Chapter 11 Books: Your Neighborhood Book Blog


Chapter 11 Bookstore is an independent bookstore chain with 4 locations in Atlanta, Georgia and surrounding cities. Our online site is Customers can browse our inventory, order books, CDs, and DVDs online, and read details about author appearances. Visit our blog for reviews, opinions, and news about books, music, and movies.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Guide to the Decatur Book Festival, Part Four

Chapter 11* Books presents:
Your Guide to the Decatur Book Festival: Part 4

The Decatur Book fest isn't far off at all. Whispers are already starting about what Huffington's going to wear, and the media's already jumping all over themselves to say that the destination of Labor Day weekend will be Decatur. Of course, we've already told you that.

This is all-consuming. If you want to see what life is like for Chapter 11* Books right now (and really, who doesn't want to be in the book industry?), well, here you go:

Boxes, and books. Books, and boxes. I've about had it with these books in these...oh, nevermind.

If it isn't obvious, whatever it is you're looking for, we'll have it at the Chapter 11* Books tent, #91 and right in the middle of your path near the information booth. Make sure you stop in. In fact, make us a must-visit.

For your trip to the Decatur Book Festival:

Steve Berry

Appearing at 4:15 pm Saturday, Sept 2, on the Courthouse Stage

Camden County, Georgia native and lawyer Steve Berry is a popular powerhouse of fast-paced, thrill-oriented historical fiction, which seems to be the hottest literary sub-genre this year. His newest is The Templar Legacy, a cat-and-mouse game with a dirty little Religious secret. He has his legion of fans, and if you're one of them, you are in for an up-close and personal opportunity to discuss where he found the inspiration for the gnostic occult thriller.

Make sure you stop by the Chapter 11* Books tent, where we will be having giveaways and author exclusives all weekend! Look for us right in the middle of your path at booth 91, by the information booth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Guide to the Decatur Book Festival, Part Three

Chapter 11* Books presents:

Your Guide to the Decatur Book Festival: Part 3

In our third installment of our Guide to the Decatur Book Festival, we want to point you to one of our own hometown writers, chronicling the life of a Southern literary classic.

Valerie Boyd: Wrapped In Rainbows-The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

Appearing at 3:45 Sunday, Sept 3rd, on the Courthouse Stage

Valerie Boyd, arts editor of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has, with Wrapped In Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, crafted a biography of the beloved writer as eye-opening and moving as Hurston's own work. With a journalist's eye for detail and a literature lover's flowing prose, Boyd presents the first Zora Neale Hurston biography in 25 years, and takes the opportunity to present both the myth and humanity of the legend surrounding the beloved author. More importantly than the outlaying of fact, however, is the way that Boyd paints the life, times and happenings of Zora Neale Hurston and her work into a historical context, bringing classic, powerful pieces such as Their Eyes Were Watching God to the forefront of modern literature-firmly where it belongs.

Valerie Boyd will be discussing her work at 3:45 pm on Sunday on the Courthouse Stage as part of the "African-American Portraits" panel, along with Carrie Dumas and Lawrence Jackson.

Make sure you stop by the Chapter 11* Books tent, where we will be having giveaways and author exclusives all weekend! Look for us right in the middle of your path at booth 91, by the information booth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Guide to the Decatur Book Festival, Part Two

Chapter 11* Books presents:

Your Guide to the Decatur Book Festival: Part 2

Yesterday, in part one of our week-long Chapter 11* Books daily guide to the Decatur Book Festival we told you about Tom Franklin's fantastic new book, Smonk. Well, it just so happens that, appearing along with Tom Franklin (and Sonny Brewer) as part of the "Male's Tales" panel on the Courthouse Stage on Saturday at 3pm is Jack Pendarvis.

