Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or
Dating Tips for the Unemployed

Iris Smyles. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-70338-4

Smyles's collection of stories and essays—her first book since her 2013 novel, Iris Has Free Time—chronicles the author's young adulthood in New York City after growing up in a right-leaning Greek family from Long Island. After a very strong, nonstop funny first story about a trip to Greece in which everyone wants to engage the tired protagonist in conversation, the rest of the book largely catalogs Iris's litany of boyfriends (an assortment of overweight, "toothless," and avuncular types) with varied results. Some stories, such as "Enter the Wu-Tang," which pokes fun at private school alumni who act like they're gangster rappers ("Having gone to public school, I had more street cred than all of them"), are successful and relatable. Other pieces, such as "Advertisements for My Posthumous Papers," though humorous, are overly long. Smyles also delves into the fun dynamic of her family: she can relate to her insomniac father, who has a basement full of late-night infomercial purchases and ran a party store when she was young. While her mother always seems to be lamenting her daughter's biological clock, Smyles herself is content to date and even be alone. She starts her own literary magazine and publishes the occasional story, to the nonchalance of her non-artistic older brothers. By the time the book winds down, our protagonist is 35 and the owner of an apartment in Brooklyn that was purchased by her parents. On paper, Smyles might seem spoiled and privileged, but her humor, self-awareness, and ability to tell a good story make her good company. (June)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet

H.P. Wood. Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-4926-3148-4

Coney Island's Dreamland amusement park subculture in 1904 New York City is cleverly dramatized in Wood's debut novel of carnival scams, frauds, hucksters, and sideshow freaks. Seventeen-year-old Kitty Hayward, visiting from London, is alone on Coney Island; her mother is missing, and she has no money or luggage. She falls in with Archie, a shameless con man, who introduces her to the art of the con and the world of sideshow attractions such as Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, with its elaborate flea circus, shrunken heads, and Robonocchio, the Automatic Boy. Kitty is befriended by Coney Island's Unusuals, the men and women of the sideshows, including the Transparent Man and Zeph, the legless doorman at Magruder's. This fascinating world of rat orchestras and wacky acts is disrupted by an outbreak of pneumonic plague—animals and people die quickly and horribly, and Coney Island is quarantined. Kitty and her friends try to help plague victims while searching for her mother, aided by a few Normals; everyone on Coney Island is fighting both the disease and the public's fear and persecution of people who are different. To the panic and chaos, Wood adds a murder, arson, and a diabolical plot to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt, making this an exciting, fast-paced, and fascinating yarn. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Autumn Princess, Dragon Child

Lian Hearn. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-53632-9

This second volume of the Tale of Shikanoko quartet by Hearn (following Emperor of the Eight Islands) builds upon the magic and conflict of its predecessor. Hearn takes cultural elements from medieval Japan and uses them to create this wonderful fantasy realm, complete with its own supernatural forces. Shikanoko, now freed from the control of the evil Prince Abbot, stumbles in a haze back to the Darkwood, where he once again encounters mountain sorcerer Shisoku and the mysterious Lady Tora. Tora dies soon after giving birth to five spider children, boys with special powers who emerge from cocoons and whom Shikanoko must raise. Aki, the Autumn Princess, hides in the forest with Yoshimori, the true imperial heir, while she tries to determine how they will survive and where they will go next to avoid the men of Lord Aritomo, the usurper. Meanwhile the schemer and turncoat Masachika tries to advance himself in any way he can, whether through battle, espionage, or blackmail. Scoundrels and innocents, wizards and itinerant performers, lowly servants and mighty nobles all play their parts on this stage. (June)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Showdown City

Todd Berger. Diversion, $14.99 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-68230-066-4

In this terrific debut novel, Huey Palmer, a helicopter pilot and admitted bad father, signs a nondisclosure agreement—as do Dr. Douglas Rainey and his research assistant, Valerie Trujillo—before helping rich eccentric Ernie Swords recover a rare Special Edition Colt Third Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver. Flying into restricted airspace, the foursome crash land in New Roux City, "a thriving town straight out of the Old West" that has been isolated, unchanging, since 1878. In this lawless land, everyone must carry a gun and showdowns are the means of settling scores. When an incident at a dinner prompts a showdown between Miller Roux, who runs the town with an iron fist, and Huey, the various characters all scheme in their own best interests. Berger creates a tale with vivid characters and along the way makes clever points about anti-gun advocates and cultural tourism. This enjoyable comic novel is a crackerjack read. (June)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear

Stuart Stevens. Knopf, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-451-49319-4

In the days leading up to the 2020 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, J.D. Callahan, son of a famous Louisiana civil rights lawyer and himself a savvy political campaign manager, scrambles to lure the delegates needed to secure the party nomination for his boss, Vice President Hilda Smith. Her opponent for the nomination is Armstrong George, a Donald Trump–esque extremist governor from Colorado looking to build a wall across the Mexican border and militarize the nation. While Callahan schemes for Smith, he finds himself also stuck dealing with his half-brothers: Paul, himself aiming to enter New Orleans politics, and Tyler, a skinhead manager of a local strip club. To make matters worse, someone is detonating small explosions around the city, frightening Smith's delegates and reinforcing George's scare tactic rhetoric. Stevens (The Last Season) offers some interesting insight into what goes into a political campaign, but his repetitive prose, narrative leaps in logic, and stereotypical characters fail to truly resonate. The real-life presidential race currently consuming the United States in 2016 makes this fictional excursion feel like a pale imitation. (June)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Remarkable

Dinah Cox. BOA (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-942683-10-0

The stories in Cox's debut collection are as varied as they are sharp and surprising, venturing fearlessly into unexpected territory. The stories neither revere nor despise their Oklahoma setting, even as many of Cox's delightfully odd characters feel stuck there and dream of someday getting out. A man robs a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the first of "Three Small Town Stories," prompting a revelation about the contradictions of small-town life. In the second of the three stories, readers meet Melissa and Shane, a young college couple home for the summer who, while on a miserable hayride, slowly realize how difficult it would be to escape where they came from. "Adolescence in B Flat" features a high school girl who answers phones at a telephone museum while eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers through the use of a switchboard room believed to be defunct, and who is ultimately exposed to more of human nature than she bargained for. "Old West Night" is narrated by an actor portraying a hero in a western and who, during a lengthy weather delay in shooting the film, witnesses an act of violence he doesn't understand that reminds him that he is an outsider in Oklahoma. Some of the stories, such as "Glue," in which a lonely woman working a boring office job magically corresponds with the object of her desire, veer off course, but Cox's powerful narrative voice saves them from becoming too involved in their own eccentricities. This is a daring and confidently written collection. (May)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Jerusalem

Alan Moore. Liveright, $35 (1280p) ISBN 978-1-63149-134-4

Reviewed by Heidi MacDonald

In this staggeringly imaginative second novel, Moore (Watchmen) bundles all his ruminations about space, time, life, and death into an immense interconnected narrative that spans all human existence within the streets of his native Northampton, U.K. Reading this sprawling collection of words and ideas isn’t an activity; it’s an experience.

The book is divided into three parts, each 11 chapters long, with a prelude and “afterlude.” The bookends involve Alma Warren and her brother, Mick, who as a child choked on a cough drop and died, only to be revived; their inquiries into the mysteries of death provide a faint glimmer of plot. The first section crisscrosses Northampton with startling chapters that introduce sad ghosts who drift around town, have sex with each other, and seek nourishment in the form of strange plants known as Puck Hats. Living characters include Ern Vernall, who survives a sanity-ending encounter with a talking painting while trapped on scaffolding, and Alma and Mick’s grandmother, May, who grieves the death of her too-beautiful daughter and becomes a “deathmonger,” overseeing local funerals and births. The second section takes place entirely between Mick’s death and his revival, with a long adventure in an afterlife only Moore could have imagined. The third and most difficult part is written in a series of literary pastiches, including a Beckett-like play and an entire chapter written in a language invented by Lucia Joyce, the institutionalized daughter of James Joyce.

