Friday, May 25, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Chicago Review of Books Q&A with Greer Macallister:

Greer Macallister: The Hunger is billed as a reimagining of the Donner Party “with a supernatural turn.” Why a horror twist on this famous historical tragedy?

Alma Katsu: I can understand why anyone would think that what happened to the Donner Party was bad enough; does it need any embellishment? But as a storyteller, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

The Donner Party holds a special place in the American imagination. Here are the facts: In the late summer of 1846, the Donner wagon train headed down a little-known route in the hope that it would cut hundreds of miles off the trek to California. Instead, it took them through a hellishly impassable landscape that put them weeks behind schedule. Just as they arrived at the last mountain pass standing between them and their destination, the worst storm of the century descended. Out of food and already pushed to the point of starvation, they had only one choice if they wanted to survive.

With that alone, you have the makings of a great tale. Add to it the stories of the men and women in the wagon party: why did they decide to pull up roots, leave family and friends behind and make an incredibly long, hard journey through the wilderness? Some were looking for a new start or better opportunities, yes, but some were running away from trouble, debt, or disgrace.

Now you have an even better story.

It wasn’t until I started the research that I realized...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tyler Wetherall

Tyler Wetherall's new book is No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you’ve been working on this book for many years, and that it took different forms. What initially made you want to write about your family, and how did you decide on a memoir in the end?

A: My dad wanted to find a ghostwriter to write his story. I was working as a magazine journalist in London, and I didn’t want anyone else to write our story. All those years he was in prison, he was writing a manuscript, and he would send me chapters to read…

He was keen as well, and I quit my job in London and moved to Los Angeles. I interviewed him every day. It was a special time for us both. I was only 24 then, and thought I could write this in a year. Then you realize you don’t know how to write a book.

I realized that telling his story almost made me feel angry at him again, and that we’ve heard the story of the male kingpin whose wife and children [were sidelined]. I wanted to tell [that less-told aspect of] the story.

I was trying to recreate scenes from the 1970s and I didn’t have the experience [to do that]. I started writing what...[read on]
Visit Tyler Wetherall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson is the author of Negroland: A Memoir, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, (for autobiography) and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize, and On Michael Jackson.

From her Guardian Q&A with Arifa Akbar:

You write that Michael Jackson, since his death, has been rehabilitated into the music canon – that “he got it all back with his art” after his death. Do you think we can separate his music, wonderful as it was, from the allegations that dogged him?

No, we can’t. But his death allowed the canon simultaneously to reacknowledge the greatness of his art and to look at him as a damaged, harmed, and harming person. I have to live with, and keep analysing, this contradiction. In deciding I love Michael Jackson I take it all in – his music, the crimes he may have committed, his inner turmoil. I need the pleasure and the complications he gives me. As F Scott Fitzgerald said: “The test of a truly first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Jackson the child star was thrown into an adult world and abused by his father but you also call him a pioneer. Can he be both victim and pioneer?

I’ve long been interested in child stars. It’s a fascination that goes back to watching Shirley Temple, but in his case, a gifted child star becomes an equally gifted adult, and a ground-breaking figure. Was he a victim? He was conscripted by a domineering father into very tough, demanding work. There are accounts of the hours of rehearsing he did and the travelling. But he was also pioneering. The black child in American culture tended to be seen as someone too young to be dangerous yet. He was the male version of Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the hired “piccaninny”. What he managed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Margaret Bradham Thornton

Margaret Bradham Thornton's new novel is A Theory of Love. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Theory of Love, and for your characters Helen and Christopher?

A: If I try to distill that question, I would say the idea of my novel came from a seagull and a circus performer. One day I was walking along the beach and I saw a seagull in the dunes and it was clear it was in distress and was dying. And there was nothing I could do, and I knew to go near it would only cause further distress.

And as I walked away I thought about how many animals spend most of their lives alone and most die alone and it made me wonder about the human condition: what is it that makes us want to be with another person.

About the time that I was thinking about this question I traveled to Cuba. I was so amazed by the grandeur of Havana that I wanted to read about its history so when I returned I contacted an antiquarian bookseller to see what might exist about this period and I got sidetracked by one of their books.

It was the memoir of a circus performer who had joined the circus as an orphan when he was seven and traveled extensively in Cuba in the 1830s and ‘50s.

Instead of finding a colorful description of Cuba and other places he had traveled, I found...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 21, 2018

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan's latest book is How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science Of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, And Transcendence. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Michael Pollan. You probably know him from his books about food, like "The Omnivore's Dilemma," and "The Botany Of Desire," which is also about how plants can influence the mind. And his new book takes that a step further. It's a history of psychedelic drugs, including how they're being used today in research settings. And the book is called, "How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science Of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, And Transcendence."

So I want to ask you how all of this has affected your food life.

POLLAN: (Laughter).

GROSS: Seriously. 'Cause you've written about eating plants, you've written about eating animals. Are you eating any differently than you were before using psychedelics? Because you also talk about feeling that the plants in your garden have a spirit. I don't know how that translates to eating them.

POLLAN: (Laughter). Well, one of the really interesting things that happens to some people on psychedelics is that their sense of nature changes. And nature becomes more alive. They're almost animistic. And so I've always had this sense that plants have their own point of view or subjectivity, and that we're not the only perceiving subject on the planet and that's our arrogance to think so. And that was for me an intellectual conceit, but it became real on this psilocybin trip I had, a different psilocybin trip, where I was outdoors for most of it. And I had a sense of that there were spirits in all the plants, and that they were looking back at me in some sense.

I know how wacky that sounds. But they were benign. I was in my garden, and I felt part of it. I felt like another creature among other creatures - you know, that there were many spirits here and I was one of them, and they were others and they were communicating to me. But I still eat them. (Laughter). I mean, you have to eat plants, you know? You can give up on animals. And I've never thought plants...

GROSS: Have you given up on animals?

POLLAN: Almost. I'm a kind of a very reluctant carnivore. I...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rebekah Frumkin

Rebekah Frumkin's new novel is The Comedown. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Comedown, and for the two families you write about?

