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Dove Season (A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco), by Johnny Shaw.

Twelve years have passed since Jimmy Veeder set foot in the Imperial Valley of southern California. The only person that could bring him back is his father, Jack, who is dying of cancer. Jimmy is prepared to spend Jack's final days joking and reminiscing, but the old man has other plans. He needs Jimmy to cross the border into Mexico and find a prostitute named Yolanda. It's a strange final request to be sure, but Jimmy's not one to argue with a dying man.

With his childhood buddy Bobby Maves in tow, he heads south, looking for Yolanda among the seedy bars and neighborhoods along the Calexico/Mexicali border. Their search leads them to Tomás Morales, a rising star in the Mexican underworld. While dangerous to most, his childhood friendship with Jimmy brings out his loyalty and spurs him to help. But just when Jimmy thinks his quest has ended, an unexpected murder sucks him further into the violence and danger of Mexicali. In his fight for survival and search for truth, what he uncovers calls into question everything he thought he knew about his father-and will determine just what kind of man he himself truly is.

A Q&A with Johnny Shaw

Question: You were born and raised in the Imperial Valley. Yet in your 20-year writing career, Dove Season is the first work of yours fully set there. Why the long wait?
Johnny Shaw: I don't think I consciously avoided writing about the Mexican border. It can just be difficult to see a place as familiar as one's hometown as a subject that would be interesting to anyone else. All those cool, unique details hide themselves in plain sight. But I'm glad I waited--it gave me a chance to do it right, with the proper amount of distance, objectivity, and experience.
Q: Dove Season continues a proud tradition of books and movies set in rural California. What was your approach to creating such a strong sense of place?
JS: In the case of Dove Season, the Imperial Valley did all the heavy lifting for me. It's a unique place to grow up and an amazing backdrop for a crime novel. Usually the only time my hometown is mentioned in the news is for something lamentable: worst unemployment, air pollution, earthquakes, immigration issues, and so on. While all those things may be true, I figured, why not show the other side of the story? The story I know; the human story.
Q: The subtitle of Dove Season is "A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco," which implies we'll be seeing more of this protagonist in your work. What are your plans for his future?
JS: About halfway through writing Dove Season, I knew that Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves were characters I wanted to revisit. Not only are they a blast to write, but there is a lot of complexity to their friendship that has yet to be explored. As I write this, I'm hard at work on Plaster City, the next Jimmy Veeder Fiasco. At minimum, I have two more fiascoes in my head, stories that stand on their own but are part of a bigger arc. After that, we'll see.
Q: Jimmy and Bobby get into some crazy situations on both sides of the Mexican border in Dove Season. How much of the novel is autobiographical? Are any of his misadventures based on your life?
JS: Write what you know, right? Without getting myself into too much trouble, let's just say that the bars and strips joint of Mexicali are not a world that is foreign to me. And like Jimmy, I did grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere with a field-worker bar across the street. But if you want to know if I've ever used a shovel to fend off someone with a baseball bat, you'll have to ask my wife. Just kidding, honey. Put the bat down.
Q: You've written extensively for the stage and screen. How are these processes similar to and different from creating plot and characters in a novel?
JS: Whether I'm writing a screenplay, graphic novel, stage play, or novel, I try to treat each one with the proper amount of respect, emphasizing the given medium's strengths. I've always been of the mind that if you can make the characters breathe and the setting real, then you've gone a long way toward drawing the reader in. The individual medium doesn't matter--it's all about the story and the people who inhabit it.

393 pages, with a 4.3-star rating from 403 reviews

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The Marriage Wager, by Jane Ashford.

In this Regency favorite from Jane Ashford, a troubled war hero is dealt an unexpected hand...

When Emma Tarrant enters a gambling house to find her brother losing to a gamester, she follows the strange man home and attempts to settle the score. Colin Wareham is intrigued by Emma's offer, and when he wins the first hand, he suggests another game. Should he prevail, Emma would be his prize. But as he's collecting his winnings, Emma's father storms in and demands a marriage. Though forced together, Emma and Colin's passion begins to grow... until a sinister man from Emma's past emerges to raise the stakes.
384 pages, with a 4.0-star rating from 13 reviews

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The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel (A Game of Thrones), by George R. R. Martin.

In this comic book/graphic novel adaptation set one hundred years before the events in George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Sworn Sword follows the adventures of Ser Duncan and his squire, Egg, as they quest for honor and glory in the Seven Kingdoms.

After the deaths, surprises, and heroics in The Hedge Knight, Dunk and Egg continue their journey in search of the fair puppeteer Tanselle. Along the way, the elderly knight Ser Eustace takes both men under his charge, alongside another knight-and this one promises trouble. Peace is ever elusive for Dunk and Egg, as they are soon embroiled in the schemes of local nobility, while a darker, greater thread threatens to unravel long-held truths of the Battle of Redgrass Field.

In classic George R.R. Martin fashion, heroes and villains are never clear-cut, and political alliances threaten to slice the deepest. Yet one path lies ahead for Dunk and Egg: onward toward destiny. Join them as they venture along a now-familiar world but in a time all-new!
Collecting The Hedge Knight II: The Sworn Sword #1-6, this special edition comes packed with over twenty-five pages of bonus material!

This graphic novel features panel-by-panel viewing to enhance small-screen reading. Kindle Panel View is available on Kindle devices and apps (on touchscreens, simply double-tap a panel). Be sure to read the easy-to-follow instructions when you first open the comic.

A Look Inside The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel
The Sworn Sword Sample

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The Sworn Sword Sample

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The Sworn Sword Sample

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176 pages, with a 4.1-star rating from 63 reviews

This is a graphic novel.

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Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century, by Sergei Kostin.

1981. Ronald Reagan and François Mitterrand are sworn in as presidents of the Unites States and France, respectively. The tension due to Mitterrand's French Communist support, however, is immediately defused when he gives Reagan the Farewell Dossier, a file he would later call "one of the greatest spy cases of the twentieth century."

Vladimir Ippolitovitch Vetrov, a promising technical student, joins the KGB to work as a spy. Following a couple of murky incidents, however, Vetrov is removed from the field and placed at a desk as an analyst. Soon, burdened by a troubled marriage and frustrated at a flailing career, Vetrov turns to alcohol. Desperate and needing redemption, he offers his services to the DST. Thus Agent Farewell is born. He uses his post within the KGB to steal and photocopy files of the USSR's plans for the West-all under Brezhnev's nose.

Probing further into Vetrov's psychological profile than ever before, Kostin and Raynaud provide groundbreaking insight into the man whose life helped hasten the fall of the Soviet Regime.

