May Publications

Nineteen writers explore the electric relationship between fathers and daughters in the anthology Falling Backwards, edited by Gina Frangello and with a foreword by Elissa Schappell. Although familiar themes of sexuality surface, few stories are wholly dark, nor are they mired in single issues like abuse, drunkenness or abandonment. In "Waltzing the Cat," Pam Houston creates a poignantly comic father-daughter-cat triangle, and Dan Chaon's title story peels away nuanced regrets and unnerving memories by telling the story in reverse. (Hourglass, $18 328p ISBN 0-9725254-2-4)

A Lolita-like gay love affair unfolds on the stage of sunny suburban Southern California in Half-Life, a debut novel by Aaron Krach. Jeff, a hunky, blond policeman and Adam, a high school senior stud half his age, fall for each other after the sudden death of Adam's father throws them together. Gay readers will relish the attention lavished on love's growing pains and the smart dialogue between Adam and his high school buddy, Dart, but there's little behind the banter. (Alyson, $13.95 312p ISBN 1-55583-854-5)

Celebrated Appalachian folk singer Sheila Kay Adams distinguishes an otherwise tired Civil War love story with the tragic ballads and backwoods rhythm passed down through generations of her family in her first novel, My Old True Love. Hackley and Larkin are rivalrous cousins raised as brothers in the North Carolina mountains and bred on the songs of their ancestors. Predictably, they both fall for Mary, a singular Appalachian beauty. Hackley soon wins her affections and marries, only to be whisked away by the Confederate draft. Left in Larkin's care, Mary swoons for the other cousin, inviting tragedy into their country lives. (Algonquin, $23.95 288p ISBN 1-56512-407-3)

Lunatic, adventuring Englishmen dominate Antipodes, Ignacio Padilla's pithy, lyrical short story collection. Set mostly in exotic colonial locales, the tales ring with Umberto Eco—style absurdity and delusion. In one story, Mongolian nomads construct a full-scale replica of Edinburgh in the Gobi Desert at the request of a divine messenger (read: a marooned and hallucinating Scottish engineer). Meanwhile, a cross-dressing mountaineer recovers from tuberculosis—by adhering to a severe regimen of pituitary gland exercises, crazy sex and carrot and thyme bouillabaisse—in order to climb Mt. Everest. Alastair Reid ably translates Padilla's sophisticated, droll prose. (FSG, $18 144p ISBN 0-374-10533-2)