Monday, July 28, 2014

John Shaft’s Mixed Parentage

For years rumors have swirled around about how journalist-turned-author Ernest Tidyman didn’t write all seven of the Shaft novels carrying his byline, but instead turned to ghost writers for substantive work on at least the later entries in that series. Now Steve Aldous -- who is working on a book about Tidyman’s tales of New York City private eye John Shaft and the films those tales inspired -- delivers a fascinating, well-researched piece in our sister publication, The Rap Sheet, that looks back closely at Tidyman’s authorial efforts. Aldous explains at one point:
The success of the films Shaft and The French Connection -- for the latter of which Tidyman received an Academy Award (as well as an Edgar Allan Poe Award) -- significantly increased demands for his time and encouraged him to branch out further into other film writing and production. He set up Ernest Tidyman Productions and began to spread his time across a number of developing projects. The increasing workload encouraged Tidyman to hire writers to help out -- particularly with continuing the Shaft book series.

Tidyman had sketched out story ideas for three further
Shaft books, which he wanted to produce in quick succession so they would fall within the timeframe of MGM’s options agreement. He recruited two writers to help: Robert Turner, a vastly experienced author of pulpish fiction (The Girl in the Cop’s Pocket, etc.) and a contributor to many of the pulp magazines of the 1940s and 1950s; and Phillip Rock, a screenwriter who had also worked on a number of novelizations in the early 1970s (including an adaptation of Dirty Harry). Tidyman had previously used Rock on his novelization of High Plains Drifter, the screenplay Tidyman had written for Clint Eastwood’s 1973 Western.
For all fans of Tidyman’s mostly out-of-print books or Richard Roundtree’s Shaft film series, this piece is well worth reading.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

James Garner Dead at 86

So sad to hear of the passing of actor James Garner (The Rockford Files, Maverick). Garner was 86 and died of natural causes.

Partly through the eternal Rockford Files and partly due to the fact that Garner was immensely popular with his peers and friends throughout his career, there has been a tremendous outpouring of grief in the media following the actor’s passing.

To my eye though, no looks at Garner’s life vis-a-vis his career are as poignant as what was put together by Rap Sheet editor J. Kingston Pierce, who interviewed Garner back in 2011. You can read Pierce’s words on the topic here.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

This Just In… Roastmaster (A Coffee Novel) by Janice Lierz

The seventh sister is over the moon for a Costa Rican coffee farmer...

In the spring of 1984, John Mallory, the seventh sister in a coffee family dies a legend when she is uprooted from Kansas City and travels to a coffee farm in Costa Rica to become a roastmaster.

Eighteen years later, Capri is connected to her dead aunt through a surreal sense of smell. When Capri runs away with her boyfriend, she unearths John Mallory’s story and the myth of the Pleiades, a cluster of blue stars known as the Seven Sisters. But her quirky mother, grandfather and five aunts fear love will also lead Capri to an early grave.

A heartwarming story about family bonds, sisters, coffee and the never-ending love of parent and child. It’s a novel about falling in love -- and the different journeys life takes us on… A tale for those who know magic can be found in the bean of a fruit.

You can order Roastmaster here. Visit author Janice Lierz on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Books are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

George RR Martin Insists He Will Finish Series

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is unimpressed with critics who say he’ll never finish his saga. In fact, he has a few choice words. Well, one anyway.

Recently interviewed by Swiss newspaper, Tages-Anzeiger, Martin blew his cool when asked if he thought his health would allow him to finish the saga.
During an interview with Swiss daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, 65-year-old Martin was asked what he thought about people who wonder if he’ll live long enough to finish the series (presently two books shy of Martin’s projected goal. “I find that question pretty offensive.”
You can see the full interview here. See January Magazine’s 2002 interview with Martin here.

This Just In… Here I Stand by Jillian Bullock

Here I Stand tells the gut-wrenching and compelling real-life story of a young, African-American woman fights to overcome life with the Philadelphia Italian Mafia, rape, homelessness, drugs, and prostitution to fulfill her dream to become a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a screenwriter and a filmmaker.

With determination to live, despite the odds against her, Jillian Bullock’s harrowing account tests the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being of someone who refused to fail.

Through real strength, resilience, perseverance, and what she calls “fighting spirit,” Jillian transformed her life to become a successful businesswoman, journalist, screenwriter, competitive martial artist and boxer, fitness expert, author, actress, empowerment speaker, award winning filmmaker, while raising three children as a single parent.

Jillian’s ability to survive under the most horrific and extraordinary circumstances to go on to completely transform her life makes Here I Stand such an unforgettable story.

Since the book was independently published in 2012, Jillian has been generating great sales and has sparked interest from a few producers in Hollywood, who are interested in turning her memoir into a feature film.

You can order Here I Stand here. Visit author Jillian Bullock on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Young Adult Fiction: The Caller by Juliet Marillier

Summer Gathering, when the rebels of Shadowfell are planning to challenge the evil King Keldec, is approaching rapidly. Caller Neryn, with whom we have made a long journey, still has two Guardians to go before her training is complete. But the White Lady, Guardian of air, is not in the best state. The Master of Shadows(fire) is a trickster who may or may not advise her on how to protect the rebels’ Good Folk allies from cold iron, which makes them sick and can kill them. Worse, Keldec now has his own Caller, who is less scrupulous about what he does to the Good Folk he calls. Neryn’s beloved Flint, the rebels’ double agent, known to his comrades as Owen Swift-Sword, is fed up with his life at court and what he's forced to do as an Enforcer, but has no choice. Can he trust his closest friends in the Enforcers or not? 

The story in Raven Flight (Knopf) has been built up over the last two books in this series. Here it comes to a dramatic climax. Neryn has to make some decisions she doesn’t necessarily like. At the same time, she meets people from the other side whom she can like and respect and even finds herself, at one point, pitying the king and wondering what he might have been like under other circumstances. 

You do tend to forget the heroine is only 16, especially in a world where that’s an age where you might easily be married, but I think that any teens who have read the other two books will be happy with this one. 

Don’t read this without having read the first two books, but if you haven’t, I do recommend this series. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.

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This Just In… EXODUS 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett

Joe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter.

Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn’t have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs. What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast -- from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound -- are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns.

With the help of his girlfriend, Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance -- and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity -- they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain.

You can order EXODUS 2022 here. Visit author Kenneth G. Bennett on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Iconic Authors Who Didn’t Like Each Other’s Writing

Think six degrees of Kevin Bacon… but with authors who didn’t like each other’s work. Visually maps it all out in a splendid infographic.

