British noir author Ted Lewis (1940-1982) is best known for his 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home, later renamed Carter and then adapted to film by Mike Hodges as Get Carter, starring Michael Caine. Lewis' nine crime novels were brutal, unflinching in their depiction of the British underworld and set a new standard for hardboiled British thrillers. His final novel, GBH, is now available in North America for the first time. It tells the story of George Fowler from two periods of time: the first in George's past, when he reigned over a hardcore porn empire; the second in the present, when George is in hiding in a small English seaside town for some mysterious reason.
At the time of GBH's original publication in 1980, Lewis' literary career was plummeting, so it's not surprising that his final novel would go overlooked by many readers. But GBH is often considered to be Lewis' masterpiece, even better than his famous Jack's Return Home.
Consider a man like me and love. A butcher loves. He slits an animal's throat and dismembers it and washes the blood from his skin and goes home and goes to bed with his wife and makes her cry out in passion. The man who made it necessary to rebuild Hiroshima loved and was loved back, and I don't necessarily mean the pilot or the man who activated the bomb doors. Whoever left the bomb at the Abercorn rooms would comfort his child if it came into the house with a grazed knee. Everyone loves. Everyone considers things, considers themselves. And I considered why it came to be that Jean should be the one, as opposed to anyone else. And like everyone else, I could compile a list of things that added up to my obsession, and as with everyone else, it just remained a list; the final total defied the simple process of addition.
Her husband couldn't have timed his return from California any better. A couple of days after we'd made love for the first time. For a week I didn't see her; I waited for her to get in touch with me. When she did, she suggested we have lunch together; it was going to be one of those meetings.
What are you reading?
Former comedian Eric Jerome Dickey has made a name for himself as the New York Times best-selling author of steamy romances, and his latest novel, One Night, is out today. Of course, you may have noticed that Dickey is male, which is quite the anomaly in a genre dominated by female authors. In this guest post, Dickey tells us how he got started in romance writing.
“Your book sucks.”
I was at a convention in St. Louis, with an anticipated crowd of tens of thousands. I was seated at table alone, a few of my books in front of me, watching hundreds of people pass by, when a 30-something lady stopped and stood over me, scowling like I had slapped her momma with a cold pork chop on Vegetarian Day.
I paused, took a breath, and asked myself WWJPD?
What would James Patterson do?
She stepped closer, one hand on her hip, in my space like she owned St. Louis, and repeated, “Your book sucks.”
“Did you read it?”
“I don’t have to,” she snapped.
“You didn’t read Sister, Sister, so how do you know anything about it?”
She motioned toward the carefree professional women on the cover, tsked and looked me up and down. “You’re a man writing about women. I don’t have to read it to know it sucks. Men know nothing about women.”
Then she walked off, her hips showing me how happy she was to have delivered her message.
So it goes. So it went for a long while. I received hate mail based entirely on the fact that I was a guy who had written female characters.
I read all genres, from Stephen King to Angelou, from Mosley to Judy Blume. I assumed the rest of the reading world was like me, that they read across the board, more amazed by stories than by the gender of the writer. A good story makes you forget about the writer and cling to the characters.
More than one book club told me I should be happy they selected my novel because they usually only selected novels by female writers. That’s what it was like for me at the start.
So how did I end up being the man writing female characters? Glad you asked. I was in a writing class at Cal Poly Pomona, only two guys and about 15 women. Our assignment was to write 500 words from the opposite gender’s POV. The idea terrified me. But over two days, I wrote what eventually turned into Sister, Sister—close to 10,000 words. The lead character was a woman, nothing to indicate race, vague on description; the women in the classroom were ecstatic. They were so sure that another woman had written my piece that when I raised my hand to claim the story, they shrugged it off as a joke.
Back in the 90s I was on the incoming wave of male writers who weren’t writing political thrillers or angry fiction—but that was the genre suggested to me in the 300 rejection letters I received. Men wrote certain things and women wrote certain things; that was just how it went.
That first book tour, I left St. Louis having sold only three novels in eight hours. I’ve now written more than 100 characters, won many awards and had a novel banned. But sometimes I think about that insulted-and-enraged-for-no-reason-lady I met in St. Louis.
I chuckle and hope she’s well, healthy and blessed.
I am. That has never changed.
I have to admit, as my latest offering, One Night, prepares to hit the stands, my grin is a bit broader these days. Even on dark days, I feel the sun on my face.
I hope that woman has found what brings her joy.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!
The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes, which are some of the most esteemed awards in literature and journalism, have been announced, along with the finalists in each category. The winner of the Fiction Pulitzer Prize also happens to be the BookPage Reader's Choice Top Pick of 2014! Looks like BookPage readers have great taste—No surprise there.
• • • • • • • • • • •
Winner: Encounters at the Heart of the World by Elizabeth A. Fenn
Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert
An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker
• • • • • • • • • • •
Winner: The Pope and Mussolini by David I. Kertzer
Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers
Stalin: Volume I by Stephen Kotkin
• • • • • • • • • • •
Winner: Digest by Gregory Pardlo
Reel to Reel by Alan Shapiro
Compass Rose by Arthur Sze
• • • • • • • • • • •
No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
What do you think of the Pulitzer Prize Board's choices?
