Tag Archives: novels

Tim Dorsey “Serges” Into Town Next Wednesday

In what is sure to be a repeat of our greatest author event ever, the hilarious Tim Dorsey brings his Serge Storms fugitive tour once again to New Albany on Wednesday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m.

Electric BarracudaIf you know Dorsey, you love him – both as an author and as a man. His visit with us in 2008 was without doubt the most successful and appreciated literary event we’ve ever held. Now, with his 13th book out, Tim chose to come back and present to us Electric Barracuda.

I won’t offer up a review today – I’ll wait until next week for that. Andy has written an outstanding review but I’ll just tell you that this one has more than a few surprises and, as always, I am bereft that I again have to wait a year for another adventure with Serge, Coleman, and the rockin’ cast of characters that weird Florida provides just when you need them.

DETAIL: The book talk and signing begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. At 7, we’re having a post-event reception for Tim at La Rosita Mexican Grill just a few blocks down the street. That will be a ticketed event. Those who pay for and reserve for that event in advance will move to the head of the autographing line in the store and then spend some more quality time with the author afterward. Single tickets include a copy of the book and a voucher for the reception and cost $37.50, taxes included. Couples tickets include a copy of the book and 2 vouchers and cost $47.50, taxes included.

The main event is free and open to the public. We have an ample supply of all of Tim’s books and you are welcome to bring your collection for autographing after the first line of purchasers have had their time with Tim. Call the store to reserve for the after-party or for more details (812) 944-5116 or e-mail newalbanybooks@gmail.com.

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Dashboard: Who will be their Mark Twain?

Each time I log in to NewAlbanyBooks, I’m offered a “dashboard” of options. Respecting my promise to post new content here each and every day (and sometimes that means late in the day), I thought I would “dash” off something we’ve been talking about in the store. That is, 100 years from now, who will our progeny consider to be their Mark Twain?

The way I would define it is thus: A writer whose mere mention evokes memories of a large body of work that was generally excellent; whose work stands the test of time; who had worldwide fame and literary success; and whose work was controversial and widely discussed during his lifetime and over the next century.

My nominee (and you’ll have a hard time budging me off of this one) is Mr. Stephen King. Now, one could argue that Twain was known as a humorist as much as he was a novelist, but it is the impact the writer has/will have 100 years down the road that, in my view, qualifies “Uncle Stevie.”

The Stand is likely to weather the vicissitudes of time. It is arguably King’s finest work and one whose themes (and sometimes its characters) are woven throughout King’s ouvre. If you, as I do, consider that the pinnacle of King’s work, then the other pillar might be 2009’s Under the Dome. In the first, a remnant travel vast distances to join together and take sides in a great battle of good and evil. In the latter, a community is arbitrarily sealed off from the physical and moral constraints of the rest of the world. One is expansive. The other is claustrophobic. Yet both grapple with the choices people will make when faced with crises.

Let’s consider The Stand and Under the Dome to be modern fables that will be studied, dissected, praised, and reviled 100 years from now in much the same way that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are treated today.

Both writers also wrote short stories and King may, in fact, already be the superior of Twain in that field. It certainly can’t be argued that King hasn’t had as much impact on popular culture, especially with their adaptations into film. Who doesn’t remember the movies made from “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” or “The Body?” “The Shawshank Redemption” (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, directed by Frank Darabont) and “Stand by Me (River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Keifer Sutherland, directed by Rob Reiner) are treasured memories for a generation of moviegoers.

And I’ll make one more observation. Samuel Langhorne Clemons wrote under the pen name Mark Twain. King, when told by his publisher to slow his output, found another publisher to put out more work under the name Richard Bachman. Fortunately, we discovered this during the man’s lifetime and we have been enriched by those works, too. Do you remember when King released 2 giant novels at the same time – one as King and one as Bachman? The Regulators and Desperation released on the same day and, amazingly, put pretty much the same characters into two plots in two distinct settings.

I remember buying both and tossing a coin to determine which one I would read first. I believe I finished them both before the weekend was ended.