“For every great author, there’s another great author eager to knock him or her down a few pegs. Although the writers on this map are typically deemed canonical by literary tastemakers, there wasn’t much mutual admiration amongst them.”

Apparently, D.H. Lawrence trashed both Herman Melville and James Joyce, who was also loathed by Virginia Woolf. A lot of people didn’t care for Hemingway (not a big surprise) among them Gore Vidal, Nabokov and Faulkner.

The coolest part: click on the connective arrows to see what each writer didn’t like about the other. There are, as Visually suggests, some way harsh comments. For example, of D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad said, “Filth. Nothing but obscenities.”

OK, truly? I can't see the benefit of having this particular bunch in an infographic. But it looks cool, it draws your eye and, like everything else Visually does, it’s stylish and makes you think for a moment or two. Maybe that’s enough.

See the full and interactive version here.

January Magazine & CASL (Your Action is Required)

Only in Canada, you say?

Because we take an international view to literature in the English language, not all of our readers realize that January Magazine is based in Canada, but we are, even though our contributors and our readership is around the world.

On July 1, new legislation came into effect in Canada requiring everyone who uses e-mail to update their readerships to have a higher level of demonstrated consent from those who will be receiving the e-mail communication.

Everything we send out to readers has been going via RSS for the last few years and in order to sign up to get that mail-out, you have given what is now being called implicit permission. By this time in 2017, we’ll be needing explicit permission from our readership to continue mailing to them. You’ll be hearing from us in future about that.

For the time being, we’re asking that you consider this notice as your implied consent to continue receiving our electronic communications.

If you do not wish to continue receiving news from January Magazine and you’ve received this in e-mail, please reply and your name will be removed from the list.

Of course, you have the option of unsubscribing at any time by following the appropriate link at the bottom of any message from us.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Redford to Bring A Walk in the Woods and Climb to Conquer to the Screen

Robert Redford is set to produce a film adaptation of Climb to Conquer, journalist Peter Shelton’s 2003 WWII biography. The story is about the 10th Mountain Division who scaled rock walks at Riva Ridge to conquer a previously untouchable German position. Some experts have claimed it was this pivotal climb that enabled the Allied forces to move forward to ultimate victory.

According to Variety, Kurt Johnstad (Act of Valor, 300: Rise of an Empire) is in discussion to write the adaptation.

Meanwhile, Redford isn’t letting any moss grow on him waiting for the project to come together. He’s currently busy working on the screen version of another, although very different, biography. This one is based on Bill Bryson’s 1997 book, A Walk in the Woods.

Variety reports that Redford has held the film rights since 2005 and that, at various time, Larry Charles, Chris Columbus and Barry Levinson have “been in negotiations to direct at various points.” Things are looking up now, though. From Variety:
Emma Thompson, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal have joined Robert Redford in the independent drama “A Walk in the Woods.”
Wildwood Enterprises and Route One Films started production Monday on the film, an adaptation of travel writer Bill Bryson’s memoir. Ken Kwapis (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) is directing from a script by “Little Miss Sunshine” writer Michael Arndt.
Nick Nolte will also star.

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This Just In… Baudelaire’s Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and séances.

The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting.

Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume.

Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

You can order Baudelaire’s Revenge here. Visit author Bob Van Laerhoven on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fiction: The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

Already a publishing sensation in Europe, Joel Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Penguin) is one of those books everyone has been talking about. It’s a novel held aloft by a lot of hype, and much of it is even deserved. It reads fast. It’s got an intricate plot, and it’s been compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- though in truth it has none of that book’s urgency or bowstring tautness or even its unspeakable violence. What it does have is a boatload of characters you come to care about and a story that will keep you guessing. It even tries to give itself some meaning. What more could you want?


The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a novel about perception. Dicker, in his first novel, reveals that he is a master at creating perception based on perspective. Whereas most novels are told from one point of view, this one is told in several, all happening at once -- or what seems like at once.

The plot centers on three people: Marcus Goldman, a young novelist whose college professor inspired him to become a writer; Harry Quebert, the professor, a successful novelist now enjoying his twilight years; and Nola Kellergan, the young woman Harry loved, but who was murdered 33 years ago, leaving him alone and destroyed.

The story jumps back and forth in time constantly between 2008 and events leading up to Nola’s murder in 1970. In short, filmic scenes, we spend a lot of time with all three of them, as well as with many other members of the small New Hampshire town where they live. Much of the book follows Marcus’s investigation into Nola’s murder, trying to uncover secrets that both bind the town together and threaten to rip it apart at the seams. We read many parts of the story over and over again, from different points of view, and each time a new detail or motivation or lie is revealed. There are assumptions, there are lies, there’s regret, there are actions and consequences, and there is, eventually, truth. They say that there are three versions of any story: what I think happened, what you think happened, and what actually happened. This book is about all three, except there are more like twenty.
This is why I say the book is about perception. There can be only one truth about who murdered Nola -- as well as why and how -- but the novel offers up many of them before we finally learn the one that really matters. Dicker’s gift is that he doesn’t seem to be playing with the reader; instead, he’s having fun with his characters, and we’re just watching. He knows these people, and he wants them to know the solution as much as they themselves do -- and as much as we do.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is terrific fun -- and it deserves a place in your beach bag.
Now, having said all that, I also have to stand back and wonder why I wasn’t blown away, as I thought I would be -- and as the hype assured me I would be. As involving as it is, I have to admit that sometimes this book is written in a way that makes what’s happening in Somerset sound like a badly written arc of As the World Turns. I attribute this, at least some of it, to the translator. His take has turned what could have been a tight, relentless thriller into a book that’s, well, not so thrilling. Captivating, yes. Fun, yes. But shocking, disturbing, dark, like Steig Larsson’s trilogy? No.

The action unfolds at a few key locations: the town’s diner, Marcus’ house (he borrows it from Harry), another house or two, the roads in and around town. You get the whole small-townness of the setting, the closing of the ranks as an outsider comes poking around. There’s serious threat, and there are serious secrets that beg to be uncovered once the clues are assembled. But they’re assembled, it all comes to a close so nicely. So neatly. What I wanted was a loose end or two. I wanted messiness, especially from such a messy tale.

