Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vaddey Ratner

Vaddey Ratner's new novel is In the Shadow of the Banyan.

From a Q & A at her website:

In the Shadow of the Banyan is a novel, but it is closely based on your family’s experience in Cambodia during the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Why did you decide to write it as a novel rather than a memoir?

I was a small child when the Khmer Rouge took over the country. Revisiting that period of our life, I found that I couldn’t trust myself completely to recall the exact details of the events and places and the chronology of our forced exodus from the city to the countryside, the journey from one place to the next during the span of those four years. I did initially try to write it as a memoir. But sorting through my own memories and what my mother was able to share with me, as well as the historical record, I kept asking myself again and again, What is the story I want to tell? What is my purpose for telling it? It isn’t so much the story of the Khmer Rouge experience, of genocide, or even of loss and tragedy. What I wanted to articulate is something more universal, more indicative, I believe, of the human experience—our struggle to hang onto life, our desire to live, even in the most awful circumstances. In telling this story, it isn’t my own life I wished others to take note of. I have survived, and the gift of survival, I feel, is honor enough already. My purpose is to honor the lives lost, and I wanted to do so by endeavoring to transform suffering into art.

That’s not to say that a memoir doesn’t demand artistry and skill. I’ve read many beautifully crafted literary memoirs — Angela’s Ashes, Autobiography of a Face, Running in the Family, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Woman Warrior… In my case, because I was so young when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, and with hardly any surviving family records or pictures as source material, I had only my own mostly traumatic recollections and the understandably reluctant remembrances of my mother to rely on. What’s more, those whom I wished to write about, whose sufferings I felt deserve to be heard and remembered above my own story, are gone. I didn’t want them to be...[read on]
Visit Vaddey Ratner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 30, 2012

Arnie Bernstein

Arnie Bernstein's Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing is about America's deadliest killing spree at a school.

From the author's Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: How was the reaction to this tragedy different than what we're seeing in Aurora?

A: While the people of Bath weren't any different than the people of our times, it was a different time, a different era. These days, we have better coping mechanisms. We have counselors and all kinds of different support systems.

Back then, they didn't talk about it, period. They were farmers, and they had to go back to work. Your cow couldn't take a day off for a tragedy.

And there wasn't a media frenzy like today. The media came in and left. Three days after it happened, Lindbergh took off and flew to Paris, and that part of it was over.

When I came in, it had been eight decades, and nobody had talked about it. It was just this scar on the land.

Q: Amazingly, you talked to survivors of the school bombing who are now in their 90s and 100s. What did they say?

A: One woman who's 99 now was telling me the most graphic details about how her seven-year-old brother was killed. I was worried about upsetting her and told her she didn't have to talk about all this. She said, "No, people have to know. I'm not going to be around forever. I want people to know what happened."

Q: What can we learn from Bath Township?

A: One lesson is that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Robert O. Bucholz

From a Q & A at the publisher's site with Robert O. Bucholz, co-author (with Joseph P. Ward) of London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750:

Can you summarise the subject of your book, and what inspired you to write?

Our subject is how London became (arguably) the greatest city in the Western world, the inventor of much of modernity, and therefore a city worthy of hosting the Olympics. We wrote it because there really is no other book that examines this subject comprehensively for this period. More specifically, this is the first and only book about late Tudor, Stuart and early Hanoverian London -- the London of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, and Charles II; Shakespeare, Moll Cut-purse, Samuel Pepys, and Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders; Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren.

Why did you choose to write about this particular period in London's history?

We argue that this was the most interesting time in London's history for between 1550 and 1750, London grew from the moderately sized capital (about 50,000 people) of a 2nd rate country into the biggest city in Europe (700,000 people), the capital of the British Empire, a nexus of finance, trade and culture that it remains today. Indeed, we argue that it was in London that many of the hallmarks of modernity got their start, received their perfection, or were popularised for the Anglophone world. These included constitutional monarchy, participatory democracy, modern government finance, an effective civil service, a relatively free press, the first commercial concerts of music, the first viable commercial theatre since ancient times, novels, newspapers, clubs, insurance, decent street-lighting, three-piece suits for men, etc., etc. With the possible exception of Amsterdam, no other city on the planet did more to catalyse modernity.

What was life like for Londoners during this period of growth?

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the growth of London was that it was...[read on]
--Marshl Zeringue

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Catharine Arnold

Catharine Arnold is the author of The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City.

From her Q & A with Kevin Canfield at The Daily Beast:

This is an entertaining book, but some of the material is pretty grim. For instance, you write about the many brothels to be found in Roman London. Isn’t it right that some of these brothels took hold because of an odd superstition on the part of visiting sailors?

They weren’t encouraged to bring their women on shipboard. It was regarded as tremendously bad luck. What happens is that legionaries that came over needed a supply of women, so girls were sent from all over the Roman Empire to be prostitutes in London, to serve the military. Brothels were like hutches, really, like kennels.

But then you have the women who go into the trade of their volition. In Roman London you have the high-born prostitutes who set themselves up in business, and would have a menu, and would issue brothel tokens, which were what the guy would be given to avail himself of various services.

The Black Death hits London in the middle of the 14th century, and you’d think that all that dying would put a damper of things. But you found that people were having loads of sex because they thought it might keep them healthy?

They were so desperate for a remedy that they actually believed that one way of avoiding getting the Black Death was through sex. It’s a great excuse, really: I have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thelma Adams

Thelma Adams has been Us Weekly’s film critic since 2000, after six years reviewing at the New York Post. She has written for Marie Claire, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Self.

Her 2011 novel is Playdate.

From the author's Q & A with Cherise Bathersfield for Ladies Home Journal:

You’ve been a film critic and entertainment writer for almost 30 years. How did that experience inform your first novel, which is about marriage and relationships?

