyhough

Charles Fernyhough's new book is The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. His other books include A Box of Birds and Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.

From Fernyhough's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In The Voices Within, you write, “Talking to ourselves is a part of human experience that, although by no means universal, seems to play many different roles in our mental lives.” What are some of the roles it plays?

A: We talk to ourselves for all sorts of reasons. When we do it out loud, it’s called private speech; the silent, internal version is called inner speech.

Both versions seem to have a range of different functions. We talk to ourselves to plan what we are about to do, such as when we anticipate a difficult meeting. We use inner speech to motivate ourselves, perhaps to psych ourselves up for a tennis match or scary interview.

We can also use language to tell ourselves off and talk through how we’ll do better next time. Inner speech features in remembering, imagination, creativity, and daydreaming, and in preparing for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 12, 2016

George Lakoff

George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

From Lakoff's 2014 Truthout interview with Mark Karlin:

You write, "remember that voters vote their identity and their values, which need not coincide with their self-interest." I remember writing a commentary on a poor congressional district, let's say about 98 percent white, in Kentucky. Most of the residents were on food stamps, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid - or all of them. However, they have voted in recent elections by landslide majorities to re-elect a congressman who opposes food stamps and supports cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Can you elaborate on how this can occur?

A single moral worldview dominates conservative policies in every domain of life - family, personal identity, sex, religion, sports, education, the market, foreign policy and politics - what I’ve called strict father morality. Your moral worldview is central to how you understand your life.

In a strict father family, the father is in charge and is assumed to know right from wrong, to have moral as well as physical authority. He is supposed to protect the family, support the family, set the rules, enforce the rules, maintain respect, govern sexuality and reproduction, and teach his kids right from wrong, that is, to grow up with the same moral system. His word defines what is right and is law; no backtalk. Disobedience is punished, painfully, so that children learn not to disobey. Via physical discipline, they learn internal discipline, which is how they become moral beings. With discipline they can become prosperous.

If you are not prosperous, you are not disciplined enough, not taking enough personal responsibility and deserve your poverty. At the center is the principle of personal responsibility and moral hierarchy: those who are more moral (in this sense of morality) should rule: God over man, man over nature, parents over children, the rich over the poor, Western culture over non-Western culture, America over other countries, men over women, straights over gays, Christians over non-Christians, etc.

On conservative religion, God is a strict father; in sports, coaches are strict with their athletes; in classrooms, teachers should be strict with students; in business, employers rule over employees; in the market, the market should decide - the market itself is the strict father, deciding that those who have financial discipline deserve their wealth, and others deserve their poverty; and in politics, this moral system itself should rule.

Conservatives can be poor, but they can still be kings in their own castles - strict fathers at home, in their personal identity: in their religion, in their sex lives, in the sports they love. Poor conservatives vote their identity as conservatives, not...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Andrew Scott Cooper

Andrew Scott Cooper is the author of The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin the book with a scene from 2015 featuring Farah Pahlavi and [former Egyptian first lady] Jehan Sadat in Cairo. Why did you choose to start here?

A: I started the book at the end. What I mean is that the story of the Pahlavi family is coming full circle with the revival of interest inside Iran for the monarchy and a resurgence of sympathy for the last King, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and also for his wife, Queen Farah and their children.

Many Iranians, especially since the 2009 crackdown, and the 2011 Arab Spring convulsions, now regard the Pahlavi era as one of remarkable peace and prosperity. There is a lot of guilt expressed about the revolution and sending the family into exile after all they did to build and modernize Iran.

Q: You write, "Today Americans, if they remember the Shah at all, are likely to associate him with massive human rights violations and state-sanctioned repression." What are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about the Shah of Iran?

A: The first misconception is that the Shah was an American puppet. This thesis no longer holds water, thanks in large part to the release of U.S. government declassified documents that tell a very different story. Behind the scenes, we now know that ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jessica Treadway

Jessica Treadway's new novel is How Will I Know You?.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know, “Why this novel? Why now?” What sparked the writing?

Many years ago, I wrote two different fragments — beginnings of something — and when I rediscovered them, it occurred to me that they might work together. One was a scene based on a horrible event that happened to a family I knew — the parents and three children all went out ice skating, and the youngest, a nine-year-old girl, fell through the ice. They all rushed to help her and also fell under, and she slipped away from them, beneath the ice, and drowned. The others survived, but I was haunted by imagining what they would remember of that event, and how it would affect them. The other fragment was about a child who saw Michelangelo's Pieta at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, then was also in the Vatican on the day in 1972 when the sculpture was attacked by a man with a hammer. I wanted that character to grow up to be an artist and art teacher. In this novel, I've changed the accidental drowning to a murder near a frozen pond, and because of historical timing, I couldn't work the Pieta piece in (I'll use it somewhere else, someday!), though the murdered girl's mother is...[read on]
Visit Jessica Treadway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 9, 2016

Megan Shull

Megan Shull's newest novel for kids is Bounce. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve said that the idea for Bounce came from various inspirations, including the movie Groundhog Day and a documentary project called Where Children Sleep. How did you unite these ideas into one novel?

