Updates from Jeff Somers Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/09/19 Permalink

    7 Author Pseudonyms That Were Cracked—and 6 That Haven’t Been (Yet) 

    Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 7 in /homepages/23/d339537987/htdocs/do/wp-content/themes/p2/inc/mentions.php on line 77

    Author have chosen to publish novels under a pseudonym for many reasons—a chance to work in a different genre without alienating their existing fans;  a way to test how much their fame influences their books’ reception; maybe even to evade the prejudices of their time.

    Unless they are known from the outset (the name of sci-fi author James S.A. Corey, “creator” of space opera saga The Expanse, was always known to be a front for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) pen names often aren’t revealed until they’ve served their purpose, or even until the author behind one of them passes away and there’s no point in maintaining up the illusion.

    But every once in a while, a pseudonym is cracked prematurely due to either happenstance or clever detective work. And then there are the aliases that have never actually been revealed, leaving us with an enduring literary mystery. Here are seven authors whose secret identities were exposed before they were ready—and six we may never identify.

    Cracked Pseudonyms

    Robert Galbraith (Real identity: J.K. Rowling)
    J.K. Rowling chose to publish the Cormoran Strike novels under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith simply because she wanted the work to stand on its own, particularly after the scrutiny that greeted her first non-Harry Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy. It’s an understandable (and perhaps even laudable) motive—certainly she must’ve been curious as to whether she could sell a book with out riding the tails of boy wizard’s robe. We’ll never know how long she intended to keep up the ruse, because only a matter of weeks after The Cuckoo’s Calling was released (to strong reviews and rather modest sales—if respectable for an unknown debut author), the wife of a partner in Rowling’s lawyer’s firm leaked the secret to a loose-lipped friend, who subsequently blabbed to the press, and everything fell apart. Rowling initially took the revelation in good cheer amidst a surge in sales (increasing the print run from 1,500 to 140,000 will do that), but later expressed anger and irritation that her carefully constructed alter-ego had been so quickly and casually revealed. She continues to use the pseudonym for new novels in the series, and even maintains a separate website and social media presence under Galbraith’s name—almost as if Rowling is determined not to let all that creative effort go to waste (that said, Galbraith’s back-of-book author bio mentions her by name).

    Richard Bachman (Real identity: Stephen King)
    Stephen King created the identity of Richard Bachman  in the late 1970s for two reasons: one, he was too prolific, an his publisher was reluctant to put out more than one book a year under his real name, worried about overexposure (which seems surreal in retrospect, but the 1970s were simpler times); two, he wanted to see how much the success of his new books was driven by simple name recognition after the blockbuster sales of Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot. Beyond creating a fictional biography for the writer (married, an ex-Merchant Marine turned dairy farmer writing at night from his home in rural New Hampshire) King didn’t exactly put a lot of effort into maintaining the illusion—this was the pre-internet era, after all, when such schemes were a lot easier to pull off. Certainly he got away with it for a few years. In 1984, a Washington, D.C. bookstore worker named Steve Brown noticed similarities between King and Bachman’s writing and started doing some digging, eventually finding proof of the ruse in some legal documents in the Library of Congress. He sent King all of his research. King responded graciously, and agreed to grant Brown an exclusive interview about the whole thing, so he could get a little publicity for it. In the aftermath, King “killed off” his alter-ego, and Misery—originally planned as a Bachman book—was released under his own name. (Bachman did put out twi more books—1997’s The Regulators and 2007’s Blaze—the latter being a rewritten version of one of King’s earliest novels).

    Murray Constantine (Real identity: Katharine Burdekin)
    Katharine Burdekin found a measure of success as a writer under her own name in the early 20th century. Her books were ahead of their time, dealing with gender fluidity and sci-fi themes like time-travel; she also wrote a children’s book set in a world without gender. She was extremely productive in the 1930s, writing thirteen novels and publishing six—four under the pseudonym of Murray Constantine. It’s thought she used a male name to escape the sexist prejudice against women writers in the sci-fi genre. As Constantine, she published what many believe is one of the first truly dystopian novels, Swastika Night, which not only envisioned a terrifying future where the Nazis endured and thrived, but also serves as an early echo of The Handmaid’s Tale, describing a future where women are subjugated and treated like cattle. Burdekin published her last book in 1940, although she continued to write, and passed away in 1963, with no one the wiser that she and Constantine were one and the same—though it was a known pseudonym, at least one scholar believed the true writer to be a man—respected British sci-fi author Olaf Stapledon. But in the mid-1980s, an American scholar named Daphne Patai researching utopian and dystopian fiction put the clues together, which led to the discovery of a trove of Burdekin’s unpublished manuscripts, one of which—The End of This Day’s Business—is a mirror to Swastika Night, set in a future in which women rule the world and men are subjugated.

    James Tiptree, Jr. (Real identity: Alice Sheldon)
    It’s common knowledge among modern science fiction readers that James Tiptree, Jr. was a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon, the truth having been revealed decades ago at this point. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Tiptree name is not how long Sheldon kept it secret, but the fact that for many years, seemingly everyone in the sci-fi community knew it was a cover, but assumed the person behind it was a male writer hiding his identity. Hugo-winning author Robert Silverberg even publicly declared he found suggestions Tiptree might be a woman to be “absurd,” because the writing style was “superior in masculinity” to Ernest Hemingway—whatever that means. It was especially ironic (or perhaps appropriate), as Sheldon chose a male pseudonym because she didn’t want the attention of being a prominent woman in what was then a male-dominated field. Sheldon kept the ruse going for more than a decade before slipping up by making a reference to her mother’s death while “in character” as Tiptree. Her secret revealed, Sheldon gave up and admitted everything—though she continued to publish under the Tiptree name until her death a little over a decade later. Today, the James Tiptree, Jr. award is given annually to speculative works that expand or explore concepts of gender—though that may soon change. Earlier this year, a movement to change the name of the award gathered steam, with proponents suggesting honoring Sheldon in that way is inappropriate, given the fact that she murdered her infirm and ailing husband before killing herself—an act many in 2019 see as a clear case of caregiver murder. The issues involved are complex and heartbreaking—evidence suggests the couple had shared a pact to die on their own terms—and you can learn more of the sad details here.)