I am a married film critic and entertainment writer with relationships. Some of which, I confess, are a little convoluted. This novel began as an idea for a screenplay: What if we melded Warren Beatty’s handsome rootless philanderer in Shampoo with Michael Keaton’s overwhelmed dad in Mr. Mom? It seemed like a funny concept. However, as it turned out, I’m a prose girl. The movie idea morphed into a novel.

With his sensitive nature and commitment to parenting, Lance is the heart and soul of the book. But he’s also having an affair. Was it hard to construct a sympathetic cheater?

Making Lance sympathetic without demonizing his wife Darlene was one of the great challenges of the book. Personally, I am the daughter of a relatively sympathetic cheater. My dad was no saint, but he was no demon either. I was a daddy’s little girl who adored her father, and growing up we had this kind of very easy, affectionate, unconditional love. And then, when I was in my early twenties, I discovered that I’d lived in a house where a pattern of infidelity on my father’s side gutted my mother. Being daddy’s little girl was suddenly a difficult position to have within the family politics. And, on top of that, when I found out about my father, I was still...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

My Book, The Movie: Playdate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Roger Smith

Roger Smith's thrillers Dust Devils, Wake Up Dead and Mixed Blood are published in seven languages and two are in development as movies in the U.S. His books have won the Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Fiction Award) and been nominated for Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel awards. His novella, Ishmael Toffee, and a fourth novel, Capture, are now available.

From his Q & A at Crime Fiction Lover:

You like exploring both morals and base survival through your characters. And thus we can see the dark side of human nature quite a bit. Tell me a little more about how this will unfold in Capture?

South Africa encourages a certain moral elasticity. Given that the ex-commissioner of police was jailed for 15 years for corruption and gangsterism and his successor was recently fired for similar transgressions, a loss of faith in law and order is understandable. And the culture of savagery in South Africa allows some people to forgive themselves their own criminal actions, like the three main characters in Capture, who find themselves capable of increasingly toxic and violent behaviour. It is my darkest book so far.

In South Africa race, politics, cultural prejudices, and wealth and poverty create such a complex backdrop. For you, what are the most challenging things about writing stories set there?

I was invited to the Quais du Polar crime fiction festival in France last year and was on a panel with David Peace and a trio of French crime writers who writers placed themselves and their work at the centre of political and social debate, and made no bones about the fact that if a crime writer dodges socio-political issues, he’s copping out. I am...[read on]
Learn more about the author at Roger Smith's website.

Read about Roger Smith's top 10 crime novels.

The Page 69 Test: Mixed Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Wake Up Dead.

Writers Read: Roger Smith.

My Book, The Movie: Dust Devils.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is an advice columnist and entertainment reporter for The Boston Globe. Her column Love Letters is a daily dispatch of wisdom for the lovelorn that gets about 1 million page views every month on Boston.com. Love Letters appears in the Globe’s print edition every Saturday. Goldstein also writes about fake rock stars, former boy banders, female werewolves, self-help books, last picture shows, and how to sound like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

Her new, debut novel is The Singles.

From Goldstein's Q & A at her publisher's website:

Q. You’re the Love Letters columnist for The Boston Globe. How did that inform your writing? Were you able to use any situations you’ve advised people on in that capacity in the novel?

Despite the fact that I spend eight hours a day reading people’s dramatic love problems and advising them about what to do next, my column didn’t influence the book - at least not as much as I thought it would. I think that’s because I write Love Letters with my head on straight. In Love Letters, I’m the voice of reason. But when I stepped into the minds of my Singles characters, I could be irrational and erratic. I could be oversensitive and cruel. I tried to compartmentalize as much of my Love Letters brain as I could while I was writing the novel. I was Meredith Goldstein, the girl who’s been to (and flipped out at) dozens of weddings alone, as opposed to the Meredith Goldstein who always knows what’s best.

Q. Was it difficult for you to make the switch over to writing fiction since you’re a journalist by day? How was the process different for you? Do you prefer one to the other?

It was more challenging than I thought it would be. After writing about a third of my first draft of The Singles, I suddenly realized that my characters hadn’t spoken yet. I was afraid to make up dialogue, because in journalism you would absolutely never, under any circumstances, make up a quote. It took me a while to realize that I could make these characters speak, and that writing fiction allowed me to be a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Meredith Goldstein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Singles.

My Book, The Movie: The Singles.

Writers Read: Meredith Goldstein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson is a travel journalist and the author of eighteen nonfiction books. Her articles have appeared in more than 40 magazines, including Discover, Reader’s Digest, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Her short fiction has been widely praised and included in anthologies such as A Prisoner of Memory & 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime & Mystery Stories and Thuglit Presents: Blood, Guts, & Whiskey. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in New York City.

Davidson's novels include The Damage Done and The Next One to Fall.

From her Q & A with MysteryPeople:

MP: If your two books had to be shoved into a category it would be “the woman in jeopardy thriller” (feel free to disagree) and your character is definitely feminine (I can’t think of learning more about fashion than in any other series I’ve read). That said, you have a large male following. What do you think attributes to that?

HD: I find it so hard to categorize my own books! Woman-in-jeopardy is probably a fair description, though that somehow makes me think of a lady waiting for a man to save her, and that’s definitely not the case with Lily. There’s a scene in The Next One to Fall where she’s gotten herself trapped and starts to think, “Well, if I do X, maybe someone will rescue me…” Then she snaps out of it and realizes that if she doesn’t save herself, she’ll die. She’s definitely a survivor.

I’ve gotten so much support from both male and female readers, and the only way I can explain that is to say that some things are universal. If you can get a reader caught up in a story, and especially if you get them inside the head of a character, I think they’ll keep reading. I keep hearing that men don’t read books by women, but that’s just not true in my experience. I bet writers like Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Linda Fairstein, Sophie Littlefield and Sara Gran would back me up on that.

