Autumn is the zenith of the publishing calendar and this year at Turnaround is no exception. Our fiction, however, is always exceptional and September heralds a slew of truly excellent titles to keep you going – our essential fiction roundup is all you need to see you through.
Encompassing literary fiction, crime, translated fiction, short stories, thrillers and more – here is all you need to know about what you should be reading this month.
Checkpoint by David Albahari; translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac
(Restless Books, 9781632061928, p/b, £10.99)
A Kafkaesque war fable about an army unit sent to guard a military checkpoint with no idea where they are or who the enemy might be.
Atop a hill, deep in the forest, an army unit is assigned to a checkpoint. The commander doesn’t know where they are, what border they’re protecting, or why. Their map is useless and the radio crackles with a language no one can recognise. A soldier is found dead in a latrine and the unit vows vengeance – but the enemy is still unknown. Refugees arrive seeking safe passage to the other side of the checkpoint, however the biggest threat might be the soldiers themselves. As the commander struggles to maintain order and keep his soldiers alive, he isn’t sure whether he’s fighting a war or caught in a bizarre military experiment.
The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio; translated by Howard Curtis
(Bitter Lemon, 9781912242030, p/b, £8.99)
When a Mafia member accused of killing a child decides to collaborate with the police a world of deep moral ambiguity opens up in which the investigators are hard to distinguish from the investigated.
The summer of 1992 had been exceptionally cold in southern Italy. But that’s not why it is remembered. That summer ushered in a spate of Mafia killings of judges and police officers, most of them assassinated near Palermo. The Sicilian killings and ensuing gang wars also infected the Bari region in Puglia, triggering an investigation by local Carabinieri officer Pietro Fenoglio.
The Night of Rome by Giancarlo De Cataldo & Carlo Bonini; translated by Antony Shugaar
(Europa Editions, 9781609454890, p/b, £12.99)
Sailing dangerously close to the wind of current events in Rome’s criminal underworld, the follow-up to last year’s epic Suburra.
It’s all change in Rome! The new Pope is determined to bring radical reform, while a new centre-left government replaces its disgraced predecessor. And with crime eminence grise Samurai in jail, his protege attempts to establish himself as his successor. All the while he must reckon not only with a new generation of enterprising gangsters and racketeers – out to carve for themselves a slice of the profits and opportunities offered by the major public works planned – but also with the clever, beautiful, ambitious and newly elected politician Chiara Visoni, and his own heart.
Soundrels 2: The Hunt for Handsclapp by Majors Victor Cornwall & St. John Trevelyan (Black Door Press, 9780995716322, p/b, £8.99)
Strap in for another stonking instalment of the rollicking adventures of Majors Cornwall and Trevelyan!
Revolving around the infamous gentlemen’s club of London, Scoundrels: The Hunt For Hansclapp continues the combative joint memoirs of adventurer-spies, Major Cornwall and Major Trevelyan. In the second volume, the Majors recount tales of kidnapping in the Congo, manslaughter on the Orient Express and romance at the Stasi’s Christmas Party. The Majors are reeling from a series of devastating attacks by their Moriarty-like nemesis, Gruber Hansclapp, who is exacting an unspeakably horrific revenge, even by the Majors’ standards.
Ash by Alys Einion
(Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 9781909983823, p/b, £8.99)
What do you do when your daughter’s dream of redemption is the nightmare you fought to escape from?
Amanda ran from an abusive marriage in Saudi Arabia with her four sons and infant daughter, Aisha, but always at the back of her mind was the fear that Muhammed would come for his children. Ash has grown-up feeling lost and out of place, left to her own devices by her damaged mother, abandoned to the lure of paint and canvas. She has few friends until she comes upon a group of Islamic women who promise empowerment and a mission in life – which has to be better than sacrificing herself to the twin goddesses of anorexia and social acceptance.
Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen
(Galley Beggar Press, 9781910296929, p/b, £11)
Francis Plug is back and he’s as ridiculous, chaotic, and delightful as ever.
Following the publication of his very first book Francis must now navigate the perils and pitfalls of public authorship himself – including excruciating radio interviews, readings, events. But he still doesn’t have any money and is living in a garage. Luckily, his wonderful publishers manage to secure him a gig: as Writer in Residence at the University of Greenwich! So when can he move in? There’s so much to do – not only does Francis have to help organise a new literary festival, teach classes, hide the fact that he’s squatting in his office, keep on attending (and now appearing) at author talks – but he’s expected to write his very own campus novel as well. Which is strange because his first book wasn’t even fiction…
The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes
(Myriad, 9781912408030, h/b, £14.99)
A Victorian crime novel based on the real life murder of a young woman, told from the viewpoints of the main suspects.
On 7th November 1843 Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered behind the chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant. Drawing on coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead.
What Was Lost by Jean Levy
(Dome Press, 9781999855963, p/b, £8.99)
Sarah is found, near death, on a beach miles from her London home with no memory of her life past the age of seven. Now she’s part of a medical experiment to see whether her past can be retrieved…
But bad things seemed to have happened before she disappeared. The police are interested in her hidden memories too. A nice man she meets in the supermarket appears to have her best interests at heart. He seems to understand her – almost as if he knows her… As she fights to regain her memories and her sense of self, it is clear that people are hiding things from her. Who are they protecting? Does Sarah really want the truth?
The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser
(Text, 9781925240269, p/b, £10.99)
Decades after his grandparents survived the Holocaust, Bram Presser embarks on a quest to find the truth behind the stories his family built around these remarkable survivors.
Deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Jakub Rand is forced to sort through Jewish books for a so-called Museum of the Extinct Race. Hidden among the rare texts is a tattered prayer book, hollow inside, containing a small pile of dirt. Meanwhile Frantiska Roubickova contemplates her failed marriage, despairing of her conversion to Judaism. When the Nazis summon her two eldest daughters for transport, she must sacrifice everything to save them.
Babylon by Yasmina Reza; translated by Linda Asher
(Seven Stories Press, 9781609808327, h/b, £16.99)
This literary novel about a murder straddles the line between the tragic and the absurd – from the author of the award-winning plays Art and God of Carnage.
Elisabeth, a pensive, memory-laden science professional in a long and tender marriage, has barely befriended their touching younger neighbour when in a fit of blind pain over a scornful scolding the man kills his beloved and appealing wife. Elisabeth is drawn, out of sympathy, to help her friend cover up his crime. Her account of her unaccountable impulse moves into a quick-moving, canny police procedural – humour and sorrow, life. An absorbing tale from the skilled hand of playwright/novelist Yasmina Reza.
Eight Ghosts by Janette Winterson, Mark Haddon, Andrew Michael Hurley, Sarah Perry, Stuart Evers, Kate Clanchy, Kamila Shamsie, and Max Porter
(September Publishing, 9781910463864, p/b, £8.99)
Rooted in place, slipping between worlds – a rich collection of unnerving ghosts and sinister histories by some of the UK’s finest authors.
Eight authors were given the freedom of their chosen English Heritage site, from medieval castles to a Cold War nuclear bunker. Immersed in the past and chilled by rumours of hauntings, they channelled their darker imaginings into a series of extraordinary new ghost stories. Now available in paperback.