Excerpt: PREPARE FOR DEPARTURE by Mark Chestnut (Vine Leaves Press)

ChestnutM-PrepareForDepartureToday, we have an excerpt from Mark Chestnut‘s new memoir, Prepare for Departure. Due to be published tomorrow, by Vine Leaves Press, here’s the synopsis:

At an early age, award-winning travel writer, Mark Chesnut, learned to dodge discomfort by jumping on the nearest plane, bus or car. That tactic proved especially useful when his single mother made it clear that there was no room for discussion about his gay identity.

Mark, overwhelmed with wanderlust, shoplifts in airports, avoids Southern Baptist salvation, acts like Hillary Clinton in a nursing home, and dresses in drag with his grandfather. He even creates an imaginary airline and flies away.

Now, as 89-year-old Eunice Chesnut moves to a New York City nursing home to be near her son, Mark’s obsession with travel takes a backseat as he embarks on the most emotional journey of all.

More than an end-of-life memoir, more than a collection of childhood memories and travel stories, Prepare for Departure showcases what happens when a permissive mother and a mistfit son face death while revisiting life. Buckle your seatbelts for a witty, touching and darkly humorous trip – through time, loss, forgiveness and acceptance.

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Excerpt: A HISTORY OF DELUSIONS by Victoria Shepherd (Oneworld)

ShepherdV-HistoryOfDelusionsUKHCToday, we have an excerpt from A History of Delusions by Victoria Shepherd, an intriguing history of delusions. Here’s the synopsis:

The Glass King, a Substitute Husband and a Walking Corpse

    • The King of France – thinking he was made of glass – was terrified he might shatter… and he wasn’t alone.
    • After the Emperor met his end at Waterloo, an epidemic of Napoleons piled into France’s asylums.
    • Throughout the nineteenth century, dozens of middle-aged women tried to convince their physicians that they were, in fact, dead.

For centuries we’ve dismissed delusions as something for doctors to sort out behind locked doors. But delusions are more than just bizarre quirks – they hold the key to collective anxieties and traumas.

In this groundbreaking history, Victoria Shepherd uncovers stories of delusions from medieval times to the present day and implores us to identify reason in apparent madness.

Now, read on for the excerpt…

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Very Quick Review: BATTLING THE BIG LIE by Dan Pfeiffer (Twelve/Hachette)

PfeifferD-BattlingTheBigLieUSHCA former Obama communications director examines the American right-wing and its use of disinformation, and the left’s struggles with messaging

In BATTLING THE BIG LIE, bestselling author Dan Pfeiffer dissects how the right-wing built a massive, billionaire-funded disinformation machine powerful enough to bend reality and nearly steal the 2020 election. From the perspective of someone who has spent decades on the front lines of politics and media, Pfeiffer lays out how the right-wing media apparatus works, where it came from, and what progressives can do to fight back against disinformation.

Over a period of decades, the right-wing has built a massive media apparatus that is weaponizing misinformation and spreading conspiracy theories for political purposes. ⁠This “MAGA Megaphone”⁠ that is personified by Fox News and fueled by Facebook⁠ is waging war on the very idea of objective truth — and they are winning. This disinformation campaign is how Donald Trump won in 2016, almost won in 2020, and why the United States is incapable of addressing problems from COVID-19 to climate change.

Pfeiffer explains how and why the Republicans have come to depend on culture war grievances, crackpot conspiracies, and truly sinister propaganda as their primary political strategies, including: 

    • Republican efforts from Roger Ailes to Steve Bannon and Donald Trump to sow distrust while exploiting the media’s biases and the Democratic Party’s blind spots.
    • The optimization of Facebook as the ultimate carrier of Trumpist messaging.
    • Educating the Left to stop clutching pearls and start “fighting fire with fire.”
    • How to fight back against the trolls spreading disinformation and hate on the Internet.

A functioning democracy depends on a shared understanding of reality. America is teetering on the edge because one of the two parties in our two-party system views truth, facts, and science as their opponent. BATTLING THE BIG LIE is a call to arms for anyone and everyone who cares about truth and democracy. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but something must be done.

In his third book, former Obama communications director and Crooked Media host turns his attention to the 2020 election, the Republicans’ “Big Lie”, and the media and technology infrastructure that has helped to reinforce and keep that lie alive. As a long-time fan of Pfeiffer’s work with Crooked Media, I’m happy to report that his new book provides more of the clear-eyed, and well-written political analysis of his previous works.
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Excerpt: THE EMPRESS AND THE ENGLISH DOCTOR by Lucy Ward (Oneworld Publications)

WardL-EmpressAndTheEnglishDoctorToday, we have an excerpt from The Empress and the English Doctor by Lucy Ward, an account of how Catherine the Great worked to combat the smallpox epidemic that was ravaging not only Russia but most of Europe. Here’s the synopsis:

A killer virus… an all-powerful Empress… an encounter cloaked in secrecy… the astonishing true story.

