Literary agent Marly Rusoff is re-releasing, through her publishing imprint Maiden Lane Press, a debut novel by Jonathan Odell. Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be out on February 4, to coincide with the 102nd birthday of Rosa Parks.
The novel, originally titled The View from Delphi, was first published by Macadam/Cage in 2004 to strong reviews, but tepid sales. The Maiden Lane edition, Odell said, has been trimmed by 100 pages to “make it more succinct and more pertinent to what’s going on now.”
"So many things go wrong in publishing, and it has nothing to do with the author; I see it all the time,” Rusoff told PW. “There’s something special about a first novel, and this is a book that deserves better.” Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League will be released in trade paper and e-book, but hardcover editions will also be released for, Rusoff says, “libraries and book signings.” An initial print run has not yet been determined.
Odell, whose second novel, The Healing, was published in 2012, told PW that he first met Rusoff in 2004 at The Loft Literary Center (which she founded in 1974, before leaving Minneapolis for New York City to work in publishing). At the time, Macadam/Cage had just published The View from Delphi and, while Odell says he gave her a copy of the book back then, Rusoff recalled that she didn’t read the novel until 2010 or 2011, after she had become Odell's agent.
Rusoff initially shopped The View from Delphi to a few publishers, including Random House’s Nan A. Talese/Doubleday imprint, which published The Healing. Those imprints, however, were reluctant to “go back and re-edit” a book that had already been published, Rusoff said.
Sales of The View from Delphi were, Odell recalls, somewhere between 7,000-10,000 copies. “I came in the wake of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003),” he explained, referencing the timing of his book at Macadam/Cage, which had one of its biggest hits in Audrey Niffenegger's novel. “There was nobody [at Macadam/Cage] to help me," Odell continued. "A secretary was doing the marketing.”
After five years of financial problems, Macadam/Cage filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last February. The rights to The View from Delphi reverted back to Odell several years ago.
Odell, 63, grew up in Mississippi and has lived in Minneapolis since 1980. His novels are always set in a fictional county in the Mississippi Delta region. While The Healing was set during the antebellum period, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is set during the 1950s, and features two protagonists, one a wealthy white woman, and the other a working-class black woman. The two are thrown together and, after initially despising one another, wind up forming an unexpected friendship.
Odell is currently working on a third novel, The Last Safe Place, and on a collection of “memoir-ish” essays about growing up in the Jim Crow South.
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is the third release from Maiden Lane Press. The press made its debut with Cassandra King’s novel, Moonrise, in 2013, which, according to Rusoff, has sold over 10,000 copies in hardcover, to date. Maiden Lane, which is distributed by Ingram Publisher Services, is also planning a reissue of Thomas C. Greene’s 2007 novel, Envious Moon, though no date has been set.