MP: There seems to be a Hitchcock influence in the books with use of location and ideas of identity. I know you’re something of a film buff and Lily is to an almost disturbing level. Is your writing influenced by film as much as other books?

I used to think I was a film buff. I’ve seen a lot of old movies, and I mistakenly believed I remembered enough to work film references into the books as a sort of touchstone for Lily. Her home life was unstable growing up, and...[read on]
Visit Hilary Davidson's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Cornell. For nearly two decades he was a book editor and ghostwriter.

The Expats is his first novel.

From his Q & A with Paul Goat Allen at Publishers Weekly:

After your wife’s job took you to Luxembourg, do you remember the moment when you realized that it would make a perfect setting for a spy thriller?

I was sitting in a playground, watching my kids, chatting with expat stay-at-home mothers; this was my life. These were people from England and Sweden and America, ex-programmers and ex-chefs and ex-therapists. But this one woman clearly didn’t want to tell me what it is she used to do. Maybe she had something to hide, some big secret? Everyone has secrets, and I think some people flee from home—far from home—to try to keep those secrets. Maybe she was one of those people. Maybe she was a spy.

During your time there, was the community of expatriates as tightly knit as described in the novel?

If anything, the expat community was more tightly knit than I describe. Expats are a self-selecting group of outgoing, confident people—if you’re not those things, you probably don’t choose this adventure—and the lifestyle is very conducive to making fast, close friends. And in truth I began writing a very different...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Pavone's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Expats.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Chris Pavone & Charlie Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott's new novel is Dare Me. From her Q & A at My Bookish Ways:

Will you tell us a bit about Dare Me?

It’s the final result of an obsessive descent into the world of high school cheerleading. About two years ago, I started becoming fascinated with how cheer has transformed since I was a teenager. Today, these girls perform death defying stunts and seem to embrace the risk. They’re proud of their wounds, like boxers, even marines. Sort of a Fight Club for teenage girls. So I began writing about story about a power struggle among a squad of cheerleaders under the sway of a charismatic coach. Trouble ensues.

What do you love most about writing crime fiction and suspense?

I think it speaks to all the primal things in us—all the most essential urges and drives. Desire, greed, anger, temptation, revenge. So it always feels urgent, real, authentic. People often dismiss crime fiction as escapist, but to me it’s precisely the opposite. It sends us to the most dangerous places in ourselves. The only escapist element is we can close the book at the end. But the feelings linger. And that’s powerful.

Do you have any particular writing quirks?

Oh goodness...[read on]
Visit Megan Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bury Me Deep.

The Page 69 Test: The End of Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier is the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and the forthcoming The Last Runaway.

From her Q & A with Arifa Akbar at the Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

Margaret Atwood. I admire the breadth and depth of her writing. She's written in all the genres and you never quite know what she's going to do next.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

My favourite childhood character from 'Little House in the Big Woods' [by Laura Ingalls Wilder]. I really related to the character, Laura. She had the perfect sister and she always seemed to be slightly crabbier than her. I'm always crabbier than the perfect vision of myself.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

At the moment, Rebecca Hosking who started the 'No More Plastic Bags' movement in Devon. She's a good reminder that you don't have to be someone famous to make a huge difference in the world.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 20, 2012

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel's latest novel is The Lola Quartet.  From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I loved the jazz motif that plays throughout the novel. How do you come by your knowledge of jazz?

Thanks. I studied piano for years as a child and teenager, but I never played jazz and I still don't feel like I know that much about it, to tell you the truth. There's a gypsy jazz guitarist who plays a regular set at a club about a block from my apartment, so I've spent a lot of time listening to him. I've also read some Whitney Balliett; he was a writer who chronicled the New York jazz scene of a few decades ago, and I liked reading about those musicians. Once I knew that gypsy jazz guitar music would be a part of the book, I spent some time reading about the life of Django Reinhardt.

Loyalties shift, things are not what they seem, and it all builds to an ending that left me thunderstruck--the kind of "never ending story" ending that I love, that made me continue to wonder about these characters' lives. Did this ending surprise you as you were writing it?

The whole story surprised me. I never know where any book I start writing is going to go. I just start writing and hope for the best. I'm glad you liked the ending… it was the hardest thing in this book to get right. I must have rewritten it a dozen times. It hasn't been a universally popular ending, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Emily St. John Mandel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night in Montreal.

Writers Read: Emily St. John Mandel.

The Page 69 Test: The Singer's Gun.

My Book, The Movie: The Singer’s Gun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 19, 2012

David Thomson

From a Q & A with David Thomson about his book, Nicole Kidman:

Q: You are a well-known film scholar and historian. Why did you decide to do a book about a movie star—and why Nicole?

A: I think most people most of the time go to see movies because of who’s in them. We have always done this. And we have our favorites. We fall for movie stars when we’re very young. And I think critics often forget how vital the looks and persona of a star are. As for Nicole, I admired the way she had gone from being “Tom’s girl” and a bit of a joke, to a person who could get difficult films made. She took charge of her own career. Yet she still has huge appeal and charm and sexiness—she’s a natural flirt. That goes right back to the basis of film: find a pretty girl and photograph her. Plus she has the authentic aura of stardom. She glows. She is tall and thin and unquestionably beautiful. She’s not like us—until she smiles and you see there’s an ordinary side.

Q: This book is more than simply an insightful analysis of one of the most famous actresses working today, it’s also a portrait of what it is to be an actress and the professional and personal choices one makes along the way. Did you set out to create that portrait or was it something that just happened?