Peppered throughout are tidbits about writing gleaned from conversations Harry had with Marcus when Marcus was his student. Harry tells him how to write a novel, a novel people will lose themselves in, a novel people will talk about. Much of the advice makes sense, and I suppose Dicker follows all the advice well, because I was drawn in, intrigued, and pretty well satisfied. But still, except for a few choice moments, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair feels very surface to me, very shallow, and that’s a shame. Because I think it’s more than that, and I think Dicker set out to do more than that. In a way, the tidbits, while interesting, undermine the tale they’re meant to illuminate. They’re almost a series of winks from the author that in some small way taint the novel itself. They don’t break the fourth wall, but they very nearly do, the way, say, blood spatters on a camera lens remind you that you’re watching a movie, when that’s the last thing you want.
Le Journal du Dimanche, in France, said: “If you dip your toes into this major novel, you’re finished; you won’t be able to keep from sprinting through to the last page.” The sprinting part is true. But to call The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair a major novel is the problem. It’s big, at 643 pages. But major? I wish.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This Just In… Deathbed Dimes by Naomi Elana Zener

Deathbed Dimes exposes the reality that if you can outlive your relatives, friends, and sometimes even strangers, your odds of hitting the inheritance jackpot are better than playing the lottery.

Joely Zeller is a beautiful and ambitious 32-year-old attorney who is the only daughter of a Hollywood firm royal. She’s determined to build a successful career, find love, and get married, all without her family’s help.

To emerge from under her parents’ cloud of notoriety, Joely fled to New York upon graduation from Stanford Law School to practice Estates and Trust law at a blue-chip Wall Street law firm. Enduring 90-hour workweeks for the next eight years, she sacrificed her love life (jilted by her fiancé for his best man) only to have her career efforts foiled by her incredibly incompetent male counterpart. Joely then sees her golden ticket to self-actualization. A serendipitous encounter with a former professor reminds her that with the impending, inevitable demise of aging baby boomers, an unprecedented wealth transfer is beginning to take place. With her experience and her Hollywood connections, she could start her own law firm back in Los Angeles. With her two best friends and former law classmates as partners, Joely sets about helping the recently disowned, dispossessed, and penniless sharpen their claws as they stake their claims to the fortunes of their dearly departed. ◊


You can order Deathbed Dimes here. Visit author Naomi Elana Zener on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bringing More Characters Back to Life

Most readers have probably forgotten Carolyn Weston (1921-2001), but she was the author of three novels featuring a pair of Santa Monica, California, police detectives, Sergeant Al Krug and Detective Casey Kellog. The first of those, 1972’s Poor, Poor Ophelia, inspired the 1972-1977 ABC-TV drama The Streets of San Francisco.

Now comes word that Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman, the writers behind Brash Books, a new crime-fiction imprint, have acquired Weston’s police procedurals, and plan to republish Poor, Poor Ophelia in 2015. What’s more, Goldberg tells me in an e-mail note, “we own [the three books] outright. So we are planning to continue the series with new novels. We’re in talks with an established female crime writer now about it. We haven’t decided whether to keep them in the ’70s in Santa Monica, or move the setting to San Francisco … or make a big leap and bring them to present-day San Francisco. It’s not as strange as it sounds. [Ed McBain’s] 87th Precinct books spanned decades, but the characters didn’t age. Same goes for Nero Wolfe. So moving our characters to present day, without aging them, has some precedent.”

We’ll let you know more about this as we hear it.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New in Paperback: Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson (Moonlight Hotel, The Man Who Tried to Save the World) brings the gravitas of an accomplished novelist and war correspondent to Lawrence in Arabia (Anchor Books).

This is a stellar look at some of the major issues in the Middle East and the influence that early 19th century outsiders, including Lawrence of Arabia’s TH Lawrence, had on the direction in which the modern Middle East was formed.

The writing here is breathtaking (and the book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2013) and the research it must have taken actually set me aback: this is an intricate work, well beyond the scope of anything you’re imagining.

As a biography of Lawrence, it would have been superb, but Lawrence in Arabia is so much more: offering an illuminating visit to a time and events that still cause ripples across the region and with a contradictory character whose actions continue to cause controversy 80 years after his death. ◊


Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

SF/F: The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

Though certainly not the household word that Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin has become, Tad Williams is one of the icons of the fantasy world.

Since the publication of his first novel, Tailchaser’s Song, in 1985, his dozen novels, eight works of non-fiction as well as the inclusion of his short fiction in various magazines and anthologies have showcased his thoughtful and imaginative prose.

The Very Best of Tad Williams (Tachyon) showcases the work of this engaging author. Most of the stories collected here have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. Bound together in this way, though, they create a sort of living retrospective of the author’s work. Obviously, Williams’ many fans will eat this up. However, those who have been thinking about reading some of his work but have been hesitating will find this book a great indoctrination, especially since many of his novels are massive in both size and scope. Beginning with a more bite-sized stories may well appeal to those wary of making the huge time investment into most of Williams’ novels.

And it won’t surprise Williams’ fans one bit to hear that the author may well be on the cusp of an even broader readership. Williams’ very charming debut novel, Tailchaser's Song, a fantasy set in a world peopled (ahem) by cats, is currently under development as a feature-length animated film. More news on that as it develops. ◊


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This Just In… Thicker than Blood by Joshua Sanofsky

Life just keeps getting more complicated for Journeyman Mage Alys Kinnear.

Arrested for the destruction of her home town, Alys is soon tasked with one of her most dangerous cases to date. A series of grisly slayings in London, all with mysterious ties to Alys and her familiars, causes Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ben Donovan to enlist the aid of the Yard’s prime suspect... Alys herself! But does the good detective have an ulterior motive for wanting to work so closely with her?

You can order Thicker Than Blood here. Read about Family Ties, the previous book in this series here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Book Expo 2014: Report from the Floor

by Tony Buchsbaum

Every year at this time, the book universe gathers to celebrate itself (and why shouldn’t it?) at Book Expo America. This is the spot to be if you’re a book lover. But good luck getting in. It’s not open to the public -- except for a little bit. But more on that later.

This year, BEA was held at the massive Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC. In years past, Javits was filled to bursting with BEA-ness. More recently, it’s been a bit smaller, mostly confined to the main exhibit hall and select meeting rooms downstairs.

What happens at BEA? Books. This is where publishers from all over the world showcase the big books coming out between spring and Christmas. So it’s around six or seven months of bestsellers-to-be, all revealed at once in one form or another. By which I mean, glossy jackets displayed in fancy digital frames at one end, and deluxe, hard-to-get-your-hands-on advance copies at the other. Oh, and it also means book-world celebs: authors, movie and TV and music stars, all crashing into one giant melting pot of literary yumminess.

