Alright everyone, quiet down in the back there. We’ve got an awful lot of excellent fiction to get through this month – who’d have though, eh? March is brimming with new life, and with it new stories. Let’s get straight into it. Pencils at the ready.
Summer of Reckoning by Marion Brunet
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781912242269, p/b, £7.99)
A dark, luminous psychological thriller set in the south of France, rich with atmosphere and poisonous claustrophobia.
A psychological thriller set in the Luberon, a touristic French region that evokes holidays in magnificent pool-adorned villas. For those who live there year-round, it often means stifling poverty and boredom. Two teenage sisters have grown up in a world where the main distractions are hatred of Arabs and booze. When Celine, 16, discovers she is pregnant and refuses to divulge her lover’s identity, her father embarks on a mission of revenge. A dark and upsetting account of an ailing society, filled with silent and murderous rage.
Darwin’s Ghosts by Ariel Dorfman
(Seven Stories Press, 9781609809874, p/b, £12.99)
Is the sordid story behind human zoos that flourished in Europe in the nineteenth century connected somehow to a boy’s life a hundred years later?
On Fitzroy Foster’s fourteenth birthday on September 11, 1981, he receives an unexpected and unwelcome gift: when his father snaps his picture with a Polaroid, another person’s image appears in the photo. Fitzroy and his childhood sweetheart, Cam, set out on a decade-long journey in search of this stranger’s identity – and to reinstate his own – across seas and continents, into the far past and the evil and good that glint in the eyes of the elusive visitor. Seamlessly weaving together fact and fiction, Darwin’s Ghosts holds up a different light to Conrad’s “The horror! The horror!” and a different kind of answer to the urgent questions, Who are we? And what can we do about it?
A Key To Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed
(Melville House, 9781911545415, p/b, £8.99)
Follow the unusual life and wisdoms of parentless William Tyce as he shares his poignant adventures in this fictional A-Z coming-of-age compendium.
The epic adventure of William Tyce, a boy without parents, who grows up near a river in the rural Midwest. In a glossary-style list, he imparts his wisdom on subjects ranging from ASPHALT and BETTA FISH to NIHILISM. His improbable quest – to create a reference – takes him on a journey down the river by raft. He seeks to discover how his mother died and find reasons for his father’s disappearance. But as he goes about defining his changing world, all kinds of extraordinary and wonderful things happen to him. A story about keeping your own record straight and living life by a different code.
I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett
(Influx Press, 9781910312537, p/b, £9.99)
A hilarious and irresistible take on race, class and identity.
The sudden death of Not Sidney Poitier’s mother orphans him at age eleven. He is left with a name no one understands, an uncanny resemblance to an Oscar winning actor, and serious amount of shares in the Turner Corporation. Percival Everett’s novel follows Not Sidney’s tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin colour with his fabulous wealth. Maturing under the less-than watchful eye of his adopted foster father, Ted Turner, Not Sidney learns to navigate a world that doesn’t know what to do with him.
A Godawful Small Affair by J.B. Morrison
(Cherry Red, 9781909454798, p/b, £10.99)
Described as “Stranger Things comes to Brixton”, A Godawful Small Affair also includes a companion piece: Harvey King Unboxes His Family.
Consider them a double A-side single of fiction.
Fifteen-year old Zoe Love is missing without trace. While the police search the Earth for her, Zoe’s ten-year-old brother Nathan has other ideas. A year earlier, when Zoe was abducted by aliens, no one believed her. Apart from Nathan. He realises the aliens must have taken his sister again. As his father grows more and more desperate, and with his home planet in Brixton in danger of dying, Nathan decides he must get himself abducted by the same aliens, find his sister and bring her back.
The Memory by Judith Barrow
(Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 9781912905133, p/b, £8.99)
A gripping, heart-wrenching novel about mother and daughter tied together by shame, secrecy, love, and hate.
Lil and Irene are bound together by the ghost of Rose, a dark-haired girl with a snub nose and an extra chromosome. This is the story of the last 24 hours of Lil’s life, the 40 years that Irene has been an only child, and Rose’s sudden death. After a life-time of blame and lies, the truth about Rose is finally revealed and the tragedy of Irene’s lifelong devotion and her long dead grandmother’s deceit brought into the open.
Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith
(No Exit Press, 9780857303905, p/b, £12.99)
The haunting story of a tortured young man, desperate for release from the
strangle hold around his heart.
For years, Colburn has been haunted by his father’s suicide and the rapid disintegration of his childhood home. As a teenager, Colburn fled Red Bluff, Mississippi, eager to escape his trauma and start fresh elsewhere. But when he returns to town as an adult, lured by an unshakable desire, he finds that his demons have only grown larger in his absence. In Red Bluff resides both a gift and a curse: Colburn meets and falls in love, only to have that love torn from him. The mystery of his lover’s disappearance, he learns, is intertwined with that of a strange family living within the kudzu laden undergrowth of the countryside. Pulled back to his father’s house, Colburn is forced to finally confront the truth.
The Gringa by Andrew Altschul
(Melville House, 9781612198224, h/b, £20.00)
Activist or terrorist? The fate of one woman sentenced to life imprisonment unravels in this powerful and stirring novel exploring youthful idealism gone horribly awry.
It is 1998 and Leonora Gelb, a recent Stanford grad, has a world of opportunity open before her. Traveling to Peru to work for an NGO, she falls into the orbit of a Marxist guerrilla group, turning the cushy world Gelb has known on its head. After a bloody government raid, Gelb is sentenced to life in a Peruvian prison, a story that breaks headlines back home even as American media outlets are at odds to explain how she has ended up there. Ten years later, the task of finding the truth falls to Andres – an American expat on a journalistic assignment to discover the real Leonora.
Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein
(Text Publishing, 9781922268549, p/b, £9.99)
A wonderfully warm and inventive collection from an award-winning and
Puschart Prize-nominated author.
A boy and his father find music in a drowned city. A lonely twenty-something gets addicted to comfort porn. A man is given a choice to have his trauma surgically removed. A mourning daughter brings her dead mother back as a hologram – but the source material isn’t quite right. In these resonant, fantastic stories about the human thirst for connection amid rapid technological advancement, Alexander Weinstein conjures worlds like our own, but rife with the possibilities that our present timeline hasn’t led us to – yet.
Knock ’em Dead by Peter Morfoot
(Galileo Publishing, 9781912916184, p/b, £8.99)
The fourth instalment in the thrilling series about greed, corruption,
blackmail and murder.
Darac has much on his mind as the team is called to the death of an elderly man at St. Laurent rain station. The victim is identified as hard-bitten ex-comedy star Ambroise Paullaud, born locally and only recently returned to the area. Intrigue: Darac learns that the village to which Paillaud retired had pitilessly expelled his family when he was a boy. More forgiving still, his will reveals that he left his vast fortune to the village. Gradually, Darac will untie a knot of greed, corruption, blackmail and murder which exposes Paillaud’s true plan and which brings other malign forces to the surface.
She-Clown and Other Stories by Hannah Vincent
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408382, p/b, £8.99)
A collection of revelatory stories showing women trying to be themselves while clowning around for others.
These are stories told with a female gaze, showing women striving to be artists, employers, employees, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, partners, wives and girlfriends. Characters are captured in recognisable moment of real life and in occasional flights of fancy. At the centre of each story is a woman engaged in an act of self-preservation. Women in these stories are exhilarated to discover the joy and surprise of other women’s company. Their stories are witty, colourful tales of struggle and success, of yearning and learning.
On The Beach by Nevil Shute
(Text Publishing, 9781922268327, h/b, £14.99)
Nevil Shute’s gripping story of a city reeling in the wake of nuclear war finds a new home and a new look.
Set in Melbourne following a catastrophic war in the northern hemisphere, Nevil Shute’s classic is the story of a handful of survivors in the terrifying aftermath of nuclear apocalypse. First published in 1957 – and famously adapted for the screen soon after by Stanley Kramer, in a film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner – On the Beach is perhaps the greatest work of popular fiction about the end of the world.
The Janes by Louisa Luna
(Text Publishing, 9781922268495, p/b, £10.99)
Private investigator Alice Vega is back in the electrifying sequel to Louise Luna’s acclaimed thriller Two Girls Down.
On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They have no names, no IDs, and no family looking for them. Fearing a human trafficking ring, the police and FBI ask Alice Vega to find out who the Janes were – and find the other missing women. Alice Vega has a mind like a steel trap. Along with her partner Cap, she will stop at nothing to find the Janes before it is too late.