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Books: Matthew Weiner of 'Mad Men' fame writes a novel; an edgy local debut; bestsellers and more

Hello! I’m Carolyn Kellogg, books editor of the L.A. Times. Let’s get to this week’s newsletter.

THE BIG STORY

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Matthew Weiner concluded “Mad Men,” the show he created, with a shelf of Emmys and the ability to do anything he wanted. It’s not as easy as it sounds, he told Meredith Blake, explaining how he came finally to write his first novel, “Heather, the Totality.”

Matthew Weiner in New York
Matthew Weiner in New York (Michael Nagle / For The Times)

A CALIFORNIA DEBUT

If you’ve been to the Last Bookstore for an event you may have noticed the tall, softspoken women there making things happen. That’s Liska Jacobs, who before pursuing her literary dreams used to work at the Getty. Agatha French talks to the native Angeleno about her life and edgy debut novel, “Catalina,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint MCD.

Liska Jacobs
Liska Jacobs (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

THE BIG REVIEW

In 2005, John Banville won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction for his novel “The Sea.” Since then, the Irish author has expanded his purview — in addition to writing literary fiction, he’s published mystery novels under the nom-de-plume Benjamin Black. And his latest is another surprise: “Mrs. Osmond” picks up where Henry James’ “The Portrait of a Lady” left off. In prose that is sometimes Jamesian but often more modern, Banville imagines what happens to Isabel when she winds up trapped in her unhappy marriage. It’s only partially successful, writes Heller McAlpin in our review.

John Banville
John Banville (Javier Lizon/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

BESTSELLERS

The No. 1 L.A. Times bestseller in fiction this week is “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan, now in its third week on the list.

The No. 1 L.A. Times bestseller in nonfiction is “Grant” by Ron Chernow, a sweeping biography of the misunderstood Union general and president. It’s the book’s second week on our bestseller list.

See all the books on our bestseller lists here.

Jennifer Egan reading at ALOUD at the L.A. Public Library
Jennifer Egan reading at ALOUD at the L.A. Public Library (Carolyn Kellogg / L.A. Times)

MORE IN BOOKS

From Seattle, Paul Constant tells us what it’s like to interview Armistead Maupin on stage about his memoir “Logical Family” (hint: wonderful, with dirty jokes).

The National Book Awards are coming up and the host has been announced: Cynthia Nixon.

Agatha French went to the PEN Center USA awards and tells us what the winners, including Margaret Atwood and the reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, had to say.

Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel “Crazy Rich Asians” is being adapted into a film to be released next year and reports say it will be the first Hollywood studio film with an all-Asian cast.

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Kevin Kwan is the author of "Crazy Rich Asians."
Kevin Kwan is the author of "Crazy Rich Asians." (Penguin Random House / Doubleday)
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