A: From the outset, I wanted it to be a book about acting, about film, and about actors putting on a show. Despite the way that, as a culture, we adore actors and actresses, I still think that we don’t understand what a rare breed they are—how their becoming “parts” for us, strangers, means running the risk of losing themselves. From the moment I began to know actors, I found this process frightening, yet magical. I think of them as explorers of the inner life. But like geographical explorers—people who go out into far and strange spaces—sometimes they don’t come back. They get lost. It’s not uncommon, but I think Nicole has made a pledge to be other people—and along the way she becomes just the actress, the player. Her real self fades. Maybe she is doing what she does because she was always afraid of...[read on]
Thomson's Nicole Kidman is one of Christopher Bray's five notable books on film.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gerald Seymour

Gerald Seymour's many novels include The Unknown Soldier. From his Q & A with Boyd Tonkin at the The Independent:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

Nevil Shute. They're stories that make my eyes a bit wet... they're beautifully written.
* * *

Which fictional character most resembles you?

One of those johnnies who sends agents off in the early Le Carré stories but stays on the safe side of the border.
* * *

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

There are many of them. They go round a bend... south of the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. It's called the final turn – where the British Legion and former servicemen's associations gather, whenever there's a repatriation.
Read the complete Q & A.

See Gerald Seymour's list of five riveting novels about terrorism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marcus Samuelsson

James Beard Award–winning chef and author of several cookbooks Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie Rose, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place. In 1995, for his work at Aquavit, Samuelsson became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from the New York Times. His new memoir is Yes, Chef.

From Samuelsson's Q & A with Tom Thornton at Austinist:

To begin with, “Yes, Chef” was a great read. There was hardly a wasted sentence. How did the idea of a memoir come about, and how long did the process take to complete?

It took five years, and the whole idea, to me, was to respect the reader the way you respect a diner in a restaurant. Every word, every sentence did matter, and I wanted to do something tasteful and crafted, but also inspired. However long the journey was, there's just a lot to cover, whether it's race, whether it's adoption, whether it's family. But, in order to do that, just like you said, you want it not just to be stuff, you want it to be meaningful.

There’s a lot of candor in the book, in the sense that to succeed, you really felt that you had to give up social life, relationships, everything that didn't really have to do with the kitchen. Do you feel like that's the norm for other successful people in your field?

Everyone has a different journey. I just knew that that's what it would take for me. I'm not from France, and many chefs come from really strong, cooking-traditional places. I didn't come from a cooking family, my grandmother cooked, but my father didn't have a restaurant or anything like that. I just felt for me, given everything that I had, and also being a person of color, I just knew I had a lower margin for error. So I just had to keep the knives sharpened and focus on it.

The Swedish flavors and foods that you grew up with still aren’t common in the US. You mentioned going through the trials of finding the right balance at Aquavit over time. Do you still find it a challenge to sort of integrate those flavors into and get acceptance for them in the US?

No, I've been extremely lucky mainly because...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 16, 2012

Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock's writing has appeared in, or is forthcoming in, the New York Times, Third Coast, The Journal, Sou’wester, Chiron Review, River Styx, Boulevard, Folio, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. His 2008 book is Knockemstiff.

His latest novel is The Devil All the Time.

From Pollack's Q & A with Charles Tan for the Shirley Jackson Awards:

For The Devil All the Time, what was the transition from writing stories to novels like? Was the novel always the goal?

I tend to write very spare prose–most of my short stories are somewhere between 9 and 12 pages–so the thought of writing a 250 page novel was a bit intimidating at first, to say the least. I finally decided that the only way I could do it was to write a very fast, sloppy draft, and then begin revising (in the past, with writing stories, I pretty much just moved slowly ahead with one finished sentence at a time, but realized writing a novel that way would take me years). The first draft took maybe 4 months, then I revised and changed it considerably over the next two years. As for the novel always being the goal, no, I can’t say that was the case. When I decided to try to learn how to write (I was forty-five and had been working in a paper mill since I was eighteen), my aim was just to write one decent short story. I thought if I could do that, then I would be satisfied. But good things happened, and I landed a publisher for Knockemstiff, my first book, and then they asked for a novel.

You’ve created an ensemble cast of compelling and disturbed characters. What was your approach in developing these characters?

I just kept typing! I suppose everything and everyone in the book came from a wide variety of influences: movies like Night of the Hunter and Badlands, psychological horror stories like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” crime fiction, the nightly TV news, people I’ve met, etc. I wanted, if at all possible, to present the characters in a way where the reader might find a bit of empathy for them, no matter how horrible they might be, and that was certainly the toughest thing to do. Though I tend to see the world as a sad and violent place, I think there are...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Donald Ray Pollock's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Knockemstiff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tim Jeal

Tim Jeal is the author of the acclaimed biographies Livingstone, Baden-Powell, and Stanley, each selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He was selected as the winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.

From Jeal's Q & A with the Guardian, about his latest book, Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure:

How did you come to write Explorers of the Nile?

My fascination with Africa started in 1963, when I was an adventurous 18-year-old travelling up the Nile from Cairo to Lake Victoria – sometimes on the river itself, sometimes hitching overland in cars and lorries as close to the river as I could manage. But my journey also took me all the way down through Africa to Lake Malawi, the Zambezi and eventually to South Africa.

When I first came to write a book with an African subject, it turned out to be concerned with the latter part of my journey - a biography of David Livingstone. That was published in 1973; it was only 30 years later, while working on my life of Stanley, that I once again became enthralled by the Nile and the stories of all the other great Victorian explorers who had risked their lives trying to establish the precise location of the source.

Stanley was the one who eventually unravelled not only the Nile's watershed but the Congo's too, and awarded the specific prize for the Nile's source to John Speke – a man about whom I then knew next to nothing. My almost total ignorance about him, and my eagerness to put it right, was what tempted me into writing Explorers of the Nile.

I didn't just tell Speke's story but followed the fortunes of the other five men and one woman who struggled with the African continent, and with one another (often in pretty nasty ways) for the glory of being the first to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Timothy Hallinan

Zoë Sharp interviewed Timothy Hallinan at Murderati.  Part of the conversation:

Zoë Sharp: Your series characters go by the highly memorable names of Simeon Grist, Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty. Where did you find such wonderful names for them?

