#upweek

Surprising? Mysterious!

Today kicks off the fourth annual University Press Week organized by the American Association of University Presses. The University of Wisconsin Press and more than fUPW-Logo-2015orty other presses are participating in the AAUP’s annual blog tour during the week. This tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society. This year’s theme is Surprising! so the blogs will highlight some of the surprising things university presses publish. Check the tour every day for new posts!


 

Mystery fiction from the University of Wisconsin Press is both a hit and a fit

DeVita Collage

James DeVita

James DeVita is Wisconsin’s preeminent stage actor, acclaimed this year by the Wall Street Journal as “the best classical actor in the United States today.” But DeVita jokes that he’s really a writer with an acting habit. A successful playwright and author of much-praised YA novels, DeVita published his first novel for adults this year, a gritty crime thriller set in Chicago and Wisconsin. The twist? A WINSOME MURDER stars a hard-bitten detective who finds insights in Shakespeare’s bloodiest plays.

“An engaging mystery that’s a feast of literary allusions. . . . [Detective James] Mangan’s ‘verbal quirks,’ snatches of prose or poetry that pop into his head and help him solve cases, make him an unusually distinctive sleuth.” —Publishers Weekly

This combination of regional settings and brainy themes epitomizes the successful range of mystery fiction that UWP has been publishing in recent years. DeVita hopes to spin his debut mystery into a series (in between acting stints at the Milwaukee Rep, American Players Theatre, and touring performances). Several other UWP authors are already on a roll with their own mystery series.

Combo Draine-Hinden

Michael Hinden and Betsy Draine

Summers spent in the Dordogne region of France inspired Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, professors emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to start their Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler Series. Like their sleuths, Draine and Hinden are a married couple who enjoy travel, art, and fine food and wine. After writing two nonfiction books about Dordogne, they collaborated on MURDER IN LASCAUX, sending their detective duo into the famous cave filled with Cro-Magnon paintings as well as into French castles, chateaus, and restaurants.

“A whodunit that nicely balances a breezily light travelogue with urgency and suspense. Readers will hope this is the first of a series,” wrote Publishers Weekly.

Readers’ hopes were answered with a second book in the series, THE BODY IN BODEGA BAY, in which art historian Nora and antiques dealer Toby are at home in California, sorting out a criminal tangle of Russian art and Alfred Hitchcock memorabilia. And in Spring 2016, Nora and Toby will be back in the south of France with DEATH ON A STARRY NIGHT. French art, fine wine, romance, and murder mingle as academics squabble over how Vincent Van Gogh died.

Wisconsin’s most popular vacation destination is the setting for Patricia Skalka’s Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. Door County is the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” a scenic peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. Skalka, a former writer for Reader’s Digest and a native of Chicago, has mapped out plots for seven Dave Cubiak mysteries, inspired by time spent at her Door cottage over the years. Skalka_Death Stalks and Gills Rock

In DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, Skalka introduced Dave Cubiak, a morose homicide detective hoping to find solace in a new job as a park ranger. But there is no peace for Cubiak, as six deaths mar the holiday mood of summer vacationers. She followed up quickly with DEATH AT GILLS ROCK, in which newly elected Sheriff Cubiak follows an old trail of lies and betrayal.

“In her atmospheric, tightly written sequel, Skalka vividly captures the beauty of a remote Wisconsin peninsula that will attract readers of regional mysteries. Also recommended for fans of William Kent Krueger, Nevada Barr, and Mary Logue.”—Library Journal, *starred review

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ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY LIE is the eighth installment in Lev Raphael’s series featuring English professor (and part-time sleuth) Nick Hoffman, set in a Michigan college town. Raphael draws on his experience as an Edith Wharton scholar, a prominent gay writer, and the son of Holocaust survivors to fashion a stunning and suspenseful tale of slander, prejudice, harassment, moral courage and cowardice, and the militarization of local police.

Lev Raphael

Lev Raphael

“It’s a terrifying thought: the idea that someone can accuse you of a crime, and a SWAT team shows up at your door and drags you away. . . . Raphael makes it quite clear that no one is immune.”—Mystery Scene

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps

Popular Wisconsin writer Jerry Apps has produced six novels set in fictional Ames County, Wisconsin, some with mystery themes. His bestseller has been IN A PICKLE, in which the heavy-handed tactics of the H. H. Harlow Pickle Company are wreaking havoc with small farmers’ way of life.