As a copy editor at The New Yorker, a bastion of grammar perfection, Mary Norris knows a thing or two about the oddities of the English language. In her memoir, Between You & Me, Norris mixes grammar tales with personal stories, and the result is fascinating. Our reviewer writes, "While Norris may have a job as a “comma queen,” readers of Between You & Me will find that “prose goddess” is perhaps a more apt description of this delightful writer." (Read the full review.)
We asked Norris to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
When I had finished my book about grammar and usage and copy editing at The New Yorker, and was free to read about other things, I poked around on my shelves for books that I had been saving as a reward for good behavior. Here are three that I especially enjoyed.
Frank Delaney, an Irishman transplanted to Connecticut, uses his boyhood fascination with ships and the sea to extol Kurt Carlsen, the real-life captain of the Flying Enterprise. Soon after leaving Germany, in December of 1951, the ship gets hit by a rogue wave and cracks, then gets hit by a second rogue wave and lists precariously. Carlsen does everything in his power to bring passengers and cargo to safety. I read this while commuting to work on a ferry and soaked up all things nautical: the etymology of the word knot, the strategy of the ship’s owners, and sailors’ superstitions about renaming a ship (don’t do it!) and leaving port on a Friday.
One might think that after revisiting The Elements of Style while writing a book about writing, I would want to take a break from E. B. White, but this book made me fall in love with him all over. Elwyn (En) White had an old-fashioned patrician upbringing in Mount Vernon, New York, and spent summers at a lake in Maine. (His parents gave him his own canoe.) His early interest in nature informed Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. In addition to all the influences and arachnid research that went into Charlotte’s Web, Sims includes gossip about White’s editors and publishers and about children’s librarians.
One of the things I have always loved about journalist John McPhee’s writing is the way he keeps himself out of it. This study of his work and life made me feel like a stalker. McPhee is from Princeton, New Jersey (where he still lives). His upbringing and education and the summer camp he spent time at all inform his work. He once wrote a novel! Pearson organizes his critical remarks around McPhee’s own topics, from Bill Bradley to physics and geology, and analyzes the techniques through which he raised journalism to an art. I was heartened to see that after Oranges and The Pine Barrens I still have plenty of McPhee to read, and beguiled by the realization that some of my favorite writers—White, McPhee, Thoreau—started out in canoes. Did paddling canoes make them better writers? If I tried it, would I capsize?
Thank you, Mary! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner will return this summer with a new novel. Who Do You Love will be published by Atria on August 11.
Weiner's 2014 release, All Fall Down, was a darker book that focused on a suburban mother's struggle with addiction. Who Do You Love is a romance that sounds reminiscent of Weiner's earlier works: When 8 year olds Rachel and Andy meet one night in the ER, they can't imagine how important they will eventually become to each other. Per the catalog description,
Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they’ve been running toward each other all along.
Sounds intriguing! Will you read it?
Congratulations to the authors on the 2015 PEN Literary Awards Shortlist! The PEN Award—and the $25,000 that comes with it—is given to the debut author deemed to be the most promising of the year by a panel of judges. The winner will be chosen from the shortlist, which was announced today.
Looking for a new snack with a bit of a spicy kick? This recipe from Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil for Muhammara, a Middle Eastern staple, is sure to appeal to fans of hummus.
A sumptuous spread from that region of the Middle East where the finest culinary traditions of Lebanon, Turkey and Syria all blend together with a little Armenian influence as well. The best chile pepper to use in this muhammara (moo-HAMMa-rah) is coarsely ground or crushed dried Aleppo pepper, although other kinds of Turkish and Syrian chile peppers are good too. They are all available from World Spice Merchants in Seattle (www.worldspice.com) or from Kalustyan’s in Manhattan (www.kalustyans.com).
Sweet peppers are best when roasted over live fire—either a gas flame on your stovetop or charcoal embers in the fireplace or on the outside grill. Roast, turning frequently, until the skins are black and blistered. Failing gas or charcoal, you can also roast peppers under the oven broiler until they are collapsed and the skins are blistered—but they will not have the intense flavor of flame-roasted peppers. Whatever the method, put the roasted peppers in a paper bag and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to steam in their own heat and soften. At that point, it’s easy to remove the blackened skin, using a paring knife to pull it away. Then cut the peppers open, draining any liquid into a small bowl. Discard the stems, seeds, and white inside membranes.
Roast the walnuts, the pine nuts and the bread crumbs in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The walnuts are ready when their thin skins start to flake off; the pine nuts and the bread crumbs are done when they are golden.
Toast cumin seeds in a small skillet on top of the stove, stirring and tossing until the fragrance starts to rise. Remove immediately and grind to a powder in a spice grinder, or pound in a mortar.
MAKES 2½ TO 3 CUPS
CHOP the peppers coarsely and transfer to a food processor. Process in pulses until you have a textured puree.
