Pre-Order Now: The Last Castle (Coming Sept. 2017)

Just a quick note to let you guys know that my wife, Denise Kiernan’s, next book is now officially available for pre-order at all online and indie bookstores. The book pubs September 26, 2017.

The book tells the story of the crazily opulent Biltmore House, which is the largest house ever built in America. The book would probably delight fans of the TV show, Downton Abbey, who may be under the impression that massive houses such as this never made it to this side of the pond.

They did! And it’s still here, open to the public, long after similar houses of its ilk met the wrecking ball.

Biltmore is 175,000 square feet, and sits on a plot of land that is about 8,000 acres. 

Who would build such a place? Who would acquire such a huge amount of property? And why?

Believe it or not, the home’s original owner was a fabulously wealthy bookworm. Denise—whose last book hit the New York Times, LA Times, NPR and Indiebound bestseller lists and has been translated into seven languages—spent three years researching the story of George Vanderbilt and his remarkable estate.

She’s written the story in a way that has never been told. When I first read the manuscript, it kind of reminded me of one of my all-time favorite novel—Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow. Only every word of her book is true.

At the center of the book is George and his amazing house. There’s his wife, Edith. His daughter, Cornelia. And woven throughout their story is a cast of famous, real-life people, a Who’s Who of American culture: Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, O. Henry, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, Frederick Law Olmsted, James Whistler, and whole lot more.

It’s a fascinating story of how the Gilded Age flourished once upon a time, then faded away. If you're interested or thinking of buying a copy as gift for someone later this year, check out these links to see about snagging a first edition.

PREORDER THE LAST CASTLE

 

 

Look for My Story in the July/August 2017 Issue of Hitchcock's Mystery Mag

Look for my short story, “A Respectable Lady,” in the July/August 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM). The hard-copy issue hits newsstands tomorrow, Tuesday, June 20, but digital issues are already available.

I’d describe “A Respectable Lady” as a Sherlockian story that delves in the history of a minor character in the Great Detective's orbit. As one editor said in rejecting it, "Your story is well-written, but giving [redacted] such a sordid past would, I believe, be greatly disliked by our readership, so I will reluctantly have to pass on this one."

Well, AHMM liked it, so we're off to the races, sordid as you please.

You can download a single digital issue via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Magzter, Kobo, and Google Play. Just make sure you are downloading the July/August issue shown here.

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime in October 2014. I submitted it to AHMM in July 2015, and didn’t hear from them until they bought it in June 2016, nearly eleven months later. It’s appearing a year after acceptance. Payment was $160, plus an additional $40 prepayment against a future AHMM anthology. That came to a total of $200, or about 9.5 cents a word.

Yes, I will eventually release an e-book version of “A Respectable Lady," which I’ll offer free to readers on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.

 

My EQMM Story's a Finalist for the Derringer Award!

Wow! It happened again. One of my stories got picked for a Derringer Award.

I was screwing around on my phone last night when I got an email listing this year's finalists. One of them was "The Woman in the Briefcase," the story that ran in the March/April 2016 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

The official announcement is here. The Derringers are the only award in the mystery fiction world that are given solely to short stories. Twenty finalists are chosen—five in four different categories, according to the length of the story. "The Woman in the Briefcase" is up for the "Best Short Story" category, which denotes a story that is 1,001 to 4,000 words long.

For me, it's a cool honor on two levels. It's the first story I ever landed in EQMM. And it's the third time in four years that one of my stories has been picked as a Derringer finalist. (I won for Best Flash Story in 2015.) I'm hugely honored, especially since I haven't really done a lot of short fiction this past two years. I've been tied up with ghostwriting and trying to finish a pair of novels.

What's "The Woman in the Briefcase" about? It's strange, since most of the action takes place 30,000 years ago. A crazy caveman mystery is what it is.

I'm pretty sure the editor will make it available during the month-long judging period. But you can use Bookfunnel right now to download a copy of a quick-and-dirty e-book I just put together. I'll post EQMM's link if and when I have it. Either way, enjoy.

Look for My New Story in Mystery Weekly!

Look for my short story, “Double-Slay,” in the April 2017 issue of Mystery Weekly. The hard-copy issue hits newsstands today, April 1, and digital issues are already available.

As the editors describe it, "Double-Slay" is the story of how a pair of sweet senior citizens turn the tables on the worst serial killer ever.

Mystery Weekly is a lovely magazine published out of Canada. You can buy digital issues via the Kindle Newsstand, and print copies via Amazon. You can also snag digital copies via Google Play, the App Store, or direct from their website here. If you want to check out my story, make sure you are downloading the April issue shown here.

Submissions stats: I finished this story sometime in June 2012, but never got around to submitting anywhere until this year. I'd been hearing good things about Mystery Weekly, so I submitted. They took only 12 days to say yes, and the story is appearing about one month from acceptance. Payment was $20.

