This week, we highlight new books from Niko Vorobyov, Stanley Plumly, and Suzanne Park.

27 Essential Principles of Story: Master the Secrets of Great Storytelling, from Shakespeare to South Park

Daniel Joshua Rubin. Workman, $19.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-5235-0716-0

Rubin, a playwright and TV scriptwriter, aims with this manual to give writers “enough direction to avoid getting lost, but not so much that it strangles your creativity,” and succeeds in creating an invaluable resource. He offers an array of techniques (escalate risk, provoke dilemma, confront evil, etc.) for effective storytelling, first demonstrating how a master used a technique to great effect, and then explaining how neophytes may do so as well. His choices of “masters” may surprise. Rubin includes the usual suspects—Shakespeare (who “drops the hammer” when he has Hamlet learn the truth behind his father’s death) and Shirley Jackson (who “confronts evil” with her depiction of a seemingly tranquil small town’s dark side in “The Lottery”), among others—but he also uses TV shows, movies, and even a video game, Red Dead Redemption, the runaway success of which he attributes to its creators obeying the principle “make your hero active and decisive.” This is a no-brainer for both pro and would-be novelists. Lisa DiMona, Writer’s House. (July)

Loathe at First Sight

Suzanne Park. Avon, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-299069-3

Enemies turn to lovers in YA author Park’s punchy adult debut set in the world of video game design. Melody Joo, a newly hired production assistant at Seventeen Studios, is determined to fight the “unescapable bro culture” within the gaming industry. But this proves nearly impossible while surrounded by cardboard cutouts of the studios’ scantily clad, anatomically impossible heroines. When her misogynistic boss, Ian MacKenzie, overhears her joking about a gender-swapped version of their popular games, which would follow male strippers fighting off the apocalypse, he tasks her with launching it as a mobile app to prove that the company is, in his words, “menstrual friendly.” But it was never meant to be a serious idea and Ian only gives her six months to achieve the impossible. If Melody’s going to prove herself, she can’t have any distractions. But Nolan MacKenzie, the handsome, infuriating intern who also happens to be Ian’s nephew, is a distraction too tempting to resist. Though they initially butt heads, Melody can’t deny the butterflies that follow when he smiles at her. Park (The Perfect Escape) makes tough topics go down easy by couching them in wry humor and lighthearted romance, and her fierce, snarky heroine is irresistible. This smart rom-com is a winner. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US Literary Agency. (Aug.)

God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire and the Making of the Modern World

Alan Mikhail. Liveright, $39.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-63149-239-6

In this revelatory and wide-ranging account, Yale historian Mikhail (Under Osman’s Tree) recreates the life of Sultan Selim I (1470–1520) and makes a convincing case for the outsize impact of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic culture on the history of Europe and the Americas. Tracking Selim’s rise from governor of a recently conquered frontier outpost on the Black Sea to his seizure of the Ottoman throne from his own father, capture of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, and investiture as caliph in 1517, Mikhail brings the era to vibrant life. Recasting Christopher Columbus as a Christian crusader bent on countering the Ottoman Empire’s territorial expansion and political and cultural dominance, Mikhail demonstrates how the push for European exploration of the New World actually weakened the Catholic Church, opening the door for Martin Luther and other reformers. Spotlighting the role Selim’s mother, Gülbahar, played in his political education and early administration, Mikhail also sheds new light on female political power during the era, and offers intriguing discussions on topics ranging from the Sunni-Shiite split to the discovery of coffee. Written with flair and deep insight, this thought-provoking account is both a major historical work and a genuine page-turner. (Aug.)

Dopeworld: Adventures in the Global Drug Trade

Niko Vorobyov. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-27001-6

At the start of this terrific debut, former drug dealer Vorobyov writes of the London prison where he served time in 2013–2014 for possession with intent to supply, “With its uninspired menu, rude staff, slow room service and guests unable to leave their rooms twenty-three hours a day, suffice it to say that this place wouldn’t get a good rating on TripAdvisor.” That same wit marks his account of his misspent youth in England as the son of Russian émigrés, and his post-prison travels around the world meeting with those involved in the illegal drug trade and those trying to combat it. Along the way, Vorobyov provides much fascinating history, from the ancient Incas’ use of coca to late-20th-century America’s war on drugs, which he argues originated largely as a way to criminalize black Americans following the civil rights movement. He ends on a hopeful note, citing the socialist government of Portugal’s decision in 2001 to decriminalize all drugs, which led to a drastic drop in the number of addicts, overdoses, and new HIV cases. Vorobyov makes a persuasive case for the legalization of drugs in what he aptly calls “a true crime, gonzo, social, historical-memoir meets fucked-up travel book.” It could well become a classic. Agents: John Ash and Patrick Walsh, PEW Literary (U.K.). (Aug.)

