Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 30, 2010

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

St. Martin's Press: See, Solve, Scale: How Anyone Can Turn an Unsolved Problem Into a Breakthrough Success by Danny Warshay

Harper: Free Love by Tessa Hadley

Walker Books Us: Ferryman by Claire McFall

Shadow Mountain: The Slow March of Light by Heather B Moore

Berkley Books: Women who defied the odds. These are their stories. Enter giveaway!

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Shadow Mountain: Missing Okalee by Laura Ojeda Melchor


Image of the Day: Let's Eat!

EATALY, the food and wine center in the former Toy Building in New York City, is modeled on the Turin original and opens tomorrow. It features a Rizzoli Bookstore boutique, the only bookselling site in the 36,500-sq.-ft. "temple of gastronomy," as Rizzoli president Marco Ausenda put it. The bookstore will sell titles on food, wine and travel, with an emphasis on Italian cuisine, artisanal foods and the Slow Food and locavore movements. Rizzoli will manage all booksignings by the chefs who give classes and demonstrations in EATALY's cooking school, as well as host book signings and events in the store. Here Ausenda appears with chef Lidia Bastianich, one of EATALY's founders.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay

Obituary Note: Joe Drabyak

Very, very sad news.

Joe Drabyak, a bookseller at Chester County Book & Music Co., West Chester, Pa., for 16 years and president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, died Friday night. He had been diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year.

A memorial service will be held this fall.

Already this weekend many people remembered Joe:

Acting NAIBA president Lucy Kogler of Talking Leaves, Buffalo, N.Y., in an e-mail to NAIBA members: "All of us on the NAIBA Board are better at our jobs as directors and as booksellers because of Joe's tenure and especially because of the leadership shown during his presidency....

"To say that Joe was one of the people who, if you are lucky, comes into your life and makes it larger is to understate his full impact. He was a teacher, and so very skilled, that we didn't know that lessons were taking place. We learned patience, kindness, generosity of spirit, humor and love--of books, of life, of family and friends. Many of the authors who met him recognized this about him, too, and paid tribute by naming characters after him....

"We will miss him every day. We will invoke his memory whenever we are together. We will laugh at all his enthusiastic and creative ways of having non-author events. We will look toward the direction of our own beliefs and thank that creator for having given us this man."

Chris Kerr of Parson Weems: "Joe was an exceptionally kind, open person; happily and enthusiastically committed to connecting readers with books. Lucky was the rep who had a title Joe chose to endorse; he could sell hundreds of copies of anything he believed in."

Larry Portzline of Bookstore Tourism: "He was an absolutely wonderful guy, and the book world will miss him. He was an early supporter of Bookstore Tourism and a real believer in my mission. I'll be forever grateful for that, but more than anything I'll miss his friendship, his warmth, his wild sense of humor, and his vast knowledge of books. He's gone much too soon."

Len Vlahos of the American Booksellers Association: "He was a great bookseller and a great man, and he will be sorely, sorely missed by all of his friends and colleagues."

Carl Lennertz of HarperCollins: "I don't know if many people know this but Joe sent in the first ever Book Sense nomination, and when I told him a few months ago that Neil McMahon names a cop after him in the manuscript he just sent in, Joe said that makes eight times there's a character named Drabyak in a book! That's just one testament to what he means to the book community, especially to all the authors' books he's handsold. The name, the passion, that smile will live on."
Craig Popelars of Algonquin: "I can't count how many times over the last few months where I've had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes thinking about Joe. Hillary Jordan told me that she has a character in her forthcoming novel named Congressman Joe Drabyak. I went to the Chester County site and flipped through the staff picks and every other title was an Algonquin title that Joe handsold the hell out of. Joe's passion for our books was pretty much my marketing plan for everything that Algonquin published. Screw a New York Times ad, let's just get Joe to read the damn book!"'

