Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 245: Romance novels with Dave Thomas

This week we welcome special guest Dave Thomas (no, not that Dave Thomas), a writer of literary fiction–and founding editor of Lockjaw Magazine–who, with his wife, has recently taken a turn toward writing romance novels. Dave felt that the romance novels we’d read in the past were all pretty terrible, and wanted us to read a good one. So his book pick was by Julia Quinn, whose Regency-era novels are praised for their humor and for featuring strong, complex female characters. The specific book we read is called The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy, and it’s the fourth in a series about the Smith-Smythe family (though each book is also meant to stand alone).

We talk with Dave about what separates a good romance novel from a bad one, and why he and his wife decided to write their own. You can find their books under the author name Josephine Banks.

We also talk to Dave about being an expat in Australia, how living there compares to living in the U.S., whether he eats a bloomin’ onion every day–or only every other day–and how many practice-hours it takes to become an expert at the didgeridoo.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

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Episode 244: Summer of Spouses, Helen Knode (and James Ellroy)

This is it, folks: the last episode in our Summer of Spouses season. We’re talking about the writer Helen Knode, who was married for a time to James Ellroy, and who seemed unable to escape his shadow, at least as a novelist (nearly every review of her first book mentioned Ellroy within the first few sentences). We also talk about Ellroy’s relationship to women, which he detailed in a memoir a few years’ back. And, since this is the last week of the season, we decide whether marriage is good or bad. If you’re thinking of getting married, you’ll want to hear this!

In the second half of the show, we dig into some more Yahoo Answers! questions about marriage, including: a wife who doesn’t like the gift her husband gave her, a husband who doesn’t like to go “downtown,” and a couple who are at odds over whether to have a threesome.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 244:

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Episode 243: Summer of Spouses, Holiday Reinhorn (and Rainn Wilson)

We’re back with another installment in our Summer of Spouses series. This week we’ve read a short story by Holiday Reinhorn, “Last Seen,” from her 2005 collection, Big Cats. The book was well-reviewed, and Reinhorn has done plenty of other interesting work, but nearly every article about her mentions her famous husband, Rainn Wilson, who you might know as Dwight from The Office. By all accounts the two have a happy and successful partnership; they even started a nonprofit, Lide, which works with at-risk adolescent girls in Haiti. They also own a tiny horse, and a zonkey.

In addition to Reinhorn’s story, we talk about the time we saw her read on someone’s porch in Iowa City, plus speculate wildly about what it must be like to be married to a big TV star. Plus, all our usual nonsense.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 243:

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Episode 242: Summer of Spouses, Margaret Millar (and Ross Macdonald)

We’ve got another installment this week in our Summer of Spouses, in which we’ve been reading work by the less-famous partners of well-known authors. Interestingly, early on Margaret Millar’s marriage to Ross Macdonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar, she was the more famous of the two. Though eventually his reputation would take off, particularly after he created the character of Lew Archer. But she remained a well-respected crime writer in her own right, and is often credited with lending psychological depth to the types of characters who, in lesser writers’ hands, tended to be rather flat and stereotypical.

In the first half of the show, we talk about Millar’s prize-winning 1955 novel, Beast in View. Both of us found things to like in the book, but also some things we grew frustrated with. In the second half of the show, we talk about Millar’s relationship with Macdonald, plus we dig into some more Yahoo Answers! questions about marriage, divorce, and flatulence.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 242:

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Episode 241: Summer of Spouses, John Bayley (and Iris Murdoch)

This week we’re returning to our Summer of Spouses season to discuss John Bayley’s Elegy for Iris, a memoir about his marriage to Iris Murdoch, written while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Both of us had heard good things about the book, and were eager to check it out. We’d also read a number of articles about Bayley’s and Murdoch’s sex life–which seems to come up nearly any time someone discusses their marriage–and so were curious about how the book might treat that subject.

In the second half of the show, we talk about the way spouses can support (or not support) their writer spouses, and how having a supportive spouse can make a huge–and often unacknowledged–difference in a writer’s life. This article from The Atlantic (which we discuss briefly) delves into a number of contemporary examples. We also go to Yahoo Answers to see what kinds of problems people need help with in their marriages. This week, those problems include a husband who eats too much quiche, and one who’s a little too into the single mom next door.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 241:

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Episode 240: Special Guest Daniel DiFranco

This week we welcome another special guest to the podcast: writer, guitarist, high-school music teacher, and debut novelist Daniel DiFranco, whose book, Panic Years, comes out this Wednesday (but which you can go ahead and preorder, in paperback or for a Kindle). As is the Book Fight custom, we let Dan pick the book we read for this week’s episode, which was Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues. The book had a bit of a Tom Robbins vibe, which, given how things went when your hosts read an actual Tom Robbins novel, had us all a little nervous.

In the first half of the show, we talk about Reincarnation Blues, which concerns a man who is about to run out of the lives allotted to him by the universe, and has to either attain Perfection or face his soul being tossed off the cliff into Nothingness. Oh, also he’s having an affair with Death, who is a woman named Suzie. Did we find the book wise? Funny? Insufferable? Hokey? A fun romp? You’ll have to listen to find out.

In the second half of the show, we talk to Dan about teaching music to high school students, aging out of rock and roll, dads in cover bands, and why he used to think it would be cool to get struck by lightning.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 240:

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Episode 239: Special Guests Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin

This week we’re taking a quick break from our Summer of Spouses discussions to welcome two guests to the podcast: Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin, co-editors of the recently published anthology Who Will Speak for America?, which brings together work from a bunch of contemporary writers responding in various ways to our current political moment. They also chose a book for us to read, Gotz and Meyer, by Serbian novelist David Albahari.

In the first half of the show, we talk about Albahari’s book, which takes an interesting, experimental path through its narrative of the Holocaust. In the second half of the show we talk about the anthology, Popkin’s and Feldman’s own writing. Plus our standard lightning-round questions.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we explore some of the weirder reaches of the literary universe: Amish mysteries, caveman romances, end-times thrillers and more!

Stream Episode 239:

Download Episode 239 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!