Saturday, 26 March 2011

Crime update

I have updated a couple of bibliographies with new releases which may be of interest.  Little Girl Lost is a stand alone novel (or perhaps the first in a new series) from Brian McGilloway, with a predominantly paperback release.  However, there is a signed limited hardcover edition of 300 copies available from Goldsboro Books.  McGilloway writes atmospheric crime fiction set around the border of the north and south of Ireland.  I always enjoy his books, and this one is well worth picking up.

Secondly, Harvill Secker have just published the final book in Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender series.  Signed copies of the Wallender novels are uncommon and collectible, and if you are quick you may be able to pick up a signed copy of this final book at cover price.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Book of the Week - Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English

Pigeon English is a first novel which comes with a good deal of hype – it was the subject of a significant bidding war on the part of several publishers, and the full weight of a considerable publicity machine is behind it. Nonetheless, reviewers have been very positive. It employs the increasingly popular device of a first person child narrator, and addresses the rather trendy societal problems of the poor and disaffected urban black working class population. Central to the story is a stabbing (presumably inspired by Damilola Taylor), but the novel is humerous while addressing serious issues. Rather disappointingly, it is only released as a paperback (although in French folds). However, well worth picking up a signed copy.

Stephen Kelman was born in Luton in 1976. He had his first short story published in an anthology at the age of 16, and after finishing his degree he worked variously as a warehouse operative, a careworker, and in marketing and local government administration. He decided to pursue his writing seriously in 2005, and has completed several feature screenplays since then. Pigeon English is his first novel; he is currently working on his second.

“Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on a London housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang - the Dell Farm Crew - and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of inner-city survival.
But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, PIGEON ENGLISH is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.”

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Book of the Week - Sarah Winman, When God was a Rabbit

This week I have chosen a first novel which has attracted quite a lot of attention, and which has already been reprinted in hardcover. When God was a Rabbit is a book about a brother and sister, told in the first person by the sister over a period of about 30 years from 1968 to the events of 9/11. The author, Sarah Winman, was born in 1964 and grew up in Essex. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. She currently lives in London. Signed and dated copies are currently available at cover price (£12.99) if you look around. The novel has been highlighted by Waterstones as one of its 11 first novels to watch this year, and certainly looks promising.

"This is a book about a brother and a sister. Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, it is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, more than anything, it’s a book about love in all its forms."

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Book of the Week - Hisham Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance

It is appropriate this week to select a book by a Libyan author, in which the central event is the disappearance of a father kidnapped by the secret police. Anatomy of a Disappearance is a second novel from Hisham Matar, who’s first book (In the Country of Men) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006. In real life, Matar’s father has disappeared in Libya, and is perhaps still alive in custody, so he writes at least in part from personal experience. He writes well about small details, capturing the minor incongruous elements which make terrible events seem real. Reviews suggest that this is a strong second novel, certainly worth picking up and reading, and perhaps again a contender for prizes.

" Nuri is a young boy when his mother dies. It seems that nothing will fill the emptiness that her strange death leaves behind in the Cairo apartment he shares with his father. Until Mona. When Nuri first sees Mona, sitting in her bright yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina holiday resort, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri’s father with whom Mona falls in love and who she will eventually marry. And their happiness consumes Nuri to the point where he longs to get his father out of the way. However, Nuri will soon regret what he wished for. And, as he and his stepmother’s world is shattered by events beyond their control, they both begin to realise how little they really knew about the man they loved. In a voice that is delicately wrought and beautifully tender, Hisham Matar asks, in his extraordinary new novel, when a loved one disappears how does their absence shape the lives of those who are left?"

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Book of the Week - Paul Bailey, Chapman's Odyssey

Chapman's Odyssey is Paul Bailey's first novel for 9 years. Bailey was shortlisted twice for the BookerPrize early in his career (Peter Smart's Confessions (1977) and Gabriel's Lament(1986)), so it is a good opportunity to pick up a signed copy of a novel from a writer near the end of a distinguished career.

In Bailey's work the physical frailty of humanity and the bizarre nature of human disintegration are significant symbols of what it means to be human. Many of Bailey's characters are obsessed with human frailty and physicality, and with the symptoms of disease and decay. Bailey's first novel focussed on an elderly lady in a nursing home, and Chapman's Odyssey continues with these elements, as the story is told from the perspective of an elderly man dying in a hospital bed. Although this might seem a little depressing, the subject matter is handled with humour and lightness of touch, although not shying away from the messiness of the end of life. A possible contender for this year's literary prizes.

Bailey has said 'I write because I have to and want to. It's as simple, or as complicated, as that. And I write novels specifically because I am curious about my fellow creatures. There is no end to their mystery. I share Isaac Babel's lifelong ambition to write with simplicity, brevity and precision. It was he who said 'No steel can pierce the human heart so chillingly as a period at the right moment.' I hope one or two of my full stops have done, and will do, just that.'

"So here he was at last, where he had long feared to be. Harry Chapman is not well, and he doesn't like hospitals. Superficially all is as it normally is in such places, with nurses to chide him and a priest to console. But there are more than usual quotient of voices - is it because of Dr Pereira's wonder drug that he can hear the voice of his mother, acerbic and disappointed in him as ever? Perhaps her presence would be understandable enough, but what is Pip from Great Expectations doing here? More and more voices add their differing notes and stories to the chorus, squabbling, cajoling, commenting: friends from childhood, lovers, characters from novels and poetry; his father, fighting in the First World War; Babar and Celeste, who dances with Fred Astaire; Jane Austen's "Emma"; his aunt Rose, 'a stranger to moodiness'; Christopher Smart's cat Jeoffrey; a man who wants to sell him T.S. Eliot's teeth; Virginia Woolf, the scourge of servants; and, of course, an old friend who turns up at his bedside principally to rehearse the litany of his own ailments. Slowly, endearingly, the life of Harry Chapman coalesces before our eyes, through voices real and unreal. Written with a gentle, effortless generosity, full of delicate observation, "Chapman's Odyssey" is the work of a master; a superbly rendered act of storytelling and ventriloquism that is waspish, witty, deeply moving and wise by turns and which constantly explores 'the unsolvable enigma of love'.