Stephanie Anderson, WORD: "I met Joe sitting in a hallway during my first NAIBA conference; he introduced himself, asked where I worked and what I'd read lately that I'd loved. It wasn't until the next day when I saw him speak at an awards ceremony that I learned he was the president of NAIBA and therefore should have been way too busy and important to have been stopping in the hallway and asking some random bookseller what she thought about the fall lists. Except that Joe was never too busy or important for anybody, especially if they had a good book to talk to him about. I didn't know Joe as well as I would have liked, but we still found a chance to talk whenever we were at the same conference. He always had two questions for me: 'What are you reading lately that's good?' and [in reference to tattoos] 'Any new ink?' "

Susan L. Weis of breathe books: "I think this man read more books than anyone else on earth, and he was mentioned in at least half a dozen! Joe's passing leaves a huge void not only in the in the bookselling world, but in hearts of many lives. People just loved Joe. His love for books and music was so infectious. And he was as great a storyteller as he was a book pusher!
"I will so miss being greeted by his devilish laugh as he did a little disco dance and showed off his New Age expertise by calling me "Chakra Kahn-Chakra Kahn" and inquiring about my Aura and Karma. I am so glad I was able to spend time with him in July, as he held court in the cafe of Chester County Books and Music. He was an angel of a man and I feel so blessed to have known him."

Eileen Dengler, executive director of NAIBA: "Joe always said he was fortunate. He had a loving wife whose own career enabled him to be a 'kept man' and to pursue his bookselling career. He felt fortunate not to be a store owner, so his focus wasn't on payroll but on books and getting them into the right hands. He was a career NAIBA man, serving as a conference speaker every year as well as on the board for eight years and as our president for the past four years.
"Joe loved his bookselling community; he loved the authors, he loved the customers, he loved his fellow booksellers, he loved the publishers and reps who brought him all those great books. I hope this season we can embrace those same things in our own lives and enjoy them with a new fervor in Joe's memory. Just because we can.
"Even if you didn't know Joe Drabyak, there is a Joe inside us all and a Joe inside all our stores. Joe's enthusiasm was infectious. His mind was always racing for ways to promote books in a fun and creative way; to help the new author. We all miss him."


We at Shelf Awareness remember Joe as a gracious, warm, generous, funny, sly, incredibly well-read man who loved books, authors and talking about books and authors. He always gave "good quote," and sometimes quietly tipped us off about books he adored that he thought weren't getting the attention they needed. He was a joy to watch presiding over meetings or speaking at panels or introducing authors--all of whom so obviously had deep bonds with him. He took great pleasure in having the floor and was both informative and entertaining. He found humor in most any situation, and as he slowly told a joke or threw a funny line into a presentation, he tried to hold back a smile but usually it formed just as the audience understood what amusing path he had taken us down.

Joe had a previous career that explained some of his showmanship: he was an arts and entertainment administrator who produced many concerts, including, as he proudly mentioned to us several times, the first public performance of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

He enjoyed life in many ways: he introduced us to Conundrum wine, a delicious white vintage that we have always and will always associate with one of the finest men in bookselling.--John Mutter


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!

Notes: Return of The Messenger

WKYT has the amazing story of the survival of an autographed copy of a book taken on a Comair plane that crashed and killed everyone aboard in 2006.

The book was The Messenger by Daniel Silva and had been purchased just before the flight by Les Morris, who died with his wife, Kay. The two were parents of Wyn Morris, who founded the Morris Book Shop, Lexington, Ky., two years after the crash, in part because the deaths acted as a kind of wakeup call for him (Shelf Awareness, February 14, 2008).

Morris told WKYT that his father had met and spoken with Silva but never got to read the book. "When we were kind of faced with the task of going into the house and kind of collecting things up, I found the jacket to The Messenger, the book that I knew he has with him," Morris said.

The station continued: "Months after the crash, Morris received a catalog of crash victims' personal effects that were aboard the ill-fated flight. While flipping through it, he made a stunning discovery. Inside was a photo of Les Morris' personalized signed copy of The Messenger completely intact. Through the mangled wreckage and intense fire that followed the crash, the book emerged virtually unscathed."