Yes, I will someday release an e-book version of “Double-Slay," which I’ll offer free to readers on my list. If you’d rather wait for the free copy, please join my e-newsletter.

The Underground Culinary Tour is out today!

A book I recently co-authored is out today in all bookstores. It's a book about the numbers and cutting-edge trends in the restaurant industry. Think Moneyball—only for foodies. 

It’s a book that pulls together some topics I’ve covered in the past in my journalistic work such as math, science, and statistics—combined with a delicious helping of food writing.

Entrepreneur Damian Mogavero created the software that makes restaurants tick. He counts among his clients some of the world's greatest chefs. People like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, Wolfgang Puck, Tom Clicchio, Giada DeLaurentiis, and countless others. In this book, we take readers inside the kitchens and dining palaces to show us how data and statistics are helping restaurants stay profitable and are changing the way we eat.

From our publisher, Crown/Random House:

In the bestselling vein of Moneyball comes an entertaining, behind-the-scenes narrative about how the restaurant business is being transformed by the use of data, in an industry historically run by gut and intuition. From celebrity-run restaurants to today’s cutting-edge culinary trendsetters, The Underground Culinary Tour looks at how the use of data is revolutionizing how restaurants are run, from hiring chefs and training staff to pioneering new recipes, reengineering menus, and transforming the dining experience from the inside out, so that no restaurant is out of anything you want, ever.

If you know anyone who works in the restaurant industry, they need to read this book to catch a glimpse of the future. And if you love food, cook at home, dine out often, can't resist snapping photos of the food on your plate, and enjoy game-changing books by Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, you maybe ought to check it out.

The Underground Culinary Tour is available at all the usual book venues—online or otherwise. If you want a copy signed by me, order via Malaprops, my local bookstore. Link below. 

ORDER THE UNDERGROUND CULINARY TOUR

My Unpublished Interview with Astronomer Vera Rubin

 

In 1999, I wrote an article for Discover magazine about Ralph Alpher, one of a trio of scientists responsible for conceiving the Big Bang Theory. During the course of reporting that article,* I had occasion to interview Vera Rubin, the celebrated dark matter astronomer who died at the age of 88 on December 25, 2016. Articles (like these here and here and here) covering her passing noted that she ought to have received the Nobel Prize but never did, no doubt because she was a woman working in a field at a time when men dominated.

As it happens, my interview with Dr. Rubin touched on the painful topic of those who deserve but do not win Nobels. We were talking not about her work per se, but about Alpher and other male colleagues of hers. Her comments were insightful but I didn’t have room in the final story to share everything she told me. I’m releasing the brief transcript now because I think they shed light on Rubin's thinking on the matter, and because she and the three cosmologists at the center of the Big Bang story are no longer with us. (Gamow died in 1968, Herman in 1997, and Alpher in 2007.)

Back in the 1940s, along with his thesis advisor, George Gamow, Ralph Alpher wrote the first paper on the origin of elements in the universe. Later, he wrote a second paper with his colleague Robert Herman that theorized that the radiation of that first bang should still be bathing the universe. The men actually predicted how that 14 billion-year-old relic—called cosmic background radiation—could be found. At the time, radio astronomy was in its infancy and Alpher and Herman could not find scientists willing to gamble on their idea. But in the 1960s, they were proved right when a team at Princeton found proof of the Big Bang in exactly the way Apher and Herman had predicted.

The Princeton team received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for their work, yet the work of the earlier scientists was seemingly ignored. To make matters worse, later books and academic journal articles perpetuated the error by either incorrectly attributing Gamow, Alpher and Herman’s work, or ignoring it entirely. By then Gamow had died, but Alpher and Herman, who had left academic for industry during much of the ensuing years, devoted nearly 30 years of their lives trying to set the record straight.

Here’s what Dr. Rubin told me about how that miscarriage of scientific justice impacted the lives of the two men she called friends.


How were they affected by the whole thing?

I don’t think either of them put it behind them. It was a major factor in their lives. I think they both felt that they had been unfairly treated by the entire field. [My husband mathematician-physicist] Bob [Rubin] and I used to tell Bob Herman that we really thought they should just forget about it.

The fact that neither one of them were doing a lot of cosmology or astronomy really meant that their work just wasn’t in the forefront of astronomy. One way people learn about what you’re doing is by your continuing to do it. Your current work is always kind of a reference to your past work. But in their case, they both went off and did something very different, so there was no one to bring their early work to the attention of the community except them themselves. It was just an unfortunate circumstance, I guess.

But I think it bothered [and] continues to bother Ralph. I think it bothered Bob [Herman] too. There were constantly books written about the history that they didn’t think was correct, and they continued to write authors to make corrections. That’s probably what they should have done, but it meant it wouldn’t be something they could really put behind them. So I think these things were always continually being in the forefront. It’s been 33, 34 years.

 

Dr. Alpher says he’s writing a book to set the record straight once and for all.

I suspect that it will be a very bitter book. He and Bob Herman are very, very dear to us and it was a horrible injustice, but I don’t know what you do in such a circumstance. It would have been nice if he had had a happier life. They could have known that they did something very, very valuable and they could have been happy with this. I think perhaps injustices are in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately. But they were still the first people to do it and they did get a wide variety of enormously prestigious awards. Perhaps they could have asked themselves the alternative. It could have not been discovered during their lifetime. Wouldn’t that have maybe been worse? There’s no doubt that they could have been and should have been treated nicer by the community. They really do have a legitimate complaint. But they could have responded a little differently.

I think the truth is that in science, when I was very young a very wise man said to me, “In science most of your satisfactions have to be internal ones.” I think that that in a sense is correct; you have to be happy. They should have been exuberant with the work that they did. It was rediscovered. It was great. They had not gotten the recognition they deserved, but if their personalities had been different they could have been happy with the knowledge of this great thing they had figured out. And they perhaps could have even been treated better by the community if they had not just been so obviously angry.

I think they are remarkable, wonderful people, and they did something that was wonderful. It would have been very nice if that could have been such a joy that they could have embraced the community and which in turn might have embraced them. But none of that happened. 

They never forgot it, in ways that I can’t even repeat. But they could tell you who said something a little bit better and who said something a little bit worse. Sentences were examined in a way that I think the poor authors never intended them to be.

Bob [Herman] and Ralph have been very dear friends for a long time. With Bob [Herman] I or my husband have actually said, “Why don’t you, you know, talk him out of going on with this?” It never worked. It really affected them.

I don’t know if the Nobel Prize complicated things. If Penzias and Wilson had not gotten the Nobel Prize… But there too, and now I will say some things that are truly awful but this is how the establishment behaves. Someone has to nominate you for the Nobel Prize.

 

I didn’t know that.

Yes, yes, yes. [Nobel Prize-winning chemist] Harold Urey used to brag—I knew him and he used to brag that that 11 of the people he’d nominated had gotten Nobel Prizes. If you’re outside the establishment, you stand a much poorer chance of having these good things happen to you. If they really had not left the academic world, things may have been different. I really think there lies the explanation. Their lives might have been very different if they had remained in the academic world.


* The article is collected in my book, The Scientist and the Sociopath.

Advent Ghosts 2016

Today I’m participating in the 100-word #adventghosts2016 flash fiction event run by writer Loren Eaton. You'll find links to all the stories at his blog, I Saw Lightning Fall. Here’s my piece.

Christmas Eve at the Tree Farm, Candler, North Carolina

Every year this night I wait for her, bed down in our fields with my fleece, my flask, my fire, my gun.

Takes twelve years to grow a Fraser to a size you can sell. Takes that long to raise three children right, but only one to lose a wife.

Midnight she picks her footless path through the snow. Nothing but mist pulled together into the shape I once knew.

My heart speaks: I love thee, I love thee, I love thee.

She turns amid the firs with a look only the dead can wear, and whispers, Who are you?

Copyright 2016 Joseph D’Agnese

My previous contributions to the Advent Ghosts events are here.

Pre-order my next book, The Underground Culinary Tour

I recently co-authored a book about the numbers and cutting-edge trends in the restaurant industry. Think Moneyball—only for foodies. 

It’s a book that pulls together some topics I’ve covered in the past in my journalistic work such as math, science, and statistics—combined with a delicious helping of food writing.

Entrepreneur Damian Mogavero created the software that makes restaurants tick. He counts among his clients some of the world's greatest chefs. People like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, Wolfgang Puck, Tom Clicchio, Giada DeLaurentiis, and countless others. In this book, we take readers inside the kitchens and dining palaces to show us how data and statistics are helping restaurants stay profitable and are changing the way we eat.

From our publisher, Crown/Random House:

In the bestselling vein of Moneyball comes an entertaining, behind-the-scenes narrative about how the restaurant business is being transformed by the use of data, in an industry historically run by gut and intuition. From celebrity-run restaurants to today’s cutting-edge culinary trendsetters, The Underground Culinary Tour looks at how the use of data is revolutionizing how restaurants are run, from hiring chefs and training staff to pioneering new recipes, reengineering menus, and transforming the dining experience from the inside out, so that no restaurant is out of anything you want, ever.

If you know anyone who works in the restaurant industry, they need to read this book to catch a glimpse of the future. And if you love food, cook at home, dine out often, can't resist snapping photos of the food on your plate, and enjoy game-changing books by Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, you maybe ought to check it out.

The Underground Culinary Tour pubs January 24, 2017, but a few stores are accepting pre-orders now. My local bookstore put up a special link, which you'll find below. 

PRE-ORDER THE UNDERGROUND CULINARY TOUR