The big publishers -- Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and their ilk -- hand out advance copies or arrange them in neat stacks on the floor, free for the taking. Think: kid in a candy store where your money’s no good. Some only give out books when their authors do signings in the booth or at one of the 20 autographing tables where the lines can range from, say, two people to 200.

When a publisher brings in a movie star or Anne Rice or Pat Conroy or some other name author, there’s a line. A long one. When they bring in a debut novelist with no name but an interesting book, it’s more manageable. Either way, it’s a blast. You get a few precious seconds with your favorite author, and then you get a signed book that feels like a bar of gold in your hand.

This year, Billy Idol and Jason Segel signed little previews of their books. Neil Patrick Harris and Jane Lynch signed posters. Jodi Picoult, Alan Furst, Karin Slaughter, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Ben Mezrich, Tracy Letts, Colm Toibin and a starfield of other authors came to sign advance copies of their new books for adoring fans -- and by adoring fans I mean booksellers, librarians, VIPs and members of the press.

Every year, there’s one book everybody wants but relatively few actually get. Two years ago, that book was The Twelve by Justin Cronin. This year, it was The Bone Clocks by Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell. (I, for one, can’t wait to read that one.)

A walk through the aisles reveals editors, publishers, agents, publicists and authors. Unless you know their faces, you spend a lot of time with your eyes cast down so you can read their badges. It’s kind of funny, actually, how eye contact is made only when you know the face -- or suddenly, the name. Either way, it’s great fun.

This year was also the inaugural year for BookCon. This one-day public event was held inside the exhibit hall. For around 30 bucks anyone could come in, mingle, attend some very cool star-studded Q&A sessions and grab books.

When people who love to read come together with those who write, there’s a genuine frisson. When a kid who loves to read comes face-to-face with the author of her favorite book, prepare for wide eyes, some respectful screaming and sometimes tears. To people who love to read, authors are rock stars. BookCon brings them together, and everyone wins. Readers, authors and publishers.

Across BEA and BookCon, the highlight events were a reception for Hilary Clinton, whose new book, Hard Choices, will be out in a week; separate events headlined by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler; a session in which John Green schmoozed with the director of The Fault in Our Stars about making the movie; and one more in which David Mitchell gave away some secrets about his writing process. And on and on and on.

In a word, this year’s BEA was pretty awesome. Next year’s will have a new world of treasures. If you can snag a ticket, do. I’ll see you there.

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Non-Fiction: Keep Your Brain Young by Fraser Smith and Ellie Aghdassi

Keep Your Brain Young (Robert Rose) was hanging around my desk for a while before I realized it was, among other things, a cookbook. “You are what you eat,” reverberated through my mind.

Prior to that I’d thought it was just my editor’s barb that I was no longer as young and sharp as I was when I started writing for January Magazine many moons ago and high time I began looking for ways to keep the old thinking machine sharp and strong.

And then I peeked inside.
This book offers the promise of protecting, repairing, and enhancing your mental health while coincidentally improving your general physical well-being.
Which sounded like a good start.

Before we get to food, of course, there’s a whole lot about the diseases associated with aging, how they progress and what causes them. Don’t kid yourself: this is not cheery stuff, but as Smith notes at the very beginning of Keep Your Brain Young: “It is a fact of life -- we are all going to age.” I would add, “If we’re lucky.”

Part 2 of the book deals with “Smart Nutrients,” how to get them and what the lack of them can cause. Then the “12-Step Healthy Brain Diet Program,” which leads quite naturally to Part 5: “Menu Plans and Recipes for a Healthy Brain” which is a good two thirds of the book.

In addition to recipes, meal plans are included and encouraged, but the recipes take center stage. Nutritional information is included on each recipe page as is a detailed ingredients list and clear instructions.

Keep Your Brain Young is a useful and informative book both for those dealing with specific age-related ailments as well as those many of us who are enjoying the privilege of growing older. ◊

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Monday, June 02, 2014

This Just In… Deathbed Dimes by Naomi Elana Zener

Joely Zeller, a beautiful and ambitious 32-year-old attorney is the only daughter of a Hollywood film royal. She’s determined to build a successful career, find love, and get married, all without the help of her family.

To emerge from under her parents’ cloud of notoriety, Joely flees to New York to practice estates and trust law at a blue-chip Wall Street law firm. Enduring 90-hour workweeks for the next six years, she sacrifices her love life, only to have her career efforts foiled by her incredibly incompetent male counterpart.

Joely then sees her golden ticket to self-actualization. With her experience and her Hollywood connections, she could start her own law firm back in Los Angeles. With her two best friends and former law classmates as partners, Joely sets about helping the recently disowned, dispossessed, and penniless sharpen their claws as they stake their claims to the fortunes of their dearly departed.

Get more information about the book here. You can order Deathbed Dimes here. Visit author Naomi Elana Zener on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Top Ten Literary Put Downs of All Time

When it comes to slapping down an insult, which author takes top honors?

UKTV’s Drama Channel recently commissioned a survey asking 2000 people just that. The results offered up some surprises with Margaret Mitchell, Oscar Wilde (who made the list twice) and Terry Pratchett among the contenders for author of the best literary put down of all time. Here’s are the top 10 greatest literary put-downs:

1. “My dear, I don’t give a damn.” -- Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell (charachter: Rhett Butler)

2. “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, Mr Worthing, to lose both looks like carelessness” -- The Importance Of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (character: Lady Bracknell)

3. “May your genitals sprout wings and fly away.” — Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (character: Om)

4. “If you will forgive me for being personal, I do not like your face.” — Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie (character: Hercule Poirot)

5. “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” — Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen (character: Mr Darcy)

6. “You are the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.” — Pride And Prejudice, Jane Austen (character: Elizabeth Bennett)

7. “If looks could kill, you’d soon find out that yours couldn’t.” — After Claude, Iris Owens (character: Harriet)

8. “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.” — Coriolanus, William Shakespeare (character: Menenius)

9. “The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me.” — The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (character: Gwendolen)

10. “I misjudged you... You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development.” — The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (character: Harvey Stone).

