What books are currently on your night stand?
“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Neuyen and “Gravity” by Tess Gerritsen. Since I am presently working on my sci-fi novel, “7000 A.D.,” the past year, I have had very little time to read. I am a binge reader, reading very little when I write and catching up with reading when I finish my books.
Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

Flannery O’Connor is my number one. Who could possibly top her? There are many writers I call my favorites but no one writes like Flannery. Her mind is such a wonder. I can re-read one of her tales, such as “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and still be jolted out of my skin no matter how many times I re-read it.

Of the current writers, I particularly like Paula Hawkins for her fast-paced psychological thrillers “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on a Train.”

I also found “The Nightingale” such a remarkable story that Kristin Hannah became one of my new favorite writers. I loved the theme in that book of how women react during war time. I then read her haunting “Winter Garden.” I definitely will read more of her work.

Do you have a favorite genre? Any literary guilty pleasures?
My favorite genre is definitely Fiction. For guilty pleasures, I love sweeping historically based novels. I can never get enough of Ken Follet. I became an ardent fan with the reading of his Trilogy, “Pillars of the Earth,” “World Without End” and “A Column of Fire.” Another writer in that genre is Phillipa Gregory. My introduction to her came about by reading “White Queen“, which I thought was brilliant.
How do you organize your books?
Alphabetically by Author.
Which books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I have always read the Philosophers. I began reading most of them when I studied at Duquesne University. From the Greeks to the Romans to Sartre to Ouspensky to Nietzsche to Simone de Bouvoir to Camille Paglia, I love getting into the minds of great thinkers. I am certain that studying philosophy expands the dimensions of the mind and helps with vision and clarity in one’s writing.
What do you like to read when you travel?
When I fly, I hate beginning a book and not having time enough to finish by the time the flight is over. That is why I wrote “Stories to Read on a Plane,” a book of short stories. If you don’t finish the book by the end of your flight, you can pick it up the next time you travel and begin a new story. But, you are not left up in the air for the ending.
If you could have high school teachers read one book, what would it be? High school students?
For teachers, I might suggest “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. It is important for teachers to encourage students to read. Farenheit 451 is a book that shows how insidious a Government can be in stifling free speech by banning books. For students, I would suggest “The Metamorphosis”by Franz Kafka, a perfectly-crafted, dark tale yet humorous. It is also a subtle way to introduce a bit of Existentialism to a young mind.
What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?
I was an avid reader. I loved the Nancy Drew Mysteries and read a book a day until I finished the series. Some of my other favorite books were “Black Beauty,” “The Sword in the Stone” and “Twig.” I wonder if children still read those books. Parents should introduce their children to the classics as well as contemporary authors. Great books stimulate a child’s imagination.
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

My first guest would be Flannery O’Connor who was the epitome of the great Southern writer. I would ask her how the darkness of her tales was influenced by her being struck with lupus in her late 20s. Given only five years to live, she lasted 12 years.

As to the other two, it is very difficult to decide between all those I love. But, I think I would ask Truman Capote, not only for his superb writing but he would add wit and humor to the event. I would ask him to describe how he combined fact and fiction to write “In Cold Blood.” Described as a “non-fiction novel,” I would ask him if he was aware of how he inspired so many generations of writers since.

Ken Follett would be my third guest. He writes of suspense, intrigue and spies with powerful narratives. From “The Eye of the Needle,” to “World Without End,” to “Fall of Giants,” he never short changes the reader. I would ask him how he carried on after writing 11 books before “Eye of the Needle”, his twelfth book, became his first success.

Are there any books that you found captured the New York scene in the 60's and 70's particularly well?

In the 60s, Suze Rotolo wrote “A Freewheelin Time: A Memory of Greenwich in the 60s.” It was very popular when it came out. Rotolo tells the story of her affair with Bob Dylan which was fated to fail when he became famous. It is a period piece on the times, both culturally and politically. She describes Greenwich Village when the Village was wonderful.

The seediness and dangers of Downtown New York City in the 70s is captured vividly in “Before” by Irini Spanidou. It is the story of three months in the life of a woman living an empty, destructive life of drugs, clubs and bad behavior. It is one of the best books to describe the era.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
It would have to be “War & Peace.” I have begun it at least three times but never got through it. I keep saying that I will finish it. But, for some reason, my attention is never held long enough when I start it.
What do you plan to read next?
Next on my list is definitely the Harry Hole series. Hole, a Detective with the Oslo Crime Squad, is the creation of Norwegian author, Jo Nesbo. Reading his reviews, I became intrigued with the character, Harry Hole. After reading excerpts from the novels, I have made the series my next priority on my reading list.
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