Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Michael Ray Taylor

The Italian Job

In Steve Hendricks’s new book, terrorism and spycraft make for nonfiction that reads like a le Carré novel

November 17, 2010 “A spy prefers to share only that which is to his benefit, no more, and much of what he shares will not be true,” cautions the journalist Steve Hendricks in an early chapter of A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial. “This presents a conundrum for all who would understand espionage: Trust spies not at all, and one learns nothing. Trust them too much, and one might as well have learned nothing.” In researching his new nonfiction thriller, Hendricks, a freelance reporter living in Knoxville, appears to have trusted spies just the right amount, interviewing them on three continents over the course of two years. He clearly learned a great deal—not only about spies, but also about the terrorists they seek to catch by any means they deem necessary.

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Riffing on the River

In Lee Sandlin’s eclectic new history, it’s a treat to beat your feet in the Mississippi mud

November 5, 2010 Lee Sandlin’s Wicked River is a wickedly funny new history of the great Mississippi, whose violent, profane, drunken, calamitous, hypocritical character is perhaps an archetype of the American character itself. Sandlin will discuss Wicked River at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis on November 9 at 6 p.m.

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Nice Work

Sonny Brewer assembles an astonishing pool of Southern writers to reflect on their day jobs

October 20, 2010 Novelist and anthologist Sonny Brewer may have hit upon the best-ever idea for an essay collection. Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit contains accounts by Pat Conroy, John Grisham, Winston Groom, and a score of other Southern writers on the sorts of work they did on their way to becoming professional writers.

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The Road to No Way

For Matt Dellinger, Interstate 69 is paved with beautiful dreams and ugly politics

September 20, 2010 In Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway, Matt Dellinger writes about an unlikely subject: a highway linking Canada to Mexico that may never be completed. (In Tennessee, for example, I-69 remains nothing more than a page of maps and studies on the state Department of Transportation website.) Touted as the “NAFTA Highway” after the North American Free Trade Agreement, the highway is, like the trade deal, controversial, and in that conflict Dellinger has found a story. Matt Dellinger will discuss Interstate 69 at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis on September 23 at 6 p.m. and at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville on September 24 at 2 p.m.

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Worlds Will Collide

Karin Slaughter’s latest thriller combines two series and a dozen very human characters in a rich, satisfying read

June 23, 2010 David Baldacci. Stuart Woods. Lisa Gardner. Besides churning out at least one thriller a year, all have created a series featuring a particular set of characters, only to move on to a whole new series at the height of their bestselling success. Once the second series wins fans, the writers merge the two worlds, with new books in which protagonist A meets protagonist B, sidekick C competes with sidekick D, and the bad guys are all over the place. Plots and past histories weave together like the final season of Lost, and only dedicated fans can follow the nuances. But with a crime writer as sophisticated as Karin Slaughter, the collision of two worlds can blossom into something as complex as a Bach fugue—something that is ultimately just as beautiful and satisfying. Slaughter will sign copies of her new book, Broken, at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville on June 23 at 7 p.m.

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The Longest War

As the war in Afghanistan drags on, Sebastian Junger joins the ranks of Michael Herr and Ernie Pyle in exploring the psychological horrors—and insidious appeal—of modern warfare

June 14, 2010 On Monday, June 7, the war in Afghanistan became the longest in U.S. history, surpassing the eight and a half years the nation officially spent in Vietnam. As in that seemingly endless conflict, American troops in Afghanistan face a determined guerilla resistance that exploits hostile terrain to maximum advantage. Combat casualties have been heavy, and nowhere heavier than in the Korengal Valley, which sits about fifty miles due north of the Khyber Pass. Hellishly hot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter, it is a place where foreign fighters infiltrate from the high peaks of Pakistan, paying local herdsman five dollars a day to take pot-shots at Americans crouched in tiny outposts. Sebastian Junger, author of the nonfiction bestsellers The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont, traveled to the Korengal Valley in 2007 and 2008 on assignment for Vanity Fair, to produce a series of articles on the most active combat unit within the U.S. Army. His reporting became the basis for War, a fascinating book that chronicles the daily practice of war. He will be in Memphis to discuss the book at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on June 15 at 6 p.m.

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