Father Andrew Greeley, bestselling novelist and Catholic scholar, has died

Father Andrew Greeley, devoted and devout Chicago Catholic priest, author of forward-thinking (read: controversial) scholarly articles on the future and relevancy of the Catholic Church, and bestselling author of mysteries and stand-alone romances that were so steamy, they earned him the label,of a clerical Harold Robbins, has died.

Father Greeley was ahead of his time on a number of social issues that still make headlines today. He believed in the ordination of women. For decades he urged the Catholic Church to relax its stand on birth control and divorce. He never stopped pushing the Church to stop defending and hiding priests guilty of child sex abuse. He did, however, never waver in his support of the Church's opposition to abortion.

It was his bestselling novels and the popular Father Blackie Ryan mystery series (i.e., The Bishop in the West Wing (2002) and The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood (2005) that really put him at odds with the Catholic Church, so much so that Cardinal Bernardin (Chicago) rejected Father Greeley's million dollar pledge from his book royalties.

In 2008, Father Greeley published the last Blackie Ryan mystery -- The Archbishop in Andalusia. That same year his clothing got caught in a taxi's closed door. The resulting head injury ending his writing and speaking career.

Father Greeley, who was 85, died in Chicago at home.

Jack Vance, science fiction writer, has died

Jack Vance, one of the most underappreciated masters of science fiction and fantasy and mystery, died Sunday at his Oakland, CA home.

The award-winning author (he won an Edgar, a Nebula, and a couple of Hugos, among others) got his start writing short fantasy stories for pulp magazines in the 1940s while serving in the merchant marine during WWII. In 1950, he published the first of his Dying Earth stories, which have since been collected in Tales of the Dying Earth (2000).

Vance had a unique, beautiful writing style that was described by fellow science fiction writer, Norman Spinrad as a "...baroque tapestry..." Vance was not much of a Gadget Guy. He found gadgets boring and said that his forte was telling "...a history of the human future."

Two of his closest chums, Frank Herbert and Poul Anderson built a houseboat together which they used on the Sacramento Delta.

Vance was 96 when he died on Sunday.

Author Mia Couto wins the 2013 Camoes Prize for Literature

Mia Couto, born in Mozambique of Portuguese parents, has won the Camoes Prize for Literature for 2013. The Camoes, one of the prestigious international literary awards, is given to writers of the Portuguese language.

Couto, who pens novels, short stories, poetry, attended medical school (he is a professor of ecology), was a key player in Mozambique's struggle to achieve independence which it did on July 25, 1975, in part due to Couto's articles in the newspaper A Tribuna.

His first poems were published at age 14 in a Mozambique newspaper. His first novel Terra Sonnambula was published in 1992; 16 years later it was translated into English (Sleepwalking Land. In 2000, he wrote O Ultimo Voo do Flamingo, which was translated into English, The Last Flight of the Flamingo in 2004.

Couto was the first African writer to receive, in 1998, the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

Couto, who is 57, has a home in Maputo, Mozambique's capital, but spends the majority of his time in the coastline forests pursuing his multiple interests in the legends, myths, and ecological offerings that he loves.

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer

In 1913 Paris, two Russians, Igor Stravinsky the composer and Vaslav Nijinsky the dancer/choreographer, took the western European art world by storm when the Ballet Russes premiered The Rite of Spring on May 29th. This book, composed with much alliterative, musical language, and onomatopoeia, tells the story of the friendship and collaboration between composer and dancer. Focusing on the changes to their work and personal styles that resulted from their meeting to the culmination of their efforts, the ballet The Rite of Spring, the story conveys their composition process in a lively, upbeat fashion, with a percussive vocabulary. Children may be surprised to learn about the commotion the composition caused, and the riotous ballet is sure to catch their attention. Vibrantly colored illustrations, inspired by Matisse and Picasso, of the musical notes, instruments, and dancers depicted, enhance the tone of the story and complement the text well. Stringer trusts readers with a challenging and exciting account of the transformative power of visionary, risk-taking art.