"It just felt really good to bring it home in a sense, this thing that I knew was special to my Dad, that he had had with him, and just to have it back felt like have a piece of him," Morris said, adding that his parents' deaths spurred him to act on at least one long-held unfulfilled ambition: "Everyday could be your last day, accidents happen and it is kind of a wake up call to stop screwing around and stop talking about what you want to do someday. Whether it is travel, or get a motorcycle, or fly in a hot air balloon, or God forbid open a bookstore."


Addressing a Telegraph story saying that the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary will never appear in print (see below), a spokesperson for Oxford University Press told the Oxford Times:

"No decision has yet been made on the format of the third edition. It's likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published and a decision on format will be taken at that point. Lexicographers are currently preparing the third edition of the OED, which is 28 per cent complete. No final completion date is yet confirmed."

The Telegraph had quoted none other than Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press, as saying, "The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year." When asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he replied, "I don't think so."

Simon Winchester, author of The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, told the Telegraph that "Until six months ago I was clinging to the idea that printed books would likely last for ever. Since the arrival of the iPad I am now wholly convinced otherwise. The printed book is about to vanish at extraordinary speed. I have two complete OEDs, but never consult them--I use the online OED five or six times daily. The same with many of my reference books--and soon with most. Books are about to vanish; reading is about to expand as a pastime; these are inescapable realities."

More on the story in 2020.


Relativity Media, which has bought the film rights to Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, which goes on sale September 24, will begin promoting the novel now, even before a screenplay has been written, Wall Street Journal reported.

Relativity produced Dear John, based on Sparks's novel of the same name, and hopes to bring out the film of Safe Haven late next year.

Sparks's film deal called for such a marketing campaign--maybe a first--which will include building social communities for the book that will feature "a variety of interactive experiences and contests," including possibly a walk-on role in the film and the chance to meet Sparks during production. The idea is that the book fan base will remain engaged and morph into movie fans, too.


Seth Marko, a bookseller at Warwick's bookstore, La Jolla, Calif., was interviewed by NPR affiliate KPBS Radio about his recent odyssey reading a chapter a day of James Patterson's 9th Judgment and blogging about his attempt to "understand the appeal of the world's highest paid author."


With all the news recently about the reading habits of President Obama and his daughters, ABC News decided to give equal time to Michelle Obama by reporting that the First Lady is currently reading an advance copy of The Grace of Silence by NPR's Michele Norris.

And in a stroke of brilliance, when the Obamas arrived, Pam Clarke at Edgartown Books sent a basket of hand-picked titles for the family to enjoy on their vacation, as the Boston Herald reported.

--- examined the "next wave of e-readers," noting that "brand new Kindle devices from Amazon just hit the market, and more new e-readers (both real and rumored) are expected very soon. So what's next for the world of e-readers?"


Five new books that "serve up stories and recipes that trace the multiethnic and cultural origins of what our country eats" were featured in the Seattle Times.


Check out a very cool bookcase here, one that makes a user look at the square states in the middle of the country with new appreciation.


Book trailer of the day: The Deeds of My Fathers: How My Grandfather and Father Built New York and Created the Tabloid World of Today by David Pope (A Philip Turner Book/Rowman & Littlefield), which will be published in October.


In a "private" trip to Harvard and the surrounding neighborhood, new Boston Celtic Shaquille O'Neal stopped in the Harvard Book Store, where he waited patiently in line and bought two books, according to the Boston Globe.



Chronicle Books: Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel

BookFest @ Bank Street

Registration opens today for BookFest @ Bank Street, to be held at the Bank Street College of Education on Saturday, October 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Laurie Halse Anderson (Forge; Chains; Speak; Winter Girls) will deliver the keynote speech; Leonard S. Marcus will lead a panel in celebration of the 100th birthday of Bank Street alum Margaret Wise Brown; and Inaugural National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka will lead a panel discussion of how to write for kids who can read but choose not to. Discussion groups will focus on the themes of humor in picture books, transitional readers, poetry and teen fiction.

