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  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: achy obejas, , cristina garcía, cuba 15, dreaming in cuban, , lived experience, nancy osa, oscar hijuelos, ruins, silent city, the mambo kings play songs of love   

    5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading 

    One of the most magical aspects of literature and art in general is that combination of attitudes and backgrounds that occurs in your head when you read something written by a member of another culture—which is even more powerful when the writer is combining different experiences themselves. The Cuban-American diaspora in America has influenced every aspect of our culture, from food, to music, to literature, birthing stories flavored with Cuban-specific experience that make their tales unique. The work of these five Cuban-American writers represents some of the best work coming out of that community today.

    Oscar Hijuelos
    Start with: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
    Born in New York City to Cuban parents, Hijuelos is perhaps the most famous Cuban-American writer. His 1990 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into an award-winning film; and it stands as an ideal example of the writer’s style. He explores his status as a child of Cuban immigrants, eschewing the political to focus on the inner lives of his characters—their personal passions and tragedies. While his characters and settings are clearly informed by his own family’s experiences, his work is universal in theme and identity. His writing is profound and rhythmic without being pretentious or fussy. He wrote several other novels, all worth reading, before dying of a heart attack in 2013 at age 62.

    Alex Segura
    Start with: Silent City
    Segura, a Miami native, knows intimately the contradictions and challenges of being Cuban-American. His series of mystery-thrillers starring recovering alcoholic Pete Fernandez don’t necessarily deal directly with ex-pat themes , but the Cuban-American experience is soaked into their every lived-in word. Segura is so good at spinning a story it’s easy to forget that he’s also showing you aspects of Miami that outsiders might never be exposed to, capturing a Cuban subculture that has flourished at a remove from the country that gave birth to it all those decades ago. All of this vivid detail is skillfully folded into mysteries that also pay homage to the classic whodunnits of the past.

    Cristina García
    Start with: Dreaming in Cuban
    Formerly the Miami bureau chief for Time Magazine, García published her first novel in 1992. Her work possesses a singular point of view; while there are clear Cuban references and imagery, she has been clear about her desire to avoid being defined by her heritage. While her first three novels were more explicitly linked to the Cuban-American experience, in her later work she’s moved to a more general approach, rejecting the idea that everything she does must be informed by her ancestry and her connection to the Cuban diaspora,. Still, her work is infused with Cuban influences: her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, is a complex tapestry about a Cuban family, tracing generations from before the revolution to their new life in America. Moving back and forth through time, the story concentrates on the experiences of three women from different generations of the family. Tellingly, one of the major themes is how politics, and the passions stirred by them, can create division, even between people who care very deeply about each other.

    Nancy Osa
    Start with: Cuba 15
    Nancy Osa’s love for the video game Minecraft (she’s even written several unofficial tie-in novels) just goes to show that people can be several things at once. Her debut YA novel, Cuban 15, tells the story of Violet Paz, a young girl disconnected from her Cuban heritage. Her father won’t discuss their homeland, and her life in America is typical of a young girl in high school—worrying over activities, friends, and her first boyfriend. Her grandmother decides to organize a quinceañera party for her, which leads to Violet learning about her heritage. Osa’s point-of-view is important, as a younger generation of Cuban-Americans balances their dual identity with a distance from the politics and violence that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations still remember clearly.

    Achy Obejas
    Start with: Ruins
    Obejas writes explicitly about Cuba, sexuality, and feminist issues with tight, clear prose, offering a unique perspective that combines several categories of exiles. Her novel Ruins is a perfect distillation of her themes; set in Cuba in 1994, it explores the world of Usnavy, who struggles to keep his family alive amidst the crushing poverty and ruin of a once-vibrant country. Usnavy would like to build an illegal sleeping area in their tiny room, but the ceiling is filled with the family’s one treasure: a massive, ornate chandelier that’s possibly a genuine Tiffany. While people around him literally build rafts to escape the country, Usnavy tries to protect his family and hold onto his political faith in Castro in this beautiful, affecting novel.

    The post 5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sam Reader 6:00 pm on 2018/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: different seasons, everything's eventual, , full dark no stars, , i know what you need, just after sunset, , nightmares and dreamscapes, , skeleton crew, ,   

    A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection 

    On May 22, Stephen King’s hotly anticipated new thriller The Outsider arrives to scare the pants off of us again. To keep ourselves busy while we wait, we’ve already ranked every one of the Master of Horror”s novels—but for the purposes of comparing apples to apples (presumably, apples with razorblades hidden inside them), our exhaustive list did not include King’s numerous short story collections. As King is one of America’s best and foremost short story writers, this is a matter that bears rectifying—after all, there are more than 100 stories spread across his 10 collections, and that’s a considerable body of work. Here, submitted for your approval, are the short story collections of Stephen King, ranked.

    Just After Sunset
    There’s nothing particularly wrong with Just After Sunset—it even includes one of King’s most ambitious publishing experiments in “N.,” a story first released as an online motion comic serial. At the same time, there’s nothing that stands out. The stories are consistently strong, but the concepts within them are ones he has either explored fully before, or improved upon in later works. In rereading the King collections for this article, I was surprised at how many of these stories I didn’t remember encountering before. And while “forgettable” isn’t necessarily a deadly sin, considering how memorable so many of King’s stories are, Just After Sunset must logically place low on this ranking, all things (and Kings) being relative.

    Four Past Midnight
    A collection of four novellas ranging from cosmic horror, to psychological horror, to dark fantasy, Four Past Midnight is, taken as a whole, distinct and interesting, but never truly cohesive. While all four novellas go some interesting places, none stand alone as singular works. Whether they take too long to build, telegraph their twists, or feel like a prologue to a later work, all four stories are memorable but not superlative. It’s a shame, because when these tales finally do get moving, they deliver on great concepts (particularly “The Library Policeman”), but they might have worked better trimmed to the length of short stories.

