Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Herman Koch, Lisa See, Tom Rob Smith, Martha Grimes, Adam Foulds and Smith Henderson are All Spinning Lies to Entice You Into their Lairs, Meaning We're Rounding Up New Fiction Today.

It's Tuesday, day 1888, and that means it's time for new books to go on sale. The larger publishers have pretty much agreed that this is the day of the week to try for, though Penguin still has some Thursday-or-later on sale systems. That will likely be changed when the systems merge for the new Penguin Random House. The new logo was recently unveiled, which is sort of no logo at all, or at least no colophon. Per Bloomberg Business Week, it's a two tier branding system, where the colophon goes next to the all-type logo, rendered in Shift, a Courier-like typeface.

Now this doesn't mean that colophons will continue to disappear, but that will be up to each operating division, such as I noted before with Little Random's abandoning of their many imprints storied (and some not so storied) symbols.

From the Crown division of Random House comes Summer House with Swimming Pool (Hogarth), the follow-up to Herman Koch's The Dinner. One summer, Dr. Marc Schlosser and his familyspend a week at the beautiful Mediterranean summer home of famous actor Ralph Meier, his wife and mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend. The large group settles in for days of sunshine,until a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. All the advance reviews compare the new book to The Dinner, with a starred Publishers Weekly review noting that "civilization is once again only a thin cover-up for man's baser instincts."

At the Random House division, China Dolls (Random) is the newest Lisa See novel follows three Asian-American women who come to San Francisco for a job as a showgirl. The advance reviews are all very good, and See's through line (Chinese culture, women's friendships) makes marketing her newest easier. There's a nice Washington Post review from Eugenia Zukerman, who notes the novel is "superb" and compliments that research, which enhances rather than overwhelms the plotline. Needless to say, the fellows in the book rarely earn their power through noble deeds--the women have to overcome a lot of misogyny. I blame society!

Martha Grimes made her mark with the Richard Jury series, which were all named after English pubs. It appears she's felt a little more constricted by the series more than some writers (and who can blame her), but she's back with Vertigo 42 (Scribner),still set in a bar, but this one is high above the financial district. Jury meets his newest client, Tom Williamson, at Vertigo 42, where he is told that Tom's wife, Tess, was murdered seventeen years ago, instead of the official report, which is accident blamed on (cue ominous "da, da, da" sound effect). Kirkus Reviews writes "Longtime fans will find this tale fully worthy of Jury and his regulars."

I know some big Tom Rob Smith fans, and they've been chattering about The Farm (Grand Central, a unit of Hachette, so it might not seem like it's available at Amazon at the moment), a psychological thriller that reminded me of a recent episode of Scandal that I watched with my friends Michael and Scot. Dad: "Mom is crazy." Mom: "I'm not crazy, I'm in trouble." What's a song to do? Publishers Weekly enthuses that "Smith keeps the reader guessing up to the powerfully effective resolution that's refreshingly devoid of contrivances." Plus Anita Sethi in the (UK) Guardian writes "This absorbing novel thrives on gradually revealing the intimate details of lives, showing how they become hidden not only from strangers, but from those closest to them. The relationship between parents and children is excellently explored as the author traces the toxic effect of lies and reveals some shocking home truths." Sounds like it's good for fans of Herman Koch.

This week's pick, while all worthy, would definitely fall on the escapist side of reading rather than the cerebral "satisfaction through hard work" approach. For those looking for such joys, Adam Foulds has In the Wolf's Mouth (FSG), a new novel set during the Allied campaigns of Italy and North Africa in World War II. Foulds was shortlisted for the Man Booker for a previous novel, and Lesley McDowell in the (UK) Independent notes that "The Quickening Maze was a truly superb study in madness and early psychiatric methods, combining the intellectual and the visceral in often startling ways (few will forget his description of the dismantling of a deer). In this latest work, he retains that powerful blend and focuses on another kind of madness: the madness of war."I should note that the (UK) Guardian reviewer was also impressed, but though that it's tough for a young writer to tackle material such as this, that has become the fodder of so many giants of literature.

Last up is Fourth of July Creek, the first novel from Smith Henderson, whose pedigree is already pretty long. Recipient of the 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award in fiction, 2011 Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University, 2011 Pushcart Prize winner, and a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, he currently lives in Portland working at Wieden and Kennedy (advertising), but grew up in Montana, where the novel is set. It's the story of Pete Snow, a social worker, whose newest case is a nearly feral 11 year old, the son of a paranoid survivalist. I only have one piece of advice for you, Pete: run the other way! A starred Booklist review calls Fourth of July Creek "Dark, gritty, and oh so good." Seems like a good book for Stacie. Oh right, she works at that publisher now.

Come in and browse the rest of the new releases. There's plenty more where these came from.

1 comment:

StacieMichelle said...

You're right. The Smith Henderson WAS a good book for me. And is great for any fan of Ron Rash or William Gay or Tom Franklin or Alyson Hagy or Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Plus, he's a super super guy. I hope he makes his way through the Midwest for the paperback tour...