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07-24-09: Three Two Books with Alan Cheuse : Daniel Silva, 'The Defector', Colum McCann, 'Let The Great World Spin'

Let's set the record straight; the story is "Martyrdom" and the collection is 'Metahorror,' edited by Dennis Etchison. And in fact it was Douglas Winter who edited 'Prime Evil.' All this becomes clear as you listen to my latest conversation with Alan Cheuse as we discuss 'The Defector' by Daniel Silva and 'Let The Great World Spin' by Colum McCann. In the process, my dog is running around the back yard where Cheuse and I sit each Wednesday and discuss books, and the neighbors are cutting up wood, not one another. Well, we hoped, and we didn't hear any screams.

We didn't get to that third book because we hadn't actually finished reading it yet. I didn't have the latest Joyce Carol Oates novel, and Alan had only cracked the first three pages. But as you'll understand, those are three vital pages so far as it goes when choosing a book. That's because we talked about how to avoid bad books, as well as why you should read, well, lighter fare (and what some critics will dismiss as just plain crap) between the masterpieces. Man does not, should not live by caviar alone. To hear a conversation about a healthy literary diet, follow this link to the MP3 audio file.



 Kimberley Cameron
07-22-09: Book Passage Mystery Conference: A 2009 Interview with Literary Agent Kimberley Cameron

"Deals are being made every day, it’s very healthy and the publishers are buying lots of books"
        — Literary Agent Kimberley Cameron

I first spoke with Kimberley Cameron of the Reece Halsey Literary Agency back at the Left Coast Crime convention in 2004. But I recognized her right on the dot when she showed up at the Book Passage Mystery Conference, and I knew that she'd have some very interesting things to say about the state of the writing world.

I was glad that Ms. Cameron was willing to speak on tape, because this was my chance to find out what exactly writers who are searching for a literary agent would need to do to obtain one. Of course, going in there's one big task ... writing the book, assuming it's fiction. But so much had changed in the intervening five years that I wanted to know. Were they now accepting email queries and submissions? Where did she see the "free on the internet" and e-readers fitting in?

To my mind, Cameron has all the makings of an excellent writer herself, as her replies and her thoughts are so perfectly orchestrated. What's more interesting is that by and large, she has really good news for would-be writers and reader, for that matter. Here's a link to fifteen minutes of sage advice.



 Karen West and Elaine Petrocelli
07-21-09: Book Passage Mystery Conference : Overview Interview with Karen West and Elaine Petrocelli

"We want editors who are hiring"
        — Elaine Petrocelli

You hear about a lot of writer's conferences, and many make some pretty bold promises. At Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, they keep those promises, and the faculty of now-veteran authors who once were students here is amazingly solid proof. Over next couple of weeks, we'll be running interviews with some of those who attended this year's conference. We're going to start with Elaine Petrocelli and Karen West; Elaine's the Owner of Book Passage and Karen West organizes the 700 events per year they host at this remarkable store.

I only spent one day at the Book Passage Mystery Conference, but it was an impressive day. There weren't a lot of students, for a reason — registration is limited, so the ratio of students to faculty, that is, actual published writers, including names like
Laurie R. King and Martin Cruz Smith, is quite small. But the whole setup was superb, with a great schedule of panels focusing on actual writing techniques taught by the veterans but also by accomplished writers who have graduated from the conference and found themselves published; including for example, Tony Broadbent, author of 'The Smoke.'

We've got a number of interviews from the conference, and we're going to start with an overview interview with Elaine Petrocelli and Karen West. I spoke with Petrocelli, the owner of Book Passage a back in November of 2007, and it was a pleasure to meet her in person, and to speak with her and Karen West, who organizes the events. This is a conference about writing your fiction well and actually selling it; agents and editors attend, and Petrocelli makes sure they’re interested in buying. Here's the overview of this impressive event.



 Simon Rich
07-20-09: A 2009 Interview with Simon Rich

"A lot of my favorite comedy writers actually write horror"
        — Simon Rich

I save the good stuff for a sunny day, or what would be a sunny day if I didn't live in the fog belt. It's been a while since I talked with Simon Rich, the author of 'Free Range Chickens,' but our conversation is evergreen. You want to find out what’s it's like to hang out at the Harvard Lampoon, or write sketches for Saturday Night Live? Simon Rich is your man.

'Free Range Chickens' was a really interesting book for me. There are fewer words in this book than in many opening chapters, but they're good words and so finely honed they might cut glass. But mostly, it’s just funny. But what I really found interesting when I spoke to Rich were his tales of working on the Harvard Lampoon, and his own fresh sense of wonder, as it were, about the world he now inhabits, writing skits for Saturday Night Live. He's got a great and very skewed sense of humor; it's bone dry, skeleton dry. I'll let him do the talking when you follow this link to the MP3 audio file.



New to the Agony Column

08-08-14: Commentary : Alastair Reynolds 'Blue Remembered Earth' : Diffident Utopia

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alastair Reynolds : "...the first book was going to contain about a hundred years of implicit future history..."

07-11-14: Commentary : Roz Chast Asks 'Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?' : NO

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Roz Chast : "...I had no idea of how it worked because we had never talked about it."

07-08-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 170: Roz Chast : Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

06-30-14: Commentary : Alan Furst Passes 'Midnight in Europe : Wrong Side of War

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alan Furst : "...certain periods are echoic..."

06-29-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 169: Alan Furst : Midnight in Europe

06-27-14: Commentary : Sarah Lotz Counts 'The Three' : The Uses of Fear

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Sarah Lotz : "...people need answers..."

06-25-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 168: Sarah Lotz : The Three

06-21-14: Commentary : Steven Galloway Conjures 'The Confabulist' : Creating Harry Houdini

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Steven Galloway : "...so much has been written about Harry Houdini..."

06-18-14: Commentary : Raymond B. Russell Heralds 'The Dark Return of Time' : An Atmosphere of Crime

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Thomas Frank on Parlor Tricks : "Off With Their Heads!"

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 167: Steven Galloway : The Confabulist

06-16-14: Commentary : Geoff Dyer Has 'Another Great Day at Sea' : The Steel Beach Party

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Geoff Dyer : "..but it was as nothing compared to the noise of planes landing..."

06-15-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 166: Geoff Dyer : Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush

06-09-14: Commentary : Colson Whitehead Does 'The Noble Hustle' : Incandescent Memories of the Future

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Colson Whitehead : "...I won five dollars, and from then on..."

06-08-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 165: Colson Whitehead : The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Deaths

06-02-14: Commentary : Kaui Hart Hemmings Explores 'The Possibilities' : Framing Life

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kaui Hart Hemmings : "I burned that copy and started fresh."

05-31-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 164: Kaui Hart Hemmings : The Possibilities

05-26-14: Commentary : Kent A. Kiehl Heeds 'The Psychopath Whisperer' : Prison of the Mind

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kent A. Kiehl : "How do you measure the cost of those sixteen homicides?"

05-21-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 163: Kent A. Kiehl, PhD : The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience

05-19-14: Commentary : Justin Go Clocks 'The Steady Running of the Hour' : Time-Crossed Lovers and Wars

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Justin Go : "... there was always something that had to happen ..."

05-15-14: Commentary : Jeff VanderMeer Grants 'Authority' : The Parallax Views

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer : "...the land people don't talk to the sky people don't talk to the water people..."

05-13-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 162: Justin Go : The Steady Running of the Hour

05-12-14: Commentary : Matt Taibbi Views 'The Divide' : Zero-Sum Economic Morality

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Matt Taibbi : "... the biggest bank robbery in the history of the world ..."

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