Our Top Pick in Cookbooks this month is Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck! With 140 seasonal recipes to choose from—plus growing tips and advice for canning and preserving—you'll be able to incorporate ripe fruits into your dishes in inventive ways all year. Take a break from summer burgers and BBQ with this light, fresh recipe for pan-roasted salmon.
Salmon with Plum, Cucumber, and Mint Salad
Not only is this salad a beauty to behold, it’s explosively flavorful, too. The syrupy, slightly tannic flavors of the plum really come alive when tossed with zingy rice vinegar and an abundance of clean, fresh mint. Although pan-roasted salmon has a melt-in-your-mouth quality that contrasts nicely with the bright fruit, you could throw the fish on the grill instead; the smokiness would also add a nice layer of complexity.
Makes 4 servings
Season the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. Rub the lime zest into the flesh.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan. Add the fish, flesh-side down and sear, without moving, until the underside is golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking to your desired doneness, 3 to 4 more minutes for medium-rare.
While the salmon cooks, prepare the salad: In a large bowl, combine the plums, cucumbers, scallion and mint. Toss in the 1 tablespoon of vinegar, the remaining 1½ tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Taste the salad and add more vinegar if desired.
Place each salmon fillet on an individual plate and top with a few spoonfuls of the salad; serve any remaining salad alongside.
Molly Harper's latest paranormal romance, Better Homes and Hauntings, is the spooky, oftentimes hilarious tale of talented landscaper Nina Linden as she attempts to restore the dilapidated mansion of wealthy entrepreneur Deacon Whitney. But she keeps running into obstacles that keep her from finishing the job, not to mention exploring her feelings for Deacon. Namely: ghosts. In this guest post, Harper shares the inspiration behind the book and her thoughts on played-out horror tropes.
As a child, I watched a little too much Scooby Doo. I remember sitting in front of TV, practically twitching as the ending credits to Guiding Light rolled by, whining, “Is it coming on now, Mom?” Because that day was going to be the day: The day when Fred and Daphne failed to catch the spooky culprit—using Scooby and Shaggy as bait—and Velma would be forced to say, “Jinkies, gang, I guess this carnival really is haunted by the ghost of an evil Cotton Candy Clown.”
I was never happy when the phantom turned out to be a guy in a rubber mask. And their reasons for posing as phantoms never satisfied my curiosity. This turned out to be a lifelong problem. Whether it was a TV show, a campfire tale or a non-fiction paranormal-science book, it was rare to find a haunting explanation that left me feeling sufficiently frightened.
And frankly, I got a little judgmental about the actions of the Scooby Gang and the characters in the horror movies. Why did they always split up? Why did they go investigate spooky noises coming from the basement armed only with a flickering candle? Why did they ignore walls dripping blood and disembodied voices telling them to “GET OUT”?
So when I set out to write Better Homes and Hauntings, my first-ever ghost-based paranormal romance, I had three goals for the characters. I would devise the scariest, twisty-est ghost story possible. I would spare the characters the stereotypical, “let’s split up” moments. And no one would lose their glasses, ever.
Based on the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, The Crane’s Nest of Better Homes and Hauntings is an enormous, stylish structure on a private island. However, it never quite made it as a family home since Gerald Whitney, the business tycoon that built it, murdered his unfaithful wife, Catherine, immediately after it was finished. Gerald died disgraced but unprosecuted, and rumors of a curse followed the family as their fortunes crumbled. Over the years, locals insisted Catherine’s spirit was still wandering the halls of the mansion, hiding from Gerald’s angry ghost and searching for her lost lover.
Tales of ghosts and curses persist until Deacon Whitney, the first successful Whitney in more than a century, sets about restoring the mansion to its former glory. A team of restorers, including comely landscape architect Nina Linden, plan to stay on the island for the summer to breathe life back into the Crane’s Nest, and the weird phenomena begin before Nina sets foot on the island. The characters are drawn into the mystery of Catherine’s death, but the spirits inhabiting the mansion are none too happy with their sleuthing.
As someone who has grown up with the horror movie tropes, it was a lot of fun to play with those themes and the characters’ awareness of them. I loved hiding clues in strange places around the house and letting the characters stumble into information. My “Mystery Gang” experience fear, ferret out the truth and find love – because this is a romance, and even though Fred and Daphne never got together, I’ll do what I want. And in the end, there is a real ghost and a twist, without a rubber mask in sight.
