Skip to content

Category: Book Review

On Making Literary Connections (newsletter)

Before I forget, Saturday 4/30 is Indie Bookstore day. You may yawn, but it’s a big deal in their struggle for survival. Find a local bookstore and go see what’s happening. Click the poster below to visit a store locator at bookshop.org. Click here to see the full size image. If you have a website or want to send out email about it, copy this section and paste it there.

Click to find a local bookstore near you

And while you’re there, why not browse at the Perfidy Press Bookstore. Thinking of adding a shelf called Friends Recommend... with books that you and others I know believe readers would enjoy. It’ll be limited to 10 titles, so don’t delay, send in your faves.


Scooping Book Reviews

Sometimes the magic works.

It isn’t normally possible for an author to get a new book reviewed in print before it goes to galley, which means you’ve got a publisher or you’re publishing it yourself and it’s all typeset. I’m in a pre-publication limbo, and rather than just twiddling my thumbs til my publisher does their thing, I decided to review my novel myself—but not by itself.

1 Comment

On Conflict in Ukraine and in Two War Stories (Newsletter)

This month’s topical commentary comes with a commercial.

In a perverse twist of ancient history, here comes the Ides of March and Ukrainians are falling to bombs, missiles, and shells aimed at them by a modern-day power-mad emperor. We’re in dangerous territory that could have been skirted. I can’t help but feel things would have been different had the US and EU not engineered a 2013 coup in Ukraine that threatened to make it an anti-Russian economic and military outpost. (If you object to the socialist slant of that article, see this 2019 paper by neorealist political scientist John Mearsheimer that largely agrees with its analysis.) Read and weep about what the West hoped to reap at Russia’s expense — an enlarged military perimeter, lucrative investments, austerity measures, neofascist nationalism…

1 Comment

The Serpent Papers: A Novel by Jeff Schnader

 

Though I’ve never met Jeff Schnader, we are both fellow alumni of Columbia University and fellow authors whose work has been excerpted at The Write Launch, where I learned he had set a novel on campus during the riotous years of Vietnam War protests. I remember those days well, though not as well as him. Of course, I had to seek him out. That wasn’t hard, as he has a website that runs down his career as a physician, journal editor, published science writer, and now fiction writer, and found him welcoming. Aside from being a thoracic surgeon, I have a lot in common with Jeff (besides first names), and now we have both published subversive novels. So, let’s hear it for:

1 Comment

One Day in Istanbul, the Star of Elliot Ackerman’s Newest Novel

A review of Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman. Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, 272 p., with reference to Liar’s Candle by August Thomas, Scribner, 2018, 310 p.

Because I am an American married to a Turk and have written about her country in memoirs and a novel, I tend to gravitate to novels by Americans that are set in that big, messy, volatile country that’s hard for outsiders to get their heads around. Even though it has been a liberal democracy almost a century, modernity still clashes with tradition, poverty mushrooms in the dark shadows of wealth, and as in many countries of late—sadly including mine—its politics have grown distinctly illiberal. As one of Elliot Ackerman’s characters cynically remarks, “There is no Turkey, only Turkish elites.”

Leave a Comment

The “Flag Girl” Stumbles but Never Flags

Liar’s Candle, a novel by August Thomas, New York: Scribner, 2018, 310 p. IBSN 9781501172847

 

Liar’s Candle, a novel by August Thomas

When I learned of this book late last year, it struck a chord. It was the first recent political thriller I had encountered set in Turkey, as is part of one I published about six months later. And so, to compare notes, I gave it a read and found that our books are different animals with kindred spirits. Here is my book report.

The title of August Thomas’s debut international thriller comes from a Turkish proverb, “A liar’s candle burns only until dark,” an appropriate motto for the full helping of duplicity that Thomas serves up. This fast-moving tale whips the reader between locales in Turkey and the US, plus a brief, tense incursion into northern Syria. Changes of scene are datelined, dispatch-style, helping to keep one oriented as the action shifts from one exotic setting to another, for example the presidential palace in Ankara, a hotel in Istanbul, a city in far-eastern Turkey, a monastery in Syria, and even into ancient cave dwellings. Thomas also regularly transports us across the Atlantic to an even more inaccessible location, CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. There we find hard-boiled uber-spy Christina Ekdahl remotely rattling the cages of agents and diplomats working in Turkey in the service of American national security and her own self-serving designs.

1 Comment