If you're feeling inspired after reading the book, try making up your own dance to the music. NPR Music is inviting "professionals and the public alike to take the last minute of Stravinsky's inimitable score — in an exceptional performance by conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra — and create a new video to go along with this music." Follow this link for more information, or to see some of the submitted videos. Happy Dancing! Happy Spring!

Ray Manzarek, co-founder and keyboardist of the rock group The Doors, has died

Ray Manzarek, keyboard genius and co-founder (with the late Jim Morrison) of The Doors died yesterday in Rosenheim, Germany.

A chance meeting on a California beach in 1965 between Morrison and Manzarek sparked one of the most successful rock bands in U.S. music history. After Morrison's death in 1971, Manzarek stayed busy in the music world, working with the punk band X and collaborating with Michael McClure on the documentary Obscene: A Portrait of Barney Rossett and Grove Press (2008).

Manzarek loved to tell the story about how The Doors seriously aggravated Ed Sullivan on September 17, 1967 for their first and only appearance on his variety show. Sullivan made the band swear they would NOT sing the word 'higher' when performing Light My Fire ("You know that it would be untrue, You know that I would be a liar, If I was to say to you, Girl, we couldn't get much higher"). The group promised -- "Yeah, yeah, sure, sure." -- and then performed it as written. Sullivan cancelled all their future performances.

Mr. Manzarek, who was 74, had been battling bile duct cancer.

Bernard Waber, creator of the beloved Lyle the Crocodile picture books, has died

Bernard Waber, who turned his commercial graphic arts training into a successful career as a children's book author and illustrator, died May 16th.

Waber, a World War II veteran and devoted movie buff, first introduced Lyle the lovable crocodile in his 1962 book, The House on East 88th Street. In this fanciful, gentle, funny story, the Primm family discovers Lyle hanging out in the bathtub of their Upper East Side brownstone. Lyle made several more appearances, including in Lyle Finds His Mother (1974) and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (1965). His final Lyle book, Lyle Walks the Dog: A Counting Book (2010), was a collaboration with his daughter Paulis Waber.

While most of Waber's books involved whimsical illustrations of animals -- The Mouse that Snored and the delightful A Lion Named Shirley Williamson (1996) -- Waber also had a gift for using human subjects to zero in on and allay common childhood anxieties. In Ira Sleeps Over (1972), little Ira frets about whether or not he can bring his teddy bear to a sleepover. In 2002, Waber published Courage in response to September 11th. He had started it before the attacks, but added firemen and police officers to his examples of people, both ordinary and extraordinary, who exhibit courage every day.

Waber forever endeared himself to book and movie lovers when he said that the way he endured frequent relocations as a child was to seek reassurance from his parents that wherever they moved, a library and movie theater would be close by. "...The Library and cinema were life-giving urgencies, a survival kit for any new neighborhood."

Waber, who was 91, died at his home in Long Island.

Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno

Last week, Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno was released and is in hot demand. In this 476 page blockbuster, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor whose specialty in symbology takes him to Italy to unravel the secrets of Dante's Inferno, races against time to save the world.

Dan Brown came to the public's attention in 2003 when his intriguing, provocative, controversial The Da Vinci Code broke all sorts of publishing records and is, to this day, one of the bestselling novels of all time. Ever since, he has had one #1 bestseller after another. Just two years after The Da Vinci Code was released, Brown was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most influential People in the World.

Are you on the wait list for Inferno? Never fear, we have a list of great titles that share Brown's powerful formula of mixing history, religion, and/or literature and cryptography to tell a compelling story. Try some of these to tide you over until your number comes up.

Umberto Eco's very first novel, published in English 30 years ago, is considered a classic. In The Name of the Rose, Brother William of Baskerville, a 14th century monk, is sent to Italy to investigate seven deeply disturbing murders. Three years later, Sean Connery starred in the award-winning film version.

In The Eight (1988), Katherine Neville, tells the story of Catherine Velis, a computer pro for one of the Big Eight accounting firms. Velis is fascinated by the relationship between chess and mathematics and sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the pieces of an antique chess set, scattered across the globe. If found, the complete set will reveal a world-changing secret, which began in 1790.