A: I came up with the idea for something that would become this book when I was 21 and feeling sort of hungover after a night spent in what we'll call "high spirits."

I was sitting on my bed in my dorm room and reading over a scene I'd written about a type-A project manager at a hedge fund who puts on his high-tech performance wear and goes for a run.

How hilarious would it be, I thought, if this guy were my brother? He'd be so angry about my collegiate debauchery. That project manager became Leland Jr. and the college-aged recipient of his animus Lee. That was the origin of the Bloom-Mittwoch family.

The Marshall family came when Reggie, cornered into selling coke, emerged as more than a foil to Leland Sr.'s madness. Natasha had always been around as the arch academic and would-be widow of Reggie, so it only made sense that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Alex Segura

Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery novels, all via Polis Books.

Segura's new novel is Blackout.

From the author's Q&A with A. J. Frost at The Beat:

AJ FROST: Hi Alex! So nice to chat with you. Your new mystery novel, Blackout, I would argue, is your most ambitious yet. There are more dips and dabs between time periods and emotions. Where did the story and emotional tone for this new book come from?

ALEX SEGURA: Hi AJ! Well, first off, thanks for saying that. It means a lot. The story was a byproduct of the stuff I was reading—partially for “research” but mostly because I was interested in the topics. Stuff like cults, politics, Miami cold cases, and so on. Once I was through some of that, the kernel of the plot or mystery cropped up, and it dovetailed nicely with the emotional arc I wanted to give our detective, Pete Fernandez. I knew I wanted this to be a turning point for him, a chance to look back on his past and come to terms with it, so he could finally start living, as opposed to just wallowing in this “middle” state, feeling bad about his past mistakes and not feeling like he deserved to be part of the world.

FROST: This is our fourth go-around with Pete and, while he’s gotten better, he still travels around with a multitude of inner demons. As a writer—let alone a writer of hard-boiled crime yarns—what’s the most alluring and most demanding aspect of creating a flawed hero like Pete?

SEGURA: I think it is grist for the mill. I’m not interested in writing about the iconic hero, the perfect man or woman. Complex, flawed characters interest me as a reader; those are the books I gravitate toward. I’m keen to show Pete’s progression from passed out drunk when we meet him in my first novel, SILENT CITY, to now. And the journey isn’t over. In BLACKOUT, Pete’s better: he doesn’t drink and he’s working as private investigator. But he’s still...[read on]
Visit Alex Segura's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blackout.

Writers Read: Alex Segura.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2018

Anshel Pfeffer

Anshel Pfeffer, a senior correspondent and columnist for Haaretz, is the author of the new book Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

What do you think [Netanyahu']s long-term plan is for the region, both in regard to the Palestinians and the Iranians? Is it anything other than the status quo, which looks to many liberals in America like a deteriorating one?

Netanyahu would disagree with the word deterioration. He sees the situation as Israel’s standing in the region improving. He sees its military advantage over its neighbors increasing, and it has increased partly because Israel is continuing to improve its military technology and partly because the countries around Israel have been consumed by chaos. So there is no real military rival to Israel in the immediately surrounding Middle East, not including Iran. And its economy is growing at a record pace, and the prosperity of Israelis has increased. So he is not seeing a deterioration. And at the same time, he is seeing the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two main Arab nations, getting closer to Israel over their joint enmity and rivalry with Iran, and the fact that the Saudis and Egyptians are much more prepared to openly disregard the Palestinian issue. So as far as he is concerned, the status quo is improving, and all us liberals and leftists who have been saying for 51 years that the occupation was unsustainable are being proved wrong because it is eminently sustainable. He doesn’t address the situation of Palestinian rights or the issue of what it is doing to Israeli society and democracy being a nation that holds another nation in subjugation. Those matters don’t really concern him.

Occasionally he has to deal with something that happens in Gaza, but he believes they are passing episodes where the world will be angry for a few days and then go on to other things.

His long-term plan is to get peace through deterrence, not a peace through compromise, and he believes the Palestinians will...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ava Dellaira

Ava Dellaira's latest young adult novel is In Search of Us. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for In Search of Us, and for your characters Angie and Marilyn?

A: The initial idea to write a story that goes back and forth between a mom and a daughter when they are each 17 popped into my head while I was sitting in LA traffic (which seems to be serving me well as an author so far!).

I think in part the concept came out of my connection to my own mom, and my longing to know things about her that I would never be able to ask (she had died several years before), as well an interest in exploring the ways in which echoes of the past reach into the present.

A few weeks later, I happened to stumble on a BBC article on someone’s Twitter feed called “Do the Dead Outnumber the Living,” about population growth and the number of people living on earth now, versus the number of people who have ever lived.

Just after the reading the article, while I was taking a walk on the beach, I began to hear...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Michael Sfard

Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer, is the author of The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights.

From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Do you think this Israeli government is particularly dismissive of human rights concerns compared to its predecessors?

There is no question about it, yes. The current Israeli government, given the uncritical backing of the American administration, feels that it can do anything. The prime minister can oversee the killing of [58] people and still call it a good day for peace, as he did at the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem. The current government is the most right-wing, nationalistic government Israel has ever had in 70 years of its existence. Some of its coalition members hold views, a worldview that I would even call racist and definitely undemocratic and illiberal, and I don’t think there has been any other government in the past that was as dismissive of the human rights of Palestinians and of dissenting voices in Israeli society as this government.

In this government, the process of peeling off democratic principles has accelerated to the degree that it is difficult to say today that Israel is an open and democratic society.

Such as? What principles?

Such as official incitement, governmental incitement against individuals and NGOs who are critical of governmental policy; legislation that is meant to curb political freedom of speech and impose sanctions on political rivals; the attempt to shut down the ability of dissenting elements to find funding; and most viciously, the incitement against the Arab minority in Israel, which was not something done by some peripheral member of Parliament, but by the prime minister himself and the minister of defense, who are both engaging in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Elissa Brent Weissman

Elissa Brent Weissman's new middle grade novel for kids is The Length of a String.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Length of a String and for your character Imani?

A: The inspiration for The Length of a String came from three different places.

