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44-D’s Book Diaries: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Posted by: Audiegrl

My husband picked this book up for me this week. In Northern Illinois we are used to very harsh winters, and living less that 20 miles from the Wisconsin border, he thought I’d enjoy this. He was right…Now, I’d like to recommend it to you.

A Reliable Wife: Rural Wisconsin, 1907. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt stands stands alone on the train platform anxiously awaiting the arrival of a visitor. The woman who arrives is not who he expects. This woman, this reliable wife, will decide whether Ralph Truitt lives or dies.

An Interview with Robert Goolrick

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The plotting of A Reliable Wife seems very deliberately crafted, as readers must constantly change their expectations of these characters and their actions. There is one surprise after another as the story unfolds. Did you think about the reader’s experience as you were crafting your storytelling, or did you write the story as you saw it?

I wanted to give readers, first and foremost, a good solid story and a reading experience that is as sensual as it is cerebral. I thought about the story for years before I started writing, then started it several times and stopped, and finally just committed myself to writing down what I had already committed to memory, the story of three figures in a barren landscape. I thought a great deal about the myth of Phaedra, and her entanglements with Theseus and Hyppolitus. So I thought I knew pretty much the whole thing.

But you’re always surprised. I was surprised at Ralph’s reaction to the knowledge that he was being poisoned. I was surprised that the brief encounter with Alice in St. Louis became, for me, the emotional fulcrum of the book. And I was surprised by Catherine’s passion for knowledge, for the comfort she takes in the reading rooms of public libraries.

You’ve mentioned that Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip was one of the major inspirations for your novel. Can you talk a little about Lesy’s book and its relationship to your own?

Michael Lesy’s remarkable book is an examination of the lives of ordinary citizens of a small town in northern Wisconsin in 1896. It is a collection of photographs taken by the local photographer and brief newspaper accounts of the surprisingly erratic lives of the men and women who endured a hard life in a poor year in a bleak landscape.

Ralph and Catherine and Antonio are vivid, larger than life. I wanted to plant them very securely in the world, and the world they inhabit is the one depicted by Michael Lesy. It is a world in which no one is safe, in which the roof can always cave in when you least expect it.

I’ve always thought the lives of ordinary people are far more fascinating than the lives of the rich and powerful. An account of a man burying his father is more fascinating to me than a politician’s description of lunch with Henry Kissinger. A snapshot taken at the beach on a summer’s day is more memorable than any fine art photography. They show much more clearly the preciousness and grace of life.

Michael Lesy shows us how fragile life is, how hard it can be to get through the day without running off the rails.

Best-selling Author, Robert Goolrick

Best-selling Author, Robert Goolrick

Robert Goolrick is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. This is his first novel. He lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt of A Reliable Wife
NPR’s ‘Reliable Wife’: Madness And Passion In Wisconsin

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The Pit Bull in the China Shop by Frank Rich

Op-ed by Frank Rich

Frank Rich

Frank Rich/The New York Times

New York Times/Frank Rich—At last the American right and left have one issue they unequivocally agree on: You don’t actually have to read Sarah Palin’s book to have an opinion about it. Last Sunday Liz Cheney praisedGoing Rogue” as “well-written” on Fox News even though, by her own account, she had sampled only “parts” of it. On Tuesday, Ana Marie Cox, a correspondent for Air America, belittled the book in The Washington Post while confessing that she couldn’t claim to have “completely” read it.

Going Rogue” will hardly be the first best seller embraced by millions for talismanic rather than literary ends. And I am not recommending that others follow my example and slog through its 400-plus pages, especially since its supposed revelations have been picked through 24/7 for a week. But sometimes I wonder if anyone has read all of what Palin would call the “dang” thing. Some of the book’s most illuminating tics have been mentioned barely — if at all — by either its fans or foes. Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves.

The book’s biggest surprise is Palin’s wide-eyed infatuation with show-business celebrities. You get nearly as much face time with Tina Fey and the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in “Going Rogue” as you do with John McCain. We learn how happy Palin was to receive calls from Bono and Warren Beatty “to share ideas and insights.” We wade through star-struck lists of campaign cameos by Robert Duvall, Jon Voight (who “blew us away”), Naomi Judd, Gary Sinise and Kelsey Grammer, among many others. Then there are the acknowledgments at the book’s end, where Palin reveals that her intimacy with media stars is such that she can air-kiss them on a first-name basis, from Greta to Laura to Rush.

Equally revealing is the one boldfaced name conspicuously left unmentioned in the book: Levi Johnston, the father of Palin’s grandchild. Though Palin and McCain milked him for photo ops at the Republican convention, he is persona non grata now that he’s taking off his campaign wardrobe. Is Johnston’s fledgling porn career the problem, or is it his public threats to strip bare Palin family secrets as well? “She knows what I got on her” is how he put it. In Palin’s interview with Oprah last week, it was questioning about Johnston, not Katie Couric, that made her nervous.

The book’s most frequently dropped names, predictably enough, are the Lord and Ronald Reagan (though not necessarily in that order). Easily the most startling passage in “Going Rogue,” running more than two pages, collates extended excerpts from a prayerful letter Palin wrote to mark the birth of Trig, her child with Down syndrome. This missive’s understandable goal was to reassert Palin’s faith and trust in God. But Palin did not write her letter to God; she wrote the letter from God, assuming His role and voice herself and signing it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” If I may say so — Oy!

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44-D Book Diaries with Audiegrl: Chelsea Cain’s Evil at Heart

NYT Best-selling author Chelsea CainToday’s interview features New York Times Best-selling author Chelsea Cain, discussing her profoundly addictive and disturbing new novel, Evil at Heart.

If you think Hannibal Lechter is scary? Check out serial killer Gretchen Lowell who is beautiful, brilliant, and cunning. This fall, Cain will carve out a place for herself on bookshelves everywhere with her new novel.

Evil at Heart is the third novel in Cain’s highly praised Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan series, which heralded the birth of the new captivating face of evil and psychological suspense.

In my interview with Chelsea, I got to ask her some questions her fans dying to know.

AG: So serial killers and journalism: Are these two of your top interests?

CC: Right up there with infanticide and cannibalism. I’m kidding, of course. I wouldn’t include either serial killers or journalism in my top interests. Though if I did, serial killers would be way higher on the list. I just really like thrilling stories and these seem to lend themselves to that genre.

AG: Your inspiration for the book came from the Green River Killer case, but how did you come up with Gretchen Lowell? She’s pretty twisted.

CC: I actually remember reading stories as a kid about the Green River Killer in the Bellingham Herald. The idea of this unidentified killer being pursued by a task force of cops really captured my attention. I wanted my killer to be a woman because it made the obsessive nature of the cop-killer relationship instantly more complicated. But I wanted her to kill violently, like a man, because she enjoys it. Culturally we demand an explanation from our female killers. We want to blame their motives on a man – a bad father, a bad boyfriend. I didn’t want to provide an easy explanation for Gretchen’s homicidal tendencies. It’s way scarier to not understand her.

AG: How did you do the research for this book? Did you talk to any serial killers?

CC: No, and I hope I never do. I also didn’t actually torture anyone, though it probably would have lent some verisimilitude to the narrative. Maybe I’ll consider it for the sequels. I did read a lot of case studies about psychopaths. There is a great cannon of interviews with jailed psychopaths that is incredibly disturbing and illuminating. I also read a lot of forensic pathology texts, visited a billion web sites, talked to doctors, and read police handbooks. But the great thing about fiction is that if you find a few details that ring especially true, readers tend to go along with all the stuff you make up. (She says, fingers crossed.)

AG: It seems like you have a few things in common with the character of young reporter Susan Ward. How alike are you two?

CC: Susan and I share some of the same insecurities and preoccupation with fashion. She writes for The Oregon Herald. I write for The Oregonian. But she is way, way, way more damaged than I am. And my past is not nearly as complicated.

AG: The first thing I thought about when I read the first book Heartsick was Hannibal Lector. Are you hoping to turn Gretchen Lowell into a movie star any time soon? Who do you think could play I her?