Friday, May 30, 2014

New Douglas Adams May Put New Spin on Beloved Material

When Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams died much too young at 49 in May of 2001, he left a lot of stories untold. At least, that’s what his fans have always suspected. Thanks to his new biographer, JL Roberts, those fans will soon be proven correct. From The Guardian:
There is "an enormous amount of material out there that has never been seen before," said Roberts. As well as Life, the Universe and Everything, the biography will feature an alternative original pitch for Hitchhiker, a lost rough script for the second television series, and further scraps of unused material, with names like Baggy the Runch and The Assumption of Saint Zalabad.
The Life, the Universe and Everything draft, Roberts said, has "whole chapters where the characters are doing different things – different ideas he never got round to using, [such as] chapters written from Arthur Dent's point of view". 
But "none of this stuff is finished," he added. "It's very important to contextualise this material properly … and I understand people thinking that this is raw material and he didn't want it to be seen. I spend part of the book asking what Douglas would have wanted … but there are so many great Douglas Adams jokes which have been completely air-sealed for the last 20 years. [And] I think it's wonderful that we finally get to read some of this stuff."
We agree! You can read more about Roberts’ fascinating journey of Adams’ discovery here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

This Just In… The Phoenix Year by David L. Blond

“...from out of the fire, would rise a new order, like the legend of the phoenix. There would emerge a new world, a new super economy...” 
So begins a sequence of events destined to rock world economies to their core.

On the 50th anniversary of their induction into the Society of the Phoenix, a group of billionaires is about to change the world dramatically, with devastating effect. Overseen by the reclusive Heinrich Von Kleise, the Society has hatched an audacious plan to subvert world economies by using and abusing some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen and their families; in some cases, holding them literally to ransom, or worse.

Michael Ross, an economic advisor to the US President, Ben Masters, a disgraced property tycoon, Natalya Avramowitz, a Russian economist and spy, and “Kim,” a CIA agent, find themselves at the center of this plot, involving inside trading, sex slavery and political corruption.

As the world careens towards financial Armageddon, can Michael, Natalya and Kim prevent global disintegration, or are the world’s financial institutions fated to implode?

The Phoenix Year by David L. Blond is a gripping novel, encompassing many of the financial crises that have hit the headlines in the past decade. The author has skillfully woven these together to create an action-packed conspiracy thriller that smacks of reality and future possibility.

You can order The Phoenix Year here. Visit author David L. Blond on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Dropping American Texts Enrages Brits

A decision to drop classic American texts from British classrooms has critics and the Internet in an uproar. Education secretary, Michael Gove, has been taking serious heat for dropping To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and other works. From The Guardian:
Although a statement from the Department for Education insisted that it was not banning anything, Paul Dodd of OCR attributed the change directly to the education secretary. "Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90% of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past. Michael Gove said that was a really disappointing statistic," he told the Sunday Times. 
Christopher Bigsby, professor of American studies at the University of East Anglia, and the biographer of Arthur Miller, said the "union jack of culture" was now fluttering over Gove's department.
"These works are to be rejected in the name of a more nationally centred syllabus, and this from a confessed admirer of rap. As the home secretary does her best to patrol our borders to keep out international students, who she regards as immigrants, so the GCSE syllabus is to be kept for the English for fear that Romanian novels might move in next door."
The move provoked a furious reaction on Twitter, with the hashtag Mockingbird trending. The actor Mark Gatiss, co-creator of the BBC drama Sherlock, tweeted: "Since when was the wretched Michael Gove allowed to dictate what children read? This man is a dangerous philistine."
In fairness, though, this is hardly book burning. No one is being prevented from reading those American classics. But is it really so heinous for a country to support its literature strongly? So shocking that there is a faction who want British kids to read British novels? There is way more great literature out there than can be assigned in a single academic lifetime. And how do you choose what should be included? Of all the ways that literature in education can be selected, this does not seem to me to be the worst.

It’s possible, though, that I’m in the minority as the outcry against dropping these American texts from British curriculum continues to grow and more than 50,000 names have already been collected in an online protest. From the Change.org petition page:
Michael Gove says he hasn't "banned" any books. But by telling teachers we have to teach Romantic Poets, a 19th century novel, a Shakespeare play and a British text, he is narrowing the curriculum and taking choice away from teachers. With all the other demands on us, it will be hard for any teacher to teach more than these set texts and we simply don’t believe these choices are the right ones for all students. We love literature and want to share that love. This syllabus risks building resentment and dislike of our literary heritage.
Even so, Gove does have some defenders, among them Alan Taylor who, in the Herald Scotland, writes:
But what is this obsession with American literature? As one who reads it constantly, I nevertheless find it odd that educationists would rather drum it into young minds than that of their own culture. It goes without saying that no-one in their right mind would advocate children reading narrowly.
As soon as Taylor asks the question, he answers it.
Readers don't think along nationalist lines. They want to rove without a compass, following whichever tracks take their fancy. The more they read, the better, be it Flaubert or Faulkner, Beckett or Bellow, Kafka or Flannery O'Connor. Indeed, I would argue that looking constantly westward has made us myopic. We need to read more of world literature and more in translation than in the past. 
We need to open up minds rather than close them. Canons and syllabuses may have a practical, scholastic use but they are in essence locked rooms which deny access to other ways of seeing, other ways of imagining and telling stories.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou’s 10 Most Beautiful Quotes

Today literature lost one of its most powerful and beautiful voices when Maya Angelou passed away at age 86.

A celebrated writer, Tony Award-winning actress, grammy nominated musician and professional dancer, Angelou died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The recipient of over 30 honorary doctorates, Angelou was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971) and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Her first book, the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1969 and has since frequently been among the American Library Association’s most banned and challenged books.

While the whole world grieves at the loss of this important and splendid voice, we thought to attempt to find the very best of the quotes attributed to her. It was as difficult a task as it was subjective. It will surprise no one at all to read that we could have listed the best 100 and still not have scratched the surface.


1. “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”

2. “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

3. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

4. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

5. “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

6. “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

7. “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”

8. “Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.”

9. “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.”

10. “I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Mary Stewart Dead at 97

British novelist Mary Stewart, credited with creating the romantic suspense genre, died on May 9th at her home on the west coast of Scotland. She was 97.

Most popular in the 1960s through 1980s, Stewart is credited as one of the pioneers of the romantic suspense genre. Best known for her Merlin series, Stewart wrote more than 20 novels over her long career. From the New York Times:
“Mary Stewart sprinkled intelligence around like stardust,” the columnist Melanie Reid wrote in the Glasgow newspaper The Herald in 2004. “Every chapter was headed with a quote from Marvell or Shakespeare or Browning. The fineness of her mind shone through.”
Ms. Stewart was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1968, received the Frederick Niven Literary Award from the Scottish chapter of International PEN for “The Crystal Cave” and in 2006 was given a lifetime achievement award by the Scottish Parliament.

