Archive for the ‘North Carolina Literature’ Category


Review: John Hart’s Iron House in North Carolina Literary Review

February 7, 2012

In addition to its annual print publication, the North Carolina Literary Review has just debuted a mid-Winter electronic supplement—and I’m pleased to have a review of John Hart’s Iron House in its pages (er… screens). Here’s the opening paragraph of my review:

John Hart’s first three books, The King of Lies, Down River, and The Last Child, so firmly established a pattern of thematic concerns that it will come as no surprise to find those same motifs and messages at the heart of his latest novel, Iron House. Hart’s books regularly explores how the ties of family and of class don’t just bind but often constrain, examine how men burdened by guilty secrets struggle to atone and forge ahead, and exalt personal sacrifice as an often noble path to redemption. While Hart’s first two novels limited themselves to single perspectives—privileged men, haunted by the past, facing an uncertain future—his third book, The Last Child, broadened that canvas to plumb the perspectives of people across a wide range of age, race and class, and Iron House seems to mark another stage of growth, expanding beyond the milieu of troubled North Carolina families to include as well the dangerous world of organized crime on the mean streets of New York.

Check out the full issue here. — Art Taylor


Interview: NC Author Sarah Shaber in Mystery Scene

October 5, 2011

The Fall 2011 Mystery Scene has just arrived, and I’m pleased that the new issue includes my interview with North Carolina novelist Sarah Shaber, talking about the first book in her new series, Louise’s War. (Readers of this blog have already had a glimpse at my chat with Shaber here.) The new Mystery Scene also includes a wide range of other articles, including a cover story on Val McDermid (interviewed by the always-delightful Oline H. Cogdill), features on James Sallis, on supernatural mysteries, and on the new Spider-Man, and a tribute to the magazine’s former publisher, the late Martin H. Greenberg. Get your copy now! — Art Taylor


Interview: Sarah R. Shaber, author of Louise’s War

August 1, 2011

Sarah R. Shaber

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah R. Shaber’s novels, beginning with the first book in her Simon Shaw mystery series, Simon Said, which won the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Award. Four other books followed, each following the adventures (and misadventures) of a distinguished history professor at a small college in Raleigh, NC: Snipe Hunt, The Fugitive King, The Bug Funeral, and Shell Game. (These books have recently been made available as e-books, for those needing to catch up.) This summer, Shaber debuts a second series with the book Louise’s War. While the new novel still has a tangential connection to the North Carolina that Shaber calls home (the book’s heroine reflects frequently on her past and family in coastal Wilmington, NC), the setting now is the big city: Washington, DC. And here the characters aren’t just looking back on history; they’re living it—with Louise working in the fledgling OSS during the height of World War II.

A launch party for Louise’s War is scheduled for Tuesday, August 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh—and Shaber promises cake! In the calm before that first bookstore appearance (and in the final days of wrapping up the second book in the series), Shaber indulged a few questions about Louise Pearlie and the various wars she’s fighting.

Art Taylor: The title of your new novel, Louise’s War, seems to work on a number of levels. In the most straightforward reading, we’re getting the title character’s view of World War II itself, of life on the homefront, and of the budding OSS operations. What drew you toward writing about this era and about the OSS? And where did Louise herself come from, this coastal NC native discovering herself in the big city?

Sarah Shaber: When I decided to write a new historical mystery series, World War II immediately came to mind. I’d done some reading on World War II for Snipe Hunt, the second book in my Simon Shaw series, and I remember thinking that was an era I’d like to write about again. World War II was a true battle between good and evil. It took the combined strength of the United States, the British Empire and the Soviet Union to defeat the Axis. Coming right after the Depression, too, the challenges were enormous.

Washington became a boom town. Thousands upon thousands of people migrated there for jobs. The social set from Paris, London, Rome, and other capitals under siege filled hotels and apartments. Con men, criminals and spies followed. OSS was perhaps the most interesting agency in Washington. The Director, Wild Bill Donovan, didn’t care who you were or what your politics were as long as you could help defeat the Nazis. It would take pages to list all the real characters who worked there; Julia Child, Sterling Hayden, and Moe Berg, the baseball player, are just three!

Louise comes from Wilmington as a sentimental homage to Snipe Hunt. Fans of my earlier series might notice that her last name, Pearlie, a common name on the North Carolina Coast, is also the name of the fictional beach — Pearlie Beach — where Snipe Hunt takes place.

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New Fiction & Nonfiction — at Mysterical-E and in North Carolina Literary Review

July 19, 2011

I’m fortunate to have two recent publications to announce — both a short story and an interview.

First up is some very short fiction that began as a sonnet (and in fact, in its current form online, one of the old line breaks has been preserved). I wrote “Hard-boiled Sweetheart” during my MFA years at George Mason University — an exercise for a Forms of Poetry class with Peter Klappert, undoubtedly one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had. It was a fun little piece, and I sure hated to see it just tucked away forever inside a black binder. I don’t know much in the way of poetry outlets, of course, but flash fiction? I just pulled the line breaks (well, almost all of them!), submitted it to an online pub I greatly admire, and… Hooray! You can find “Hard-boiled Sweetheart” in the Summer 2011 issue of Mysterical-E.

