Monday, March 9, 2015

Event Mania! This Week Features Cat Warren on Dogs, Joseph Kanon on Spies, Jennifer Chiaverini in Mequon on Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, Obert Skye on Creepy Reform Schools, Gavin Schmitt on Milwaukee Crime Kingpins and Next Week, Phillip Naylor on North Africa.

Here's the Boswell lowdown for the week of March 9:

Tuesday, March 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Cat Warren, author of What the Dog Knows: What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World. Ms. Warren will be introduced by Anne Reed, executive director of the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Associate professor of English at North Carolina State Cat Warren was formerly a reporter for several newspapers around the United States, including the Hartford Courant, and now teaches science journalism, media, and gender studies. But it was her dog Solo who led her into the world of working dogs.

From the publisher: "Training and searching with Solo was the beginning of Warren’s odyssey into the world of working dogs: cadaver dogs, drug and bomb detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs—even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than 200 feet below the surface of a lake. Working dogs’ abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses."

"Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, forensic anthropologists—as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, Warren discovers story after story that proves the remarkable capabilities—as well as the very real limits—of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with working dogs is woven into the fabric of society, and why we keep finding new uses for the working dog’s wonderful nose."

OK, it's a little odd to feature a quote from mystery writer Robert Crais, who enthused “If you have ever loved a dog, you must read this book. I loved it!” But actually Robert Crais has done extensive research on military dogs, which he incorporated into his book Suspect. You can read more about it in the USA Today profile from Carol Memmott.

Wednesday, March 11,  7 pm, at Boswell:
Joseph Kanon, author of Leaving Berlin.

If you subscribe to the Boswell and Books blog, you'll be receiving my post about Joseph Kanon's espionage novels concurrent with this event post, but if you've found it via Facebook or Twitter, you can read the whole thing here. And here are a few more enthusiastic write ups.

From Sherryl Connelly at the New York Daily News: "What follows is a supremely tense, intricately plotted thriller. Alex is coerced into agreeing to spy for the emerging German secret police as well. Meanwhile, Irene should come with hazard lights . Her life is fraught with dangerous complications, not the least being her brother, Erich, who shows up having escaped slave labor in the uranium mines, the existence of which is a state secret."

Here's the review of Istanbul Passage, Kanon's previous novel, from Chris Pavone, published in Publishers Weekly. On discussing the "passage" reference: "Finally, there’s Leon’s journey—rather, his many journeys—as protagonist. From a civilian to a spy to whatever will follow. From a temporary expat to a possibly permanent resident. From a blind patriot to an independent operator. From a happily married man to something else. From an idealist to a pragmatist. Istanbul Passage is a first-rate espionage novel, filled with complexity and thrills, but its greatest success may be in this much more universal literary exploration: how an ordinary man is transformed by extraordinary circumstances."

David Martindale, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "The old-fashioned spy craft, the many plot twists and the moral ambiguities that exist in all of the characters make Leaving Berlin an intriguing, page-turning thriller. There’s also a star-crossed love story — and an airport farewell — that might remind some readers of Bogie and Bergman. But it’s the author’s attention to historical detail — his ability to convey the sights, sounds and feel of a beaten-down Berlin — that makes this book so compelling."

I could go on, but we've got more events to cover!

Thursday, March 12, 6:30 pm, at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library in Mequon:
Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule.

In 1844, the shy Missouri belle Julia Dent met Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, a brilliant horseman and reluctant soldier. The two fell deeply in love, but four years passed before Julia’s father permitted them to wed. The groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony.

Despite her new husband’s objections, Julia kept as her slave another Julia, known as Jule. Since childhood they had been companions and confidantes; Julia was gifted with prophetic dreams, which Jule helped her interpret. Julia secretly taught Jule to read, while Jule became her vision-impaired mistress’s eyes to the world. But beneath the gathering clouds of war, the stark distinctions between mistress and slave inevitably strained and altered their tenuous friendship.

As Ulysses rose through the ranks of the Union army during the Civil War, he often summoned Julia and their four children to join him at military headquarters. The general’s wife rarely failed to bring her favorite maid along, tearing Jule from her own beloved husband, whom she had secretly married in defiance of the law. Both women risked certain danger as they traveled to and from the field of war, but for Jule, the hazards of travel also brought knowledge and opportunity.

Even as Julia Grant championed the Union cause and advocated for suffering women on both sides of the brutal conflict, she continued to hold Jule as a slave behind federal lines—until the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation inspired Jule to make a daring bid for freedom. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is the first novel to chronicle the singular relationship of these two remarkable women, bound by light and shadow.

Read this profile of Jennifer Chiaverini by Jeanne Kolker in the Wisconsin State Journal. And don't forget, our event is at 6:30. The Frank Weyenberg Library of Mequon-Thienesville is located at 11345 N. Cedarburg Road (highway 57), just south of downtown Thienesville. There is no registration for this event, but if you have any questions, please call the library at (262) 242-2593.

Friday, March 13, 6:30 pm, at Boswell:
Obert Skye, author of Witherwood Reform School.

Mr. Skye has previous written the Leven Thumps series and most recently, another series called Creature from My Closet. In fact, there's a new book in this series coming this fall, following Wonkenstein, Potterwookie, Pinocula, and Katfish. #5 is called Lord of the Hat, and might I note, this is quite the unusual closet.

Here's my take on Witherwood Reform School, since you ask: "There’s no question Tobias and Charlotte Eggers deserved to be punished, what with putting tadpoles in their nanny’s gravy and her almost choking on it. And their widowed dad Ralph only meant to teach them a lesson by dropping off the siblings at Witherwood Reform School. Their father couldn’t have imagined he’d have that accident that left him unable to come back and rescue his kids. And Tobias and Charlotte couldn’t have imagined the horrors behind the school’s walls. Witherwood Reform School has a bit of the ominous tone of A Series of Unfortunate Events, skewing a little more fantasy adventure than gothic. Be warned; you are completely left hanging at the end of volume one and it will be hard to wait a year to find out what happens."

Think the adventurous spirit of Brandon Mull crossed with the wry humor of Lemony Snicket. And I should note that every advance review of the series (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist) referenced A Series of Unfortunate Events. Publishers Weekly called it Snicketesque, which is officially my new favorite adjective. I thought they called it "Snickeresque" which I also liked, because it sort of put it on the level of the epic Tom Jones (as in picaresque). I'm going to caveat that it isn't exactly the same tone, as I've never read a book that made me cry such demonic tears of laughter, but it's fun nonetheless.

Fans of Brandon Mull, as well as Brandon Sanderson and Shannon Hale, you've come out for these authors--now please spread the word and cheer on Obert Skye as he makes (what I think is) his first visit to Milwaukee. It's certainly a first for us!

Saturday, March 14, 2 pm, at Bowell:
Gavin Schmitt, author of Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland

From the publisher: "Milwaukee's Sicilian underworld is something few people speak about in polite company, and even fewer people speak about with any authority. Everyone in Milwaukee has a friend of a friend who knows something, but they only have one piece of a giant puzzle. The secret society known as the Milwaukee Mafia has done an excellent job of keeping its murders, members and mishaps out of books. Until now. From the time Vito Guardalabene arrived from Italy in the early 1900s, until the days the Mob controlled the Teamsters union, Milwaukee was a city of murder and mayhem. Gavin Schmitt relies on previously unseen police reports, FBI investigative notes, coroner's records, newspaper articles, family lore and more to bring to light an era of Milwaukee's history that has been largely undocumented and shrouded in myth. No stone is left unturned, no body is left buried."

Other interesting things to know.

1. Schmitt previously published with Arcadia a picture book called Images of America: Milwaukee Mafia. In it was a photo of Boswell Books, where the author noted that Frank Balistrieri had a jukebox warehouse.

2. The author volunteers at the Neenah Historical Society. His other previous Arcadia books were on Neenah and nearby Kaukauna.

3. The book was partially funded on Kickstarter.

We've been selling Milwaukee Mafia quite well and I'm chasing down more copies for Saturday's event. That always makes things exciting.

Coming Next Week:
Monday, March 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Phillip Naylor, author of North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present.

Marquette historian Phillip Naylor offers a fascinating history of North Africa, from antiquity to the recent changes that are rocking the region today. More next week!

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