Jack Pendarvis: The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure

The former Alabamian, who now calls good ol' Atlanta home, might have a name that rings familiar but that you can't quite place. He's a recognized author who has been published several places, my personal favorite of which being his Mcsweeneys's
Online piece titled "Jim Jarmusch's Notes For A Ghostbusters

Bill Murray goes to an Indian restaurant. He engages in non sequiturs with his waiter. (Backstory, NOT FOR USE IN FILM: Waiter has learned English from advertisements on the benches at bus stops.) Disturbance in kitchen. Bill Murray does not go to investigate. Looks at place mat, lost in indecipherable reflections. Something bursts forth from the kitchen. Bill Murray finds himself "slimed" (offscreen) by the lovable little slime monster from the original film. An emotion flickers over Bill Murray's face. Resignation? Ennui? Ironic detachment? Gentle bemusement? Despair? It is impossible to say.

Pendarvis' new story collection, The Mysterious Secret Of Valuable Treasure, shows off a wit that's at once fanciful and straight to the heart of matters. It'd be easy to group these stories into the category of "New South," but when you have George Singleton, an ace at the modern male whiskey-soaked short Southern Grotesque comedy, comparing the collection to "early T.C. Boyle and Samuel Beckett," you know you've got something special.

Don't miss this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime Southern literary treat as Jack Pendarvis shares the Court House stage with Tom Franklin and Sonny Brewer at the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, Sept 2nd, at 3pm.

If you need more author or book recommendations, be sure to stop by and see us at the Chapter 11* Books tent. We’ll be giving away books and signed memorabilia from various authors, and would love to chat with you!

Look for Chapter 11* Books at Booth 91, near the Information Booth.

David L Robbins winners

David L Robbins wrote a pretty good book that we kinda like, The Assassins Gallery. Maybe you've heard of it?

The three lucky winners who will be getting a copy of this heart-pounding work of thrilling historical fiction are Russell Lewis of Sugar Hill, GA, Misha McMurtray of Knightdale, NC, and Michael Stephens of Marietta, GA. Suzanne Witt of Newborn, GA is the lucky winner of the SIGNED FIRST EDITION.

Chapter 11* Books: where people really do win.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Guide to the Decatur Book Festival, Part One

Chapter 11* Books presents:

Your Guide to the Decatur Book Festival: Part 1

As I’ve mentioned before, we here at Chapter 11* Books are pretty much speechless with child-like glee over the Decatur Book Festival, which is set to take over downtown Decatur this coming Labor Day weekend Sept 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. There are going to be over 100 author events to choose from at the largest gathering of writers and authors in the Southeast.

You’ve doubtlessly already heard about the cornucopia of literary majesty that will be in attendance, not to mention Arianna Huffington giving the Keynote address Friday night at Agnes Scott College.

Chapter 11* Books knows that the author and events list can be slightly daunting, so for this week we’re going to help you plan your Decatur Book Festival experience.Each day we’ll pick a book from a different author who will be appearing at the Decatur Book Festival, and give you a bit of info as to why you should make them a “must-see”.

Tom Franklin: Smonk

Appearing at 3pm Saturday, on the Courthouse Stage

Tom Franklin, author of the powerful, dark Southern tale Hell At The Breech, returns in amazing literary form with his newest novel, Smonk.

What is Smonk?

Smonk is a Spaghetti Western. Smonk is a violent tale of redemption. Smonk is a highly-literate comedy of manners and errors, set in the Wild West. Smonk is Shakespeare with six-shooters.

Most importantly, E.O. Smonk, the titular hero (or is it villain? Or hero? Or villain? Or…) of Franklin’s new novel, is more like Odysseus in a ten-gallon hat than Maverick. Fast-paced, grim, and ultimately a fulfilling yet unsettling experience, Tom Franklin has managed to create a take-no-prisoners piece of work that’s at once funny and frightening. Fans of the show “Deadwood” need to perk up their ears, because Franklin just may have surpassed his source inspiration.

Pre-order Smonk now, or purchase it from us at the Decatur Book Festival.

If you need more author or book recommendations, be sure to stop by and see us at the Chapter 11* Books tent. We’ll be giving away books and signed memorabilia from various authors, and would love to chat with you!

Look for Chapter 11* Books at Booth 91, near the Information Booth.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Favorite Summer Reads

Books that we at Chapter 11* have loved this summer include The Ruins by Scott Smith, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Hard Way by Lee Child, The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

What's your favorite book of the summer?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Screamer of the Summer

As a former English teacher, one of the first things I always told my students was that mistakes are an inevitable part of life. We should accept them and move on. In the words of Sean Bateman from Bret Easton Ellis' Rules of Attraction: "Deal with it. Rock and Roll."

As such, I'm not going to linger on the fact that I said some bad things about Scott Smith's summer blockbuster of terror The Ruins. I wanted to NOT like it before even READING it. If I want my quotes to come back to haunt me, I called the writing "horrid". I also then re-used the word "horrid" a sentence later for something else. Now, who am I to judge horrid writing? HORRID!


Everybody makes mistakes. And maybe it's been my distaste for admission of error, or maybe it's how hard we at Chapter 11* Books are getting into gear for the upcoming Decatur Book Fest, of which you'll see more information on here very very soon. Either way, I have yet to come back and say what needs to be said:

For all my high-brow literary Joyce love, The Ruins disturbed the heck out of me.

The Ruins is a triumph of a summer book, one straight-for-the-jugular cut that throws the reader off-track on a wild goose chase from the start, by simply laying the plot out one piece at a time in such a way that it's seemingly impossible. Many times throughout the book, I found myself gasping in fear or wretching in grossed-out throes of disgust, all the while checking the number of pages left and thinking "this can't be happening".

Ok, Catch-22 it ain't...or is it? There are hard, hard choices to be made by these friends trapped in the middle of nowhere, Mexico, forced to live (and die) by their wits.

There's a reason why reviews of The Ruins are so minimal on plot detail, and so chockablock with synonyms for "eeeeew": you KNOW what's going to happen, and how it's going to happen, from page 1, but the beauty of the modern adult conscious mind keeps the full horror from sinking in until the end. And it's the unraveling of all you consider holy that keeps this book full-force until the last beautifully horrific page.

This, to me, is the ideal summer book: a compelling, quick read. Though I may be partial to the more literary works of the summer (such as Dominion) when the end of the year comes, but as far as Summer Book Blockbuster? The Ruins is it.

Have you read The Ruins? Thoughts? Love it? Hate it? What has been your favorite summer read thus far? Comment and let us know!

--Russ Marshalek

Do yourself a favor! Buy The Ruins at 30% off NOW!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Tour Through The Assassins Gallery, with David L. Robbins

WIN a copy of The Assassins Gallery!
Instructions at end of interview.

Bestselling Historical Fiction author David L. Robbins, whose recent book, The Assassins Gallery, about a fictional plot to assassinate FDR, has been called “heart-stopping” by Publisher’s Weekly and is a favorite here at Chapter 11* Books, recently spoke at an event hosted by the Georgia Center For The Book. David took time out before speaking to an adoring crowd to lounge around the Decatur Square Starbucks and answer some questions for the Chapter 11* Books Blog.

(David asks for, and receives, something that “tastes as much like coffee ice cream as possible”: a coffee Frappuccino)

Chapter 11 Books Blog: Did you go to school to be a writer? What made you decide that you wanted to write?

David L. Robbins: I have a degree in Theater and Speech, with a minor in Psychology, and then I took one year out and went to Law School for three years, and practiced law for a year-none of which I use today. Nothing made me decide that I wanted to write-everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve ever aspired to do that wasn’t writing was instead of it. Where I come from, you didn’t grow up thinking you could pull it off-and, let’s face it, for a lot of people it’s a dream that never becomes a reality. But I’ve always loved stories, I love jokes, I love comic books, and I could talk to people all day and just ask them “what did you do?” It doesn’t even really have to be exciting, I just like stories. “Once upon a time” makes me sit up on the edge of my seat. I never really decided I wanted to be a writer, writing is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m really, really, really lucky and blessed to be able to do it.

C11BB: You practiced Law? That seems like a good career move, why leave it?

DR: My heart wasn’t in it. I, like everyone else who grew up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, had that “save the world” messianic attitude, and, if you’re a bright kid, which I was, and hope I still am, law’s a great avenue to do that. [You think] “Oh, I can right wrongs and I can represent people, the under-represented and the downtrodden”, and then you find out law isn’t a calling, it’s a job, and I thought “hell, this isn’t going to replace my dream of wanting to write”. 50 weeks into my first and only job as a lawyer, I called my dad and said “Dad, I want to quit”. He said I had to finish out the year, so I went to my secretary and asked how much leave time I’d accumulated. When she told me two weeks, I said “great, I’m on leave, and when I’m off I quit”. I packed a cardboard box and I was gone.

C11BB: What’s the first thing you recall being paid to write?

DR: When I was 19, between my Freshman and Sophomore years in college, I worked at an ad agency. See, early on, I knew that I wanted to write but I didn’t think I could ever make it as a novelist, and one of the ways you could make money writing was as a marketing writer, a copywriter. So I went to a small ad agency in Richmond, Kennedy and Green, who are still dear friends. These two men, when I was 19, hired me for $25 a week to write ad copy. I wrote everything: radio commercials, billboards, bus cards, annual reports, travel magazine pieces, you name it, and at the end of the summer they gave me a hundred dollar bonus. This was in 1973. I went off to college, and worked for them again, this time for $50 a week and at the end of the summer I got a thousand dollar bonus. Those two men, Tom Kennedy and Gary Green, are still two of my dearest friends, and my first book is dedicated to them. Advertising writing is a great schoolhouse, because when you have to time, count, or measure your words, and see how many columns they fill, you learn concision. Craft is very important to me, and a large part of craft is concision. It’s like what Ray Charles said about the blues: “the blues is about the notes you don’t play”, and good writing is about what’s implied.

C11BB: How much historical…

(At this point, David leans down and takes the first sip of the Frappuccino that has been resting on the table in front of him. Apparently, this is David’s first Frappuccino ever.)

DR:Whoa! (begins sipping at the Frappuccino intently)

C11BB: Is that what you’ve been looking for?

DR: These have been here all this time? You could sell these on the street corner. Anyway. (Looks back at recorder)

C11BB: How much historical research did you have to do for this book? I don’t come to The Assassins Gallery with the most working knowledge of history, for which I blame my public high school, and I feel like I’m learning a lot.

DR: I wrote a book called The End Of War, where Roosevelt is a character. I did a lot of my Roosevelt research for that book, and so I came to The Assassins Gallery with a lot of knowledge about FDR. One of those bits of knowledge was the conditions of his death, because The End Of War encompasses his death. And I knew, from writing that book, that one of the conditions of his death, as there always is when a president dies of natural causes, there’s always suspicion, there has to be, that he was the victim of foul play. That has to be ruled out. So, for the Assassins Gallery, I just didn’t rule that out. I took Roosevelt’s schedule, from January 1 to April 12, the day he died, and I changed nothing. Everything in this book is exactly as it happened-where he was, who he was with, what destinations he had, what he ate, who he ate with, every minute of Roosevelt’s life as detailed in this book is as it happened I took Roosevelt’s schedule and said “if I change nothing, how do you kill him? What’s the way in?” And I figured out what, I thought would work, and I invented the assassin to do it.

C11BB: You mentioned the assassin, Judith, who sets out to kill FDR. What struck me most was how ambitious and driven you made her. What sort of crafting went into the creation of the character of Judith, and why did you choose to make her female?

DR: In all of my books, up to The Assassins Gallery, tend to have ethical quandaries. They all have ethical dilemmas that have to be worked through…wouldn’t you agree?

(Asks person sitting behind him, person nods)

Someone in Starbucks agrees. Thumbs up. Anyway, the story of Assassins Gallery, as I first conceived it, didn’t have that. It was a good story, a good romp, a good alternate history adventure thriller, but it didn’t have that question.. I invented Judith, first of all, to be plausible, secondly, I put her on the fringes, she’s black, she’s white, depending upon how she conducts herself, as someone who could allow me to explore racial issues in the south, on the home front, in 1945, because the home front in the United States at this time was a fascinating place. We were sending people over seas, and said, to the black man, “Hey, look, we want you to go fight for Freedom and the American way, all of which we’re going to deny you.” I don’t like to let America, in my work, when I can, forget. So Judith is Persian because they look, to a great extent, like a Westerner. They can have blue eyes, coffee-colored skin. She was designed to help me get in my ethical issues, which I think she does in a wonderful way. Now why did I make her a woman? I like greatly switching the roles between her and [The Assassins Gallery hero] Lammeck. Lammeck is as brilliant as I, with the skills I have, could make him. Judith is all visceral. She’s not stupid by any means, but she’s almost animalistic. The juxtaposition between Judith and Lammeck is kind of the same juxtaposition I explored in one of my earlier books, War of the Rats, between a Russian sniper and a German sniper, in which one was all intellect and one was all instinct. She’s designed to be his opposite. It’s also a way of saying that you could be the smartest man in the world, but if I’m 6”9 and 250 lbs, your ass is mine. Intellect is great, but if you’re facing an opponent who can just flat-out kill you, that’s daunting. Judith is designed to be the ultimate physical specimen: she’s powerful, she’s brutal, and she’s scrupulous in how she does her job, she’s not wanton at all. She’s intimidating, and a lot of her intimidation is in that she’s his opposite. And his opposite had to be a woman. Wow, that’s a good answer.

Enter to WIN one signed or one of three unsigned copies
The Assassins Gallery.

E-mail with your NAME and MAILING ADDRESS to be entered to win!!! Contest runs through August 27th. The winners will be announced on September 1st.

In celebration of the spectacular The Assassins Gallery, we at Chapter 11* Books have a special offer: purchase any of David L. Robbins' books at 25% off. (We have a few signed copies of The Assassins Gallery in stock at the list price of $25).

Read our review of The Assassins Gallery.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Art of War's hot. Do you love it?

Caption contest. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On Dominion

Calvin Baker’s Dominion is easily one of the best books I’ve had the fortune to read this year. In the current publishing landscape, which seems dominated by collection after collection of short stories that barely keep themselves together over the course of a handful of pages, Dominion is a beautiful, sprawling story of Jasper Merian, a newly-freed slave who leaves Virginia for the Carolinas to build what is his home and what will become his legacy. Baker allows Dominion to sprawl in a way that proves both his love for his craft and his intellect, as he traces the Merian family for a decade, and in the process meditates on commitment, personal responsibility, love, and family. The story of Jasper Merian (which is the story of Dominion itself) is told in rich, lush fashion that ties the themes with the narrative, like a campfire tale that resonates long after the final word’s been spoken, reminiscent of the narratives of Toni Morrison and Edward Jones, as well as incantatory cultural mythologies.

All of this high praise for what I’ll unabashedly call a brilliant book led me to a bit of reserved nervous tension last week, when Georgia Center For The Book presented Calvin Baker reading at the Decatur Library for a small but polite crowd. The size of the crowd (as well as my apprehension) didn't matter, as the bright, spry Baker was warm, thoughtful, and a lot younger than I’d anticipated of someone capable of weaving, as he does, the intricate threads of stories lost through the ages with a gently insistent modern voice. “Dominion was inspired by my love of myth and the poetry of beginnings”, Baker said during his reading, and this is evident in the way that the conceptual aspects of the novel never over-ride Baker’s storytelling. The historical aspects of the novel (slavery as painted by approaching eventuality of Revolution) add a depth without a heaviness; it’s obvious Baker’s done his research but, once again, is more concerned with making sure the heart of Dominion beats with warm, authentic blood. As such, Baker passes along his accumulated historical knowledge through golden bits of prose, as when Jasper Merian discusses the impact of having once been enslaved but now living life as a free man with his son, telling him “I want to know when your sleep starts to feel different. After you wake before first light and realize you can sleep all the day and won’t nobody say nothing…the first time you sleep a night knowing the day before you and every one after that is yours. I want you to tell me when it starts to feel great to you.”

