Monday procrastination roundup: Stranger than fiction

The main character in my new series writes true crime books. Bartholomew Beck, who writes under his middle name, John, does not go through the typical writers’ life, let alone one who writes true crime. But those stories have always fascinated me, from In Cold Blood (Truman Capote, The New Yorker, Random House) to Catch and Kill (Ronan Farrow, Little, Brown and Co.). I’ve read and highly recommend both.

So, when CrimeReads came out with a list of 5 True Crime Books to Read This March, I read with heightened interest. They all sound intriguing, but the one I most want to read is Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America. Here’s what CrimeReads had to say:

The cat’s out of the bag on this one, we all know pharma has been a disaster for many Americans, but Gerald Posner specializes in telling you what you don’t know: in his New York Times bestsellers like Case Closed and books like Hitler’s Children or God’s Bankers, what he has perfected is achieving the kind of disgust only a massive research dive can bring. An almost existential, mind-bending level of disgust. The sort of disgust that turns the corner firmly on any light or air flowing the other direction. Considering how much has been written in recent years on the Sacklers and many other pharmaceutical makers who appear in these pages, Posner manages to tell us yet more information. As far back as the 1950s they were running shell companies to disguise sponsored research, and they had garnered the FBI’s attention because they were hiring blacklisted communist writers to work in media arms. The screenwriter Walter Bernstein, interviewed here last year, the only who declined the job. The juggernaut rolled on, and by rolling together the building of their empire with the out of control prescription mentality of modern medicine, Posner has created a medical leviathan for our times.

I also recently enjoyed this piece in Texas Monthly: The Legend of John Holmes Jenkins. The National Magazine of Texas got me with this teaser at the top of its March edition: THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF A RARE BOOKS DEALER. It’s a long read, but a good one.

Okay, back to fiction

Many mystery and thriller novelists aspire to write something completely new that changes the genre, or even modern literature (some say Gone Girl did that, for example). It’s almost impossible because, as some experts say, every plot has already been written. So, what’s an author to do? Tessa Wegert has some thoughts. HOW DO YOU WRITE A MYSTERY WHEN EVERY PLOT IS TAKEN? (CrimeReads)

Caroline Kepnes of You fame and Ani Katz, whose debut A Good Man is getting outstanding reviews, discuss toxic masculinity in fiction. It’s an interesting, in-depth conversation and gives a peek into how much thought about theme and character goes into some of the novels we read. CAROLINE KEPNES AND ANI KATZ ON USING FICTION TO DISSECT TOXIC MASCULINITY (CrimeReads)

Meanwhile, in Texas

The High Plains Poetry Project is sponsoring a writing contest for Texas Panhandle high school (and Amarillo College and West Texas A&M) students and will award $1,500 in scholarship funds. The categories are short story, essay, and creative nonfiction. Very cool. Click here or email amarillotxartsfest@gmail.com for more information.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing cancellations, postponements, and modifications for author events around the state. From our own Chera Hammons, who will be doing her poetry readings via video, to events across the Dallas area. Many author tour events canceled from March 15-21 (The Dallas Morning News)

AWP in San Antonio happened as scheduled throughout the beginning of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic news in the U.S. Publisher’s Weekly said it was a low turnout, though one resignation happened because the massive publishing event went forward. Coronavirus Leads to Smaller AWP Conference (Publisher’s Weekly)

Texas is chock full of romance writers, and the Panhandle has some of the best. So, for fans of the genre, here’s a March romance roundup. Texas Reads Roundup: Romance (Lone Star Literary Life)

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