A Moment with author, Allen Eskens

 

Some of my closest friends know that I have secretly (over the last few years) been obsessed with author Allen Eskens. He writes in a style that captivates and moves, yet his style is written in a way that latches on to your soul. One reviewer wrote that he rips their heart out and sews it back together again, only to rip it back out again! How fitting for a guy that comes from mid-west roots in Missouri, trekked to Iowa for a short stint at the University of Iowa before transferring to the University of Minnesota and after latching onto a journalism education found his way into law school where he found a love of being a defense attorney.

He started writing as a way to express himself, and sketched and outlined his way over the last 25 years into an ongoing saga with fitting characters and fitting plots to keep you going all year! Move over John Sanford. If you like Sanford…pick up Eskens books…because in my humble opinion he’s better. I’m not joking.

 

So, last Friday, Allen Eskens was invited to speak on campus and as I was wandering the halls making my way to the lecture hall (where he was going to speak) I ran right into the man, legend, and upcoming literary star himself! Of course, I had many questions about his books and he asks me, “Have you had a chance to read The Life We Bury?” and in my excitement I answered “I’ve read every single one of your books”.

I have to laugh now as I ponder this brief discussion as I am sure he thought I was a nut job. But he smiled, and tested me by teasing me with his latest book (PUBLISHED TODAY…FYI!!!) practically handing it to me and saying, ‘Have you read THIS??”

eskens9

‘No! I haven’t read THAT!!” I answered

Needless to say, I passed his little test, but it was a fantastic time meeting the author because I did have some big questions for him.

Without giving anything away for any of you future readers out there, my big question was a follow up from a Good Reads review I had written about one of his main characters, and how in one of his last books he did a complete flip in character and literally changed from a familiar person or hero to a complete stranger. This whole change in character nearly ruined the books for me, and I gave it a low star rating. I RARELY do that! So we discussed it, and to my surprise Allen wasn’t offended and went on to say that he was getting about a 50/50 split reaction from fans on the whole notion.

That impressed me as he explained his point (which might not make sense to any one of you who HASN’T read his books), but his main character, Max, had this internal struggle from a past murder of his wife. He locates the murderer and now faces the internal struggle and moral dilemma of “Do I kill this guy, or let him live”

Eskens called it, “the ultimate revenge book”

I still wrestle with some of it, but after he explained his position it made sense. But the carrot he dangled in front of my face, was the anticipation that the series is just getting started, and that the story (though taking a major shift) is long from over.

The rest of the time Allen talked about his style of writing. He sketches and outlines like crazy, plots and subplots and tries to create a character arc for characters, and when the creative process is almost over (3-4 months) he takes the next couple of months to write it, than he re-works it and makes edits before turning it into his agent, who also makes revisions. All in all, he said it takes approximately a year to write a book. The process doesn’t stop, and he is always thinking of the next story, but he already knows where things are, and knows details about each and every character…and before closing with his speech, he pointed to his head and said, ‘They’re all up here”.

It’s hard not to like a guy like Eskens. Not only does he come with mid-west roots, here in the states, but he also has a non-quit attitude. He was turned down by 150 agents as he went through the publishing process for his first book.

When one of the audience members asked him how he persevered through that first stage of being discovered, he simply stated, ” I didn’t know any different. I wasn’t writing to be discovered. I was writing for me. If I was lucky enough to get published than it was like a bucket list item. Check it off the list. But that’s NOT why I write. So, I write for my own enjoyment, which is why, during the long 150 agent finding process of receiving rejection after rejection, I kept writing. I already had my second book practically finished.”

 

Go check out one of his books today!

Happy Reading!

 

October 2019 Reads!

There is a disturbing pattern going since I started listing my monthly reads. Each month has been decreasingly less. Not good!

Here are my reads for October. This one is taking the cake. A big whopping 4 books read! This is taking the whole “In The Margins” post to a whole new level!