Timothy Hallinan: I always think they're just regular names and later ask myself what I'd been smoking. Actually, that's only partially true; I was reading a ton of stuff on early Christianity when I started the Simeon books and named him after a favourite saint, Simeon Stylites, who spent the last 37 years of his life standing on an ancient pillar in the Syrian desert. As if that weren't enough, he wouldn't allow any woman anywhere near his pillar. When he got sores on his legs and the sores developed maggots, he would encourage the maggots, saying “Eat, little ones, what God has provided you,” or words to that effect. I thought that was a little stiff, and he came to embody for me Santayana's famous definition of a fanatic as someone who redoubles his efforts when he's forgotten his aims.

So I was being pretentious when I named Simeon and later found that most readers pronounced it “Simon” anyway.

Zoë Sharp: I particularly loved the title for ... THE BONE POLISHER. How did that come about?

Timothy Hallinan: When members of the Chinese diaspora, in the early days, had the misfortune to die in whatever country they had emigrated to, they were buried where they died. A generation or two later, the now-prosperous family would pay to have the bones disinterred, cleaned, polished, and sent to China for permanent burial in The Middle Kingdom. The specialist who did this was called a bone polisher. In the book, the killer puts a malign twist on this, He kills men who came to West Hollywood from small towns where they lived closeted lives, and each time he murders one, he sends evidence of his victim's “deviancy” back to the town from which he came. (This was in 1995, when, arguably, a much higher percentage of gay people were in the closet.) So in this case, it's the dead person's...[read on]
Learn more about the author at 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.

Writers Read: Timothy Hallinan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2012

Richard Ford

Richard Ford's new novel is Canada.

From his Q & A with J.P. O’ Malley at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q. What’s the significance of the title of this book, “Canada”?

I always found as an American, that Canada was a place that attracted me. I felt I could accommodate to Canada extremely well if I had to. I think of Canada as a kind of psychic-moral-spatial refuge, whereas I think America – even though it’s my home – is challenging all the time. I experience America in many ways. It doesn’t make me want to abandon it, but it certainly does make it a very strange place to live sometimes.

Q. Would you say you are a positive writer who explores existential failures in your books?

I feel that’s exactly what I am – an optimist, who believes with Sartre, that to write about the darker possible things is an act of optimism. But what I’m looking for is drama, which occurs when people are at a loss, and not succeeding. I try to find a vocabulary which makes those things expressible. In the process of making those expressible to a readership, it becomes an act of optimism, because it imagines a future in which these things will be understood, and be mediated in some way. Writing for me is always an act of optimism. I probably wouldn’t do it otherwise, no matter how...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2012

George Pelecanos

Wallace Stroby interviewed fellow novelist George Pelecanos at the Mulholland Books blog. Part of their Q & A:

WALLACE STROBY: After four stand-alone novels that in some ways mirrored your TV work – multilevel stories with a broad array of characters and social concerns – THE CUT feels like a return to your early, leaner and meaner crime novels. What led to that?

GEORGE PELECANOS: On a whim I wrote a short story (“Chosen”) about a married couple who adopt a bunch of kids, and wind up with an interracial family. The story ended with a few sentences about the current status of two of the brothers: Leo Lucas, a teacher at a public high school in Washington, and Spero Lucas, a Marine fighting in Fallujah. That led to me meeting several Marine vets of Iraq and Afghanistan who had come home and were working as private investigators for criminal defense attorneys here. It hit me that some of these guys weren’t interested in desk jobs, and maybe never would be.

Then one day, when I was doing some work at a local correctional facility, I met a man who had lost a leg in Fallujah, and was picking up a relative who was being released from jail. We had a very interesting, enlightening conversation. There are a lot of stories to tell about these veterans, and I felt like I had one cooking in my head. THE CUT came forward.

I guess I was ready to write a straight-ahead crime novel. On the internet some people were making comments that I had gone soft or literary, whatever that means. It puts a...[read on]
Learn about George Pelecanos's favorite author.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca Cantrell's new novel is A City of Broken Glass.

From her Q & A with Kilian Melloy at EDGE:

EDGE: The new novel in the Hannah Vogel series finds Hannah and her son, Anton, in Berlin just before Kristallnacht--the infamous "Night of Broken Glass." This is a huge historical point for the era of the series, of course. What went into plotting out how to involve Hannah in the events of the time?

Rebecca Cantrell: "A City of Broken Glass" was the hardest Hannah Vogel novel to research and write, hands down. I spent about a year immersed in the days leading up to Kristallnacht and the pogrom itself. I relied heavily on first person accounts, many available online at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Saul Friedlander’s "Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume I: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939," and Victor Klemperer’s "I Will Bear Witness."

I wanted Hannah to start in Poland, where the events that would trigger Kristallnacht happened, so I ended up researching innocuous reasons to send her and Anton there.

In the end, she’s sent to write a fluff piece about the St. Martin’s Day celebration. Your average reporter might be able to stay out of trouble with an assignment like that, but not Hannah! She went straight to the refugee camp at Zbaszyn and was immediately engulfed in the tragedy.

In my research, I was struck by how intensely personal the events of Kristallnacht were. I’ve seen and read much about the destruction of Jewish institutions during the pogrom-storm troopers burning synagogues, smashing shop windows, and looting businesses.

What I found in the survivor accounts the less well known personal side-tales of neighbors a child had known all her life smashing down the front door, breaking all the windows, smashing the glass covering photographs, taking a hammer to the jars of honey in the pantry, slashing through beds and sofas and teddy bears.

It wasn’t just the ability to gather together and worship publicly that was destroyed that day: it was also the ability of any Jewish person in Germany to...[read on]
Visit Rebecca Cantrell's website and blog.