Growing up, one of my closest friends had been adopted from Mexico. She and her sister, who was adopted from within the U.S., were raised Jewish, like me. Thinking about their experience—especially what it might be like to look different from everyone else at Hebrew school—gave me the idea for Imani.

The second idea came from an episode of “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR in which many people were calling in and sharing their stories about being children of Holocaust survivors.

One caller said that her grandparents had saved up money to send their children to America, but they could only afford to send two. When they got to the boat, the smuggler said, “Sorry, price just doubled.” Now they could only afford to send one.

I heard that and immediately began thinking about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2018

Michael McFaul

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul is currently a professor of political science at Stanford University, the director of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His new book is From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

From McFaul's Q&A with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: So let's talk about what that ended up looking like [when you arrived in Moscow in 2012 as the U.S. ambassador] because you are almost immediately painted as someone trying to unseat the current political system and to bring some kind of American-style democracy to Russia. Explain what kind of pressure you and your family were under.

MCFAUL: Yeah, it was unpleasant. I don't want to sugarcoat it in any way. I loved being ambassador for so many different reasons. It was the honor of a lifetime, but Putin had a story he wanted to tell the Russians - that we were out to get them, that we were giving money to the opposition and that we were the enemy. And that was a way to mobilize his electoral base. Remember, he's running for president in the spring of 2012. And I, therefore, became a poster child of some of these attacks on the opposition. The night that a video went viral accusing me of being a pedophile - that was probably a low point in my time as ambassador. And to this day - if you Google my name and pedophile on a Russian search engine - Yandex - 4 million hits still come up. And I tell you that story because it's a story about disinformation, right? It's a story about distortion and using technology to frame debates in different ways. And I've got to say, honestly, we struggled with how to respond with it. We did not have a game plan for how to combat those kinds of very personal, horrible, ugly stories.

MARTIN: So setting aside the smear campaign against you, which I understand was a difficult thing to live through, but the substance of the critique that you were there as a representative of the American government which would prefer there to be some kind of democratic government in Russia - I mean, that's not crazy...


MARTIN: ...For Putin and Russian officials to think that you would prefer that, especially in light...


MARTIN: ...Of your activism in your younger years.

MCFAUL: I think that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Joan DeJean

Joan DeJean's new book is The Queen's Embroiderer: A True Story of Paris, Lovers, Swindlers, and the First Stock Market Crisis. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you learn about the story of the Magoulet and Chevrot families, and at what point did you decide you’d write a book about them?

A: I began one day—I was doing something that I thought would be a tiny project on the first luxury shops in Paris. I went to the archives—I imagined it would be an afternoon.

Instead, I found two documents. The first was [Jean Magoulet’s] appointment as Royal Embroiderer, and then the second was a woman’s name, with the same last name. The woman with the same last name was shipped to Louisiana in 1719. That meant she was declared undesirable.

I found a police file on the young women’s address and deportation, so the outline of the story was there. It was incredible that the daughter of such a high-ranking person would end up like this. I knew [the story] would be wonderful, but it seemed so hard. I walked away.

The next time I showed up at the front desk [of the archives, a woman who worked there] said, What are you doing? I said, I’m leaving it. She said, You can’t!

I knew how hard it would be. But...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: How Paris Became Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Rumaan Alam

Rumaan Alam's new novel is That Kind of Mother.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST: Rumaan Alam writes women well. His first acclaimed novel, "Rich And Pretty," followed two young women, best friends who grow up and then part. His new second novel, "That Kind Of Mother," begins as another story about a female relationship - this one between Rebecca, a white poet and first-time mom, and Priscilla, a black woman who works as her nanny.

RUMAAN ALAM: I think it is an inherently complex relationship and one that is not often discussed. I am somebody who has two children of my own. And my husband and I have had three different child care providers. And they were our employees, but we relied on them with the only thing that matters in our lives, which is our children. And so the level of trust and intimacy that is an important part of that relationship elevates it from a traditional understanding of what it is to have an employee or what it is to have an employer, I think.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So these two characters - their relationship is actually transformed when, suddenly, the families truly become a family. Rebecca adopts Priscilla's child. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because, obviously, there is not only the issue of their relationship, but there is a race issue and a class issue here, too.

ALAM: Absolutely. I think that the way that we talk about complicated political issues now is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2018

Michael Zadoorian

Michael Zadoorian's new novel is Beautiful Music. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Beautiful Music, and for your main character, Danny?

A: Like most of what I write about, it’s something that I’d been thinking about for a long time. I wanted to write about music.

In some ways, I wanted to write my own version of the film Almost Famous. I love that film and I definitely was a product of that same era. I certainly didn’t want to copy the film, but I was interested by the idea of a coming-of-age story through music. Of course, I wanted it to take place in Detroit, where no one is famous. (Except maybe Iggy.)

I just started writing everything I could remember about being a teenager, about starting high school, all the fears and anxieties I had, the problems, the other kids, what I was interested in then, the music I listened to, how my body was changing.

I also thought about what was taking place in Detroit after the violent summer of 1967, the things that were happening in my neighborhood, in my high school, all of it. I just wrote page after page of notes.

Slowly, a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes has spent his career working at the intersection of politics and technology. He was a co-founder of Facebook, a digital architect for President Obama’s campaign, and the publisher of the digital and print magazine The New Republic. His new book is Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn.

From the transcript of Hughes's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So you start the book by talking about how you grew up, which is very different circumstances than you're in now. What was it like?

HUGHES: So I grew up in a little town called Hickory, North Carolina. It's in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. And my mom was a public schoolteacher. My dad was a traveling paper salesman. And we grew up pretty much as middle class as they come. We went to church almost every Sunday and weekends were spent doing housework. My parents worked hard to make ends meet.

I got a scholarship to go to a fancy boarding school and then later on to Harvard and, while there, roomed with Mark Zuckerberg. And the Facebook story took off. The rocket-ship rise has been well- documented. And my life dramatically changed. I went from being part of the middle class to very much being part of the 1 percent. Specifically, in the book, I talk about how I made nearly half a billion dollars for three years' worth of work. And the fact that there's nothing else to call that but what it is, a lucky break.

