Monday, June 14, 2021

What's happening on Boswell's virtual calendar? Nghi Vo with Adrienne Celt, David Swinson with Nick Petrie, Benjamin Percy and Jonathan Evison together, Sujata Massey with Shauna Singh Baldwin, plus preview for Renée Rosen

Monday, June 14, 7 pm
Nghi Vo, author of The Chosen and the Beautiful
in conversation with Adrienne Celt for a virtual event
Register for this event here

Milwaukee-based Vo, a Hugo Award finalist and author of the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, visits with her latest, her first full length novel that’s a reinvention of The Great Gatsby as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess focused on a queer Vietnamese adoptee living in a world where important doors are closed to her. Cohosted by the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. Ask for your signed copy of The Chosen and the Beautiful.

From Jennifer Jenkins at Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, from an article on January 1, 2021: "After 95 years of exclusivity, The Great Gatsby is now entering the public domain, where it will be freely available to the next Fitzgerald.... What might future creators do with The Great Gatsby? They could make it into a film, or opera, or musical. Importantly, they could do so even if they did not have the financial resources that were required to license the book for the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Baz Luhrmann. For future filmmakers The Great Gatsby will be as free as.... Romeo and Juliet."

"But the public domain does not just bring financial freedom, it also provides cultural leeway. Someone could reimagine the story with a more inclusive cast, or set in a different era. They could reinterpret it, tell it from the perspective of Myrtle or Jordan, or make prequels and sequels. In fact, novelist Michael Farris Smith is slated to release Nick, a Gatsby prequel telling the story of Nick Carraway’s life before he moves to West Egg, on January 5, 2021."

Or maybe Jordan Baker, re-imagined as a queer Vietnamese adoptee living amidst the luxury and splendor of New York in the 1920s. The rest of the cast is there, from Jay Gatsby to Daisy Buchanon to Nick Carraway. But there's another difference - magical elements flit around the periphery of the story. In addition to prohibition alcohol, folks at parties pour demoniac, an ominous alcohol-like substance. Some of the Gatsby-esque new money was derived from deals with the actual devil, and you can tell because the dealmakers generally have one blackened fingernail, and yet it's hard to spot because it's trendy for many of the wealthy to blacken a nail. And Jordan herself can conjure magical beings out of her paper-cutting skill, from dragons and lions to actual people.

Vo offers a contemporary sensibility to her interpretation F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic story. Backlash to demons and foreigners has led to talk of the Manchester Act, which will outlaw both. And Jordan, who can be almost public with her dalliance with Nick Carraway, must still hide her relations with other women, including an old fling with Daisy. After reading The Chosen and the Beautiful, I had the itch to reread Gatsby, or at least make a display of all the Gatsby-influenced novels.

Tuesday, June 15, 7 pm
David Swinson, author of City on the Edge
in conversation with Nick Petrie for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

David Swinson is a retired police detective from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, having been assigned to Major Crimes. He is the author of The Second Girl, Crime Song, and Trigger. Now he presents his new stand-alone novel about a teenage boy living abroad in Beirut, who discovers the truth about himself and his family. In conversation with Nick Petrie, author of the Peter Ash thrillers.

13-year-old Graham moves with his family to Beirut, a city on the edge of the sea and cataclysmic violence. Inquisitive by nature, Graham suspects his State Department father is a CIA operative and that his family's fragile domesticity is a front for American efforts along the Israeli border. Over the course of 1974, Graham's life will utterly change. Two men are murdered, his parents' marriage disintegrates, and Graham will run afoul of forces he cannot understand.

City on the Edge is elegiac, atmospheric, and utterly authentic. It’s the story of innocents caught within the American net of espionage, of the Lebanese transformed by such interference, of the children who ran dangerously beside the churning wheel of history. A perfect blend of Stephen King’s "The Body" and John le Carre’s A Perfect Spy, it’s a transformative crime story told with heart and genuine experience.

From JB Stevens in Criminal Element: "After finishing the work, the reader will reader feel as if they’ve been to pre-revolution Lebanon. Swinson’s intimate knowledge of the place and time shines through. The entire volume comes across as deeply authentic. I can’t help but wonder how much is autobiographical. I enjoyed this book immensely. It has shades of Box’s Blue Heaven as well as le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Hart’s The Last Child. These books won the Edgar award. I feel that City on the Edge is in the same league and deserves serious award consideration."

Wednesday, June 16, 7 pm
Benjamin Percy, author of The Ninth Metal and Jonathan Evison, author of Legends of the North Cascades
A virtual conversation
Register for this event here.

We've hosted both authors at Boswell, but this is the first time they are together, at least for us. Benjamin Percy and Jonathan Evison share the spotlight in this program, acting both as featured author and conversation partner. So tonight's event is Benjamin Percy, author of books like The Dark Net and The Dead Lands, and Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy and West of Here. Connecting the two authors are recommendations from Boswellian Kay Wosewick, our champion for this double header.

Benjamin Percy’s latest, The Ninth Metal, is a speculative thriller that begins a new Comet Cycle book series in which a powerful new metal arrives on Earth in the wake of a meteor shower, triggering a massive new gold rush in the Midwest and turning life as we know it on its head. Kay offers this recommendation: "Five years after a huge meteor shower leaves large deposits of a mysterious metal scattered around Northfall, this once-tiny but now-bulging town near the Boundary Waters feels right out of the gold rush days. The town’s established mining company is battling upstart Black Dog Energy for control of a large, private interest of this highly valuable (and did I mention addictive?) metal. Chockfull of characters with competing interests, a couple individuals with special powers, crooked police, murders, and much too much testosterone, Ninth Metal is guaranteed to give you a wildly intense ride. And there’s more to come!"