Within living memory, smallpox was a dreaded disease. Over human history it has killed untold millions. Back in the eighteenth century, as epidemics swept Europe, the first rumours emerged of an effective treatment: a mysterious method called inoculation.

But a key problem remained: convincing people to accept the preventative remedy, the forerunner of vaccination. Arguments raged over risks and benefits, and public resistance ran high. As smallpox ravaged her empire and threatened her court, Catherine the Great took the momentous decision to summon the Quaker physician Thomas Dimsdale to St Petersburg to carry out a secret mission that would transform both their lives. Lucy Ward expertly unveils the extraordinary story of Enlightenment ideals, female leadership and the fight to promote science over superstition.

On with the excerpt!

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Very Quick Review: BETABALL by Erik Malinowski (Atria)

MalinowskiE-BetaballUSHow the Warriors came to dominate the league

Betaball is the definitive, inside account of how the Golden State Warriors, under the ownership of venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Hollywood producer Peter Guber, quickly became one of the greatest success stories in both sports and business.

In just five years, they turned a declining franchise with no immediate hope into the NBA’s dominant force — and facilitated the rise of All-Star point guard Stephen Curry. By operating in “beta,” the Warriors morphed into a model organization for American professional sports, instituting the best workplace principles found inside the world’s most successful corporations, and instilling a top-down organizational ethos that allows employees — from the front office to the free-throw line — to thrive.

With in-depth access and meticulous reporting on and off the court, acclaimed journalist Eric Malinowski recounts a gripping tale of a team’s reinvention, of worlds colliding, of ordinary people being pushed to extraordinary heights, and the Golden State Warriors’ chase for a second straight NBA championship during the 2015-’16 season.

Journalist Erik Malinowski offers an engaging, well-written account of how the Golden State Warriors rose from a moribund franchise into the juggernaut of the 2010s. This is the sixth book I’ve read about the Warriors or people connected to the winning organization. Given their dominance during the 2010s, coinciding with a rise in global popularity, it’s not surprising that they have proven such good fodder for books. Betaball is a well-written, engaging and briskly-paced account of the team’s rise, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: SON OF ELSEWHERE by Elamin Abdelmahmoud (McClellan & Stewart/Ballantine)

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereCAHCI first heard of Elamin Abdelmahmoud‘s upcoming memoir, Son of Elsewhere via Twitter — as is so often the case, I’ve forgotten who it was who Tweeted about it, or re-tweeted a mention. Regardless, my attention was grabbed by the Canadian cover and interest further piqued by the synopsis. As a relatively new Canadian myself, I’m also interested in reading about other people’s immigrant experiences here. Really looking forward to reading this. Check out the synopsis:

From one of the most beloved media personalities of his generation comes a one-of-a-kind reflection on Blackness, faith, language, pop culture, and the challenges and rewards of finding your way in the world.

Professional wrestling super fandom, Ontario’s endlessly unfurling 401 highway, late nights at the convenience store listening to heavy metal — for writer and podcast host Elamin Abdelmahmoud, these are the building blocks of a life. Son of Elsewhere charts that life in wise, funny, and moving reflections on the many threads that weave together into an identity.

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereUSHCArriving in Canada at age 12 from Sudan, Elamin’s teenage years were spent trying on new ways of being in the world, new ways of relating to his almost universally white peers. His isa story of yearning to belong in a time and place where expectation and assumptions around race, faith, language, and origin make such belonging extremely difficult, but it’s also a story of the surprising and unexpected ways in which connection and acceptance can be found.

In this extraordinary debut collection, the process of growing — of trying, failing, and trying again to fit in — is cast against the backdrop of the memory of life in a different time, and different place — a Khartoum being bombed by the United States, a nation seeking to define and understand itself against global powers of infinite reach.

Taken together, these essays explore how we pick and choose from our experience and environment to help us in the ongoing project of defining who we are — how, for instance, the example of Mo Salah, the profound grief practices of Islam, the nerdy charm of The O.C.’s Seth Cohen, and the long shadow of colonialism can cohere into a new and powerful whole.

With the perfect balance of relatable humor and intellectual ferocity, Son of Elsewhere confronts what we know about ourselves, and most important, what we’re still learning.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud’s Son of Elsewhere is due to be published on May 17th by McClellan & Stewart in Canada, and Ballantine Books in the US. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

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Upcoming: ROGUES by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

KeefePR-RoguesUSHCEmpire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe is one of my favourite reads from last year. A detailed, gripping biography of the Sackler family and the scourge they unleashed with the development and aggressive marketing of oxycontin. This summer, Doubleday (North America) and Picador (UK) are due to publish Rogues: a new collection of his New Yorker articles and profiles.

ROGUES brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker.  As Keefe says in his preface “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations:  crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.”

Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism.

The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.

One of my most-anticipated non-fiction books of the year, Rogues is due to be published in North America on June 28th, and in the UK on July 7th.

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Very Quick Review: ACT LIKE YOU GOT SOME SENSE by Jamie Foxx (Grand Central Publishing)

FoxxJ-ActLikeYouGotSomeSenseFoxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, and the lessons he took from both worlds to raise his two daughters.

