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Wednesday, May 13,2015

Breach of trust

‘A Good Killing’ explores issues of trust, access and abuse

by Bill Castanier
After the successful debut of her mystery/ thriller novel, “Law of Attraction,” author Allison Leotta decided she needed what she called a “little writing nest.” So she repurposed an extra bedroom, painting it a light blue because she had heard that the color helped creativity. She soon found that wasn’t working for her, and went back to working at the kitchen table. She has since written three more superb thrillers at this table, drawing on her 12 years of experience as a federal sex crimes prosecutor in Washington, D.C.
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Wednesday, May 6,2015

The war on the war on drugs

One Book, One Community explores equal justice in the U.S.

by Bill Castanier
It’s been 14 years since Frankenstein’s monster metaphorically set foot on the streets of East Lansing. The selection of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was viewed by many as an outrageous choice for the area’s first One Book, One Community program, a joint project between the City of East Lansing and Michigan State University. The selection, however, set the tone and style for future years, which saw major authors the likes of National Book Award winner Katherine Boo present on campus. The one major difference: Since the first year, all the authors were alive.
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Wednesday, April 29,2015

Anne and Anna

Michigan authors host Independent Bookstore Day events in Greater Lansing

by Bill Castanier
Two Michigan writers — one from decidedly gritty Detroit, the other from pastoral Empire on the shore of Lake Michigan — will be headliners at Schuler Books on Saturday for Independent Book Store Day. Unfortunately, the two writers, Anna Clark of Detroit and Anne-Marie Oomen of Empire, will be holding court at competing Schuler Books locations. It would have been fun to put these two Michigan authors together for a session. Clark, a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, curated “A Detroit Anthology,” a 2015 Michigan Notable Book Award winner.
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Wednesday, April 22,2015

A notable evening

Library of Michigan Foundation honors 20 authors at Night for Notables

by Bill Castanier
Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel was not the only one surprised when her post-apocalyptic novel, “Station Eleven,” was named a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. What surprised close followers of the award was not only that she was a virtual unknown, but — perhaps even more unlikely — her book was tainted as a thriller with a postapocalyptic theme. Books like this just don’t make it onto the list of finalists for the prestigious award.
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Wednesday, April 15,2015

History on paper

Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper show returns to the Lansing Center

by Bill Castanier
Book collectors, history buffs and the just-plain-curious will get a literary look into the past at this weekend’s Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show. For over 30 years, Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop and the show’s organizer, has been hosting the popular show in Lansing. It will hold its 61st semi-annual show Sunday at the Lansing Center.
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Wednesday, April 8,2015

Rallying the literary troops

Jack Lessenberry keynotes this year’s gathering of Michigan writers

by Bill Castanier
A Rally of Writers is nearing the dreaded 30, but it doesn’t seem to be getting old. In its 28 years as the region’s premier writing conference, it has managed to stay fresh because it is always “looking for the truth,” said Linda Peckham, one of the rally’s organizers and originators. For Peckham, the truth is very important. “People see it in all the genres (of literature),” she said.
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Wednesday, April 1,2015

The killer’s killer

A look at the man who killed John Wilkes Booth

by Bill Castanier
This month, the media will be peppered with articles, books and newscasts during the sesquicentennial commemoration of the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Many of those news accounts will repeat long held myths and rehash assassination conspiracy theories. Most will recall the facts history classes drilled into our heads: On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth snuck into Lincoln’s private box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington and fired the fatal shot. Fewer know, however, how Booth met his end. History has recorded that Booth was killed by Sgt. Boston Corbett, a member of the 16th New York Cavalry. Corbett was a member of the 29-man hunting party charged with capturing Booth alive.
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Wednesday, March 25,2015

Northern Michigan on two wheels

Traverse City author gives tips for exploring Northern Michigan by bicycle

by Bill Castanier
Robert Downes, author of “Biking Northern Michigan,” had two requirements for the more than 35 bike routes he details in his book. “They had to be safe and scenic,” he said in a phone conversation from his Traverse City-area home. Out of the many bicycling routes Downes writes about, he said that the M-22 Frankfort to Glen Arbor tour and the Glen Lake tour are a couple of his favorites.
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Wednesday, March 18,2015

Galileo gives the bird

Local author and activist explores issues of science, ethics and politics

by Bill Castanier
You may think you know Alice Dreger, but you probably don’t. You may have heard her asking pointed questions of Board of Water & Light officials during the aftermath of the 2013 ice storm. Or maybe you’ve seen a photograph of her in in the Lansing State Journal in an article about freedom of information. You might even remember Rush Limbaugh trash-talking an article she wrote on pedophilia and football head injuries. But you don’t really know Alice Dreger. That could soon change for East Lansing’s Dreger, 49, a historian of medicine and science. She has written a book on the darker side of scientific research, scholarship and activism that threatens to push her into the national spotlight. The title, “Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists and the Search for Justice in Science,” reflects Dreger’s wry, often ironic sense of humor. The idea for the title came from her experience seeing the famed astronomer’s actual skeletal middle finger on display at a shrine in Florence, Italy.
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Wednesday, March 11,2015

Touching history

The William L. Clements Library offers a window into the nation’s past

by Bill Castanier
Thanks to the internet, vast holdings from archives across the world have been digitally opened to the public, but it’s not quite the same as putting on the white cotton gloves and experiencing the thrill of physically encountering a rare item you have never seen before. Clayton Lewis, curator of graphic materials at University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library, will be at the of the Capital Area District Libraries’ downtown Lansing branch Thursday for a presentation on the evolution and growth of the library.
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