The Agony Column

Interviews with Authors Patrice Vecchione and Daniel Handler


book-step-into-natureAuthor of Step Into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life, Patrice Vecchione joins Rick to discuss her new book.

Rick also spoke with Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket, about his new book We Are Pirates.

Then, Geoff Dyer has Another Great Day At Sea: Life Aboard the George HWW Bush.

Two Authors Interviewed: Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman and Samantha Shannon


Host Rick Kleffel speaks with Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman about his book, Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry, and then with British author Samantha Shannon about her novels from a Dickensian future, The Bone Season and The Mime Order.

Plus a lightning round review of three books with NPR’s Alan Cheuse, and a lightning round interview with Dave Barry.

Peter Bell; Sara Blaedel; Dr. David Perlmu


Rick hosts three distinct guests on this program:

Rick Kleffel travels abroad to speak with British writer Peter Bell about his ghost stories and supernatural fiction.

Danish Queen of Crime, Sara Blaedelon her novel, The Forgotten Girls.

Dr. David Perlmutter gives us insights on gluten and from his book, Grain Brain.

Author Marc Goodman Foresees ‘Future Crimes’


2marc_goodman-2015-pgrsmExponential Potential

In any consideration of recent technology, it helps to remember that we had working nuclear bombs before we had working nuclear reactors. As new layers of wonder blossom around us, we need to be aware that there may be less wondrous layers beneath our cultural radar. Wearable computers offer us the opportunity to keep tabs on our health and our loved ones. They create equally enticing access for criminals.

Marc Goodman understands the applications and misapplication of new technologies. But he also knows that the way to reach readers is with stories, not facts. You’ll find plenty of facts in ‘Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do,’ but you’ll generally find them in engagingly-told true stories of current computer crime. Goodman’s book is something of a page-turner as he explores and explodes our notions of a brave, safe new world. For every plus, there is a minus, most of which we are dangerously, not blissfully, unaware.

goodman-future_crimes-homeMuch of what you’ll read here is not simply informed speculation, but recent history. It helps to remember not just Moore’s Law, that chip speed doubles about every 18-24 months, but William Gibson’s law as well; “The future has arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Goodman is about two days to twenty years ahead of the cutting edge. Consider this book a sneak preview of what you hope never to see or experience.

‘Future Crimes’ is crisply organized and cleanly written. Goodman knows how to raise an alarm without hyperbole. Unfortunately, the facts of the present give us plenty to worry about in the future. Here’s a book that will certainly change your perceptions of everyday activities like looking in or posting to Facebook or Twitter. It turns out that nothing in life is free.

Some stories in here are going to be familiar to some readers, but Goodman is an excellent writer. Even if you know what happened, his retellings are gripping reading. With the present-day stories as a backdrop in the reader’ minds, the speculation becomes grounded in a reality so as to make it even more alarming. As Goodman ramps up the terror, he makes his point about understanding risks before they reach apocalyptic potential. Ignorance of the crime will not prevent you from becoming a victim. In fact, it makes it more likely.

For all the bad news he brings to the table, Goodman’s overall story arc is encouraging and empowering. It’s certain that inexpensive genetic manipulation will bring with it new hazards, but if we at least understand the potential we can make some intelligent decisions to prevent the criminalization of every new technology. Now, Goodman concludes, is the time for us to think about security. His book finishes with steps we can take now, before the problems become dangerously problematic. We’d do well to learn from our own example. Technology has its pluses and minuses, and many of the former ultimately prove to be the latter. From Hiroshima to Three Mile Island, we’d better learn to connect the dots while we still can.

Three Unique Authors: Okey Ndibé, M.O. Walsh and Kelly Link


Three unique authors take the stage: Okey Ndibé discusses his life in Nigeria and his novels Arrows Off Rain and Foreign Gods, Inc; debut novelist M.O. Walsh brings on the Southern gothic in My Sunshine Away; And Kelly Link reveals the reality behind her tale of the surreal and the supernatural.

Authors: Laurie R. King; Mark Bittman


Laurie R. King discusses her new Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel, Dreaming Spies.

And in the second part of the program, food activist and cookbook author Mark Bittman talks about his books, Food Matters and How to Cook Everything Fast.

Author Nick Hornby


funny-girl2Nick Hornby, author of About a Boy and High Fidelity, talks about his new novel, Funny Girl, and his work for movies including Wild and Brooklyn, which recently premiered at Sundance.

Author William Ury


get-to-yesWilliam Ury is the co-author of the classic book on negotiations, Getting to Yes, the co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project and has supervised talks between Hugo Chavez and rebellious citizens, the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war, and in the Middle east.

He spoke with host Rick Kleffel about his new book, Getting to Yes With Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents.

Authors Jennifer Senior and Stewart O’Nan




In a Health, Science and Spirit segment, Jennifer Senior looks at the effects of parenthood on the parents in her book, All Joy and No Fun.

And Stewart O’Nan discusses his novel about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Hollywood decline and fall, West of Sunset.


Christine Carter and Armistead Maupin

Christine Carter

Christine Carter

Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin

Rick Kleffel wrote: Armistead Maupin is every bit the gentleman you expect him to be. He’s crisp, smart and quite easily manages the paradox of being quietly outspoken. Sure, he’s not in the narrative, but he’s there in every one of the Tales of the City novels, especially the latest, ‘The Days of Anna Madrigal.’ He doesn’t need a Hitchcock-style cameo. He’s the embodiment of his books, and they are his literary twin.

To me it seems obvious that he is the Charles Dickens of San Francisco, and I am accordingly honored to speak with him. I’m inured to my own book-dweebishness, so I feel no shame toting my two omnibus editions of the Tales of the City series. Like anyone, I’d love to have a selection of the first edition hardcovers, but back when they were coming out, I was still buying Arkham House H. P. Lovecraft. Only after I moved up here did I chance on these in Logos Books. I think they are fine volumes to hold and read. If you’ve not twigged to Maupin, they’re the perfect place to start.

And Rick Kleffel wrote about Christine Carter: Giving advice is as easy as telling someone what to do, and generally as successful. Humans on the receiving end of just about anything meant to help them have a gratifying inclination to rebel against the best intentions. This is especially true when we are our own targets. Resolutions rarely survive to foment revolutions, as much as we would like this to be the case.

Lifestyle and happiness expert Christine Carter found herself in precisely this pickle. Because it was both her profession and her passion, she had a knack for guiding others to their goals. In contrast, her own life, which undeniably had many fine moments, was still not the sort of life she’d advise her clients to seek.