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Viewing Blog: Slushpile.net, Most Recent at Top
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1. A Rock Reunion Reminds Me of a Great Introduction

At the Guns ‘n Roses performance last night, I was reminded of Mick Wall’s stellar book W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose. In this 2008 release, the veteran British rock journalist delivers one of the best introductions to any book I have ever read. After returning home at 3am last night, I pulled the book off the shelf, read the intro, and yep, goosebumps.

Well worth checking out.

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2. Tiki Tales in Book About Famous Supper Club

Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus by David Myers, Elise Myers Walker, Jeff Chenault, & Doug Motz was released in 2014 and provides a unique look into the history of a tiki landmark in the Midwest of all places.

For almost four decades, the Kahiki Supper Club distinctive architecture highlighted the east side of Columbus, Ohio. Visited by celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor and others of the day, the restaurant set the precedent for many themed eateries to follow.

Here is a brief question and answer session with two of the authors, conducted at the time of the book’s release.

Full of intriguing pictures and stories of the people who staffed the Kahiki, this is a view into the Midwest that most people would never imagine existed.

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3. Tiki Tales in Book About Famous Supper Club

Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus by David Myers, Elise Myers Walker, Jeff Chenault, & Doug Motz was released in 2014 and provides a unique look into the history of a tiki landmark in the Midwest of all places.

For almost four decades, the Kahiki Supper Club distinctive architecture highlighted the east side of Columbus, Ohio. Visited by celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor and others of the day, the restaurant set the precedent for many themed eateries to follow.

Here is a brief question and answer session with two of the authors, conducted at the time of the book’s release.

Full of intriguing pictures and stories of the people who staffed the Kahiki, this is a view into the Midwest that most people would never imagine existed.

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4. Tales Book Tops in Service Industry Category

Rome 201

On Friday, Gawker insinuated that the back and forth of will-he-promote or won’t-he-promote discussion of Gay Talese’s new book was a publicity generator.

If so, it certainly seems to be paying off. The book is currently the 3,360 ranked title on Amazon. But it is #1 in the Service Industries category. A work about a guy who runs a motel specifically for the purpose of spying on his customers. That’s service for ya!

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5. Umm, Well, Now this is Uncomfortable


Less than two weeks prior to publication, an attention grabbing account of a motel voyeur is being abandoned by the author.

Gay Talese is a journalism giant. But evidently he overlooked a key detail of property ownership when documenting the story of Gerald Foos, a motel owner who spied on his guests. When the Washington Post pointed out a gap in property records, Talese responded “I should not have believed a word he said… I’m not going to promote this book…How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”

The Washington Post article further stated:

In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.

“The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” Talese said. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable. . . . I know that. . . . I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

I wonder how this will play out in regards to Talese’s book advance?

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6. The British Guide to Good Sense Going Away

BOOK IDEA! Free to any Brit author who wants to take it and run with it!

In recent days, the British people have dominated headlines around the globe. And whether you, dear reader, agree with their decisions, there can be no doubt that those folks know how to quit.

First, there was Prime Minister David Cameron.

The results of the Brexit referendum were announced in the morning on Friday, June 24. The very same day, Cameron announced his resignation, detailing an October end to his six-year tenure in office. Cameron lobbied that England should remain in the EU and when his position was rejected by a relatively narrow margin of 3.8%. Citing that loss, Cameron stated, “I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”

Second, there was England National Team coach Roy Hodgson. After four years leading the Three Lions into battle on the soccer pitch, Hodgson drew mixed reviews for his club’s performance in the group stages of the Euro 2016. Yesterday, the upstart Icelandic team smote down the Brits with the power of Thor’s hammer in a shocking upset. Well, not terribly shocking because England has a history of wilting in these situations. But still, a country with a population of 330,000 just knocked out the inventors of the game. Within 20 minutes of the final whistle, Hodgson resigned his post. “Now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of a hungry and extremely talented group of players,” he said. Now, to be fair, Hodgon’s contract was up and he knew it wouldn’t be renewed, but still, kudos to him for actually falling on his sword.

Contrast this with the American style of leadership, where immortality, invulnerability, and an absence of all shame are the requirements for the job. Nothing seems to get American leaders out of a job. Not a bad quarter on stock market, not a bad vote, not a bad game. Nothing. The American style is to deny, ignore, and hang on. When your term is finally, mercifully brought to an end somehow, you remain ever present on the scene, constantly opening your should-be-humiliated mouth to opine on how you were right all along.

Anyway, so here’s my book suggestion:

Write an etiquette book on the British Method of Going Away. Include lots of examples of American leaders who can use the advice. Provide example resignation speeches. Provide example photos of facial expressions, ways to appear appropriately somber. Maybe provide some tips on what to do after leaving office. Could be a very helpful addition to the etiquette shelf in any bookstore!