And in the years after that, I started to think, well, my story is extreme. It's -- you know, not everybody is the roommate of Mark Zuckerberg, et cetera. And I realized, over time, though, that, while my case might be extreme, it's not that uncommon. A small group of people in our economy is getting incredibly wealthy at the same time as everybody else is working just as hard as they have historically and can't make ends meet.

And I think a guaranteed income of $500 a month for working Americans making less than 50 grand is actually the most powerful thing that we can do to not just combat inequality but also restore the American dream.

ZAKARIA: So the argument against the kind of proposal you're putting forward is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Andrew Kirtzman

Andrew Kirtzman is the author of Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City (2000). From his interview with Slate's Issac Chotiner:

What was Giuliani’s relationship with Trump like when he was mayor?

A lot of us New York reporters have been talking to each other about when this all began. None of us could recall any moment when the two of them were particularly close during his time as mayor. The most high-profile collaboration was the video of Giuliani in drag going shopping with Donald Trump, and it was obvious from that that they were pretty simpatico. But I don’t recall them being close. Giuliani’s friends at the time tended to be the people who were close to him politically. It is a very small crew wherever he has gone, and Trump was not it.

I am not asking you to diagnose him, just to be clear. But when you watch him on television now, versus 15 years ago, how do you think he seems?

The brilliant thing about Giuliani from the time he was prosecutor through Sept. 11 was this very lawyerly, factual way of communicating. Even when he was attacking someone, he was extremely persuasive. And that persuasive quality really disappeared at the Republican convention for Trump. It was just a horrible, horrible spectacle. I can’t get into his head as to what happened, but it is depressing. I was with Giuliani on Sept. 11 and experienced that morning with him. I was overwhelmed by his leadership and his calm and his methodical approach to putting things back together, and the inspiring way that he calmed the city and lifted our spirits. It’s always been kind of fashionable in certain liberal circles to hate Giuliani, but I was never on that bandwagon. At all. I have seen him display greatness, and that is why it is so sad to see what...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Paul Goldberg

Paul Goldberg's new novel is The Ch√Ęteau. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In his review in Tablet, Alexander Aciman writes, “The sign of a great literary noir is one that cannot decide whether it is about crime or about an existential crisis. This is the story of Paul Goldberg’s novel The Chateau…” What do you think of that description?

A: It was so on target. That’s exactly where I was going with this. My character is going through an existential crisis, and also the country is going through a political crisis. Every crisis you can imagine is taking place outside in the streets, and this character is trying to deal with this. [It takes place] during the week prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump, and everything is going to be a crisis.

[The main character, Bill,] lost his job. That’s my fear—how can I be [in that situation]? Some people find a next act, but it’s an existential crisis to do that. It’s not a job, it’s a “you.” Here’s a guy who loses his identity. I love my job. I decided to make the character something I’m not, if I were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 7, 2018

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright's latest book is God Save Texas: A Journey Into The Soul Of The Lone Star State. From his Slate interview with Isaac Chotiner:

What are your biggest fears about Texas, and are they distinct from your fears about the future of the country?

They are very much tied up. Ten percent of all the schoolchildren in America right now are Texans. We’re really failing in the education of our future workers in the state, and it has national repercussions. Texas is going to double in population by 2050, but the infrastructure of the state is already challenged. There’s been very little planning to accommodate that massive influx of population. Both Dallas and Houston are expected to have populations of 10 million people in just 12 years, and yet the cities are really, really struggling with the infrastructure. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the state has done so little to provide the kind of infrastructure that Texas really...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Alexandra Monir

Alexandra Monir's new YA novel is The Final Six.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You’ve said that your character Naomi from The Final Six is your favorite of all the characters you’ve created. What do you especially like about her, and how did you come up with her and your character Leo?

A: Yes, Naomi is totally my favorite! And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that she is the first protagonist I’ve written who shares my Iranian-American heritage. We both come from immigrant families, and so much of who we are was shaped by this beautiful culture we share, so that made her feel closer to me than all my other characters. I also love how brilliant and brave Naomi is—she’s not just a brainy science whiz, she’s also quite the rule-breaker!

Meanwhile, Leo is actually the character who came to me first. As soon as the idea for The Final Six flew into my brain, I envisioned an Italian boy who was one of the last survivors of a flooded Rome. I could hear his voice speaking to me, and...[read on]
Visit Alexandra Monir's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is CNN’s chief Washington correspondent and the New York Times bestselling author of The Outpost. His debut political thriller is The Hellfire Club.

From the transcript of Tapper's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA:...The novel is set in early 1950s Washington at the height of McCarthyism. People often say that novels are in some way autobiographical, that you write about what you know. So in what sense is this, you know, about what you know?

TAPPER: That's a great question. I think that it is an expression of concerns I have about Washington. The hero is a young Republican congressman, the Eisenhower era. He's a World War II hero and an academic who's, kind of, thrust into this world and he and his wife experience a conspiracy. But one of the themes of the book is the compromises that the main character, Charlie Marder, makes, along the way. He comes to Washington to do good. He wants to be a good congressman. He wants to protect people. And little by little, bits of his soul are eroded by the system.

And that's something that I've seen happen. A lot of people come to Washington to do good things. And they find themselves immersed in the swamp, bit by bit, and next thing you know, they're in over their head and they lose themselves.

ZAKARIA: And what do you think is the system that makes all this -- you know, all this -- all these good people turn bad?

Is it partly pandering to special interests? Is it pandering to voters? You know, how do you see -- what is the perverse incentive that makes people make all these compromises?

TAPPER: I think the first one is money. Money really runs Washington. People's self-preservation is about getting campaign contributions and about big donations. So that's one. And two, a lot of people go down to Washington to do good and then they ultimately end up getting trapped in the system, and there are all of a sudden all these favors that they're getting and all of a sudden they're living a lifestyle that they're not used to. And then preserving that, holding on to that power, becomes more important than why they were sent there.

ZAKARIA: Now, you -- you used the title, "The Hellfire Club," comes from a British...

TAPPER: Well, you know this.

