Sunday, July 26, 2015

Most anticipated books for August based on number of copies in initial printing

According to Publishers Weekly, the following books have the largest initial printings of the books to be released in August:

Friction by Sandra Brown will have an initial run of 400,000 copies and be released on August 18. From her publisher:
Crawford Hunt wants his daughter back. Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford, a Texas

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jack Livings wins the PEN/Bingham prize for debut fiction with ‘The Dog’

Jack Livings has won the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction for his book, The Dog. The Prize “honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work – a novel or collection of short stories – represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.”

In their citation, the judges said:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Grand Arbor Reserve apartment complex blinks; bookmobile and teacher volunteers to return

Robert Willett/News & Observer photo

Wake County Public School System photo
Raleigh News and Observer staffer Mechelle Hankerson has reported that the Grand Arbor Reserve apartment complex has changed its position. The Lacy Elementary School teacher volunteers will be allowed to return to the apartments with their weekly bookmobile for children.

Grand Arbor Reserve officials had told the volunteers that they could not come back because of a new policy issued by the complex

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Brad Parks’ latest Carter Ross mystery, ‘The Fraud,’ is a winner!

Jim Farrington
Guest Contributor

How do you write a novel about the mean streets of Newark (NJ) that centers on a prevalence of street crime without insulting a city that has already borne more than its share of ridicule and derision? Brad Parks, in his latest novel featuring investigative reporter Carter Ross, manages to walk that line with a plot that centers on an epidemic of car hijackings involving multiple murders and corruption. Early on, Parks writes “You don’t stop for red

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Graham Swift’s ‘England and Other Stories’ provides vignettes of ordinary life

Graham Swift’s new collection of short stories (twenty-five stories in 238 pages) provide what Lucy Sholes, writing in The Guardian (8/3/14) calls snapshots:

Reduction in all its forms is something of a theme in Graham Swift's collection, both in form and content. Over 25 stories he reduces his characters' lives to these snapshots; a freeze-frame suspended image of a moment that distils the essence of the life in question, reduces it to

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Scout goes home again

Guest Contributor

Fifty-five years after To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman has been published. If Harper Lee or her publisher planned its timing, they could not have picked a better time to release this novel. Harper Lee has once again given the world a captivating look at and a gripping narrative on the most divisive issue of our time.

In 1957, Harper Lee submitted her novel, Go Set a Watchman, for publication. At the advice of her editor, she was asked to rewrite it as a coming of age story narrated by a young

Monday, July 20, 2015

Atticus Lish's ‘Preparation for the Next Life’ is an impressive debut novel of unsettling power

In awarding Atticus Lish the PEN/Faulkner Award for his debut novel, Preparation for the Next Life, the judges said it “scours and illuminates the vast, traumatized America that lives, works and loves outside the castle gates. The result is an incantation, a

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Raleigh apartment complex bans kids’ reading program (while allowing ice cream trucks)

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the management of the Grand Arbor Reserve will have seen the light. If not, please contact them and the corporate owner, Landmark Apartment Trust, to point out the errors of their ways.

According to a front-page story in the Saturday Raleigh News and Observer, teachers from the Lacy Elementary School load up their cars once a week with donated books and take them to two nearby apartment

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Registration is now open for the thirteenth annual James River Writers Conference in Richmond

Registration is now open for the thirteenth annual James River Writers Conference to be held October 16-18, 2015 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va.

Pre-conference Master Classes will be offered on Friday, October 15. They include:

Friday, July 17, 2015

‘One Man Against The World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon’

In an author’s note at the beginning of his One Man Against The World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, Tim Weiner asks the obvious questions about his subject:

What compelled him to commit crimes – secretly collecting campaign cash from foreign dictators and aspiring American ambassadors, wiretapping his loyal aides and distinguished diplomats as if they were foreign spies – and then conspire to conceal them? Why did he drive the nation deeper into Vietnam, at a cost of tens of

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lisa Scottoline and her daughter ask: “Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?”

Prolific mystery writer Lisa Scottoline and her daughter, Francesca Serritella, have released their sixth collection of short essays designed to appeal to women readers. From the jacket copy: “The unstoppable, irreverent mother-daughter team presents a collection of funny stories and true confessions that

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Time to pre-order ‘Murder Under the Oaks,’ Bouchercon’s 2015 anthology

Bouchercon 2015, the 46th annual international crime fiction event, is being held in Raleigh October 8-11. More than a thousand authors, fans, publishers, reviewers, booksellers and editors are expected. (You can see a list of special guests and registered attendees at

The 2015 Bouchercon Anthology: Murder Under the Oaks, is now available for pre-order from Down and Out Books. Edited by Art Taylor,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

T. C. Boyle’s ‘The Harder They Come’ is a
yes-you-oughta’-read-it-now novel

Almost every time I pick up a T.C. Boyle book, I begin to wonder what kind of Faustian deal I could make that would allow me to write half as well as he does. OK, a tenth as well. (Pssst! Call me, Mephistopheles.)

