Author Birthdays: Leroux, Jarrell, White

May 6th marks the birthday of authors Gaston Leroux, Randall Jarrell, and Theodore White.

Gaston Leroux was a French author most known for his novel The Phantom of the Opera, which has been made into both a musical and a few films.

Leroux also wrote detective novels, two of which have been translated into English: The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, which are both part of the series on the character Joseph Rouletabille.

Randall Jarrell was an American writer of poetry, children's books, and essays. We have his Complete Poems here at AADL; his collection The Woman at the Washington Zoo won the National Book Award for poetry is within it.

Among Jarrell's works for children, we have The Animal Family, a Newbery Honor Book, and The Bat-Poet, which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are).

Theodore H. White was an American historian. His book The Making of the President, 1960 won the Pulitzer for General Nonfiction in 1962. It details the election of JFK, and is the first in a "series" of books about elections.

White's other works include Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon, about the Watergate scandal, and his autobiography, In Search of History: A Personal Adventure.

Author Birthdays: Niven, Dillard, Boyne

April 30th marks the birthday of authors Larry Niven, Annie Dillard, and John Boyne.

Larry Niven is an American author of science fiction. He is probably most well known for Ringworld, a winner of many literary awards, which has three sequels and a few prequels.

Niven's latest works include Stars and Gods, a collection of short stories and pieces of non-fiction, Betrayer of Worlds, a prelude to Ringworld, and The Best of Larry Niven, a collection of short stories with the author's explanations for them.

Annie Dillard is an American writer and former contributing editor of Harper's magazine. Her most well known work is The Maytrees, a story of "loving and longing", which was named one of the Top 10 Best Books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review.

Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book about religion and philosophy in the style of a journal. She also has written a book of found poems called Mornings Like This.

John Boyne is an Irish author; you may have heard of his novel The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, which was also made into a film. His forthcoming novel is called The Absolutist, set to come out in the UK in May.

Boyne's other books include The Thief of Time, a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy about a boy born in the 18th century who doesn't age, and Crippen, a mystery set in the early 20th century.

Author Birthdays: Shakespeare, Marsh, Laxness

April 23rd marks the birthday of authors William Shakespeare, Ngaio Marsh, and Halldor Laxness.

William Shakespeare was and is probably the most well-known English poet and playwright in history. You may know him for writing Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Love's Labour's Lost, and Twelfth Night. Almost all of his plays have been produced on stage, in film, or both.

Shakespeare's lesser known works, though I feel silly saying that at all, may be some of his many histories, like Coriolanus, about a Roman leader; Troilus and Cressida, a story of the Trojan War; Cymbeline, about a legendary British king and his daughter; or The Life and Death of King John, about the famed signer of the Magna Carta.

Ngaio Marsh was a writer from New Zealand who is probably best known for her detective novels. Her name may also be familiar to those who watch the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, since the show is based on her works about Roderick Alleyn.

Marsh also wrote short stories, which we have collected in Alleyn And Others: The Collected Short Fiction Of Ngaio Marsh. She wrote so many books that I don't know, really, which one to talk about, so I'm going with the best title: Killer Dolphin, an Alleyn mystery set in the Dolphin Theater.

Halldor Laxness was an Icelandic author and Nobel Prize winner. He wrote three rounds of stories that focused on the Icelandic people: Salka Valka, Independent People, and The Light of the World (also called World Light).

Laxness also wrote The Fish Can Sing, called by the publisher "a poignant coming-of-age tale marked with his peculiar blend of light irony and dark humor". It tells the story of an orphan who changes his dream of becoming a fisherman when he meets an Icelandic celebrity.

Author Birthdays: James, ten Boom, Archer

April 15th marks the birthday of authors Henry James, Corrie ten Boom, and Jeffrey Archer.

Henry James was an American writer, probably best known for his novella The Turn of the Screw, often spoken of in terms of its ambiguity; (it is uncertain whether the main character is experiencing ghosts, or psychological repression.)

James has many other stories worth mentioning. The Portrait Of A Lady and The Bostonians are both well-known. Lesser known, James also published travel writings, like Italian Hours.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch author and Holocaust survivor; her autobiography, The Hiding Place tells the story of how she aided and hid Jews from the Nazis. It was also made into a movie in 1975.

