Monday, 20 October 2014

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy, which will be released on October 21, 2014is the memoir of Bryan Stevenson, an activist lawyer and co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. The centre of the novel is the story of Walter McMillan, whom Stevenson represented in the 1980s. McMillan was accused of the murder of a young white woman in Monroeville, Alabama--ironically, the hometown of Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, which tells the story of a black man falsely accused of the rape of a white woman.

McMillan had been having an affair with the woman and was convicted at trial of her murder despite the fact that numerous eye witnesses provided him with an alibi. The predominantly white jury (eleven of its members were white) returned a sentence of life in prison, which  the judge, Robert E. Lee Key, converted to a death sentence. McMillan was finally exonerated and released in 1993. He died last year.

In Stevenson's own words: "We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”

For information on the Equal Justice Initiative, please click here.

For information on the exoneration of Walter McMillan, please click here.

For a review of Just Mercy, please click here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Thanks, Gang!

Boo-boo (in front) and Mimi

Today is the Canadian Thanksgiving, and I thought it would be a good time to take stock of all the things for which I'm thankful. My family, of course, comes first to mind and then the people who have supported and encouraged me throughout my life. But I'd also like to mention the pets who have enriched my life and given me lots of smiles.

Aside from the usual suspects to which I introduced you in a previous blog, I have two additions to the menagerie: Boo-boo and Mimi, female tabby cats who were in need of a home. My son has a third cat from the same litter named Ewok. (For those of you who are snickering, please note that I did not choose these names.) Ewok has become a good friend of Minnie, also a tabby, and together they rule my son's apartment.

I had forgotten how energetic cats could be at a young age, and I'm trying to keep up as they climb my back when I'm sitting at my desk, giving me a none-too-subtle hint that they want to take over my chair. I've nicknamed Boo-boo "The Flash" for her ability to appear two steps ahead of me at any given time. And I woke up the other morning to see Mimi walking along the top of the bedroom door, having climbed up the clothes I had hanging there on an over-the-door hook.

There is the continuing saga of my Siamese cat Sammy, who is currently on a diet and needs to lose nine pounds.  He's eating a special "satiety" food from the vet's which is supposed to make him feel fuller and eat less. So far, he's lost almost two pounds, which isn't bad because it's hard to use the words "Sammy" and "sated" in the same sentence.

And of course there are my two dogs, Charley and Cody, who accompany me on my walks, and there is my oldest cat, Tiger, who has a unique personality and has already passed on to Mimi his annoying habit of meowing for food when his bowl is full.

Thank you, gang, for making my life a lot more interesting!

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Books We Talk About

There's an interesting post on the New York Review of Books blog concerning the books we talk about.  The post is written by Tim Parks, and it explores past novels from Laurence Stern's Tristam Shandy and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles to such contemporary works as E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

Parks refers to the "social function of a novel" as "[a] shared subject of discussion. Something complex for minds to meet around. . . .  Novels are ideal subjects for testing the ground between us."

He notes that with the proliferation of novels today, it is sometimes difficult to find common ground unless we settle on a blockbuster or media-hyped work. He also notes the role of "chance" in making a novel one that is likely to generate discussion.

For my part, I can't help thinking that the amount of publicity given to a novel, its marketability as a film or television spin-off, and the fact that it is written by an author whose name is instantly recognizable are all major factors in making a novel--for better or worse--the subject of conversation.

For the full text of the blog post, please click here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Button Legacy: Emily's Inheritance by Ginger Marcinkowski

In August 2012, The Overnight Bestseller featured a guest post by Ginger Marcinkowski. At that time, Ginger had published her first novel, Run, River Currents, which was a  semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Awards, and a 2013 Kindle Book Award Finalist. We're pleased to review Ginger's most recent novel, The Button Legacy: Emily's Inheritance.

Book Summary

Growing up, Emily Evans of Run, River Currents had always shared a special understanding with her grandfather, John Polk, even when she couldn’t fully see beyond the darkness of her father’s abuse. Yet John looked to the future in faith to what his God could do.

Years after her grandfather’s death, the unexpected delivery of the decorated tin, still brimming with odd-colored buttons, unlocks the joyous memories and lets Emily realize she has finally discovered the secret her grandfather promised lay within the stories of the worn button box.

Told through the eyes of a devout grandfather, The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance laces together a godly heritage and the power of one man’s prayers, offering a lesson of how God’s grace can be seen even in the simplest thing—a button. This novel shares even more stories from The Button Legacy, a novella of Emily’s favorite stories.