Jonathan Rabb, in his popular 2001 The Book of Q, moves back and forth between sixth century Asia Minor and 20th century Croatia. Father Ian Pearse is a researcher at the Vatican Library who cannot forget his passionate affair eight years earlier with Petra. When he comes across the translation of an ancient scroll that reveals a shocking code, he returns to Bosnia (and, oh yes, Petra) to save the world from the secrets buried in the scroll.

Scrolls and diaries that beg to be decoded to reveal earth-shattering religious secrets, are at the center of The 13th Apostle (2007), by Richard and Rachael Heller. This time, the sleuths are Sabbie Karaim, a biblical scholar and ex-Israeli commando and Gil Pearson, an American cybersleuth who discover there are those who are willing to kill for this possible link to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you are too impatient for your hold for the print version of Inferno, why not try Paul Michael's dramatic narrative performance in the audiobook version?

May's Books to Film

Iron Man 3 (PG-13) is a Walt Disney Studio adaptation of Marvel's Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. It pits brash but brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

For limited release is What Maisie Knew (R). With newcomer Onata Aprile in the title role, Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård star this family drama, a contemporary re-imagining of the novel by Henry James. It's the story of a captivating little girl's struggle for grace in the midst of her parents' bitter custody battle, navigating the turmoil with a six-year-old's innocence, charm and generosity of spirit.

Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (PG-13), would-be writer Nick Carraway leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922. In this era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby; across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan; and is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich.

Released just in time for summer vacation is the animated Epic (PG), based on The Leaf Man by William Joyce. It tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who wish to destroy it. When a teenage girl finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite band of warriors and a crew of comical, larger-than-life figures, to save their world…and ours.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, the "mother of mass media psychology", has died

Dr. Joyce Brothers, whose soft voice, clear explanations, and preference for pastels calmed generations of anxious, questioning Americans, has died.

In 1955, Dr. Brothers was a wife and new mother. Her doctor husband was paid $50 a month as a resident. Looking for a way to pay the bills, Dr. Brothers studied the popular game show The $64,000 Question and realized that the most popular contestants were the ones with the most improbable interests. At 5', with delicate features, Brothers, who had a PhD from Columbia and a near-photographic memory, became a self-taught expert on boxing before becoming a contestant. The result of her astute analysis and hard-charging studying was that, after riveting weeks on the show, she became the first woman to win the big prize.

That national attention led to a multi-pronged media presence as a straight-shooting advice expert. She had several TV shows that bore her name, a call-in radio show, a column in Good Housekeeping magazine, and she enjoyed frequent guest appearances on television. She also authored several books, including the 1981 What Every Woman Should Know about Men.

Dr. Brothers, who was 85, died in Fort Lee, NY of respiratory failure.

2013 Edgars have been announced

Last night, the Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2013 Edgars, the mystery genre's most prestigious awards.

Some of the winners are:

Best Novel -- Dennis Lehane for Live by Night. Joe Coughlin, younger brother of Danny Coughlin (The Given Day, 2008) and the son of a cop, becomes a crime boss in Florida in 1926 during the Prohibition.

Best First Novel -- Chris Pavone for The Expats. Kate Moore used to be a CIA spy until she met, fell in love with, and married Dexter. Parenthood turns her off to the dangers of espionage, but her professional radar is triggered when Dexter's job moves them to Luxembourg where new friends, fellow expats, Bill and Julia, do not seem to be what they claim to be.

Best Paperback Original -- Ben H. Winters for The Last Policeman. It takes a special detective to investigate a homicide masquerading as a suicide, when an asteroid is six months away from destroying Earth. But NH investigator, Nick Palace, is no ordinary cop.

Best Fact Crime -- Paul French for Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China -- In 1937 China, the teenage daughter of a retired British consul is brutally murdered and her father refuses to rest until he finds who committed this heinous crime. French brings to edge-of-seat life, the chain of evidence in this case.

For a complete list of all the winners, please check here.

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