ZAKARIA: ... 200-year-old society.


ZAKARIA: What I'm struck by is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 4, 2018

Terri Libenson

Terri Libenson's new book is Positively Izzy.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this spinoff of Invisible Emmie, featuring Emmie's friend Brianna?

A: I thought that Emmie’s story was done, for now. Not that I wouldn’t write for Emmie again, but I wanted to rotate characters and focus on someone else, just to keep things fresh. I enjoy having this setting where I can switch it up and peek into different people’s lives.

Q: How did you come up with the character Izzy?

A: As with Emmie, I wanted to present two characters that were different in nature, yet had more in common than you’d think. Izzy seemed to be that: a daydreamer and entertainer -- as opposed to Bri, who is...[read on]
Visit Terri Libenson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yunte Huang

Yunte Huang's new book is Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Yunte Huang, welcome to FRESH AIR. Describe for us how Chang and Eng were physically joined.

YUNTE HUANG: Well, there was a band of flesh, which was about 4 inches long, that tied them at the bases of their chests. So it's the - where the livers are. And so it was, you know - it was 4 inches long, but over the years, you know, through wear and tear, it was stretched to about 5 1/2 inches in length.

GROSS: So they were called Siamese twins because they were from Siam, which is now Thailand.

HUANG: Right.

GROSS: But they were part of the Chinese community in Siam. They were 17 when they were taken to America. Who took them, and why?

HUANG: Well, they were born of a Chinese father and a Siamese and Chinese mother. To their neighbors in Thailand at the time, they were actually called Chinese twins, not Siamese twins. So Siamese twins was a more kind of American brand when they came to the United States. So they were growing up in Siam in this kind of fishing village. And one day, they were swimming in the river in the canal, and they were discovered by this traveling Scottish businessman by the name of Robert Hunter. And he thought he saw something kind of mysterious, kind of creature literally walking out of Greek mythology, almost. And when he got closer, he realized it was actually two boys joined together. And so he immediately realized it was a business opportunity. And so he tried to talk to the boys, but also to the mother - and trying to convince them that he would take them back to England or United States, you know, for a touring exhibition.

But the Siamese king, actually, did not approve. Everything in the kingdom at the time belonged to the king. A few years later, Robert Hunter...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Melissa Ostrom

Melissa Ostrom's new young adult historical novel is The Beloved Wild.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Beloved Wild, and for your character Harriet?

A: The history of the Genesee Valley has interested me ever since I moved to Orleans County 20 years ago to teach English at Kendall High School.

This area holds special historical significance in terms of our country’s first wave of westward expansion: in the early 1800s, many young men left the comforts of their New England homes and, after purchasing their parcels from the Holland Land Company, settled here.

The region (sometimes called Lake Ontario fruit country) still fosters prosperous farms. Between the sweeping lake, orchards, quaint cobblestone houses, and Erie Canal, it’s quite lovely. Genesee comes from the Seneca word for “beautiful valley.” An apt name, indeed.

But though the area’s history has long intrigued me, an idea for a novel didn’t begin to take shape until one day when I was trudging around an old cemetery, searching for a patch of trilliums that I remembered spying the previous spring.

I came upon a family plot that gave me pause. If I was interpreting the names and dates on the antique headstones correctly, they suggested that one man must have had three consecutive wives. The nearby infant burials provided some explanation.

I wondered what it must have been like for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ronen Bergman

Ronen Bergman is the author of Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: The big question I suppose everybody has is, did Israel need to have this kind of a lethal policy, targeted assassinations, to survive? Was this a crucial part of what Israel needed to do, or could it have done without it?

BERGMAN: Well, it's very hard to play counter-factual history, "what if." But I can tell you that Israel, from day one, had to use force. Even putting aside the trauma of the Holocaust, every decade they had one, at least one enemy, and a very important one, who calls for Israel's destruction -- Nasser of Egypt, the PLO, Yasser Arafat, who wrote in the "Palestinian Covenant" that all the Jews that came to Israel after 1917, meaning all of them, and their descendants should be expelled; Saddam Hussein, who threatened to burn half of Israel (inaudible) these countries and organizations took steps to annihilate Israel.

David Ben-Gurion, the most important Jew in the last 1,000 years, thought that Israel could not sustain long wars, so instead he established this very strong intelligence community that could bring an alert for preemptive attack, but not just that, that could launch, pinpoint, focused operation, way beyond enemy lines, destroy an installation, plant a virus in one of their computers, or kill an individual in order to prolong the time or even prevent the next war.

ZAKARIA: What about Arafat? What are the -- what are the most interesting stories about the Israeli war against the PLO?

BERGMAN: So, you know, Arafat was by far the -- the target for numerous attempts on his life. Some of them in retrospect look a little bit funny. One Israeli psychiatrist, military psychiatrist, said, "I looked -- I had watched the movie "The Manchurian Candidate." I could do the same. Bring me an Arab PLO prisoner and I will do to him -- I will hypnotize him and I will send him Jason-Bourne-style to kill Yasser Arafat." And they give him an installation with pictures of Arafat popping from the table so he would shoot it. He was fully hypnotized.

On a stormy night in September 1968, they helped him to cross the Jordanian river. The psychiatrist said, "He is fully hypnotized; he has the code word; he is going to kill Arafat," he was sure. The guy (inaudible) sent a message of a gun.

Only a few hours later Israeli intelligence learned that he went straight to one of the police stations in Jordan and said, "The stupid Jews thought they hypnotized me. I am loyal to Arafat. Here is the gun; here is the radio. I want to come and swear allegiance to Yasser Arafat."

But not all of them were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 30, 2018

Susan Goldman Rubin

Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many biographies for young people, including Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People and Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli.

Goldman Rubin's new book is Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress.

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

Q: Why did you decide to write about Coco Chanel?

A: I was asked to do the book. I had done a book, Hot Pink:The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli, and in doing the research, it was exciting to find out about people I never knew about before.

In the case of Schiaparelli, she was the designer who introduced hot pink to the fashion world in the 1920s. I was doing a program in San Francisco on Elsa Schiaparelli, and hot pink was the color of the year!

