Tag Archives: memoir

Rich season of fiction expected this fall

For the weightiest novel this fall, or most any season, Alan Moore has the grandest ambition.

“The intention was to somehow combine four or five different books or impulses for books into one coherent whole,” the author known for the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta says of Jerusalem, a 1,266 page words-only union of science and fantasy that references everyone from Albert Einstein to Oliver Cromwell.

Moore worked a decade on his all-encompassing tale, set in his native Northampton, England.

“This is the book in which I have written most directly about the things that are most central to my life, these being my family and the place that I emerged from. By making the narrative so personal and specific I hoped to conjure a kind of universality, an evocation of the families and places that we all come from at some point in our ancestry, irrespective of who or where we are, but the fact remains that the materials of ‘Jerusalem’ come from a source very close to me.”

 

Big books

Fall is the time for “big books,” whatever the page length, and some of the top fiction authors from around the world have new works coming, including: Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Rabih Alameddine, Emma Donoghue, Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Chabon.

Ann Patchett, owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, looks forward to selling Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical novel Another Brooklyn and Colson Whitehead’s celebrated, Oprah Winfrey-endorsed historical novel about slavery, The Underground Railroad.

Ann Patchett, the author, will be promoting her novel Commonwealth, although she’ll keep it low-key at Parnassus Books.

“I’ll sign them, put them in a linen bag, send them off with a picture of my dog Sparky. Sparky is the ‘value added’ element,” she says.

Another author-book store owner, Jeff Kinney, has completed Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, the 11th installment in his multimillion selling series. He will tour worldwide on behalf of Double Down, but at Kinney’s An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Massachusetts, the message is “try not to overdo it on the Wimpy Kid front.”

“We have two small roller units with my books, and that’s about it. I don’t think someone coming off the street would know I own the bookstore if they hadn’t heard beforehand,” Kinney said.

Whitehead’s novel is among several notable accounts of black life, past and present.

Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All is The Washington Post reporter’s book on the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, includes essays and poems on race by Isabel Wilkerson, Kevin Young and 16 others.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which has been adapted for a feature film, documents the historic contributions made by black women mathematicians to the country’s space program.

Douglas R. Egerton’s Thunder at the Gates tells of the black Civil War soldiers made famous in the movie Glory, which he calls a “powerful, beautifully acted” production that “manages to get absolutely everything wrong.”

Egerton says fiction and nonfiction on slavery and the Civil War have become more prominent in recent years.

“When I was younger, novels that wrestled with slavery were few and often published by obscure presses,” he says. “That appears to be no longer true. Perhaps also the sesquicentennial of the war and the dawn of Reconstruction has led … to a rebirth of scholarship about black history. One of the depressing things about going to conferences now is to wander through the book exhibit and realize how many new books there are that I need to read!”

Two books that could contain tough words for presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled for Nov. 15, the week after Election Day: Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In is expected to include his thoughts on his surprisingly competitive primary battle with Clinton, while Megyn Kelly’s Settle for More will likely recount her feud with Trump and her thoughts on ousted Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

In music, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run could be the hottest rock memoir since Keith Richards’ Life was released in 2010.

The Band’s Robbie Robertson offers Testimony this fall, while My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire is a posthumous release from Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, featuring an introduction by Steve Harvey and foreword by producer David Foster.

Brian Wilson and fellow Beach Boys founder (and first cousin) Mike Love continue their long-running and occasionally litigious family competition as Wilson releases I Am Brian Wilson and Love has Good Vibrations.

Often cast as the business-minded Beach Boy, at odds with the visionary Wilson, Love provides detailed accounts of how he wrote the lyrics to many of the Beach Boys’ best-known songs.

“The problem is you have hundreds of thousands of words about us, not always by people who were actually there,” Love says. “I wanted to show how I was actually working on the songs with my cousin, writing the lyrics while he was creating those incredible chord processions and harmonies.”

Other musical memoirs are coming from Tom Jones, songwriter Carol Bayer Sager and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones.

Beatle fans with some extra cash might consider A Hard Day’s Night: A Private Archive, a $125 volume of photographs, documents and memorabilia about the 1964 film that stunned critics and delighted fans. Annotation is provided by one of the world’s foremost Beatle experts, Mark Lewisohn.

“It isn’t only the end-product that’s extraordinary, it’s the background story, too. It always comes down to the people, to the four guys themselves,” Lewisohn told the AP.

“Why was A Hard Day’s Night their first film when it could have been their third or fourth? They’d had movie offers for six months before this one and turned them all down, because The Beatles were always innately clear on what not to do as well as what to do. They were prepared to risk never appearing in a film at all than say yes to something ‘soft,’ which in their vocabulary meant ‘stupid.’”

Elie Wiesel’s literary legacy

For more than a half-century, Elie Wiesel voiced his passionate beliefs to world leaders, celebrities and general audiences in the name of victims of violence and oppression.

Wiesel, who died on July 2, wrote more than 40 books of fiction and non-fiction, but his most influential by far was Night, a classic ranked with Anne Frank’s diary as standard reading about the Holocaust.

Here’s a look at some of his published works and distinctions:

PUBLISHED WORKS

> 1960: His first book Night, was first published in the U.S. in 1960. It has been translated into 30 languages and has sold millions of copies.

> 1961: Dawn, a novel.

> 1970: A Beggar in Jerusalem, a novel that won a French literary award

> 1980: The Testament a novel.

