Archive for January, 2010


Free Book Friday: Since It’s Basketball Season….

January 29, 2010

As a lot of folks know, my wife and I are both at George Mason University these days — and semi-regulars at the Patriots’ basketball games. (Go Mason!) And as a few know, I went to grad school at N.C. State, so there’s a soft spot for the Wolfpack too. But dating back to my youth, my heart has belonged to the Tar Heels, and even though I’ll admit I felt some pride when Mason brushed past them en route to the Final Four a couple of years back, I’m still a big Carolina fan today. (That fandom is contagious. Tara even picked up a UNC t-shirt last time we were in Chapel Hill.) Whatever your allegiances, however — and whether they’re as mixed as mine! — there’s no question that UNC head coach Roy Williams‘ new memoir from Algonquin Books, Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court, is an inspiring read. I’ve already talked about the book on this site before, and I’m happy today not just to encourage it again here but also to pass along a copy of it.

The fifteenth person to email “Go Heels!” to gets it! I’ll get your address info later if you’re a winner and, as always, cover shipping and handling myself.

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NC Events: Local Authors at Wilmington B&N

January 27, 2010

Six authors will headline a “Local Author Festival” this Saturday, January 30, at the Barnes & Noble at Mayfaire Town Center in Wilmington, NC. The free event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and featured authors include:

  • Sheila Webster Boneham, award-winning author of nearly 20 books on pet care, most recently Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals: A Guide for Volunteers and Organizers.
  • Clyde Edgerton, bestselling author of  nine novels, including most recently  The Bible Salesman, as well as a memoir, short stories, and essays. (Note: arriving after 1 p.m.)
  • Daniel Ray Norris, founder of SlapDash Publishing and author of both Carolina Beach, NC: Images & Icons of a Bygone Era and its follow-up, Carolina Beach, NC: Friends & Neighbors Remembered.
  • Joseph “Skipper” Funderburg, renowned surfer and author of Surfing on the Cape Fear Coast, also published by SlapDash Publishing.
  • Theodore Alexander Fouros, restaurateur and author of Feast for the Gods: Classic Greek Cooking of the Seven Ionian Isles.
  • And Abigail “Abby” Arrington, author of Precession, the first in a planned series of thrillers drawing on her own legal background.

Locally grown and (in some cases) nationally known, these authors offer a little something for all tastes. Come out and show your support!

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John Lescroart’s “Treasure Hunt”

January 26, 2010

AARP: The Magazine has recently asked me to contribute reviews for a couple of books, and I’m thrilled about the opportunity. The first of these pieces was published today: a review of John Lescroart’s new mystery novel, Treasure Hunt, a follow-up to his earlier book The Hunt Club. Both novels feature private investigator Wyatt Hunt (a frequent character in Lescroart’s latest Dismas Hardy-Abe Glitsky novels), but the new title turns its attention on another character, Mickey Dade, an associate of Hunt’s who stumbles upon…. Well, let’s just sample the article itself:

Things go from ducky to deadly in the opening pages of John Lescroart’s latest mystery, his 21st since 1982. First, Mickey Dade—aspiring chef and part-time driver for an investigative firm—stumbles upon a group of protestors fighting the removal of ducks from a lagoon being drained on the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Then Mickey discovers a corpse in the receding water: “Its head broke the water’s surface and the dead man’s eyeless face stared up at him, caught and silenced in midscream.”

Needless to say, just as that corpse rises up, so too do more troubles — both for the characters and (ultimately, unfortunately) for the book itself. Read  the rest of the review here. And be sure to check out a couple of other recent pieces of interest at AARP‘s books page: Daniel Stashower’s insightful comments on Sue Grafton’s U Is For Undertow (a novel on my own reading list right now!) and Allan Fallow’s engaging interview with Daniel Menaker, author of A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation. As you’ll see from these pieces, both writers are fine craftsmen and keen critics, and I’m honored to be in such company.