Better Homes and Hauntings is a childhood dream fulfilled and I hope the readers enjoy it.
Will you be picking up Molly Harper's latest romance?
James Lee Burke is best known for his Dave Robicheaux mystery series, but his new standalone novel has completely blown me away. Historical thriller Wayfaring Stranger follows the life of Weldon Holland, the grandson of Burke's series character Hackberry Holland. From a run-in with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in Texas to heroic acts during World War II (rescuing soldiers and concentration camp prisoners alike), the early days of Weldon's life are—in a word—epic. After the war ends in Europe, Weldon returns to Texas, marries and starts an oil pipeline business. But peacetime has its own dangers, as Weldon's success in the oil biz—and marriage to a Jewish woman—creates plenty of enemies.
And of course all of this unfolds with Burke's classic prose, tinged with nostalgia in a way that seems perfect for historical fiction. Read on for an excerpt from when Weldon and his grandfather first encounter Bonnie and Clyde:
The windmill was ginning furiously, the stanchions trembling with energy, a thread of water coming from teh spout, the tank crusted with dirt and dead insects and animal hair along the rimes. "The moon looks like it was dipped in a teacup. I cain't believe how we used to take the rain for granted," he said. "I think this land must be cursed."
The air smelled of ash and dust and creosote and horse and cow manure that feathered in your hand if you picked it up. Dry lightning leaped through the heavens and died, like somebody removing an oil lamp from the window of a darkened house. I thought I felt thunder course through the ground under my shoes. "Feel that?" I said, hoping to change Grandfather's mood and my own.
"Don't get your hopes up. That's the Katy blowing down the line," he replied. "I'm sorry I made fun of your butt, Satch. I won't do it no more. Walk behind me till we know who's in that car."
As we approached the tree line, the driver of teh car walked out of the headlights and stood silhouetted against the glare, the got back in his car and started the engine and clanked the transmission into gear. The trees were so dry they made a sound like paper rustling when the wind blew through the canopy.
"Hold up there," Grandfather said to the man.
I thought the driver would simply motor away. But he didn't. He stuck his elbow out the window and stared straight into our faces, his expression curious rather than alarmed. "You talking to us?" he asked.
"You're on my property," Grandfather said.
"I thought this was public woods," the driver said. "If there's a posted sign that says otherwise, I didn't see it."
The woman next to him was pretty and had strawberry-blonde hair and a beret tilted over one eye. She looked like a happy country girl, the kind who works in a dime store or in a café where the truckers come in to make innocent talk. She leaned forward and grinned up into Grandfather's face. She silently mouthed the words "We're sorry."
"Did you know you have mud on your license tag?" Grandfather asked the driver.
"I'll get right on that," the driver said.
"You also have what appears to be a bullet hole in your back window."
Think you'll check out Burke's newest? What are you reading today?
"Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?" —Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014)
If the year 2014 will be remembered for anything in the world of children's literature, it will be the groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity and the subsequent #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. On March 15, the New York Times published an op-ed piece by author Walter Dean Myers, who asked, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” It’s not the first time he's asked that question, as nearly 30 years earlier, Myers raised the same issue in another Times article, “I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry" (1986).
While the market continues to reflect a disparaging lack of diversity in children's literature, there are fortunately lots of people who make it their job to write, read and share books that feature main characters of all colors, ethnicities, religious persuasions, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. Myers will be missed dearly, not just as an author but as a champion for diversity in books. So we honor Myers—and all authors like him—with a list of a few of our favorite multicultural books so far this year:
Abuelo by Arthur Dorros and Raúl Colón
Spanish words are sprinkled throughout Dorros' sweet story of a young boy's adventures with his abuelo as they explore the Argentian countryside on horseback. When the boy's family moves to the city, these memories stay with him, and his connection to his grandfather and their heritage remains despite the distance. Colón's warm and windy illustrations are just perfect for this story. (And if you're as big a fan of Colón's work as I am, watch for his next book, Draw!, coming September 16.) Read our review.