> 1995: All Rivers Run to the Sea, the first of his two-volume memoirs.

> 1999: And the Sea is Never Full, the second of his two-volume memoirs.

AWARDS

> 1978: President Jimmy Carter appointed him to head the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and plan an American memorial museum to Holocaust victims.

> 1985: President Ronald Reagan presented him with U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “humanitarian efforts and outstanding contributions to world literature and human rights.”

> 1986: In awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him as “a messenger to mankind” and “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world.”

> 1992: President George H.W. Bush presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, saying Wiesel survived the Holocaust and “still today keeps watch against the forces of hatred.”

> 2001: Wiesel is granted the rank of grand croix in the French Legion of Honor, France’s premier award.

> 2013: Israel President Shimon Peres awarded him the Presidential Medal of Distinction, the country’s highest civil medal, for his “ongoing work in preserving the memory of the Holocaust.”

Joel Grey, now unburdened and emboldened, tells his story

At a cafe the other day, Joel Grey was drawn to an item on the menu that was both confusing and intriguing.

He called over a waiter and asked: “What is this thing? The herbed goat cheese with chili flakes and pomegranate syrup?” The waiter was stumped. “OK, I’m going to take a chance,” said the Tony-and Oscar-winning actor.

Grey, 83, was in high spirits this day, which marked the publication of his memoir, “Master of Ceremonies.” For a performer who hid who he was for decades, Grey is now unburdened and emboldened.  

“Let’s put it this way: I really feel good. But I have been feeling good for a long time. I don’t think I could have written this book if I’d had axes to grind,” he said. “I don’t like that in a book.”

The memoir traces his childhood in Cleveland, his rise as a nightclub performer and his breakthrough both on stage and film as the Emcee with rouged cheeks and cupid’s-bow lips in “Cabaret.”

It also examines his 24-year marriage to actress Jo Wilder and a long internal struggle with his attraction to men, which triggered feelings of self-loathing and proved his mother’s love was not unconditional.

Grey, who loved men and women, tentatively calls himself a “closeted bisexual” but language comes up short: “I never really thought that any of the names were exactly right for me,” he said.

A complex portrait emerges of Grey in black and white. He reveals he’s had a nose job, slept with a stripper, fought with legendary director Bob Fosse and once lugged his dirty laundry on a plane.

“I’m not that good. I’m just like the rest of you,” he said. “Maybe worse.”

Colin Dickerman, the editorial director of the Macmillan division Flatiron Books, which published the 230-page book, said it’s not a tell-all or a collection of funny stories, but an attempt to explore the roots of the man behind some beloved characters.

“He wanted to be as honest as he could be and I think the book really reflects that,” said Dickerman. “It really goes into some personal places and I think does so remaining incredibly respectful to everyone in his life.”

Grey’s story also mirrors the evolution of American entertainment, from vaudeville to nightclubs to Broadway and Hollywood, weaving both his personal and professional lives. It reaches a peak in 1985 when Grey started thinking about coming out while starring in the AIDS play “The Normal Heart.”

The book was written over 2 1/2 years with the help of Rebecca Paley and Grey consulted with his brother and his daughter — “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey — on parts of the manuscript. He said he was inspired, in part, by reading Andre Agassi’s very honest 2010 memoir “Open: An Autobiography.”

“I didn’t see that I could tell the story of my career and not my life because they were so intertwined. And I also saw myself as maybe an example and maybe, in some small way, helping one person,” he said. “I like that idea.”

Grey writes that he was attracted to boys as early as 8 — one of his first crushes was a 16-year-old bellboy — but being openly gay wasn’t an option. Physical violence and closed doors would have been his life.

“The price was very high,” he said. “There would be no career. Look how long it’s even taken for there to be a few out gay people. In the last 10 years, maybe. The last five, maybe.”

His embrace of his sexuality was also complicated by the fact that he desperately wanted to be a father. “It was something I was meant to do along with acting. However, it was a strange time,” he said. “Now gay people are having babies all over the place.”

Grey has since forgiven his mother, restored cordial relations with his ex-wife and is next focusing on his fifth book of photographs. The parts of his life that were volatile and complicated have gone.

“It seems to have all very much quieted down,” he said with a wry smile. 

Actress Charlotte Rae tells ‘The Facts of My Life’ in memoir

In “The Facts of Life,” Charlotte Rae played the unflappable Mrs. Garrett, a girls’ school housemother who smoothly guided her charges through crises and comedy.

Rae says she implored the TV show’s producers to let her character “lose her temper, yell at the kids. Let her be a human being.”

They declined. But as Rae, 89, recounts in her new autobiography, her own life bore little resemblance to the sitcom-grade serenity of Edna Garrett’s, instead marked by challenges that included son Andy’s autism and her husband’s late-in-life disclosure that he was bisexual and wanted an open marriage.

“The Facts of My Life” paints Rae as a woman determined to face the world with grace and humor, come what may, and one dedicated to her family, friends and a career that stretched from 1950s TV to Broadway.

That’s partly why she decided to do the book, to bolster others tackling their own difficulties and dreams, Rae said in an interview.

And because her other son, Larry Strauss, a writer and teacher, said she should.

“He said, ‘Ma, I think it’s time we did your memoir. You talk to me and I’ll do it,”” she recalled. “He was very sensitive to what I was talking about and wonderful (writing about) his brother, very sensitive and beautiful.”

The book, to be published by BearManor Media on Nov. 1, opens with what’s described as a “nightmare come true,” then 16-year-old Andy Strauss locked in the juvenile ward at New York’s Bellevue Hospital because he’d been deemed dangerous.

Andy’s diagnosis of autism had been long in coming at a time when there was far less understanding of or attention to the disorder, Rae said. Her son, who had other conditions including epilepsy, died in his mid-40s of a heart attack.

She saw his illness as the “most devastating thing” in her life, said Rae, who has also faced alcoholism and heart problems. Then her husband of 25 years, composer and sound editor John Strauss, who like Rae had turned to Alcoholics Anonymous for help, was urged by his AA sponsor to be honest with himself and his wife about his sexuality.

“I felt there was something wrong with me and took it personally,” Rae said. “But I gradually realized what he was going through. My God, the poor guy, hiding it and being ashamed.”

The pair divorced, and John Strauss died in 2011. He had found a long-time partner (the nice Jewish man of his dreams, Rae said) but she has remained single.

“Between the children and my career, I just didn’t have time. It didn’t happen,” Rae said. “There were people I had little flings with that were lovely, but nobody I wanted to marry.”

Son Larry, his family and others keep her busy and content, she said.

“I have wonderful friends. I’m not just a lonely old lady,” said Rae, a Wisconsin native who splits her time between Los Angeles and New York.

Her career has been divided between screen, stage and cabaret appearances (fans may recall Mrs. Garrett singing “O Holy Night” on a holiday episode). Her extensive TV work ranged from “The Phil Silvers Show” in the 1950s to “Car 54, Where Are You?” in the 1960s to “Girl Meets World” in 2014.

After introducing Mrs. Garrett on “Diff’rent Strokes,” Rae carried her over to “The Facts of Life” spin-off in 1979. The long-running series brought her an Emmy nomination, financial security and lasting friendships with co-stars Nancy McKeon, Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn.

(She recalls, with delight, visiting McKeon and her husband at their ranch near Austin, Texas, and having a “jammie party” with their daughters.)

Rae also appeared in movies, with her latest role this year in the Meryl Streep-starring “Ricki and the Flash.” On Broadway, she earned two Tony nominations in the ‘60s for “Pickwick” and “Morning, Noon and Night.”

But it’s an off-Broadway play, Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days,” that she considers her career highlight and most challenging role, “like ‘Hamlet’ to a man,” Rae said, paraphrasing British actress Peggy Ashcroft’s description of it.

The play is essentially a monologue, its primary character a woman who is stuck in an onstage mound of earth but keeps her chin up, literally and otherwise.

“It’s going through life and getting through life with joy and anticipation and acceptance. She’s a noble soul,” Rae said.

Perhaps like the actress herself?

“I try. I try. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it,” she said.

Melissa Rivers is funny and affectionate in ‘Book of Joan’

Melissa Rivers wanted to laugh — and she wants her readers to do the same.

Consider it mission accomplished on both counts, thanks to her best-selling memoir, “The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation” (Crown Archetype). It’s a touching, revealing and above all funny paean to her mother, Joan Rivers, who died last September at 81 after complications from minor throat surgery.

The book is free of a daughter’s grief, or her undeniable anger. (Rivers has filed a malpractice lawsuit against the Manhattan clinic where her mother suffered what she has called “shocking and, frankly, almost incomprehensible” incompetence.) Instead, the approach is light-hearted, affectionate — and funny.

“Writing it gave me permission to laugh and joke, and a safe place to do so,” says Rivers, who, still reeling from her loss last fall, set to work with her writing partner, Larry Amoros, a long-time family friend and writer for Joan who could add his own rich store of recollections.

“We wanted to call the book ‘Cheaper Than Therapy,’” says Rivers, “but we were afraid it would get mixed up in the Self-Help Therapy section of the bookstore.”

In the first pages, Rivers attempts to summarize this pint-sized, outspoken force of nature: “My mother was a comedian, actress, writer, producer, jewelry monger, tchotchke maker, spokesperson, hand model, ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ winner and a self-appointed somewhat-goodwill-ambassador to 27 Third World countries that were unaware they had a goodwill ambassador.”

The book nods at an early concept offered the publisher: a collection of Lessons I Learned From My Mother. It was an idea Rivers balked at. “I don’t know if people would want to take THAT advice,” she laughs.

Yes, there was a method to Joan’s madness, but it formed the logical underpinnings of someone who didn’t always cater to logic.

Joan on marriage: “Your father didn’t care if I went to bed mad. He cared if I went to Bergdorf mad.”

Joan on cosmetic surgery: “Better to have a new you coming out of an old car than an old you coming out of a new car.”

Rivers, now 47, grew up close to both her parents.

“People always said I was much more like my father (film and TV producer Edgar Rosenberg) than her, and they had a successful marriage. Maybe that’s why she and I were so bonded.”

One thing that tied them together: “Our love of the ironic and the absurd. Nothing was better than looking at each other when we were out somewhere” with a wordless exchange conveying, “Oh, have we got something to talk about when we get in the car! Can you BELIEVE what just happened?!”

No wonder Joan and Melissa were also bonded professionally. Together they blazed a new frontier of style and snark on the glitziest red carpets, while Joan became a connoisseur of couture catastrophes as host of “Fashion Police,” which Melissa produced.