And in Jonathan Evison's Legends of the North Cascades, a man’s life is unravelling as he finds himself in the grip of PTSD after his third tour of Iraq. From Kay: "Dave has sustained significant psychological damage from three tours in Iraq. When his wife dies in a car accident, he has few options to support himself and a seven-year-old daughter. Unable to retain a job and about to lose his home, Dave decides to apply the many outdoor skills he learned, and loved, as a child. He and Bella move to a cave in the North Cascades wilderness. Life goes reasonably well until winter approaches, when family and individual rights are pitted against society’s expectations and laws. I closed the book with a deeper understanding of people who live at the very edges of society, where life is fragile, because so few viable options exist. This is a wonderful adventure story spiked with relevant social issues."

Other people like these books too. Here's Stephen King on Percy's latest: "The Ninth Metal, debris from a comet drops a fabulously valuable new metal on Northfall, MN., turning it into a bloody, brawling boomtown. Great characters, fine writing, totally engrossing.” And Victor LaValle writes: "When Benjamin Percy publishes a novel, I have got to read that novel. The Ninth Metal continues his streak of thrilling, incisive genre bending goodness. It’s a sci-fi novel, a crime novel and a super-hero novel, too. Audacious and intelligent and exactly what I was dying to read.”

The Jonathan Evison fan club for Legends of the North Cascades includes Willy Vlautin, who writes: "Only a writer of Evison’s talent could so brilliantly weave the struggles of a PTSD-stricken veteran and the ghosts of an ancient family into such a powerful social commentary. Wildly original and breathtakingly big-hearted.” And then there's Ron Rash, who notes: "Under the daunting and impassive mountains of the title, two dramas, one ancient and one contemporary, intertwine to become a greater story of parent and child attempting to survive in the harshest of circumstances. For me, the heart of this fine novel is Bella, a young heroine whose courage and steadfastness are a timely reminder of how human decency can prevail in the darkest of situations.”

Thursday, June 17, 7 pm
Sujata Massey, author of The Bombay Prince
in Conversation with Shauna Singh Baldwin for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here

Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany and grew up in St Paul, Minnesota. She was a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun before becoming a full-time novelist. The first Perveen Mistry novel, The Widows of Malabar Hill, was an international bestseller and won the Agatha, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. Her second novel was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Sue Grafton Prize. 

It's been three books in Sujata Massey's Perveen Mistry series and we've hosted events for all three. I haven't quite figured out whether it makes more sense to host every event or if it's better to have the author for every second or third book. I guess it depends what kind of momentum you've built. But once I read The Bombay Prince, I couldn't help but beg the publisher to include us on the tour. It's so good! You'll hear me say this several times, but the story works very well as historical fiction.

I guess I should offer my recommendation for this: "It’s 1921 and all of Bombay is readying for the visit of Edward VIII, Prince of Wales. A celebratory parade travels right past Woodburn College, where Mistry’s dear friend Alice Hobson-Jones teaches mathematics, and Perveen has been invited to view from the stands. But right before the appearance, a Student Union member disrupts the festivities with a call for Indian independence, and this incident is followed by the appearance of a young woman’s body, dead from a fall. More disturbing still, Perveen knows the student, who visited her earlier in the week, asking for advice. Did she die of suicide or was she pushed? Will Perveen be able to figure out what’s going on before chaos ensues from rioters? And more importantly, will she figure out how she feels about the attentions of Colin Sandringham, the agent protecting the prince? I have enjoyed the two previous volumes in this series, but I particularly loved how Massey ratcheted up the tension here with the burgeoning independence movement."

It's interesting that this book is set at about the same time as Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful.

Massey’s latest installment in this series is earning advance praise already! Kate Quinn, author of The Rose Code, says, “Heroine Perveen is much more than a sari-clad Miss Marple: she’s Bombay’s first female lawyer as well as a keenly intelligent sleuth, a trail-blazing woman balancing the weight of family tradition with her own dreams. Perveen’s investigation into the mysterious death of a young university student coincides with the imperial visit of the future Edward VIII, and the resulting trail of breadcrumbs through royal receptions, street riots, squalid jails, and lavish hotels makes for a deliciously satisfying read!”

Carole E Barrowman featured The Bombay Prince in her Journal Sentinel roundup of best summer mysteries, where she noted that "Massey’s lush descriptions and rich historical details are thoroughly transporting."

Next week!
Monday, June 21, 7 pm
Renée Rosen, author of The Social Graces
A Virtual Event
$5 tickets for this event here.

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, and White Collar Girl. Our latest Women's Speaker Series virtual event features a novel about the rivalry between the Astors and the Vanderbilts during the Gilded Age. White Collar Girl was Rosen's breakout novel, beating the others by a good margin, even the beloved What the Lady Wants, which was about Marshall Field. Cosponsored by Milwaukee Reads and Boswell Book Company. 

From the starred Publishers Weekly: "In this witty and beautifully imagined Gilded Age outing, Rosen examines the rivalry between the Astors and the Vanderbilts toward the end of the 19th century...Rosen delights with breezy dialogue and keen insights into the era. Historical fans will love this."

Photo credits
David Swinson credit Jeffrey Baldwin
Benjamin Percy credit Arnab Chalkladar
Sujata Massey credit Tim Burger

No comments: