Interviews

Here's another debut crime novel on the Minotaur imprint by a promising young author. Ausma Zehanat Khan has set her story in the Canadian city of Toronto. This is a story the author felt compelled to tell. The novel opens with a mysterious death. A man has died after falling off of a cliff one dark night. It looks like it was an accident. We know better, don't we?

If I had ever read any crime novels or mysteries prior to 1994 I cannot recall what they would have been. No Sherlock Holmes. No Agatha Christie. I had not even discovered Ed McBain yet. Then I started interviewing authors on the radio. That has changed everything. I started reading crime novels and mysteries and thrillers and now I'm completely hooked.  They are like potato chips. I cannot stop after just one. I have to keep reading them. 

Last summer I spent several months reading an advance copy of this first volume of Stephen Kotkin's planned three book biography of the Soviet dictator Stalin. I would read a chapter then set the book aside for a while so I could mull over what I was learning. I also needed to rest my arms because this book weighs a lot! Stalin, who died in 1953, still casts a long shadow-he had an impact upon millions of souls. Those people that he ruled, that he terrorized, that he killed are nearly impossible to tabulate. My father's parents were among them.

Almost every day somebody will ask me, "Gee, Vick, when are you going to post a podcast link for such and such an interview?" I know, I'm slow. But eventually I do get stuff done. It just takes a while. My 2nd grade teacher Mrs. McIlhon was quite perceptive. She began calling me "Molasses" because it often took me so long to finish an assignment. I always wanted to get it right. She's also the one who ratted me out for squinting at the blackboard: "I think Victor is having trouble seeing. Maybe he needs glasses?" Thanks to her my classmates called me "Four Eyes" after that.

This is one of the breakout novels of 2015. Here's my review which ran in the Cox Ohio newspapers:

 

In “Descent” Tim Johnston has written a literary mystery that is wrought with lovely craftiness. We can become emotionally involved and will want some of these characters to survive perils Johnston has imagined for them. It won’t be easy as outcomes remain in doubt. He takes us through baffling twists and turns.

Chris West began collecting stamps when he was a boy in England. A couple of years ago West published a collection of essays inspired by various British stamps. Each essay was a reflection upon the British history evoked by a particular stamp. West knows his British stamps and his British history.

Ann Hagedorn is a meticulous researcher. In her previous books she has tackled historical subjects which are now receding into history. Her latest book examines a topic that is so current that the story lines are shifting every day. In this interview you'll find out how hard it became to actually complete a book about issues that are constantly churning in a fluid fashion that is seemingly being updated and revised by the moment. Hagedorn immerses herself in her work. We were fortunate to have her come out to Yellow Springs to record this interview.

Following the economic downturn of 2008 Samuel Fromartz found that his opportunities to continue to earn his living as a freelance writer were dwindling. Undaunted, he turned his problem into an opportunity. Fromartz had a long standing interest in baking bread. In this interview he describes how he soon found himself in Paris searching for the best loaves, the tastiest baguettes that he could discover. He ate a lot of bread while he was in France. Later on he went there again to observe a baker who was making loaves the way they used to be made many centuries ago. 

Some of us read horror novels because we want to feel scared without having to worry about our fears. Then there's a genre of novels that are so gnarly and tough that they could make  readers scream. Our screams would be sympathetic ones because the characters in these stories can elicit our emotions. As they go about the gritty business of their tattered lives we might feel like screaming just to release some of the tensions these tales can build up. Sometimes life isn't pretty. We know that. That's why we read books about these kinds of things.

Now and then a book will come along that is so darned wonderful I can hardly believe it. Neverhome by Laird Hunt is just such a book. Here's my review that ran in the Cox Ohio newspapers:

One of the great pleasures that can be obtained from reading works of fiction are the joys of discovering books and writers that were previously unknown to us. Recently, an acquaintance of mine said that I might like a new novel called Neverhome by Laird Hunt. I had never heard of this writer.

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