In the course of my research I found and wrote that she and Chanel were rivals. Elsa Schiaparelli was a single mother and adored her daughter at a time when it was rare that a woman would be abandoned and make a career for herself and take very good care of her daughter. It made her less nasty.

I wrote a little about it, and to my surprise they were both designing at the same time in Paris and would make very snippy remarks. When I read about it, I thought, kids will get this. My editor said, Would you want to do a book on Coco Chanel?

I leaped at the chance. I didn’t know much about her. My 12 ½ year old granddaughter knew about Chanel. I thought, Kids know this name. Then, the minute I started, I was wowed by her story.

I begin by...[read on]
Visit Susan Goldman Rubin's website.

Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin.

The Page 99 Test: Coco Chanel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lucy Cooke

Lucy Cooke is the author of The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Now we're going to get to the nitty-gritty. I want to talk about penguin sex.


COOKE: Be warned. Be warned, listeners. Yeah. Well, I mean, penguins are one of those creatures that have been totally misunderstood. We always think of them as being great parents, monogamous...


COOKE: ...Fantastically faithful. The movie "March Of The Penguins" has much to blame, actually, because the thing about penguins is these are birds with tiny brains. They live in a very harsh environment. It's brutal living in the Antarctic. And so they are flooded with hormones that make them basically have sex with anything that moves and quite a few things that don't move, like dead penguins, for instance. So, you know, they...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. I didn't see that in the "March of the Penguins" or in the many other penguin movies I've seen. Why is it? That seems so strange to me.

COOKE: Yeah, they left out the pathologically unpleasant necrophiliacs from the lineup. So the males are basically...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Robert Parker

Robert Parker's new novel is Crook's Hollow. From his CrimeReads Q&A with novelist Steph Post:

Steph Post: Besides being a crime writer and a fan of crime fiction, you’re a fan of Grit Lit writers such as David Joy and, I’m flattered to say, myself. The niche market that Joy and I, Brian Panowich and Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin and others find ourselves in is sometimes small and so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to find a reader in Manchester, England, who truly understood and appreciated the genre. How did you come to find yourself as a reader of American Grit Lit and what about the genre do you find so appealing?

Robert Parker: It’s true that I am indeed a “fan from afar” so to speak, and it’s great to have a chat with someone whose work inspires you. While it’s very kind of you to say that I’ve “got” the genre of Grit Lit, I’m not sure, as a British guy living in England, that I can fully appreciate the finer nuances. What I can say for sure is that my enjoyment and connection with the genre is solid, and I’m constantly finding myself burrowing further into it and finding great reads all the time.

For work, I end up reading lots of UK-set thrillers and detective stories, to keep on top of what the contemporary British crime scene is doing. For fun, I read absolutely all sorts of different stuff, right through from horror, noir, crime, suspense, Grit Lit and so on, but nothing has really grabbed me like the authors you mentioned.

Post: Why do you think that is?

Parker: I think what happened was I started reading some...[read on]
Visit Robert Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 27, 2018

Amy E. Wallen

Amy E. Wallen is associate director at the New York State Writers Institute and teaches creative writing at the University of California, San Diego Extension. Her first novel, Moon Pies and Movie Stars, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Wallen's new book is When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You begin your memoir with a memory from your childhood in Peru. Why did you choose to start there?

A: I never expected to write a memoir, had no intention of writing one. In fact, over and over I swore I was a novel writer only. But I started to write a personal essay about the time my family dug up a grave.

When I discovered that my memory of who was graveside with me, that my brother who so vividly stood out in my memory was missing from the reality, a journey to explore ALL my memories of those years living overseas became insistent.

The discovery of what really happened throughout my childhood became the nagging resource for all the scenes in the memoir. After I realized I had a book-length work and not a short essay I tried out all sorts of structures for how to tell the bigger story.

The metaphor of digging up my family’s history was too great to...[read on]
Visit Amy Wallen's website.

The Page 99 Test: When We Were Ghouls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jamey Bradbury

Jamey Bradbury's new novel is The Wild Inside.

From her Q&A with Elise Cooper for Crimespree magazine:

Elise Cooper: What genre would you put this book in?

Jamey Bradbury: A literary horror novel. I think it is hard to pin down because there is definitely a paranormal element.

EC: How did you come up with this story?

JB: At first, it was just a picture in my head of a family house in Alaska. It was inspired by a 1961 horror novel by Theodore Sturgeon, SOME OF YOUR BLOOD. The narrators are a Colonel, a military psychiatrist, and a patient who writes a journal of his thoughts. My protagonist, Tracy, also got her say in the form of her own journal, which she wrote at the encouragement of a school guidance counselor. This is how Tracy was born.

EC: Do you live in Alaska?

JB: I was an...[read on]
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wild Inside.

My Book, The Movie: The Wild Inside.

Writers Read: Jamey Bradbury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kathleen Belew

Kathleen Belew's new book is Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You say that the fact that we see the Oklahoma City bombing through this lens as an individual actor, and we don't see it as part of the white power movement and its capacity for violence - you say that that's remarkable. What is the problem with that?

BELEW: I think the main thing is that what seems new and alarming in our current moment is not new. These events were covered in the front pages of national newspapers, on morning news magazine shows. And yet somehow we lost the understanding of this movement such that the altercation in Charlottesville can seem astonishing to people without this history. But this history shows us that what seems new is not new.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you point out, we are in a period where two long wars are taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan that have sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to battle. And those men and women have been coming home. And you link this with the 2016 election as well, with the rhetoric of the so-called alt-right that has become mainstream. You see this as part of the continuum.

BELEW: Yes. The history shows us that this movement never received a definitive stop in court or in public opinion. In every surge of Ku Klux Klan activism in American history, there is a strong correlation with...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Belew's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Priya Satia

Priya Satia is the author of Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution.

From her Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: How much is the story of guns intimately connected to the story of slavery?