Soft, warm, but filled with hard-won truths of humanity, Dominion is that truly rare work of literary fiction that is both smart and captivatingly readable from beginning to end, and shines with the voice of Calvin Baker becoming a master craftsman, echoing with sounds of all the stories of the past and future to come.

-Russ Marshalek

Click to order Calvin Baker's Dominion at 25% off.

(author photo: Henry Leutwyler)

Does the Potter kid bite it?

So if you, like most of us in the office, follow the world of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter (and who, in their proper and therefore book-obsessed mind, doesn't?), you've probably already heard about Rowling's recent reading with Stephen King and John Irving at Radio City Music Hall last week for a benefit.

The two aforementioned authors begged her not to follow through with what's been speculated as her plan to, in the forthcoming final Potter book, kill off the beloved character-but the fans had their say, as well.

(photo courtesy of Scholastic)

As reported by Publishers Weekly, she took to the stage to rock-star-like applause, one fan screamed out "DON'T KILL HARRY!", to which Rowling smirked back "No pressure there."

Had I been there, I'd have screamed out "DON'T LISTEN TO THAT KID, KILL THE POTTER BOY!"

In order for Rowling's storytelling prowess to fully maintain the levels we're beginning to place her at (i.e. Lewis, Tolkien, etc), she has to show loyalty to the story, to the world she's created, and not to the fans-in-witch-hats.

I maintain that Harry Potter's gonna die at the end of the next book. I've asked Zach, he disagrees.

What do you think? Let's take a poll. Potter, circa end of Book 7: alive and kicking, or a martyr to literary achievement?

-Russ Marshalek

Thursday, August 03, 2006

First Review of Charles Frazier's New Book

Charles Frazier, author of the mega-bestseller Cold Mountain, returns on October 3rd with his new novel, Thirteen Moons.

Kirkus Reviews has the first review of the new book, and to make a long story short, they say the book is phenomenal:

"Thirteen Moons brings this vanished world (the Cherokee Nation) thrillingly alive, retelling the agonizing stories of “the Removal” (of Indians from their ancestral lands) and the lie of “Reconstruction”; creating literally dozens of heart-stopping word pictures (e.g., autumns display “a few stunted pumpkins still glowing in the fields and a few persistent apples hanging red in the skeletal orchards”)." "One of the great Native American, and American stories, and a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to everyone who entered our Water for Elephants giveaway. We had so many entries that we decided to pick two winners. Christine Waddill of Raleigh, NC is the winner of the advance reader's copy of the book, and Jim Brown of Atlanta, GA wins a hardback first edition of Water for Elephants.

But everyone wins at Chapter 11. If you entered the giveaway but did not win the book, watch your e-mail for a coupon good on your next purchase at

Baby, run my bookstore!

A short time ago, our highly-beloved friends at McSweeneys sent us these:

They're amazingly cute little books by Lisa Brown, basically giving babies the ultimatum they've always needed: BABY, MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL, OR ELSE. Jeez.

We've been batting around suggestions for OTHER "Baby" titles, and Zach's ever-brilliant wife, Alice, has suggested the following:

(note: Alice's suggestions edited for content. Baby doesn't want to read dirty stuff!)

We want to hear your suggestions: what else should baby start doing?

Also, c'mon, admit it,the full set of four would make the best gift ever

Just in time for Christmas...

or a baby shower.

-Russ Marshalek