Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
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

04-19-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 157: Lorrie Moore : Bark

04-16-14: Commentary : Michael Katakis Lets Fall 'A Thousand Shards of Glass' : Missives from a Parallel World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Michael Katakis : "..we haven't lived up to what people's illusions and dreams are..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 156: Michael Katakis : A Thousand Shards of Glass

04-02-14: Commentary : David Rich Steps in as 'Middle Man' : Spy Novels for the 21st Century

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Rich : "...so much is known so quickly..."

04-01-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 155: David Rich : Middle Man

03-29-14: Commentary : Carol Cassella Mirrors 'Gemini' : Two Places at Once

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Carol Cassella : "... we could provide good care for everyone..."

03-26-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2005 Interview with Lucius Shepard : "It's an urban war in Iraq."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 154: Carol Cassella : Gemini

03-20-14: Commentary : Dave Barry Warns 'You Can Date Boys When You're Forty' : Five Star General Humor

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dave Barry : "...you have the right to demand that they grope your genitals manually..."

03-19-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 153: Dave Barry : You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About

03-17-14: Commentary : Michael Marshall (Smith) Sees 'Bad Things' : Dark of the Heart

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Three Books With Alan Cheuse : Elizabeth Spencer, 'Starting Over: Stories'; James Magnuson, 'Famous Writers I Have Known'; Dasa Drndic 'Trieste'

03-11-14: Commentary : Ian Rankin Ordains 'Saints of the Shadow Bible' : Standing in the Shadow of the Past

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Ian Rankin : "...I knew that he would not want to leave the police force..."

03-10-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 152: Ian Rankin : Saints of the Shadow Bible

03-04-14: Commentary : Michio Kaku Foresees 'The Future of the Mind' : Form Follows Function

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Michio Kaku : "But I'm a physicist..."

03-02-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 151: Michio Kaku : The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind

02-25-14: Commentary : Annie Jacobsen Files 'Operation Paperclip' : History as Thrilling Literature

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Annie Jacobsen : "Hitler's top scientists became America's own."

02-23-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 2 : "...still clear distribution lines for books...."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 150: Annie Jacobsen : Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America

02-20-14: Commentary : Jeff VanderMeer Seeks 'Annihilation' : Creative Destruction

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 1 : "...obviously, something is subverting the landscape..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 149: Jeff VanderMeer : Annihilation

02-14-14: Commentary : Jenny Offill Engages 'Dept. of Speculation' :The Domestic Descent

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jenny Offill : "..where did the rest of me go?"

02-13-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 148: Jenny Offill : Dept. of Speculation

02-10-14: Commentary : Kelly Corrigan's 'Glitter and Glue' : Remembering Forward

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kelly Corrigan : "You just hope you get to have that whole second act with your children."

02-08-14: Commentary : My Life in the Bush of Books : Life as an Internet Failure Edition

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 147: : Glitter and Glue: A Memoir

02-06-14: Commentary : Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois Bake 'The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day' : Cheese, Beer and a Crock Pot

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois : "I knew it wouldn't work."

02-03-14: Commentary : Jane Pauley Hears 'Your Life Calling' : Crossing an Economic Singularity

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jane Pauley : "..it suddenly hit me; I almost cried..."

Commentary & Podcast Archive

Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us