    Hearts in Atlantis
    It may seem like I’m being hard on King’s novella collections, but oh, is Hearts in Atlantis an uneven reading experience. The first novella, “Low Men in Yellow Coats” (later turned into a movie that shares the name of the collection but has nothing to do with the titular story) is incredibly powerful, mining a great deal of emotion and depth out of a story of a young boy’s unusual relationship with his mother’s new lodger, who turns out to be crucial to the fate of all existence. The story works even if you haven’t read King’s Dark Tower novels, to which it serves as a rather essential sort of footnote. It offers an excellent mix of nostalgia, paranoia, and fantasy, and offer a realistic look into the minds of its young protagonist. But after that, the ostensibly linked stories that fill out the collection grow increasingly disjointed, and are all over the place in terms of tone and setting—though the title tale, about a group of college friends who become obsessed with playing cards during a summer of political upheaval, is essential reading.

    The Bazaar of Bad Dreams 
    The most recent entry on the list, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a solid collection that hangs together on a general theme of mortality and morality, with stories including a seductive avatar of death, an execution in a small western town, and “Obits,” the Hugo-nominated tale of a journalist with the strange power to cause deaths based on the obituaries he writes. It’s one of the high points of King’s recent work, and hangs together a little better, both thematically and tonally, than some of the collections on this list. And yet, taken together, these stories aren’t quite as evocative or powerful as the books below—perhaps its damning him for maturing as a writer, but this one has none of the twisted pulp of Night Shift, or the unnerving gloom of Skeleton Crew, or the colorful weirdness of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s solid.

    Different Seasons
    Another collection of four novellas, this one based thematically around “seasons.” It was King’s attempt to try something in defiance of his 1980s-era reputation as a horror writer (though “The Breathing Method” and “Apt Pupil” might still qualify as such). As an experiment, it worked incredibly well, proving King didn’t need supernatural twists or pulp excess to grab readers and keep them. All four of these stories are excellent, though some elements of each do come across as excessive, unsubtle, or slightly out of place (“Apt Pupil” is a notable example; it’s a novella about the banality of evil, but the protagonist starts off by cheerfully rattling off concentration camp statistics and quickly graduates to serial-murdering hoboes). Also, by this point, most will have already come across Different Seasons through the film adaptations (only “The Breathing Method” has not been made for the screen), skewing perceptions of the originals. While the printed and filmed versions are two entirely different animals, it’s difficult to look at one without seeing glimpses of the other; thus while the stories are very good, they’ve lost some of their sheen.

    Nightmares and Dreamscapes
    The most appropriate adjective to describe Nightmares and Dreamscapes is “kaleidoscopic.” It has its good moments, it has its bad moments, but the latter definitely doesn’t outweigh the former, and it’s a volume filled to bursting with all of King’s considerable talents and quirks and particular obsessions—pastiches of authors he enjoys, stories transmuted into teleplays, and, in general, ideas spanning multiple genres and styles. It’s a bizarre funhouse of stories, bouncing from tone to tone and genre to genre with abandon, from a tale of killer joke teeth, to a story about the dark secret behind a bestselling author’s success. Even the weaker entries are just interesting, and worth at least one read. The constant juggling of tone and format can get exhausting, and fictional sprawl isn’t always a good thing, especially on a reread, putting this one lower in the rankings—but we’re already well into “must read” territory at this point.

    Full Dark, No Stars
    Four novellas centered around the concept of revenge, Full Dark No Stars is a series of slow-burning, dark tales, each building tension in its own way until something finally snaps and it all goes spiraling out of control. It’s clear from  the very beginning of each story that something is going to go wrong, it’s just a question of what and when—and how it will all play out in the end (hint: not all that well for most characters). There’s not much to pick at here; it’s just an excessively rough read, even for King—not because of gore or violence, but because each story works overtime to live up to the collection’s name, from the unrelentingly grim “1922,” about a man who conspires to kill his wife with the help of their son; to “Fair Extension,” a sort of social satire in which a man essentially destroys his friend’s life through a deal with the devil, and which is either a dark comedy or a horror novel from the perspective of the monsters, depending on your point of view. Either way, the unrelenting bleakness makes it something of a “sometimes” book.

    Everything’s Eventual
    Everything’s Eventual probably doesn’t feature many stories King’s fans would call favorites, but oh man, is it evocative. Beyond its best-known story, the nightmarish ride “1408” that pits one man against a hotel room in a battle for his life, King paints on indelible image and moment after another. These stories provoke reactions, offer odd glimpses into the real world. They stick with you. (In full disclosure, I have been known to writes lines from the stark, ambiguous “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” about a suicidal traveling salesman who collects bathroom graffiti, on bathroom stalls all over the country). It is, by all measures, a good collection. Possibly even a very good one. But that its power is found in moments more often than in whole stories, it doesn’t break into the top of the list.

    Night Shift
    To be blunt, King’s first collection, published in 1978, is pure nightmare fuel. Its blend of gothic horror, pulp, suburban fiction, EC Comics-level grotesquerie, modern horror, and genuine compassion for its characters is something many have tried to replicate, but few have managed quite so successfully. While this one might be known for its more gruesome offerings (the post-apocalyptic “Night Surf,” which opens in the wake of a global pandemic; “The Mangler,” which somehow manages to make a demon-possessed laundry press into a terrifying menace, despite how ridiculous that idea is), it also contains the wrenching “Last Rung on the Ladder,” about a man who can’t forgive himself for his sister’s suicide; and the darkly hilarious “Quitters, Inc.” a far more effective smoking deterrent than any Surgeon Generals’ warning. It’s a remarkably consistent collection from front to back, even if the stories are a bit raw, and lacking the polish that would characterize the author’s later work.

    Skeleton Crew
    If there is one book I would recommend to any Stephen King neophyte, it’s this one. While no story collection is flawless (not even one of Stephen King’s), it’s more unified in tone, and contains more heavy hitters, than any other horror collection I can name, and it handles both the gothic pulp and gore a steadier hand than Night Shift (Skeleton Crew hails from a bit later in King’s career—1985). It builds dread and atmosphere like nothing else. These are stories that linger, just at the corner of your eye—images like the thrashing tentacle from “The Mist,” about monsters invading the mundane world of a grocery store and exposing the madness just below the surface of the everyday; the final, haunting line of “The Jaunt,” both a cosmic joke and one of fiction’s darkest examples of curiosity killing the cat. It’s the best display of the breadth of King’s talent, without the macabre palette of Night Shift or the referential sprawl of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s every bit as evocative as Everything’s Eventual. It’s a tightly curated slab of darkness that invites readers into its parlor and bites them unawares, its venom turning them into lifelong addicts.Even better, it’s eminently accessible, allowing those who haven’t experienced King’s work to take their first steps with him into the dark.

    How does your King collections ranking compare? Don’t forget to also check out our ranking of King’s novels, as well as our list of authors who might one day inherit his throne.

    The Outsider will be published May 22.

    The post A Definitive Ranking of Every Stephen King Short Story Collection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Melissa Albert 4:00 pm on 2018/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    Fables are Such Force: Julia Fine in Conversation with Erika Swyler 

    The booksellers who select the books we feature in our Discover Great New Writers program love the impossible and the improbable, magical and haunting stories like The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry, and The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler—and Julia Fine’s incredible debut, What Should Be Wild. Maisie is a girl born with an extraordinary power—she can kill and resurrect with a single touch. Hidden away in her family’s home, with a father who sees his daughter as a science experiment instead of a child, Maisie only knows what her father tells her to be true. And when he disappears, she sets off into the wild woods surrounding her home to look for him. The woods are a strange world—and a world that is calling Maisie home…

    An antiquarian bookseller. A rare book. Orphaned siblings, drifted apart. A house falling into the sea. Doomed lovers. A traveling circus. Family secrets, family curse, or both?  Erika Swyler’s debut, The Book of Speculation, an electric tale of love and books, family and destiny, was a Summer 2015 Discover pick—and the first book we thought of when we started reading What Should Be Wild.

    Here, Julia and Erika riff on fairy tales and folklore, reading genre-blind—and deliver plenty of fantastic book recommendations that range from Angela Carter and Doris Lessing to Sarah Waters and Jenny Zhang. (Grab a pencil, you’ll want to read them all.) And that’s just to start…

    Erika Swyler: First, I must congratulate you and beg your forgiveness. I did that thing novelists both love and hate; I tore through What Should Be Wild in a weekend. It’s such an awful time exchange, isn’t it? You spend an enormous chunk of time writing the book, only to have it consumed like a binge-watch. And that means it’s good! That it was such a page turner got me thinking about the way you use time and scope in your work. You’re covering roughly 1,400 years, yet it never feels protracted. It’s a hugely ambitious undertaking and rare in that it’s successful. Did you know how much time you’d be covering from the outset or was that something that grew naturally as you dug into the work? Did it ever feel intimidating?

    Julia Fine: Thank you! I’m both a binge-writer and binge-reader myself, so I take this as the highest praise.

    When I first started out, What Should Be Wild was purely Maisie’s story, but at about seventy-five pages I got stuck. I had a theme I wanted to address, a central concept, and a few promising characters, but the plot was a mess. The Blakely family history actually began as discovery writing—I figured I would get to know the house and the estate a bit better and see where it took me. Once I started with Lucy’s backstory it very quickly became clear that this was where the book was headed. The backstory chapters were by far the easiest for me to write, and ultimately required the least editing. They gave me a clear direction to my reading and research, which made my work much more productive, and tied in beautifully to all these fables that Maisie had insisted on telling, despite my efforts to steer her in different directions. The intimidating part was then weaving the histories into the contemporary narrative. I went through several structural iterations before querying agents, another before my agent sent out the manuscript, and I think two more with my editor.

    You’ve done something similar with dual storylines in The Book of Speculation. What was your approach to structuring? Did you jump back and forth while writing, or did you know all along what Simon was going to discover?

    Swyler: I also found backstory chapters easier to write. Maybe it’s the lack of worrying about what problems can be easily solved by cell phones. As you said, backstory research felt focused and productive. I knew how Amos and Evangeline’s story had to end, which gave a forward thrust to half the book and meant I knew what Simon would discover, though not how, or what the discovery would do to him. It’s rare for me to have a sense of where I’m going at the start of a project, so when I find signposts—unavoidable plot points—I cling to them. That’s the gift of working with long family histories: people die, you need to manage that, and whoops, that makes a plot. I knew early on that I had to alternate chapters between Amos and the menagerie in the 1790s and Simon in the present day. It felt like the only way I could be sure the halves of the story were feeding each other. Selfishly, that meshes well with my quirks as a writer. If I stare too long at one chapter, all I see are walls. Switching back and forth between time periods and voices gave me a false sense of freedom, though I was just approaching the same story from the other side. It’s not so different from the spiraling sort of time your book works with.

    I need to ask you about fables. For myself, I know I began by wondering what immigrant American fables looked like, and how cultures get translated by families over time. I stumbled across Rusalka folklore while researching, and it was an extraordinary gift. Fables are such a force in What Should Be Wild. You said Maisie insisted on telling them, and we read them first as dreamy tales, but they become these dangerous gritty gems when you explore their roots. The stories you’re working with are deeply connected to the land, but most strikingly, they’re connected specifically to women. Each character is her own fable. The book’s men, Peter, Rafe, Matthew, are all interested in fable and folklore, but it’s Maisie and the other women who embody it. Can you talk a little bit about that choice?

    Fine: I’ve always been fascinated by fairy tales and how they operate simultaneously as encouragement and warnings. It seems counterintuitive that the Cinderella story tells us to suffer silently and be kind to those who are cruel to us (a real world lesson), while at the same time positing a fairy godmother (utterly fantastic). This dynamic is present across so many fables and folk stories about women—on the one hand they are reinforcing the status quo, while on the other offering hope for a way out of repressive situations. The more I researched, the more I realized this is party because women have a long history as storytellers—from the oracles in Ancient Greece to Mother Goose to wealthy women in late seventeenth century French salons—and have used storytelling as a way to push back against patriarchal societies. Marina Warner has a wonderful book called From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers that delves into the different types of women who’ve told stories throughout history, and the common themes in the stories they’ve told. I leaned heavily on her work when writing, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of fairy tales.

    As a teenager I remember being struck by the realization that history itself was just a story, and that the language we use has a tremendous impact on how we view what came before us. I’d like to think of the multiple versions of the fables in What Should Be Wild as a kind of historiography, examining these stories from different angles in an effort to get closer to some sort of truth. I wanted to dig into some of the stereotypical female characters we see in fables—the mother, the witch, the crone—and let them begin to represent themselves. Trying to connect archetypal characters to situations women have faced throughout history was remarkably easy. When you start to think about why a particular story was being told, it becomes a lot easier to sympathize with its villains—way too often just women with unconventional aspirations.

