Authors

Late last year I received an advance copy of a novel that was written by an author who was unknown to me. This is not an uncommon circumstance. What was unusual was that this book had a press release which indicated that there was a lot of buzz about it among some people who work in publishing. They were all abuzz about this novel "The Girl on the Train." So I read it and then I got it. I understood.

Alexandra Fuller is one of my favorite writers. Originally she tried her hand at writing fiction. That didn't work out. She could not find a publisher for it. Then she decided to try writing a memoir. That worked. Her memoirs are extraordinary. This latest one, "Leaving Before the Rains Come" is the story of her marriage and how it all eventually came apart. Her marriage had failed. This book is the post-mortem.

The Ramones were one of the most influential of the American punk rock bands of 30 years ago. The band originally consisted of four young men from suburban New York City. They decided to call themselves the Ramones and every member of the band used that name of Ramone. There was Joey Ramone, and Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, and so on.

We live in a culture that restricts the use of some very powerful drugs. Some of these drugs can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. Others can only be found through illicit channels. You have to be an adult to purchase alcohol and nicotine products. No such regulations restrict the usage of one of the most ubiquitous drug substances in our society. Little kids can find it almost anywhere. Many adults cannot face the day without it. The drug is caffeine and oh how we love it.

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.

WYSO listeners will recognize the calm, reflective voice of Bill Felker. Bill's meditations upon nature and the changing seasons are a long-time staple on the WYSO airwaves and in publications across America. Bill recently published his latest "Poor Will's Almanack 2015." I always enjoy my interviews with Bill because I can usually surprise him with a question or a topic that he probably wasn't expecting. In this interview we discussed Bill's SAD table, a new feature in this latest edition of a series that he has been producing for many years.

Pages