My final tribute in this “dash” to Stephen King involves not his fecundity but his meticulousness. I read a lot, and that includes advance copies from which, purportedly, all the errors will be removed pre-publication. In my experience, by the time it is in advance bound copies, I’m looking at the same book you will be reading. Anyway, I may see more errors than you do and as an old editor, I’m orders of magnitude more peevish about anachronisms, word choices, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Let me attest that I have never found an error in a Stephen King book. I have a theory as to why that is so. BECAUSE STEPHEN KING TURNS THE MANUSCRIPT IN WITHOUT ANY FLAWS! If the author nails it, there is no occasion for the editors to miss a mistake. Tom Clancy’s latest book was almost ruined for me (I wrote about that in early January) by errors that clearly were the authors’ and not the editors’.

One last “dash.” While reading Under the Dome, I remarked to Ann that at last I had found an error in a Stephen King book. Rather than disappointment, my reaction was shock. This was a special edition of a final bound copy, too, and the thought that King had finally lost his grammar/spelling mojo was too hard to believe. So I investigated. As it turns out, for Mainers, there is an alternate spelling of the relevant word that is unique to that place and that dialect. King had not made a mistake, after all, and the earth returned to spin on its axis and revolve gracefully around its star.

Please join the conversation and tell us who you think will be studied in schools 100 years from now and whose works will still be known by practically all English speakers.

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Spider Bites: How Do You Make a Sniper a Hero?

Saturdays are for “Spider Bites.” Get it? Spiders make webs, and what’s on the Web is certainly worth sharing, right?

Hot Springs, an Earl Swagger novel

Father and son snipers

Today we feature the Website(s) of author Stephen Hunter. For me, his ongoing series of books about Bob Lee Swagger, and the companion books about his Dad, Earl Swagger, have been a pure pleasure.

The Swaggers are not quite anti-heroes, but the efficiency with which they dispense justice does put them outside the boundaries of your normal thriller hero. Some of you probably saw the movie Shooter, which starred Mark Wahlberg as a contract protective sniper who is framed for an assassination – an “executive action.”

That movie burst forth from Stephen Hunter’s book Point of Impact, and was drastically adapted to reflect a different backstory from the character of Bob Lee Swagger in the 1993 book.

One of my favorite Hunter books is Hot Springs, in which Bob Lee’s father Earl finds himself called on to clean up Hot Springs, Arkansas at a time when the place was totally mobbed up.

Anyway, the purpose of these Saturday Spider Bites is to let you explore on your own. Below are some links to sites by and about Stephen Hunter. Did you know that Hunter’s day job before retirement was as the film critic for the Washington Post? He turns 65 in a couple of months.

On Wikipedia

The author’s unofficial Website is at www.stephenhunter.net

His publisher (Simon & Schuster) author page is here.Stephen Hunter

Finally, here’s his page on the British Website Fantastic Fiction, a site I use extensively to help me annotate books in series – because publishers change and they are all terrible at letting us know the chronological order of series books.

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Friday Fun Links: Comics Code is No More; Indie Vitality, and more

Link to Archie Comics

The Comics Code, which had been in existence since the 1950s, has dissolved. Out of fear of government regulation prompted by hysterical claims that the violence in comics was creating a generation of juvenile delinquents, the major publishers pledged to follow a self-censoring code of publication.

As one of those exposed to comic books post-code, all I can say is “no, thank you.” I do not believe in censorship and particularly when it is irrational. Next Wednesday, we have an expert in the field of censorship and First Amendment law coming to speak at Destinations Booksellers. Please join us and the Society of Professional Journalists as we host a Media Law Resources Center Institute presentation by attorney Jon Fleischaker on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. The event is, of course, free.

We had an MLRC program last year that was one of our best ever. I expect this one will surpass that one.


The American Booksellers Association commissioned Civic Economics, an economic analysis and consultancy firm, to examine the health of American metro areas when it comes to independent businesses. The Louisville SMSA, in which New Albany and Floyd County are included, ranked 79th among 363 metropolitan statistical areas, with a measure of 109.6. The number represents the inverse of an area’s saturation with national chains, with 100 being a perfect approximation of chain sales as a norm. Cities with numbers above 100 tend to have more retail sales through independent, non-chain businesses than do cities with numbers above 100. You can read the entire study at www.IndieCityIndex.com.


If the largest democracy in the world, with over 1 billion people, is any guide, the future of the book is assured. John Makinson, world head of the Penguin Group, attending the Jaipur Literary Festival, says the book matters more in India than anywhere else they publish them.

“In India books define and create the social conversation,” Makinson said. “In China, the books that sell well are self-improvement titles. Popular books in India are of explanations, explaining the world. The inquisitive nature of India is unique.” — Reuters


If, on the other hand, you’re crestfallen at the end of the physical book, Flavorwire offers some clever recycled uses for books. Oh, and please let me know if you see a Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 Terminator heading our way, would you?


Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

They're coming for you!


Emma Watson (Hermione in the Harry Potter films) and Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) are in talks to co-star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on Stephen Chbosky’s novel. Chbosky will direct his own script, with Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, and Russell Smith producing, Variety reports.

And one more movie tidbit … the first movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is slated for release in March of … 2012.


Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Ohio's Daughters of King Lear?

I can’t read ’em all, but that won’t stop you from finding out about The Weird Sisters, a quirky new novel from Eleanor Brown, via Putnam. I was impressed. Here’s a review from Shelf Awareness.


Have you run across a Web link that ought to be shared with others? Drop us a line by e-mail or in the comments below and we’ll consider it for our Friday Fun Links feature.

Coming tomorrow: A brief discussion and then a link to the Website of an author we’d love to have come for a visit. If you have the chance, leave a comment there and tell them you found it via NewAlbanyBooks.

Sunday, it’s “The Lists,” and Monday I’ll reveal my Best of 2010 lists for fiction and nonfiction just before I head over to the studios of WFPL to discuss Books That Changed Our Lives. Join me, Robin Fisher, and host Julie Kredens live at 1 p.m. for State of Affairs and weigh in with your own choices. Or, listen to the show in rebroadcast at 9 p.m. Monday or later as a podcast.


You probably know by now that we’ve posted every day in 2011. One of the archived posts you would have missed is a write-up of Three Seconds, a Swedish novel that’s a cleverly written noir that compares well with anything you’ve read in the thriller/mystery genre. Read the post from early January here.

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Randy Reviews: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

Not that the calendar controls things, but had Jed Rubenfeld’s new novel released just a few weeks sooner, I would be positioning it in my best fiction list for 2010. That gives you just a hint as to how much I like this book.

Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
Calling Dr. Younger …

The Death Instinct begs for comparisons, which might just be the best way to convey its quality to you. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who, incidentally, could have been a character in this

compelling novel) provided a prototype for our detective hero with his classic Holmes/Watson duo. But Rubenfeld manages to combine the skills of those 2 in a single character, Dr. Stratham Younger.

Though not as sprawling, this book compares favorably with Ken Follett’s Book One in the Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants, and is also reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day.

Younger, who drove the plot in Rubenfeld’s earlier book, The Interpretation of Murder, is quickly drawn into the mystery and violence of the brutal bombing of Wall Street in September 1920 – a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

During World War I, Younger served as a medical officer, where his burgeoning skills as a forensic psychiatrist were put to the test. Now back home in New York, he encounters the beautiful Colette, a protege of Madame Curie who provided the doctor with the means to take X-rays at battlefield hospitals in wartime France.

Before we learn why Colette has crossed the Atlantic, the pair narrowly survive the “cart bomb” that killed 38 and seriously wounded 143 people on the streets and in adjacent buildings, including the J.P. Morgan bank.

Who did it? And what was their motive? Was it anarchists? Or is a greater conspiracy afoot?

N.Y. policeman Jimmy Littlemore, who we also met in the first book, pursues a parallel investigation that reveals corruption at the highest levels of power and finance. Younger even winds up consulting, again, with Dr. Sigmund Freud during trip to Vienna.

It is Freud’s lesser-known theory of “the death instinct” that helps to raise this novel above the run-of-the-mill historical detective thriller. Rubenfeld cleverly weaves the known history of the terrorist attack with conjectures that feel real enough to stand in for the best nonfiction.

It’s not hard to imagine Stratham Younger as real and I look forward to joining him again, perhaps with Rubenfeld’s next book.

The author provides a nice recap in the video embedded below.

While it’s still early, The Death Instinct stakes its claim on a top 10 read for 2011 with its cerebral heroes, imaginative premise, and breakneck suspense.


THE DEATH INSTINCT: Freud’s Lesser-known Theory

As Sigmund Freud moved closer to the end of his life, he recognized that his earlier theories regarding the pleasure principle (life instincts), including his well-known theories on sexuality being the driving force in the behavior of humans, could not explain everything.
How to explain our self-destructive tendencies? To the famed psychoanalyst, that death drive, or death instinct, exerted great influence on our behaviors. He believed that our life instincts prevented us from living lives filled with aggression and violence.

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