    You look at this a bit in The Book of Speculation. Evangeline is dangerous, but in such a sympathetic way. She’s got Rusalka blood, but it seems like it’s her subconscious desires that are the real danger. Was this intentional on your part, or am I projecting?

    Swyler: You’re not projecting! When I was digging around in folklore I became fascinated with how modern western religion interacts with older storytelling traditions. If you look at Rusalki in particular, they’re a clear mashup of an old idea with a new religion. Rusalki are said to tickle people to death, which doesn’t sound terribly intimidating. That’s the kind of story mothers tell to keep children from running into rivers and drowning. Then we inject religion—they’re women who were unbaptized when they died, they’re seducers, desperate for men’s souls—and it becomes something more sinister; it becomes a story that shames women’s physical desire and suggests that desire’s remedy is religion. Evangeline’s main fault is that she hungers, physically and emotionally, in a setting in which women are taught their desires are sinful. What does giving in and embracing those longings do to your sense of self?

    This is a long-winded way of saying that I love a good villain, in part because I think we should question what’s villainous. You hit on that so well with how you’ve written Maisie. She has the power of life and death in her fingertips, and a specific set of rules for using it safely, but also the naïveté and temperament of a teenager, who seems at times to be wholly made of desires. How did Maisie come about for you?

    Fine: I’ve always hated hearing writers say that a character just appeared to them—it makes me feel like the creative process is totally out of the artist’s control, which I don’t think is generally the case—but with Maisie that’s exactly what happened. In early 2014, I was working on a different project and just happened to hear a clip on NPR about a braindead pregnant woman whose husband was fighting the state of Texas, trying to get her taken off of life support. I immediately wondered what life would be like for that child if the pregnancy went to term, and suddenly there was Maisie, telling me all about her childhood. I wrote the scene with Mrs. Blott’s leg very quickly, thinking that I had a short story on my hands. But Maisie’s voice was so clear that I couldn’t just leave her there, I had to figure out what came next.

    Pretty soon after I decided this was a novel, I wrote a quick paragraph of Maisie looking at a darker version of herself in the forest, feasting, and this opened up her central inner struggle: like Evangeline, Maisie has these subconscious desires that she’s been told are bad, and she thinks of herself as bad because of them. I definitely pulled from my own teenage feelings of insecurity here, but filtered through Maisie’s powers all of my own experiences were heightened. I’m also a huge copycat. Ultimately, I think Maisie is a mix of myself at sixteen, and the heroines who’ve made up my reading: Merricat Blackwood from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Melanie from Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, Philip Pullman’s Lyra Belaqua. Basically, all of her fierceness comes from these literary ladies, while her insecurities and poor decision making is all me.

    I wanted Maisie to reflect something universal about what it means to be a woman in modern society. Another massive influence on this novel was Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, which is all about the compartmentalization of self—how we become totally different people under different circumstances, how the structure of our society basically necessitates that women hide parts of themselves and make binary choices. You can be a mother or a partner at the law firm, you can be sexy or taken seriously, etc. I wanted Maisie to buck those conventions. I was pregnant with my first child when I sold What Should Be Wild (he’ll be one when the book comes out), and I think some of Maisie’s desperation and catharsis has been my own as I try to negotiate new, dual roles. Did you have any specific works or experiences that you felt you were in conversation with while writing The Book of Speculation?

    Swyler: It can be disheartening when authors intimate that a character or book sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus. It’s a slipperier process—being open to ideas, asking questions, looking for where that character is lurking. There you were, listening to an NPR story, unaware that it was hiding Maisie, and ultimately What Should Be Wild. That’s work too, isn’t it? Listening. There’s so much guilt around writing, that you’re not working unless you’re sitting down and banging out words. The bulk of the work is in taking in ideas and figuring out ways to process them. Spontaneous moments of creation aren’t at all spontaneous; they’re the culmination of years of thought we don’t recognize as work.

    For The Book of Speculation, I saw it as a marriage between two of my favorite books, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, and Graham Swift’s Waterland. Both deal with poisonous family legacies and the idea of inheritance and responsibility. Swift’s work is tied to land and environment in a way that speaks to me. Dunn’s Binewskis embodied this twisted technicolor view of people and familial love that felt true. I wanted to do that. Also, when I first started playing around with the book, I’d just spent a massive amount of time studying Hamlet and it crept into everything. Though he didn’t start out that way, my librarian, Simon, is my best stab at Hamlet. It’s an odd mashup of inspirations, I don’t think any of these works would be on speaking terms with each other. That’s probably what makes the finished product hard to label.

    About that—part of what’s so enjoyable about What Should Be Wild is how difficult it is to categorize. You’re pulling from myth and folklore, magical realism, it has all the hallmarks of a bildungsroman, the crumbling house of a gothic, romance, and there’s also a bit of a thriller element. Are there any labels you outright reject, or genres that feel closer than others? Do you see yourself as playing between forms?

    Fine: I can definitely see Hamlet in Simon! It seems so obvious now that you mention it, though I don’t know I’d have gotten there on my own. I think it’s when the inspirations are the most outwardly disparate that we get the best and most interesting fiction, though.

    As a reader I am pretty genre-blind. As long as the language is resonating with me I’ll follow a plot anywhere. As a writer, it took me a while to shake off the idea that if I used genre elements in my own work I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I think that’s partially due to my MFA background. My teachers were always fully supportive, but there’d be one or two “I don’t do genre”s in a workshop that would have me second-guessing myself and my work. Ultimately, I went with my gut and wrote what I wanted, which is always the thing to do. For the most part, I didn’t have genre consciously in mind while I was writing, but it’s apparent looking back that I borrowed heavily from all sorts of forms.

    It’s been fascinating watching the response to What Should Be Wild, because it does seem there’s this struggle to categorize it, which delights me. I’m happy with whatever shelf it’s put on, though I do think a reader coming in expecting the usual tropes of fantasy might be disappointed. Pure genre fiction is so much about expectations, which is part of what’s so comforting about picking up a cozy mystery or a romance. I think sometimes people don’t know what to do when those expectations are defied. I remember talking to someone about Tana French’s In the Woods (which I adore) and getting into an intense argument over her decision not to tie up certain threads. What it came down to was the type of book we each thought we were reading.