That show, minus queen bee Joan, returned on E! in January and promptly suffered a meltdown with cast strife and the abrupt departures of panelist Kelly Osbourne and new host Kathy Griffin. It is off the air again until fall.

“We came back too fast. None of us was ready,” says Rivers. “It was extremely painful. I spent way too much time crying about the show and what it represents to me. But we learned. No, I don’t know who is going to be in the cast. But now I’m actually excited to figure it out.”

The pain of loss is ever-present in Rivers’ life. Her mother’s death is all too recent while, even after three decades, she says she still misses her father, who committed suicide in 1987.

But in her book, death rears its head in wryly humorous terms.

“I don’t know, or pretend to know, what happens to us after we die,” writes Rivers as she builds to one of her many laugh-lines. “Nobody really does, except the dead, and they’re not talking (at least not to me, but I have AT&T: I can barely get living people on the phone).”

Whistling past the graveyard? Joan Rivers wasn’t afraid of death, her daughter insists.

“It was an obsession: ‘This is gonna happen.’ But we would discuss it as calmly as you’d ask for a glass of water. She was very much at peace with the idea.”

Maybe so, but she held her own at bay for 81 unbridled years. And as readers of “The Book of Joan” will surely realize between the laughs, it still came too soon.

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth writes memoir: ‘Girl in a Band’

As the front woman for influential indie band Sonic Youth for three decades, Kim Gordon had a ringside seat as experimental music left the grimy clubs of New York and went mainstream with the help of MTV and Lollapalooza in the 1980s and 1990s.

Married to band co-founder Thurston Moore for 27 years, the duo seemed to have the perfect rock-star marriage — until it unraveled in 2011, devastating fans.

In her memoir, “Girl in a Band,” the seemingly unflappable Gordon, known for her cool gaze and electric onstage presence, details how the relationship became strained and the pain she felt as Moore started an affair with another woman. “It’s hard to write a love story with a broken heart,” Gordon says about her early days in New York.

Gordon grew up in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Hong Kong as her father took various academic jobs, along with a magnetic older brother whom she idolized and who was later diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Arriving in New York in 1980 after art school, Gordon quickly became immersed in the art world and punk scene at a time when Basquiat was still tagging tenements and the Mudd Club and CBGB were just getting started.

She fell in love with Moore soon after and they started Sonic Youth, touring the country and logging time on college radio. Gordon writes of the band’s growing success with a dryly cerebral eye, recounting with exasperation how the only question British reporters asked her during an early tour was “What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”

She had a daughter, Coco, with Thurston in 1994 and kept touring and making videos while pregnant and raising the toddler. Meanwhile, Gordon kept up active side projects as a visual artist, creator of the X-Girl clothing label and actor with small roles in movies, including Gus Van Sant’s “Last Days” and Olivier Assayas’ “Boarding Gate.” More recently she’s had roles in “Gossip Girl” and “Girls.”

Gordon has high praise for artists she admires such as Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and details the kinship she felt with Kurt Cobain before his suicide in 1994. But she has harsh words for others like Courtney Love, who she labels manipulative, and singer Lana Del Rey, who she says “doesn’t even know what feminism is.”

Those looking for a postmortem on Gordon and Moore’s marriage won’t be disappointed in the memoir, which is bookended by a dissection of how the relationship came to an end. But the more vivid scenes that Gordon paints are the thrills in the 1980s when Sonic Youth came together in the hot bed of creativity that was New York at the time, and the 1990s when experimental bands suddenly were getting airplay on MTV and grunge was taking over, and a band like Sonic Youth could make it big _ something she doesn’t see in today’s era of sanitized pop.

“Did the 1990s ever exist?” she wonders. “Mainstream music is just as conservative as it was back in the 1980s. Experimental music has become a genre.”

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco returns to Miami in memoir

In Richard Blanco’s Miami, memories linger outside coffee windows and in Cuban grocery store aisles.

Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural poet grew up here, gathering experiences and stories as the son of Cuban exiles that would lay the foundation for his written work and inspire his new memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos.”

Since becoming both the first gay and Hispanic inaugural poet almost two years ago, Blanco has traveled the U.S., giving readings, writing poems and essays, and releasing two non-fiction books. He has become a literary spokesman of sorts, advocating for a more inclusive America and revealing his own struggles to come to terms with his identity as a gay man. He remains based in Maine, but like his parents before him who dreamed of Cuba, he dreams of another place.

He dreams of Miami.

“One of the things that fascinates me is how physical landscapes are intertwined with emotional landscapes,” he said. “Everything that happens in our lives happens in a place and Miami is certainly that place since I was 3 years old.”

“The Prince of Los Cocuyos” takes readers to Miami of the 1970s and `80s, where Blanco’s family was one of tens of thousands building new lives after fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution. Loud and nostalgic, Blanco cringed at his parents’ salsa music and Thanksgiving carne puerco – roast pork. He wanted to be American – New Wave music, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving turkey.

In a series of loosely intertwined stories, Blanco describes a childhood marked by loss, humor and hints of an exotic land called America. In “Losing the Farm,” he recounts his grandfather’s attempt to recreate the chicken coop he had in Cuba in the family’s suburban Westchester (or “Guescheste” as it is pronounced by many Cubans) backyard, much to the chagrin of Miami’s code enforcement police.

In “It Takes Un Pueblo,” he describes his weekends and summers working as a clerk in his great uncle’s small, family-run grocery store, El Cocuyito, or the little firefly. His sometimes abusive grandmother had insisted he take a job there, hoping working with Don Gustavo would “make him a man.”

In checkout counter conversations, the store’s patrons slowly reveal pieces of who they are to him: The daughter of a former general who once lived in Cuban mansions and now resides in a cramped apartment, where she makes dresses she’ll never be able to afford. The Havana street vendor who rebuilds the city he walked thousands of times with his wares in painted cardboard cuttings, the details of which he struggles to remember.

The book ends with Blanco at 17, a young man no longer ashamed of his family’s Thanksgiving roast pig.

“It’s a process of falling in love with your culture for the most part,” Blanco said.

Life has taken Blanco away from Miami in the years since. He went to Cuba with his mother, a visit that helped fill “a lot of the blanks” about his identity, but only the Cuban half, he said. He moved to Connecticut to teach creative writing, thinking, “Maybe I should try moving to America.” There, he thought he’d find the quintessential America that he’d grown up watching on TV. He didn’t.

He moved to Guatemala with his partner and then to Washington.

“All the while I missed Miami terribly, terribly, terribly,” he said.

When he returned, he found a changed Miami: David’s Cafe, a legendary Cuban restaurant off Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, was renamed Abuela’s. Wolfie’s Jewish deli closed. El Cocuyito was sold. And those were just the cosmetic changes. His parents and grandparents’ generations were dying out. New waves of Cubans who grew up under the revolution were moving in. Venezuelans, Brazilians and other Latino immigrants were, too.

The Miami he describes in “The Prince of Los Cocuyos” is still there, but parts of it are gone.

“I realize now how my parents feel, my mother in particular, when she goes back to Cuba, this sense of ownership,” he said. “We all sort of are subject to change and we all lose things in our lives. We all have in some ways an immigrant exile experience.”

A look at the new books offered this fall, fiction, non-fiction and in-between

So many memoirs are coming out this fall, written in so many ways.

Neil Patrick Harris, for instance, decided that his early 40s was too young for a “life” story, even for a Tony- and Emmy-winning actor. So he has completed “Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography,” in which Harris steps back into the second person to allow you to imagine yourself onstage, on television, or, in November 2006, on edge as you prepare to tell the world you’re gay. 

“I couldn’t wrap my mind around a structure that made sense to me — to pass on words of wisdom or to write some salacious tell-all. My life hasn’t been like that,” Harris said during a recent interview.

“So I came upon this conceit of ‘choose your own adventure,’ to allow readers to choose which autobiography they were interested in. You can have poignancy; you can have funny remembrances, or whatever path you want to follow.”

Lena Dunham of “Girls” fame has written “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned,’” a non-advice advice book in which she hopes that readers will know when and when not to emulate “a girl with a keen interest in having it all.” Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” promises a “big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice.”

Keith Richards, having taken care of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in his million-selling “Life,” turns sentimental with the picture book “Gus and Me,” a tribute to his grandfather, musician Gus Dupree. Neil Young honors a favorite hobby in “Special Deluxe”: cars. “Jimmy Page” is a “photographic autobiography” by the Led Zeppelin guitarist. “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” is not entirely in his own words, alternating between first-person memories and third-person accounts by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author-journalist Rick Bragg.

Former President George W. Bush already has written a memoir, “Decision Points,” so for his new book (currently untitled) he tells the story of his father, George H.W. Bush. “Steve Jobs” author Walter Isaacson returns to the virtual world with “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

Fiction readers can look forward to books from Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham and David Baldacci, among others. Anne Rice brings back the undead for “Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles” and “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin shares some of the back story in “The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire).”

Some of the top literary writers also have books out. David Mitchell of “Cloud Atlas” fame has written “The Bone Clocks” and fellow British novelist Ian McEwan’s latest is “The Children Act.” Hilary Mantel, a two-time Man Booker Prize winner for her novels about the court of King Henry VIII, names names in the 20th century with the story collection “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.” Denis Johnson’s “The Laughing Monsters” is the author’s first full-length work of fiction since “Tree of Smoke” won the National Book Award in 2008. Marilynne Robinson returns to the Iowa setting of her Pulitzer-Prize-winning “Gilead” with “Lila.”

Six years ago, few noticed when Garth Stein had the bright idea to write a novel told from a dog’s point of view, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Thanks to 4 million copies sold, and more than three years on The New York Times’ best-seller list, Stein should have plenty of attention for “A Sudden Light,” which features a boy and a mansion.

“It’s what every writer dreams of, to be talked about as much as I was for ‘Racing in the Rain,’” Stein says. “But I’m a writer, and a writer’s got to write and I finally had to announce my retirement from ‘Racing in the Rain.’ As I said to my publisher, ‘I have to go in the cave. Don’t come in here. I’ll come out of the cave when it’s time.”

For some books this fall, the bold-faced name isn’t the author.

“The Monogram Murders” is a new mystery featuring Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot. Christie gets star billing on the cover, but the writer, approved by the Christie estate, is Sophie Hannah. “Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot” offers a new case to solve for baseball star-turned police chief Jesse Stone, the sleuth of nine novels by Parker, who died in 2010. The author this time is Reed Farrel Coleman.