 

  1. Bad Blood (Virgil Flowers, #4) By John Sanford

This is a great series for those who like a crime thriller, not to mention that it hits close to home with the background being in Southern Minnesota.

bad blood

2. Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga, #1) By Orson Scott Card

Classic YA novel. I’ve been wanting to get up to speed on all the Orson Scott Card stuff and this one probably ranks as his best.

enders game

3. The Institute By Stephen King

I liked this one! King usually gets the title as “Master of Horror” but in reality I feel that he is better in the Science Fiction world! The whole idea between people with super powers at the mental level, whether telepathy or telekinesis, is fascinating. The idea of what happens when a secret government agency gets involved to transform those powers into a weapon, amps up the fascination level to thriller extreme!

institute

4. The Gates of the Alamo By Stephen Harrigan

The world of the internet speaks highly of this class Alamo book, and I found it to be an interesting read as I visited San Antonio (and the site of the Alamo) while reading it.

alamo1

 

Four Books. Unbelievable.

The good news is that there are plenty more books and months ahead! Here’s a list of what I’m currently reading.

 

What are you reading? Any suggestions? Throw a book at me! I’d love to hear from you.

 

Happy Reading!

In The Margins #9 “The Chestnut Man”

chestnut

 

The beauty of this post is a reminder WHY I AM BLOGGING ABOUT THIS! 🙂

Let’s cut straight to the chase. I have been getting my book reading butt handed to me this month! Seriously, I have had quite the month. I started my Master Program and that it a nutshell has been beautifully BUTT KICKING! Seriously, my brain hurts. Yet, I must be addicted to pain because I keep coming back for more!

But, even with my Master program kicking my butt, and even though my two boys are active in everything from football, cross-country, basketball, track, and baseball…I don’t miss anything and I still have time to read for pleasure! Yes, I read for pain as well! HA!

On top of all of this wonderful, wild reading, I also have been nerding  out with the whole Carnegie Library thing (read my other posts) and the crazy ride of researching that whole endeavor landed me in touch with the University of Iowa and the project they are conducting in research of the Carnegie Libraries. and……

Guess what?

I am officially, indirectly, kinda-sorta invited to help with their research efforts. So, that was pretty cool!

It gets better!

I was asked to be a part of one of the local county tourism boards! Crazy! Somebody was talking with somebody and apparently they were telling them a story of how some weird guy (me) was literally walking around their small town kicking up old stories about the library. Next thing I know…I’m invited to be a part of the tourism stuff in the county. How cool is that??

Mix studying for a Master degree with all of that, and that leaves the PERFECT post about “Reading in the Margins!”

Look, this is not a post about me bragging. This is a post about me getting REAL and that means we have a problem in this society and some of it stems from the fact that we don’t read enough. We don’t. And every single excuse I have ever heard is out there…and it makes zero sense to me. It’s not that we are too  busy, and it’s not that we can’t read, it’s just NOT A PRIORITY.

and it should be.

You can read a page a day if that’s what it takes. You can get a whole whopping 365 page book read if you read a page a day! (Hold the applause on my brilliant math).

But, seriously! Just read…it doesn’t have to be some monumental read or some huge 365 book read like I went on a year ago.

And here is the catcher…I can show you research that will blow your mind on what it does for your brain. (No Pun intended on that). It extends memory, it helps fight dementia and Alzheimer’s, it makes you smarter, and on and on and on!

So…back to “In the Margins” and here is my selection for #9

THE CHESTNUT MAN    By Soren Sveistrup

I had this book ordered from Book of the month club, and its been sitting on my shelf the last month and all of a sudden I am striking up a conversation with one of my favorite people, the college librarian! Renee is awesome! In that conversation she says to me: “Hey, I just read this awesome psychological thriller that I think you will love..called The Chestnut Man

I had a minor freak out moment because I literally handpicked this book, and not I had my favorite Librarian telling me that she loved this book. BINGO! That’s all it took and BAM! I made it my next “In the Margins selection”

Ok in a NUT SHELL….(sorry I couldn’t help myself) Here is what The Chestnut Man” is all about..its about a serial killer. = )

There, how is THAT for non-spoilers!

