Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Top Ten Great American Novels - A Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Pru Weber to the blog today. You can find Pru on the pages of The Not So Reluctant Detectives Mystery series by D.E. Haggerty. Hide Not Seek is the third book in the series and was released earlier this month.

My Top Ten Great American Novels by Pru Weber

As an English literature teacher, I – surprise! – have a great love for English literature. When I say English literature, I don’t mean literature written exclusively by British authors. Although I do love Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen (the list goes on and on), I’m more a fan of American literature. Schools should really start using the term American literature in my opinion. That’s a bit of a long-winded introduction, but I wanted to let you know why my list of top ten novels are all ‘American’ novels. Who doesn’t love the ‘Great American’ novel?

So, without further ado, here are my top ten great American novels in no particular order.

Little Women. No list of great American novels can be complete without Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age story of the March sisters. I’m sure I’ve read this novel dozens of times. My paperback copy is coming apart at the seams.

The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck’s writing is genius in its simplicity. He immerses the reader in the times and troubles of the Great Depression and the dust bowl with this novel. It’s as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. Another novel I’ve read numerous times.

Go Tell It on The Mountain. This semi-autobiographical novel by James Baldwin opened my eyes to how people of other ethnicities and socio-economic levels live. Reading this story while attending a mostly white high school was nothing short of lifechanging. I make my students read it for the same reason.

The Good Earth. No one said the great American novel had to be set in the U.S. This novel by Pearl S. Buck dramatizes family life in a Chinese village. I think my desire to visit China started when I read this book in high school.

Fahrenheit 451. I’ve always been fascinated by the lives of Germans up to the start of Second World War. If I close my eyes, I can see pictures of massive piles of books burning. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury tells the tale of what it’s like to live in a society where books are banned, and firemen burn any books they find. It’s an important reminder of how fragile our society can be. And how books are precious!

My Antonia. I didn’t read this classic from Willa Cather until recently. A disgrace, I know. I didn’t expect to like it. What do I have in common with pioneers in Nebraska at the end of the 19th Century? But Cather brings the American West to life and makes it downright fascinating.

The Color Purple. Alice Walker’s novel is not an easy read. It can be violent and upsetting. But it shouldn’t be banned. It should be cherished as a novel telling the tale of the lives of African-American women in the Southern United States. These voices need to be heard.

Beloved. Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is another story, which is not easy to read. Perhaps the best literature is not easy to read? The story of the former slave, Sethe, and the haunting she endures is as touching as it is disturbing.

To Kill A Mockingbird. Racial injustice and the destruction of innocence take center stage in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Lee also addresses issues of class and gender roles in the Deep South. This is another book often the subject of campaigns for removal from public classrooms, but with its lessons in tolerance, it deserves a place in the teaching curriculum.

The Great Gatsby. This is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Set in the Roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change and social upheaval. Although the novel is set nearly a century ago, it remains relevant today as we fight with change and ever-increasing social unrest.

There are literally hundreds more great American novels, but these are my top ten favorite Great American novels.


Hide Not Seek (The Not So Reluctant Detectives) by D.E. Haggerty

About the Book

Cozy Mystery/Romance/Humor 3rd in Series  
Independently Published (April 18, 2019) 
Print Length: 183 pages 
I know who you really are.
Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal - ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations help thwart the killer's plan to frame Pru for the murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he's not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he'll protect her with his life. Pru isn't feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police uncover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.
Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?

About the Author

I grew up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom's Harlequin romances to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn't flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic before returning to the law. But practicing law really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out running a B&B wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where, in between tennis matches and failing to save the world, I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.

Hide Not Seek is my fifteenth novel.

Author Links:
Website: http://dehaggerty.wordpress.com
Blog: https://dehaggerty.wordpress.com/category/mymusings/
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Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/D.E.-Haggerty/e/B00ECQBURU/
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Bookbub author page: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/d-e-haggerty
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/d-e-haggerty-4b49a29/  

Purchase Links: Amazon Smashwords Kobo Barnes and Noble Goodreads

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Only Pretty Damned - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Niall Howell to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Niall released his first book, ONLY PRETTY DAMNED earlier this month.

