Serpent of Venice Book Tour

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On Monday night, I headed over to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh with Brad and Beth to hear “The Author Guy” Christopher Moore speak about his new book, The Serpent of Venice. I’ve not read any of Moore’s books, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I looked him up beforehand on GoodReads – he’s got at least fifteen novels under his belt, and one graphic novel.

We showed up to Quail Ridge about half an hour before Moore was scheduled to start speaking, but the parking lot was already packed. When we got inside, it was immediately clear that we’d be standing in the back to hear Moore speak, if we could find a place to squeeze in at all. The store was packed, and the table that QRB usually stacks with books by the visiting author was already looking thoroughly picked over. We took one look at the crowd, did some mental math about how long the line might be to have Moore sign our book after his talk, and opted to buy one of the few remaining pre-signed copies of The Serpent of Venice.

Moore opened his speech with a few jokes about the “author tour” experience (referencing a challenge from a book store employee to sign more books than Amy Tan in an hour – evidently, her record is 800) and a funny (if random) story about his beloved San Francisco. I wasn’t quite sure where he was going with any of his stories, but he made me laugh, and also convinced me that I should be following him on Twitter (@TheAuthorGuy, if you are interested).

When Moore did get around to speaking about The Serpent of Venice, he gave a bit of background on his inspiration for the story. Evidently, he and his wife were visiting Mantua on a tour for one of his books several years ago, and they decided to do a little exploring in Italy while they were there. Moore said that he loved the entire experience, but that Venice in particular struck him as a great setting for a monster story – buildings buttressed together at the top to prevent them from collapsing into each other, streets so narrow that you have to turn sideways to walk down them, and all that water! So he started thinking about stories that were already set in Venice, and he came up with Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado.” Moore said that Othello and Merchant both struck him as being stories about outsiders. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a story about “a Venetian nobleman who walls up a fool in a basement.” As Moore, pointed out, he already has a fool – Pocket, the title character of his 2009 novel Fool. So in The Serpent of Venice, readers will see Iago, Antonio, and Montressor plotting against Pocket with a loveable sea-monster thrown in. Christopher Moore describes this book as “like Game of Thrones, only with more Jews.” I have no idea what that means, but I own a copy now, so we’ll see.

During the question and answer session, Moore did reveal a few things that were obviously big news to people who have been fans of his for a while. First of all, his current work-in-progress is a sequel to his 2006 novel A Dirty Job. I’ve never read it, but that announcement was met with a burst of applause, so I’m guessing that’s exciting. Also, one reader asked if Moore ever thought about converting any of his novels to plays. Moore revealed that he’s actually written a stage play of Fool, which is going to have its first table reading in a few months. Again, lots of enthusiasm from the crowd for this announcement.

I have a feeling Brad will get around to reading The Serpent of Venice before I do, but I’m looking forward to it after seeing Moore in person. Also, huge thanks to Quail Ridge Books for making events like this possible!

Release day!

I thought A Week in Winter would be the last “new” book I would ever read by Maeve Binchy. She is one of my favorite authors, and when she died in 2012, she had published fifteen books and ten collections of short stories. There is something about her way of writing that no other author has ever been able replicate for me – that feeling that her characters, instead of existing only in a book, are living and breathing somewhere very close by. I’ve read Circle of Friends more times than I could count (thanks, RB!), and the main characters of that book feel like my friends. I was surprised to see that more of her work is being published, but I’m so glad. She really was wonderful.

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Today, Knopff is releasing Chestnut Street, and here is their description:

Maeve Binchy imagined a street in Dublin with many characters coming and going, and every once in a while she would write about one of these people. She would then put it in a drawer; “for the future,” she would say. The future is now.

Across town from St. Jarlath’s Crescent, featured in Minding Frankie, is Chestnut Street, where neighbors come and go. Behind their closed doors we encounter very different people with different life circumstances, occupations, and sensibilities. Some of the unforgettable characters lovingly brought to life by Binchy are Bucket Maguire, the window cleaner, who must do more than he bargained for to protect his son; Nessa Byrne, whose aunt visits from America every summer and turns the house—and Nessa’s world—upside down; Lilian, the generous girl with the big heart and a fiancé whom no one approves of; Melly, whose gossip about the neighbors helps Madame Magic, a self-styled fortune-teller, get everyone on the right track; Dolly, who discovers more about her perfect mother than she ever wanted to know; and Molly, who learns the cure for sleeplessness from her pen pal from Chicago . . .

Chestnut Street is written with the humor and understanding that are earmarks of Maeve Binchy’s extraordinary work and, once again, she warms our hearts with her storytelling.

Maeve’s husband, Gordon Snell has also written a bit about this book over on her website. I’ll be grabbing a copy of this ASAP.

Chestnut Street shares its book birthday with Christopher Moore’s new release, The Serpent of Venice. I’ve never read anything by Christopher Moore, but he’s coming to Quail Ridge Books on May 5, so I am going to go see him and give this book a try.

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Here is what William Morrow has to say about The Serpent of Venice:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff.

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters-the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago-have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

I do love Shakespeare. Worth a try!