"BookFest @ Bank Street is an event devoted to the celebration, discover, and discussion of books for children and teens," said Lisa Von Drasek, coordinator of school services and children's librarian at the Bank Street College of Education. BookFest, founded in 1971 by Frances Henne, a faculty member of the School of Library Service at Columbia University, is also known as Velma Varner Day, in honor of Henne's close friend and colleague, Velma Varner, editor of Viking Press. The event has been hosted by Columbia University, Teachers College and the New York Public Library. Registration closes September 10. Advance registration is required; there will be no onsite registration. The $65 fee includes continental breakfast and a box lunch.


Berkley Books: Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier

Shelf Awareness Volleys with Patrick McEnroe

With the U.S. Open starting today, Laurie Lico Albanese talked with Patrick McEnroe--ESPN analyst and commentator and captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team--about the state of American tennis, his career on and off the courts, what it was like growing up with his famous older brother, John, and his book, Hardcourt Confidential: Tales from Twenty Years in the Pro Tennis Trenches (Hyperion). She even managed to slip in a question about steroid use in tennis.

What prompted you to write Hardcourt Confidential?

It's funny because I'd been approached a few years back about possibly doing a book and after a couple of discussions with some agents and publishers, it became apparent that publishers were looking for a book about me being the brother of... I wasn't interested in doing that kind of book, so I put that on the shelf. About a year and a half ago, Peter Bodo, who was my Tennis for Dummies writing partner, brought me in to meet with a couple of book agents, and they said a book on tennis and the state of tennis would be really interesting. I said, "I can write that book in my sleep, so let's do it!"

What was surprising to you about writing the book? Did you discover anything you didn't know or realize before?

I realized more than ever that I've been extremely lucky to be in the position that I've been in. I've seen the game from almost every angle--player, coach, brother, captain, commentator and now as an administrator. I've seen the game from the boardroom and locker room, from on the screen and behind the screen. I don't think anyone had ever really done a book that was somewhat historical on tennis, somewhat autobiographical and somewhat opinionated. I wanted to put all that in the book, and I did.

With Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams out of the U.S. Open, what do you think's going to happen?

It's been very disappointing for [del Potro] and for tennis that he hasn't been able to play all year. He had a chance to become #1 and maybe he still will be someday, but with him out, Federer and Andy Murray are in place, and also Nadal. For the women, with Serena out, that really opens things up. When Serena plays in any tournament it's always about Serena. She's a force. Now the other women should be licking their chops.

Do you think Andy Roddick has a chance this year?

Roddick's had some health problems earlier this summer, but he's got his health back to 100%, and I still think he has a shot. He's not a favorite, but he's one of the players who's in contention. Also Mardy Fish, John Isner who played that marathon match at Wimbledon and Sam Querry. Roddick, Fish and Querry are our three best chances for the men.

In the book, you talk about whether players have to play their own game or adjust to their opponent's game. 

The best players are the ones who are able to make their opponents as uncomfortable as possible. Tennis is all about match-ups and all about understanding what your opponent does and what you do to your opponent and what kind of effect that has. Players who say, "I'm just going to go out and play my game"--they're full of it! You have to adjust your game, it's all about having variety in your game.

Do you think there is steroid use in tennis?

There have been occasions where people have been caught using some form of steroid or amphetamine and been dealt with harshly. The punishment in tennis is pretty severe. There's constant and consistent testing for the best players, so I would be surprised if there was any use [among top players].

How does your relationship with your brother compare (or not) with the Williams sisters' relationship?

My brother and I are eight years apart. We're close, we run in the same circles, but it's not like we're joined at the hip. He's been my biggest fan, we've been through a lot, and we've had our moments obviously. We're competitive with each other, but at the end of the day we know that tennis has been good to us and we want to give back.

Is it hard being John's younger brother?

