This Week in Houston Book Events: Sara Paretsky, Chloe Neill and More

Best-selling novelist Sara Paretsky spent a summer in Chicago during the 1960s, at the height of the Civil Rights struggle. What she saw there changed her life. And her career. "I saw the city through the eyes of those [civil rights workers], and that changed everything," she tells us. "I thought, 'What's going on here? How can this be happening?' Well, it was happening and I couldn't pretend that I didn't know about it. I think it was then that I first saw Chicago as this wonderful, horrible place. And when I started seeing things as a writer, the details, the complexity." 

The "wonderful, horrible" city became the backdrop to her V.I. Warshawski crime series. Her latest release, Brush Back, is the 17th installment in the series that features V.I. Warshawski, a streetwise, tough female investigator. Chicago is more than just the setting for Paretsky's books; it's a force. 

“[Paretsky writes] with great passion about…Chicago, with all its warts and glory,"  says Dean James, who also happens to be a best-selling author. James, a former Houstonian still associated with local mystery bookstore Murder by the Book, where Paretsky will appear to read from and sign Brush Back, tells us, “Few if any do [intelligent, often provocative crime fiction] better than Sara, or with more passion, certainly. 

"V.I. is a tough yet flawed character who, despite often facing great odds, doesn’t give up on what she believes is right," James says. "The books focus on significant issues in our society, and [Paretsky] doesn’t flinch in sharing her viewpoint about these issues through V.I. Not everyone will agree with her, but crime fiction can be a suspenseful and entertaining vehicle for trenchant social commentary, as [Paretsky] proves time and again.” 

Paretsky’s in town for a discussion and signing of Brush Back. This time Warshawski's investigating a case for a former flame. The case leads her to corrupt politicians, a frequent element in Paretsky’s books.

Is Chicago still the same wonderful, horrible place Paretsky saw some 45-plus years ago? "It's different," she says. "There are still problems, of course, but I don't think there's the same anger. Or the same acceptance of discrimination now. I live in the same neighborhood where Barack Obama has his house. I think if someone said the word, excuse my language, if someone said 'nigger' now, there would be a completely negative reaction. You don't have to be black to be offended by that."  

Sara Paretsky reads from and signs Brush Back at 6:30 p.m. August 7. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit Free. 

Novelist Chloe Neill adds a fresh take to the paranormal genre, according to John Kwiatkowski, publicity manager of Murder by the Book bookstore and a Neill fan. “I think she excels at playing with the rules and tropes that readers have come to expect from the genre.” Neill discusses and signs copies of her newest book, The Veil, at the bookstore.

The Veil takes place in a world where anyone with paranormal abilities, called Sensitives, is segregated from the rest of the population,” Kwiatkowski says. Claire, the story’s protagonist, is a Sensitive but living hidden among the non-paranormal population. “Sensitives are confined to Devil’s Isle, and that’s where the conflict comes in. Claire has been living…in fear that she’ll be discovered and sent away.” 

Neill has an engaging sense of humor in her work. “Her characters have a sharp wit that I really appreciate, and the books are compulsive reads. She blends the humor, action and romance to keep you flipping pages.”

Chloe Neill reads from and signs The Veil at 2 p.m. August 9. Murder By The Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit Free. 

The Fountain of Youth story has been done and done and done. Paranormal writer Christopher Farnsworth takes a turn at it with his new novel The Eternal World. The story starts 500 years ago when a group of Spanish conquistadors land in the New World. Led by Simon de Oliveras y Seixas, the group stumbles onto the Fountain of Youth and, as conquistadors are prone to do, murders the tribe of indigenous people who protect the treasure. Well, maybe we should say the tribe minus one. The chief's daughter manages to escape. The conquistadors take over the Fountain and begin their new lives as immortals.  

Fast-forward to modern-day America. The Fountain's been destroyed, and the conquistadors, now passing as über-wealthy businessmen,  are in an uproar. They turn to a scientist, David Robinton, for help. Sure, he can replicate the Fountain's formula, but wait, his new girlfriend looks an awful lot like the chief's daughter. You know, the one who managed to escape and has been after the conquistadors who wiped out her people for centuries. Uh-oh.

Magic, immortals, love, hate and a fair dose of science combine to make Farnsworth's story a page-turner that Publishers Weekly gave a starred review, saying: "Excellent fantasy thriller. The realistic approach is one of this inventive novel’s major strengths.”

Christopher Fransworth reads from and signs The Eternal World at 6:30 p.m. August 11. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit Free. 
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Olivia Flores Alvarez