Sidney Sheldon lives on, at least in name, through British author Tilly Bagshawe. Her latest is “Sidney Sheldon’s Chasing Tomorrow,” a novel written “in his inimitable Sheldon style,” Bagshawe promises on her website. Dick Francis died in 2010, but a new thriller is called “Dick Francis’s ‘Damage”” in U.S. editions. The author’s son, Felix Francis, wrote the novel and prefers the British title: “Damage,” with FELIX FRANCIS printed above the title and “A Dick Francis Novel” at the bottom.

“It’s a Dick Francis novel in that it’s got horses and was written in the first person and the main character is both courageous and loyal,” Felix Francis said.

“I like the idea that I am giving my father immortality, or perhaps I am keeping his name alive. I just hope that if it goes on it becomes a little bit smaller and mine a little bit bigger.”

Akin says he should never have apologized for ‘legitimate rape’ remark

A former Missouri Republican congressman whose “legitimate rape” comments during the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign were roundly criticized now says he was wrong to apologize.

Todd Akin writes in a new political memoir that his remarks on whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape were taken out of context and led to his “political assassination” and betrayal by GOP allies. The 67-year-old Akin, who spent 12 years in Congress and another dozen as a state lawmaker, lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill.

“Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom” will be released next week, but The Associated Press obtained an advance copy Thursday from the publisher, WND Books, an arm of the conservative website WorldNetDaily.

During an interview with a local TV reporter, Akin asserted that rape victims are less likely to get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The 209-page book includes a foreword by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who, like Akin, criticizes Republican leaders for abandoning the candidate soon after his remarks garnered national attention and almost immediately dominated the campaign. Some blamed Akin — who resisted calls to drop out of the race — for costing Republicans a chance to gain a majority in the Senate.

Akin writes he believes stress can affect a woman’s ability to conceive, expanding on his earlier thoughts on the subject.

“My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization,” he writes. “This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and infertility,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject.”

“The research is not conclusive, but there is considerable evidence that stress makes conception more difficult,” he adds. “And what could be more stressful than a rape?”

Akin also says he only agreed to film a campaign ad in which he apologized for those comments because he was under pressure from his political advisers and campaign staff. He now regrets that apology and says he should have listened to his wife Lulli, the only person who objected.

“By asking the public at large for forgiveness, I was validating the willful misrepresentation of what I had said,” he writes in a chapter entitled “Damage Control.”

A publicist said Akin plans to launch a national book tour Monday in either Washington or New York, followed by appearances in his home state, but was not available to discuss the book sooner. He has been out of politics and public life since the Senate loss.

The private eye in Washington who has seen it all

What can we say about Terry Lenzner, a curious hybrid of Harvard-trained lawyer and dirt-digging Washington private eye?

That he braved the Klan as a federal attorney investigating the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer.”

That he paid janitors to obtain trash containing Microsoft secrets and supplied them to a tech-billionaire rival of Bill Gates.

That as the Senate Watergate Committee’s deputy counsel, he served a subpoena on Richard Nixon, demanding the White House turn over the tapes.

That he investigated the personal lives of women bringing sexual-misconduct allegations against President Bill Clinton.

That he was held hostage by Geraldo Rivera, then a radical young lawyer, but Don Rumsfeld came to the rescue.

(Whew.)

And, finally, that he has written a memoir, “The Investigator,” which covers a remarkable 50-year career with periods of both light and shadow. Published Oct. 8, it is a time capsule of adventuresome sleuthing and traces the contours of U.S. political history.

Lenzner, according to many in the private investigation business, helped to reinvent the trade, wedding it firmly to a high-paying world of corporate, political and legal clients. He founded the Investigative Group International, which grew into a well-regarded operation with employees nationwide and around the world.

“He changed it into a white-collar profession from the days of the old guys with a cheap suit and a bad haircut, the old gumshoe thing. It’s now more polished,” said Nancy Swaim, who worked as an investigator in the firm’s Los Angeles office for more than seven years.

“Scorch the earth,” Lenzner was known to tell his private investigators. His firm is legendary for its “opposition research” probes – political or otherwise – that expose unseen connections, surface uncomfortable facts and bore in on people’s blemishes.

A relentless perfectionist, he could inspire dread in his employees – and his investigative targets. But a soul-searcher he isn’t.

“I can’t think of anything I would say I really regretted that I did it,” he says during an interview one morning on the back patio of his custom-built, modernist Cleveland Park home. Lenzner is 74 now, and the dedicated lifelong athlete – football, tennis, basketball – is suffering from a bad back, using a cane.

He speaks slowly, with a calculated deliberation accrued over decades of lawyering.

Never done anything wrong?

“I can guarantee that I did some things wrong, and I could go back and do another book on all my mistakes,” he says, but he won’t be doing that.

The former federal prosecutor seems to enjoy a tough interrogation. The cool, leafy calm of the morning is periodically brutalized by the roar of a chain saw as it chews through a neighbor’s trees.

“That’s appropriate background music,” he says, and smiles ever so slyly.

The life of Terry Falk Lenzner – father of three, married 45 years, pal of top politicos – could have been as typical as any other Washington insider’s. But starting with his first government job at Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department 50 years ago, Lenzner’s career has a cinematic sweep.

It’s worth mentioning four movies. His life or his firm intersects with all of them.

First up, “Love Story,” a double-hankie romance set on the Harvard campus from 1970. The back story:

Lenzner, born in 1939, grew up in Manhattan in a well-to-do but troubled household. His father, a dentist, was unpredictable, sometimes violent and “often angry,” Lenzner writes in the book. His mother came from a wealthy New York family.

