July 01, 2011

Meet Sara Gran, author of "Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead"

Claire Sara Gran never read Nancy Drew books as a kid. Surprising, considering that her bold new novel is about a girl detective who grows up to be a private investigator, albeit one who uses the I Ching, omens, dreams and a cornucopia of drugs to help solve cases.

“I read them as an adult,” admits Gran, author of the unique, trippy Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24), which adroitly melds old-school whodunit moves with a punk sensibility. “I got it all backwards. They’re not very absorbing; the pace is so slow by today’s standards. But sociologically they’re interesting.”

Gran’s extraordinary spin on the girl sleuth has gained notice for its originality — grand dame of American mystery fiction Sue Grafton wrote: “This is the first fresh literary voice I’ve heard in years” — and rightly so. Her Claire DeWitt travels to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to track down a client’s missing uncle (named Vic Willing; Gran’s humor is nothing if not dark). The ravaged city where she once lived is shocking enough (“The damage didn’t end. It seemed like it should be over, and then on the next block it was worse: buildings, missing walls, houses pushed by the force of the water into other houses, cars on top of cars, boats on sidewalks, parking lots of cars covered with the chalky white dust the dirty water left”).

Sara Gran But Claire is also haunted by other specters: the death of her mentor Constance, the unsolved disappearance of her childhood best friend. Another, more distant mystery clings, too: the vanishing of the young daughter of her hero, French detective Jacques Silette, whose enigmatic book Détection forms the basis of Claire’s philosophy of investigation, which goes something like this: “The client already knows the solution to his mystery. But he doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t hire a detective to solve his mystery. He hires a detective to prove that his mystery can’t be solved.”

Click here to read the rest of my interview with Gran.

Posted by Connie Ogle at 02:04 PM in Authors, Fiction
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June 29, 2011

Get ready for the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar

It’s never too early — and in fact will soon be too late — to sign up for the next Key West Literary Seminar, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in Jan. 5-8 2012.

Egan This year’s theme? "Another World: The Literature of the Future," and the seminar has the big literary names to prove they’re serious: Jennifer Egan (at right, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad); Douglas Coupland; William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, Joyce Carol Oates, astrophysicist Janna Levin, James Gleick; Gary Shytengart; Jonathan Lethem, Michael Cunningham; George Saunders; Colson Whitehead; James Tate; Charles Yu; Dexter Palmer; Rivka Galchen; and Valerie Martin.

There will also be writing workshops led by Atwood; Martin; Mary Morris; Lee Smith; Robert Stone; Paulette Bates Alden; Billy Collins; and Dana Weir.

To register, click here.



Posted by Connie Ogle at 03:39 PM in Authors, Book news, Events, Workshops and seminars
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Tasting "A Drop of the Hard Stuff" by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block has written a head-spinning number of books and several series, but undeniably his best creation is private investigator Matthew Scudder, an alcoholic former cop who "does favors" for people for money to survive New York City's meaner streets.

Drop His last Scudder novel came out in 2005, so it was a pleasure to sit back with the new one, A Drop of the Hard Stuff. Great title, right? Block's titles are always terrific. My favorite (and favorite Scudder novel for that matter) is When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes.

Scudder started out the series as a drinker but reformed over time. In A Drop of the Hard Stuff he's still bouncing from AA meeting to AA meeting, working his sobriety with a vengeance.

And speaking of vengeance, his latest "favor" is looking into the death of 'High Low" Jack Ellery, a childhood friend who took the more criminal road into adulthood. Jack is also a recovering alcoholic who is working on making amends to everyone he has wronged (a long list - Jack has not lived a particularly compassionate life). But someone is apparently not happy to everything Jack is confessing; he's murdered, and Scudder is determined to find out who killed him and why.

In addition to the main mystery - which is pretty intriguing as it is - Block also makes Drop something of an elegy for the old New York, before Times Square cleaned itself up and every mom and pop shop surrendered to incoming yuppies and hedge fund managers. There's always a touch of nostalgia and melancholy to the Scudder books, maybe because he's well aware his alcoholism is a lifelong sentence, that every day he'll face demons anew. A drop of the hard stuff is never all that far away.



Posted by Connie Ogle at 11:40 AM in Fiction
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June 27, 2011

What are you reading now?

Wiley "I just finished Ken Bruen’s The Devil, which shows that hardboiled mysteries still can surprise and delight. If you took the best features of 21st century noir and threw them into a Waring blender with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown, the result would read like The Devil. It speaks about how we face evil and sometimes make it up for ourselves because our lives are empty without it.”

