So what's a good read this summer?
Well, Jim, I'd glad you asked. One of my favorite books at the moment is Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. It covers some interesting sociological and political territory. It talks about three underground economies in the United States--the marijuana, porn and illegal labor industries--and looks at how they parallel the above-ground economies in the United States. It's very accessibly written and very important.
What else is out there?
Another one of my favorite books that's just coming out in paperback is Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. This is a memoir of a kid growing up in the '70s, and his crazy mother drops him off at her psychiatrist's house for about 15 years, and she never comes back to get him. and he ends up living with this crazy family. It's very disturbing, but it's hilarious.
What about pulp novels for the beach?
I just read one called The Horned Man by James Lasdun. It's kind of like Franz Kafka meets James Grisham. It's about this English college professor who starts to lose his mind after somebody breaks into his office and moves the bookmark in his book, so he loses his place in his novel he's reading.
I hate it when that happens.
Isn't it awful? Then he becomes completely paranoid and becomes convinced that this person is trying to frame him for a series of murders on campus. But you're never quite sure if it's happening or if he's just losing his mind.
Well, we don't want to tell the readers which way that one comes out.
Can you recommend some other page-turners?
You bet! If there were actually a beach in Tucson, I'd take McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. It's a great read. It's a collection of short stories by writers like Stephen King, Michael Crichton and Sherman Alexie, and they're all trying to write fiction that's fun to read. For example, Sherman Alexie wrote this story about zombies in the Civil War.
I'm reading that right now. It's great. They're trying to capture the flavor of the old pulp science-fiction and mystery magazines I loved as a kid.
Yeah. It's kind of fun reading famous authors trying to do pulp fiction. It's a great summer read. Another one that's not as well known is called Battle Royale. It's a Japanese novel by Koushun Takami that just came out in English. It's about the Japanese government trying to curb juvenile delinquency, so they take junior high schoolers and drop them on an island and let them battle it out until only one remains, and they televise it on national television in Japan, where it becomes the biggest game show.
So what's selling well this spring?
One of the big books continues to be Empire Falls, the Richard Russo novel. Charles Bowden's book, Down by the River, continues to sell really well.
What about that book my mom recently read, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency?
That's a big summer read. It was kind of this word-of-mouth phenomenon. It kind of came out of nowhere and now it's just huge and there are four books in the series. It was written a few years ago and only published in the UK. It's about a woman detective within Botswana, Africa. There's a lot about African culture in there and she's kind of like a charming older woman--sort of like Miss Marple, like Agatha Christie type of character.
I think the good trash book of the summer is called Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture by Frank Owen. It's an investigative journalism look at the club scene of the '90s in New York. It's sort of like if Hunter Thompson had written Boogie Nights. It's about the Mafia influence in the club scene and the drugs and the sex and partying and the collapse. Juicy, juicy anecdotes and a great line from the author, who said, "In the '90s, the stomach pump was the new accessory."