Sunday, 30 March 2008

Book of the week and bibliography - Brian McGilloway, Gallows Lane

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974, and teaches English at St Columb’s College, Derry. Gallows Lane is his second novel featuring Inspector Benedict Devlin. The novel takes its title from the name of the road down which condemned Donegal criminals were once led, and follows Devlin as he investigates a series of gruesome murders in and around the Irish borderlands. When a young woman is found beaten to death on a building site, in what appears to be a sexually-motivated killing, Devlin's enquiries soon point to a local body-builder and steroid addict. But days later, born-again ex-con James Kerr is found nailed to a tree - crucified - having been released from prison and returned to his hometown to spread the word of God. Increasingly torn between his young family and his job, Devlin is determined to apprehend those responsible for the murders be-ore they strike again, even as the carnage begins to jeopardise those he cares about most.
The previous book in the series and McGilloway's first novel (Borderlands) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger. Both books have absorbing plots, strong characterisation and capture the atmosphere of the hinterland between North and South of Ireland. Several more books are planned and the series has strong potential to build with time.

Borderlands Macmillan, 2007
Gallows Lane Macmillan, 2008
Bleed a Deep River, Macmillan, 2009
The Rising, Macmillan, 2010

Little Girl Lost, Macmillan, 2011.   Paperback release, but signed numbered hardcover (300 copies) published in association with Goldsboro Books.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

An update - John Banville

Conversation in the Mountains, a play for radio, by John Banville will shortly be published by The Gallery Press, and I have updated the Banville bibliography accordingly. In the summer of 1967 the poet Paul Celan, a Romanian Polish Jew, accepted an invitation from Martin Heidegger, a Nazi Party member, to visit him in the Black Forest, hoping perhaps for a word of apology. What was said that day nobody knows . . .
The book features charcoal drawings and full colour reproductions of watercolours by Donald Teskey specially created in response to this work. 400 copies have been numbered signed by the author. and 350 of these are for sale. The book is printed on Rives Artist paper and hardbound in linen with blind a embossed title and in a Pergamenata wraparound.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Book of the week and Bibliography - Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz is a Dominican born, US-based author who has been making the literary headlines with his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuk-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.D'az immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.

While Wao is Diaz's first novel, it is not his first book, since he published a book of short stories (Drown) in 1996. In the UK, both books have been published in wraps only by Faber, whereas the US editions of each were hardbacks published by Riverhead. Diaz may become one of the literary heavyweights, so pick up your signed copies now.

Drown (US - Riverhead, 1996 (included an errata slip); UK - Faber, 1996)

The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao (US - Riverhead, 2007; UK - Faber, 2008)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year

Each year the Sunday Times nominates a Young Writer of the year. Previous nominees have included Zadie Smith and Sarah Waters, among others, and the award provides a useful barometer of critical opinion. The award is open to British writers aged under 35, and this year's shortlist of four includes two first time novelists, Adam Foulds for The Truth about these Strange Times, and Nikita Lalwani for Gifted, both worth picking up now. Gifted has already been longlisted for the 2007 Booker prize and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Book of the week and bibliography - Simon Scarrow, Centurion

Centurion is the eighth novel by Simon Scarrow to feature Roman soldiers Macro and Cato. The Roman Empire faces a new threat from its long-standing enemy Parthia, which is vying with Rome for control of Palmyra, an officially neutral kingdom. Palmyra’s royal household is on the brink of open revolt, and so a task force under the command of experienced soldiers Macro and Cato is dispatched to defend its king and guard its borders. When Parthia hears of the Roman army’s presence, it starts amassing its troops for war. Macro's cohort must march against the enemy, deep into treacherous territory. If Palmyra is not to fall into the clutches of Parthia, they will have to defeat superior numbers in a desperate siege.

Like all of the previous books in the series, this one is published by Headline in the UK. The early books in the series have become very valuable and are difficult to find at a reasonable price. The interesting thing about Centurion is that in addition to the standard first edition, Waterstone’s in the UK have a version with an additional short story, which will become the preferred version and is worth seeking out now – the number of copies printed is unclear. I was lucky enough to pick up a signed copy for £6.50 in Cambridge a couple of days ago, so call into your local Waterstones now and have a look.