Priya Satia: They’re very deeply connected in multiple ways, because guns were a very big trade item on the West African coast. They were used in the slave trade, and exchanged for slaves. In that way, they’re part of the slave trade. Then they’re also used to enforce slavery on plantations. They’re an instrument of discipline, and oppression, and violence in the whole slave plantation system that the British helped create, that trans-Atlantic system. But even after the slave trade is abolished in 1807, guns remain a big part of the trade with West Africa. They’re just exchanged for other types of goods instead. The end of the slave trade doesn’t actually spell the end of the gun trade in West Africa, but what initially drives the gun trade in West Africa is the European interest in procuring slaves.

And what is the connection between the period you are writing about and the prevalence of guns today?

The connection is the way the British expanded in the 18th century, and their involvement in various different types of colonial conflict all over the world. Guns are a big part of all of that. Guns are a part of their trade relations with so many parts of the world. Because of the multiple ways they’re used—as items of trade, as weapons of war, as items with symbolic value, even as a currency in a way, too—it becomes really difficult to regulate them as simply weapons of war. Look at today and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel's new novel is The Undertaker's Daughter, the first in a new series. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: The Undertaker's Daughter introduces a new character, Ilka. Why did you decide not to have a detective as your main character this time?

A: I’m not committed to only centering on detectives, though I am a huge fan of crime fiction. The process must be organic for me, and I’m open to exploring what feels right and captures my imagination. I wasn’t looking for a change. Instead, the concept came to me.

It was the experience I had after losing my parents that was the impetus for The Undertaker’s Daughter and Ilka. The woman I hired to handle the burials and funerals was and remains a bright spot in my life during the most difficult time.

I, at that time, had not the slightest idea of all that goes into being an undertaker. The whole process was a learning one for me, and I couldn’t...[read on]
Visit Sara Blaedel's website.

Writers Read: Sara Blaedel (February 2016).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright's latest book is God Save Texas: A Journey Into The Soul Of The Lone Star State. From his Guardian interview with Andrew Anthony:

You write about two Texases, what you call AM and FM, rural and city, reactionary and progressive. Do they represent a widening gap in the US as a whole?

The political and cultural fissures in Texas are very much like those in the country at large. One can divide it into Trump versus anti-Trump, or city versus rural. Those divisions are more pronounced in Texas, and certainly Texas has contributed to the division. A lot of the political movements that start in Texas tend to move into the national discourse. The demographics are not really reflected in the political delegation we have. People outside look at our politicians and think that’s Texas. It doesn’t represent the complexity of the state.

You write about the Kennedy assassination and the shadow it cast over Dallas. How much do you think that event influenced the conspiratorial thinking that we’ve seen since 9/11?

I don’t know that it affected the “9/11 truthers”, but it certainly created a pattern of wilful denial of the factual evidence in favour of a worldview that conspiracy thinkers have. If the facts don’t comport with your view of the world then...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow's new book is War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: You sat down with Rex Tillerson in January, just months before he would be fired by President Trump. As you spoke with him, did you get the sense that he was following orders by making these dramatic cuts to the State Department, or did he believe in this as a key component of his mission?

FARROW: He was open in this interview about saying that he did defy the extent of the budget cuts, that he pushed back behind closed doors. But the fact is the underlying realities of his tenure in the job were devastating for the department. I mean, he told me point blank that his ardent defense of these deep, deep cuts to the department was partly born of inexperience. The idea of advocating for your institution, he said, he learned too late was something he was supposed to be doing. And that really astonished all of these other secretaries of state that I talked to.

MARTIN: What else was the through line in your conversations with all these former secretaries of state?

FARROW: Many of them said surprising and candid things. You know, a lot of these people have controversial histories but also a lot of insights about where we go wrong as a nation. Colin Powell is someone who, despite a divisive track record in some ways with his involvement in the Iraq effort, was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts's new novel is Welcome to Moonlight Harbor. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new series, and for your character Jenna?

A: I have wanted for ages to write about a woman who inherits a run-down hotel or motel and has to fix it up. Maybe because I always thought that would be fun to do. (I probably watched too many episodes of the old British sitcom Fawlty Towers.)

My husband couldn’t imagine anything more torturous (Probably because he also watched too many episodes of Fawlty Towers!) So, giving myself a fictional place to play with really scratched that itch.

As for Jenna, my heroine who is having to hit restart on her life, I think she embodies where a lot of women are these days. I wanted to give her some challenges but I also wanted to give her a new life and new hope. I want Jenna to be a reminder to all of us to...[read on]
Visit Sheila Roberts's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Cheek to Geek Q&A with Chris:

When I finished the last page, I came out with a sense of hope and a whole new respect for the Donner Party. Even though it is historical fiction, I felt like I knew and admired these people more than ever before. You were really able to bring them to life for me. I’ve seen the same thing happen in friends that I’ve recommended The Hunger to. Everyone comes out with a newfound interest and respect for the Donner Party. Although The Hunger is historical fiction, was there something happening currently that made you feel that this story would resonate so well with an audience? What initially drew you to these characters and the need to tell their story?

First, let me say I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and thank you for the thoughtful review and for recommending it to your friends. It’s gratifying to know it’s the kind of book that readers want to talk about. It’s been interesting to see the response to the novel—starting out, you don’t know whether modern readers want to read about something like the Donner Party. Or maybe they’ll think they already know the story.

Like most Americans, I’d heard about the Donner Party but didn’t know the facts. I think “not really knowing” has created a mystique around it. I’d always been fascinated by it, but it wasn’t until I started doing the research that I knew I wanted to write about it. The story of the Donners isn’t just what happened at the end when they were trapped in the mountains, out of food, and facing the bleakest of circumstances. In a way, it’s not even what happened along the 2,000-mile trail. It’s the story of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

David Ricciardi

David Ricciardi new novel is Warning Light.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Warning Light, and for your character Zac Miller?

A: Advanced technology is great, but as individuals and as a society, we've become very dependent on it.

I decided to yank the hero out of his comfortable life and put him in a dangerous, remote location to see how he survives. Zac is a desk jockey. A fit, smart, and determined desk jockey, but still a desk jockey. I hoped he was someone readers could identify with and say, "Wow. What would I do if that ever happened to me?"

