Interview with Craig Brown author of “Hello, Goodbye, Hello”





Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Craig Brown author of hello, Goodbye, Hello.

From “one of the funniest writers in Britain—wise, clever, hilarious, and a national treasure” (Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary) comes this delightful book of “101 ingeniously linked encounters between the famous and the infamous” [The Observer (London) Best Books of the Year]. Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan; Tsar Nicholas II and Harry Houdini; Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe? They all happened. Craig Brown tells the stories of 101 such bizarre encounters in this witty, original exploration into truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.

“Captivating… . A glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation… . Mr. Brown constructs portraits that have all the immediacy of reportage, all the fanciful detail of fiction. He has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad.”  —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.” —Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”

Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989 and is a columnist for London’s Daily Mail. He has also written parodies for many publications, including the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times, and The Guardian. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, he lives in London.

Interview with Richard Horton author of “The Years Best Science Ficiton and Fantasy: 2012”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Richard Horton author of The Years Best Science Ficiton and Fantasy:  2012

This fourth volume of the year’s best science fiction and The Best Scifi & Fantasy 2012 fantasy features thirty stories by some of the genre’s greatest authors, including Jonathan Carroll, Neil Gaiman, Kij Johnson, Kelly Link, Paul McAuley, RJ Parker, Robert Reed, Rachel Swirsky, Catherynne M. Valente, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov’s, F&SF, Strange Horizons, Subterranean,, and other top venues, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is your guide to magical realms and worlds beyond tomorrow.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Richard on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Peter Heller author of “The Dog Stars”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Peter Heller, author ofThe Dog Stars.

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life–something like his old life–exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return–not enough fuel to get him home–following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face–in the people he meets, and in himself–is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

“One of the most powerful reads in years.” — Playboy

“Gripping…Heller’s surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an “apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell”—a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance.” – Booklist

“Fresh … quiet, meditative … it’s the people [Hig] meets when he least expects to who change everything, proving a truth we know from our everyday nonfictional lives: Even when it seems like all the humans in the world are only out for themselves, there are always those few who prove you absolutely wrong—in the most surprising of ways.” –

Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, and a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He is an award winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction.  He lives in Denver. Heller was born and raised in New York. He attended high school in Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he became an outdoorsman and whitewater kayaker. He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru.  At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received an MFA in fiction and poetry, he won a Michener fellowship for his epic poem “The Psalms of Malvine.”  He has worked as a dishwasher, construction worker, logger, offshore fisherman, kayak instructor, river guide, and world class pizza deliverer. Some of these stories can be found in Set Free in China, Sojourns on the Edge.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Peter on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Charles Yu author of “Sorry Please Thank You Stories”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Charles Yu author of Sorry Please Thank You Stories.

The author of the widely praised debut novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe returns with a hilarious, heartbreaking, and utterly original collection of short stories.

A big-box store employee is confronted by a zombie during the graveyard shift, a problem that pales in comparison to his inability to ask a coworker out on a date … A fighter leads his band of virtual warriors, thieves, and wizards across a deadly computer-generated landscape … A company outsources grief for profit, their tagline: “Don’t feel like having a bad day? Let someone else have it for you.” Drawing from both pop culture and science, Charles Yu is a brilliant observer of contemporary society, filling his stories with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and piercing insight into the human condition. He has already garnered comparisons to such masters as Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, and in Sorry Please Thank You, we have resounding proof of a major new voice in American fiction.

Charles Yu is  is the author of the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short story collections Third Class Superhero and his latest Sorry Please Thank You.

How to Live Safely was ranked the year’s second best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award.

His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and literary journals, including Oxford American, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Mississippi Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review, and cited for special mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology XXVIII. He received the 2004 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award for his story, “Class Three Superhero.

If you miss an interview you can always catch it at Wellington Square Books or on the Avid Reader at iTunes.

Jeffrey Eugenides – Greek Treasure




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Jeffrey Eugenides was born and raised in Detroit.   He graduated from Brown University with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford.

He is a private person, but he loves talking about his city.  “I think most of the major elements of American history are exemplified in Detroit, from the triumph of the automobile and the assembly line to the blight of racism, not to mention the music, Motown, the MC5, house, techno.”  He bemoans the decline of Detroit.

He lives in Princeton, New Jersey now and has joined the faculty at Princeton University’s Program in Creative writing.

I first began to be interested in Eugenides’ work, when I saw the movie The Virgin Suicides back in 1999.  I think it was the first movie directed by Sofia Coppola.  The film generated the early interest in Eugenides work.  The Virgin Suicides was published in 1993 and reissued in 2009.

The book is a haunting and evocative work, which succinctly sets out the dilemma of life and death and the choice, as Kurt Cobain made, of checking out “on top” or continuing to live on:  What lingered after them was not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself”.

The book garnered critical praise, but it was not until the publication of Middlesex in 2002 that Eugenides became a household name (sort of).  He won the Pulitzer Prize for that book.  “The book is a fascinating story of the Greek-American immigrant experience in the United States, against the rise and fall of Detroit.  It explores the experience of the inter-sexed in the USA.” [Wikipedia]  It is a fascinating and disturbing book, dealing with subjects that are generally taboo in American culture, but genuinely deserve our interest, and at times, compassion.

Eugenides has also published lots of short stories, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker.  By the way, if you subscribe to the New Yorker, get the iPhone app and you can browse, search and read every story ever published in The New Yorker since its date of publication.  Try searching for Nabokov.  It is a rewarding experience.

Eugenides’ third and latest novel is the just-published The Marriage Plot (available at the Wellington Square Bookshop at 20% off).  This book is a departure of sorts for Eugenides and has been called “[T]he most entertaining campus novel since Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons”.  The novel begins on graduation day at Brown University in 1982 and I’ll leave it at that.

Eugenides’ next work will be a compilation of short stories, presumably new ones.

Overall Eugenides is a very accessible writer, yet his works continue to resonate long after you’ve finished them.  He, like most of my favorite authors, leaves a lot of work left for the reader.  His endings are not tidy packages wrapped in brown paper and string (as we do here in the bookshop!) but ravels of musings, indeterminates and questions, left for the reader to ponder and argue about at Book club sessions, many of which are held here. (where we offer coffee and bakery items.  Boy! I am really plugging this place).

In any event, drop in and see us, look for our coupon in this issue of and each month I will try to bring you up to date, notwithstanding my pre-existing procrastinatory ways, on an author of interest to me, and hopefully to you.

You can also listen to me interview top-selling authors on WCHE 1520AM every Monday at 5, and access the shows on iTunes by typing The Avid reader, or an author’s name.  You will come up with our podcasts.  I’ve interviewed over sixty authors thus far, and love doing the show.  If you want you can listen to me talk for 60 hours straight (I would then refer you back to The Virgin Suicides!).

Also, come visit our sister emporium, The OtherColors art gallery, just one door down from the bookshop.  We have gallery openings every six weeks or so, including opening night parties with wine and hors d’oeuvres.  Right now we are featuring the work of Portia Mortensen.

We all hope that you will continue to patronize all of the fine shops in Eagleview, come to the concerts, enjoy Brickside and Nudys and keep abreast of all the activity going on in “our town”.  We greatly appreciate it and hope you get lots out of it too.


Interview with Lionel Shriver author of “The New Republic”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Lionel Shriver author of The New Republic

Ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled New York corporate lawyer, he’s more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he’s offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he’s been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved “Bear,” who is no longer lighting up their work lives.

Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—”The Daring Soldiers of Barba”—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn’t give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the “SOB” suddenly dry up?

A droll, playful novel, The New Republic addresses weighty issues like terrorism with the deft, tongue-in-cheek touch that is vintage Shriver. It also presses the more intimate question: What makes particular people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What’s their secret? And in the end, who has the better life—the admired, or the admirer?

Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize–winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, and Ordinary Decent Criminals. She is widely published as a journalist, writing features, columns, op-eds, and book reviews for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, Marie Claire, and many other publications. She is frequently interviewed on television, radio, and in print media. She lives in London and Brooklyn, NY.

Interview with Ben Marcus author of “The Flame Alphabet”

Tune into The Avid Reader today at 5:00pm on WCHE1520 AM. Sam will be interviewing Ben Marcus, author of “The Flame Alphabet”.

The Flame AlphabetA terrible epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal. Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people are going into hiding. All Sam and Claire need to do is look around the neighborhood: In the park, parents wither beneath the powerful screams of their children. At night, suburban side streets become routes of shameful escape for fathers trying to get outside the radius of affliction.
With Claire nearing collapse, it seems their only means of survival is to flee from their daughter, Esther, who laughs at her parents’ sickness, unaware that in just a few years she, too, will be susceptible to the language toxicity. But Sam and Claire find it isn’t so easy to leave the daughter they still love, even as they waste away from her malevolent speech. On the eve of their departure, Claire mysteriously disappears, and Sam, determined to find a cure for this new toxic language, presses on alone into a world beyond recognition.

The Flame Alphabet invites the question: What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love? Both morally engaged and wickedly entertaining, a gripping page-turner as strange as it is moving, this intellectual horror story ensures Ben Marcus’s position in the first rank of American novelists.

BEN MARCUS is the author of three books of fiction: Notable American Women, The Father Costume, and The Age of Wire and String, and he is the editor of The
Anchor Book of New American Short Stories
. His stories have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Conjunctions. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and awards from the Creative Capital Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York Cityand Maine.

Interview with Alexis M. Smith author of “Glaciers”

Join Sam on The Avid Reader as he interviews Alexis M. Smith, author of Glaciers, tomorrow, January 30 at 4:00pm


Isabel is a single, twentysomething thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, things cast off or left behind by others. Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture and the imminent loss of the glaciers she knew as a young girl in Alaska.

Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf. For Isabel, the fleeting moments of one day can reveal an entire life. While she contemplates loss and the intricate fissures it creates in our lives, she accumulates the stories?the remnants?of those around her and she begins to tell her own story.

Alexis M. Smith
Alexis Margaret Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. SheAlexis Smith attended Mount Holyoke College, Portland State University, and Goddard College, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Tarpaulin Sky and on She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her son, two cats, and their beloved view of the St. Johns bridge.
Join us any time…
If you cannot make the live broadcast you can still hear Sam’s interview with Alexis on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.