Lisa Turner signs her second mystery set in Memphis

turner.jpgMemphis native Lisa Turner, whose first novel, "A Little Death in Dixie," used her hometown as a backdrop to the murderous mayhem, returns to the scene of the crimes in her second mystery.

Detective Billy Able is once again on the job in "The Gone Dead Train" (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99). In Turner's first book, the character is introduced as he makes this cynical observation: "People shouldn't kill each other on Saturday morning. They should mow their lawns and pick up groceries. Murder ain't your proper Saturday morning activity. Except in Memphis. In Memphis you can commit murder any Saturday morning you like."

But the book also romanticizes the city. As she's describing a rundown roadside stand, Turner writes, "The sign was a lot like Memphis: seductive, old, with hints of grandeur and an aura of risk."

Turner's publisher says the new Billy Able book, which comes out Tuesday, throws the detective into a tale that involves "a disgraced major league baseball player, two legendary blues musicians on the lam, a straight-arrow lady cop tortured by a guilty conscience, and two iconic civil rights warriors with secrets so dark they'll shock the nation." The detective will turn to a voodoo priest for help on this case.  "Turner effectively mines the blues, civil rights struggles and Santeria rites" for a "soulful sequel" to her 2010 debut, said a Publishers Weekly review.

Turner's online biography says her experience in her family's interior design business earned her a "PhD in the peculiarities of human nature." The author will sign her new book at 6 p.m. July 22 at The Booksellers at Laurelwood, 387 Perkins Road Ext. Call 901-683-9801 for more information.

Author of 'Auto Biography' comes to Memphis

auto.jpgEarl Swift will sign his "Auto Biography' at 2 p.m. July 19 at The Booksellers at Laurelwood.

"Auto Biography" (HarperCollins, $26.99) is the true story of a 1957 Chevrolet Townsman wagon and the people who owned it, especially its 13th owner, Tommy Arney, the story's "main driver,"

The book is subtitled "A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream," and Arney is the 'outlaw.'

Swift, a resident fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia, describes the Chevy as "possibly the most recognizable and beloved car to ever roll off an assembly line," a vehicle that embodied "the new suburban ideal that was just gelling in America's collective consciousness in the mid-fifties."

The author sums up Arney as "a rough customer -- he has a fourth-grade education, used to own a chain of go-go bars, and has pounded the daylights out of a goodly percentage of the Norfolk population over the past forty years."

The Booksellers at Laurelwood is at 387 Perkins Ext. For more information, call 901-683-9801.

Author makes Memphis to-do list

crespo.jpgAdd Samantha Crespo's "100 Things to Do in Memphis Before You Die" (Reedy Press, $16) to the multiplying lists of "100 Things" to do, see or eat before it's too late.

The author, a travel writer whose family moved to Memphis in 2010, brings an outsider's appreciation and an insider's perspective to her project, describing herself online as "Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart."

Her book serves both kinds of tourists: the ones who visit and the ones who live here. So, while she includes the necessary references to Beale Street, Graceland, Sun Records and the National Civil Rights Museum, she also suggests many places off the beaten path, such as the Buccaneer Lounge on Monroe, Jones Orchard in Millington, the Withers Collection Museum on Beale and Black Lodge Video in Cooper-Young.

Crespo will sign her book at 6 p.m. July 15 at The Booksellers at Laurelwood.

A Memphis audience recites poetry with Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni read her poem "Ego-tripping" to a rapt audience at the National Civil Rights Museum Sunday, but she didn't speak alone. Some among the SRO crowd in the 350-seat auditorium murmured along as she read. The voices swelled near the end of the stanza that begins "I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal," and rose to a chorus at the end: "I mean I can fly/ like a bird in the sky."

"Ego-tripping" was the title work in her 1973 collection of "poems for young people," a narrative so compelling it's been a standard for memorization at schools and sororities for decades. Its myth-making voice anticipated hip-hop artists, with lines like: "I am so hip even my errors are correct."

During an hourlong interview moderated by Mearl Purvis of Fox13 News at the museum, Giovanni's mood ranged from indignant when she talked about opposition to paying NCAA athletes to melancholy when she talked about the death of her mother. 

Giovanni, 71, is a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech, and the author of poetry collections including "Black Feeling Black Talk," "The Women and the Men" and "Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea," as well as the autobiographical "Gemini." 

Nikki Giovanni to read Sunday at Civil Rights Museum

Internationally acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni, who received the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry and the first Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday at the National Civil Rights Museum about her work, her life and American culture. 

A distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, Giovanni, 71, is one of Oprah Winfrey's 25 "Living Legends," a list that also included Giovanni's close friend, the late Maya Angelou.

Giovanni's autobiography, "Gemini," was a finalist for the National Book Award. "Rosa," her 2007 children's book about the civil rights figure Rosa Parks, was a Caldecott Honors Book. Her album "The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection" was nominated for a Grammy, and her recording "Truth Is On Its Way" received the Best Spoken Word Album award from the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers.

In her free appearance in Hooks Hyde Hall on the second floor of the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry, in Downtown Memphis, Giovanni will perform several of her poems, and talk about her 2013 book, "Chasing Utopia." A book signing will follow.

In 2008, she published three children's books: "The Grasshopper's Song," "Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship," and "Hip Hop Speaks to Children," which was on The New York Times Best Seller list and won an NAACP Image Award. 

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati. 

'Further Joy' finds the Florida beyond tourists


Several of the stories in John Brandon's new collection, "Further Joy," pack a novel's worth of conflict and personalities into small packages that might easily have been developed into books of their own.

joy.jpgBrandon, who has written three novels, ends many of these stories without tying up loose ends, and they are effective precisely because of this unfinished, unsettling quality.

Brandon leads his protagonists to the brink of life-altering decisions but then stops before the critical choices are made, giving readers the space to imagine alternative outcomes, each with its own ethical implications.

As a character from "The Inland News" puts it, "There's a moral in anything if you want there to be." That story is about a young woman named Sofia who has the extra-sensory gift of perceiving the guilt hidden in other people's consciences. Will she use that insight to help her uncle, a homicide detective, solve a crime, or will she wash her hands of the affair and allow it to remain a mystery? Sofia's personal life is baffling enough to engage all of her energies; perhaps, the story suggests, we do better to focus on our own problems and leave questions of guilt and innocence to other powers.

"Civility" is a word Bill Courtney uses a lot, in conversation, at speaking engagements, in his new book "Against the Grain."

courtney.jpgThe Memphis businessman who vaulted to sudden fame as the coach in "Undefeated," the Oscar-winning documentary about the Manassas High School football team's 2009 season, says his movie stardom provided him a national platform.

He's using it to promote civility and other qualities he values -- character, commitment, service, leadership. His inspirational talks have been delivered at companies such as Pepsico, FedEx and Nike, and lately, he's been something of a regular on Fox News, where he's made several appearances to promote his book.

He'll be at The Booksellers at Laurelwood at 2 p.m. May 31 to sign "Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family and Love" (Weinstein Books, $26)." Line tickets, which come with purchase of the book, are required for the event.

At talks and in his book, Courtney recalls a moment in 2004, during his first year coaching at Manassas, when he asked one of his players why he wasn't connecting with all the team members. "Coach, they're trying to figure out whether or not you're a turkey person," the player said. Courtney says the student was referring to white people who take turkeys to poor neighborhoods at Thanksgiving and Christmas, then "tell everyone back home what wonderful things they do for us poor black folks" and never return.

Kimberla Lawson Roby in Memphis to sign 'Prodigal Son'


Kimberla Lawson Roby, author of the Reverend Curtis Black series of novels, will hold a reading and booksigning Friday at Barnes & Noble in Wolfchase Galleria for the latest installment in her Black family saga, "The Prodigal Son" (Grand Central, $26).

kimberla.jpgRoby's fictional patriarch is a man of the cloth who is "unfortunately consumed with money, power and women," as Roby describes him. He's a composite character: "Curtis Black is a mixture of many, many men I have known over the years."