Next up is an interview with Michael Malone in the 2011 issue of North Carolina Literary Review. (Note: The interview is not available online.) I sat down with Malone last fall during East Carolina University’s seventh annual Eastern North Carolina Literary Homecoming, and our talk surveyed his long career, from his debut novel, Painting the Roses Red, through his latest, The Four Corners of the Sky — with a fair amount of focus on my favorite among his books: the Justin Savile/Cuddy Mangum trilogy Uncivil Seasons, Time’s Witness, and First Lady. And even better news? That trilogy will soon be a quartet, with Malone hard at work on Dark Winter.

The rest of this year’s NCLR is simply remarkable. The front-of-the-journal focus on “North Carolina Environmental Writing” includes essays by David Cecelski, Jan DeBlieu, Janet Lembke, and Bland Simpson; poetry by James Applewhite, Gerald Barrax Sr., and Valerie Nieman; and art by Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Minnie Evans (the latter from the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art, where I used to work). The back-of-the-book “North Carolina Miscellany” includes my interview along with a new story by Robert Wallace (winner of the 2010 Doris Betts Fiction Prize), a review by Sally Buckner of several new poetry collections, and the great poem “Guitar Prostitute” by Robert Hill Long, founding director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.

Good stuff all around. — Art Taylor


Interview: Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly’s Child

April 26, 2011

After a performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly several years ago, a friend turned to novelist Angela Davis-Gardner and asked, “What to you think happened next?” And so was planted the seed for Davis-Gardner’s next novel, the recently released Butterfly’s Child.

Davis-Gardner, a professor emerita at North Carolina State University and now the author of four novels, had already explored the intersection of U.S. and Japanese cultures in her previous book, Plum Wine, a BookSense pick and paperback bestseller. In Butterfly’s Child, she takes the elements of Puccini’s famous opera — a U.S. Navy lieutenant, a Japanese geisha, their young son, and the lieutenant’s betrayal with the American woman who becomes his bride — and crafts a multi-layered “what if?” More than speculative literary gamesmanship, the historical novel becomes a gripping domestic drama in its own right and the story of one young man trying to get back to his roots and to himself.

I had the great opportunity to interview Davis-Gardner for this month’s edition of The Writer’s Center podcast. Check it out for yourself! — Art Taylor


Interview: Kelli Stanley, author of The Curse-Maker. Upcoming: Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly’s Child

March 18, 2011

The Writer’s Center has recently asked me to begin hosting their new podcast series, which debuted in February and has already featured interviews with novelist Alice McDermott (here) and novelist and critic Alan Cheuse (here; neither conducted by me, incidentally). For my first interview, published here today, I chatted by phone with San Francisco-based mystery writer Kelli Stanley, the author of two highly praised historical mystery series. Her Roman Noir novels put a twist on that old French phrase: They’re actually set in first-century Britannia, what we know today as Roman Britain. The first book in that series, Nox Dormienda, introduced the amateur detective Arcturus and became a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and was a Macavity Award finalist. A follow-up, The Curse-Maker, was published last month and is the focus of much of our conversation here. Stanley’s second series is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1940. The first of those books, City of Dragons, has just recently been named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a second, City of Secrets, will be released later this year.

I had the great fortune to fall into conversation with Stanley at last year’s Bouchercon by the Bay in San Francisco — at a “black envelope” Litanies of Noir event that also featured readings by Megan Abbott, Cara BlackDavid Corbett, Eddie Muller, Domenic Stansberry, and more — and our chat proved one of the highlights of the entire trip, so I was glad to catch up with her again more officially this month. Check out the full interview here.

Angela Davis-Gardner’s Butterfly’s Child

For next month’s podcast for The Writer’s Center, I’ll be chatting with novelist Angela Davis-Gardner about her new novel Butterfly’s Child, which offers a literary twist on Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Kirkus Reviews has already heaped some lavish praise on the new book, noting that “the novel is told with control, precision and emotional understatement. In its way, it holds its own alongside the modern Western masterpieces of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy. For all its melancholy and madness, it strikes themes of hope and renewal, and believing in the unbelievable.”

Davis-Gardner will be touring through North Carolina over the next month, beginning this Sunday, March 20, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. Check out the full schedule at her own website — and be sure to stay tuned for our podcast interview in mid-April. — Art Taylor


New Fiction: “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

February 14, 2011

My story “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut” appears in the May 2011 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. In it, a father and son join one another for a boat trip down the North Carolina coast. Both men are struggling with grief after the death of their wife/mother, and the younger man, a journalist, is also coming to terms with having lost his job at the paper — and then they cross paths with other boaters and the whole weekend takes a deadly turn. The story was inspired by a cruise my own father and I took a couple of years back. Fortunately, my mom is very much still with us, and our own trip featured none of the father-son conflicts found in the story. Oh, and no corpse either. — Art Taylor

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