Ten Boom's family was arrested in 1944, and Corrie spent time in a Dutch prison and two concentration camps. The second concentration camp killed its women prisoners only one week after she was released. Her last book, I Stand at the Door and Knock, is full of Christian devotionals.

Jeffrey Archer is an English author and life peer. He has a novel coming out this year, Only Time Will Tell, set in the 1920s-40s, which will be the first book in series. Last year he published a book of short stories, And Thereby Hangs A Tale.

Archer's first novel was the mystery Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, of which Library Journal said "anyone with any interest in money will find entertaining."

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #256

Harvard grad Edward Conlon is a former detective with the New York City Police Department. His memoir Blue Blood (2004) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; a New York Times Notable Book; and has been adapted into a popular television series.

His highly anticipated debut novel Red on Red * * * * tells the story of two NYPD detectives, Meehan and Esposito and their fierce and unlikely friendship. One damaged and introspective, the other ambitious and unscrupulous, they nevertheless prove to be complimentary and a successful team working the rough Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, handling gritty crimes of suicides, rapes, gang wars, and the disappearance of a troubled Catholic schoolgirl who is a mystery in her own right.

A potent mix of strong story line, police jargon, crisp dialog, black humor, with complicated romances thrown in for good measure, makes this a captivating thrill ride. A readalike for Lou Manfredo's Rizzo's War (and its follow-up Rizzo's Fire), and gritty police/crime thrillers of Joseph Wambaugh, George Pelecanos, and Dennis Lehane.

* * * * = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #253

Some called it "rich and evocative"; some thought it "odd, dark and often creepy", but all the reviewers seemed to agree that Lori Roy's Bent Road * * ( * * * * ) is an exceptionally well-written debut, and a captivating, and suspenseful tale of a dysfunctional family and community.

Young Arthur Scott fled a small Kansas town, moved to Detroit and raised a family. Unnerved by the 1967 riots, he packs up his family and moves back home where the mysterious death of his older sister Eve still haunts him after 20 years.

While Arthur and the oldest daughter slip easily into rural life, others in the family struggle with loneliness and displacement, especially his only son, Daniel. Then a battered red truck is seen cruising ominously along on Bent Road and a young girl disappears without a trace.

Family secrets, small town dynamics, coerced silence, and ruined lives drive the plot towards its shattering revelation and conclusion, "reminding us that simplicity of landscape does not necessarily mean simplicity of life".

Lori Roy was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas where she worked for years as a tax accountant before turning her focus to writing. Her work has appeared in the Chattahoochee Review, and she is the recipient of the Ed Hirschberg Award for Excellence in Florida Writing.

A readalike for Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning; No Mercy by Lori Armstrong; and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

* * = starred reviews. (Read the NPR review).

* * * * = 4-star review in an upcoming issue of People Magazine.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #249

High body count, fast-paced action, murder, conspiracy, secret society - if that's right up your alley, then you would like Scott Mariani's The Mozart Conspiracy : a thriller (due out early next week).

A centuries-old mystery. An “accidental” death. A conspiracy that may end in murder. Former British Special Air Service officer Ben Hope is running for his life. Enlisted by Leigh Llewellyn—the beautiful, world-famous opera star and Ben’s first love—to investigate her brother, Oliver’s, mysterious death, Ben finds himself caught up in a puzzle dating back to the 1700s and might somehow be connected to mysterious death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

British author Miriani makes his U.S. debut with the second in his series featuring ex-SAS warrior Ben Hope. For fans of Dan Brown, James Rollins, and Robert Ludlum.

Author Birthdays: Sackville-West, Spillane, Tharoor

March 9th marks the birthday of authors Vita Sackville-West, Mickey Spillane, and Shashi Tharoor.

Vita Sackville-West was an English writer and aristocrat who won the British Hawthornden Prize twice. Born to a Baron, she had lived in the famous Sissinghurst Castle during her lifetime. Among her most well-known books are The Edwardians, which is about two aristocratic siblings in the early 20th century, and All Passion Spent, about an octogenarian woman who spurns the Victorian ideals.