Bird by Crystal Chan
On the day Jewel was born, her brother tried to fly off a cliff and died. Twelve years later, Grandpa has still not uttered a word, and Jewel feels stifled by her moody parents. She meets a boy who calls himself John (which was her brother's name), but Grandpa's convinced that the boy is a duppy, a type of malevolent spirit. Chan drew on her own mixed-race upbringing for this heartbreaking story, as Jewel takes pride in her Jamaican heritage but gets frustrated when people expect her to speak Spanish—even more frustrated when strangers ask what she is instead of who. Read our review.
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Woods (The Red Rose Box) was inspired to write Violet’s story by the circumstances of a biracial daughter of a friend who was unable to trace the African-American side of her family. From this true story comes the uplifting tale of a biracial 11-year-old girl who meets the African-American side of her family for the first time. After a rocky start, Violet and her dad's family build a relationship around personal prayer, her family’s difficult history and her own racial identity, all while dancing to old records and whipping up some delicious meals. Read our review.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This novel-in-verse about family and basketball is full of quick wordplay, deft rhymes and allusions to classical and jazz music. Twelve-year-old Josh and his twin brother Jordan live for the game, but their home life is just as strong. Their mother is tough but fair with the boys, and their father is an ex-player whose pro dreams faded after an injury. After an irreplaceable loss, familial bonds become even more important. This book definitely has a rhythm all its own, as the verses here are more than just a device to encourage reluctant readers. It is kinetic, gripping poetry. Read our review.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Created by Chinese American artist Chu F. Hing and first appearing in 1944 in Blazing Comics, the Green Turtle was the very first Asian-American superhero. National Book Award finalist Yang and artist Liew rescued the Green Turtle from obscurity with this funny origin tale. Nineteen-year-old Hank was just an average boy—until his mother decided he should be a hero. Now he's training in martial arts and getting in over his head with the local crime scene. Fortunately a dash of Chinese mythology gives him the chance to fulfill her dream. Read our review.
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
Special-ed teenagers Quincy and Biddie have just graduated from high school and must enter the real world. They've been matched up as roommates (though mixed-race Quincy isn’t sure how she feels about interacting with a white landlady), and as they learn how to fend for themselves, the girls find unexpected friendship with each other as well as with their landlady. The story unfolds in dual voices that are truly unforgettable, revealing their progress and fears, as well as physical, mental and sexual trauma. It's a frank and honest story about physical and mental disabilities that never feels cliche or sensationalized. Read our review.
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Ali lives with his mom and sister in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. He hangs out with his best friends Noodles and Needles—who was born with Tourette's syndrome and knits to help focus his attention—on the streets and on the brownstone stoop, and of course they get themselves in a bit of trouble. Reynolds' depiction of urban life is authentic, and his characters are well developed and relatable. This debut immediately announced Reynolds as an author to watch. (I'm serious about that . . . his follow-up, The Boy in the Black Suit, is coming out next January. Watch for it.) Read our review.
Readers, share in the comments below! What should be added to this list?
California native Karen Keskinen follows up her 2012 debut mystery, Blood Orange, with a new adventure for private investigator Jaymie Zarlin. In Black Current, the body of a local teen is found in a tank at the Santa Barbara Aquarium. It's ruled a suicide, but the girl's parents hire Jaymie to prove otherwise.
In a guest blog post for Private Eye July, Keskinen shares what it's like to be the featured author at book club meetings. It's no small job, that's for sure:
I’ve never been a chakra-and-crystals kind of girl. Sometimes I think a New Age is just what we need, but most of the time I find that this age we live in is—you know—good enough. And yet one night a few weeks back, as I walked home in the dark from a book club engagement, one of those New-Agey words popped into my head: shaman.
Yeah. As I walked home from a meeting right here in Santa Barbara, California, that’s what I felt like: a shaman. Maybe I didn’t exactly feel like one, but for the first time, I could sense the power those ancient storytellers wielded through their words.
This little city bristles with book club encounters every night of the week. Readers congregate in highbrow get-togethers and lowbrow get-togethers, well-heeled gatherings and run-down-at-the-heel gatherings, co-ed clubs, single-sex clubs and not-all-that-keen-on-sex clubs. But all these confabs have two characteristics in common.