Cantrell majored in German, Creative Writing, and History at the Freie Universitaet of Berlin and Carnegie Mellon University. Her Hannah Vogel mystery series set in Berlin in the 1930s includes A Trace of Smoke and A Night of Long Knives.

The Page 69 Test: A Trace of Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Trace of Smoke.

The Page 69 Test: A Game of Lies.

My Book, The Movie: A Game of Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is the author of Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety.

From his Q & A with Cara Cannella at Biographile:

Cara Cannella: Does writing so honestly about your anxiety make you more or less anxious? Is it cathartic and/or scary as hell to put yourself out there as you do?

Dan Smith: Strangely, it doesn’t really make me anxious to talk about my anxiety. I don’t know why this is, exactly. I think it’s because although I strive for emotional and psychological truth in the book, the person who is telling the story isn’t, in the end, strictly me -- or rather he’s not completely me. He’s a narrator, a persona. He has my experiences and feelings and thoughts and concerns, but not all of them. (That’d take a work of endless volumes.) So I’m able to distance myself from whatever fears might come along with wide exposure. I find I’m far more anxious about literary than biographical exposure. I can tolerate people criticizing my character. But my sentences: now, that’s scary.

CC: What was the trajectory of your anxiety and its impact on your writing from the publication of your last book to the release of this one?

DS: In a word, steady. "Muses, Madmen, and Prophets" was published in 2007, and since then I’ve had to deal with a lot of stress: financial woes, professional instability, a colicky child. But by the time all this happened I’d learned how to stop my anxiety from boiling over into complete, paralyzing panic. To put it another way, I’ve been extensively therapized; I know some tricks. Also, I’m a husband and a father. I can’t afford to be paralyzed anymore. This isn’t to say I don’t still experience anxiety on a daily basis. I do. Some days really and sincerely suck. But...[read on]
Visit Daniel Smith's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2012

Åke Edwardson

Åke Edwardson has worked as a journalist, a press officer at the United Nations, and a university lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, the city in Sweden where his mysteries are set. He is one of Sweden’s bestselling authors, and his books featuring Detective Chief Inspector Erik Winter have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. He is a three-time winner of the Swedish Crime Writers’ Award for best crime novel.

His latest novel is Sail of Stone.

From his Q & A with Julia Buckley:

SAIL OF STONE is a beautiful book which seems far more about questions than about answers. Is your detective, Erik Winter, as much a philosopher as he is a solver of mysteries?

He's at least as much a philosopher as a detective. Winter is a moral animal, not a political one. He's trying to live a decent life, and it's the hardest thing. These stories are about the existence, the meaning of life, or, as Winter says, "This job is more about the meaning of death than the mening of life." I think anyone who pushes him/herself to the limit is a philosopher; the heavyweight champions were philosophers first, boxers second.

Both storylines involve mysteries with elusive subjects. Even the people who are found and questioned by the police seem to offer very little in terms of satisfying answers. Do you think that police work is always this frustrating?

It's very frustrating; it's not for sissies. One of my best friends is head of the crime squad in Gothenburg. He wouldn't do anything but this, but, as he says, "it's like a war you really can't win, but you have to fight it anyway." Yeah, what's the alternative?

The book is starkly beautiful in its existential focus, from Aneta Djanali, who “dreamed of doors that closed and never opened,” and Erik Winter, who is aware that he “carrie[s] a restlessness in him.” Are they drawn to their profession because they are restless, or are they restless as a result of their profession?

Very good question. I think it works...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Magnus Mills

Magnus Mills has produced three collections of short stories and seven novels, including The Restraint of Beasts, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1998.

From his Q & A with Anna Metcalfe at the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

The first one I wrote, The Restraint of Beasts. But in terms of reading it was The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. It made me realise the importance of structure and style.
* * *

Which literary character most resembles you?

Icarus; I always take things a little too far. Although I’ve never flown towards the sun.
* * *

Who are your literary influences?

Aesop, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Conrad, Orwell, AJP Taylor, Flann O’Brien, Churchill, Maurice Maeterlinck, HG Wells, RL Stevenson, Henry Lawson, Mervyn Peake, DH Lawrence, Pinter, Dylan Thomas, Hunter S Thompson, Belloc. Is that enough?
* * *

What book do you wish you’d written?

The Life of the Bee [1901] by Maeterlinck. He makes the life of the bee sound like an epic poem.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin's latest book is Charles Dickens: A Life.

From her Q & A with Anna Metcalfe at the Financial Times:

What book changed your life?

J.E. Neale’s Queen Elizabeth, which I bought in 1945 when I was 12. I was very priggish as a child. I saved up for a book on medieval English nunneries, for which I was despised by my friends.
* * *

Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?

People I’ve never met before, as I like asking them to tell me about themselves. François Hollande, perhaps?
* * *

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever done for the sake of researching a book?

For Dickens I found a harbourmaster to take me and my husband up the Medway. When Dickens was a child his father used to take him there as a treat, on a navy yacht, and it had a profound effect on his imagination. I wanted to experience it.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn about Claire Tomalin's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 6, 2012

C.W. Gortner

C. W. Gortner, half-Spanish by birth, holds an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He was raised in Málaga, Spain, and now lives in California.

His new novel is The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile.

From his Q & A with Sarah Bower at the Historical Novel Society website:

SB: You are known as a writer with a deep and sympathetic interest in Renaissance women. What draws you to the particular women you’ve chosen to write about? How do you – an American man – set about empathising with these women?