 

Happy Reading!

 

FALL 2019 Book Haul

 

Thirty new books bought this Fall! I’m pretty excited about some of the buys! I haven’t read a single Dean Koontz book before, and I feel like I should read a few of his books eventually in the upcoming year. I’ve been collecting some of his books at sales, so in the pictures up above you will clearly see quite a few Koontz books!

As of late I have been blogging about a few literary locations, so its time to catch up on some of my book buying! I love reading books, whether checked out from the library, or borrowed from a buddy, but most of all I love finding book bargains at local sales or local Indy book stores. So…as I go through the next 30 books on this massive Book Haul, I will give credit where I find the books.

  1. The Whisper Man By Alex North
  2. The Water Dancer By Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. The Chestnut Man By Soren Sveistrup

All three of these books came to me as bargained hardbacks from my book of the month club membership. I read The Whisper Man, and loved it! and have heard the same rave reviews about The Chestnut Man for all of you serial killer fans! The Water Dancer is getting rave reviews from reading clubs like Oprah.

4. The Travelers By Chris Pavone

I’ve read quite a few of Pavone’s books and liked them enough to grab this book on sale at a grocery store of all places! I think it was $3? Sold!

5. Flight of Fright Edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent

This book was on sale for $6 on a bargain book shelf in a book store in Ames, Iowa! Again, this book grabbed my attention because it was getting a lot of attention from the Stephen King world!

6. Intensity By Dean Koontz

7. The Girl who lived Twice By David Lagercrantz

Both these books have been on my interest list for quite some time. Intensity is often times listed as one of Dean Koontz best books, and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson lives on through David Lagercrantz! Both of these books were found in an INDY book store in Cherokee, IA called “The Bookvine” (which was such a cool little book store that I will have to blog on it in the future).

8. Bad Blood by John Sandford

Found this little gem (part of the Virgil Flowers series) in the Spencer Library. They were giving it away. You can’t go wrong with FREE.

9. The Worst Hard Time By Timothy Egan

This won the National Book Award honors for best non-fiction! I found this beauty in a little Indy Book/coffee shop in down town Spencer Iowa called ‘Toads” (again…I will have to do a blog post about this little shop as well!)

10. Ideal By Ayn Rand

11. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day By Seanan McGuire

Both of these last two books I found in a book store in Ames Iowa. Both were in the discount shelves.

12. The Girl With the Golden Eye By Honore de Balzac

13. Red Dog By Louis de Bernieres

14. Chess Story By Stefan Zweig

15. Memories of my Melancholy Whores By Gabrierl Garcia Marquez

16. Something Special By Iris Murdoch

17. The Hunger Artist, The Intrepretation of Dreams, Physics, and Utiltarianism By Kafka, Freud ,Aristotle and Mill

These last 6 books were purchased for $3 a piece from a bargain book website called “Better World Books”, which I love buying books from because part of my proceeds go to fighting world literacy.

18. Dean Koontz Collection: Shattered, Whispers, and Watchers

19. The Fun House

20. Cold Fire

21. The Vision

22. The Bad Place

23. Dragon Tea

All books by Dean Koontz

24. Sacred Evil

25. Heart of Evil

Both by Heather Graham

26. Eaters of the Dead

27. The Terminal Man

Both By Michael Crichton

28. Samaritan By Richard Price

29. Somethings Down There – By Mickey Spillane

30. The Aquitaine Possession By Robert Ludlum

The last thirteen books on this list were bought at a local college for a grand total of $7  They were bargained to sell or they would thrown away.

I know there’s quite a few book reads in this section, but this just goes to show that if you know how to look for a bargain, and just do it periodically, your collection and reading list will grow naturally! My goal of course is to read this entire list, but even if I only get to a tenth of those books, I would be doing better for myself!

Go out and check out or buy a book today, read something!

Happy reading!

 

 

 

Reading Adventure #7 “Sanborn, IA Carnegie Library”

sanborn0000

The next adventure takes me to Sanborn, Iowa. Population 1384 (2017 records) 

The reason why the population is such a striking detail to me is the size of the community and being able to secure the funds from Carnegie to build a library in town.

Like always, I love wandering around a small town like Sanborn and discovering little things like a city park off of Hwy 18 that displays both a freedom rock (with a young couple celebrating the end of World War 2) and a retired caboose from the (Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul). These few things symbolized something deeper with me because my uncle lived, retired, and eventually passed away in this little town and with it he fit the entire scene the community was trying to recreate in those two landmarks. My uncle came back to Sanborn a WWII veteran and eventually ended up working for the railroad.

However, the question still pondered in the back of my mind, WHY? Why did Carnegie donate $5,000 towards the construction of a library in little old Sanborn, Iowa? The history in the answer of this question is remarkable. A leader in the community (Mrs. Burns) had been dedicated and working on a library in the town for years. In fact, the first public library was organized in 1901 through civic clubs and volunteers and flourished through business people who kept the books in their stores.  Two years later the town hired a full-time librarian and moved the books to a room in Sanborn’s Opera House. So, the internal structure of the library already existed. Sanborn had the books, and had the librarian, they simply needed a building!

Mrs. Burns personally wrote Carnegie, making her plea (and although I don’t have the letter…the actual letter is in possession by the local preservation society, and didn’t have access to the letter the day I was interviewing Fay (local business owner and current manager of the Carnegie Library property). The building can be rented as a local gathering place or rented as a nightly room for lodging.

While talking with Fay, I learned that originally Carnegie only accepted his money to go to populations of 10,000 or more to sustain the library, but the question was brought to Carnegie on WHY he we would exclude smaller communities, and that many already had the support and the existence of a library and needed support for other things with the building. The rule or the thought process changed eventually, and with that change opened the possibility that smaller sized Sanborn had a chance for Carnegie funding.

Sanborn’s Carnegie Library was built in 1911 and then remodeled in 1964 to add a children’s library in the basement.

sanborn3

sanborn000

Even though $5,000 was donated, the actual building only took $4,500 and with that donation the Sanborn Carnegie Library came to exist.

sanborn clipping

However, the story doesn’t end here, as we know some of the libraries across the country today have either outgrown their purpose either in functionality with being handicapped accessible or in size with books and other resources, and have either been torn down and replaced, or sold off and changed into other things like museums, offices, apartments, or gift shops. Sanborn was no exception to the changing landscape and faced losing the structure before 2007 when the new library would be built. A group of leaders in the community stepped up to save the building, and during the process had to come up with a new location for the building because the new library was going to be built at the exact location of the Carnegie library, so either move the building or lose it.

The Preservation society leadership made the bold choice to move the structure, and work with other business leaders in finding a new home for the building. Today, the structure is down the street and around the corner about two blocks from its original location. Here is a picture of them moving the library in 2006.

sanborn8

It amazed me the amount of work that went into restoring and saving this historical building. It’s either the smallest grant that Carnegie gave out for a library OR one of the smallest, but it holds testimony to the Carnegie Foundation’s philosophy of putting art and books out into society and publicly acknowledging Carnegie’s own upbringing and education as an immigrant. Books, Libraries….they make the world go round! (or so I think!)

Again, it was a delight to learn more about the library talking with locals, and if you get the chance to stop down town at the local floral shop, Fay would be willing to talk with you about the library! It’s absolutely beautiful what they did to the structure and the idea around how they saved a piece of history!

Here are a few more pics of the library.

sanborn14

Sanborn is on Highway 18 if you are in the NW corner of Iowa, just a few miles away from Sheldon along Highway 60. If you are ever in the area, I would suggest taking a stop and checking out this beautiful library. Just the history itself is worth a stop. Bravo Sanborn in saving your piece of history with the Carnegie Library!

 

Happy Reading!