One is food. Many so-called book clubs are actually misnomered: They are more accurately food and drink clubs. And huzzah to that! I’ve stuffed myself with full-on meals, nibbled at dainty noshes and, as a special tribute to my first book, taken part in a blood-orange-themed spread. You have not lived till you’ve tasted calamondin and blood orange pound cake. Yet, I digress.
Another feature these meetings have in common is that they encourage some feisty conversations, especially among my fellow Santa Barbarians.
Notice, I don’t claim readers think Blood Orange and Black Current are the greatest reads since Ulysses. But here in our town, these books are proving to be provocative, flaring matches put to drought-dried kindling.
When I arrive at a book club meeting, I usually say that I’ll stay for no more than an hour. I warn the members in advance that they might grow tired of me, and also that they might like to have time to say what they honestly think, once I leave. It makes no difference: I always seem to be driving or trotting home around 10:30, my mind roiling from the torrid and intense conversation, in no way ready for sleep.
The questions begin innocently enough. For example: Why is Jaymie Zarlin’s office address, 101 W. Mission, in fact that of the Cat and Bird Clinic? But soon, minutia dispensed with, matters warm up.
Are the rich so awful? Are cops corrupt? Are people that mean? So we talk about the bad in good people, and the good in bad. We talk about the abuse of power and the power money bestows. About corruption, both personal and systemic. And we talk about that corruption right here in River City, not in some theoretical realm.
In every book club I’ve visited, somebody has had her cage rattled. At one recent gathering, people were debating in twos and threes when a young woman said loudly: “Jenny, I’ve never heard you talk like that!” The room fell silent. Flushed, the accused looked away. For maybe the first time in her life, Jenny had publicly dropped the f-bomb.
I’ve thought about shamans over the past few weeks. How did they work their magic? They were conduits, mediums, copper wires. The shaman had her ear to the ground, a nose for the news, she didn’t miss much. And she let all that flow into her, through her, and on out to the ineffable, what we fear and don’t understand. Then all that power, transformed into story, flowed back again.
The face of the fear doesn’t matter: Once upon a time there were broken limbs that turned septic, and mountain lions that could flail open a man. Now we have terrorists, torturers, rapists. The bogeyman changes masks as the centuries pass, but never his nature, which is the ability to evoke dread.
The shaman’s tools never change, either. She has only three, but what a three they are! People, places and things. Waving those three wands, she teases out her listeners’ fears and dreams and heartbreak, then weaves all that chaos to make a map, a guide for survival. A story.
When book club members ask me questions about the settings, characters and special objects in Blood Orange and Black Current, I know their interest is piqued. But when they ignore my answers and insist on supplying their own, that’s when I know I’m their conduit: The readers are redeeming my stories, remaking them into their own.
Recently at one local meeting, an older woman announced she knew the real life people I’d used to create two of my characters, Dr. Bruce and Cynthia Wiederkehr. In fact, Bruce and Cynthia were created from whole cloth, but I had the good sense to keep quiet.
My reader whispered their names to a friend sitting beside her, and the two women raised eyebrows and exchanged knowing smiles. The Sha-Woman reached for a slice of chocolate cheesecake, and felt good. She’d given it over to them, it was their story now.
Thanks, Karen! Readers, Black Current is now available!
Does the phrase "Amish murder mystery" cause you to scratch your head in confusion?
Fans of Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder series know exactly how thrilling this unlikely combination can be: Set in the heart of Ohio's Amish country in the town of Painters Mill, the sixth installment unfolds with the story of a brutal crime in 1976. Now, the Hochstetler farm is abandoned, and only one member of the family is left alive in Painters Mill.
When chief Burkholder is called to investigate an apparent suicide in a dilapidated barn, the death toll begins to climb quickly, and mounting evidence may have ties to the unsolved Hochstetler case.
Chief Burkholder tries to keep her famously level head amidst claims of malicious ghosts from the victims, and her domestic tranquility has vanished: state agent Tomasetti is unable to provide much comfort as he's distracted by one of his wife's killers roaming free.
The Dead Will Tell is featured in our July Meet the Author feature, and you can find it on shelves today!
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think, readers?
In her tense new mystery, The Stranger You Know, Jane Casey poses a chilling question: How well do you really know the people that wander into your life? That's the dilemma Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan is faced with when she begins hunting down the elusive and sadistic killer stalking the streets of London. This task would be disturbing enough, but soon, the evidence begins to point toward the one man she would never suspect: her partner. It's a thrilling read, and it just might inspire you to take a closer look at that new co-worker. Our reviewer writes: "Casey expertly dangles the solution just out of Kerrigan’s reach, putting readers in the roles of the pursuer and the pursued until the final pages." (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Casey has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
By Donna Tartt
This is a book I’ve waited twenty years to read. The Secret History was like a door that opened on new possibilities in crime writing and novel-writing in general, and I still feel a thrill of excitement when I reread it. I loved The Little Friend but The Goldfinch is a true successor to Tartt’s debut. The book is about a missing masterpiece, and in some ways it’s a crime novel, with gangsters and art thieves and blackmailers all pursuing the painting. Really, however, it’s an 800-page meditation on art, trust, love, grief and friendship, and it’s still a page-turner. Her ability to capture an atmosphere is second-to-none; her descriptions are ravishing and her characterization is delicately shaded but unforgettable. She brings the same intense scrutiny to bear on down-at-heel suburban Las Vegas as the antique-filled elegance of New York or the narrow streets of a wintry Amsterdam. I lived in this book, and I wouldn’t have minded if it had been twice as long.
By Daphne du Maurier
After The Goldfinch I needed to read something dark and brooding, with beautiful settings for ugly deeds. Du Maurier’s classic novel was the perfect choice. The second Mrs. de Winter comes to Manderley, her husband’s enormous country house by the sea, and discovers that her dead predecessor is still a presence there, refusing to be forgotten. The descriptions are vivid and the atmosphere appropriately stifling as the new bride is threatened and overwhelmed by her new role. There is nowhere for her to hide – no privacy with the house full of servants and no guidance from a husband who seems to expect her to pick up where Rebecca left off. The dark figure of Mrs. Danvers is like a shadow across the page, and du Maurier never goes too far with her; she’s threatening but always believable. As the dream-like haze of the first half dissipates and the reality of what happened to Rebecca intrudes ever more forcefully, the book becomes as accomplished a thriller as you will find.
Never Look Back
By Clare Donoghue
I don’t read crime novels when I’m writing one – I find it hard enough to keep track of my own plots without puzzling through other people’s twists and turns! When I finish a book I always have a huge stack of novels waiting for me. I try to keep up with new crime writing, especially debut authors. There’s nothing more exciting than finding a fresh new voice. Never Look Back is a London-set police procedural about a stalker who is hunting young women. For me, its strengths lie in the characterization, particularly Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer and his second-in-command, Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett. Lockyer has a troubled past, an autistic brother, concerns about his adolescent daughter and a whole host of other issues, but they never weigh down the plot. Bennett is more self-contained and I can’t wait to find out more about her.
What have you been reading lately?
(Author photo by Annie Armitage)
The BookPage editors spend so much time talking about new books, sometimes it's extra fun to look back on old favorites. What was our Whodunit columnist, Bruce Tierney, reading five years ago, and what were his Top Picks?
Travel back in time with us . . . all the way back . . . to the year . . . 2009!
January 2009: Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis
Lewis' debut thriller was already a hit among British readers when we got our hands on it. Chinese cop Jian heads to the mean streets of rural England in search of his daughter, where he crosses paths with migrant worker Ding Ming, who faces a similar search for his missing wife. "And so these two strangers in a strange land careen through the pastoral English countryside in search of the women they love." Read our review.
February 2009: A Darker Domain by Val McDermid
McDermid drew on her own childhood experiences to tell this story of intertwining cold cases. In 1984, a Scottish miner abandoned his family to join the national miners' strike and disappeared. In 1985, Scottish heiress Catriona Maclennan Grant and her infant son Adam were kidnapped, and when her father attempted to meet the demands, she ended up dead, and her son was never found. In present-day Tuscany, journalist Bel Richmond finds herself on a path to unravel both mysteries. Read our review.
March 2009: Spade and Archer by Joe Gores
It was a gutsy move for Edgar Award-winning author Gores to write a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, but he did it well, and the result is a milestone mystery. "Atmosphere: check. Hammett’s spare, clipped prose: check. Action and plot setup: check. Faithful description of Samuel Spade: check." Read our review.