CWG: I’m attracted invariably to dark horses in history, people with controversial legends. It’s not just women; there are several men I find fascinating, as well. But of the women I have written, controversy is their initial attraction. Juana of Castile is known as la Loca, or the Mad—now, how’s that for a sobriquet? And of course my first question is: Why? Why did they call her that? What did she do? What happened to her? Same with Catherine de Medici: she’s the reptilian queen-mother, orchestrator of massacres and all kinds of sordid goings-on. She’s even called a monster. Why? People are not born monsters. Something happens to them, or several somethings, that change them. I’m fascinated by it; I love searching for those elusive secrets in the crevices of history.

As to how I empathise with them, it’s probably a combination of elements. I was raised in Spain and most of my childhood was spent among strong women—my mother, grandmother, aunts—so I absorbed their language, the ways they communicated. More broadly, our emotions are not bound by our gender: how we communicate our emotions is. Remove the societal constrictions on what men and women can do, or more importantly, what they should not do, and it’s simpler than we imagine. I realize this isn’t as straight-forward as it sounds; empathy is one of the most challenging emotions in the human repertoire because it requires us to step outside our own selves and literally “feel” someone else’s experience. Actors train for years to develop their empathic selves, so they can fully inhabit characters, even those whose very psychology is alien to them. As writers, we must do the same. In discovering why our chosen characters behave as they do, we get inside their skin and view them through their eyes. If done right, you can become either gender, even another species. Otherwise, we...[read on]
Visit C. W. Gortner's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Queen.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Vow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tupelo Hassman

Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia's MFA program. Her writing has been published in Paper Street Press, The Portland Review Literary Journal, Tantalum, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by 100WordStory.org and FiveChapters.com. Hassman is a contributing author to Heliography, Invisible City Audio Tours' first tour and is curating its fourth tour, The Landmark Revelation Society. She kept a video journal of girlchild's book tour for the short documentary Hardbound: A Novel's Life on the Road.

Her debut novel is girlchild.

From her Q & A with Nika Knight at Full Stop:

Was girlchild ever hard for you to write, emotionally? I found it so intense to read.

Yeah, it was, definitely. There was a point when — this is embarrassing, but I think it’s funny — I would hate to sit down and write it, because I knew that I would be so emotionally riddled by it, that I started keeping little notes of how often I cried on each workday. Little hashmarks, like in prison. And I don’t mean to sound so dramatic about it — I would just cry, it was ridiculous. It was so ridiculous. That happened every day I worked on the book. And I don’t walk around crying all the time.

I mean, it’s a first novel, at first Rory’s and my story were pretty much the same, but it wasn’t long before Rory’s life was totally — she’s way more of a badass than me. She does things I never would have thought of. And yet it was still really sad, and really hard to dig into that.

It seemed like so much research went into the book — from the format and tone of social workers’ case files to the details of the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, which declared forced sterilization to be constitutional in 1927 and has yet to be overturned. How did you go about your research?

I’m a first-generation college student, and I went to USC, from a community college. I didn’t even graduate high school, so going to USC was mind-blowing, really. …. When I got to USC, which I loved, and I love it, but it was a harsh conflict for me, and I became ultra-aware of class differences. I already had all this baggage, and then it was in my face. The disparity was so in my face on that campus. And then...[read on]
Visit Tupelo Hassman's website.

The Page 69 Test: girlchild.

My Book, The Movie: girlchild.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gerald Elias

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, and the recently released Death and Transfiguration.

Raymond Taras was Willy Brandt Professor at Sweden's Malmö University for 2010–11. He was director of Tulane University's world literature program before Hurricane Katrina forced its closure. He is the author of numerous scholarly books on nationalism and identities in Europe.

Taras and Elias's exchange over Death and Transfiguration:

Taras: This novel is the fourth in a series featuring a blind retired violinist, Daniel Jacobus, who is drawn into a series of intrigues unique to performers in the world of classical music. Elias’s intimate familiarity with this cryptic milieu allows him to lay bare much of its mystique. Death and Transfiguration is a study of the towering role of the conductor - the diurnal tensions, conflicts and pathologies, as well as the extraordinary artistic achievements that are associated with this figure. I interviewed Elias in late June in Salt Lake City, shortly after his return from a tour of Peru and just before his engagement with the Boston Symphony for this year’s Tanglewood Festival.

A theme in the Jacobus series - and highlighted in this novel - is the equilibrium between artistic and commercial success in the world of classical music. Vaclav Herza is a champion of classical music defending it from encroachment by financial interests. Have we reached a tipping point today where commercial goals have become paramount?

Elias: Each individual orchestra determines the balance. The Chicago Symphony resists commercialization while the Boston Symphony has been accepting of it for over a century with the Boston Pops and has learned to do it at a very high level. The general trend is towards more and more commercialization. In the worst case it can lead to the point where the core product becomes almost vestigial. With Herza, I want to show that even the worst villains are multidimensional. This allows the reader to examine what the character is saying. I detest Herza as a person but I am sympathetic to what he says about music.

This novel is a battle of the octogenarians. One has the moral high ground, the other the artistic high ground. Can one person hold both high grounds?

Jacobus is on the artistic high ground and is an equal to Herza. After all, he had turned his back on where he perceived the world of classical music was going. Regarding morality, the core of Jacobus’ humanity lies under several layers of crustiness. That is not the case with Herza. His approach to music is as an extension of his ego, possessing a unique internal power that no one can stand up to. But this is also the context that allows Herza to bask in hero worship and want to be an Elvis. It’s a rare trait, especially in a physically decrepit character like Herza. So the novel is about a battle of wills between the two.

Death and Transfiguration examines how people’s personalities change when confronted with authority. In orchestras you simply do not argue with a conductor. This is probably healthy because there has to be someone to govern the sound. A good conductor needs to be the one with a clear conviction about the music.

In this series you are exceptionally deft in depicting the national, ethnic and religious identities of characters. You make the reader aware that they matter – yet you avoid the use of stereotypes, profiling, ethnic jokes (though viola and trumpet players are not so lucky). Is this skill the result of the observations you recorded during your extensive international travels?