Buy Link

 Author Bio

Ginger Marcinkowski was born in northern Maine along the Canadian border, a setting that plays a prominent role in her writings . Her debut novel, Run, River Currents, was published in August 2012. The Button Legacy, a novella, was published in June 2013, and was written as a prequel /sequel to Run, River Currents. The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance published in June 2014, is the full story of the Polk family's journey of faith told through buttons collected over generations.

Ginger has been a public speaker and visiting lecturer for many years. She has been a professional reader for the James Jones First Novel Award ($10,000 prize), and a judge for the ACFW ‘s prestigious Carol Awards. She is actively involved in the Hampton Roads Writers Association and is a member of the ACFW and Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and a columnist for Book Fun Magazine.

Our Review of  The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance

In Run, River Currents, we met Emily Evans, a victim of abuse by her father. In The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance, we learn the history of the preceding generations as we hear stories of her great-grandparents, grandparents, mother, and aunt. The author uses a simple narrative device to great effect. As a family member chooses a button from an antique tin, the story behind that button is told, and the history of the Polk family is revealed against the backdrop of a simple New Brunswick community. This is a story of faith maintained in the face of hardships and despair with the help of family and friends and the belief in the grace of God. This novel will appeal to readers of Christian fiction of all ages. Ms. Marcinkowski's elegant prose style engages the reader as we move effortlessly through the span of decades to hear the stories of a family that survives through the power of faith.

Related Sites

Goodreads Giveaway: For a chance to win a free copy of the novel, please click here.

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Georges Simenon and the Maigret Novels

I noted in an earlier blog that Georges Simenon's Maigret novels are being reissued by Penguin on a monthly basis. Six of these new editions of the Maigret novels have been issued to date

Julian Barnes has an interesting article in the Times Literary Supplement on Simenon and the Maigret novels. Barnes points out that Simenon's work was admired by such writers as Andre Gide and T.S. Eliot, among others. He suggests that Simenon's books were popular with "literary" writers both because of the positives of his writing--things he was able to do very well--and the "enviable" negatives-- things he got away with doing that other writers could not.

For the positives of Simenon's writing, Barnes cites his "swiftness of creation; swiftness of effect; clearly demarcated personal territory; intense atmosphere and resonant detail; knowledge of, and sympathy with, les petites gens; moral ambiguity; [and] a usually baffling plot with a usually satisfactory denouement." Among his enviable negatives were his simple prose (Simenon had a vocabulary of 2000 words), his brevity, his lack of rhetorical devices, and the lack of subtext in the novels. Simenon designed the Maigret books to be read in one sitting and made the vocabulary accessible to the general reader.

The article also contains some interesting anecdotes about Simenon and his work. For example, when the BBC re-created the Maigret stories on television, a local temperance group and Anglican bishop implored the producers to be less faithful to detail in portraying Maigret's daily alcohol consumption.

For the full text of the article, please see

Monday, 15 September 2014

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn's thriller Gone Girl, published in 2012, was critically acclaimed and became a NY Times bestseller. It tells the story of two out-of-work writers, Amy and Nick Dunne. Flynn used her own experience as a laid-off writer for Entertainment Weekly in developing the characters. (She is now among the world's wealthiest authors.)

Amy disappears and the reader is uncertain whether her husband has murdered her. The novel relies on unreliable narration, plot twists, and suspense to engage the reader, while exploring the psychology of long-term relationships.

If you enjoyed the novel, the film version will be released on October 3, 2014. Flynn wrote the screenplay.

To view the trailers for the movie, please see

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Perfect Crime Story

Crime fiction writer Niall Leonard, who writes television scripts and books for teens and young adults, has some interesting advice on how to write the "perfect" crime story.

Photo courtesy of  The Guardian
First, he suggests starting with a story that fascinates you as a writer so you can convey this enthusiasm to your readers. Second, he recommends a lot of research so your stories will ring true to life and be "far more interesting than anything you could dream up at your desk". His third point is not to drown your story in details. Remember that you're entertaining, not lecturing your reader. His other points include the importance of a protagonist in unraveling the crime, and the identification of motive(s). Also, he suggests that the killer should operate in plain sight of the reader from the beginning of the novel. He or she may have a rock-solid alibi, but it's through the actions of the characters that the mystery should be revealed rather than through the introduction of the killer at the end of the story like a deus ex machina. It's the writer's job, he contends, to hide the clues leading to the ultimate revelation of the killer as the book progresses.

And his final word of advice? " Perseverance, patience and resilience are essential." Even the most successful of today's crime novelists, he notes, took years to establish their reputation.

Leonard's advice is, of course, commonsensical, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of the basics of crime fiction writing.

For the full text of the article, please see