Kathy: ONLY PRETTY DAMNED is classified as Gothic Noir. I love Gothics and am familiar with Noir...but how do the two combine? What makes your first book Gothic Noir?

NH: That’s a great question. I’ll start by saying that as a huge fan of both genres, I’m thrilled that these two words are being used together to describe something I wrote. I think ONLY PRETTY DAMNED leans a tiny bit more to the noir side than it does to the Gothic, but the book certainly contains elements of both. I love Gothic classics like THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO, FRANKENSTEIN, and THE MONK, but as far as my influences go, it’s the Southern Gothic writers who resonate with me the most. When I look at the work of some of my Southern Gothic favorites—Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, and Truman Capote—I see stories that have a great deal of tonal and thematic overlap with noir. Like noir, the best Southern Gothic tales are morbid and deal with themes of cruelty and corruption. They also have that grimy film floating on the top of them, which is something I’ve certainly tried to create in my book. I’m thinking in particular of the grotesque, that warts-and-all stuff, that you find in so many Southern Gothic tales. And then there’s the characters, these wonderfully delusional outsiders with transgressive thoughts sloshing around their heads. These characters are the sort one also finds in noir and crime fiction, the damaged, the impulsive, the opportunistic folks that James M. Cain and Jim Thompson wrote. These characters can be so hard to like, but I think that’s what makes them fun to read and to write. There’s something oddly captivating about taking a ride with someone’s sketchy id in the driver’s seat, at least in a fictional sense.

Kathy: This book is set under the big top. Are you a fan of circuses? What's your favorite act?

NH: I think that I became a fan while researching and writing the book. The circus is one of those things that’s just cemented into North American pop culture. Maybe not everyone has been to a circus, but I can’t think of anyone who isn’t at least familiar with clowns, jugglers, and acrobats. My book mainly takes place in the 1950s, and when I look at the way circuses were back then, well, there are parts that are enchanting and parts that are quite bothersome. For example, as an animal lover, the way circus animals were treated is really disturbing, and this is something I make reference to a couple times in the book. At the same time (and especially now that the collective social conscience has evolved a bit) there’s so much to love about circuses. The magic and mystery, the colorful, eclectic cast of characters, and more than anything else, the sheer talent of the performers. I think my favorite act would have to be the flying trapeze. I spent so much time reading and watching videos on the art of trapeze, and the skill of the performers blew me away. Clowns are a very close second.

Kathy: Why choose the circus as your setting and circus folk your characters?

NH: It seemed so rife with potential. The nomadic lifestyle that comes with the territory made the circus seem like a very interesting place to have a crime to take place. In the early stages of writing I was thinking about this a lot, these otherworldly travelers with no fixed address, roaming the country, planting their stakes for a few nights of entertaining, and then hitting the road again. These are people who are always on their way to something temporary. I found that really interesting. On top of that, I’ve always found myself drawn to subcultures, these insular communities that have their own codes and rules and seem to exist on a different plane than the rest of us. There was so much to play with that it actually became daunting at times.

Kathy: What first drew you to Noir?

NH: I blame comic books for steering me toward the genre. I’ve been an avid comic book fan since I was a little kid, and my favorite stories were always the ones that dealt with the sorts of crimes that were rooted in reality. Don’t get me wrong—if the X-Men were zapped into another dimension to compete in gladiator-like games of death in front of an alien audience, I was all over it, but I always found jewel heists, murder plots, kidnappings, and blackmail schemes to be the most fun. The characters in these settings were so interesting to me. Petty thieves, muggers, con artists, mobsters, private eyes, corrupt cops, gamblers, backstabbers, losers, and lowlifes. I remember the first time I saw Batman (1989) when I was five, two of the characters who stuck with me the most were the sketchy muggers at the start of the movie. They only get about five minutes of screen time, but for some reason I was really drawn to these two. Anytime I watch that movie I find myself going, Who are these guys? How did they end up like this? There’s something so magnetic about their shadiness. When I eventually found my way to Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiel Hammett, I felt like I had found the Promised Land. All the corruption, scheming, and duplicity that had hooked me in comic book stories when I was a kid was waiting for me in their prose. I remember when I read THE BIG SLEEP for the first time, making it about a page in and thinking, This is for me.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

NH: I’ve had a couple of short stories published that I’d consider to be dark comedies, and I enjoy writing horror as well.