Throughout, Moore conjures the specter of Joyce’s Dubliners, with dense paragraphs that go inside the minds of all the characters as they traipse about town. Some are stunningly aware of their location in Moore’s four-dimensional reality (Snowy Vernall, who experiences life as a constant state of déjà vu) and some painfully mired in a sordid now (mediocre middle-aged poet Benedict Perrit, who lives with his mother and finds inspiration only in the bottle).

Moore’s love of allusions, both historical and literary, leads him to create a web of references that may prompt attentive readers—and not just the future term paper writers who will find this a gold mine—to read along with a highlighter in hand. It’s all a challenge to get through, and deliberately so, but bold readers who answer the call will be rewarded with unmatched writing that soars, chills, wallows, and ultimately describes a new cosmology. Challenges and all, Jerusalem ensures Moore’s place as one of the great masters of the English language. (Sept.) Heidi MacDonald is the graphic novels reviews editor for Publishers Weekly and editor-in-chief of the Beat, a news blog about comics.

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Red Right Hand

Chris Holm. Mulholland, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-25956-9

Near the start of Holm’s explosive and timely sequel to 2015’s The Killing Kind, a tourist taking photos with his daughter’s cell phone manages to capture not only a terrorist attack on the Golden Gate Bridge but also the image of an older man thought long dead by both the FBI and the shadowy criminal organization known as the Council. Frank Segreti gave evidence against the Council seven years earlier and—allegedly—got blown up for his troubles. Now he’s back, and FBI special agent Charlie Thompson knows that the only person who can protect him and lead her to the Council is one of the Bureau’s most wanted. Enter hit man Michael Hendricks, who’s been gunning to take down the Council ever since it dispatched its own hit man to take him out and his best friend got caught in the crossfire. While Charlie begins investigating a Syrian group claiming responsibility for the Golden Gate attack, Michael travels to San Francisco to find Frank amid the law enforcement mayhem. Holm expertly balances weighty issues of national security with more intimate personal losses, and makes it clear that the best stories happen in the gray area between good and evil. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Vampire in Love

Enrique Vila-Matas, trans. from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (282p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2346-1

Nearly five decades into his career, Spanish author Vila-Matas’s (Bartleby & Co.) wonderful short fiction is collected for the first time in English, with 19 career-spanning tales expertly translated by Costa. These stories swerve in unexpected directions. “Torre Del Mirador” unfolds when a phone call from a desperate stranger leads the call’s recipient to secretly uncover the stranger’s past. “In Search of the Electrifying Double Act” concerns a once-famous actor, now overweight and unemployed, looking for a thin partner to join him in an Abbott-and-Costello-type undertaking, only to accidentally find himself dealing with a dangerous secret society when he approaches the wrong man. “They Say I Should Say Who I Am” begins as a man tries to introduce himself to an unknown audience, and deviates into a funny and detailed story concerning the man and the moment he caused a famous painter to go mad. “An Idle Soul” seems to be a simple morning conversation between a husband and wife until the narrator reveals itself to be the mosquito netting covering the couple’s bed. Vila-Matas fills his fiction with forlorn characters—the title story, for example, follows a depressed, hunchbacked vampire—yet never have so many stories about distressed personalities been so incredibly amusing. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Darktown

Thomas Mullen. 37Ink, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3386-2

Mullen (The Revisionists) uses the lens of a twisted murder mystery to unsettle readers with his unflinching look at racism in post-WWII Atlanta. That city has just hired its first black police officers, but the eight men given the responsibility for guarding black neighborhoods are still relegated to second-class status. For example, they’re barred from wearing their police uniforms when traveling to and from court to testify. One of those officers, Lucius Boggs, ends up being responsible for a sensitive murder investigation after Brian Underhill, a drunken white man, drives his car into a lamppost in a black neighborhood. Underhill was released without charge by the white officers who showed up at the scene, but Lily Ellsworth, the black woman who was his passenger, is found dead later on, abandoned in an alley like a piece of trash. Underhill’s status as a former cop and the low value placed on black lives make the probe into Lily’s death a perilous one, for both Boggs and a white officer who’s uneasy with his department’s violent racism. This page-turner reads like the best of James Ellroy. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.