Boyle’s The Harder They Come (not to be confused with Perry Henzell’s 1972 Jamaican crime film of the same name) is his fifteenth novel and twenty-fifth book. Set mostly in Northern California, it “explores the roots of violence and anti-authoritarianism inherent in the American character.”

The three main characters are Sten Stenson, a Vietnam vet and retired school principal, now in his 70’s, his son, Adam, and Adam’s older girlfriend, Sara.

Sten has a trigger temper. In the opening scene of the book, he and his wife are on a cruise and have signed up for a nature walk in the Costa

Monday, July 13, 2015

2015 International Thriller Winners

The International Thriller Writers announced the winners of the 2015 Thriller Awards on Saturday night in New York. Posted by SHOTS Crime and Thriller Ezine, they are:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Authors & readers organize against Amazon’s “You Know The Author” review purges

Author Jas Ward has had enough! Her petition to make Amazon change its “You Know The Author” policy has over 11,000 supporters (as of July 10) and the numbers are rising. You can join the fight at

David Streitfeld drew attention to Amazon “review purges” back in 2012

Saturday, July 11, 2015

2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction finalists announced

The American Bar Association’s ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Law School have announced the finalists for the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The award is given annually “to a book-length fictional work that ‘best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society, and their power to effect change.’ ”

The finalists are:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Judy Blume’s ‘In the Unlikely Event’ centers on three plane crashes near Newark Airport

In the Unlikely Event is Judy Blume’s first novel for an adult audience in fifteen years and she says it’s the last long novel she intends to write. At age seventy-seven, she’s entitled to rest on her laurels, especially after having sold more than eighty-five million books.

She is perhaps best known for her Middle-Grade and YA books including, Are You There, God? It’s Me – Margaret. She is known, admired (and sometimes banned) for her frank depiction of topics like masturbation, physically developing bodies, sex and other subjects often avoided in YA novels.

In the Unlikely Event tells the story of three generations of a Jewish family in Elizabeth, New Jersey, mostly in the years 1951 and 1952. It is

Thursday, July 9, 2015

For once, the term “hero” actually fits!

Wetend to bandy about the word “hero” a lot these days. Anyone from a winning athlete to the neighbor who rescues a cat from a tree is a “hero.” It cheapens the currency so I am happy to announce that Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, is the real deal. A real, genuine, 100% hero.  No less an authority than Desmond Tutu calls him “America's young Nelson Mandela.”

The great-grandson of slaves, Stevenson grew up in a poor, rural, racially segregated settlement on the eastern shore of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware. His father worked in a food factory and cleaned beach cottages and rentals on the weekends. His mother had a civilian job at an Air Force Base. Against these odds,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

David Rosenfelt asks: “Who let the dog out?”

Jim Farrington
Guest Contributor

When a stray shepherd-mix named Cheyenne is stolen from a shelter belonging to a foundation owned by attorney Andy Carpenter, the recovery of the dog should have been a simple matter of following the tracking device implanted in the animal. Instead, it sets Carpenter on a path that will involve murder, diamond smuggling, international terrorists, and, oh, more murders.

Along with his friends Willie Miller who manages the shelter and police detective Pete Stanton, they track the stolen dog and find her sitting next

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 31 submissions deadline for Main Street Rag anthologies on ghosts, suspense, time and dogs

July 31 is the deadline for submissions to Main Street Rag’s four (count them, four) anthologies. And, this year, there are prizes! For each anthology there will be a $100 award for best short fiction (2,000 words or more); $50 for best flash fiction, $50 for best poem and $50 for best creative nonfiction story.

The themes for the anthologies are Ghosts, Suspense, Time and Dogs. Below are the descriptions (from the Main Street Rag website) of what the editors are seeking.

GHOSTS will be edited by Jane King Andrews.

We all have them. The dead won’t stay still. The departed won’t shut up. Do you see dead people? What do they want? Do you hear your name called when no one is there?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nineteen tales of lust, love and longing! Yummy!

Guest Contributor

Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing, was formed from a simple directive: write a crime story about sex. From there, the Carolina Sisters (and Brothers) of Crime let their imaginations loose. This anthology has stories for everyone, from the ice cream in “Ice Cream Allure” by E.B. Davis to the violence in “The White Van” by Joanie Conwell; from the futuristic sex in Marjorie Ann Mitchell’s “The Game” to the historic

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Submit your art for Banned Books Week trading cards

BANNED BOOKS WEEK, the annual celebration of the freedom to read, will run from September 27 through October 3, 2015, and will be observed in libraries, schools, bookstores and other community settings across the country.