    Anonymous (Real identity: Joe Klein)
    If you’re old enough to remember Bill Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in the early 1990s, you might recall the furor over the release of the 1996 novel Primary Colors, a lightly fictionalized account of Clinton’s campaign that made everyone involved look pretty sketchy. The anonymous identity of the author was immediately a point of interest (and an incredibly effective marketing gimmick) that saw literary detectives poring over the book for clues. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long to crack the case: journalist Joe Klein was quickly and correctly identified as the likely culprit early on because of the writing style “Anonymous” employed. Klein nevertheless denied it publicly several times, until The Washington Post hired a handwriting expert to analyze notes written on the manuscript pages. When the Post revealed the expert’s analysis revealed the author had to be Klein, he came clean. A sequel to Primary Colors, The Running Mate, was published in 2000 under Klein’s own name.

    Trevanian (Real identity:Rodney Whitaker)
    Literary writer Trevanian was an enigma for decades—a man whose bestselling novels varied so much in subject and style that some people suspected he was a group of writers sharing a pseudonym. The fact was, Rodney Whitaker was one man writing under several names, only the most famous and successful of which was Trevanian. His first hit, The Eiger Sanction, was intended as a spoof of spy thrillers, and Whitaker was irritated that everyone seemed to take it seriously (he doubled-down on the spoofiness in the sequel, even giving it the title The Loo Sanction). Whitaker kept his true identity secret until 1998, when a reporter in Austin somehow discovered the secret via an examination of school records and published Trevanian’s true identity. Whitaker no longer lived in the United States by that time and wasn’t terribly bothered by the outing; he published two more novels under the name, including Crazyladies, which is a largely autobiographical work that offers plenty of insight into the unusual mind of one of the most successful writers of the 1970s.

    K.J. Parker (Real identity: Tom Holt)
    Like most names on this list, everyone knew K.J. Parker’s was a pseudonym—but for 17 years, no one was certain who was using the name to publish excellent fantasy novels and short stories which were praised for their wit and historical verisimilitude. In a delightfully modern comparison to the hullabaloo surrounding Tiptree, Jr., many people were pretty convinced Parker was a woman using a vague pen name to write that sort of grim, dense fantasy that were the domain of the male author. In 2015, British satirist Tom Holt outed himself as Parker, surprising the heck out of a lot of people. Holt, best known for his silly and pun-laden (if creative and cleverly constructed) speculative fiction, seemed like the least likely candidate for the job—especially when you start to add up the sum total of Parker and Holt’s output and realize that one mortal producing that many novels so quickly probably means Holt sleeps about a minute a day. While Holt’s secret identity was voluntarily surrendered rather than “cracked,” it still caused a minor stir.

    Still a Mystery

    Elena Ferrante
    You might think that the true identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neopolitan Quartet that begins with My Brilliant Friend (which was adapted into a successful TV miniseries) has been solved; there were a flurry of articles a few years ago that certainly gave that impression. The problem is, the three people who have so far been named as credible candidates—Marcella Marmo, Anita Raja, and Domenico Starnone (as well as Raja and Starnone together) have all denied it. There’s no hard evidence, and “Ferrante” continues to have nothing to say on the subject. The attempts to find the truth have elicited accusations of sexism and mean-spiritedness and led to questions about what an author “owes” their readership—and none of it has gotten us any closer to the truth.

    B. Traven
    Literally every detail known about the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is disputed on some level. From his name, to his birthplace, to whether or not his writing was initially published in German or English, no one can state with certainty a single concrete fact about the man—except that he wrote some of the most popular adventure novels of the early 20th century. In 1960 Traven submitted his final novel to his publisher, but the style and subject matter were so different the publisher rejected the book, believing that Traven had passed away and someone was attempting to use his name. One candidate for Traven’s true identity is German actor Ret Marut—but that name is also suspected to be a pseudonym. With every year that goes by, the likelihood that we’ll ever know for sure grows slimmer.

    Let’s just get it out of the way: My Secret Life, published between 1888 and 1895 in seven volumes that eventually amounted to over a million words, is a terrible book. As a memoir it meanders, repeats itself, and, despite the racy subject matter (covering affairs with prostitutes, serving girls, and just about anyone else who was willing), is written with all the style and literary talent of a shrub. The reason it’s still a notable work is simple: it details the sex life of a gentlemen in the Victorian era, a time when such matters weren’t discussed much, making this a valuable historical document. Adding to the intrigue, the identity of its author has never been convincingly proved. Since Walter’s escapades are not always complimentary (a fact that argues against this being a work of fiction or plain old erotica passed off as a memoir), it would be interesting if Walter turned out to be someone of prominence, but chances are we’ll never actually know.

    John Twelve Hawks
    Sci-fi author Hawks’ has maintained near-perfect anonymity, despite seeing his novels sell millions of copies around the world. He wrote that he decided on the pseudonym while working on his first novel, The Traveler, partly because he idolizes George Orwell (a pseudonym, in case you didn’t know), and partly because the novel focuses on a future society where the citizens are accustomed to being watched and monitored at all times. He felt it would be hypocritical to seek publicity after writing a story warning against a loss of privacy. The very small amount of information we have about Hawks has been gleaned solely from his interviews and writings, making him one of the most mysterious working authors today.