A: Yes! Here’s the story: I came across a stunning collection of photos by James Mollison, a documentary photographer. The exhibit, now a book, called Where Children Sleep features portraits of children around the world, and their bedrooms.

The project was conceived as a way to highlight childhood poverty and the side-by-side single snapshot comparison—that juxtaposition of poverty and privilege, is incredibly striking. So much of who we are and how we turn out to be is grounded in our story of origin and the family that we land in….

And yes, the 1993 film Groundhog Day was certainly kindling for Frannie’s journey. One of the things I love about the film is that the story is so tight that there’s not really a need to understand the “rules” behind the magic (waking up over and over and over again reliving the same day) that drives the story forward.

You end up so invested in the transformational journey that you sort of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Timothy Hallinan

Tim Hallinan’s newest mystery featuring Junior Bender is Fields Where They Lay.

From the author's Q&A with John Wilkens for The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: How do you know when something is funny?

A: I laugh. Since I don’t know it’s coming, I will frequently write a sentence and laugh out loud. I think Junior has a fundamentally comic sensibility, by which I mean he pretty much refuses to go to tragedy. Originally that was the only dichotomy, the mask for tragedy and the mask for comedy. There was no mask for normal. He goes to comedy in many instances because he’s not really comfortable with who he is. He’s has problems with being the thief. It’s cost him his wife, it’s cost him his child, but as long as he can laugh he’s OK.

Q: What’s your feeling about the state of the crime novel these days?

A: I think we’re in a golden age. Some of the stuff that’s being written is just so good. Not only that, the reach is so broad at this point, and we’ve gotten through the post-’90s hangover where everybody had to be a recovering alcoholic and living in a Dumpster. There were all these tragic P.I.s. Now I think we’re back to the idea that a crime story is the chance to ask a lot of interesting questions and to do it in a form that readers instinctively understand. And because...[read on]
Visit Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

The Page 69 Test: Breathing Water.

The Page 69 Test: Crashed.

My Book, The Movie: Crashed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Alex Beam

Alex Beam's new book is The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How would you describe their [Wilson-Nabokov] friendship?

A: It was very beautiful. It’s no accident those letters [between them] were printed twice. It’s not only beautiful, it’s erudite, very candid. It’s the friendship every writer wants, the kind of friendship you’re lucky to have—people who like you and your work but can offer honest criticism.

The sense now is that a lot of the friendship was expressed itself through letters. That assigns it a slightly different quality—it could be the 18th century. We can’t see or hear their conversation, but we can savor the letters.

Q: So was it really a disagreement over Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin that caused the friendship to end?

A: The book, which is blessedly short, in...[read on]
Visit Alex Beam's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Gracefully Insane.

The Page 69 Test: Gracefully Insane.

The Page 99 Test: Great Idea at the Time.

The Page 99 Test: American Crucifixion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hugo Drochon

Hugo Drochon is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century political thought and a postdoctoral research fellow at CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, at the University of Cambridge.

His new book is Nietzsche's Great Politics.

From Drochon's Q&A with Joe Humphreys at The Irish Times:

We tend to think of Nietzsche’s Übermensch as a perfected, almost supernatural individual. What sort of ruler did Nietzsche envisage for the ideal state?

“What is most important about the term Übermensch is the prefix: ‘über’ or ‘over’. For Nietzsche life was the perpetual overcoming of itself, and in this more precise sense the Übermensch are those who shall overcome modern mankind.

“Nietzsche’s rulers, if we can call them thus, would not themselves be strictly speaking Übermensch, but would attempt to set up a society within which the Übermensch could come into existence.”

How, in Nietzsche’s view, was democracy a product of Christianity, and does his analysis raise questions about the stability of democracy in what is arguably a post-Christian Europe?

“Democracy, on Nietzsche’s terms, is the extension of slave morality into politics, as it promotes the values of the many over the few. It transforms the metaphysics of equality before God into the metaphysics of political equality. But what if, as Nietzsche notoriously announces, ‘God is dead’? What if people no longer believe in the transcendental religion that provided a metaphysical underpinning for belief in universal political equality?

“This is not to say, as has often been understood, that Nietzsche rejects democracy as a whole. He is...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Nietzsche's Great Politics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 5, 2016

Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson is the author of Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So the basic argument of this book seems to be that fun is incredibly productive, innovative and changes the world?

JOHNSON: Yeah, and we have this tendency, when we think about what are the forces that are driving history, to assume that those forces are the desire for conquest and power or affluence or survival. And that is obviously part of the story. But it turns out that, really, a surprising amount of change in society, both technological innovation and political change, social change, comes out of this other side of our humanity, which is the desire to be delighted or amused or to be in this kind of playful state. And many things that start as toys and games end up triggering all these changes that you would never, kind of, anticipate from the start.

