Bunch of Grapes bookstore will return to Islanders Write this summer to host author signings. Since seven of the authors participating in the event on August 8 had books published in the past four months, we thought we’d take a peek at the newest books on the block and the writers who wrote them.
After covering the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, Walter Shapiro will head to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Shapiro, a longtime columnist whose work can now be read in Roll Call, will be part of the Islanders Write kickoff panel with a discussion on “The Media and the Making of a President” (7:30 pm on Sunday, August 7). His new book is “Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian who Fooled the Führer” (Blue Rider Press, June 2016). For most of his life, Mr. Shapiro assumed that the outlandish stories about his Great-Uncle Freeman were exaggerated family lore — then he started doing his research. It turned out his family was actually holding back. Mr. Shapiro’s Great-Uncle Freeman was a vaudeville manager, boxing promoter, stock swindler, card shark, and self-proclaimed “Jade King of China.” But his greatest title, perhaps the only man who can claim such an honor, was as the Man Who Hustled Hitler.
While on the topic of unforgettable book titles, let’s turn to Joshua Hammer, a 2016 National Magazine Award winner and internationally based journalist. Hammer’s new book is titled “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts” (Simon & Schuster, April 2016). Hammer tells the story of how a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulled off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven. In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. In 2012, thousands of al-Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed shari’a law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
Joshua Hammer and Walter Shapiro, along with Meryl Gordon and moderator Arnie Reisman, will discuss techniques used in research and writing narrative nonfiction, and how to find those stories hidden in history, during the “Mining History for Story” panel (9:30 am).
Arnie Reisman, the moderator of “Mining History for Story,” composes in many media. As a documentary film producer and writer, his film “The Powder & the Glory” (co-produced by Ann Carol Grossman) focused on the business rivalry of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. The film, which aired on PBS in 2009, has been adapted into the musical “War Paint,” starring Broadway legends Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, and just opened in Chicago at the Goodman Theater on July 18.
Mr. Reisman’s new book, “Sodom and Costello” (Summerset Press, June 2016), is a book of poetry. Mr. Reisman, Martha’s Vineyard’s poet laureate, said the poems in this collection “sprouted from a fevered brain that sees two sides to everything and sometimes welds them together.”
Dr. Peter Kramer, a psychiatrist and the author of seven books, including the International (and New York Times) bestseller “Listening to Prozac,” certainly knows a lot about fevered brains. Kramer’s new book, “Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 2016), was picked as an editor’s choice in the New York Times Book Review. The book, which has already sparked a lot of discussion, combines moving accounts of his patients’ dilemmas with an eye-opening history of drug research that casts antidepressants in a new light.
Dr. Kramer, along with Alexandra Styron, Susan Wilson, and John Hough Jr., will be speaking on “Revisions, Rejection, and Moving On” (8:30 am).
Since all three speakers on “The Mystery of Mystery Writing” panel (10:30 am) recently published new books, we posed this question to them: What’s the most difficult part of writing a mystery?
Linda Fairstein: “For me, the most difficult part of crafting a mystery is plotting a resolution that holds the reader in suspense to the end, while also making good sense.” Ms. Fairstein, a best-selling novelist and the former chief of the sex crimes unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, has penned another killer book. Her latest Alexandra Cooper novel, “Killer Look,” is a heart-pounding thriller that explores the dark secrets of Manhattan’s iconic fashion scene.
Cynthia Riggs: “Because I don’t plot my mysteries, the most difficult part is about three-quarters of the way through when I think, How am I going to pull all this miscellaneous stuff together? I sulk about that for a few days, and then, quite suddenly — a light flashes on. I know who the perp is! Happens every time.” Riggs’s newest Victoria Trumbull novel, “Bloodroot: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery” (Minotaur Books, May 2016), begins with just another day at the dentist’s office — that is, until the wealthy Mrs. Wilmington dies. Riggs is the author of 13 books in the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series featuring her detective, 92-year-old poet Victoria Trumbull.
Avram Ludwig: “I find writing in the classic mystery form very hard. To compete with the greats, Conan Doyle, Christie, and Chandler, on the deduction of who done the murder is a tall order. I take up that challenge by putting the crime into the story of ‘Shooting the Sphinx.’ My central character is not a detective, but a film producer going to Egypt to shoot a helicopter shot of the Sphinx. He doesn’t want to see the murder coming. It would mess things up for him. In my story, no one expects the murder, not even the killer.” ‘Shooting the Sphinx’ (Forge Trade Hardcover, June 2016), Ludwig’s first novel, is based on his experiences shooting four movie projects in the Middle East.
If you cannot make it to the event, or would like preorder a personalized copy of one of these books, or a book from any of the other Islanders Write authors, please contact Bunch of Grapes at 508-693-2291. For more information about Islanders Write, visit islanderswrite.com.