    Swyler:  It shows that you’re an omnivorous reader. During the tenser moments when Maisie’s in danger, I found myself grinning madly because suddenly you’d led me into a horror novel. It was seamless and the only thing that could have happened.

    I love that you encountered people who said they don’t do genre. As someone without an MFA, I’m contractually obligated to say that MFA writing is a genre. And I don’t mean that as an insult! But in the same way one can go looking for happy endings in romance, or radical political ideas in science fiction, when you want a dissection of domestic drama and painful disaffection with American life, an MFA novel will rarely let you down. I got to hear Margaret Atwood talk briefly about genre (at Comic-Con, of all places). She cheerfully tossed out that genre categories were created solely so that booksellers know where to shelve books. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I find that interesting, especially when you consider how particular people are about calling some of Atwood’s work speculative fiction rather than science fiction, as though that indicates something about quality. It doesn’t. Atwood is Atwood. I understand the delight in watching people struggle to categorize the work. I think it means you’re getting readers to question their expectations of what a book can do. That’s good for them. It’s a book, why shouldn’t it be allowed to pull from whatever it needs to?

    But back to the MFA. Can you talk a little about that experience? I’m massively curious as to what I missed out on.

    Fine: MFA writing is totally a genre! I wish I’d had that response at hand back in my writing workshops…

    I think the most valuable thing I got from my MFA was the community of writers I suddenly had access to. Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, so it’s nice to feel like you’re at least alone together.  I’ve always been one of those crazy people who likes school, so an MFA was a natural fit for me. I also like feeling like I’m doing things purposefully, even if that’s an illusion. I have a lot of self-discipline, but I struggle with the self-doubt that I think plagues most writers, and saying, “I’m writing this novel as my thesis” felt like a justification for the time I was spending, and the odd jobs I was taking to make rent. It let me relax a bit and focus on the work rather than where the work was headed. I’m a “fugue state” kind of writer—I’ll do nothing for weeks and then sit down and work nonstop for as long as is physically possible—and graduate school is conducive to that type of work. What’s your process like?

    Swyler: My process is a mess. I’m a Type B personality masquerading as a Type A. I do well with guidelines and deadlines, mostly because if I’m left to my own devices I’ll never turn anything in due to crippling self-doubt. Guidelines are generative for me in a backward way. I’m a contrarian, so I like having something to work against. If I get a suggestion to amp up a romantic plot, I immediately need to make something that renders romantic plot impossible. You said you’re a binge writer—I am too. I have long fallow periods where I’m collecting thoughts and mashing things together, then boom, I’ll churn out a short story in a day. Or a novel draft in a month. Then those things sit for ages until I can figure out what I’m trying to get at. I recently sold a short story that sat for a year before I felt like I could see what it was. It’s not efficient, but I feel like I need to be a different person by the end of a project. Sadly, that takes time. That said, I’m an insanely regimented reviser. I break it down to hour blocks and what needs to get accomplished each hour. I revise like it’s a cleanse. Maybe it is? I’ve started working at a treadmill desk.

    I also need to talk about what I’m working on—that thing we’re never supposed to do. Hearing an idea out loud helps me to get my brain around it and see what interests people. The joy of seeing words in print is a long time coming, so I take my little hits of excitement where I can. For me, talking about a story is hugely different from working on the page, and an important step in sliding the puzzle pieces around.

    Are you someone who can talk about what you’re working on? Not that I’m desperate to know what you’re working on. I absolutely am. Please tell me, if you can.

    Fine: Ha, I’m a Type A trying desperately to pretend that I’m Type B. I don’t think I’m fooling anyone, though.

    I go back and forth on about talking about a project. I’ve found that talking through the minor stuff is helpful, but if it’s a more nebulous idea I’ll end up talking myself out of it. Right now, at a very broad level, I’m in the early stages of working on a postpartum poltergeist novel. I haven’t even discussed it with my agent yet, so you’re getting the super early scoop! I also have that drawer novel I’m reluctant to give up on—it’s a dystopian version of Aeschylus’s Oresteia story. I was too young when I originally wrote it, and I’m still not sure I’m ready to do it right. Maybe book three, if I’m lucky enough to get one! Because I am quick to throw a project away, I just abandoned another ten thousand words of a novel that I’d completely plotted out, but wasn’t fun anymore. After What Should Be Wild I told myself an outline would make the next book so much easier, but I don’t know if I’m capable of making one without zapping the life out of the book.

    I know you recently sold your second book. Congratulations! Can you talk a bit about it, and about what it was like coming off of the first? That “sophomore novel” is supposedly the nightmare…

    Swyler: There you have it—postpartum poltergeist is an incredible pitch. My agent doesn’t know what I’m working on yet either, but at this point, it’s because I can’t describe it without saying things like, “So, there’s this filament tank. You know, filaments? Just go with it.” It’s funny how we grow into stories. I hope you do pick up that Oresteia novel again, but I understand what you mean about being too young for it. That’s what happened with my sophomore novel. I had an idea about a father who wanted to keep his daughter from growing up, but I needed to suffer a little more as a human to figure it out.

    Second novels are weird beasts. There was pressure in that I felt there were expectations to meet or exceed, and that people wanted me to write the same book all over again. I was also dealing with the depression that comes when the book publicity cycle ends. It’s inevitable people stop talking about a book, but it’s shocking how short that life cycle is, even if a book is a success. I’m here to tell you that debut novel postpartum depression is normal. I’m guessing it’s just post-publishing depression. As for the writing of it, it felt a bit like someone was watching me through a peephole while I worked. Of course, no one cares that much about any single writer working, but it’s a trap we all fall into. And it’s easy to think you know how to write a novel because you’ve done it once or twice. Wrong. Each project is learning to write all over again. I had to tell myself, “It’s okay if you don’t write another.” Permission to be a one-book wonder is freeing. This next book (tentatively called Little Twitch) is hugely different, but I’m hopeful that people will trust me. It’s another hard to categorize book, but that’s where the similarity ends. It’s science-oriented, set in 1986 Florida and in the future on a space module. It also has a child protagonist. I love it because it feels in line with who I am at this age, and because it helped me feel like I’d finally put The Book of Speculation to bed.

    So, you teach as well. What do you tell your students who are grappling with this process stuff?

    Fine: I’m glad you like the concept! Little Twitch sounds wonderful—I’m very excited to read it.

    I do teach, although my maternity leave has lasted much longer than expected so I’m not in the classroom right now. I’ve been teaching college composition and rhetoric, which is very different from teaching creative writing, but equally rewarding as food for my own fiction. I usually kick the semester off with a personal essay, which can be very daunting for my freshmen. The best advice I have—advice I also regularly give myself—is “write what scares you.” It’s next to impossible to be boring when you’re writing from that place of vulnerability, and I find that my students are much more passionate about their work when they’ve hit upon a topic that cuts to the bone.

    I’m sure you’ve had other writers ask you for advice. What do you say?

    Swyler: Advice for the individual writer is so difficult to give because nobody works in quite the same way. I don’t recommend working the way I do. If someone’s just beginning their writing career, I try to remind them that it’s a very long game. I’m just starting. With luck, I’ll be writing well into old age. Style takes time to develop and writing benefits from living. I remember feeling anxious that I wouldn’t have published anything by twenty-five. Very few people have figured out what they need to say by age twenty-five. Get a strange job or two. Stop at a few roadside attractions.

    What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?

    Fine: I think the best advice I’ve gotten regarding novel-writing is to give myself permission to write all over the book, rather than feeling like I have to go chronologically. I had this idea that all books were written start to finish, but that’s just blatantly untrue. General writing advice—this sounds so basic and silly—-is not to pile on or mix my metaphors. I’m a chronic over-writer and it took me a while to realize that less is more. I also like the advice you just gave me about thinking of those periods of not-writing as mental preparation!

    Swyler: What are you reading now that you really love? Are there any writers you secretly wish you could crib from?

    Fine: Right now I’m reading Marlena by Julie Buntin. I’m about halfway through and trying to slow myself down because it’s such a beautifully immersive experience—I know I’ll be devastated to see it end. I also recently finished Fen, an amazing short story collection by Daisy Johnson that examines female power and sexuality and insecurities in all sorts of fascinating ways. She’s a fabulous writer, and has a novel coming out soon that I can’t wait to get my hands on. I adored Danielle Lazarin’s Back Talk, which is another hard-hitting collection about womanhood. So many excellent, nuanced portrayals of women in fiction these days!

    As for the books I wish I’d written: basically anything by Angela Carter, though The Magic Toyshop is my absolute favorite. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is definitely up there. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is, in my mind, a perfect book. Anything by Megan Abbott. I could go on! What’s on your nightstand at the moment?

    Swyler: I’m on something of a gothic binge. My current read is The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, which is beautifully done in the way it lets uncomfortable moments linger. I read Colin Winnette’s The Job of the Wasp not too long ago. It’s a terrific and sinister little book that’s as dark as you can get, but also hilarious. I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator, and both books dig in on that in such different ways. Kanishk Tharoor’s Swimmer Among the Stars is shaping up to be my favorite read of the year. It’s as perfect a short story collection as I’ve ever read. I finished it in early January and I’m still thinking about it. I circle back to one particular story, “The Phalanx,” almost daily. Up next is the Wilson translation of The Odyssey, which I want to leave some space to think about. I’m going to need room for all my feminist feelings.

    But you’re right, I think we’re in a golden age of complex women in fiction. Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk and Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart come to mind. They’re full of women who are unapologetic, sometimes cruel, often lost, and desperately human. Yet we still encounter that awful sexist question, “Is she likable?”

    Fine: Ooh, Sarah Waters is a longtime favorite. Have you read Fingersmith?

    I’m so sick of women’s work and work about women not being taken seriously. I’ve already gotten my first “oh, I guess this book isn’t for me because I’m male” response to What Should Be Wild and it boggles my mind. I love The Great Gatsby—am I supposed to feel alienated because it has a male protagonist? I’m raising a son—is my life experience not relevant to him because I’m a woman? The whole point of fiction is empathy toward “the other.” I want as many male-identifying readers as I can get. This book is one hundred percent for you!

    Swyler: Fingersmith has been in my TBR pile for forever! I’ll have to shift it to the top now.

    It strikes me that the barriers to female writers being taken seriously are the very reasons we must be taken seriously. Maybe it’s overly optimistic of me to believe that thoughtfully reading outside your gender is an inroad to fixing misogyny and transphobia, but I do. As you say, empathy is the point. And there’s a subversiveness in What Should Be Wild that I think speaks to that, a questioning of roles. You’ve occupied roles and spaces that come with enormous social connotations. You’ve been a teacher, mother-to-be, mother, and woman writer, all of which have been at times used as arguments for not seriously considering someone’s work. How do you push back? What is it like for you to move between these roles?

    Fine: Honestly, navigating all these roles is only possible because of the support I’ve gotten from the publishing and literary community. I know it isn’t every author’s experience, but I’ve found my day-to-day interactions with everyone from the publisher to my agency to other authors like yourself to be inspiring and generous and vital to both my career success and general well-being. I hope this doesn’t come off as deferential or at all gendered—maybe a man would never shift the conversation to his team like this, but honestly he should! Literature doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I’m so lucky to have found an agent—the fabulous Stephanie Delman—who immediately believed in and understood my work. A few weeks after I signed on with Stephanie I found out I was pregnant, and not once did she ever make me feel that this was an impediment to having a career, selling the book, or being taken seriously as a debut author. And at every step of the way my publishing team at Harper has been phenomenally supportive.

    I was finishing my final edits as the full-time caregiver of my three-month old, so What Should Be Wild is inextricably linked to my role as a new mother. Parenting has my brain operating on a whole new level—I notice and devote myself to things I never gave a second thought before. Teaching has always been a way for me to shift my perspective. Pregnancy gave me a better understanding of my body. These roles are all hugely beneficial to my writing, and if anything they should be celebrated. I do worry about time, and how difficult it is now to disappear into the work. My husband can fend for himself while I’m glued to the computer in a way my one year-old most certainly can not. But other mothers make it happen, and that inspires me. I think it’s about patience, and vulnerability, and above all believing that you have something worthwhile to say.

    What Should Be Wild and The Book of Speculation are available now.

    The post Fables are Such Force: Julia Fine in Conversation with Erika Swyler appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Cristina Merrill 4:00 pm on 2018/05/08 Permalink
    Tags: all's fair in love and wolf, , born to love, diana muñoz stewart, i am justice, , , , , , , the greatest risk, until there was us   

    Romance Roundup: Crime-Fighting Women, Wolf Shifters, and Sexy Groomsmen 

    This week’s Romance Roundup includes a heroine who fights crime against women across the globe, a wolf shifter who wants to prove his innocence to his new love, and a guy who is about to find some very unexpected romance.

    The Greatest Risk, by Kristen Ashley
    Sixx is a mistress at a very high-end club known as The Bee’s Honey, and let’s just say the patrons of this fine establishment get erotic experiences they’ll never forget. Stellan is a master at this same club. (How do we get a lifetime membership?!) He and Sixx have the major hots for each other—watching the other one be a sexy boss at work can do that to a person—and things between them are finally about to go down. The thing is, Sixx has some ginormous emotional walls built up around her. Stellan is determined to break past those walls in as loving and gentle a way as possible. Will Sixx let him in? And will Stellan be able to bare all to our sensitive gal, both emotionally and physically, but especially physically? (Stellan, we’re all giving you positive vibes!) This is the third and final book in Ashley’s Honey trilogy. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Shattered, by Allison Brennan
    Two very different women will need to unite if they’re going to solve decades-old murders. Maxine Revere is an investigative reporter, and she is trying to help her friend’s wife get exonerated for the murder of their son. Thing is, other boys have been murdered over the course of several years, and Maxine is convinced all of the cases, including this latest one, are linked. She teams up with Lucy Kincaid, a cop who hates reporters. (Suffice to say there is no love lost between these women.) They’re going to have to get over their respective disdain over the other’s profession if they’re going to solve these murders and help a mother avoid prison. Maxine and Lucy, get it together, you two! You’re more on the same page than you think. And when it’s all over, you can go out for margaritas and tacos! This is the fourth book in Brennan’s Max Revere series. (Available in paperback.)

    I Am Justice, by Diana Muñoz Stewart
    Our gal Justice Parish was saved from the streets and trained to fight crime against women around the world. (Justice, you’re our hero! Call us up if you ever need a place to crash!) Now she’s on one of her biggest assignments yet—she’s targeting a sex trafficking ring in the Middle East. (Again, Justice, you’re our hero!) Her mission brings her face-to-face with Sandesh Ross, who is by far the hottest thing in the desert. He’s also got some do-good tasks on his list, and he’s very, very intrigued by Justice. Then she gets injured, and, even worse, her cover is blown. Can they get their act together and work together to rescue ladies in danger? And when it’s over, can Sandesh find it in his sexy body to nurture Justice back to health AND show her the time of her life? This is the first book in Stewart’s Band of Sisters series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Born to Love, by Leigh Greenwood
    Holt Price, a former Night Rider, thinks he has the next chapter of his life figured out. He’s going back home to Galveston, Texas, and he’s going to reconnect with the woman he always thought he would marry. (Hmmm, Holt, buddy, sounds like we should all help you out and a do quick abs check. Ya know, to make sure you still have them. And no, we can’t take your word for it.) Then he meets a lovely lady by the name of Felicity Moore. She’s pretty much the perfect woman for him, so here’s hoping that Holt doesn’t take too long to realize this. (Buddy, sometimes life hands you a beautiful, new opportunity, and you have to take that beautiful, new opportunity and give it your best kiss! And a neck rub. A foot massage wouldn’t hurt, either.) This is the third book in Greenwood’s Night Riders series. (Available in paperback, audiobook, and NOOK.)

    All’s Fair in Love and Wolf, by Terry Spear
    Jenna St. James is on a mission to bring wolf shifter Sarandon Silver to justice. (We get it, Jenna. It should absolutely be illegal for him to be that hot.) Sarandon is eager to prove his innocence, though, and he’s going to stop at nothing to make sure Jenna realizes that he’s a very good wolf man. (Ahem, Sarandon? We wouldn’t mind a bit of proof ourselves, wink wink.) The Silver Town pack is eager to help Sarandon prove his innocence, and we really hope that means tons of hot, shirtless wolf-shifting men in one room. Will Sarandon find it in his heart to forgive Jenna for tracking him down? (Buddy, she was just trying to do her job!) And will Jenna show Sarandon just how lucky he is to have her tailing him? (Jenna, show him all of your best moves!) This is the latest book in Spear’s Silver Town Wolf series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    Until There Was Us, by Samantha Chase
    Megan Montgomery had a Very Good Time at her cousin’s wedding two years ago. She did the yummy with Alex Rebat, one of the groomsmen. (Megan, sounds like you enjoyed a fantasy we all have!) She still hasn’t forgotten about him, and he’s still pretty hooked on her, too. (Totally understandable on both ends.) Now Megan is back in town, and Alex is determined to prove to her that he’s more than just a beautiful face with a body to match and sexy eyes and a tight behind and cheekbones that could cut ice. (Although none of these things are necessarily hurting his case.) Megan and Alex, get to know each for real ASAP and start planning your own nuptials! This is the eighth book in Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series. (Available in paperback and NOOK.)

    What romance novels are you excited to dig into this week?

    The post Romance Roundup: Crime-Fighting Women, Wolf Shifters, and Sexy Groomsmen appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/05/07 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    10 of The Best Political Thrillers Ever 

    When a former president writes a book, the world pays attention. When a former president writes a novel, things get really interesting. Partnering with none other than James Patterson, one of the greatest thriller writers of all time, former president Bill Clinton has cowritten The President is Missing, in which the president of the United States disappears, shocking the world and setting in motion an unpredictable swirl of events. The book is full of the sort of details only a president would know. and considering its unique combination of an expert author and a man who knows all the inside scoop (he had access to the NSA and CIA for years, after all), we could not be more excited. Here are ten more incredible political thrillers you’ll want to read next.

    House of Cards, by Michael Dobbs
    The book that inspired the British TV show that in turn inspired Netflix’s very first original series, this is the story of Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip, a cynical, manipulative politician determined to become Prime Minister. He’s willing to use every secret he knows, every pressure point he can find, and every dirty trick in the book to secure his own rise to power—and in the process confirms just about every dark and terrible thing you thought you knew about politics. Dobbs drew on his extensive real-life experience in British politics for the books, and the result is an electrifying vision of how exceedingly violent governing can be behind closed doors.

    The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon
    Condon’s 1959 novel is a paranoid classic, born at the beginning of the Cold War, that continues to influence people today (the fact that Homeland has a similar concept is a testament to the evergreen nature of the device). Soldiers captured during the Korean War are tortured and brainwashed, and one, Shaw, is programmed to fall into a hypnotic state when he sees his trigger—the Queen of Diamonds during a game of solitaire. He’s programmed to forget his orders once he regains consciousness, and thus is the perfect hidden assassin, who can pass any interrogation or test. His own ruthless, power-hungry mother is his KGB handler, and relays orders to assassinate the president in order to secure the office for the vice president, who will order martial law and request emergency powers as a puppet of the Soviets. It’s creepy, tense, and still shockingly modern—and in a bizarre real-life twist, some believe author Condon subtly cribbed from Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, number 8 on this list.

    The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré
    You might think of le Carré as a writer of espionage novels, but politics encompasses espionage and crime as well as law-making and foreign policy. His novels are as much about the secret tension between ruling and governing, and the crimes committed in the name of patriotism and realpolitik, as they are about skulduggery and moles. In The Constant Gardener, an unremarkable man with a remarkable wife is jolted out of a mediocre political career when his spouse is killed, and he determines to find out why she was murdered, and by whom. For the first time in his life he’s willing to take chances—and if there’s one thing the secretive world of politics can’t stand, it’s people who have nothing to lose. The end result is a pitch-perfect thriller.

    The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
    The Cold War politics of this classic thriller are long gone, but Forsyth’s novel (winner of the 1972 Edgar Award for Best Novel) still carries the punch of a meticulously researched story set in a very real world. It’s a novel of agonizing anticipation: first, as we follow the slow, careful preparations and planning of the titular Jackal, hired to assassinate the President of France; then, as we follow along with the equally painstaking detective work of the man charged with identifying the Jackal as time runs out. The twin stories of detective and assassin remain separate right up until the moment the Jackal takes his shot, and it’s this element of cat-and-mouse between a devious killer and a brilliant agent—plus the elevated stakes of global politics—that make this a book that still resonates today. Forsyth was working in Paris when he wrote it, and used that firsthand knowledge to choose his setting. In fact, rumor has it the assassin’s sniping spot can still be located—with the precise view described in the text.

    The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
    Clancy’s breakout novel is set at the hot height of the Cold War, but it remains a classic political thriller because it perfectly combines thrilling spycraft, visceral action, an insider’s view of behind-closed-doors political maneuvering, and global stakes. Clancy’s expert grasp of each of these aspects makes this story of a rogue Soviet submarine captain planning to steal the experimental sub he’s been assigned to and defect to the West—and the young CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, who tries desperately to convince everyone from the president down that this isn’t the Soviet Union starting World War III—just about the Platonic ideal of a political thriller. Rumor is Clancy’s grasp of top-secret technology rattled the FBI enough that they paid him a visit, and anyone who reads the book will believe it.

    The Parallax View, by Loren Singer
    Singer’s 1970 novel, which was adapted into a film starring Warren Beatty that’s become a cult favorite, is delightfully terrifying. A journalist witnesses the assassination of a president, and years later discovers that the other people who were eye witnesses to the event are being killed off in mysterious ways. His investigation leads him to the Parallax Corporation, which trains political assassins as part of a massive conspiracy to control the world—a conspiracy that truly goes all the way to the top. The book’s plot is complex, but the sense that everything is not right with the world, that things are happening beyond our control or comprehension is, sadly, as applicable today as it was back then. Any time we lose faith in our leaders and entertain the notion that the country has been bamboozled on a national scale, this book should be pulled off the shelf and rediscovered.

    Absolute Power, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci’s audacious 1996 novel pivots off a salacious moment wherein a professional thief, having broken into the luxurious home of a billionaire, stumbles onto a two-way mirror giving him a view of the billionaire’s wife and the President of the United States having a affair. The sex turns rough, and the President’s Secret Service detail bursts in and kills the woman. The thief just barely manages to escape, but the Secret Service pins the murder on him, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as the president and his team try to cover up the truth. While conceived during the go-go Clinton years, this is another evergreen political thriller that combines a thriller plot with a plausible look at what authority decoupled from responsibility might look like.

    I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
    A historical novel? True, but also a razor-sharp story of political maneuvering in ancient Rome that involves not just murder and conspiracy, but also leverage, fake news, real policy, and power brokers. Claudius, who survives the violent reign of his nephew Caligula because he’s old and stammers—making everyone assume he’s no threat—is proclaimed emperor after Caligula’s well-deserved assassination, then proves to be smarter than anyone suspected. What makes this and its sequel, Claudius the God, so amazing is that Claudius—despite his intelligence and desire to be a “good” emperor with the ultimate goal of re-establishing the republic—is terribly flawed, continuously abusing his power in the most selfish of ways.

    Lions of Lucerne, by Brad Thor
    Thor’s first Scott Harvath novel opens with a bang: former Navy SEAL and current Secret Service agent Harvath is overseeing the president’s security detail in Park City, Utah, when a brazen attack leaves thirty other agents dead—and the president kidnapped. Harvath, disgraced and confused, goes on a one-man mission to piece together what happened and why, while the United States dithers and hesitates to meet the kidnappers’ demands, resulting in a presidential finger being mailed to the White House. While a bit more oriented towards the thriller side of things, that doesn’t mean Thor lacks a fine touch when it comes to the political side, which he renders in an equally exciting manner, leading to an explosive ending that’s not to be missed.

    The Ghost Writer, by Robert Harris
    Harris’ novel is a master class in tension. Former British Prime Minister Adam Lang is very late in turning his memoir in to his publisher—in part because his long-time collaborator and assistant has died in a terrible accident. To get the book back on schedule, a professional ghostwriter is hired to complete the manuscript. The ghostwriter struggles to figure out what’s true and what’s not so true in Lang’s notes, and then stumbles on evidence that implies the dead collaborator was actually murdered. As Lang is charged with war crimes, the stakes and the tension keep rising and the ghostwriter—appropriately never named—finds himself ensnared in the very dirty world of power and politics.

    The post 10 of The Best Political Thrillers Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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