Michael Wiley, author of A Bad Night’s Sleep

Posted by Connie Ogle at 07:54 AM in Authors, Recommendations
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June 24, 2011

"State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett - a review

Wonder Ann Patchett’s rich new novel poses many intriguing ideas about how we live, but perhaps the most thought-provoking question is “whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived.” An interesting dilemma, especially in State of Wonder, a modern-day Heart of Darkness that trades the Congo for the Amazon and ivory hunters for pharmaceutical researchers but probes some of the same issues of imperialism, guilt and responsibility, of power and its use and abuse. Like Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s novel, Patchett’s protagonist, scientist Marina Singh, sets off on a journey that reveals the darker sides of human nature, her own included. The difference? Patchett, ever an optimist, offers shadings of light as well.

If these weighty concepts sound too much like schoolwork, be assured that reading Patchett is anything but a slog. Author of the devastating memoir Truth & Beauty and five previous novels, including the beloved Bel Canto and the underappreciated Run, Patchett writes with swiftness and clarity. And her stalking of Big Literary Game — nobody rewrites Conrad without understanding that’s what she’s doing — hasn’t hindered her ability to explore the finer emotional detail of human relationships.

The novel opens in cold, pristine Minnesota, an almost sterile environment compared to the riot of garish color, searing heat and potential danger of exotic South America. Marina’s boss Mr. Fox — that’s how she thinks of him, although he’s her lover as well as her CEO — comes to her office to announce that her colleague Anders Eckman, who had been sent to the Amazon to keep tabs on a scientist researching a miracle drug for the company, is dead. Oddly, his demise is announced via airmail. The scientist he’d been sent to monitor, Dr. Annick Swenson, “won’t use the phone, or she says it doesn’t work there.” There’s no Internet connection, either. And so Anders’ death is passed along on stationery puckered by rain, and Marina and Mr. Fox must break the news to his wife and young sons.

Click here to read more (but not THAT much more, don't worry).


Posted by Connie Ogle at 02:43 PM in Fiction
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What "Pottermore" means for the industry

Hallows By now you know the score on J.K. Rowling's new website Pottermore: It's the place to find additional stories and information about your favorite boy wizard, as well as the only place to get unavailable versions of ebooks of the Potter stories. The website opens in October, but you can leave your email address and you'll be notified when registration has begun.

Good marketing on the part of Rowling? Definitely. Anything Potter-related grabs attention.

 But Publisher's Weekly is more interested in the website's affect on the industry. "Many people who work in publishing think that as interesting as Pottermore is, the endeavor says less about the future of book publishing than about the singular status of a very wealthy author who has the inclination and means to build her own brand," writes Rachel Deahl.

Click here to read more.


Posted by Connie Ogle at 12:18 PM in Book news
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June 21, 2011

Illinois woman joins battle for class-action lawsuit against "Three Cups of Tea" author

Mort Former schoolteacher Deborah Netter of Lake County, Illinois, has joined efforts to get a class-action lawsuit off the ground against the now-controversial Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, the Associated Press reports.

Netter filed a federal lawsuit this month in Illinois claiming Mortenson (at right), his co-author and his publisher violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Netter isn't the first to push for the lawsuit: Two Montana lawmakers have filed a similar claim there saying they were duped into buying Mortenson's best-selling book and donating to his charity based on lies they thought were true.

The lawsuits are seeking class-action status so they can be joined by the millions of people who bought Mortenson's books, heard his speeches or donated to his charity.

Posted by Connie Ogle at 11:42 AM in Book news
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World War II historian wins prestigious Pritzker award

Normandy World War II historian Carlo D'Este has won the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement.

D'Este, whose books include Decision in Normandy and Bitter Victory, will be award $100,000 for his military scholarship. The Chicago-based Tawani Foundation sponsors the award.

Previous recipients of the prize, which was founded in 2007, include James M. McPherson and Rick Atkinson.

Posted by Connie Ogle at 11:10 AM in Awards, Nonfiction
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June 20, 2011

Self-published author sells 1 million ebooks on Kindle

Rachel He has hit a milestone however you slice it: John Locke, author of Saving Rachel, Vegas Moon and Wish List, is the first self-published author to sell a million ebooks on Kindle, according to Amazon.

He's in some pretty heady company. Other members of the Kindle 1 Million Club? Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins and Michael Connelly.

In a press release about his success, Locke said: “Kindle Direct Publishing has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the book selling industry. Not only did KDP give me a chance, they helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.” 


Posted by Connie Ogle at 12:10 PM in Book news, Web/Tech
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What are you reading now?

Megan “I have two teenage daughters, and so I read a lot of young adult fiction, but Libba Bray’s young adult novel Beauty Queens is really a book for everyone. Teen beauty queens crash on a tropical island, and from that point on, the story is unstoppable. It’s not only a satire on how our culture defines girls, but it’s also a very cool and insanely hilarious adventure with a hefty dose of female empowerment. I laughed out loud all through it, but more importantly, it’s not a story I’ll ever forget.”

Megan Chance, author of City of Ash

Posted by Connie Ogle at 11:58 AM in Authors, Recommendations
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