Featured News & Events
· Virginia Literary Awards Week
The Library of Virginia & Virginia Museum of Fine Arts present Art in Literature, an award Katherine helped create, named for her friend and colleague, Mary Lynn Kotz (author of the definitive biography of Robert Rauschenberg).
· The Madwoman’s Book Club
The Eight was selected by US Chess’ Madwoman’s Book Club for their first Spring 2021 novel. Katherine joined the book club to discuss the novel and answer readers’ questions.
Watch the recording (Youtube)
Recent Articles that Feature The Eight
(Note: Links go to external sites)
These thrilling reads left lasting impressions.
By Allison Wild | Published Mar 2, 2021
| Early Bird Books
There’s the story we know: Knight in shining armor saves the damsel in distress. Sure, it works. Yet there’s something to be said for breaking the mold. Women can be tough-as-nails and highly formidable characters. They’re not always in distress and make for incredible heroes, as well as menacing villains. Some of the best thrillers of all time feature female protagonists or antagonists—and the classic thrillers on this list prove it.
by Daphne du Maurier
The Silence of the Lambs
by Thomas Harris
by Katherine Neville
The Eight is the story of Cat, an American computer engineer on assignment in Algeria in 1972, and Mireille, a nun at Montglane Abbey in 1790. The two women are connected by the Montglane Service–King Charlemagne’s chess set that holds the key to ultimate power. Mirelle’s task is to keep the pieces from falling into the wrong hands during the tumult of the French Revolution.
Meanwhile, nearly 200 years in the future, Cat is sent on a mission to recover the missing pieces and has absolutely no idea of the potential consequences of her actions …
by Ira Levin
by James Rollins
The Mysteries of Udolpho
by Ann Radcliffe
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
by Henry Farrell
A glimpse into the high-stakes strategy game from fantasy to nonfiction.
By Kelsey McConnell | Published Nov 20, 2020 | Early Bird Books
Chess is a game all about strategy. It’s a back and forth battle of sacrifice and risk as players do their best to outwit their opponents. The competitive world is serious and intense, and even for casual players chess can become a highly addictive game. With all the drama inherent in the game, it doesn’t come as any surprise that the subject of chess makes for fascinating reading.
Books about chess intrigue readers across all genres. When it comes to fiction, the game has made a home in fantasy, thrillers, drama, and even horror—leading to some very popular television adaptations. In the realm of nonfiction, biographies and memoirs provide a look into the extreme highs and severe lows of the life-changing world of the unchanging game.
Here are 7 of the best books about chess.
The Queen’s Gambit
by Walter Tevis
The Eight, The Magic Circle & A Calculated Risk
by Katherine Neville
This thrilling collection of three novels blends romance, mystery and historical fiction with the intrigue of chess.
In A Calculated Risk, one of the most powerful woman in San Francisco enters into a dangerous wager in order to seek revenge against the boss that sabotaged her career.
The Eight is a thrilling adventure to capture the ancient chess set of Charlemagne, and “may have paved the way for books like The Da Vinci Code” (Publishers Weekly).
And in The Magic Circle, a nuclear scientist stumbles into the middle of international intrigue after coming into possession of a cache of medieval manuscripts.
The Sin Eater
by Sarah Rayne
Searching for Bobby Fischer
by Fred Waitzkin
by Fred Waitzkin
All the Wrong Moves
by Sasha Chapin
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal
by Mikhail Tal
Set off on faraway journeys and daring quests with these heart-pounding reads.
By MacKenzie Stuart | Published Apr 17, 2019 | Early Bird Books
There’s nothing better than picking up a well-loved adventure book and knowing that within its pages you’ll be lost in another world. With fast-paced plots, uncharted territory to be explored (whether in our own world or a fantasy realm), daring protagonists, and the perfect amount of danger, adventure books are truly absorbing reads.
Though the genre was once more formulaic, the qualities of a good adventure story are so enticing and universally pleasing that it has gradually blended into multiple genres—from science fiction and fantasy to historical fiction. Here are eight amazing adventure books that’ll keep you reading well into the night.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sword Is Drawn
by Andre Norton
by Samuel R. Delany
Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Jules Verne
by Katherine Neville
In this bestseller, a centuries-long quest to reunite the pieces of an ancient chess set containing untold powers leads to mayhem. With France aflame during the revolution in 1790, young Mireille and Valentine discover that a chess set once belonging to Charlemagne is buried deep within the abbey where they dwell. Rebelling against convent life, they dig it up and travel the world to scatter the pieces so that no one can abuse the mysterious powers that the game possesses when all the pieces are united.
Mireille and Valentine’s story unfolds simultaneously with that of Catherine, a computer expert living in Manhattan in 1972. As she heads off to an assignment, an antiques dealer offers to pay her untold sums if she recovers the pieces of an ancient chess set rumored to be hidden somewhere in Algeria. Catherine accepts the offer, unaware of the incredible danger that lies in wait for her.
The Eight is a wild ride reminiscent of National Treasure and Indiana Jones.
The Wings of the Morning
by Louis Tracy
by Michael Crichton
by Lev Grossman
By Liz Ziemska | Nov 14, 2017 | Tor.com
I was sitting at my desk at my first agency job, typing submission letters on my IBM Selectric for cook books, diet books, military thrillers, romance novels “written” (not really) by celebrity wives of New York real estate tycoons, wondering if it was too late to apply to med school (yes, I was just out of college, and full of myself), when my friend Helen, who sat at the desk ahead of me, turned around and handed me a book.
