Upcoming: MAKE ME A CITY by Jonathan Carr (Henry Holt)

CarrJ-MakeMeACityUSChicago is one of my favourite American cities. I was there earlier this month (damn, it was hot), and when I spotted Jonathan Carr‘s Make Me A City on Edelweiss, I put it on my wishlist. A debut novel that “embroiders fact with fiction to tell the story of Chicago’s 19th century”, I think it looks really interesting:

The tale begins with a game of chess — and on the outcome of that game hinges the destiny of a great city. From appalling injustice springs forth the story of Chicago, and the men and women whose resilience, avarice, and altruism combine to generate a moment of unprecedented civic energy.

A variety of irresistible voices deliver the many strands of this novel: those of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the long-unheralded founder of Chicago; John Stephen Wright, bombastic speculator and booster; and Antje Van Voorhis, the first woman to report for the Chicago Tribune. The stories of loggers, miners, engineers, and educators teem around them and each claim the narrative in turns, sharing their grief as well as their delight.

As the characters, and their ancestors, meet and part, as their possessions pass from hand to hand, the reader realizes that Jonathan Carr commands a grand picture, one that encompasses the heartaches of everyday lives as well as the overarching ideals of what a city and a society can and should be. Make Me a City introduces us to a novelist whose talent and ambition are already fully formed.

Make Me a City is due to be published by Henry Holt, on March 19th, 2019 (it will be available in the UK, too).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

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Upcoming: A DOUBLE LIFE by Flynn Berry (Viking/W&N)

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The worlds of rarefied privilege have always provided rich inspiration and source-material for fiction. Never more so than when something bad happens, or something is thrown into the mix that upends the lives of the privileged. In Flynn Berry‘s upcoming novel, A Double Life, the protagonist is the daughter of one of the “most notorious murder suspects” in the UK — a Lord. I haven’t read Berry’s previous novel, the critically-acclaimed Under the Harrow, but this one has certainly caught my attention. It is due to be published on July 31st, by Viking in North America and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK. Here’s the synopsis:

Claire is a hardworking doctor leading a simple, quiet life in London. She is also the daughter of the most notorious murder suspect in the country, though no one knows it.

Nearly thirty years ago, while Claire and her brother slept upstairs, a brutal crime was committed in her family’s townhouse. The next morning, her father’s car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. Her mother insisted she’d seen him in the house that night, but his powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence. The first lord accused of murder in more than a century, he has been missing ever since.

When the police tell Claire they’ve found him, her carefully calibrated existence begins to fracture. She doesn’t know if she’s the daughter of a murderer or a wronged man, but Claire will soon learn how far she’ll go to finally find the truth.

Loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century – the Lord Lucan case – A Double Life is at once a riveting page-turner and a moving reflection on women and violence, trauma and memory, and class and privilege.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: ALICE ISN’T DEAD by Joseph Fink (Harper Perennial)

FinkJ-AliceIsntDeadUSI must be one of the few fans of SFFH who hasn’t fallen down the Nightvale rabbit hole. I just haven’t had the time to check out the podcast properly (although I know many people who love it, and have enjoyed the snippets I’ve caught). Anyway, I spotted a listing for this novel on Edelweiss and it caught my attention. Joseph Fink‘s Alice Isn’t Dead is due to be published by Harper Perennial on October 30th, 2018. Here’s the synopsis:

“This is not a story. It’s a road trip.”

Keisha Lewis lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country.

Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job with a trucking company, Bay and Creek Transportation, and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system — uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.

Why did Alice disappear? What does she have to do with this secret war between inhuman killers? Why did the chicken cross the road? These questions, and many more will be answered in Alice Isn’t Dead.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: LOST EMPRESS by Sergio De La Pava (Pantheon/MacLehose Press)

delaPavaS-LostEmpress

Sergio de la Pava‘s prize-winning A Naked Singularity is one of those novels I purchased quite some time ago, but keep forgetting I have on my Kindle. I recently found out about his upcoming book, Lost Empress, which sounds really interesting. If potentially weird. Described as “a shockingly hilarious novel that tackles, with equal aplomb, both America’s most popular sport and its criminal justice system”, it sounds pretty ambitious. If the author pulls it off, it could also be amazing. Here’s the synopsis:

From Paterson, New Jersey, to Rikers Island to the streets of New York City, Sergio de la Pava’s Lost Empress introduces readers to a cast of characters unlike any other in modern fiction: dreamers and exiles, immigrants and night-shift workers, a lonely pastor and others on the fringes of society — each with their own impact on the fragile universe they navigate.