April 2009: The Long Fall by Walter Mosley
In his first outing, Private Investigator Leonid McGill proved to be just as complex and engaging as Mosley's popular character Easy Rawlins. What Easy is to South L.A., McGill is to New York, though "McGill has a very different sense of the world, and a very different voice as a storyteller." Read our review.
May 2009: Woman with Birthmark by Hakan Nesser
This Swedish import has a standout premise: A young woman, obsessed with a "holy mission" of righting heinous wrongs, becomes the "angel of death," preceding murders with unsettling, happy music via phone call. Police inspector Van Veeteren is on the case. "[T]he plot development is spot-on, the characters sympathetic and well drawn (even the villainess), and the denouement richly satisfying." Read our review.
June 2009: The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson
Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón is still on the trail of the terrorist bombers from The Hidden Assassins, and it appears now that the attack may have been a cover for something worse. When the son of his girlfriend is kidnapped, Falcon finds himself caught in a Sophie's Choice. Wilson's final book is "intensely personal . . . a book to be read slowly and savored, with a fine Spanish rioja." Read our review.
July 2009: Get Real by Donald E. Westlake
Another final novel, this one a "tongue-in-cheek look at both larceny and America’s love affair with mindless reality TV." John Dortmunder and his merry men play themselves on a reality television show and decide to pull a heist on the series production company. For our benefit, a hidden flaw leads to things going hilariously wrong. Read our review.
August 2009: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The second outing by computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Michael Blomqvist—following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—made serious waves in 2009. "Salander is an edgy character, more than a little reminiscent of Robert Eversz’ punk photographer/detective Nina Zero; Blomqvist, for his part, is an urbane mix of relentless researcher and firebrand reformer, always stirred, never shaken." Read our review.
September 2009: Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan
Gonzo expat travel writer Poke Rafferty has a penchant for finding trouble—this time with a ruthless mob boss who is the subject of Rafferty’s forthcoming book. It's "action-packed and steamily atmospheric, and as cleverly plotted a mystery as you are likely to read this year." Read our review.
October 2009: The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah
"Sophie Hannah’s suspense novels . . . reach back to the days of Agatha Christie, where the identity of the miscreant is hidden until the final pages of the book." A fitting comparison, as Hannah will be reviving Poirot later this year. In the third book in the acclaimed Zailer and Waterhouse series, Sally Thorning discovers that the man she had a secret affair with—Mark Bretherick—is not actually Mark Bretherick. And the real Mark's wife and children are dead. Read our review.
November 2009: G.I. Bones by Martin Limón
In their sixth adventure, military police sergeants Sueño and Bascom must find the bones of a dead G.I., who was murdered 20 years ago and is presumably haunting them. "I remain singularly impressed with his ability to whisk the reader away to an exotic place and time (the anything-goes Itaewon pleasure quarter of Seoul, Korea, in the turbulent 1970s)." Read our review.
December 2009: Hollywood Moon by Joseph Wambaugh
Wambaugh has his thumb on the insanity of Hollywood—as well as what makes an irresistible crime novel. Intersecting storylines feature LAPD veteran Dana Vaughn and "Hollywood" Nate Weiss, two surfer cops and three dubious suspects. "Like life, Wambaugh’s novels are by turns comical, whimsical, tense, gripping and, in one memorable instance in the final pages of the book, tragic." Read our review.
Think you'll check out any of these standout 2009-ers? Peruse all our 2009 coverage here.
Suspense author Alafair Burke's new Ellie Hatcher novel, All Day and a Night, came out last month, on June 10. Oh, happy day—the on-sale day—also known as the day that makes authors crazy.
It’s not the reading or writing of books that makes an author stupid. It’s a book’s publication that seemingly shaves a standard deviation from an author’s IQ.
About a week before a new book comes out, I start to lose sleep, playing Words With Friends until 2 AM only to wake up at 5 from a dream that makes the Kimye-on-a-motorcycle music video seem ordinary. Awake, I’m too unfocused to produce anything useful, so I find myself in front of my refrigerator, posting dog pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (the time-suck trifecta), and, the worst, repeatedly refreshing the not-yet-published book’s Amazon page to check its ranking. (Oh, c’mon @YouJudgmentalWriterYou, you know you’ve done it!)