A Q&A with Sergei Kostin

Question: You spent two years researching the backstory of this book. What about Vetrov first caught your attention?
Sergei Kostin: It was pure luck that I happened upon this case. I was writing a book with a former KGB colonel who was responsible for counterintelligence operations in the Soviet Union investigating French citizens. While we were working together, he mentioned the Farewell case. He had asked for the Farewell dossier in order to learn about the techniques used by French intelligence for handling Farewell in Moscow, so he studied a number of the files and took many notes. The notes he gave me from his research were the start of my investigation, because I realized how relevant this case was for the present day--and Farewell's complex personality was intriguing to me.
Q: There are many sides to this story: Russian, French, American. How did you begin unearthing all the pieces and evaluating how to share them?
SK: For the first year, I only had the Russian side. I had the notes from the Farewell KGB dossier, as well as notes from interviews with his widow, his son, his colleagues, and his friends. Then I went to France and had the chance to add the recollections of Farewell's first handler, Xavier Ameil, and his wife, Claude. I did try to get additional information from the DST (the French counterintelligence agency) and the DGSE (French foreign intelligence). As I expected, they didn't cooperate. The DST head during Farewell's time, Marcel Chalet, then retired, refused to meet me; his deputy, Raymond Nart, was still in active service. Patrick Ferrant, Farewell's main handler, also refused.
Luckily, I was contacted by Eric Raynaud, who wanted to make a movie of my book Bonjour, Farewell and was working on the script. We met two years later and I offered him the opportunity to collaborate on a new edition, giving him some leads in France. Thus it was Eric who conducted the main investigation from the French side for the second edition. There were several reasons for this: It was six years after my first try at uncovering more information, so Raymond Nart and Patrick Ferrant had retired and were able to reveal more. And on top of that, a Russian journalist researching a book about espionage looks suspicious. Because Eric was French and had plenty of time and flexibility, he was able to convince Marcel Chalet and Jacques Prévost to speak about the case. Also he obtained comments about the Farewell cast from Richard Allen, President Reagan's first national security adviser. As a result of Eric's work, our book on Farewell's case became much more consistent from an international perspective.
Q: Because Vetrov is viewed as a traitor in Russia, you initially published your book in France rather than your home country. The Russian government forbade filming of the screenplay in Moscow, and two Russian actors bowed out of the lead role because of social and political pressure. Did you ever consider not publishing the book because of the social taboos?
SK: No. I wrote the first version of my book in 1995 to 1996, when many more doors, including those inside the KGB, were, if not open, at least not shut in your face. My first edition was an accurate reporting of facts, without any political allegations. What could they have objected to? For the second version, I contacted some people I couldn't get to before or of whose existence I had been unaware. I had a long interview with Vladimir Kryuchkov, the former head of the Soviet Union's Foreign Intelligence and later on of the whole KGB; Igor Prelin, former operative of internal counterintelligence dealing with Soviet intelligence officers; Valery Rechenski, who was Farewell's inmate in prison; and so on. All these people were much more at ease talking about the case the second time around because many of the officials involved had died, and because it looked more like pure history. My reason for not publishing my book in Russia was ultimately out of consideration for Farewell's family. His widow and son helped me a great deal in reconstructing his life, and I didn't want their acquaintances pointing and whispering about them after having read this book. In Russia, Farewell is not considered a hero, even if his work objectively helped bring about the end of the Communist regime.
Q: While conducting background research for his screenplay, Eric Raynaud uncovered new information that was used to expand the book. Is there one new detail he came across that you found particularly enlightening?
SK: Eric's information helped give the book a more consistent French point of view; forced me to modify some of my initial conclusions, which were probably too critical; and helped me to better see the international dimensions of the case. However, the information that was the most exciting to me was the relationship and conversations between Farewell and Patrick Ferrant. That was a huge contribution from Eric's side.
Q: In your opinion, what makes this account of Agent Farewell "the greatest spy story of the 20th century"? What will stick with readers?
SK: I'm convinced that Farewell's aims to destroy the KGB had a much greater impact than even he anticipated. The information he handed over to the West completely changed Western countries' view of the Soviet Union. They thought they could maintain a balance of power with the USSR through peaceful competition. But upon learning of the KGB's proficiency in stealing global technological secrets, they realized this wouldn't work. Whereas Carter and Nixon were partisans of détente, President Reagan didn't see things the same way. He wanted to defeat Communism, and Farewell gave him one of the most important arguments for this stance. But more simply, on a human level, Farewell is a fascinating story of an ordinary man who found himself in the right place at the right time and became an actor in making history.
Click on thumbnails for larger images
The only childhood photograph of Vetrov (left). Although a little shy in front of the camera, the boy has an inquiring look compared to his companion.​
Teenage Vetrov (right) with a teammate. A talented sprinter, he was considered an Olympic hopeful.​
Gifted intellectually, Vetrov was admitted to the prestigious Bauman Institute, Russia's leading engineering school.​
The typical portrait of a secret agent. This picture was taken when Vetrov was a student at KGB School #101.​
Vetrov in Canada, having a friendly chat with a Soviet colleague over bourbon. But not a word about work: The men knew they were being watched closely by Canadian counterintelligence.​
The last known photo of Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov, taken in Lefortovo Prison, Moscow.​

448 pages, with a 3.8-star rating from 120 reviews

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The Pinballs (Apple Paperbacks), by Betsy Byars.

You can't always decide where life will take you--especially when you're a kid.
Carlie knows she's got no say in what happens to her. Stuck in a foster home with two other kids, Harvey and Thomas J, she's just a pinball being bounced from bumper to bumper. As soon as you get settled, somebody puts another coin in the machine and off you go again. But against her will and her better judgment, Carlie and the boys become friends. And all three of them start to see that they can take control of their own Iives.

Carlie knows she's got no say in what happens to her. Stuck in a foster home with two other kids, Harvey and Thomas J, she's just a pinball being bounced from bumper to bumper. As soon as you get settled, somebody puts another coin in the machine and off you go again. But against her will and her beter judgement, Carlie and the boys become friends. And all three of them start to see that they can take control of their own lives.
156 pages, with a 4.4-star rating from 100 reviews

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