    James Church
    Church’s detective novels are set in North Korea and crammed with enough detail to convince you that he was, as he claims, once an intelligence agent who worked or works in the East Asia—and who must remain anonymous because he still travels regularly to North Korea. His novels follow the investigations of a North Korean policeman named Inspector O and detail the struggles of the inspector to solve cases while living under a repressive and often dangerously paranoid totalitarian state, and have been praised for their combination of great storytelling and presumed accuracy. Whether there will ever be a time when it’s safe for Church to reveal himself remains to be seen—if in fact his identity isn’t considered some sort of state secret, never be revealed at all.

    We end with the troubling case of Bandi, the unknown North Korean writer who smuggled this collection of short stories out of his native country under the nose of an oppressive regime but continues to live and work as a writer there. Details in the stories that might be used to identify him were deliberately altered by the publisher to protect him, and while the defector who helped him smuggle the stories out in the first place found ways of letting him know the book had been published, she also admits she hasn’t been able to get in touch with him since 2018. While there’s no reason to believe anything has happened to the author, the circumstances are certainly a bit ominous. This is one mysterious pseudonym we don’t want cracked—at least not until the writer is safely out of danger.

    Pseudonyms are always tantalizing little mysteries. Did we miss any that haven’t been figured out yet?

    The post 7 Author Pseudonyms That Were Cracked—and 6 That Haven’t Been (Yet) appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2019/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    The Best History & Current Affairs Books of September 2019 

    Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 7 in /homepages/23/d339537987/htdocs/do/wp-content/themes/p2/inc/mentions.php on line 77

    As we head into the final quarter of 2019, history isn’t slowing down to let you catch your breath. The best history and current events books coming this month include a fascinating rumination on leadership from General Jim Mattis, an analysis of our current president by Bill O’Reilly, a book about one new Supreme Court justice and a book by another, and more.

    Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, by Jim Mattis and Bing West
    General Jim Mattis looks back over a storied military and political career that has taught him more about leadership than most people could ever hope to learn. Divided into three sections, Mattis’ memoir reflects on what it means to lead men directly into battle, to coordinate huge forces while being far from the front lines, and finally what it takes to weigh the needs of an entire nation when crafting strategy. Mattis, who started his career as a common recruit and became a four-star general and then, briefly, Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump, brings humility and wisdom to an uncommon memoir, a book with something to teach everyone who reads it, no matter their position or profession.

    The United States of Trump: How the President Really Sees America, by Bill O’Reilly
    Framed as a nonpartisan analysis of President Trump’s worldview and political beliefs, O’Reilly’s latest draws on direct interviews conducted with Trump as well as research into his life and experiences. The result is an attempt to offer fresh insights into how our 45th president sees both his country and the world beyond it. O’Reilly, who has known Trump personally for decades, has the inside track, and uses the skills he’s employed in his bestselling Killing series to trace the origins and evolution of Trump’s politics from his childhood all the way through the most recent developments in the White House. This is a fascinating and unprecedented in-the-moment study of a sitting president.

    The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly
    Journalists Pogrebin and Kelly, who broke several stories about Brett Kavanaugh even as his confirmation hearings descended into chaos, believed that the FBI investigation into allegations against him was truncated and crippled. Here, they finally present the sum total of their investigations into the Supreme Court justice’s upbringing, education, and young adulthood. The result is a portrait of a privileged, contradictory man—a portrait colored by never-before-seen testimony from people who knew Kavanaugh at key moments in his life. As Kavanaugh settles into a lifetime role on the Supreme Court that will allow him to influence America’s way forward for decades to come, this book offers a glimpse into the mind that will be making those consequential decisions.

    Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic, by Jason Chaffetz
    A former Utah congressman and chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform offers his perspective on how the country has changed in the wake of President Trump’s election, painting the Democratic party and the progressive movement as irrationally angry and willing to ignore or destroy both political norms and legal restrictions in order to attack conservative positions and leadership. With a healthy dose of inside baseball from his time in congress, Chaffetz accuses many on the Left of deception, corruption, and following an unconstitutional agenda hidden behind accusations of fascism and claims of resistance.

    Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy, by Seth Abramson
    Legal and political analyst Abramson delivers a book that reads more like a summer spy thriller than reality, positing that in 2015, George Nader met with various leaders of the Arab world to unveil a plan reshape the political reality of the entire planet—with Donald Trump’s help. Abramson suggests that Nader pitched these leaders a pro-U.S. and pro-Israel alliance designed to contain the ambitions of Turkey and Iran, and that they threw their money, influence, and other resources behind Trump, who they expected to be friendly to Russia and belligerent towards Iran. It’s an intriguing argument, and, if you buy into it, a terrifying glimpse into realpolitik in the modern age.

    A Republic, If You Can Keep It, by Neil Gorsuch
    Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch made headlines when President Donald Trump nominated him to our nation’s highest court. In this book, Gorsuch seeks to define his views on the constitution, our system of government, and the rights that every American citizen enjoys. With speeches, essays, and personal notes, Gorsuch reflects on a life spent studying, interpreting, and defending the laws of the nation, and presents his arguments concerning his role as a justice—and everyone’s role as a citizen—in keeping this republic healthy for future generations of Americans. At the same time, Gorsuch offers glimpses of the personal events in his life that have shaped him just as much as his legal education and practice. Considering the immense influence Gorsuch will have on America over the coming years, this is an essential read for any enlightened citizen.

    Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI, by Josh Campbell
    Former FBI special agent and law enforcement analyst for CNN Campbell was part of the team that accompanied FBI Director James Comey to Trump Tower to brief the newly-elected president about the Steele dossier, putting him in a unique position to observe the sustained attack that the White House launched against the FBI. Campbell details the early days of the so-called Russia investigation (code-named Crossfire Hurricane), beginning with in-the-room-when-it-happened, firsthand knowledge and continuing the saga with an insider’s keen instincts in the wake of his 2018 resignation. Campbell paints a picture of a historically independent and crucial law enforcement agency that is demoralized and in danger of being politically compromised—or even destroyed—by an out of control presidential administration. His years of access lend gravitas to the incredible events he details here.

    The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History, by Lee Smith
    Smith and Nunes present their narrative of a conspiracy to not only target and destroy President Trump, but the very institutions that sustain our republic—a conspiracy only revealed, Nunes says, due to his investigations as head of the House Intelligence Committee. The plot begins in 2016 with the FBI investigation into Russian infiltration on the upcoming elections—but Nunes claims that investigation never targeted any Russians, rather working to undermine first Trump’s campaign, and then his administration. Nunes believes his investigations expose efforts by the “deep state” to protect its own interests over those of the nation at large.

    Laughing with Obama: A Photographic Look Back at the Enduring Wit and Spirit of President Barack Obama, by M. Sweeney
    Shifting gears from current controversies, M. Sweeney follows up his similarly positive books Hugs from Obama and Go High with one filled with gorgeous images of former President Barack Obama throughout the years. It’s a book to remind readers (of a favorable political persuasion, anyway) how warm, human, and truly funny Obama is. Photos of the 44th president laughing, smiling, and looking joyful are paired with some of the former commander-in-chief’s funniest remarks and one-liners from throughout his administration and beyond. For anyone in desperate need of a bit of optimism or a reminder that American politics can occasionally produce humor or even joy, this book will serve as a mental palate cleanser.

    The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, by Eric Foner
    Wars have far-reaching consequences, and Pulitzer Prize winner Foner takes a deep dive into those of the Civil War, most notably the so-call Reconstruction Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—and their enduring impact on our constitution and system of government. Foner notes that these amendments marked the first time equality was specifically extended to all Americans, and went contrary to tradition by charging the federal government with enforcement of the rule of law they established, rather than the states. Foner sees this change as ushering in a second iteration of the United States—one that floundered almost immediately, but which he sees as still viable; the book is shot-through with optimism and a belief that we can still be a country in which all citizens are truly equal.

    The post The Best History & Current Affairs Books of September 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: discover new writers, , ,   

    The Best Thrillers of September 2019 

    Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 7 in /homepages/23/d339537987/htdocs/do/wp-content/themes/p2/inc/mentions.php on line 77

    Summer’s almost over, but your Year of Reading continues, and we’ve got a fresh batch of nail-biting thrillers to fuel your Autumn, including a new novel featuring Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, the next in James Patterson’s Instinct series, and a terrifying dive into the violent mind of a insane killer from the writer who gave us The Killing.

    Lethal Agent, by Kyle Mills
    Kyle Mills continues to keep Vince Flynn’s legacy going with the 18th Mitch Rapp novel, set during a divisive and chaotic election year in the United States. While politicians undercut each other and pay more attention to the polls than national security, ISIS engineers a horrifying threat, kidnapping a scientist and forcing him to begin developing Anthrax for an attack against the U.S. that will carried out by a Mexican drug cartel—with the horrible act’s progress chronicled by taunting Internet videos. Rapp and Irene Kennedy work feverishly to stop the plan while the country descends into panic, but the terrorists have a twist up their sleeves in the form of a deadly new pathogen that could decimate the world’s population.

    Killer Instinct, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
    Patterson and Roughan rejoin Dr. Dylan Reinhart and Detective Elizabeth Needham (featured in the hit 2018 TV series Instinct, inspired by Patterson and Roughan’s Murder Games ) in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack that strikes New York City just as the pair are tackling a murder case with disturbing connections to Reinhart’s shrouded past. In the fog of disaster, Needham becomes a hero—and the next target of the dangerous sociopath behind the attack. Dr. Reinhart is an expert on why people kill, but he quickly finds that this enemy is beyond anything he’s experienced in his career—and he’ll have to figure out what he’s dealing with fast, or an entire city will suffer for it.

    The Titanic Secret, by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
    The eleventh Isaac Bell novel is also a time-traveling Dirk Pitt adventure. In the modern day, Pitt does what he does best: saving lives using an antique submersible under the waters off of New York City. This leads Pitt to a document dating back a century and authored by the famous detective Isaac Bell. Back in 1911, Bell is investigating the deaths of nine men at Little Angel Mine. His investigation leads him to an incredibly rare, powerful, and valuable element called byzanium—and into conflict with sinister forces that will do anything to acquire it. As Bell prepares to stop them, the story spans the globe and time itself. Pitt and Bell, a century apart, race to solve a puzzle that could change the world.

    Cold Storage, by David Koepp
    Screenwriter David Koepp’s first novel is a tense thriller with a sci-fi edge that begins with Skylab crashing to Earth in 1979. The doomed satellite is carrying a mutated fungal organism previously sent into space for study. After the organism crashes down in Australia, it rapidly evolves into a sentient life form that sees every other living thing as food. In 1987, Defense Nuclear Agency operative USAF Maj. Roberto Diaz encounters the horrifying creature after it destroys a remote Australian community, and just barely manages to contain it, burying its last remnant underneath a military installation in Kansas. But then, in 2019, Diaz is woken up by a call he’s been dreading for more than 20 years, telling him the organism may have escaped. Diaz races to Kansas and into a desperate struggle to save every living thing on Earth from certain doom, even a security guard who goes by the nickname Teacake and a single mother named Naomi—employees of that ill-fated rural storage facility—face the terror on a much more intimate level. Unsurprisingly, considering the pedigree of its author (the screenplays for Jurassic Park and Spider-Man, for starters), this 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection unfolds with the furious fun of a summer blockbuster—and more than a few nods to the science-minded thrillers of the late Michael Crichton.

    The Chestnut Man, by Søren Sveistrup
    Søren Sveistrup, the man behind the global TV phenomenon The Killing, delivers a debut thriller with just as much grim, violent style. When a serial killer who brutally dismembers his victims—and leaves dolls made from chestnuts and matchsticks behind—strikes Copenhagen, ambitious detective Naia Thulin is paired with run-down, middle-aged Mark Hess. When a fingerprint on one the of the “chestnut men” matches the daughter of a politician who disappeared the year before, the case leaps into overdrive. The two mismatched detectives must navigate their own personal limitations while doing the hard work of sifting clues, red herrings, and horrifying crime scenes that ramp up the terrifying tension. (This one is also a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick for the fall.)

    29 Seconds, by T.M. Logan
    Logan’s newest asks a simple, terrible question: if, with one 29-second phone call, you could make a person disappear—with zero consequences to yourself—would you do it? That’s the question before Sarah Haywood, a literature professor at Queen Anne’s University in London. Sarah suffers under the sexual harassment of her department head, famed academic and author Alan Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s ability to bring money and publicity to the school means his behavior towards his fellow employees is tolerated or even ignored, and as he grows increasingly aggressive and violent, Sarah sees not just her career but her sanity slipping away. After she rescues a young boy from a terrible situation, by acting on pure instinct, Sarah learns the boy’s father is a man with dark resources and a wicked sense of gratitude; he gives Sarah a burner phone and tells her he owes her a favor. All she has to do is make one short call, give a name, and he’ll ensure person will disappear. Sarah gives in to her most desperate self and gives Hawthorne’s name—but unfortunately, she’ll soon discover there’s no such thing as “zero consequences.”

    The post The Best Thrillers of September 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    Amazing Book Haul Finds for Every Type of Reader 

    Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 7 in /homepages/23/d339537987/htdocs/do/wp-content/themes/p2/inc/mentions.php on line 77

    To bid farewell to our most favorite of seasons (summer reading! Beach reading! Reading in front of the air conditioner because it is too hot to move!), we’re celebrating in a really big way: between now and September 3, we’re holding our first-ever Book Haul Blowout. From August 24 through September 2, more than 1,000 new and recent hardcover bestsellers, backlist favorites, and timeless classics for readers of all ages are on sale for 50% off.

    Grow your library by shopping Barnes & Noble’s Book Haul Blowout selection at your local store, or online at BN.com/bookhaul. (For those of you who prefer to lovingly caress your books in person before buying, in-store shoppers who take home any bundle of three books will also receive a free tote bag with their purchase, while supplies last.)

    If choosing from a list of 1,000 titles seems a bit daunting, below we’ve highlighted some of our favorites for all types of readers. Check out our recommendations, browse the entire selection, and show us what you’ve picked up on social media using the hashtag #BNBookHaul.

    Biography Junkies

    Anthony Bourdain Remembered
    Bourdain’s death last year brought about an outpouring of love and affection from his most devoted fans, not to mention the casual viewers of his travel and food programs. If the tributes shared a theme, it was honoring the late master chef’s belief that the world would be a better place if we all spent more time walking in the shoes of others, and maybe trying a little of their food. It’s a valuable message, and this reminiscence celebrates Bourdain’s life with anecdotes from fans, friends, chefs, and luminaries like Barack Obama, Ken Burns, and Questlove.

    I.M.: A Memoir, by Isaac Mizrahi
    Celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi grew up gay in a Syrian Orthodox Jewish family before he became a performer, a talk-show host, and a fashion icon. Throughout his life, he has moved through all of these identities and more, and walked in lofty celebrity circles that have included the likes of Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn, and Oprah Winfrey. This new memoir chronicles the highs and lows of his fascinating life.

    Armchair Historians

    Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    Jared Diamond, another Pulitzer-winner best known for Guns, Germs and Steel, returns with a unique and fascinating look at history through the lens of psychology, applying trauma treatment protocols to entire nations in order to explain sudden policy shifts and course corrections, from Chile’s wild political swings in the 20th century, to Japan’s opening to the West in the 19th century, to the persistence of the institution of slavery in the U.S., to the Winter War between the U.S.S.R. and Finland. Diamond argues that nations either take an honest look at themselves after disaster… or they don’t, and that willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge hard truths is the determining factor in what happens next.

    Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America, by Jared Cohen
    Jared Cohen examines one of the least-studied quirks of the American system of government: the very real possibility that the vice president will assume the presidency. Examining eight vice presidents who ascended to the role of commander in chief when their running mates died in office, Cohen explores how our political system works—or, more often, doesn’t work—to prepare the VP to takeover in the wake of tragedy. In offering insights into the way these eight power transitions and considering other times a president almost died in office, Cohen argues that the job of vice president is much more than merely ceremonial.

    True Crime Obsessives

    I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara
    Michelle McNamara passed away in 2016 at the age of 46, but left behind a powerful legacy in the form of this book. It’s the result of her years-long investigation into the serial rapist and murderer she dubbed the Golden State Killer, who, thanks in part to McNamara’s efforts o draw additional attention to the cold case, was finally captured in 2018. When she began tracing the crimes in 2011, DNA testing had already linked more than 50 sexual assaults and murders dating back to the mid-1970s to a single man.. The attacks stopped after a decade, and the killer disappeared—but McNamara, with the help of others who gathered at her website, tracked him tirelessly through the available evidence. After her unexpected passing, her team continued the work, finishing this remarkable book, which skillfully combines true-crime details with a novelist’s flare for storytelling.

    Amateur Sleuths

    The Sentence Is Death, by Anthony Horowitz
    The second novel in the already addictive Daniel Hawthorne series features Hawthorne’s investigation into the murder of a famous divorce lawyer—found bludgeoned to death with a very expensive bottle of wine. But the victim wasn’t a drinker. And what’s to be made of his enigmatic last recorded words: “You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”? Horowitz’s famously recalcitrant detective is accompanied once again by novelist Anthony, whose inexperience in the arena of crime solving is made up for by his enthusiasm. This elegantly written series full of twists and turns is very much worth getting into in its early days.

    True Romantics

    Under Currents, by Nora Roberts
    On the surface, Zane Bigelow’s childhood looked idyllic—successful parents and a big, fancy house and all that jazz—but said childhood was actually filled with all kinds of abuse. Fast forward many years and Zane is now a successful—and smokingly gorgeous—lawyer. He decides to return to his hometown and be with his loved ones. There he meets Darby, a landscape artist who’s new to the area and has her own haunted past. Darby and Zane may each have their own issues to grapple with – not to mention dark pasts they can’t seem to shake—but that doesn’t stop either of them from realizing they’d like to do the deed on a regular basis. Will they be able to dodge their demons and start a new chapter of their lives together?

    Big Fans of Buzzy Literary Fiction

    Supermarket, by Bobby Hall
    This first novel written by Bobby Hall—aka, rap star Logic—is a dense, dark thriller that will keep surprising you. Flynn is a depressed young man who takes a job at a supermarket because he needs something—anything—to give him a reason to get out of bed in the morning and leave his mother’s house. At the store he journals, observing the weirdos and freaks he works with, the customers, the adorable coworker he’s falling for. When a horrible crime is committed at the supermarket, everything changes, and Flynn begins questioning his reality.

    7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton
    Turton takes one part classic manor house mystery and adds a layer of supernatural sci-fi, as Aiden Bishop relives the same day over and over, inhabiting a different body each time—each a guest at a masquerade ball thrown by the Hardcastle family at the downtrodden manor house known as Blackheath. He must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, the young daughter in whose honor the party has been organized, within eight days—and eight identities—or have his memory erased and be forced to start over from scratch. Turton doesn’t skimp on the red herrings, plausible suspects, and twists that every great mystery needs, while the ticking clock on Bishop’s efforts ratchets up the tension in this near-perfect postmodern mystery.

    Thrill Seekers

    The Chef, by James Patterson and Max Dilallo
    James Patterson continues to innovate and push envelopes in terms of marketing and distribution. Case in point: his newest collaboration with DiLallo was first published on Facebook Messenger. Police detective and food truck chef Caleb Rooney serves New Orleans in both capacities, but as Mardi Gras approaches, he finds himself accused of murder. (It probably doesn’t help that his food truck is called the Killer Chef.) Shortly thereafter, Rooney discovers a plot to attack New Orleans being brewed up by home-grown terrorists. Racing against time, Rooney must clear his own name while preventing a slaughter in his beloved city as it gears up for Mardi Gras—the perfect tasty backdrop for a tense thriller.

    Neon Prey, by John Sandford
    When Howell Paine fails to pay back the money he owes loan shark Roger Smith, Smith sends violent thug Clayton Deese to punish him. But Paine fights back with an unexpected ferocity, and Deese is jammed up on racketeering charges. When Deese escapes his ankle bracelet and investigators discover partially-eaten bodies buried in his backyard, Lucas Davenport takes an interest and begins tracking the killer and the brutal gang he travels with as they journey across the country, pulling jobs to fuel their gambling and drug use. Worried that Deese is an unstable source of dire secrets that could ruin him, Smith decides he has to go, setting up a tense three-way game of cat-and-mouse Davenport fans are sure to love.

    Poets at Heart

    the princess saves herself in this one, by Amanda Lovelace
    Published by the same imprint that publishes the sensational Rupi Kaur, princess explores Amanda’s previously unhealthy relationships—with former romantic partners and with her own self-esteem—as she climbs out from the ruin and realizes she’s worth more than the hand she’s been dealt (and that others, too, can love her for who she is). Her poems can be read on their own or as a complete narrative, and both princess and her new poetry collection the witch doesn’t burn in this one are aggressively feminist and uplifting, perfect for teens looking for little verses to hold to their chests as pick-me-ups in the current political climate.

    Business Book Buffs

    The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
    Willink and Babin bring their unique perspective as former Navy SEALs to the business world, arguing that effective leadership is a split between seemingly opposite traits—like leading and following, aggression and prudence—and the key to success is mastering both. Willink and Babin thread the needle throughout, examining how leaders can both take ‛extreme’ ownership of ideas and projects while delegating effectively, take a real interest in each individual member of the team and their wellbeing without sacrificing the overall goals of the team, any many other seemingly contradictory impulses that must be mastered in order to be as effective a leader as possible.

    Burgeoning Chefs

    Hungry Girl Simply 6: All-Natural Recipes with 6 Ingredients or Less, by Lisa Lillien
    Lisa Lillien’s 13th cookbook in the Hungry Girl series is ideal for busy folks with hectic lives, offering a ton of recipes that require just six ingredients, take less than half an hour to prepare, and clock in under 350 calories. The magic is in how Lillien manages to cut out a lot of sugar, starch, and salt while still offering up dishes like mushroom risotto, beefy cauliflower rice stir-fry, steak and avocado soft tacos, cookies and cream banana bites, upside-down cheesecake, and personal peach pies. With a fun and breezy tone, Lillien also manages to sift in plenty of practical cooking tips with each recipe. It’s a cookbook that not only makes healthy cooking easy, but also reduces kitchen-related stress.

    Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family, by Tracy Pollan, Dana Pollan, Lori Pollan, and Corky Pollan
    Food writer Michael Pollan’s family comes together to offer the perfect cookbook for “flexitarians,” folks who are largely vegetarian but don’t object to the occasional bit of fish or meat. This healthy-but-not-strict approach is delightfully outlined by Pollan’s sisters Lori, Dana, and Tracy and their mother Corky, offering recipes that will be accepted (and devoured) by vegetarians, vegans, and everyone else, all with a distinct home-cooked touch. The addition of pre-made shopping lists are a godsend as well, allowing everyone to simply run out to the market and ensure they have everything they’ll need to cook healthy with confidence no matter who drops by.

    YA Superfans

    Defy Me, by Tahereh Mafi
    Book five in the addictive Shatter Me series finds Juliette succumbing to the darkness she’s long held at bay. Being supreme commander of North America was difficult enough, and that was before she discovered her identity and family relationships may have been one big lie. The cliffhanger-to-end-all-cliffhangers in Restore Me had fans howling, but at long last it’s time to see what Juliette and Warner do next. And the B&N Exclusive addition includes a deleted scene as well as bonus content from the Reestablishment’s secret files.

    King of Scars, by Leigh Bardugo
    Return to the Grishaverse for a Nikolai Lantsov story (and a Nina POV!) in this duology opener by expert fantasy writer Bardugo. If you’re new to the Six of Crows and Grishaverse novels, this is a terrific entry point. As a young privateer, Nikolai concealed his royal status (and handsome visage) so as to be more effective in battle. Now the enigmatic young man sits on the throne, but past trauma and internal dark magic threaten his ability to lead his country against the looming war. Will a quest to the most magical locations in Ravka cure him or endanger everyone he knows? As Nikolai would put it, “Anything worth doing starts as a bad idea.”

    The Science-Minded

    The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore
    Whenever someone questions the need for laws protecting workers and everyone else from the deprivations of profit-seeking companies, this story should serve as educational. In the early 20th century, more than a dozen women were employed to paint watches with luminous paint based on the radioactive material radium. These women were fine artists who were able to manipulate their brushes expertly, often using their mouths to twist the brushes to a fine point in order to do the detail work. Soon after, many began suffering terrible medical problems, including lost teeth and disease jawbones, sparking a decades-long legal and medical battle that redefined worker’s rights and workplace safety.

    Sci-Fi & Fantasy Geeks

    A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine
    Arkady Martine’s ornate debut space opera constructs a fully realized world. The new ambassador from a small mining Station, Mahit Dzmare, arrives at the court of the ever-expanding Teixcalaanli Empire to find that the previous ambassador is dead. Very likely, she was murdered—though no one will admit that, or the fact that Dzmare is the next most likely victim. Aided by her expertise in the Teixcalaani language and an outdated—and possibly untrustworthy—memory implant from the prior ambassador, Dzmare must negotiate both her own survival and that of the Station in the face of an implacable empire. Meanwhile, the aging emperor seeks to become immortal by any means science can grant him, even as his army plots a coup. In the tradition of Ann Leckie and Iain M. Banks, this is bold, complex space opera with a political bent.

    Comic-Con Badge-Holders

    Stranger Things, Volume 1, by Jody Houser, Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, Nate Piekos, and Lauren Affe
    Netflix sensation Stranger Things returns for its third season this summer, but first, this tie-in series from writer Jody Houser (Faith, Mother Panic) and artist Stefano Martino (George R.R. Martin’s Doorways) doles out some heretofore unseen backstory, finally revealing the terrors Will Byers experienced while trapped in the Upside Down with the Demigorgon during the show’s first season. It’s terrifically chilling worldbuilding, and the character designs and dialogue are quite true to the show. The B&N edition includes a variant cover and an exclusive gatefold art spread.

    What are your favorite #BookHaul finds?

    The post Amazing Book Haul Finds for Every Type of Reader appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: , other worlds than these, , ,   

    10 Times Stephen King Altered Reality 

    Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 7 in /homepages/23/d339537987/htdocs/do/wp-content/themes/p2/inc/mentions.php on line 77

    If there’s another living author as powerful as Stephen King, we can’t name them (and don’t say James Patterson—we’re pretty sure he’s actually some sort of advanced artificial intelligence). King has been more or less the unquestioned lord and master of freaky fiction for four decades and counting, and also seems to be the source material (or blatant inspiration) for at least 19 percent of all film and television being produced today. What’s more, he apparently has the power to shifts reality around himself using just the power of his words.

    What’s that? You didn’t realize Stephen King could manipulate his own reality? Well, consider his recent announcement that he’s going to provide a new ending for the latest adaptation of The Stand—we’re talking about altering literary canon, and that’s no joke. And it’s not the first time he’s done something similar. Consider:

    The Time He Created a Whole Other Person.
    Stephen King in the 1970s was almost as much of a juggernaut as he is today, sales-wise. But he was also younger and on a lot more drugs, which means he was often casually writing novels in his sleep. His publisher was worried about saturating the market, and King himself was worried that his success was more about marketing than talent, so he invented an alias, Richard Bachman, that would allow him to publish more than one book a year and to see if he could write his way to success without the King brand. Thanks to the efforts of an unusually observant bookseller, the charade didn’t last long enough to answer King’s question, but it did establish Bachman as a defined persona—whom the author abruptly “killed off.” King played further with the idea that Bachman was a real person by introducing the concept in his novel The Dark Half and crediting his 1996 novel The Regulators (marketed as a “mirror” novel to Desperation) as a lost Bachman work.

    The Time He Rewrote The Stand.
    The Stand is a big book. The manuscript that King originally delivered to his publisher would have been almost 1,200 pages long, and his publisher blanched at the idea of selling a pricey book that would require a hand truck to carry home (remember, this was way before digital books were a thing), even from an author as successful as King was in 1978. They convinced King of the limitations of the market, and he dutifully—if a bit unhappily—edited the book down to the relatively trim 823 pages that comprised the first edition. A few years later he also updated the time period of the novel from 1980 to 1985 to keep it fresh. Tellingly, a lot of the material he cut from the book was skillfully and surgically removed, and no one noticed anything amiss in the original version.

    The Other Time He Rewrote The Stand.
    By the time the 1990s rolled around, it was clear King was no mere flash-in-the-pan, but a genuine literary phenomenon—meaning he finally had the clout to get all that material he cut from The Stand reinstated—or most of it; he did make a slew of new revisions and trimmed some of the excised material down to a (slightly) more manageable length. Some of the other changes he made involved updating the time period again to the 1990s, sprinkling in references to pop culture that hadn’t existed in the late 1970s. The mammoth 1,152-page “director’s cut” does improve a few aspects of the novel, offering a deeper exploration of the character of Frannie that delivers an emotional payoff, and revising a few head-scratching choices (like changing Larry Underwood’s inexplicable disco career to a more timeless blues-rock style), but ultimately, the extra material doesn’t fundamentally change the novel. One thing it did allow King to do was make the connections to his emerging shared universe more explicit—including a coda featuring Randall Flagg (as Russell Faraday) waking up after the disaster in Las Vegas.

    The Time He Made a Book Disappear.
    Not every author has the ability to erase mistakes. Stephen King originally wrote Rage, a story about a student who holds his classroom hostage, in 1965 when he was 18 years old. He published it in 1977 under the Bachman pseudonym because he could literally publish anything at that point. King grew to view the book as juvenilia over the years, and was happy to see it slide out of print, but it remained as part of the Bachman Books omnibus collection. But after a series of school shootings in the 1980s and 1990s, however, King realized that the world of 1965 was much different from the world he was then living in. He contacted his publisher, and Rage literally disappeared from the world—it was taken out of print and it isn’t coming back. Good luck finding a copy!

    The Time He Rewrote The Gunslinger.
    The Stand isn’t the only book that King has substantially revised. He began writing the original version of The Gunslinger in 1970, and published it in five parts in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between 1978 and 1981. The novel was finally published in full in 1982, but that version is very different from the one you’ll likely find on the shelves today. In 2003—after the publication of sequels The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, and Wizard and Glass—King revised the book, changing the language and tone to match the later volumes, to retcon in explicit links to his shared universe (including combining all of Roland’s antagonists into one person), and to set the stage for what was to come in the final three volumes of what had come to be known as The Dark Tower saga, which were published in rapid succession. Where the revision of The Stand was mainly about the addition of material, the revision of The Gunslinger makes it into a very different book.

    The Time He Backwards-Engineered a Whole Shared Universe.
    Speaking of that shared universe we’ve been mentioning, it has bloomed into one of the most complex and fascinating literary projects of all time, linking almost all of King’s various works into a single mythology. But it’s not like King knew he was doing this back in 1965 when he started writing; it evolved over time. But the laws of physics can’t contain Stephen King: he’s managed to cleverly fold even his older books into the King-o-verse by incorporating their characters and events into later novels—and in meaningful, thematically relevant ways at that. Take, for example, the character of Father Callahan, who flees ‛Salem’s Lot in disgrace at the end of that novel. When he pops up in The Wolves of Calla 25 years later, it’s not just a case of shared universe fanservice; it provides a memorable character with a wholly redemptive arc, enriching his appearance in the earlier novel. (See also the skillful way he turned The Talisman into a de facto spinoff of The Dark Tower, decades after the former was published.)

    The Time He Threatened to Remove Himself from His Shared Universe.
    King famously inserted himself into his imagined reality via the Dark Tower series—and not just as a character, but as a major linchpin of the plot, even incorporating his own true-life experience of being hit by a van and almost killed. This is usually a make-it-or-break-it moment for readers of the books; some folks find it thrillingly brilliant, some find it kind of self-indulgent (especially when King starts communicating with the characters through the words on the… well, spoilers). King has long talked about the extant Dark Tower novels as being “first drafts,” and in dire need of a revision. One thing he’s teased is removing himself from the books entirely. What this would mean for the story we can’t say, since he’s pretty integral to the endgame at this point—but we are dying to see who might portray King in the new streaming television adaptation, assuming it gets that far.

    The Time He Tried to Replace a Stanley Kubrick Classic.
    Some writers get bent out of shape when adaptations change aspects of their stories. King, in fact, got very bent out of shape when Stanley Kubrick adapted The Shining into the film starring Jack Nicholson. To be fair, King’s complaints aren’t nuts—Kubrick more or less reinvented the story, shedding almost all of King’s subtext and interpreting the character of Jack Torrance and the haunted hotel he inhabits in vastly different ways. Not entirely in agreement with the consensus that a work of cinematic genius had been crafted from his source material, the author worked hard to make people forget all about the Kubrick version, even agreeing in writing to never criticize the film in public again in exchange for getting the film rights back so he could produce his own version. he resultant 1997 television miniseries version was extremely faithful to the text, if inarguably not as artfully cinematic as Kubrick’s version. But how many authors would have even gotten the chance to try to make us forget about “Heerrrree’s Johnny!”?

    The Times He Made Changes To His Stories Canonical.
    While King’s reaction to Kubrick’s The Shining resulted in a rare fit of pique from the author, most of the time King is jazzed about smart changes to his material. When the film version of his novella The Mist ended with what may be the blackest, most soul-chilling denouement in cinematic history, he was quick to admit that it was a superior conclusion, one he wished he’d come up with. In fact, aside from the The Shining, King has a habit of endorsing the creative decisions of filmmakers who adapt his work, thereby making them just as legitimate as the original endings in the books. Maybe he learned his lesson?

    The Times He Reinvented Himself as a Literary Novelist, and a Crime Writer, and…
    Most authors fall into a genre slot early in their careers and stay there. Sometimes they make attempts to break out  and write something out of character—but often they fail to redefine themselves, and go back to the well soon enough (King even sketched out a version of this trajectory in the career of Misery‘s fictional writer protagonist Paul Sheldon). King, however, apparently decided one afternoon he wasn’t just a horror writer: he was a literary writer. The result? Stuff like The Body and Lisey’s Story. Later on, King decided he was also a crime fiction writer, gifting us with great novels like The Colorado Kid and Joyland, not to mention crime-horror fusions like the Bill Hodges trilogy and The Outsider. King has also found success in fantasy (The Eyes of the Dragon) and non-fiction (On Writing, Danse Macabre). If, one day, he decides to kill it in epic poetry or space opera, we’ll will be lined up to read those books too.

    Have we forgotten other times King changed his reality?

    The post 10 Times Stephen King Altered Reality appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

compose new post
next post/next comment
previous post/previous comment
show/hide comments
go to top
go to login
show/hide help