Sackville-West, a bisexual, was lovers with fellow authors Violet Trefusis and Virginia Woolf; some of her letters to Woolf have been compiled into a book, and a book on Trefusis also contains correspondence between lovers.

Mickey Spillane was an American crime novelist, best known for his detective character Mike Hammer. Spillane was also into film; his novel Kiss Me Deadly was made into a movie, and the author himself actually played a detective in Ring of Fear.

Spillane's work in the hardboiled fiction genre is a bit different than many others. A writer for the Washington Post said in 2001 that "Spillane never really wrote sex scenes; he wrote about sexuality in a way that was unapologetically sensual and often seemed more provocative than the act itself". A good example is his first novel, I, the Jury.

Shashi Tharoor is an Indian writer and advocate, as well as a member of Indian Parliament and former Under-Secretary General of the UN. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in 1991. His novels include the award-winning The Great Indian Novel, and Show Business, called by Booklist "an animated and deliciously satirical critique of the Bombay film industry".

Among Tharoor's non-fiction works are The Elephant, The Tiger, And The Cell Phone: Reflections On India, The Emerging 21st-century Power, which discusses India's highs and lows, and Bookless In Baghdad: Reflections On Writing And Writers, a collection of essays which Library Journal described as resonating "with readers of any nationality, helping them understand the global purpose of literature, feel the inherent responsibility, and hear a call to action".

Author Birthdays: Shirer, Cornwell, Sandford

February 23rd marks the birthday of authors William L. Shirer, Bernard Cornwell, and John Sandford.

William L. Shirer was an American writer of mostly non-fiction history books. Much of his works focus on Nazi Germany, which isn't surprising, considering he was a WWII journalist who actually reported from Berlin. Part of his book 20th Century Journey called "The Nightmare Years", about his time in Germany, was made into a TV movie with Law & Order star Sam Waterston playing the journalist.

Shirer's "This is Berlin" is a collection of his radio broadcasts from said city. As noted by Library Journal, it gives "the reader a sense of the drama and tension of 'history as it happens'". He also wrote a diary of the days leading up to the war.

Bernard Cornwell is an English historical novelist, best known for his novels centered on character Richard Sharpe, which take place during the Napoleonic Wars. They were also adapted into a television series.

Cornwell has also written stories in the times of Saxon and Arthurian Britain, and the American Civil War. His latest, The Fort, published last year, is a tale of the Revolutionary War, more specifically, of the Penobscot Expedition.

John Sandford (born John Camp) is an American journalist and novelist, probably best known for his Prey series, featuring the character Lucas Davenport. His newest novel, Buried Prey, is in this series and comes out in May.

Sandford's other works include the novel Dead Watch, which has been called "full of suspense, political intrigue, and violence" by Library Journal; you can also see some of his journalistic exploits on his website.

Teen Stuff: Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, by Josh Berk

Kirkus Reviews call this new book by first time author Josh Berk one of 2010's best books for teens.

In The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, Will Halpin is your average sarcastic, witty sixteen year old. He recently transferred from the School for the Deaf to attend the mainstream Carbon High. Not only is he singled out for being deaf, but also for being overweight and sudden friends with Devon Smiley, one of the biggest dorks in school.

Told from Will’s POV, the book is hilarious, as he has a lot to “say”, and keeps a notebook with observations of his classmates. He is skilled in lip reading, which is how he gets by at school, and he uses this to his advantage to get to know his peers from afar.

Popular football star Pat Chambers loses his life on a class field trip to Happy Memory Coal Mine. Who dunnit? Was it Will? Devon? The wacky busdriver “Jimmy Porkrinds”? The svelte Miss Prefontaine? The ghost of Dummy Halpin? Will and Devon, a misfit Hardy Boys team, assign themselves to the case and begin snooping around. They communicate their findings through text messages and minimal sign language.

Eventually the mystery gets solved, Will settles in, and it turns out that Will Halpin just might be a happy camper at his new high school after all. It’s great to see underdogs succeed! (For grades 9 and up.)

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