Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Lorissa Rinehart, Beth Kempton, Jess Everlee and more.

First to the Front: The Untold Story of Dickey Chapelle, Trailblazing Female War Correspondent

Lorissa Rinehart. St. Martin’s, $32 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-27657-5
“Dickey Chapelle should be a household name,” writes historian and cultural critic Rinehart in her entertaining debut, a biography of the first American female journalist to be killed in combat. Born Georgette Louise Meyer in 1918, Chapelle went from a job promoting a Miami air show to working for an airline’s publicity department, then selling her photographs to National Geographic on assignment during WWII. Posted to Iwo Jima, she documented the travails and triumphs of U.S. Marines to encourage Americans to donate blood. After the war, she toured Europe to study the impact of the Marshall Plan, then went on assignment, mostly for Reader’s Digest, in various hot spots around the world. She embedded with the Algerian Revolutionary Army, was arrested by Soviet border guards and spent five weeks in solitary confinement while covering the Hungarian Revolution, “patrolled the Ho Chi Minh Trail along the Cambodian border” with the Vietnamese Airborne Brigade in 1961, marched with the Cuban Revolutionary Army, and was killed by shrapnel in 1965 while on patrol with a Marine platoon in Vietnam. Throughout her career, Chapelle endured and overcame mockery and misogyny, and became a fierce critic of “press censorship and counterproductive military tactics.” Jam-packed with colorful details and incisive character sketches, this is a vivid reappraisal of a pioneering journalist. (July)

The Way of the Fearless Writer: Mindful Wisdom for a Flourishing Writing Life

Beth Kempton. St. Martin’s, , $19 ISBN 978-1-250-89213-3
Writing instructor Kempton (Wabi Sabi) outlines in this wise guide a creative practice inspired by Buddhist philosophy. In a departure from advice that centers on “painful effort,” Kempton contends that becoming a “fearless writer” requires embracing three principles derived from Buddhism’s Gates of Liberation: “desirelessness” teaches writers to “serve the writing, not the ego”; formlessness encourages them to freely “spill” their words onto the page before fashioning them into a shape; and “emptiness” urges writers to see “through [their] fixed ideas about separate selves” so as to write without fear of critique. Kempton weaves abstract musings with practical suggestions; in discussing desirelessness, for example, she suggests “it’s the [writing] process that’s sacred, not the individual words” and cautions readers against becoming “too attached to what lands on the page.” Readers should carve out writing rituals, and once finished, “come back to your day and carry on, as if you haven’t just traveled to other worlds and back.” Kempton mixes Buddhist principles with writing advice in a seamless, down-to-earth prose, and the prompts, such as emptying one’s pockets and writing about “what you carry,” are more innovative than the usual fare. Writers seeking a freeing approach to their craft should give this a look. (July)

A Rulebook for Restless Rogues

Jess Everlee. Carina Adores, $18.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-335-68000-6
Everlee’s fabulous second Lucky Lovers of London Victorian romance (after The Gentleman’s Book of Vices) takes the series to new heights. It follows boarding school friends David Forester and Noah Clarke in their post-school life as, respectively, the proprietor of a “molly house,” an underground queer club, and an utterly respectable tailor on Savile Row. In-depth historical details enhance a classic friends-to-lovers tale as the men navigate Victorian social mores. Most refreshing is Everlee’s commitment to portraying gender fluidity in her characters—several of whom are drag queens—which not only make the characters themselves satisfyingly complex and endearing but also makes the sex scenes more interesting and intense. Gratifying also is the refusal to create unnecessary conflict between the main characters: instead, Everlee lets the men work together to overcome outside obstacles, a far more gripping and, in the end, satisfying arc. Equally sweet and steamy, this will delight Everlee’s fans while enticing many new ones. Agent: Laura Zats, Headwater Literary. (July)

The Murder Wheel: A Joseph Spector Locked-Room Mystery

Tom Mead. Mysterious, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61316-409-9
Mead’s brilliant second Joseph Spector novel (following 2022’s Death and the Conjurer), again set in 1930s London, sees the retired magician saddled with three seemingly impossible murders to solve. First up is a bizarre killing committed on a Ferris wheel: bank manager Dominic Dean was fatally shot while he and his wife, Carla, were the only occupants of a compartment at the very top of the ride’s arc. That fact, coupled with Carla’s fingerprints on the revolver used to shoot Dominic, make her the obvious suspect, despite the absence of any apparent motive. The puzzle only becomes more intricate after her defense attorney, Edmund Ibbs, seeks exculpatory evidence, only to stumble into the middle of two other murders—one onstage at a magic show and one backstage—where he becomes the primary suspect. Spector gets involved and utilizes his unique illusionist knowledge to solve all three killings. Mead plays scrupulously fair with his readers, going so far as to include footnotes that identify which prior pages displayed clues in plain sight. Lovers of John Dickson Carr’s puzzle mysteries will hope Mead has many more Spector tales up his sleeve. Agent: Lorella Belli, Westbourne Studios. (July)

The Best Possible Experience: Stories

Nishanth Injam. Pantheon, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-31769-3
The protagonists in Injam’s dynamic and insightful debut collection explore cultural identity and family relationships in India and the U.S. In “The Bus,” the narrator, a customer support worker for Bank of America, takes an hours-long bus ride from Bengaluru to his hometown to visit his parents. The trip turns eerie as one passenger after another gets up to use the restroom and then disappears, and the remaining passengers feel the need to escape as the air in the bus grows increasingly cold. It seems their journey ends in their deaths, though a playful tone offsets the morbid theme (“I knew about planes, but I didn’t know these things happen on buses too,” the narrator’s seatmate tells him). In “The Immigrant,” Aditya plans to relocate to Philadelphia from India to help earn money for his mother’s lung transplant. On arrival in the U.S., he’s met at the airport by Indian students who advise him on how to act around white people. The inventive form of “The Math of Living” conveys how a coder at the Chicago Tribune reflects in mathematical terms on his impending visit back to India, where he expects everything to be “formulaic” after reuniting with his family (“My father will do [a] or [b]. My mother will do [b] [c] or [d]”). Injam succeeds in equal measure with the variety of styles, and he offers enriching details about the various experiences his characters face as immigrants and offshore workers. This is a triumph. (July)

Still Laughing: A Life in Comedy

George Schlatter. Unnamed, $28 (250p) ISBN 978-1-951213-79-4
Television producer Schlatter recounts his Hollywood career in this spellbinding memoir. Schlatter got his start managing nightclubs and casinos in Las Vegas throughout the 1950s, and while working with superstars including Frank Sinatra and Mae West made for lively workweeks, being employed by mobsters was not great for his personal safety (“As you have figured, I did not end up in Lake Mead,” he jokes). Leveraging his Vegas connections, Schlatter landed more above-the-board work in television, and here recounts endless hours dealing with fragile celebrity egos, clashing with “uninformed, inexperienced, insecure” studio executives, and—most notably—becoming the executive producer of the hit NBC sketch comedy show Laugh-In. Whether he’s getting body-painted nipples past NBC censors, watching Lily Tomlin rise to superstardom, or improvising a song to help book Sonny and Cher, Schlatter’s anecdotes from his time at Laugh-In are a treasure trove of unfiltered gossip. There are more poignant reminiscences, too, many of them reserved for Schlatter’s good friend Sinatra—he describes delivering the singer’s eulogy as “the most difficult moment of my life.” Boosted by its garrulous tone, this glitzy account of a bygone Hollywood era is a must for pop culture enthusiasts. (July)

The Splinter in the Sky

Kemi Ashing-Giwa. Saga, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-66800-847-8
Ashing-Giwa’s breathtaking space opera debut takes readers to the occupied province of Koriko, where Enitan Ijebu lives with her sibling, Xiang, under the cruel thumb of the Holy Vaalbaran Empire. Vaalbara and its neighboring nation, the Ominirish Republic, have finally signed a peace treaty after years of war, but when Xiang goes missing—one in a long line of disappearances from Koriko—Enitan realizes the empire is still plotting and maneuvers her way into Vaalbara’s capital, the Splinter, to investigate. Her goal is to find her sibling and get out, but matters are immediately complicated when both the nation of Ominirish and the newly appointed God-Emperor of Vaalbaran realize she could be an asset and ask her to spy for them. Caught between saving Xiang and using her newfound influence to alter the fate of all Korikese, Enitan dives into the world of political intrigue—and finds love in an unexpected place. While readers will undoubtedly be invested in this headstrong young tea expert playing spy, it’s colonialism and the effects of war on a populace that form this narrative’s hard-hitting emotional core. Delving into serious sociopolitical matters without ever losing the shine of hope, this tense adventure packs a punch. Agent: Tricia Skinner, Fuse Literary. (July)

Hello Stranger

Katherine Center. St. Martin’s, $29 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-28378-8
With a thoroughly modern millennial heroine at the helm, this emotional contemporary from Center (The Bodyguard) tugs on the heartstrings and grabs attention. Portrait artist Sadie Montgomery, 28, may finally get her big break when she’s selected to enter a prestigious competition. Unfortunately, the contest coincides with a minor medical procedure that turns into emergency brain surgery, and the recovery process leaves her unable to make sense of human faces. Though warned by her neuropsychiatrist that her (possibly) temporary face blindness may make her interpret her other senses incorrectly, Sadie works to get her painting back on track with the support of her best friend, Sue, and her neighbor, Joe, who she can only recognize from the bowling jacket he wears all the time. She also tries dating her hunky veterinarian, Dr. Addison, hoping a relationship will help her settle back into normal. But is she seeing the whole picture? Center takes Sadie’s life seriously and her struggles with adulting resonate even before her face blindness sets in. Meanwhile, a dash of humor and an endearing love story make the pages fly. Readers will be hooked. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone. (July)