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7. Remember When Cleveland Hated Lebron?

Fresh off the Hollywood-perfect ending of bringing a championship to the long-suffering fans of Cleveland, the praise for Lebron James will certainly hit new levels of genuflection. Without a doubt, it’s a great story.

But if you’re looking for a great sports book to read, don’t overlook the time when James was reviled for the way he originally departed his home region. And look no further than Scott Raab’s The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of Lebron James. Published in 2011, the book explores Cleveland culture and the author’s own quirky life, in addition to documenting the activities of King James. Funny and insightful and chock full of other celebrities (due to Raab’s longtime work for Esquire), The Whore of Akron is a fun read, regardless of the current thinking about Lebron James.

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8. Panama Papers Gonna Make a Good Book

The treasure trove of leaked documents dubbed “The Panama Papers” is going to make for a good book. Especially once American information starts trickling out.

Here is an informative NPR interview with Gabriel Zucman, author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations who states that “there’s about 8 percent of the world’s financial wealth that is held in tax havens globally. So that’s about $7.6 trillion today, a huge amount of wealth.” Zucman then goes on to distinguish the percentage of funds that is stored illegally as opposed to the legal stashes.

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9. Would You Sell a Letter?

The news of a completed auction for a 1990 Harper Lee letter about Donald Trump made me contemplate the whole notion of selling correspondence.

Maybe after decades have passed, maybe after I die and heirs and Sackville-Baggins type looters pick through the Slushpile library, then possibly some pieces of correspondence might hit the market. But right now? It just seems odd to sell personal letters.

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10. Editor’s Fault ‘Cub Reporter’ Invented Quotes

cub reporter

In the seemingly ever-growing list of journalists accused of plagiarism and fabrication, this might be one of the ballsiest explanations we’ve ever seen:

“I’m a cub reporter and expected a sustained and competent editor to guide me, something which I never had at your company,” purportedly from Juan Thompson.

Catch up on the whole shenanigan here at Gawker and here, at The Intercept.

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11. The Donald Taught Me a New Word


Well, not actually Donald Trump himself. But rather this article, “Has Trump Killed the GOP?” on Politico.

In the piece, Jacob Heilbrunn states that “It’s precisely Trump’s lubricity that is allowing him to transcend the GOP’s parochial ideological battles.” And I actually did think, “is that a made up word?” Nope. It’s in the dictionary! Merriam Webster defines the term as “the property or state of being lubricious; also the capacity for reducing friction.”

Obviously the context basically gives away the definition. It’s not like I was shocked by reading the actual textbook definition. Rather, at first glance, I figured this was some analyst-made-up word like the football commentators who continually talk about “escapability.” It was nice to know that yes, this is indeed a legitimate word.

[By the way, absolutely zero politically — positive or negative — about this article is intended towards Trump himself. Take your political kvetching to the Huffington Post or somewhere.]

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12. Harper Lee Letters to Go Under the Gavel

Fresh off the controversy regarding the impending publication of Harper Lee’s novel Go Set a Watchman comes news that six handwritten letters by the author are being auctioned.

According to GMA News, the letters were written between 1956 and 1961. The now-publicity-shy author was corresponding with an architect pal in the Big Apple.

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13. Piper Kerman to Speak at Ohio Library

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, the memoir that inspired the hit show, recently moved to central Ohio. She will speak on Tuesday, June 2, at Westerville High School in conjunction with an event hosted by the Westerville Public Library.

Get more details about the event here.

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14. RIP William Zinsser

The Associated Press and a number of other outlets are reporting that writing instructor William Zinsser has passed away at the age of 92.

Most noted for his hugely popular book On Writing Well, Zinger also taught at Yale University, Columbia University, and other educational institutions.

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15. Stephen Graham Jones Sells Book to Morrow

Longtime Slushpile favorite Steven Graham Jones has sold a new novel called Mongrels to Morrow. Looks like BJ Robbins of the BJ Robbins Literary Agency brokered the deal.

I’ve got some questions for Mr. Jones on this fine new book of his. Look forward for more information to come shortly.

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16. Sessions Still Available at Seaside Writers Conference

The Seaside Writers Conference began today, in lovely Florida. Jam packed with great instructors and great workshops, the conference offers something for writers of all experience levels.

And it’s not too late to get in on the fun. You can still register and attend certain sessions on an a la carte basis. So if you’re in need of some beach time, add the Seaside Writers Conference to your plans for a quick getaway.

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17. David Simon Gets All Richard Price

Here’s the kind of inside information that separates the truly knowledgeable insiders from the writers who just learn from Wikipedia.