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Author Interview: Derek Nikitas

January 25, 2010

Derek Nikitas is the author of two novels: Pyres, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and The Long Division, which was released last fall to extraordinary reviews. Marilyn Stasio said in the New York Times that Nikitas’ second novel “bumps up the style requirements for writing crime fiction another notch.” Oline H. Cogdill wrote in the Florida Sun-Sentinel that “Derek Nikitas proves that he doesn’t write conventional crime fiction; nor does he write conventionally.” And a stellar review in the Washington Post began with these lines: “Here is a book to scorch the heart and freeze the blood. Here is a story that leaves the reader gasping in shock and sadness, dry-mouthed and damp-eyed, dragging in air as the final chapters detonate. Here, in abundance, is live-wire language pumping beauty, desire and violence like electric currents; here are characters so exquisitely textured, the pages nearly shudder with their breath.”

I’ve been unfortunately slow to come around to Nikitas’ work — despite a recommendation several months back from Wendy Brenner, one of Nikitas’ former professors in the MFA program at UNC-Wilmington. But after those reviews, I was doubly eager to delve into The Long Division, and now after reading it, I can only add my own praise to what’s already come before. The book is a marvel — relentless and rich with emotion. A young housecleaner steals cash from a client in Atlanta and sets out on the road in search the son she gave up for adoption; that son is eager to hit the road himself, struggling with his sexuality and his sense of place and looking for something other, something more. A college student in western New York takes a ride himself — with an old friend, in this case in search of the friend’s sister — but this ride is shorter, brutal and ugly. The bloodbath that’s left in the wake of that ride brings in another character, a sheriff’s deputy whose involvement in the case is more complex than people know and who’s trying to balance trouble in his own family: his wife’s fatal illness, an impending sense of loss.

I had the good fortune of chatting with Nikitas about The Long Division in a recent email conversation. I’m glad to share that here.

Art Taylor: The Long Division starts off in some pretty dark places — and then things just get more complicated, more bleak, from there. Do the various plotlines emerge from the idea that good drama requires trouble and turmoil — take a character, add conflict and lots of it — or do the events of the novel ultimately represent a darker worldview overall?

Derek Nikitas

Derek Nikitas: I believe good story is conflict — internal and external — from the first sentence to the last. Not much pausing to watch the sunrise. This may account, perhaps, for some readers’ sense of relentlessness in my storytelling. But I should also concede that my worldview is pretty pessimistic, and, unfortunately, writing fiction is a great occasion for thinking too much. I indulged my maudlin nature full-on in The Long Division, but I’m leery of doing it again, if only because bleakness is rather alienating to readers. I’ve yet to find the balance between telling the truth and providing a satisfying, cathartic read. I hope to, but maybe it’s hopeless.
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Free Book Friday: “A Reliable Wife”

January 22, 2010

What’s better on a cold and rainy weekend than a nice gothic thriller? Yep, that’s what I was thinking. Luckily, I now have TWO copies of Robert Goolrick‘s bestselling debut novel, A Reliable Wife, and I’m willing to let my paperback version of it go to some lucky reader out there. (Still just trying to clear the shelves a little… one book at a time….) When A Reliable Wife was released last year, it earned high praise from reviewers across the country. Ron Charles at the Washington Post wrote that the book “isn’t just hot, it’s in heat: a gothic tale of such smoldering desire it should be read in a cold shower. This is a bodice ripper of a hundred thousand pearly buttons, ripped off one at a time with agonizing restraint. It works only because Goolrick never cracks a smile, never lets on that he thinks all this overwrought sexual frustration is anything but the most serious incantation of longing and despair ever uttered in the dead of night.” And Kim Church wrote in the Raleigh News & Observer that “Goolrick gives surprising new life to an old form. This is a literary page-turner in which, for all the mystery and brilliance of its plot, the real drama takes place in the hearts of the characters.”

A brand-new paperback copy of the book will go to the seventh person to email “Gothic is good” to If you win, I’ll get your address information later and will handle any shipping and handling costs as well.

UPDATE: The book has found a home.

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