Reading Adventure #6 “Sioux City, IA Carnegie Library” (Central Library or Main Library)

This visit to this Carnegie Library was a treat. I was on my way to the Sioux City Airport to fly out of state for a conference and had the time to explore the downtown region of Sioux City and find the old Carnegie Central Library.

Sioux City had two Carnegie locations, Leeds over on the Northside and the Main location of this Library down town. The building itself is still standing and acts as apartments today. Here are some shots I took of the building as it stands today.

 

I always find that the best part of my adventure and exploration is talking to locals about the building. I ran into a local tenant who currently resides in one of the apartments. When I asked her about the library, she smiled and shared that she had fond memories of it, and that it was her library when she was a girl. She was very proud to LIVE in the library now “literally”. The rest of the history behind the building is below

The Sioux City Free Public Library is a historic building located in Sioux City, Iowa, United States. The library was located in a section of the Municipal Building, no longer extant, between 1892 and 1913. It had outgrown the space when the Library Board contacted Andrew Carnegie in 1910 about providing the funding for a new library building. Their request was initially turned down. They chose to work with New York City architect Edward L. Tilton, an architect preferred by Carnegie, in place of local architect William L. Steele who was working with the board previously.[2] Local resident George Murphy donated the property for the new building. Meanwhile, Tilton designed the two-story brick Renaissance Revival building. On April 8, 1911, Carnegie approved the project and donated $75,000 for the building’s construction.[3] The new building was dedicated on March 6, 1913, and it is considered “an excellent early twentieth century example of the architectural development of library planning and design.”[2] It was Tilton’s only building in Iowa.

Plans were made to enlarge the building in 1938, but the bond issue failed. The library remained in its cramped quarters until 1989 when it moved into a former bank building downtown. Ownership of the Carnegie building was transferred to a group of investors in 1996 who transformed it into apartments. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year.[1]

 

It’s a fascinating building located at the corner of 6th and Jackson Street, next door to Mercy Hospital. It’s worth a walk down town Sioux City!

 

Happy Reading!

Reading Adventure #5 Carnegie Library Sioux City, IA “Leeds Branch”

Sioux-City-Leeds-1918-ILCR-image

Sioux City, IA had two Carnegie Libraries, Central and Leeds. The interesting part of the Leeds location is it fit where other smaller rural towns were able to secure funds from the Carnegie Foundation. I went to go visit the current location, knowing that it no longer serves as a Library, but was still standing as apartments.

Here is a few pics I took, just to give an idea of what the building looks like today.

Leeds

Leeds 1

Here’s a brief history of what was discovered about this library branch.

Leeds

With a grant of $85,000 awarded on April 8, 1911 the second Carnegie Library was built in the Leeds neighborhood of Sioux City, Iowa. Today the building serves as an American Legion Hall.

The information here is interesting in that the grant awarded seems to be a bit high when placing it against the building standing in Leeds. It may need more research to challenge the size and amount listed. The Central Library in down town Library is about 5 times larger and with more expensive materials used in the brick, and the amount they were able to secure was about $75,000. The amount could be more around the $8,000 mark possibly? The Leeds location is one of 45 remaining Carnegie structures still standing that is NOT used as a library today in Iowa.

At any rate, it was sad to see the current state of this historic site. It’s a miracle it’s still standing as a building, but the history of the place warrants more understanding. Before it was sold as apartments it was working as an American Legion Hall. Here are some closer pics of the building before it was sold, using pics from the blog “History Culture By Bicycle”

 

You can compare the first (older picture) where the Library was in its original state, comparing where the windows would be at the bottom, and where some of the original molding around the windows are still there, and the roof lines are still prominent before the new gutters were put on the apartment building.

This leads to the second library secured from the Carnegie Foundations in down town Sioux City (Sioux City Main) which (although apartment buildings has been listed on the historical landmarks registry).

The history of the Carnegie libraries in Iowa is fascinating, and I encourage you to visit one if you have one nearby.

 

Happy Reading!