Booklists · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (October 2012)
Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library. Here are some recent favorites.
Winner of France’s distinguished Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, this non-fiction novel takes a different slant on one of history’s most despised figures, Reinhard Heydrich, better known as “the Butcher of Prague.” While Heydrich and his wartime activities are ever present, the story focuses instead on the two Czechoslovakians recruited by the British secret service to assassinate Heydrich. Along with the actual story of historical details is a second tale, that of the narrator telling how he came to have the knowledge to tell this tale.
“Ex-journalist DeSilva won both the Edgar and Macavity Awards for best first novel with his debut thriller, Rogue Island (2010). His second book proves the awards were no fluke.” Newport, Rhode Island may have beautiful mansions along the coast, but there’s a seedy underbelly to the place that is as precarious as the cliff walk above the shore. Old-school journalist Liam Mulligan has a world-weariness that rates high in noir value and in ferreting out the ugliness behind the glitz. Sure to be another highly-rated mystery of the year.
Billy Lynn is an Iraq War hero. In fact the entire Bravo Company has been treated to a stateside visit and is attending the Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys game as part of the halftime show with Destiny’s Child. But Billy doesn’t feel like a hero; the judge said the army or jail, and it seemed a better choice to him. Much of the novel takes place in Billy’s mind as he takes in the spectacle – cheerleaders, wealthy box owners, and a possible Hollywood movie with Hillary Swank playing his role – and remembers the action that got him where he is. Very cinematic.
Although Buck Schatz is 87-years-old, that doesn’t mean his “cop early-warning system” is rusty. As he is dying, one of Buck’s war buddies admits that he let a Nazi prison camp leader go free in exchange for some gold bars. Hitting the road with his law school grandson as a sidekick Buck, who gets confused leaving his immediate neighborhood, takes off to track down the German who has been living under an alias all this time. Buck is a crotchety, glamorless, down-right adorable old coot. As one reviewer put it, “Geezer Noir. Long may it live!”
Will Testerman is a 23-year-old modern cowboy who possesses a great deal of patience when working with horses but not so much with people. He’s just bought a promising filly and plans to train her as a polo pony, having already run the gamut of rodeos, show rings, and dude ranches. Seeing the economic strain on his family ranch, he believes the California polo fields will yield the results he wants. Author Hagy has a real knack for the details – you can smell the horse barns, hear the stamping hooves, and see the mist rise on a mountain morning.
Not far in the future, the United States has been decimated by a flu-like pandemic. Hig is one of the few survivors, living with his faithful dog at a small Colorado airport where he houses his vintage Cesna. He has a gun-toting neighbor, but in the nine years since “The Blood” most people live fearfully in isolation. Occasionally Hig takes a flight around the area, haunted by a voice that came across his static-filled radio waves. Through stream-of-consciousness entries, we get to share Hig’s ramblings, fishing and gardening trips, and his search for humanity.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Stephen King’s It.” That doesn’t grab you? Well, if you get arrested, just make sure you know where you end up, unlike troublemaker Pepper. The halls of the asylum are filled with interesting characters, both staff and inmates. In fact, Pepper finds it a bit difficult to sort out the sane ones. It seems the staff keeps the patients medicated so they can’t fight the monster that comes out at night to feed. On one level, this is a campy horror story, but it also begs the question of justice, basic human rights, and mental stability.
Harold Fry has recently retired when he receives a goodbye letter from a former close friend who is dying of cancer. Harold pens a reply, goes to mail it, but finds himself walking to the next postbox, and the next, and the next, until he realizes that he will walk the letter to Queenie himself. Problem is that’s over 600 miles. For more than 80 days Harold continues to walk, musing on the villages he passes through, his family, his past, and captures the heart and imagination of the British people. Long-listed for Britain’s Booker Man Prize.
Poet Perillo makes her fiction debut with this collection of short stories, displaying a keen sense of character and plot. The setting is the Pacific Northwest, where many of the characters have landed by happenstance. While there is a sense of despair and melancholy, the stories contain subtle humor and hope is always floating right at the surface. As the author says in her title story, “if you dwelled on sadness you’d never get even one foot out the door….And what was happiness but a chemical in the brain?”
“I write because words give me wings….I told you stories to give you wings.” Ratner’s autobiography-based debut novel emphasizes the power of storytelling as she tells of the Khmer Rouge’s overtaking of Cambodia and the plight of the royal family. It seems unbearably personal as the soldiers and violence are kept in a muted background so that the main focus centers on the family and the hardships they endured. Stories that are passed down through generations assure that a culture is never lost, and this one is told with a humble elegance.
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