Today’s political climate is based on division, and people are judged by their positions on political issues, which is unfortunate. There is a complexity about most people that means there should almost always be areas where people can connect with each other. There are national characteristics – in Japan Herza was uniformly adulated and could feel like the god he thought he was - but at the same time there is a huge spectrum of personalities embodying them. In this novel we have the contrasting Czech characters of Jan Hus and Elena Garnisova, illustrating the entire range of personalities found in one culture. One wonderful thing about the music profession is that among musicians from different cultures, more commonalities than differences exist. Stock characters have a place only in comic books.

Are most conductors alpha males?

The good conductors often are alpha males. Telling a hundred qualified people what to do almost always requires a dominating temperament. It leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy: the confident conductor will become disliked. These days orchestras function more than ever as corporate entities, and a conductor’s claim to fame is based more on what other orchestras they guest-conduct than the orchestra for which he’s the music director. In addition, the conductor’s leverage over hiring is not what it used to be though his view still is decisive in identifying the artistic program and selecting the winners of auditions.

Will Jacobus feature in a future novel that might be titled Funeral Sonata?

The book titles are informed by the musical pieces and in turn they inform the stories. But I don’t want the titles to become a constraint. Choosing venues as titles might be a new interesting twist, for example The Concert Tour, or the Violin Shop. At present, though, I have been writing short stories that have nothing to do with music, but it’s possible the Jacobus series or even some thrillers might be in the offing.
Learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias' website.

Interview: Gerald Elias (October 2009).

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

Writers Read: Gerald Elias.

The Page 69 Test: Danse Macabre.

My Book, The Movie: Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre.

The Page 69 Test: Death and the Maiden.

Interview: Gerald Elias (November 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey's first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published seven novels, including: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona, and The House on Fortune Street.

Her latest novel is The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

From her Q & A with Steven Wingate at Fiction Writers Review:

Steven Wingate: I’ve heard you speak eloquently about a subject most writers shy away from: the mid-career challenge of not “recycling” tropes and themes from your earlier work. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is your seventh novel, and it deals with landscapes (rural Scotland) and human situations (a young girl isolated) that appeared in your earlier books. How did you keep your imagination fresh for this novel, and what about the characters and material made you confident you could pull it off?

Margot Livesey: I had of course written about a young girl in rural Scotland in Eva Moves The Furniture but writing about Gemma felt like a different project in a number of very significant ways. Eva is born in 1920 and grows up into the Second World War. Gemma is born after that war and what her future holds is that great tidal wave of feminism and women’s liberation that swept over Britain and the US in the late sixties and seventies. I purposefully set the novel before that tide took hold, at least in my part of Scotland.

Perhaps more crucially Gemma faces very immediate and personal adversity. After her uncle dies she is forced to fight her own battles, and she does so with determination. In writing her story I was trying to create not just a character but a heroine.

Advance reading copies of Gemma contain a “Dear Reader” note in which you speak of “writing back to Charlotte Brontë.” Did she continue that correspondence? By this I mean, did your relationship to her (and to Jane Eyre) as touchstones change over the course of the novel?

From the day I started writing Gemma I have not dared to look back at Jane Eyre but my relationship to the novel has...[read on]
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey (September 2009).

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

Writers Read: Margot Livesey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jeffrey Siger

The Greek Press called Jeffrey Siger's work “prophetic,” Eurocrime described him as a “very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain,” and the City of San Francisco awarded him its Certificate of Honor citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.” Target: Tinos, the fourth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, follows up on Jeffrey Siger's internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, and Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy.

Born in Pittsburgh, Siger practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm and established his own New York City law firm before giving it all up to live and write on the island of Mykonos.

From his Q & A with Declan Burke at the Crime Always Pays blog:

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

Though one might not think of it as a ‘traditional’ crime novel, I’d have to say BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy. There’s none better to my way of thinking.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

No question about it. Sherlock Holmes, original version. Golden Victorian prose and none of that DNA detecting stuff to clutter one’s tiny attic of an investigative mind.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

The plays of...[read on]
Visit Jeffrey Siger's website.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Mykonos.

The Page 69 Test: Prey on Patmos.

The Page 69 Test: Target Tinos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Joshua Henkin

Joshua Henkin's new novel is The World Without You.

From his Q & A with Barbara Chai at the Speakeasy blog:

In “The World Without You,” the setting is the Berkshires, but all of the characters are very shaped by New York City. Is New York an invisible character?

I think it is. All three of my books feel to me like very New York-centric books. Even though this book is based in the Berkshires, David convinces Marilyn to get a country house because he says the Berkshires are the Massachusetts outpost of the Upper West Side. He promised her that Zabar’s is going to come to Great Barrington. I think these characters are New Yorkers at heart. My books aren’t autobiographical in any narrow sense, but I do think that New York as a place is something that’s very strong in my books, it’s very strong in me.

You are from New York and later moved around a lot too. But you eventually came back.

I grew up in New York but I moved away for awhile, I lived in Jerusalem for a year, I lived in Cambridge, Mass. for four years, I lived in the Bay Area for four years, and I lived in Ann Arbor for eight years. I didn’t think it was inevitable that I would end up back here, and yet here I am, back here for 13 years. There’s something about New York that pulls me, and something particular about the Upper West Side. Morningside Heights is my neighborhood in some way, even though I don’t live there any longer. Even the places I left to go to feel related to New York. I was born in 1964 and one of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother taking me to nursery school in 1968 – I went to the Greenhouse Nursery School, which is across Columbia’s campus. We were turned back at the gates by the Columbia riots. That was sort of my snow day. When I graduated from Harvard, deciding what to do next, I...[read on]
Learn more about the novel and its author at Joshua Henkin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Matrimony.

Writers Read: Joshua Henkin (August 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue