For nearly a century, Daniel Woodrell's hometown of West Plains, Mo., has been haunted by a dance hall explosion that killed dozens of the town's young people in 1928. Woodrell explores the disaster — and his Ozarks roots — in his new novel The Maid's Version.
Alice McDermott's characters can often be described as average, and Marie, the heroine of her latest novel, is no exception. But critic Maureen Corrigan says the power of McDermott's writing is that she can make even Marie's run-of-the-mill life one for the record books.
Biographers of Gandhi or Catherine the Great could rely on paper archives, but those days are fading fast. WNYC's Ilya Marritz reports that that old ways of digging up the past are changing as people rely more and more on electronic communication.
Books about quantum mechanics can be pretty dry stuff. But when a novelist conjures up multiple worlds, the results can be spellbinding, even when it's no easy read. Such is the case with Duplex, the latest book from Kathryn Davis. Reviewer Rosecrans Baldwin, says this one's worth the effort.
The Golden 1920s couple didn't fare as well in the 1930s, and the North Carolina mountain town was host to a particularly sad time. NPR's Susan Stamberg discovered a little-known story of the Jazz Age darlings, and their devastating connections to Asheville.
In the new book God Bless America: The Surprising History of an IconicSong, author Sheryl Kaskowitz explores the lyrical evolution of Irving Berlin's enduring song and explains how its early popularity reflected the anxiety of the pre-war period and sparked a surprising anti-Semitic and xenophobic backlash.
Jassy Mackenzie's crime novels, set in Johannesburg, star the not-always-law-abiding private investigator Jade de Jong. Mackenzie says that de Jong and "Joburg" are well-matched: both the P.I. and her hometown are intimidating on the outside, but kind once you look beyond the surface.
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