Upcoming: THE WATER DANCER by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World/Hamish Hamilton)

CoatesTN-WaterDancerUSI’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates‘s journalism for some time — mainly via The Atlantic — and have enjoyed his non-fiction books and also his brief run on Marvel’s Black Panther comic series. Earlier today, I spotted the cover for The Water Dancer, the author’s upcoming new novel. The premise sounds pretty interesting, so I’m looking forward to reading the novel later this year:

A boldly imagined work of magic and adventure from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me.

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage — and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child — but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn’t understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram’s private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind — but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss.

This is a bracingly original vision of the world of slavery, written with the narrative force of a great adventure. Driven by the author’s bold imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, The Water Dancer is the story of America’s oldest struggle — the struggle to tell the truth — from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer is due to be published by One World (North America) and Hamish Hamilton (UK) in late-September 2019.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Quick Review: THE LAST by Hanna Jameson (Penguin/Atria)

JamesonH-TheLastUK2An excellent post-apocalyptic mystery novel

BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

It’s been some time since I last read a post-apocalyptic novel, after what felt like a glut in the early 2010s (some of them excellent, but ultimately I think I read too many). Hanna Jameson’s The Last received a fair bit of pre-publication buzz, and I was happy to interview the author. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Last, but what I found was an excellent, thought-provoking and quite gripping mystery. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with HANNA JAMESON

JamesonH-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Hanna Jameson?

I’m a writer. 28. University dropout and current history student. I’ve written four books and lost an award for one of them! I like bourbon, true crime, and ghost stories.

Your latest novel, The Last, was recently published by Viking in the UK. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The Last is a murder mystery set in the months immediately following nuclear war, narrated by an American academic stranded in a remote hotel in Switzerland.

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

I was inspired to write The Last by a few things, as novels are generally the product of several disparate ideas falling together rather than the outcome of one event. I was inspired by the hellish state of discourse following the 2016 US election, nuclear war jokes on Twitter, a historian friend of mine telling me about a long commute between different US states that got me thinking about the theme of displacement, J.G. Ballard, Stephen King, a curious true crime case in LA where the body of a girl was found in a rooftop water tank of what was then The Cecil Hotel. I also frequently draw inspiration from my own rage, despair, and sadness. Continue reading

Interview with ADAM SCOVELL

ScovellA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Adam Scovell?

I’m a writer and filmmaker from Merseyside now living in South London. I’m a Doctor of music but I’m more known for writing about film and literature, as well as sometimes making short films on super-8 when money is available.

Your new novel, Mothlight, will be published by Influx Press in February. It looks rather intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

I’d say Mothlight is an unusual story of obsession where a narrator’s mania is told through photographs and ghosts. It’s an analogue haunting where avoidance of the present becomes an addiction, even a compulsion, and where a sense of the self becomes porous and unstable. Continue reading

Interview with WAYNE HOLLOWAY

hollowayw-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Wayne Holloway?

I am a writer/director working in commercials, content and film/TV, based in London. I have spent a lot of time working in LA over the years. Have been writing fiction for the past five years, inspired in some ways by a job that has taken me around the world and back. To try and write beyond what I know biographically, but starting there, with things I have seen and heard and the people I have met, whether in life, other fiction or history…

Your new novel, Bindlestiff, was recently published by Influx Press. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Bindlestiff is inspired in part by a screenplay I wrote for Forest Whittaker about 8 years ago, which never got made. So it is in part a satire on Hollywood, but no easy send up, a more tragic take on how we are all, to a larger or lesser degree (from viewer, to producer, to writer, to director, to actor, etc.), complicit in the system and the products it makes. I would say this frames the story, which, to put it simply, focuses on the escape act made by the characters in an unmade screenplay into prose. To be more precise the novel is about the relationship between these characters and the system of cultural production as it pertains to Hollywood and probably elsewhere, but here quintessentially. Continue reading

Quick Review: TURBULENCE by David Szalay (Scribner/Jonathan Cape)

SzalayD-TurbulenceUSA novel of the intersection of twelve lives

A woman strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on a plane after some turbulence. He returns home to tragic news that has also impacted another stranger, a shaken pilot on his way to another continent who seeks comfort from a journalist he meets that night. Her life shifts subtly as well, before she heads to the airport on an assignment that will shift more lives in turn.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

This is the first of David Szalay’s novels that I have read, and it will not be the last: I was very impressed. A relatively short novel, it offers an interesting look at the lives of twelve different people and the events that connect them. Insightful and interesting, I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Identity Motifs in The Goldfinch, The Catcher in the Rye and Life As We Know It” by Weston Ochse

OchseW-AuthorPhotoI was introduced to the idea of The Catcher in the Rye in 1979. I’d heard about this 1950s novel through my parents, both educators. I’d also heard about it through a Freshman English teacher at my High School. The reason I’d only heard about it and not seen it was because I was living in Tennessee and at the time it was a banned book. By banned, I don’t mean that there were any Fahrenheit 451 Fireman to come and burn them up — although I am sure there were those who wished that to be true. By banned I mean that the book was considered an unhealthy read and stores and libraries were urged not to provide them to young healthy minds. So it was with great delight that I was able to buy a copy of the book in 1981 at the local Walden Books store, who provided it from a box in the backroom and sold to me wrapped in brown paper so no one would see what I’d purchased. Continue reading