“Apps utterly wins us over.  . . . [He} invests the novel with the kind of realism, precise detail, and local color that only someone who had lived the story could do.”Booklist 

In a Pickle

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RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES: Timely books bring depth to public debates and issues

At the University of Wisconsin Press, we’ve published many books on topics that seem ripped from current news headlines. Whether fiction or nonfiction, they offer broader or deeper perspectives on current events.

Deadly LieThis August, as the country was shocked by photos of heavily armed Ferguson, Missouri, police wearing camo and patrolling in a massively armored truck, former soldiers commented, “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.” We had just published Lev Raphael’s Assault with a Deadly Lie, a novel of suspense touching on many hot-button issues—plagiarism, bullying, suicide, academic freedom, stalking—but most of all on the militarization of police in American towns and cities. Raphael wrote op-eds in the Huffington Post: Why Are We Arming Our Police Departments for War? and Do College Towns Really Need Tanks to Keep Them Safe?

The death of several unarmed black men this summer at the hands of police also underscoredSister the continuing importance of the story of Daniel Bell, murdered by two Milwaukee policemen in 1958. His sister, Sylvia Bell White, tells the story of her whole life, including Daniel’s murder and her quest for the truth to come out, in the book Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice. Sylvia Bell White is a powerful witness to systemic racial injustice and public indifference to the wrongful deaths of African Americans.

This fall, we’ve published The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County, a novel by Jerry Apps. When Apps started plotting the novel several years ago, he was thinking about historic trees and various threats to them. A frac sand mine seemed like a good plot element; there were Apps-Great-Sand-Fracas-cabout ten mines being developed in western Wisconsin. By the end of 2013, sand mining had boomed. There were already more than 120 mines active or in development. Frac sand mining became the center of Apps’s story, as he portrayed the battles over land use in a fictional Wisconsin town. “Through fiction I’ve tried to illustrate, in an entertaining way, how complicated local development issues can be,” Apps wrote in a blog.

As Barack Obama was running for president, historian Bruce Mouser was finishing a book for us on George Edwin Taylor, an African American who ran for president in 1904 as the nominee of the National Liberty Party. In the fall of 2013, as President Obama made a case for airstrikesTorture against Syrian chemical weapons, we were preparing to publish Chris Edelson’s legal history of Emergency Presidential Power. Alfred McCoy’s Torture and Impunity, published shortly after revelations of torture and humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, probes the political and cultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisan policy of the U.S. government from the 1950s to the present.

Our list in Russian and Eastern European Studies has frequently intersected with world events, as well. War in the Balkans in the 1990s resulted in Yugoslavia dividing into seven countries by 2008, creating avid interest among diplomats, armies, and aid organizations in the language textbooks books we’d been publishing for Macedonian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and Albanian. In 2012, as the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot was arrested for the vaguely defined crime of Microsoft Word - LaPierreCoverDesign.docx“hooliganism,” we were publishing Hooligans in Khrushchev’s Russia: Defining, Policing, and Producing Deviance during the Thaw by Brian LaPierre.  As Russian troops recently invaded Ukraine to reclaim the Crimean peninsula, we were publishing Russian–Ottoman Borderlands, edited by Lucien J. Frary and Mara Kozelsky, a historical overview of the frequent territorial disputes in the Balkans, Black Sea region, and Caucasus.

With a strong list of gay- and lesbian-interest books, we’ve published several that presaged or contributed to social conversations around gay family rights: Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights by Canadians Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell;  Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family by American Joel Derfner; and The Paternity Test, Michael Lowenthal’s novel about gay parenthood.Lawfully

The Last Deployment: How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq by Bronson Lemer was published in the midst of the final “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy debate. Joy Ladin’s moving memoir Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders prompted one reviewer to comment, “It is a fierce story of regular old human life: hideous choices, endless repercussions, occasional glory, frequent humiliation, abiding difficulty. It could have happened to us.” Her story continues to make news.

Remaking RwandaAnd when we published Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence, edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, the book achieved a level of sales unexpected for an edited volume of scholarly essays. The cause of its success? A public denunciation of the book by the Rwandan government.

UNIVERSITY PRESS WEEK BLOG TOUR: Take a fascinating tour of other blogs from university presses.