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I knew exactly how it would end before I started writing, but a funny thing happened on the way to the ending...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Frederic Wehrey

Frederic Wehrey is the author of The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya. From his interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly:

KELLY: The event of course that dominated front pages here in the U.S. about Libya was the death of Chris Stevens...

WEHREY: Absolutely.

KELLY: ...The U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in Benghazi in 2012. You knew Chris Stevens.

WEHREY: Briefly. Briefly. Not that well, but...


WEHREY: ...We crossed paths at the embassy.

KELLY: As you sifted through and tried to investigate those much-investigated events, what strikes you? What leapt out?

WEHREY: Well, the great tragedy of this was that Ambassador Stevens was so committed to outreach to the Libyan people and to a particular practice of diplomacy that really meant getting out on the street and meeting people from all walks of life. And the great tragedy of that attack was that it constrained that approach. It curtailed it. There was a tremendous retreat or retrenchment of America's diplomatic presence.

And part of that was understandable for the need to safeguard lives. But part of it, unfortunately, was the partisanship - that this became so politicized back in Washington, D.C., that it affected America's ability to engage on the ground in Libya. And that's what I really took away from talking to Libyans, who said, look; what happened to you after this attack? And this is a real tragedy 'cause Chris would've...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2018

Debra Dean

Debra Dean's new book is Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives, and the War That Made Them One. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you first learn of the story of Jan Yoors and his family, and why did you decide to write this as nonfiction rather than fiction?

A: A good friend of mine, Mitchell Kaplan, and I were standing in his bookstore one day and he said, “I’ve got your next book.” People say this to authors a lot, and it’s never, ever true – except this once. Mitchell’s sister is a documentary filmmaker and had met Marianne and Annabert Yoors when she was researching a film on polygamy. He started telling me this amazing story, and I was hooked.

My previous work has all been fiction and my novels—The Madonnas of Leningrad and The Mirrored World—are historical fiction, so it’s reasonable to expect that I would fictionalize this story as well. But in historical fiction, the fiction is created in the gaps between history, those blank areas where we no longer know what happened and so are free to invent.

In this case, though, there weren’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Debra Dean's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Debra Dean (September 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Mirrored World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson is a YA novelist and author of the memoir The Gender Games. Her latest YA novel is Clean.

From Dawson's Q&A with Michael Hogan for the Guardian:

Drugs, sex and swearing feature highly in Clean, so what makes it a young adult novel?

The publishing world tends to focus more on the “young”, less on the “adult”. But I spend lots of time with teenagers and they’re truly the broadband generation. They’ve been online all their lives and seen things that would make milk curdle: beheadings, graphic violence, hardcore porn. Shielding them is never going to work. What makes this book YA is that it tackles issues in a non-judgmental way. We know these things exist, so let’s talk about them. I don’t think people will have a problem with how I’ve handled addiction. What might cause a fuss is [protagonist] Lexi’s positive attitude to sex. She clearly enjoys it. We never teach girls that sex should be enjoyable for them. That’s one thing porn absolutely doesn’t do. Pornography is not sex education.

Lexi’s heroin use is vividly portrayed. Do you have first-hand experience?

No. I was the most well-behaved adolescent, then went straight from university into being a primary schoolteacher. That’s not a job you could do half-cut. By the time I moved to Brighton a few years ago, I felt I’d missed my window to misbehave. So I....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Charles Soule

Charles Soule’s debut novel is The Oracle Year. From his Q&A with Ross Johnson at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:

There’s a lot going on in the book (in a good way). You’ve got presidential politics, you’ve got televangelists, you’ve got like assassins. They’re going all over the world. I’m curious about the inception of the story. Did the story start out with scope, or is that something that built over the process of writing? Was it always that big?

It was always that big. The genesis behind the novel was really…it was partly that when I started writing it, I was still working as the lawyer and comics hadn’t blown up the way they subsequently have for me. It hadn’t become apparent that I could make a career, but I was working on it and trying really hard and, and fitting it around the edges like I do, like we spoke about earlier. And, so, I would have given a lot to be able to ask the question. Will this work out? Will this turn into something? Will I have the life that I want to have? And I figured that while that was my question at the time, everybody in the world has a question like. Whether it’s: Will I ever see her again? Will I ever achieve this goal that I’ve been working for? Will he get better? Whatever the question is, everybody has one.

And so I thought the appearance of a prophet in the world, Somebody who could hypothetically answer those questions would have massive ramifications all over the world in all kinds of societal structures: from politics, economics, to pop culture, to everything. And I wanted to write a book that explored that in as much detail and on as many levels as I could. I wrote about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 13, 2018

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner's new book is Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? From the transcript of his April 2018 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

GROSS: So let me move on to a different chapter here. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the national debt is expected to reach more than $33 trillion by 2028. I don't know if you know the answer to this, but how much of that estimate is because of the recent tax cuts?

KUTTNER: Well, the reason tax cuts are $1.5 trillion over 10 years, supposedly some of that will be made up by increased economic growth, although there's no evidence for that. The Republicans have played this game going back to Ronald Reagan. You enact a tax cut. You claim that the benefits will be so great that they will pay for the cost of the tax cut. That's known as supply-side economics.

And when that turns out not to be true, you discover the peril of the deficit. And then you cut a whole bunch of domestic programs to try and fill in some of the cost of that deficit and rising debt. So that was done under Reagan, was done under Bush one, under Bush two. And now the same script is being repeated under Trump. And the obvious answer is to repeal much of the tax cut if we're really concerned about deficits and debts.

GROSS: The House is going to vote on Thursday on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets. I realize that probably won't become a constitutional amendment, but is it the same people who were behind the tax cuts that now want to ask for a balanced budget amendment?

KUTTNER: Of course. And it's complete inconsistency, some might say hypocrisy that one week you increase the amount that needs to be borrowed - which is to say the national debt - by $1.5 trillion, and then a few weeks later, you're horrified that, oh, my goodness, that's actually going to increase the deficit. And we better have a balanced budget amendment. And, of course, if you ever had a balanced budget requirement, you would never have been able to have that tax cut.

I think the sponsors of the tax cut are vulnerable because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue