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Thursday, February 19, 2004

News o' the morning 

And, what's this? Can it be? Maslin not reviewing airport fiction? Why, that can't be possible...but of course, it is. And it's a book about the history of Texas, to boot. (Pun not necessarily intended.)

I'd said I would comment about the Agatha nominations but really, I have little to say. I don't read much in the way of soft-boiled or cozy mysteries, though I can recommend Erin Hart's debut novel HAUNTED GROUND and Elaine Flinn's DEALING IN MURDER is getting a lot of good notices.

Speaking of PBO authors, the Sacramento Bee had a feature on Robin Burcell, most recently the novel of COLD CASE. She's a police officer and writes a series about policewoman Kate Gillespie, though she's leaving that series behind for her next book or two.

Newsday raves about Bruce Murkoff's WATERBORNE, a fictionalized account of the building of Hoover Dam. They ask "where Murkoff has been hiding out during his 50 years on the planet, but his talents as deft storyteller and writer of burnished prose are present on every page." The SF Chronicle, however, is less enthusiastic about Murkoff's literary charms.

Robert Irwin, author of THE ALHAMBRA, presents his top ten books on Islam and Muslim culture in today's Guardian.

Jonathan Yardley finds Mark Katz's book about his life as a joke writer for President Clinton (!) to be too self-referential and self-absorbed. I loved this line: Katz by my reckoning is now 40 years old, but he doesn't seem to have grown much beyond the ninth-grade kid at Felix V. Festa Junior High in suburban New York who got off this book's one genuinely funny line, which is when his teacher botches the word "quiz" into "quizzicle" and Katz calls her on it in teenage toilet humor fashion. According to Yardley, Katz hasn't been funny since.

Yiyun Li, whose fiction cracked the New Yorker and who has inked a book deal for a short story collection and novel, is the winner of the Paris Review's first annual Plimpton Prize. I could have sworn this announcement was made ages ago, but perhaps not.

It seems that the popularity of Alexander McCall Smith's #1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY Series has not extended to India. In a review of the 4th book in the series, the Business Standard declares, "The fat lady may have sung a trifle early, but she was one hell of a dame for a while."

In the 1960s, Broadside Press, a Detroit-based small press, was the leading publisher for African-American fiction. Now Melba Boyd has written a biography of Dudley Randall, the man behind the publishing house.

And finally, so much for background checks: a killer who nailed his victim to the floor landed a small role in THE JACKET, a Clooney-Soderbergh coproduction starring Keira Knightley and Adrian Brody that's shooting now in Scotland. Though the producers were furious when they found out, hey, he queued up just like any other sap who wanted to audition....

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