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.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #257

In Paul Elwork's atmospheric debut The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead * 13 year-old twins Emily and Michael Stewart, privileged, precocious and orphaned from the Great War are allowed to roam aimlessly around their family's estate along the Delaware River until one day Emily discovers a special "gift" that they take to fool the neighborhood children as "spirit knockings".

Somehow this game of contacting the dead catches on with adults reeling from loss and grief, desperate to believe in life after death. In the meantime, Emily is trying to piece together her own family's history, reaching back to plantation life in Virginia, and discovering family secrets planted along the way.

Loosely based on true events from the early 20th century, this "subtle and moving portrayal of people in the grip of powerful emotions that overwhelm rational thinking will haunt readers long after they put the book down." "Family secrets, a love triangle, and a duplicitous magician add to the darkening atmosphere of a thought-provoking novel that blurs the boundaries between faith and trickery."

* = starred review

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."

Triangle Waist Factory Fire of 1911

triangletriangle

Today (March 25) marks the 100-year anniversary of the deadly Triangle Waist Factory Fire in New York City which claimed 146 lives, mostly of young immigrant workers; and to this day, ranks as one of the worst disasters in labor history.

Located in the Asch Building, at northern corner of Washington Square,The Triangle Waist Company was in many ways a typical sweatshop - low wages, excessively long hours, and unsanitary and dangerous working conditions. Check out the story at the Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations archival and research resources that include eyewitness accounts, victim list, and photo images.

Over the years, the fire has been the subject for documentary filmmakers, historians and novelists. Best among them is award-winning author Katharine Weber's Triangle* * (2007).

Esther Gottesfeld is the last living survivor of the fire where 150 workers died in the sweatshop inferno. Even though she has told her story countless time, her death at the age of 106 leaves unanswered many questions about what happened that fateful day - the day she lost her sister and her fiance, the day her life changed forever.

Esther's granddaughter, Rebecca, and George, her partner, a prizewinning composer, seek to unravel the facts of the matter, while at the same time Ruth Zion, a zealous Triangle fire historian, bores in on them with her own mole-like agenda.

"As in a symphony, the true story of what happened at the Triangle factory is declared in the first notes - yet it is fully revealed only when we've heard it all the way through to its find chords."

* * = Starred reviews

Author Birthdays: Trelease, Robinson, Cullin

March 23rd marks the birthday of authors Jim Trelease, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mitch Cullin.

Jim Trelease is an American artist, writer and educator. His The Read-Aloud Handbook, according to his website, "was the inspiration for PBS's 'Storytime' series". It emphasizes the importance of reading aloud to children, and has been used by both parents and educators.

Trelease also published a collection of stories which he thinks are perfect to read aloud. It includes many classics, as well as some inspirational stories, like "I have a dream: the story of Martin Luther King, Jr" by Margaret Davidson.

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer. His Mars Trilogy has won Hugo and Nebula Awards. The trilogy focuses on a world in which Mars is a colony (by 2027, no less).

In 2009, Robinson published Galileo's Dream, in which Galileo travels to the future and finds himself caught up in political struggles on one of Jupiter's moons.

Mitch Cullin is an American writer of both novels and short stories. His collection of short stories is called From The Place In The Valley Deep In The Forest, and, as explained in a Booklist review, while the stories' topics are not fictional, "Cullin completely avoids making essays of his stories by focusing on vividly realized characters caught in the middle of those circumstances".

Cullin's A Slight Trick Of The Mind is a story of Sherlock Holmes in his old age, his memory failing. The cover is a tribute to Holmes' love of beekeeping in the novel.

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".

'Starcrossed'

Starcrossed is the second novel by historical fantasy author Elizabeth C. Bunce, and the first book in the "Thief Errant" series.

The story stars a learned and streetwise thief, Digger, who, in order to escape the wrath of the kingdom Inquisitor and his policing Greenmen, finds herself and her fate entwined with that of a party of drunken nobles. With the group is Lady Merista, a young girl whom Digger quite suddenly discovers is deeply into something punishable by torture and death -- magic. Digger becomes torn between her developing love for her young friend, the suspicious and dangerous activity of Merista's parents, the blackmailing and vengeful friend of her host, and her mantra: Stay Alive. Don't get caught. Don't get involved.

If you like intrigue, spies, magic, romance, and a sassy heroine, this is a must-read. Bunce not only presents a vivid and fast-paced tale, but also an addictive world, moving characters, and a great tension between people and their rulers. Historically, the story throws us into a sense of the Inquisition and the witch craze in Europe.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #245

Paula McLain will be reading and signing The Paris Wife at Borders on Liberty Street, Wednesday, March 2, at 7 pm.

In Paula McLain's The Paris Wife : a novel * *, Hadley Richardson takes center stage in this fictional biography of a marriage - between a quiet and supportive older woman (by 8 years) to her charismatic and soon-to-be famous husband Ernest "Hem" Hemingway.

Though doomed, the Hemingway marriage had its giddy high points, including a whirlwind courtship and a few fast and furious "gin-soaked and jazz-infused" years in the expatriate lifestyle of the 1920s Paris. Readers are also treated to intimate glimpses of many of the literary giants of the era, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Much more than a "woman-behind-the-man" homage, this beautifully crafted tale is an unsentimental and yet sympathetic tribute to a woman who acted with grace and strength as her marriage crumbled. Compelling and a pleasure to read.

For background information and research for this novel, here is an interview with the author at The Hemingway Project website. May I also suggest Hadley, a biography by Gioia Diliberto?

Poet Paula McLain (Like Family : Growing up in Other People's Houses : a memoir) received an MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a resident of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. This is the first of her novels in our collection.

* * = Starred reviews

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.

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