When I was struggling and deciding what I wanted to do when I graduated from Stanford, my mother, who was always worrying about me, said maybe you shouldn't follow tennis because maybe you'll never be as good as your brother, and my brother shut her down. He was the guy who supported me more than anybody when I was a little bit down in the dumps about my tennis game after I got out of college. And over the years we've really been there for each other.

The bottom line is just to follow your dreams, do the things that you want to do. I have kids who come up to me all the time and they feel that they're competing against their older siblings. I always ask myself what's the best thing for me to do. It so happens I followed in the footsteps of my brother--because I was good at it and I was successful at it. At the end of the day you have to do what you want, what you're good at and what's best for you.

Do you and your wife have children?

We have three girls. A four-and-a-half year old and 21-month-old twins. When I was a kid, I always wanted to have a younger sister--we were three boys, no girls. And now I have three daughters. It's great.

Does it bug you when people ask you about John?

No. Look, if Björn Borg had a younger brother, I'd want to know what their relationship was like. I think that's natural.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Laura and Jorge Posada in Today Show Lineup

This morning on the Today Show: Zac Bissonnette, author of Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, orMooching off My Parents (Portfolio Trade, $16, 9781591842989/1591842980).


Today on Diane Rehm: Scott Simon, author of Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption (Random House, $22, 9781400068494/1400068495).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Meghan McCain, author of Dirty Sexy Politics (Hyperion, $23.99, 9781401323776/1401323774).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Laura and Jorge Posada, authors of The Beauty of Love: A Memoir of Miracles, Hope, and Healing (Atria, $24, 9781439103081/1439103089).

Also on Today: Kristen McGuiness, author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life (Soft Skull Press, $15.95, 9781593764135/1593764138).


Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Laura Lippman, author of I'd Know You Anywhere (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061706554/0061706558).


Movies: The Raven

John Cusack will play Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, "set in the last five days of Poe's life, when a serial killer is running around Baltimore using Poe's stories as the backdrops to his killings," Variety reported. The Hannah Shakespeare/Ben Livingston script imagines that "Poe and a young detective have a ticking clock to outsmart the killer before he kills again."



Television: Too Big to Fail

William Hurt has been cast as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in HBO's movie version of Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves.

Curtis Hanson will direct the project, which begins shooting this fall. Peter Gould wrote the script. reported that HBO "had originally intended to make the film using their financial crisis book, All the Devils Are Here, as the basis for the film, but it wasn't completed in time to be used as source material for Gould's script."


Books & Authors

Awards: New Zealand Choice; Guardian First Book Longlist

The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley (Scholastic New Zealand) has won the Nielsen Book Data New Zealand Booksellers' Choice Award 2010, which recognizes the book booksellers most enjoyed selling in the past year.


Ten titles were named to the longlist for this year's £10,000 (US$15,523) Guardian First Book Award, "with subjects covered including everything from the itinerant experience of the Somali community to Churchill's 'black dog,' " the Guardian reported.

"This year's longlist brings together a younger generation of writers who have moved beyond the social realism of Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, and are pushing at the boundaries of realist fiction," said Guardian literary editor Claire Armitstead. The shortlist for this year's prize will be announced in late October, and the winner named at the beginning of December.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt
Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman
Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam
Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman
Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Bomber County: The Lost Airmen of World War Two by Daniel Swift
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris
Curfewed Night: A Frontline Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir by Basharat Peer

The Floating Man by Katharine Towers


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:


Displaced Persons: A Novel by Ghita Schwarz (Morrow, $25, 9780061881909/0061881902). "This is a bold first novel about those who survived the Holocaust and how they continued to live their lives after the horrors of the war. Beginning in 1945, Pavel, Fela, and Chaim meet and become fast friends. After emigrating to America, the three start families and created new lives, all without discussing their experiences with anyone. The weight they carry inside themselves affects their lives and those of their children. Displaced Persons is a story of survival, but it is also about rebuilding ones life and maintaining the promise of hope."--Sherri Gallentine, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago
by Douglas Perry (Viking, $25.95, 9780670021970/0670021970). "Chicago during Prohibition in the year 1924 was a dangerous place to be an adulterer and a great place to be a killer. A lady killer. Just ask Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, two murderesses who became media sensations thanks to Maurine Watkins, a lowly 'girl reporter' for the Chicago Tribune. With detailed accounts of Jazz Age Chicago and 'Murderess Row' in Cook County Jail, Perry highlights a time when newspapers clamored over these killers, giving birth to the celebrity criminal and the power behind the manipulations of the mighty press."--Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich.