Kathy: Tell us about your book.

NH: ONLY PRETTY DAMNED is told through the eyes of Toby, a performer in Rowland’s World Class Circus. Toby used to be a headlining acrobat, but due to his involvement in an unfortunate incident at the circus, he’s been grounded and relegated to the role of clown, forced to watch every night while Genevieve, his former lover and performing partner, tops the bill with a new man. When Toby decides to take matters into his own hands to rectify his position at the circus, details from his dark past begin to seep to the surface.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

NH: As bitter as he is, I’d have to say Toby is my favorite character. I loved writing in his voice because it’s so much different than my own. If I had to choose someone other than my lead, I’d have to go with either Wally Jakes, a veteran carnie who left a strong impression on Toby, or Gloria, a dancer who feels she’s destined for bigger things.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your book?

NH: Not really. It’s hard to pin down a specific inspiration because I’m influenced by so many different things, but I will say that I’ve always been interested in contrasts, so the juxtaposing of the bright colorful world on the big top with the dingy darkness of noir had a lot of appeal to it.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

NH: While, as most authors do, I certainly had my moments of doubt while writing ONLY PRETTY DAMNED, I felt like it was the sort of story I’d want to read and that there must be an audience for it somewhere out there. Fortunately, my wonderful publisher NeWest Press got what I was going for and picked the book up.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

NH: I love this question! I think I’d have to go with Stephen King, Megan Abbott, Shirley Jackson, and the mighty Raymond Chandler. We’d have pizza, because I think there would be something fun about seeing Raymond Chandler tackle a slice. He seems like the kind of guy who would fold it in half and just go for it. And if I can cheat a little bit here, I’d go for post-dinner party drinks with Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, and James M. Cain, which I have no doubt would lead to an apocalyptic hangover.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

NH: I’m just finishing reading LEFT by fellow Calgarian Theanna Bischoff. It’s a fantastic story.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

NH: I play bass in an 80s style punk band called Mandible Klaw. I’ve been playing in bands since I was in my teens, and this band has been going for the last five years. We get to gig a fair bit, and that sometimes involves travel, which is fun. I’m a big music nerd and record collector—it’s an addiction that has been bordering on unhealthy for years. I’m also really into movies. In fact, my favorite place to be on a Friday or Saturday night is on the couch with my wife and three pets, watching movies until fatigue hits us.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

NH: Cereal, coffee beans, tea, and honey. There’s some healthy stuff in the fridge, but these four items are always there.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books?

NH: Yes indeed. The novel I’m working on right now is a coming-of-age crime story that takes place in a small suburb in the late 1990s.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

NH: Getting to talk with people about stories. I love, love, love it.


Niall Howell was born and raised in Calgary, where he still resides with his wife and three pets. His short fiction has been published in The Feathertale Review and FreeFall and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Royal University, and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary. He enjoys playing bass, and obsessively collects records and comics. Only Pretty Damned is a part of the Nunatak First Fiction Series.

Niall can be found on twitter @niall_howell


The author has graciously offered a copy of ONLY PRETTY DAMNED to one reader. Simply leave a comment on this post telling us what interests you about Gothic Noir or circuses. Be sure to leave an e-mail address so that I may contact you should your comment be picked. Be sure to leave your comment no later than 11:59pm EDT Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Good Luck. Sorry US and Canada addresses only.

Be sure to come back to the blog to see my review which I will post June 7, 2019!