Writing about romance doesn't exactly come naturally to thriller writer Carolina Garcia-Aguilera.
"I'm kind of cynical,'' admits the former private investigator and author of the Lupe Solano detective series, who lives in Miami Beach. îîI write gory books with some sex in them. You get three bodies per book, or you get your money back. I don't shy away from blood and gore. . . . A love story? It's hard for me to write about two people in the bed, and two of them are still breathing.''
But Garcia-Aguilera's love story - yes, she did write one, "kicking and screaming'' all the way - proved to be something of a success: An adaptation of her breezy novel One Hot Summer - about a Cuban American immigration lawyer in Miami torn between her husband and her first love - premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime.
Garcia-Aguilera has seen a few minutes of a rough cut. (Earlier this week she headed to Los Angeles with her "Cuban posse'' - her brother, sister and three daughters - for a screening of the movie, which stars Vanessa Marcil.) Still, even those few moments were special.
"The strangest thing was seeing my name on the screen,'' she says. "I was blinking back tears!''
Garcia-Aguilera has sold options for books before; that's the way it works in the movie biz. The first Lupe Solano mystery, Bloody Waters, has been sitting on somebody's desk since the mid '90s, she says,
and there's still no movie in the works.
One Hot Summer was published back in 2002, and "in August last year I got this e-mail about it,'' she says. "I'd almost forgotten I'd written it.''
She takes a practical view of what screenwriters may have done to her story.
"No one made me sell this book. It's my decision. And when you have a house and you sell your house, you can't tell the new owner, 'Don't paint it pink or add a bathroom.' . . . You have to see what happens. I'd love to have them stick close to the book, but I know what the realities are.''
Though there's no Lupe movie on the horizon - yet - fans of the six-book series can rest assured that Garcia-Aguilera hasn't forgotten her sassy, gun-toting, Cuban-American P.I., though she does admit to needing a break after writing the last installment, Bitter Sugar.
"I love Lupe. She's wonderful. But the fact that I shot her in the last book . . . what does that tell you?''
So you think only word-of-mouth from independent bookstores shapes what sells? Think again. The New York Times reports that Target has proved to be a mover and a shaker when it comes to book sales, through its book club and its Bookmarked Breakout program.
Target, the story says, carries only around 1,700 titles, most of them in paperback, shelved face out to draw attention to covers.
"By assembling a collection of books by unheralded authors, Target behaves more like an independent bookstore than like a mere retailer of mainstream must-haves (although, of course, Target sells its share of best-seller list regulars, like James Patterson and Janet Evanovich," writes the Times.
Read the whole story here.
So you think you've heard all the terrible stories about Hurricane Katrina? You've probably heard plenty of them. But in his new book, Zeitoun, McSweeney master Dave Eggers tells one sure to enrage, about a Syrian immigrant who stayed in New Orleans through the storm and in the aftermath tried to help his neighbors (even feeding dogs that had been left behind, though...who leaves their dogs behind if they're fleeing a killer hurricane?)
Anyway, his reward for his trouble? He was arrested for "looting" his own business, stuck in a makeshift jail, accused of being a terrorist and denied phone calls to his frantic wife, who had left town with the kids.
Click here to read Andrew Ervin's review of the book. This is not one I want to miss.
''How to Save Your Own Life by Erica Jong. I was young and impressionable when I read Fear of Flying. I found it decadent and shocking. I was older when I first read How To Save Your Own Life. I found it decadent and shocking, yes, but also delicious and empowering with its siren call to Live! Love! Cast away the dross! This is my third or fourth reading, and each time I fall in love with Jong's storytelling all over again.''
LIANE SPICER, author of Café au Lait
Hackberry Holland, the bone-weary but morally sturdy protagonist of James Lee Burke's riveting new novel, was not always a good man.
After surviving a harrowing stint as a POW in the Korean War, Hack chased women, drank too much and otherwise squandered any blessings offered by work in politics. Now, though, he's settled down and sober, growing old as sheriff of a dusty town down near the Mexican border, still mourning the death of the wife who helped turn his life around.
Then Pete Flores, a young Iraq War veteran caught up in a crime that's gone too far, makes a 911 call. ''Last night there was some shooting here. A lot of it.'' Hackberry investigates and uncovers -- literally -- the bodies of nine young Asian women buried in a field. Fearing retribution, Pete and his girlfriend Vikki flee, chased by members of organized crime, federal agents (one of them unhinged), drug dealers, porn peddlers and Preacher Jack Collins, an evangelical killer for hire with a confounding sense of biblical justice.
Author of two fine suspense series, Burke revisits familiar themes -- the wages of sin, the rewards of redemption, how past horrors are just about impossible to shake -- against the backdrop of the new West, where a different sort of outlaw who trafficks not only in drugs but also in human beings lays claim to the land.
Burke is a deliberate storyteller; he doesn't skimp on the action, but his exploration of human foibles is deep, and his characters are true. Hackberry wants to retreat from life -- ''[A]t a certain age, you finally accept and trust yourself and let go of the world,'' he thinks, and yet his moral compass won't allow him to let go of much of anything. Even Preacher Jack, kin to the sort of mythic creature who pops up in the dark comedies of Carl Hiaasen, is more intriguing and threatening than humorous. You wouldn't laugh at him. You'd run.
Burke also excels at bringing to life strong, vibrant women. Vikki turns out to be tougher and more savvy than Pete could ever be, and Hackberry's subordinate Pam Tibbs, who has a yen for her boss, is so finely drawn she deserves a book all her own. Rain Gods is about catching the bad guys, but it's also a moving, melancholy examination of how we do wrong, then try our best to atone.
Former New York school teacher - by way of a terrible childhood in Limerick, Ireland - Frank McCourt died Sunday in Manhattan. Read the New York Times obituary here.
Book lovers in South Florida were lucky enough to see McCourt, also author of the memoirs 'Tis and Teacher Man, more than once at recent book fairs. A few years back, McCourt kicked off the fair talking about Teacher Man; last fall, in one of the fair's best pairings, he made an appearance with Dave Barry (who joked that it was unfair that McCourt had had so much misery to write about and that the worst thing that ever happened to him growing up was when the TV reception went out). McCourt also played with the Rock Bottom Remainders, even though Barry claimed he didn't know the words to Danny Boy.
We'll miss you, Teacher Man.
A. Manette Ansay, unlike a lot of other novelists, seems perfectly comfortable blurring the line between autobiography and fiction. The UM prof doesn't waste time worrying about what's true and what springs from her imagination, a trait that works well in her latest book Good Things I Wish You, a lovely little slice of metafiction about a modern-day UM prof (see?) delving into the life of pianist Clara Schumann and her relationships with her husband Robert and composer Johannes Brahms.
Click here to read my interview with Ansay, and hear her talk about Good Things Friday at Books & Books in Coral Gables.