His father pushed Terry to play varsity football in the Ivy League, as he had done; the son ended up playing at the prep school Phillips Exeter Academy and later Harvard, and captained both teams.

As an undergraduate in Cambridge – he enrolled in 1958 – Lenzner also got to know Erich Segal, a brilliant classics professor and writer. Segal was a tutor at Harvard’s Dunster House, where Lenzner lived. They became friends. “We worked out together, went to the weight room, had dinner and lunch together,” recalls Lenzner.

In the novel “Love Story” and the screenplay – Segal wrote both – the character of Oliver Barrett IV had an athletic bent and a very difficult father. Oliver attended Exeter and Harvard and graduated from Harvard Law.

Oliver played hockey, and in the book, his height and weight are exactly the same as Lenzner’s.

Then there’s a 1996 letter to Lenzner from the late Segal.

“For the record, I hereby declare that you were the model for Oliver Barrett IV in Love Story,” Segal wrote.

It’s a bit weird. In 1997, Al Gore told reporters that he and his wife, Tipper, had been the inspiration for the central couple in Segal’s tale.

Lenzner said he couldn’t get into specifics about the letter. The late writer could have borrowed a “percentage” of Lenzner’s personal history, he says. “My view, very honestly, is that I was not the model for Oliver.”

Yet he didn’t hide the possibility that he was. It would become office lore at IGI.

Lenzner went directly to Harvard Law after college. When he graduated, he could have minted money as a corporate lawyer, but he said he felt disenchanted by his intern work at a Manhattan firm. Instead, in 1964, on the recommendation of a senior lawyer there – the great-grandson of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison – he joined the civil rights division at Justice.

Which brings us to “Mississippi Burning,” the 1988 movie about FBI agents in the bloody early 1960s civil rights period when Lenzner was on the ground gathering evidence about the three activists’ murders, staring down violent racists who didn’t want blacks to vote. Besides working in Mississippi, he also ran the grand jury investigating the “Bloody Sunday” beatings of marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

Lenzner himself faced considerable risk. Checking into motels, he said, he would ask for a room in the back of the building. If there was only one facing the road, the young lawyer would hoist the mattress from the bed and prop it against the large plate-glass window.

You never know who might try to shoot you.

“After a while, you did get a little paranoid,” Lenzner recalls. He got used to sleeping on the floor.

Two other films capture the dark and light sides of Lenzner’s work at IGI during the 1990s. Both are reality-based and touch on the firm’s stock in trade: data-gathering and background checks often sought by white-collar clients.

There’s “The Insider,” about Jeffrey Wigand, an executive at the Brown & Williamson tobacco firm who defected and became a whistleblower. He’s the movie’s protagonist, bent on revealing dangers of tobacco that many manufacturers denied. In the mid-‘90s, he and his former employer were embroiled in litigation.

In real life, Lenzner’s firm – working for B&W’s attorneys – compiled a 500-page dossier, portraying Wigand as a serial liar and petty crook, that B&W leaked to the Wall Street Journal. It backfired.

“A close look at the file, and independent research by this newspaper into its key claims, indicates that many of the serious allegations against Mr. Wigand are backed by scant or contradictory evidence. Some of the charges – including that he pleaded guilty to shoplifting – are demonstrably untrue,” the Journal reported.

Some who know Lenzner remain disappointed that his company allied with Big Tobacco, especially given his history in the Watergate hearings of encouraging truth-tellers to come forward.

“When I worked with Terry, I had the highest regard for his integrity and his instinct for the public good. I never thought he would take on a case where he would not be on the right side,” said the author Scott Armstrong, an investigator with Lenzner on the Watergate Committee who also worked as a consultant to IGI. “That was the Rubicon he crossed. The Wigand dossier produced by IGI shocked me.”

Lenzner’s book ignores the tobacco case except for a brief aside. But in an email, he offered this:

“A senior employee brought the case to me, described what the client wanted and on the face of it, the request appeared to be legitimate. In essence they were asking for basic research on an individual, which is something we do all the time. If I had had the full context of the client’s goals, I might well have reconsidered undertaking the assignment.”

Finally, there’s “Shattered Glass,” a movie about New Republic plagiarist Stephen Glass: The magazine hired IGI to investigate his fabrications. It needed the kind of rigorous search for truth Lenzner was famed for.

In their sweep of Glass’s computer, IGI experts established clear evidence. Lenzner said he also came across a freelance piece Glass had done for the now-defunct George magazine, about Washington “power players.”

The article helped seal Lenzner’s conclusions. One of the players was Lenzner himself.

“I guess it need not be said that Glass had never interviewed me and that many of the things he said about me were invented,” Lenzner writes.

Lenzner set up IGI in 1984 with three investigative reporters (including two from The Washington Post) and grew the business by bringing in diverse talent: FBI and CIA veterans, financial fraud experts, mergers and acquisitions specialists, lawyers and journalists worked side by side.

“You had this whole range of expertise you could tap into,” said Swaim, the L.A. private eye. “High quality … high class.”

With his Watergate fame and fascinating background, Lenzner loomed larger than life among fresh-faced employees. Although known as a browbeater, he had stridden through history.

“He had an aura,” said Alex Kramer, who joined IGI in 1990 and stayed for a year. “I know people had incidents with him, but he also gave people great opportunities.”