CC: Heartsick has been optioned to be a movie, so there is a production company working very hard to get it made. They’ve got a script in development right now. Honestly, I’m pretty open-minded in terms of casting. Anthony Hopkins? Sure! The names that readers most often suggest are Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie. Any of those actresses would be terrific. I also really like Storm Large (the performer who portrays Gretchen on the website). She looks exactly like the Gretchen of my imagination. Which is sort of scary.

AG: I love the Gretchen Lowell fan site. Especially all the Gretchen sightings. What kind of response are you getting from fans?

CC: The people who find it really seem to like it. I’ve always thought of that site as a sort of DVD extra – readers who take the time to look up the url that’s mentioned as a plot point in Evil at Heart get rewarded with this funny and twisted ode to Gretchen. For the Gretchen sightings, our designer just went downtown and photographed blond women with their faces turned. In about an hour she had all the photos we needed.

AG: I’m a huge fan of HBO’s True Blood series. During one of the last episodes, Maryanne was sitting at the kitchen table reading a copy of Heartsick! I was so surprised…true story…I got up and did a victory dance. Please give me the scoop, were you as surprised as the rest of us, or was this something HBO contacted you about in advance? How has being featured on the show affected the book?

CC: That was pretty fucking awesome. I had no idea. We TIVO it so weren’t watching it live, but my husband’s mother called and left a message saying that she’d seen the book on True Blood, and my husband told me and I was like, no way, she’s wrong, she just thought she saw it. And then my husband’s father called (they’ve been divorced for thirty years, but apparently still watch the same TV shows), and he said the same thing. So we ran home and watched it, and sure enough there was Maryanne reading Heartsick! I peed my pants a little. As for sales, I have no idea. There was definitely increased web chatter about the book. And people continue to see it and bring it up to me. I love True Blood, so it was a huge thrill to be a tiny part of that show for a moment.

AG: Finally, what do you hope to do after this series is over?

CC: Over? I plan to write these suckers until someone makes me stop. But I am planning on starting another series to juggle along side it – more thrillers set in Portland. So stay tuned.

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Chelsea CainIf you would like to learn more about Chelsea Cain and her books please stop by ChelseaCain.com. For the hard-core Gretchen Lowell fans among you, since her escape, she’s been spotted in Oslo, Munich, Shanghai, and Ontario. Please stop by I Heart Gretchen Lowell if you need to send her a message or report a sighting.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Heartsick by Chelsea CainDet. Archie Sheridan led the Beauty Killer Task Force for ten years, before the Beauty Killer (Gretchen Lowell) caught him, tortured him for ten days and then mysteriously let him go and turned herself in. Now it’s two years later and Archie, addicted to pain pills and still obsessed with Gretchen, is called off medical leave to hunt a second serial killer. Pink-haired girl journalist Susan Ward is assigned to profile Archie. She knows he’s hiding something. But what? (It’s bigger than a breadbox.)

“In her dynamite first thriller, Cain introduces one of the most seductive and original psychopaths since Hannibal Lecter.”–Entertainment Weekly

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Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

Sweetheart by Chelsea CainWhen the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert…but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he’s the only one who can capture Gretchen—and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim…

“We’ve been down Hannibal Lecter Avenue many times, and these two books shouldn’t work . . . but they do. Chalk it up to excellent writing and Cain’s ferocious sense of humor. The Portland (Ore.) setting is refreshing too.”—Stephen King

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Evil At Heart by Chelsea Cain

Evil at Heart by Chelsea CainGretchen is still on the loose and Archie is still hospitalized after his ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong. They’ve entered a detente of sorts: Archie agrees not to kill himself if she agrees not to kill anyone else. But suddenly there’s something else to contend with that might be worse – a zealous fan of Gretchen’s, paying homage to the Beauty Killer by luring Archie and reporter Susan Ward to the scene of a grisly murder. At least they hope it’s the work of someone new, for the prospect of Gretchen breaking her promise is more than Archie can bear.

“Cain delivers her usual blend of organ-ripping, blood-soaked gore and compelling flawed heroes—and antiheroes.”–Publishers Weekly

Read an Excerpt
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