IN a mortar, pound the garlic cloves to a paste with the salt. Add the roasted walnuts and continue pounding, adding a tablespoon or two of the reserved pepper juices. Once the walnuts are quite pasty, pound in the bread crumbs. (If you don’t have enough pepper juice, use a tablespoon or two of lemon juice instead.) Transfer the ingredients in the mortar to the food processor and process very briefly, just enough to mix everything together.
WHY, you may ask, do I not just put everything into the food processor to start with? Muhammara is supposed to have a rather coarse texture from the walnuts and bread crumbs; in order to control that texture, I think it’s better to pound the walnuts, bread crumbs, and garlic in the mortar and mix them very quickly into the pepper puree.
SCRAPE the contents of the food processor into a bowl and stir in the chile pepper, pomegranate syrup, ground cumin and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and taste. If necessary, adjust the seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, or pomegranate syrup.
WHEN you’re ready to serve, pile the muhammara in an attractive bowl and dribble the remaining olive oil over the top. Garnish with roasted pine nuts and serve with crostini (toasted bread crusts) or crackers or, to be most authentic, toasted triangles of Arab pita bread.
Note: Muhammara is also a beautiful relish to serve with any sort of roast or grilled lamb.
Excerpted from VIRGIN TERRITORY: EXPLORING THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL © 2015 by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Nancy Atherton didn't intend to start a mystery series when she wrote her first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, and she certainly didn't intend to forever change cozy mysteries by creating the original paranormal detective. But she did! And with the publication of Aunt Dimity and the Summer King, Atherton marks the 20th book in her beloved series.
Twenty books? I’ve written 20 books? Are you serious? I guess you are, because Aunt Dimity and the Summer King is indeed the 20th title in a mystery series I began writing more than 20 years ago.
Aunt Dimity has been around longer than Netflix, Google, Facebook and some of you. The fact that she’s still alive and kicking (so to speak) in a brand-new story is nothing short of miraculous. Not in a million years could I have predicted that my first book would lead to my 20th.
When I wrote my first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, I didn’t think it had a snowball’s chance of being published. At the time, there was no known market for a nonviolent, non-vulgar novel that was sort of a mystery and sort of a love story, with a supernatural element, some gardening, a bit of military history, a pink flannel bunny and a recipe thrown in because, what the heck, why not? The plot couldn’t be summarized in a simple catchphrase, and the story didn’t fit neatly into an established genre. It was a very strange little book—a marketing nightmare!—and I was absolutely convinced that it would remain forever in a box on a shelf in my closet, unseen by any eyes but mine.
And I was OK with that. I hadn’t written Aunt Dimity's Death in order to see my name in print. I wrote it because the first two lines of the story popped into my head one evening, and I simply had to find out what they meant. If there’s one trait I share with my characters, it’s a burning desire to get to the bottom of things.
I didn’t stop to write an outline, and it never occurred to me to do market research. I just hopped, skipped and jumped my way through the book like a kid on a treasure hunt. I never knew what would happen next, and I loved the excitement of not knowing. I wrote to please no one but my characters and myself, and when I finished the first draft, I knew for certain that it would never be read by anyone but me.
I’ve seldom been so happy to be wrong. To my utter astonishment, Aunt Dimity's Death found a great publisher as well as a loyal and highly enthusiastic family of fans. Best of all, it contained a snippet of dialogue that inspired me to write my second book. I hadn’t intended to write a series, but my characters insisted that I stick around to tell more of their tales, and I’m exceedingly glad they did. It has been a privilege to watch them grow and change over time. It has been a pleasure to share in their continuing adventures.
Not in a million years could I have foreseen the long and joyful journey that would spring from the opening lines of Aunt Dimity's Death. I never dreamed that my strange little book would lead to a series that’s still going strong two decades after its most unlikely birth. I hope you’ll join me in a toast to my 20th title. And I hope you enjoy Aunt Dimity and the Summer King. As for me, I'm off to work on number 21. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
Nancy Atherton is the best-selling author of 20 Aunt Dimity mysteries, including the latest installment, Aunt Dimity and the Summer King (Viking; on sale April 14, 2015). The first book in the series, Aunt Dimity’s Death, was voted “One of the Century’s 100 Favorite Mysteries” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Atherton lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Author photo credit Grey Taylor.
Fans of Elly Griffiths, author of the popular Ruth Galloway mystery series and winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award, will be delighted to hear she's kicking off a new series this September with HMH.
The first in the Magic Men Mystery series, The Zig Zag Girl follows Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens in 1950 Brighton as he attempts to track down a killer who seems to be mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl, when the body of some lovely assistant is "cut" into pieces. To help solve the case, Stephens enlists the help of Max Mephisto, the inventor of the trick and an old war buddy. The two men served in a special ops troop called the Magic Men, which staged illusions to trick the enemy.
Perhaps what's most interesting about this series is Griffiths' personal connection to the story: She's the granddaughter of one of the members of the Magic Gang, the real group of camouflage experts that served in Egypt during WWII and famously made the Suez Canal "disappear."
Magic tricks, history and mystery? This sounds like one to look forward to on September 15.