Contact 10 or so ex-employees, and those willing to say anything at all are inclined to speak anonymously, not wanting to publicly cross the hot-tempered Lenzner, even many years later – and even though some profess great admiration for their former boss.

“He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,” said Andrew Fox, an investigator who worked at IGI for 10 years. “But his ego drives the ship. I know people have left angry. But that’s not anything necessarily different from any other workplace.”

Today the firm has been outflanked by competitors doing similar white-collar work and has downsized from 75 employees in its heyday to a core of 25.

IGI gained considerable notoriety during the late 1990s, when Lenzner worked for President Clinton’s attorneys on the impeachment case. Some articles have criticized IGI’s investigative tactics; for example, methods for obtaining phone numbers and credit records.

In recent interviews, some ex-employees said they obtained such records from “information brokers,” whose information-gathering techniques were sometimes called into question. The practice was widespread among PIs; only later would federal laws protect such material.

Lenzner emphatically denies that the firm ever accessed or used anything but materials in the public domain – otherwise they couldn’t be used in court. And, he says, no one at the company ever violated legal boundaries.

“It would have been suicide for us to have done anything to step out of line the slightest bit,” he said, noting that he is a lawyer and that many of his clients are, too. “And we never did.”

David Fechheimer, 72, a legendary San Francisco private eye who did various projects for Lenzner’s company, said he admired its investigative creativity.

“IGI believed in street work and human contact,” he said. “And they would take risks; not legal risks, but the risks of getting caught. They would mount interesting undercover and sting operations.”

When the boss ordered people to “scorch the earth” for information, they did. “It was an amazing, intense three years,” said Philip Davis, an Alexandria researcher who worked as a forensic accountant at IGI. “You came out of there thinking, ‘I can find anything.’”

How volcanic was the boss?

“Calling him General Patton on steroids is not overstating him,” Davis said. “But I love Terry Lenzner. Terry’s toughness made me sharper. … Talk about jumping into the fire wearing a suit made of newspapers.”

There is no lack of movie-worthy scenes from Lenzner’s life story, moments of both high drama and absurd circumstance, even if all of them won’t reach the screen.

“Yes, I held him hostage, it’s true,” said Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News host, of his historic collision with Lenzner 44 years ago.

Again, the back story:

After his work in the Justice Department, including a stint as an organized-crime prosecutor in New York, Lenzner took another Washington job in 1969. A Democrat, he went to work for Richard Nixon’s White House – the political equivalent of walking into a threshing machine.

Lenzner was brought into the Office of Economic Opportunity by its chief, Donald Rumsfeld, who had a spot in the president’s Cabinet.

“I had an instant rapport with him,” Lenzner writes of Rumsfeld.

But the future secretary of defense wasn’t digging the vibe at the anti-poverty agency, a Johnson administration creation; Che Guevara’s face adorned posters on the walls, Rumsfeld later wrote disapprovingly.

It fell to the 29-year-old Lenzner to supervise 2,200 Legal Services Program lawyers who were aggressively filing suits on behalf of the poor – battling police violence, protecting the rights of blacks and migrant workers, and taking cases that generally bedeviled the Establishment.

Republican governors like Ronald Reagan in California complained of being sued by shaggy-haired radicals paid by Washington. Nixon grew unhappy with the whole Lenzner-headed operation. Some minority lawyers attached to the program weren’t happy, either. This is where Rivera, then a chairman of the Black and Brown Lawyers Caucus, comes in.

One August day in 1969, he was one of about 50 newly graduated lawyers, many from Howard University, who decided to occupy the building at 19th and M streets that housed the Office of Economic Opportunity and Legal Services.

They wanted $1 million for a Legal Services fellows program at Howard.

“We did it on the fly,” Rivera recalls. “Once we got there, I don’t recall that we intended to keep Secretary Rumsfeld captive, or Terry, who we liked.”

Rumsfeld instructed Lenzner to escort the protesters to a conference room and hear them out. Lenzner did. Then they wouldn’t let him leave.

Into the room charged Rumsfeld, the former wrestler. “I took Lenzner’s arm and told him we were leaving,” Rumsfeld recounted in his memoir. But the protesters wouldn’t let Lenzner go.

“I’d say Terry was friendly, but he was representing the Man,” Rivera noted.

Eventually Rumsfeld summoned the cops. “I was later told that I had caused the arrest of the major fraction of the graduating class of Howard Law School,” he wrote.

About a year later, as heat from the White House grew, Rumsfeld fired Lenzner. But there was no venom. They remain friendly to this day.

Dissolve to the back patio.

Lenzner, who has suffered from heart problems, seems mellower now. But he isn’t ready to completely loosen his gasp as IGI’s chairman. He loves what he does too much, he says, to think about fully retiring. In the past, potential successors have been brought in, only to end up leaving. Yet he admits that he has never been good at running a business.

Lenzner recently brought in his son, Jonathan, a former federal prosecutor, to join senior management. (It should be noted that Jonathan Lenzner is married to a Post reporter.)

As is true of many autobiographies, Lenzner’s book tends to burnish the victories, elide the defeats, settle scores, ignore his critics or dismiss them.

But “The Investigator” establishes his legacy – and something more. “The book is intended to reflect lessons learned and stories about human nature,” he said.

Here’s something to consider. Terry Lenzner has been called one of the most feared men in Washington.

“That’s a compliment,” he says. The chain saw is still going.

Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com

Story via The Associated Press