The new book, the 11th in the series, focuses on the problems of the minister's son Matthew, who has droppped out of Harvard to take care of his infant son.

Rev. Black's flaws reflect  real-life problems many of her readers recognize, the author says.

But Roby, who lives in Rockford, Illinois, says the pastor of her own church appreciates her fiction. "He has so much integrity, and loyalty for his wife, family, God and the church. That kind of a pastor, they don't have a problem with what I write."

The event, at 2774 N. Germantown Parkway, begins at 7 p.m. May 23.

Roby's next title, "A Christmas Prayer," will be published Nov. 4.

Michael Pollan to talk at Crosstown Arts May 20

Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," will appear at 7 p.m. May 20 at Crosstown Arts, 430 N. Cleveland, on his tour with the paperback edition of his latest, "Cooked."

pollan.jpgPollan, 59, a professor of journalism at University of California, Berkeley, also directs the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism there. "The Omnivore's Dilemma," subtitled "A Natural History of Four Meals," was on the New York Times and Washington Post lists of ten best books in 2006.

By phone from his 10-city tour, which will take him to Nashville and Oxford, Miss., in addition to Memphis, Pollan said "Cooked" (Penguin, $17) makes an "implicit argument that if we're going to change the food system, we have to support sustainable agriculture and local farming ... instead of letting corporations prepare our food." In the book's introduction, he writes: "My wager in 'Cooked' is that the best way to recover the reality of food, to return it to a proper place in our lives, is by attempting to master the physical processes by which it has traditionally been made."

The first of four sections in "Cooked" is devoted to barbecue. At the Tuesday event, dinner will be available from 5-7 p.m. from Back Alley BBQ.

Another section of "Cooked" is devoted to baking bread, and Pollan says readers have sent him pictures via email and Twitter to show him loaves they've made. A majority of those pictures are from men, the author said.

Pollan attributes his initial love for food and cooking to his mother's culinary prowess. His father, on the other hand, was so impractical that he gave Pollan a pig as a gift while the family lived in a Manhattan apartment. "He is out of touch with not just food but gardens. I call him the great indoorsman," Pollan said.

The Crosstown Arts program starts at 7:30 p.m., with a reception at 7 p.m. Admission to the reading is free. For the booksigning, readers must have a line ticket, which comes with a purchase of "Cooked" from The Booksellers at Laurelwood.  

An Audie Award-winning reader is coming to a library near you. George Guidall, one of AudioFile's long-standing "Golden Voices," who has performed 1,160 audio books in his career as a recorded narrator, will appear at the Hernando (Mississippi) Public Library at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

guidall.jpgGuidall, winner of Booklist's 2013 "Voice of Choice" award and dozens of AudioFile "Earphone" awards, this year will receive the Audio Publishers Association's Special Achievement Award as a narrator "of exceptional stature and accomplishment." He won Audies, "the Oscars of audio books," for narrations of John Irving's "A Widow For One Year," and Wally Lamb's "I Know This Much Is True."

The voice -- described by Booklist as a "mesmerizing baritone" and by Stephen King as a "rough-textured, everyman's voice" -- sounds familiar over the phone. Guidall says his library appearances, in which he talks about the "art and artifice" of audiobook narration, provide a pleasant diversion from the recording booth.

"I just came back from a program in Dearborn, Michigan. I was in Las Vegas a few weeks back. I've been reading long enough for people to wonder, 'What the hell does he look like?' I look forward to each and every (appearance). I'm talking to the choir for one thing." He doesn't have to convince them that listening to someone read a book well is transporting, he says. "It's just a marvelous thing we all share."

The numbers of people who think the experience is marvelous are multiplying. "I cannot tell you how popular CD spoken word/audiocassette books seem to be," Hernando librarian Heather Lawson wrote in an e-mail. In a story called "The New Explosion in Audio Books" last August, The Wall Street Journal wrote that they've "ballooned into a $1.2 billion industry, up from $480 million in retail sales in 1997." Guidall was one of the three "storytelling professionals" briefly profiled in that story, described as best known for his narrations of Homer's "The Iliad," Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment," Cervantes' "Don Quixote," and Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections."

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