21 Immortals: Inspector Mislan and the Yee Sang Murders

Rozlan Mohd Noor. Arcade CrimeWise, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-950691-40-1

Noor, a former Malaysian police officer, does a stellar job of translating his experience into fiction in his nuanced debut, a series launch. Kuala Lumpur Insp. Mislan Latif is confronted with a high-profile and baffling triple homicide. The corpses of a family of three—a father, mother, and 10-year-old son—have been found in their home in an affluent part of the city. There are no obvious signs of violence, and the bodies were posed at the dinner table, set with a traditional Chinese New Year meal. When the adult male is identified as Robert Tham, a wealthy and renowned clothing designer, the pressure to solve the case intensifies. An autopsy determines that the Tham family were poisoned by hydrogen cyanide gas and then embalmed. Mislan learns that the ostensibly respectable Robert was once the leader of a secret society known as the 21 Immortals, who may have cooperated with the authorities against his fellow immortals years before. The inspector pursues the truth relentlessly in the face of crooked superiors and trigger-happy colleagues. Fans of honest cops working in a rigged system are in for a treat. (Aug.)

Middle Distance

Stanley Plumly. Norton, $26.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-324-00614-5

Plumly (Orphan Hours), in his posthumous 12th collection, studies his own mortality “like a man in love with something,” as he writes in “With Weather.” In clear-eyed and powerful page-long lyric poems filled with questions and wonder, he takes readers from his Ohio childhood to Europe and into the natural world. Plumly’s life crossed with several other poets mentioned and conjured here, among them Galway Kinnell, Gerald Stern, and Wallace Stevens. Nature and memory are beautifully captured throughout, as in “Germans,” a memoir piece about 11 WWII prisoners-of-war who helped out with his family’s lumber business in Virginia. “It takes time,” he notes, “by hand, to humble a tree.” In “White Rhino,” the poem that opens the collection, he wonders, “How long a life is too long.” In that poem’s final lines, he describes the rhino’s “great heart lifted down,/ the tonnage of my heart almost more than I can carry.” That line echoes through the deeply felt poems and prose pieces of this meditative collection. (Aug.)

The Inugami Curse

Seishi Yokomizo, trans. from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai. Pushkin Vertigo, $14.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-78227-503-9

A multiple murder case confounds brilliant private detective Kosuke Kindaichi in this stellar whodunit set in 1940s Japan from Yokomizo (1902–1981). Kindiachi receives a cryptic letter from attorney Toyoichiro Wakabayashi after Sahei Inugamu, the affluent Silk King of Japan, has died. The lawyer asks the PI to meet him in Nasu, so that the investigator can forestall “events soaked in blood,” which Wakabayashi fears will claim the lives of multiple members of the Inugami clan. But before the two men can meet, Wakabayashi himself is murdered by a poisoned cigarette. His fears are further validated when Sahei’s will is read, setting up a competition between several potential heirs to meet the stringent conditions for receiving part of the lucrative legacy. Soon afterward, someone starts killing Inugami relatives in bizarre ways; the first is decapitated, and his head posed in a doll’s display. Yokomizo creates a palpable sense of menace throughout with grim foreshadowing of the carnage to come. The solution is a perfect match for the baffling puzzle. Fair-play fans will hope for more translations of this master storyteller. (Aug.)


Jordan Ifueko. Amulet, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3982-8

In Ifueko’s stunning fantasy debut, a woman known as “the Lady” commands a djinn to build her an invisible stronghold and impregnate her with a child who must someday grant her third wish. She raises the resulting daughter, dark-skinned Tarisai, in ignorance of her origins, isolating and training her for an undisclosed reason. When the Lady dispatches 11-year-old Tarisai to Oluwan City to compete for inclusion on Crown Prince Ekundayo’s governing Council of Eleven, the affection-starved girl is delighted; if chosen, she will bond eternally with Dayo, as the prince is known, and her Council siblings via a mystical Ray. The union will also render Dayo immune to all forms of premature death except murder by a Council member—which is precisely what the Lady envisions. Tarisai, however, resolves to write her own destiny and protect Dayo, no matter the cost. By crafting a world plagued by imperialism, poverty, and institutionalized misogyny, and a mythology that literalizes the power of love, purpose, and sacrifice, Ifueko illustrates the need for social change and inspires readers to fight for it. Fierce, kindhearted characters from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds enhance the well-paced, exquisitely crafted plot, which thrills and inspires while fostering readers’ hope for a sequel. Ages 12–up. Agent: Kim-Mei Kirtland, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Aug.)