ZAKARIA: So some of this is even just things like wanting to have a cup of coffee?


ZAKARIA: Explain how that translates into something much bigger?

JOHNSON: So coffee comes to the European capital, particularly to London, around 1650, 1660, and tea arrives right around the same time. And this is important partially, we should say, just because it changed the diets of Europeans who had basically been drinking alcohol all day long. They would drink beer for breakfast...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Alyson Richman

Alyson Richman's new novel is The Velvet Hours. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Velvet Hours was inspired by a true story. Can you describe how much of the novel is historically based, and how you balanced the historical and the fictional as you wrote it?

A: The novel came about after I read a newspaper article about an apartment in Paris that been mysteriously shuttered for over 70 years and had once belonged to an elusive courtesan by the name of Marthe de Florian.

When the apartment was opened, it resembled a time capsule. Thick veils of dust covered sumptuous antiques and gilded mirrors. Most striking of all was a magnificent portrait by the 19th century Italian painter Giovanni Boldini of Madame de Florian that hung over the marble fireplace. Adding to the allure, love letters, written by the artist, were found in Marthe’s vanity.

No one knows why Marthe de Florian’s granddaughter, Solange Beaugiron closed the apartment during World War II, but as a historical novelist I knew I had plenty of rich material to create a novel.

Factually, we know the apartment was located in the ninth arrondisement of Paris on La Square Bruyere, but other than that, the information is rather scarce.

What we do know is that “Marthe de Florian” was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sarah Domet

Sarah Domet is the author of The Guineveres.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

Your premise, four girls all with the same name, abandoned at the same time, is genius. So what was haunting you in your life when you thought about this? Was there a question that you were wrestling with?

At the time I wrote The Guineveres, I was thinking about how much the stories of young women matter, but also how frequently our culture downplays their experiences, often as a way to elevate "more important"--or what I see as "more public"--stories. At the same time I was writing this novel, I was also reading Lives of the Saints, which only confirmed my suspicions. While stories of the male saints often described the valiant public deeds of these men, stories of female saints quite frequently highlighted the ways these women were left to privately suffer in their bodies. For female saints, their bodies became their best tools and weapons of faith, and so we see them refusing sex and marriage, marring their beauty with lye, starving themselves, sleeping on beds of stone and glass, and otherwise inflicting bodily pain. I was interested in exploring female embodiment as both limitation and possibility, and where better to investigate these questions than in girls on the cusp of womanhood?

I began writing The Guineveres shortly after I had taken a job that landed me in a town far away from family and friends. The novel seemed to spring, too, out of this personal experience of alienation and loneliness. As...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 2, 2016

Jonathan W. Stokes

Jonathan W. Stokes's new novel for kids is Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your main character, Addison Cooke?

A: Addison Cooke is basically who I wish I was as a 12 year old! Addison is much more clever than I ever was, and probably ever will be. He is also far braver than I am, and better at coming up with a witty quip under pressure.

I suppose there is a sort of wish-fulfillment in writing dialog for him. I may not be able to sweet talk my way into the first class cabin of an international flight, but I can have Addison do it.

Q: The book focuses on an adventure involving Incan treasure. What kind of research did you need to do and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: The book was pretty thoroughly researched, particularly in the copyedit where everything was fact-checked. I think I most enjoyed learning about the actual history of the lost treasure of the Incas.

The true story is pretty incredible. Francisco Pizarro could have become one of the richest people in the world, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lisa Napoli

A journalist for over thirty years, Lisa Napoli was among the pioneering team of reporters at the New York Times who covered the early days of the dot-com era.

Her new book is Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.

From Napoli's interview with NPR's Scott Simon:
SIMON: He put the hamburger on the assembly line. What was the great idea that Ray Kroc had that made what we now know as McDonald's possible?

NAPOLI: Well, actually, it was two brothers in the desert of California who had the idea of expediting the preparation of hamburgers and milkshakes and french fries. So Ray took this idea. He loved the idea of fast food, and he wanted to propagate the McDonald's all across America. And so the brothers who developed the formula didn't really care to go through the hassle of franchising it. So Ray decided that he would sell franchises all across the country. He convinced them to let him do that.

SIMON: Take us back, please, to that first moment in which Ray and Joan met and sparks flew but, inconveniently, they were married to other people.

NAPOLI: Yeah. That's a problem, isn't it? Ray was trouncing around the Midwest selling franchises. And he walked into the Criterion Restaurant in St. Paul, which was a very elegant place. And in the center of the restaurant was a beautiful, blond woman - 26 years younger - and she was playing the organ. She was hired to entertain the diners. And Ray walked in hoping to sell a franchise to the owner of the restaurant and instead was sidetracked by this beautiful woman. He was a pianist himself, so...[read on]
Visit Lisa Napoli's website.

Writers Read: Lisa Napoli.

The Page 99 Test: Ray & Joan.

--Marshal Zeringue