Jamie Foxx has won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in hip-hop. But he is most proud of his role as father to two very independent young women, Corinne and Anelise. Jamie might not always know what he’s doing when it comes to raising girls — especially when they talk to him about TikTok (PlikPlok?) and don’t share his enthusiasm for flashy Rolls Royces — but he does his best to show up for them every single day.

Luckily, he has a strong example to follow: his beloved late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley. Jamie learned everything he knows about parenting from the fierce woman who raised him: As he puts it, she’s “Madea before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig.”

In Act Like You Got Some Sense — a title inspired by Estelle — Jamie shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days trying to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of achieving stardom; and how each phase of his life shaped his parenting journey. Hilarious, poignant, and always brutally honest, this is Jamie Foxx like we’ve never seen him before.

I first came across Jamie Foxx’s work in Any Given Sunday. (In my late teens, I went through a football movie/TV phase.) He stole many of the scenes he was in, easily holding his own opposite Al Pacino and others. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few of his movies. I did not, however, really know anything about him. So, when I had the chance to review his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. It’s an interesting, honest, often funny memoir and examination of his experiences and the choices he’s made in life. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE KILLED HIS DOG by Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman (St. Martin’s Press)

GrossAltman-TheyShouldntHaveKilledHisDogUSHCLike many, I am a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Ever since his superb supporting part in Parenthood, I’ve always been on the look-out for new projects in which he appears. The Matrix blew my mind, Bill & Ted are totally awesome, The Replacements is still entertaining after multiple re-watches (even if they did rip off a lot of jokes from Little Giants — a movie I watched for the first time last week). And then there’s John Wick: Reeves’s most recent franchise, an extravaganza of action, violence, and superb world-building. Fans of the series will be happy to learn that, in May, St. Martin’s Press is due to publish They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, an oral history of the franchise by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

There have been iconic moments in the action movie genre over the years, but nothing has come close to matching the kinetic, balletic gun-fu of the John Wick films.

In They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun-Fu and The New Age of Action, bestselling authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross take you behind the scenes of a franchise that includes three films with more on the way, while exploring the action classics that led to John Wick as well as the films it inspired, like Atomic Blonde. They bring you right into the middle of the action of the John Wick films, detailing how the seemingly impossible was achieved through exclusive interviews with the cast, writers, directors, producers, stuntmen, fight choreographers, cinematographers, studio executives, editors, critics, and more. Together, they break down key action sequences while also providing a look back at the road the action genre has taken that led to John Wick, and a look at the character itself, an anti-hero who carries on the grand tradition of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but with a twist — and a never-ending supply of ammo — while showcasing the enduring appeal of the action movie as well as John Wick’s unique reinvention of the genre.

Really looking forward to reading this. They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and in the UK, on May 17th.

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Upcoming: BLOOD, SWEAT & CHROME by (William Morrow)

BuchananK-BloodSweath&ChromeUSHCIs it just me, or are we living in a bit of a golden age for movie and TV oral histories? It’s still not a massive sub-field in publishing, true, but I’ve seen quite a few upcoming books announced, and have also read quite a few over the past couple of years. As someone who very much enjoys behind-the-scenes content, I fully support this. To that end, let me draw your attention to Blood, Sweat & Chrome by Kyle BuchananNew York Times pop culture reporter and “The Projectionist” (awards season columnist). It is the “wild and true” oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road!

A full-speed-ahead oral history of the nearly two-decade making of the cultural phenomenon Mad Max: Fury Road — with more than 130 new interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and director George Miller, from the pop culture reporter for The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan.

It won six Oscars and has been hailed as the greatest action film ever, but it is a miracle Mad Max: Fury Road ever made it to the screen… or that anybody survived the production. The story of this modern classic spanned nearly two decades of wild obstacles as visionary director George Miller tried to mount one of the most difficult shoots in Hollywood history.

Production stalled several times, stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron clashed repeatedly in the brutal Namib Desert, and Miller’s crew engineered death-defying action scenes that were among the most dangerous ever committed to film. Even accomplished Hollywood figures are flummoxed by the accomplishment: As the director Steven Soderbergh has said, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film, and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”

Kyle Buchanan takes readers through every step of that moviemaking experience in vivid detail, from Fury Road’s unexpected origins through its outlandish casting process to the big-studio battles that nearly mutilated a masterpiece. But he takes the deepest dive in reporting the astonishing facts behind a shoot so unconventional that the film’s fantasy world began to bleed into the real lives of its cast and crew. As they fought and endured in a wasteland of their own, the only way forward was to have faith in their director’s mad vision. But how could Miller persevere when almost everything seemed to be stacked against him?

With hundreds of exclusive interviews and details about the making of Fury Road, readers will be left with one undeniable conclusion: There has never been a movie so drenched in sweat, so forged by fire, and so epic in scope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Blood, Sweat & Chrome is due to be published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

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