A trip to Siberia inspired "Madness Treads Lightly"

I've known since I was fourteen that one day I'd write a novel entitled Madness Treads Lightly. What it would be about, I had no idea. It was a one-of-a-kind event: a title popping up all by itself, before any plan, plot, or heroes, and long before I could bring myself to write fiction.

For years, that mysterious combination of words -- "Madness Treads Lightly" -- would give me no rest. It became a kind of piggybank where I tossed coins, especially small change: brief street scenes, snatches of conversation. Sometimes I would divine the features of my future characters in friends and strangers.

Poline Dashkova's Madness Treads Lightly is available from Amazon. Read the rest

Patricia Highsmith's "Desert Island Discs"

The great suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley, Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt) was interviewed in 1979 for the BBC's Desert Island Discs radio program. She talks about writing for comic books, her childhood, her interest in snails, her favorite music, and more. Read the rest

The Atlantic's Olga Khazan (Gweek 147)

Our guest is The Atlantic associate editor Olga Khazan. We talk about cool smartphone apps, shin splint prevention, a groovy crime novel, and the best portable cell phone charger.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, psychological suspense novel featuring a fascinating anti-hero

When I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley movie in 1999, I had no idea it was based on a novel by the same author of the famous Hitchcock movie, Strangers on a Train. I loved both movies. When I finally did learn that, I also learned that the author, Patricia Highsmith, wrote five novels starring the sociopathic anti-hero Tom Ripley. (The novels are known as the Ripliad.)

Written in 1955, The Talented Mr. Ripley is about a twentysomething con artist and social striver named Tom Ripley living in New York. He is allergic to honest work, but loves the finer things in life -- nice clothes, luxury travel, and perfecting the fine art of doing nothing. How fortunate for Tom that a man tracks him down and asks him to travel to Sicily to convince his wannabe-artist son to come back and join the lucrative family business. The man thinks that Tom is a close friend of his son, and Tom does nothing to correct the false impression (he barely knows him), because he's eager to take an expense-paid trip to Europe. Read the rest