This year, Banned Books Week will focus on Young Adult fiction. In recent years, the most frequently challenged books in libraries have been Young Adult (YA) titles. Six YA titles were on the list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2014, according to the American Library

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day

Whenin the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Wehold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ken Kalfus’ ‘Coup de Foudre’ is a collection of surprises

Here’s the thing about Ken Kalfus and his Coup de Foudre. You can’t typecast him or describe this collection in a few simple words. The fifteen short stories and one novella contained in it are so different, one from another, that it is almost like an anthology

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jim Crace wins the $112,000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize with ‘Harvest’

Photo by Eamonn McCabe

Jim Crace’s Harvest has won the 20th Annual IMPAC Dublin Literary award, managed and presented by Dublin City Libraries. It is “the world’s most valuable literary award for a single work of fiction published in English,” according to IMPAC.

Harvest also won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was named the Best Book of the Year by

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A marvelous novel of love and betrayal and impatience: Ian McEwan’s ‘The Children Act’

Guest Contributor

One of the joys in reading a good book is the many ways readers can relate to it. Take Ian McEwan’s latest novel, The Children Act. In its essence, it is about a respected judge, Fiona Maye, in the Family Division of the English High Court who is facing difficult life and death decisions at work while her husband of twenty-three years threatens their marriage.

Some focus on the discussions of the law. Indeed the title of the book, and a recurring theme, comes from a 1989 English law, “The Children Act,” which provides that “when a court determines any question with

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America announce 2015 Nebula Awards

SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) is a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres. Established in 1965, it has over 1800 members. Each year the organization presents its Nebula Awards for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

The winners this year are:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Joseph Ellis’ ‘The Quartet’ challenges assumptions about our founding fathers

Historian Joseph J. Ellis begins his latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1788, by taking Abraham Lincoln to task. In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln intoned, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this Continent a new Nation,” to which Ellis says, “Nuh-uh. Did not” (or words to that

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fall writers’ conferences in very different locations

NYCThe Slice Literary Writers’ Fifth Annual Conference will take place September 12-13 at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. The Conference was established by editors Maria Gagliano and Celia Johnson who are also the powers behind Slice Literary Magazine.

The conference, they say, “walks writers through the professional publishing process, from the writer’s desk to the bookstore shelf. Panels, craft workshops, and one-on-one agent meetings offer writers an insider view of the industry that is rarely seen by those outside of book publishing.”

Panels include A Day in the Life, in which agents from major firms discuss their methods for finding a publisher for a client’s project;

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Amherst Poetry Festival: Call for Proposals

The Third Annual Amherst Poetry Festival, co-sponsored by the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Amherst Business Improvement District, “takes poetry off the shelf and puts it into the streets, parks, shops, and

Friday, June 26, 2015

July 2015’s five most anticipated books

Harper Lee’s novel (written in the 1950’s, before To Kill a Mockingbird and only recently “discovered” by her attorney) will be released on July 14 with TWO MILLION copies in the first printing.

Scout Finch, now an adult and living in New York, returns to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Atticus, 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Many of the same characters appear in both novels. According to the publisher, Scout “is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ann Packer’s ‘The Children’s Crusade’ is a fast read that is not without its charms

Photo by Lisa Noble

Itwas pure coincidence that I read Ann Packer’s The Children’s Crusade in the same week that I read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (reviewed in this blog on 6/22). The similarities are striking although, in my view, Tyler’s is the better book.

In each novel, a man falls in love with a piece of property and lives on it the rest of his life. In Blue Thread, Junior, a contractor, builds his dream house for clients and then engineers their moving out and selling it to him. In The Children’s Crusade, Bill Blair, a Navy physician, manages to get a weekend pass and, north of San Francisco, finds a beautiful piece of land which he buys “on a whim,” and on which he later builds a house. In both novels, the house looms large in the family’s history and in the memories of the children raised in it.

There’s more. In both novels, there is the irresponsible, difficult child who, as an adult, returns home to wreak more havoc. In Blue Thread, it

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It’s Raining Laureates! Juan Felipe Herrera, Jacqueline Woodson and Chris Riddell chosen

Juan Felipe Herrera has been selected by the Library of Congress as the next Poet Laureate of the United States. Herrera, the son of migrant farmworkers, served as poet laureate of California from 2012 to 2014. He was educated at UCLA and Stanford and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Herrera has published more than a dozen collections of poetry, including 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ali Smith wins the 2015 Women's Prize for Fiction with ‘How to be Both’

British novelist Ali Smith has been awarded the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for How to Be Both. (See review on this blog on 6/1/15).

Launched in 1996, the Prize is awarded annually and celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.” The winner receives £30,000 (about $46,000) and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie,’ created by the artist Grizel Niven. Both are anonymously endowed.

Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges, said of Smith’s novel: “Ancient and modern meet and

Monday, June 22, 2015

Anne Tyler looks at family myths in her 20th novel ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’

Photo by Michael Lionstar

The good news is that Anne Tyler’s 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, is a wonderful book. The bad news is that she has said that it will be her last novel. Hers is a voice I have read and loved for fifty years and I am inexpressibly sad that there may not be more to come.

A Spool of Blue Thread is the story of three generations of a Baltimore family.

[It] is a thoughtful and intriguing study of the role of memory in creating and destroying the stories we tell