By the time pub date comes, my brain is like a lazy uncle watching infomercials in his boxer shorts surrounded by Pop-Tarts, canned frosting and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
And this has been only the precursor to on-sale week, when, if you’re lucky, you get to hit the road, juggling interviews and blog posts between flights. In some ways, the learning curve here can be steep: I get better by the minute at talking about the book and my writing process. It’s like a master class in how-to-talk-like-a-writer. But becoming a book-talking savant can extract a cognitive price.
Here are a few of the idiotic things I have done on book tour:
Supposedly Lloyds of London will insure anything. If so, they should consider selling a policy to cover all of the stray jackets, make-up bags, flip-flops and headphones I have lost over the years during on-sale week.
In a search for validation that I was not the sole victim of this phenomenon, I contacted some of my favorite authors to ask whether they, too, get stupid during on-sale week. This is what they told me.
Michael Connelly, author of The Burning Room:
“I have gone to the wrong hotel room, trying to open the door of the room corresponding to the room number of the night before. Usually this is late at night and more than once this effort has awakened and scared the crap out of the sleeping occupant. I’ve been mistaken as a would-be hot prowler and grabbed by security a couple times. They rarely buy my explanation that I was in room 213 the night before in a city in another state.”
Megan Abbott, author of The Fever:
“Once, in Scottsdale, Vicki Hendricks and I escaped scorching heat by ducking in a bar for a beer before our event. A man in his cups—on his way to jail for a month—pulled down his pants to show us a Mom tattoo on his posterior.” (The punchline? They thought maybe, just maybe, he’d show up at their reading as promised.)
Chris Pavone, author of The Accident:
“I stop sleeping well a week before [the on-sale date]. I fall asleep poorly, then I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. I think working would be no good, so instead I read, then I seem to fall asleep again just as I should be getting up, so then someone wakes me, which results in me being overtired and cranky at the exact point when I most need to be well-rested and happy.”
Laura Lippman, author of After I’m Gone:
“I got into the wrong town car when I was booked on 'CBS Morning.' I had my contacts in (oh, vanity), and I misread the driver's sign. Almost ended up at the 'Today' show.”
Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street:
“I found myself alone in Boston for the first three nights of my book tour including on my pub date. I was excited and nervous and lonely, and didn't really know what to do with myself at night. So I drank as if I was on spring break. During the days I ran from event to event a little more dazed and confused then was appropriate for a newly published author.”
Lisa Unger, author of In the Blood:
“I am scatterbrained and confused on the road, overwhelmed I think with so many logistics, demands, exhilarations and disappointments (it ain't all awards and standing room only). Once, while packing for a conference, I practically sprained my shoulder patting myself on the back for being so organized and such a light packer. It wasn't until I arrived at my destination that I realized I had neglected to pack any pants!”
Today—after accidentally swallowing tomorrow’s allotment of pills from my vitamin container—I vaguely recalled from my college psych education that this temporary case of the I-Love-Lucies might have a cognitive explanation. Because I certainly wasn’t sleeping, I shot off a late-night email to my undergrad mentor, Daniel Reisberg (Reed College, author of The Science of Perception and Memory).
“People can do a wide range of things on auto-pilot,” Dr. Reisberg explains, “but automatic behaviors tend to be easy, but badly-controlled, and often leave you with actions that are habitual (even if they’re not what you intended at that moment). For example, you’re in the car, driving to the store. You intend to turn left at the corner, but, under stress, you turn right, taking the route that you usually take on your way to school.”
So that’s why I head for my usual airport (Newark) when I’m supposed to go to LaGuardia, turn right into a restroom instead of left, and walk out of a hotel room carrying the book I was in the middle of reading instead of a book I finished writing months before.
I should feel comforted, but I’m not.
I get stupid because of stress? Ten books in, shouldn’t I be beyond that? After all, I know, at an intellectual level, that by the time the books are printed and shipped, there’s nothing more for me to do. Whatever happens this week is out of my control.
Stress? Nah, I’m too cool for that. But these silly slips reveal the ugly truth.
Author photo credit Deborah Copaken Kogan.