In “David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish shares amazingly detailed knowledge of the cop beat and the unwritten codes of behavior that, in years gone by, governed interactions between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Simon explains a concept called “humbles” when someone could spend a night in jail primarily because they stepped out of line and needed to be, in the eyes of the police, humbled. Simon isn’t defending this cultural construct, but just explaining the way it worked.

Check out this amazing bit of professional guidelines: “In some districts, if you called a Baltimore cop a motherfucker in the 80s and even earlier, that was not generally a reason to go to jail. If the cop came up to clear your corner and you’re moving off the corner, and out of the side of your mouth you call him a motherfucker, you’re not necessarily going to jail if that cop knows his business and played according to code. Everyone gets called a motherfucker, that’s within the realm of general complaint. But the word “asshole” — that’s how ornate the code was — asshole had a personal connotation. You call a cop an asshole, you’re going hard into the wagon in Baltimore.”

Here again, Simon isn’t necessarily saying this is a good thing. But what a fascinating observation. That’s the kind of insider information that distinguishes Richard Price novels.

And that’s something all writers should strive for…

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18. Biggs Says DRM Sucks


Well, I’m probably exaggerating a bit with that “sucks” choice of words. But suffice it to say, Slushpile’s John Biggs isn’t a fan of digital rights management (DRM) technology used by publishers. He doesn’t employ DRM with his own book Mytro and suggests that the paradigm shift so that indie writers “think in terms of what we can give back to readers rather than what they can give to us.”

Check out his thoughts, along with some audio from Cory Doctorow here.

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19. Noted Author McGinniss Dies


The New York Times is reporting that noted reporter and author Joe McGinniss has passed away at 71. McGinniss was the author of The Selling of the President and Fatal Vision.

Personally, I was originally introduced to McGinniss’ work because of the role he played in jumpstarting the career of Bret Easton Ellis.

Decades later, I also immensely enjoyed The Deliveryman by McGinniss’ son Joe Jr.

Sad loss. Our Slushpile thoughts go out to the family.

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20. Sometimes, Ya Just Gotta Write a Shitty Line

We write poor lines because of rushed deadlines, screaming babies in the background, hangovers, and just general human fallibility.

Other times, we write poor lines because we have to, because even though they may sound off or awkward, they are, technically, accurate. Such is the case with this Scientific American article republished on Salon.com.

The article states several times that systems didn’t fail air traffic control and oversight in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 because ” the plane’s location was known before it disappeared.” No criticism for the writer because that is undeniably true.

But damn it seems odd to state, “We had it until we didn’t have it and so everything worked fine.”

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21. Plan Your Trip by The Kentucky Barbecue Book

The Food Network and other outlets churn out insufferable amounts of coverage devoted to barbecue in Texas, North Carolina, and Kansas City. With good reason, admittedly. Like anything, there are places where people simply do things right. And those locales should be celebrated and honored.

But by falling back on these old faithful locations time and time again (I mean, do we really need another peek at the Salt Lick in Austin, no matter how great the place is?), we miss the opportunity to explore lesser-known, but equally vibrant cultures of cooking.

For me, that oversight was rectified this past weekend when I was finally able to do a bit of exploring of my old stomping grounds, using Wes Berry’s excellent The Kentucky Barbecue Book. The end result was 4 barbecue joints in less than 48 hours and a great excuse to get off the highway and explore something more unique than just the fast food dumps that litter the exits.

An Associate Professor at Western Kentucky University, Berry wanted to document the barbecue customs and, more importantly, the people who dedicate their lives to it, from his home state. Along the way, he uncovered highly unique and diverse ways of treating barbecue that varied from, literally, county to county. What he calls “micro-regional” cuisine changes from Hopkinsville to Madisonville. And while the big time TV shows and annual New York Times roundups stick with only the most prominent representations of the genre, Berry goes deeper to show how two towns, just separated by a few miles, might go about things completely differently.

Imagine that we’re looking at some pizza show on the Travel Channel. They say, “Chicago is known for deep dish pies,” and then they move on to discussing the thin stuff from the Big Apple. That’s about it.

If Berry were in charge of this production, he’d say, “Chicago is known for deep dish pies. And if you’re on Michigan Avenue, that means a tomato sauce, but a quick cab ride over to Oak Park, then it’s going to be a white sauce. Five miles down into Cicero, you’re going to have spinach on there…” And so forth. This is deeply specific food writing. Just look at Berry’s treatment of mutton.

“This is why I’m fond of mutton, as smoky, tender mutton marries well with the tangy black dip sauces you’ll find at the four Owensboro barbecue places and at western Kentucky Catholic church picnics,” Berry writes. “There’s nothing else like this flavor in the barbecue kingdom, and it’s rare to find outside a few counties in western Kentucky… Mutton is usually basted while smoking over hickory coals and served with a savory Worchestershire sauce-based dip, a think, black potion that also contains vinegar and spices like black pepper and allspice.”