It was one of those small paperbacks (mass market, as they call it in the publishing trade), as opposed to the larger format paperbacks reserved for reprints of more upscale works of fiction. The cover featured raised gold foil lettering and a lurid magenta infinity sign hovering over what looked like a carved ivory (yes, I too shudder) chess piece, a knight. I rifled the yellowish, minutely printed pages. There were too many of them, almost six hundred. I had a stack of manuscripts to read for my boss. What was Helen trying to do to me?
“Read it,” she said, her enormous blue eyes checking my reflexive snobbery. “It’ll change your life.”
I was desperate for something to give me hope to carry on through what I knew would be a tedious training process before I could finally represent the sorts of books I liked (this was before I dared to admit to myself that I too wanted to write). I took home The Eight and began to read.
Like Possession by A. S. Byatt, The Eight, first published in 1988, follows two narratives separated by a wide chasm of time. With 32 historical characters and 32 modern, it is structured like a giant chess game.
France, 1790. Mireille and Valentine, two young novices, leave the Montglane Abbey for Paris, each carrying a jeweled chess piece, part of a set that once belonged to Charlemagne. It is the eve of the French Revolution, and the fabled Montglane Service, rumored to possess tremendous powers of destruction, is no longer safe now that the State threatens to take possession of all property belonging to the Church.
New York City, 1972. Catherine Velis, computer expert/accountant, gets ready to leave her office to join some friends for a New Year’s celebration. First, she has to fend off the sexist bullying of one of her bosses, who threatens to send her on assignment to Algiers if she doesn’t oblige his unsavory proposal. She refuses. Later at the party, when one of her friends, an antiques dealer, hears that she’s going to North Africa, he asks her to go on a little buying trip for him. Had she ever heard of the Montglane Service? There’s a dealer in Algiers who has some of the pieces, but he will only negotiate with a woman. Paired with her friend Lily Rad, a chess master who drives around town in a blue convertible Rolls Royce and goes everywhere with her dog, Carioca (a fierce warrior, undaunted by his diminutive size), Catherine flies to Algeria and adventure ensues.
Meanwhile, in France, under the cover of the Revolution, the Great Game begins: who will recover the pieces of the Montglane Service and rule the world? No one, if Mireille can stop them.
Mireille, Valentine, Catherine Velis, Lily Rad—all women my age, all having a lot more fun that I was in my agency cubicle in the pre-word processor, pre-Twitter and Instagram era, fending off my own complement of unsavory advances.
Here is an incomplete list of the interesting people and ideas packed into The Eight: chess, naturally (a game I’ve never been able to learn); secret mathematical formulas; sexy Soviet chess champions (the men are the eye candy in this book, the women are the warriors); Cold War geopolitics; OPEC; Catherine the Great (another strong women who treated men much like a Whitman’s Sampler of Assorted Chocolates); Bach,; Diderot; Voltaire; Rousseau; Robespierre; Napoleon Bonaparte (described very much like Jon Bon Jovi); Blake; Wordsworth; Tallyrand; Marat; Benedict Arnold; Muammar Gaddafi; Freemasonry; mystical cults of the Pyrenees; Fibonacci numbers; magic encoded in mathematical formulas; Alice Through the Looking Glass; Phoenicians; moon goddesses; Alexander the Great; Nimrod; the Tower of Babel; Isaac Newton; the alchemist; quantum physics; Johannes Kepler … in short, this book fits into NO genre.
I could go on. And folks, Katherine Neville makes it work. As I was reading The Eight at night after work, countless people were huddled around their TVs watching Sex and the City, jockeying for possession of Carrie, or Charlotte, because let’s face it, nobody would admit to being a Samantha, and Miranda seemed to always be in a bad mood. I love Sex and the City; I consider Carrie and her Flossy Posse to be feminist icons. Thanks to them, there was a 20-year period during which you’d only find me out of my 4″ heels at the beach or the gym. But even as I plotted the purchase of my next pair, I yearned for something more.
And back in my little sixth floor walk-up on Bleecker and Perry, Katherine was pouring this sort of thing into my mind: “Only in mathematics was there that sense of moving through another dimension, one that didn’t exist in time and place—that feeling of falling into and through a puzzle, of having it surround you in a physical way.”
As I was born in the Soviet Union to a literature-loving doctor and a chess-loving engineer, The Eight spoke to me in several languages.
When I got back to the office the next day I said to my friend, “Okay, you’re right, THIS is a book.” Meaning this is the sort of book I want to write one day.
As I was re-reading The Eight for the purposes of this blog post, I was delighted to discover that all my obsessions were already there: The Gold Mean (i.e. Archimedes’ spiral), Johannes Kepler, soundwaves morphing into particles into matter, God, the Master Mathematician. It was as if Katherine Neville’s ideas had been planted in my mind so many years ago, and only now had they borne fruit in the form of my novella, Mandelbrot the Magnificent.
Mandelbrot may not be Mireille or Catherine Velis, nor does his story have their page count, but he might be their nerdy little nephew.
Find more articles in the Press Archives