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Carnegie Medal Longlist Announced

posted by: September 30, 2015 - 11:00am

Carnegie MedalThe longlists for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were announced yesterday, and 20 outstanding titles have made each list. Congratulations to Baltimore’s own Anne Tyler, whose A Spool of Blue Thread made the fiction list, while another Baltimore native, Ta-Nehisi Coates, was selected for the nonfiction list with Between the World and Me. It’s been a very good year for Coates, who is also on the National Book Award longlist and was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow on Monday.

 

The Carnegie committee is a joint project between RUSA, a division of the American Library Association, and Booklist. A shortlist will be announced on October 19, and the winners will be announced on January 10, 2016.


 
 

Between the Covers with Charles Belfoure

posted by: September 23, 2015 - 7:00am

House of Thieves cover art.Bestselling author, architect and Westminster resident Charles Belfoure will join Baltimore County Public Library for a librarian-led group book discussion on Friday, September 25 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in The Ivy Bookshop tent at the Baltimore Book Festival. Mr. Belfoure will discuss his new historical novel, House of Thieves, as well as his well-regarded first novel The Paris Architect. Both stories feature an architect who ends up using his skills for precarious endeavors. In The Paris Architect, set during the Nazi's occupation of France, Lucien Bernard collaborates with a local industrialist to design hiding places for the Jews. In House of Thieves, architect John Cross is forced by gangsters to use his blueprints to expedite home burglaries to save his son from a gambling debt. Recently, Charles Belfoure answered questions for Between the Covers about House of Thieves.

 

Between the Covers: You do such a masterful job placing readers in late 19th century Manhattan. What made you choose New York’s Gilded Age for your setting and this lively time period? 

Charles Belfoure: That was my favorite period in architectural history and I was also fascinated by the social history of the period. I spent a lot of time doing research on the worlds of the super-rich, the miserably poor and the underworld of the Gilded Age.

 

BTC: You introduce your readers to John Cross, an architect who gets drawn into the criminal underworld to protect his family. Did you have anyone from real life in mind when you created this character?

CB: I came across a real historical figure named George L. Leslie. He came from a wealthy family in the Midwest and had come to New York in the 1870s to practice as an architect, but gave it up because he preferred the life of a bank robber. When I was young, I had done a project for a Mafia boss who’s since been murdered. That was also an inspiration for doing a book about the underworld.

 

BTC: In many ways this story is a tale of societal contrasts. Was this deliberate on your part?

CB: Yes, there was an incredible contrast between rich high society and the miserably poor in New York City. The poor of that time had no social safety net like unemployment insurance or Medicaid to help them as they do today. The poverty was staggering. I wanted the lives of people in these two different worlds to intersect.

 

BTC: Both of your novels revolve around the world of an architect using his skills and training in ways never imagined. Can you talk a little about your own world as an architect?The Paris Architect

CB: I still practice as an architect or as a historic preservation consultant. I help recycle historic buildings into new uses. As an architect, I’m doing three buildings on Eutaw St. on the block up from the Hippodrome and one on Howard St. As a preservation consultant and historic tax credit consultant, I’m currently working on a dozen buildings.

 

BTC: Tell us about your Baltimore roots? 

CB: I grew up in Woodlawn in the 1960s and early 1970s. I graduated from Woodlawn Senior High. Woodlawn is right on the western city-county line so I went into Baltimore City quite a bit on the bus. I’d go down to Howard St. to go to the big department stores and movie theaters. It’s strange that I now work on projects on Howard St., which is this dangerous rundown deserted area so different from when I was a kid with crowds of shoppers. I think I do these historic rehab projects to try to bring back the city the way it used to be.

 

BTC: Baltimore has its share of noted local authors? Do you have a favorite?

CB: Anne Tyler, one of America’s finest novelists. No one has a finer insight into human nature than she does. She’s the only writer that I’ve read consistently.

 

BTC: Are you working on a third novel?

CB: Yes, it’s set in England in 1905 and about an architect who has hit rock bottom.

 

Mr. Belfoure will be signing copies of both novels, available for purchase, during the event.  


 
 

Jackie Collins 1937-2015

posted by: September 21, 2015 - 12:12pm

Cover art for The SantangelosJackie CollinsJackie Collins, the beloved best-selling novelist, died over the weekend following a six-year battle with breast cancer. She was 77. She published 30 books over four decades, selling more than 500 million copies in 40 countries and casting a strong influence in the worlds of publishing and Hollywood.