The Homecoming Party by Carmine Abate (Europa Editions, $15, 9781933372839/1933372834). "The Christmas bonfire, a communal effort held in the church courtyard, is the scene of an annual homecoming party in an Albanian-speaking village in Calabria. For Tullio, a victim of the crushing poverty of southern Italy who is forced to seek work as a manual laborer in France where he leads an isolated life most of the year, it is a time to renew social ties with village friends and family, and to resume his paternal responsibilities. The bonfire is where Tullio and his son Marco tell their tales, share sorrows and frustrations, and cast off painful memories of the long absences. This Christmas, to mark Marco's passage to manhood, will be different."--Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, Conn.

For Ages 9 to 12

Countdown: A Novel by Deborah Wiles (Scholastic Press, $17.99, 9780545106054/0545106052). "In this fantastic debut historical novel, 11-year-old Franny is growing up in the early 1960s against a backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. What makes this book unique is the nonfiction component that Wiles integrates into the book. Between each chapter there are pages of real images from the 1960s that serve to help the reader better imagine the era."--Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books and Music, Rhinebeck, N.Y.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


The Popularity Tour with Amy Ignatow, Part II

Amy Ignatow is blogging for us as she and her husband, Mark, tour for her debut book, The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang (Amulet/Abrams). Her previous post is here.


Indianapolis was great. We checked into a nice hotel, saw a minor league baseball game at Victory Field and met the greatest reader ever at Kids Ink, this girl named Carolyn who excitedly informed me that she'd read The Popularity Papers SIX TIMES. If she thought it was a thrill to meet me, she had no idea what it meant for me to meet her. SIX TIMES. She was hoping to read it 10 times. When I told her that there was a sequel on the way, her mouth literally dropped open. I am the luckiest author in the whole world.

We left Indianapolis at around five and drove to Terre Haute to spend the night. The plan was to have a leisurely morning, drive to St. Louis, see some sort of fire-breathing metal dragon on the way (thank you, Roadside America), go to the top of the St. Louis arch and poke around the city until it was time to meet up with the Pudd'nHead Books people at the library at 6ish.

That was the plan, anyway.

At 12:15 that night I got a text. It's sort of a miracle that I was even awake to hear the buzz, but Mark was listening to the 16th inning of a Phillies game on his computer, and I was immersed in my brand spankin' new copy of Mockingjay.

Amy--Melissa from Pudd'nHead Books. Are you ok with your directions for your two school visits tomorrow morning? Sorry for the late text!


Back when we were planning this trip there had been some talk of school visits, but due to some sort of e-mailing/confirming/Hand of Loki, the Trickster God snafu, it had never made it onto our schedule, and we were in a hotel in Terre Haute at midnight, three hours away from St. Louis with a school visit at nine the next morning. After some extreme panicking on my part and some calm, level-headed decision-making on Mark's, I called Melissa and told her that we'd be there. Tired, but there.

Oh Amy, you say, you could have slept a solid five hours before hitting the road to St. Louis. Well you try sleeping after reading Mockingjay for three hours and then suffering a massive panic attack. I didn't sleep a wink. All I could think about was How I could have not double-checked my events, Was Peeta going to be okay, and OH MY GOD I'M NOT FALLING ASLEEP I'M GOING TO COLLAPSE IN FRONT OF 200 ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KIDS. I was a mess.

But here's what's wonderful: driving from Terre Haute to St. Louis in the wee hours--the roads are clear, the moon in the night sky is huge and beautiful, and you get to watch the sun come up over the Mississippi River.