The Eagle Series (Macro and Cato)

1. Under the Eagle (Headline, 2000)
2. The Eagle's Conquest (Headline, 2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (Headline, 2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (Headline, 2003)
5. The Eagle's Prey (Headline, 2004)
6. The Eagle's Prophecy (Headline, 2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (Headline, 2006)
8. Centurion (Headline, 2008)
9. The Gladiator (Headline, 2009)
10. The Legion (Headline, 2010)
11. Praetorian (Headline, 2011)

The Revolution Series (Napoleon and Wellington)

1. Young Bloods (Headline, 2006)
2. The Generals (Headline, 2007)
3. Fire and Sword (Headline, 2009)
4. The Field of Death (Headline, 2010)

Young Adults

1. Centurion - Fight for Freedom (Penguin, 2011)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Book of the week - Ross Raisin, God's Own Country

Ross Raisin was born in Yorkshire and lives in London. He is twenty-seven years old. Before university he spent time working in the hotel trade in France and Ireland. When he graduated, he began working in a wine bar in London, eventually becoming co-manager. He has continued to work as a waiter while writing this novel, and still does so now as he begins his second, a novel about a Glaswegian ex-shipyard worker, whose life unravels after the death of his wife. God's Own Country is his first novel, and has been promoted as one of the books of 2008. It has been well reviewed by most of the UK broadsheets, and has received positive comments from Colm Toibin and JM Coetzee. The UK hardcover is published by Viking at £14.99 - signed copies should be available at this price.

Sam Marsdyke, the teenage son of a farmer up on the Yorkshire Moors. He spends his days working the sheep, mending fences, trying to dodge the eye of his brutal, silent father, and most of all, watching the transformation of the farms and villages around him. From the top of the moors he watches the goofy ramblers and the earnest 'towns', the families from York, who are feverishly buying up the farmhouses left empty by bankrupt farmers. And as he watches, one young daughter of a new family catches his eye. As he falls for the young, sophisticated girl from London, she begins to see him as a means to escape. She wants to rebel against her parents and he wants to fulfil the fantasy he harbours about her and so they run away together. But this journey across the moors will take a terrifying menacing turn which, for him, will prove his terrible undoing.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Book of the week and bibliography - Frank Tallis, Fatal Lies

Frank Tallis is a clinical psychologist, and Max Liebermann, the protagonist of his series of detective stories (The Liebermann Papers) set in early 20th century Vienna, is a disciple of Freud. Fatal Lies is the third book in this series. It is Vienna, 1903. In St. Florian's military school, a rambling edifice set high in the hills of the City's famous woods, a young cadet is found dead - his body lacerated with razor wounds. Once again, Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt calls on his friend - and disciple of Freud - Doctor Max Liebermann, to help him with the investigation. In the closed society of the school, power is everything - and suspicion falls on an elite group of cadets, with a penchant for sadism and dangerous games. When it is discovered that the dead boy was a frequent guest of the deputy headmaster's attractive young wife - other motives for murder suggest themselves. A tangled web of relationships is uncovered, at the heart of which are St. Florian's dark secrets, which Liebermann, using new psychoanalytic tools such as dream interpretation and the ink-blot test, begins to probe.
The earlier two books in the series, Vienna Blood and Mortal Mischief, are well written and enjoyable, and the BBC are working on television adaptations, which may be an indicator of wider public interest to come. At present, the second novel of the series is more difficult to obtain than the first (at least signed), which may be indicative of a smaller print run.


Max Liebermann Novels

Mortal Mischief Century, 2005)
Vienna Blood (Century, 2006)
Fatal Lies (Century, 2008)
Darkness Rising (Century, 2009)

Other Novels

Killing Time (Hamish Hamilton, 1999) softcover
Sensing Others (Hamish Hamilton, 2000) softcover

Other Books

How to Stop Worrying (Sheldon Press, 1990)
Hidden Minds: A History of the Unconscious (Arcade, 2002)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Cognitive and Neuropsychological Perspective (Wiley, 1995)
Changing Minds: The History of Psychotherapy as an Answer to Human Suffering (Sage Press, 1998)
Understanding Obsessions and Compulsions: A Self-help Manual (Sheldon Press, 1992)