Nina Gill, daughter of the aging owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was instrumental in building her father’s dynasty. So it’s a shock when her brother inherits the franchise and she is left with the Paterson Pork, New Jersey’s failing Indoor Football League team. Nina vows to take on the NFL and make the Paterson Pork pigskin kings of America. All she needs to do is recruit the coach, the players, and the fans.

Meanwhile, Nuno DeAngeles — a brilliant and lethal criminal mastermind — has been imprisoned on Rikers Island for a sensational offense. Nuno fights for his liberty — while simultaneously planning an even more audacious crime.

In Lost Empress, de la Pava weaves a narrative that encompasses Salvador Dalí, Joni Mitchell, psychiatric help, emergency medicine, religion, theoretical physics, and everything in between. With grace, humor, and razor-sharp prose, all these threads combine, counting down to an epic and extraordinary conclusion.

Lost Empress is due to be published in North America by Pantheon and in the UK by MacLehose Press, on May 8th, 2018. (The UK cover, top right, is much better than the US cover…)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Upcoming: THE MERE WIFE by Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

HeadleyMD-MereWifeUSMaria Dahvana Headley‘s latest novel sounds really interesting. It is a “modern retelling of the literary classic Beowulf, set in American suburbia as two mothers — a housewife and a battle-hardened veteran — fight to protect those they love”. The Mere Wife is due to be published by MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux in July 2018. Here’s the synopsis:

From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings — high and gabled — and the community is entirely self-sustaining. Each house has its own fireplace, each fireplace is fitted with a container of lighter fluid, and outside — in lawns and on playgrounds — wildflowers seed themselves in neat rows. But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall’s periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.

For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana’s and Willa’s worlds collide.

Not going to lie — my eye was definitely caught by that cover. Really looking forward to giving this a try. The Mere Wife is published on July 17th, 2018, by MCD.

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Interview with JAMEY BRADBURY

BradburyJ-AuthorPic (Brooke Taylor)Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Jamey Bradbury?

I’m a Midwesterner by birth and an Alaskan by choice whose cat, at the moment, keeps getting in the way of my keyboard. And I’m a writer who likes smashing genres into each other to see what happens. I have been, in the past, a receptionist, an actor with a dinner theater company, a volunteer, a CPR instructor, and a professional poop-scooper. Right now, I happily divide my life between writing fiction and doing storytelling for an Alaska Native social services organization.

Your debut novel, The Wild Inside, was published by William Morrow in March. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s partly a horror novel, partly a suspense novel, partly a coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of sled dog racing in Alaska. Plot-wise, it’s about a girl with a love for hunting who has to contend with a pair of strangers who show up on her doorstep, one of whom is mortally wounded — something that may or may not have been her fault. At its heart, though, The Wild Inside is about whether it’s really possible for people to truly know each other. Continue reading

Review: THE SHAKESPEARE REQUIREMENT by Julie Schumacher (Doubleday)

SchumacherJ-JF2-ShakespeareRequirementUSA fantastic follow-up to Dear Committee Members

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune keep hitting beleaguered English professor Jason Fitger right between the eyes in this hilarious and eagerly awaited sequel to the cult classic of anhedonic academe, the Thurber Prize-winning Dear Committee Members. Once more into the breach…

Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get a mossbacked and antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.

Lord, what fools these mortals be! Julie Schumacher proves the point and makes the most of it in this delicious romp of satire.

Julie Schumacher’s previous novel, Dear Committee Members was one of my favourite novels of 2014: it was funny, warm-hearted, extremely well-written, and populated by familiar and endearing (albeit hapless) characters. In The Shakespeare Requirement, the author reunites readers with characters at Payne University. Written in a slightly different style, it is no less engaging, amusing and sharply observed. Another excellent novel. Continue reading