 

Born in London, Jackie was a rebellious child who was expelled from school as a teenager. Her options were reform school or Hollywood, so she chose to join her actress sister, Joan, in Hollywood. She tried acting, but eventually made the switch to novelist with the publication of her first novel in 1968. The World Is Full of Married Men which was so salacious it was banned in Australia and South Africa. Many of her novels focused on the scintillating lives of Hollywood’s rich and famous, including Hollywood Wives which was made into a successful miniseries. Her novels featuring Lucy Santangelo all hit the bestseller lists and The Santangelos was her last published novel.

 

Following her stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, Jackie chose to keep her illness almost entirely to herself. In an exclusive interview with People Magazine on September 14, she noted, "I did it my way, as Frank Sinatra would say. I've written five books since the diagnosis, I've lived my life, I've travelled all over the world, I have not turned down book tours and no one has ever known until now when I feel as though I should come out with it." A complete list of titles available from BCPL can be found here.


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 The National Book Awards longlist for fiction was released today. The judging panel includes several authors, including Baltimore’s own Laura Lippman. The five finalists will be announced on October 14th. The winner will be announced on November 18th. 

 

Cover of A Cure for Suicide Cover of RefundCover of Did You Ever Have a Family Cover of The Turner House Cover of Fates and Furies Cover of Fortune Smiles Cover of Welcome to Braggsville Cover of HoneydewCover of A Little Life Cover of Mislaid


 
 

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

posted by: July 24, 2015 - 2:23pm

Cover art for Go Set a WatchmanLet’s get it out of the way: Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchman is no To Kill a Mockingbird. For 55 years, the reclusive Lee has been lauded for her Pulitzer Prize-winning story of racial inequality and justice in Alabama as told by young Scout, and yet Lee remained a curiosity by shunning publicity and never publishing another word. Earlier this year, the book world was set atwitter with the news that Lee had agreed to the publication of Watchman, an early and forgotten manuscript said to be fodder for what became her beloved classic.

 

Go Set a Watchman opens with Scout, now Jean Louise Finch and a NYC resident, riding the sleeper car train back to Maycomb for her annual visit. She thinks about marrying childhood friend Hank who now practices law with Atticus, and she prepares for the inevitable head-butting with her Aunt Alexandra, who remains ever the example of proper Southern womanhood. Instead, grown-up Scout finds that she can’t go home again as she discovers the men she reveres have feet of clay, ascribing to a repugnant philosophy of white supremacy, paternalism and disenfranchisement.

 

Lee’s particular gift of filtering a puzzling world through the mindset of a child shines in Watchman, just as in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise’s memory of when she, Jem and Dill played a backyard game of church revival, which ends with a naked Scout’s “baptism” in an algae-slicked fish pond, is a lovely and gently sardonic poke at small town religious tradition. Both stories deal with coming of age in a community governed by a rigid unforgiving class structure which neither blacks nor whites escape. Watchman, however, seems more firmly rooted in a past when ugly language and divisive actions were acceptable in polite society, and here Jean Louise is left dealing with the unsatisfying ambiguities of adulthood.

 

Isaiah 21, verse 6: For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. The watchman is both the announcer of the events he witnesses and a moral compass. Go Set a Watchman serves to remind the reader of the imperative to follow one’s conscience.

 


 
 

Go Set a Watchman

posted by: July 10, 2015 - 10:00am

Cover art for Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, set for publication on July 14, is one of the most anticipated books in recent memory. Publisher Harper Collins has said that pre-orders for this novel are the highest in company history. The book has been closely guarded, but now a few details are being revealed with both The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian previewing the first chapter available here. If you want to get a taste of Reese Witherspoon’s narration of the audio book, here’s a sneak listen to the first chapter.

 

Lee’s second novel takes place in the 1950s, 20 years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and opens with Scout returning by train to Maycomb, Alabama. Lee has said the novel did not undergo any revisions since she completed the manuscript in the 1950s and is “humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

 

Learn more about this big event, including a preview of PBS’ Thirteen Days of Harper Lee, on BCPL’s Tumblr, and be sure to check back for a Between the Covers post about the novel soon!


 
 

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