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This Just In… Under My Skin by Orville Lloyd Douglas

Under My Skin asks a variety of questions, such as: Why are young black gay men invisible in Canada’s queer and black communities? Do their lives really matter? How do young black men deal with the daily challenges of dealing with multiple oppressions in relation to our race and gender? Is Canada truly a multicultural nation? Why are the brothers dying due to gun violence on the streets of Toronto?

Under My Skin is a raw and passionate exploration of desire, power and difference in the Canadian landscape. Douglas’ poetry is visceral and emotionally compelling. The work embodies a profound yearning for love, tenderness and ethical recognition.” -- Sheila L. Cavanagh, York University professor and author of Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination.

You can order Under My Skin here. ◊

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Patricia Highsmith: Art and Inspiration

With the recent film release of The Two Faces of January (no relation), yet another powerful vehicle of film comes to the screen based on the work of Patricia Highsmith.

The movie, starring Viggo Mortenson and Kirsten Dunst and directed by screenwriter Hossein Amini, is based on Highsmith’s 1964 thriller of the same name. The Two Face of January is not, of course, the first film to be based on Highsmith’s work. Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train), Wim Wenders (The American Friend), Claude Chabrol (The Cry of the Owl) and others have all adapted Highsmith’s work for the screen.

Other films inspired by Highsmith’s work are coming and there are many novelists who aim props in the author’s direction. As a result of all this art and inspiration, on The Guardian blog, associate media editor John Dugdale asks, “How did Highsmith become so hip?”
In cinema, the main factors seem to be a new awareness of the diversity of her work beyond the Ripley series, and the latterly acquired potential for period nostalgia – although her writing is spare, post-Hitchcock film adaptations have been visually gorgeous, juxtaposing nasty people with lovely backdrops, such as The Two Faces of January's 1960s Athens. For would-be female crime writers today, part of her appeal is that her protagonists are civilians, in contrast to other potential role models, from PD James and Ruth Rendell onwards, who staged a takeover of the police detective novel (although Rendell later developed a cop-free Highsmith-esque sideline as Barbara Vine). These are contemporary, urban characters, making them more "relatable", at least for grownups, than Du Maurier's heroines, who usually live either in the past or in rural mansions.
Today's proliferating psychological thrillers, however, tend to combine Highsmithian modern setups with Du Maurier's first-person narrative technique in Rebecca, a fusion probably pioneered by Nicci French in a bestselling series starting in the late 90s and now widely adopted as bookshops are inundated with tales of stalker nightmares, sociopathic ex-husbands or bosses and evil best friends.
You can see the full piece here.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grammatical Gaffes in Public Places

In honor of the Bad Grammar Awards, The Guardian newspaper asked readers to send in “examples of grammatical gaffes by institutions or people who should know better.”

The selection they published indicates they had more than a few to choose from. One is published at left. The rest (and there are quite a lot of them) can be seen here.

Got one you'd like to share? We'd love to see it! Send it to editor@januarymagazine.com or go ahead and pop it on our Facebook page.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

New in Paperback: Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen

PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author, Kate Christensen, delivers a stirring ands sometimes heartbreaking read in Blue Plate Special (Anchor).

Ostensibly a memoir about “the transformative nature of food,” Christensen’s first work of non-fiction is so much more than that. Despite the addition of a decent helping of interesting recipes, Blue Plate Special delves deeply into the psyche of a brilliant and complicated author. Perhaps even more deeply than Christensen initially intended or planned.

Christensen deals with her father’s violence, her own abuse by a high school teacher and her subsequent sexual confusion that was the result. Though this material is so moving -- and brilliantly handled -- it’s difficult to see beyond it when you look back, there truly is so much more, much of it viewed through an interesting lens of food.

The author was born in 1962, and so we travel with her through the 1970s, 80s and beyond, indulging, experiencing and even weeping with her through glorious meals and all types of experience.

Christensen demonstrates that she is not only a writer with a great deal to say, she says it so beautifully we don’t want the journey to end, even when it’s difficult to watch.

A note: there was an elegant postscript to the book in Elle magazine earlier this year where the author shares the resolution to the story of her sexual abuse. It’s a resolution that occurred after and because of the publication of the book. If you’re wondering if Blue Plate Special is a book you’d like to read, that article will convince you. As always, Christensen is stunning. ◊


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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This Just In… Descent Into Darkness, Part 1: Victory Tower by Jarrett D. Smith

Welcome to Shadownia, a futuristic nation that opted to use newfound magic instead of technology. Once known as a utopia, it has been thrown into chaos since dictator Wolfgang Sanchos took the reigns of power. Follow renowned assassin Dimitri Dionus as he fights against Wolfgang's forces on his quest to save the nation:

In Descent Into Darkness, Part 1 Dimitri has only just finished a successful assassination, when a request from Amsolot Shadonus, a warrior long thought dead, sends him on a mission to rescue a fallen ally.

At first a task like any other, it soon becomes a personal mission when Wolfgang’s minions capture a close friend and confidant. Dimitri must venture to the Victory Tower, not only to complete his newest mission, but also to find answers about his friend’s whereabouts.

You can order Descent Into Darkness here. Visit author Jarrett D. Smith on the web here. ◊


This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis or for a small fee. Want to see your new book included? Ordering details are here.

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Friday, May 09, 2014

Non-Fiction: Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook

(Editor’s note: This review comes from New York writer Steve Nester, the host of Poets of the Tabloid Murder, a weekly Internet radio show heard on the Public Radio Exchange [PRX]. Nester is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Rap Sheet, Mystery Scene and Firsts Magazine.)

For the last 50 years, the March 13, 1964, rape and murder of bar manager Kitty Genovese outside her Kew Gardens, Queens, apartment was as durable and persistent an urban legend as they come. The young woman’s grisly death -- witnessed by 38 of her neighbors, who turned a deaf ear to her screams as her killer took more than 30 minutes to dispatch her, as The New York Times belatedly averred -- resounded in the world of social science, and focused scrutiny on the perceived callousness of inner-city culture.

Kevin Cook’s new book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (Norton), reveals that while some of the facts of the case are indisputable, most of them aren’t. Much of the myth-building was the result of yellow journalism. Pundits blamed the lack of response to this woman’s brutal slaying on urban alienation, and called it a kind of irresponsible complacency on the part of a stressed and apathetic public that was becoming overwhelmed by political assassination, the Vietnam War, race relations and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Now, after half a century, Cook has come along as a myth-buster to set the record straight.