The school programs went really well--the kids had a good time and Melissa sold a pile of books. Put me in front of a heap of kids, and I'm good. Later, after Mark and I had oohed and ahhed at the view from the top of the St. Louis Arch, we sat down to watch a 1960s film on how the arch was made and I passed out. Now I'll never know how they made that thing.

We'd survived most of the day--all that was left was the evening event. As we walked up to the St. Louis County Library, Melissa and Nikki from Pudd'nHead were waiting at the front door with a young, dark-haired man--my literary agent from New York, Dan Lazar. For a moment I was convinced that the fatigue had gotten to me and I was just stone cold hallucinatin'. It was like seeing Batman make an appearance on Scooby Doo. But it was really him. He was visiting with his Pudd'nHead friends and had planned the trip around my appearance (at right: Dan, Amy and Melissa).

Am I not the luckiest author in the whole world?

After the library event we bid a fond farewell to Dan and the awesome Pudd'nHead ladies and headed north to visit friends in Des Moines. Then we went on to Omaha to do an event at Bookworm and discover what a real Omaha hamburger will do to intestines that haven't encountered red meat since the mid 1990s (nothing good). Right now we've just crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, Denver-bound. Every 20 or so miles, Mark will turn to me and say, "Look, corn!"


Ignatow is posting more about her travels here.


Book Review

Book Review: Zero History

Zero History by William Gibson (Putnam Adult, $26.95 Hardcover, 9780399156823, September 2010)

Since the publication of Neuromancer in 1984, William Gibson has written his novels in loose trilogies, and the sequence that began with Pattern Recognition (2003) and Spook Country (2007) and ends now with Zero History, has revolved around the character of Hubertus Bigend, a Belgian multibillionaire who owns a mysterious media/advertising company called Blue Ant. In Gibson's reimaginings of the post-Cold War (and post-9/11) thriller, Bigend has emerged as a not entirely unsympathetic iteration on what a Bond villain might look like in the real world (right down to the implausible master plan that comes to fruition at the end of Zero History). When you read the novels in quick succession, you realize they all follow the same narrative template: Bigend hires a woman to investigate a subcultural phenomenon; somewhere along the line, spies--both active and retired--involve themselves in the events. In order to keep that storyline fresh the third time around, Gibson would have to either tell us more about the characters or plunge them into weirder scenarios, and he uses both approaches here to successful effect.

Zero History takes two characters who circled around the plot of Spook Country without coming into direct contact--Hollis Henry, a rock star turned freelance journalist, and Milgrim, a recovered junkie who's been pressed into Blue Ant's services under ambiguous circumstances--and sets them on the trail of Gabriel Hounds, an anti-fashion line of clothing that, as Bigend puts it in his typically gnomic way, "may prove to be a somewhat new way to transmit brand vision" through "a certain genuinely provocative use of negative space." (Translation: You can't buy it in stores or even on eBay; you really do have to know the right people and be in the right place at the right time.) This search may be related to Milgrim's other Blue Ant assignment, which involves bootleg copies of apparel from special forces units--a project where the lines between industrial espionage and paramilitary operations are quickly blurred.

As with any Gibson novel, the window dressing is as important as the characters, and Zero History is packed with interesting details like the decor in Cabinet, a private club where Hollis's room features a birdcage stacked with books (including, with undoubtedly significant specificity, Geoffrey Household's 1939 novel Rogue Male), or "the ugly T-shirt," which is emblazoned with a design that's actually programming code: "Surveillance cameras can all see it, but then they forget they've seen it." It's easy to miss some of these details, given the frenetic pacing of the story, but their accumulative subconscious effect is strong. "The future is already here," Gibson once said in an interview. "It's just not evenly distributed." Zero History, like its two predecessors, shows us where it's landed first.--Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Fans of Gibson's last two novels will find plenty of Easter eggs to reward their loyalty; newcomers won't be completely lost, but the background reading might help.



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