As specific as The Kentucky Barbecue Book is, what prevents it from descending into ultra-niche market territory is Berry’s ability to recount stories about the food and the pit masters encountered along his travels. In many cases, Berry even managed to finagle some recipes out of these experts so you can follow along in your home kitchen. So even if you’re not planning a visit to the Bluegrass State anytime soon, the book is still well-worth a read. Part travelogue, part cookbook, part cultural exploration, Wes Berry’s The Kentucky Barbecue Book is like a great meal: it combines just the right amount of spices, along some sweet and a good smoke.

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22. Conservative Book Publishing on the Wane, So Cruz Gets $1.5M

Little more than two weeks after a widely circulated article on the fading of a genre, “Killing Conservative Books: The Shocking End of a Publishing Gold Rush that discussed “the gutting of the conservative book market” and that too many books and too many publishers “made the economics of their genre much tougher, with an ever-increasing number of books competing for an audience that hasn’t grown much since the ’90s”, came news that Texas Senator Ted Cruz agreed to a $1.5 million dollar advance from HarperCollins.

[Disclaimer: Different imprints of HarperCollins published both of my books.]

In a Washington Post article, Paul Bedard writes that Cruz’s advance is even more than Sarah Palin’s check after her entrance onto the national stage.

Let’s go back to the BuzzFeed piece, authored by McKay Coppins…

The crux of the piece is that publishers are basically obligated to sign up books by presidential hopefuls, in the event that they are eventually elected to the White House. However, in the chase for those politicians, many publishers sign deals with conservative politicians that don’t pay off in terms of sales. Coppins’ article points out that Jeb Bush’s book has only sold about 4,600 copies and that Rick Santorum’s 2012 book American Patriots only sold about 6,500 copies.

For example, Tim Pawlenty, a short-lived presidential candidate in 2012, received an advance of around $340,000 for his 2010 book Courage to Stand. But the book went on to sell only 11,689 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks most, but not all, bookstore sales. What’s more, Pawlenty’s political action committee bought at least 5,000 of those copies itself in a failed attempt to get it on the New York Times best-seller list, according to one person with knowledge of the strategy.

So what happens when you have a genre in decline? Pay a shit ton of money to someone in that genre.

Now, it should be stated that Cruz is a giant name in the conservative movement and Coppins’ article specifically states that some books do perform well and that it’s the midlist that struggles. Certainly, Cruz isn’t going to be a midlist author.

Nevertheless, this kind of news is what leaves many aspiring authors and publishing industry observers shaking their head, and more than a few critics applauding the so-called “death of publishing.” This isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative politics. It’s about an industry observation that got a large amount of discussion about the struggles to recoup advances that face a genre and then, two weeks later, a giant advance is paid out in that same genre.

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23. The Rants of Gordon Lish


Under normal circumstances, I would be ecstatic that the great Barry Hannah gets a mention — any mention — in Newsweek magazine. But this article of Gordon Lish in decline just rubs me the wrong way. I know a number of people who took Lish’s workshop and a couple who were edited by him. So I’ve never been under any illusions about his strong personality and opinions.

Nonetheless, his comment that Raymond Carver was “a fraud. I don’t think he was a writer of any consequence.”

Just a sad article about a once literary icon.

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24. Take a Bite Out of Buford’s Among the Thugs


The soccer controversy out of the World Cup today about Luis Suarez biting an opponent reminded me of the fabulous book Among the Thugs by Bill Buford. Prior to writing bestsellers about cooking, Buford churned out an amazing book that provided an inside look into soccer hooligan culture.

Well worth grabbing off the shelf for some reading while we await FIFA’s ruling on disciplinary actions for Suarez.

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25. New GM Book Promises Look Inside Family Revivals

gm towers

As a writer, I have always admired books that chronicle an entire group of people or even a town. It’s hard enough to write one book about one subject. But getting committments and information from multiple people, especially on difficult topics, is a real chore.

So I was intrigued by this news item in the always informative Publisher’s Marketplace:

Pulitzer-winning Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE: An American Story, following three families as the GM plant that has sustained their town and their middle class lives closes and they suddenly must reinvent themselves while facing near-impossible choices and a fracturing community, to Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, in a pre-empt, by Susan Rabiner and Sydelle Kramer of Susan Rabiner Literary Agency.

I am fascinated by books that require multiple interviews with multiple people over a long period of time, especially when financial or other sensitive matters are involved. So this looks like a cool book and definitely something to keep an eye on!

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