It could be said that the murder of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was more the product of a typewriter than a knife. Barely mentioned at first in the New York dailies, Kitty Genovese was dead and buried for a fortnight by the time the Times’ newly promoted metropolitan editor, Abe Rosenthal, heard the story from his city’s recently appointed police commissioner, Michael Murphy. Murphy related some specious information about the tragedy, that it had been witnessed by 38 neighbors who had chosen to do nothing. The ambitious Rosenthal, who knew good copy when he saw it, sent a reporter to Kew Gardens to flesh out the story. The Times ran its piece on the front page; and while it was riddled with errors, it was accepted as the truth.

Cook reports differently.

As he explains, it took killer Winston Moseley, then a 29-year-old machine operator, a full half-hour to do away with Kitty Genovese. While many people heard her desperate cries for help, most of them thought some kind of domestic dispute was in progress, and ignored it. Moseley actually left the scene once to move his car in order to avoid detection, after a neighbor yelled for the attack to stop. He returned to find that Kitty had staggered to her apartment entrance. He then attempted to rape her. There were no 38 witnesses, as the Times reported. There was only one indisputable eyewitness, a craven alcoholic who opened his door and looked down to witness the rape in progress. This is a far cry from the Times’ assertion that it took a village to commit a murder.

Cook goes to great pains and uses much detail to describe a nation undergoing change, and not for the better. He’s equally meticulous in setting the scene of Kew Gardens, which -- though only minutes away from Times Square and the center of the universe -- is at heart a small American town with neighbors who know each other, leave their doors unlocked and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It was the type of place where people looked out for each other. But then the snake entered the garden and, in a way, the homicide became a teachable moment for the nation, one that persists to this day.

The tale of 38 witnesses persisted, too, even among responsible scientists. Using this false premise, socials scientists devised the “Genovese syndrome,” also known as the “bystander syndrome,” a condition wherein the larger the number of witnesses present at a crime, the fewer the chances that anyone will intervene. Personal culpability, in effect, is diluted in a crowd.

Everyone knows how Kitty Genovese was slain, but few know how she died. The implication of all accounts is that Winston Moseley left her to bleed to death and that she perished alone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The police were called and responded, and Kitty died in the arms of a neighbor who attempted to keep her alive until help could arrive. Kitty Genovese, who suffered horribly in the hands of Winston Moseley, was not handled very gently by The New York Times, either. ◊

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

New Yesterday: The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman

Guggenheim Fellow, Ellen Feldman, wows us with her fifth novel, The Unwitting (Spiegel & Grau).

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Cold War as it was experienced in the United States, we join young magazine writer Nell Benjamin on November 22, 1963, as she gets some distressing news. Yes: it is the day President Kennedy was shot, and that’s distressing enough. But what Nell learns impacts her on a much more personal level. Her husband, the hotshot editor of a literary magazine and a man she thought she knew thoroughly, has betrayed her in a very complete way, and not with another woman.

There is a lot going on in The Unwitting. In some ways it is a stylish portrait of love and marriage. In another it reveals an America in the throes of horrible change, still dealing with the fallout of the McCarthy era and preparing to take its place on the international Cold War stage.

The Unwitting is unexpected. Compelling enough to take its place with the best of crime fiction, Feldman’s language is loving, bright and sharp while her storytelling abilities are unquestionable here. The Unwitting cuts us into an interesting time, then ramps things up.

Feldman’s novel, Scottsboro, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Feldman is clearly a writer who is going places, The Unwitting brings that home: it’s a terrific book. ◊


Sienna Powers is a contributing editor to January Magazine.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Killing Darlings: Authors Who Wished Books Away

Though authors are often encouraged to kill their darlings, there are times when even those responsible for the work want nothing to do with it. io9 pulls out some terrific examples in “10 Great Authors Who Disowned Their Own Books,” which more or less amounts to the same thing.

Many of these will surprise you as will some of the reasoning behind each author’s desire to wish the book gone. For instance, Ian Fleming tried to delegate James Bond to a more minor role in The Spy Who Loved Me. According to io9 “Fleming said he wanted to make Bond’s misogyny apparent after being shocked to discover that his Bond novels were being taught in schools. This ‘experiment,’ Fleming wrote to his publisher after the book received overwhelmingly negative reviews, had ‘obviously gone very much awry,’ and Fleming attempted to keep the book out of print.”

Those who know much about Franz Kafka won’t be surprised to learn that the writer basically hated almost everything he’d done and would have seen it destroyed.
When, a few years before his death, Kafka asked his good friend Max Brod to destroy all his papers, besides the few short works with which Kafka was satisfied, Brod responded, "If you seriously think me capable of such a thing, let me tell you here and now that I shall not carry out your wishes." Nevertheless, when Kafka died he left Brod a letter asking him to destroy his fiction, diaries, and correspondence. Brod remained true to his word: he proceeded to publish everything he could get his hands on.
Other authors whose works are looked at include Octavia Butler, Jeanette Winterson, Anthony Burgess, Martin Amis, Stephen King and others. The piece is here.

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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Patrick Stewart Will Return to Television

Although we’ll probably never stop remembering him best as Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart has been many people since the last TNG film, Star Trek: Nemesis, in 2002.

Most recently, Stewart has been starring with Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land on Broadway. And, of course, he played Charles Xavier in a whole slew of X-Men movies, while American Dad! fans have been digging him deeply as police academy chief Avery Bullock.

Fans will be pleased to note that the STARZ network has just given the order for the first two seasons of Blunt Talk. Stewart will star and co-produce. From StarTrek.com:
Blunt Talk, set to debut in 2015, will center on Walter Blunt (Stewart), a British import intent on conquering the world of American cable news. Via his nightly L.A.-based interview show, Blunt aims to share his wisdom and guidance as to how Americans should live, think and behave. Meanwhile, he has only his alcoholic manservant, who came over with him from the U.K., to help him contend with a dysfunctional news staff, numerous ex-wives and children of all ages. Each episode, according to a STARZ press release, will follow the fallout from Blunt’s well-intentioned, but mostly misguided decision-making, both on and off the air. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Canadian Children’s Book Week: Read to Remember

Children’s Book Week in Canada commences today, May 3, and runs until the 10th. Authors, illustrators and storytellers across the country will visit schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres in every province and territory.

The theme of the 2014 Canadian Children’s Book Week is “Read to Remember.” It  is meant to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. “Books can help us to remember WWI, WWII and subsequent wars, books can help us to honour those involved and books can help us to recognize that wars are still happening in other parts of the world today. Our theme guide will focus on books that explore WWI, WWII and subsequent wars Canada has been involved in.”

Read more about Canadian Children’s Book Week and how you can take part in it here.

HarperCollins Romancing Harlequin

Though regulatory approval is still pending, it looks like Toronto’s Torstar will sell the Harlequin division it has owned for 39 years to HarperCollins for $455 million. From the Victoria Times Colonist:
After nearly four decades of romance, Torstar Corp. and book publisher Harlequin are breaking up.
The owner of the Toronto Star newspaper and other publications announced Friday that it is selling its romance novel division, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., to global media company News Corp. for $455 million in cash. 
"We think we did the right thing in exiting," David Holland, president and CEO of Torstar, said during a conference call to discuss the sale. 
Torstar (TSX:TS.B) said the deal will see Harlequin stay headquartered in Toronto and run as a division of HarperCollins Publishers, also owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. 
"While making the decision to sell was difficult, we are confident that this transaction represents excellent value for Torstar shareholders and importantly further strengthens Torstar's financial position and capital base as we continue in our evolution as a company," Holland told financial analysts. 
Shareholders welcomed the news, as Torstar's stock shot up 22 per cent, or $1.47, to close at $8.15 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its previous 52-week high was $6.95.
See the full piece here while Quill & Quire chimes in here while the Globe & Mail adds their voice here.

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Friday, May 02, 2014

Peter Brown Wins 2014 Bull-Bransom Award

Author and artist Peter Brown has won the 2014 Bull-Bransom Award for his illustrations for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Little Brown), which he also wrote.

The panel of judges called the book “an exceptional tribute to the wild and rambunctious energy in all children” praising the way the book “plays around with the idea of ‘wildlife’ in very visual ways.”

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is the story of an anthropomorphic tiger who grows bored with his very proper town life and decides to get in touch with his wild side. Brown said that this is “perhaps my most autobiographical book to date. I was fortunate enough to grow up with easy access to streams and forests and fields and the animals that inhabited those places. But in today’s world, fewer and fewer children have access to the natural world, and therefore, are less likely to feel connected to it. And so I try to tell stories that will pique every child's curiosity and appreciation for nature,” says Brown, who adds that he’s “thrilled and honored” to receive the Bull-Bransom Award and “have my book recognized by such a prestigious institution.”

The National Museum of Wildlife Art named the award for Charles Livingston Bull and Paul Bransom, among the first American artist-illustrators to specialize in wildlife subjects. The winner is presented with a medal and $5,000 cash award.

Also nominated:
  • Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry (Houghton Mifflin)
  • FROG SONG by Brenda Guiberson (Henry Holt)
  • if you want to see a whale by Julie Fogliano (Roaring Brook Press)
  • I’m the Scariest Thing in the Jungle by David G. Derrick, Jr. (Immedium)

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Future of the Comma

Is the comma yesterday’s news? In a recent article in Slate, Matthew J.X. Malady comes up with a resounding “Maybe.”
There’s no denying that commas are helpful little flecks of punctuation. They allow us to separate written clauses and do good work when especially numerous or complicated groups of things exist in a single sentence. But do we really need them?
In The Huffington Post, though, Maddie Crum begs to differ. Strongly:
It should go without saying (but puzzlingly doesn't) that language can be made better by including more than what's necessary. There's been a recent push for simplifying language -- the maddening Hemingway app suggests the removal of adverbs, and Spritz, an irritating new speed reading app, flashes words and short phrases on a screen for quick ingestion. But when we use lowest common denominator language, we disallow more complicated thoughts.
It’s a terrific, thoughtful piece, and it’s here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Non-Fiction: The Science of Shakespeare by Dan Falk

Out in time to celebrate the 450th birthday of the Bard, author, science writer and broadcaster Dan Falk’s The Science of Shakespeare (Gooselane/Thomas Dunne) takes a sharp and engaging look at the science that formed and informed William Shakespeare’s still-beloved works as well as the science that was informed by him.

Falk’s books are accessible. I mean, they are also so much more, but that’s probably the best place to start. Falk tackles potentially mind-numbing topics and makes them not only understandable but enjoyable.

His first book, Universe on a T-Shirt, was about the quest for a unified theory of physics.

Next up, In Search of Time explored the physics and philosophy of time. These are the sort of science-to-philosophy journeys on which careers are made… and broken. But it’s that accessibility factor -- combined with real passion and knowledge -- that make me think Falk will end up in the former category.

In some ways The Science of Shakespeare is really about the history of science, but spun onto the axis of William Shakespeare. It’s a team up that works. What Falk is looking at here are the connections between the Bard and the beginnings of the scientific revolution and, as posited by Falk, how that combination changed the world as we know it forever.

The Science of Shakespeare is a triumph. A personal and yet informative look at science, literature and physics. This is great stuff. ◊

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Chinese Put Push on Books and Literacy

While retailers know that some book markets are shrinking, there’s growth out there, as well. In fact, in China, book sales are booming. In 2013 alone, online sales exceeded 16 billion yuan ($2.56 billion), a 30 percent year-on-year increase, according to a report published by the People’s Daily on Thursday, this from ecns.cn, the English-language web site of China News Service (CNS), a state-level news agency.

And though Chinese readers are buying a lot of books, what they’re reading may be quite different than their North American counterparts:
According to figures provided by baidu.com, China's largest Web search company, people between the ages of 20 and 39 search for books on the search engine more than any other age group. Men mainly search for books on the arts, textbooks, science and literature, while women search for social science books the most.
There are many recent book and literacy-related items at ecns.cn. So much so that, with the distinctive voice of a state-run agency, the news items often take on the patina of propaganda. But if it’s for a good cause -- literacy and reading awareness -- is it still propaganda?

Recently covered stories include news of the fourth annual “Reading Season,” which began earlier in April and will continue for three months; a story about an unidentified chauffeur who borrowed 2,846 books from a Shanghai library last year. (“The chauffeur said he reads fast and had time to read the books because he is required to wait in the car for his boss for a long time. He usually visits two library branches a day.”) A story about a group of Chinese publishers successfully starting to sell books using WeChat, the Chinese social media site and coverage of Beijing’s first 24-hour bookstore:
Sanlian Taofen Bookstore (STB) in Dongcheng District expanded its operating hours round the clock on April 8, with staff members' undoubted fatigue rewarded with plaudits and boosted revenue. 
Yuan Yue is one happy customer. The 28-year-old from Hebei Province welcomed having an alternative venue in which to read. "It provides a better place to spend the long night than at home," said Yuan.

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