Have you visited your local bookshop yet? With brick and mortar stores once again throwing open their doors, there really isn’t a better time to support independent bookstores. And we’ve got a truly fantastic selection of fiction this month to add to your shopping list. From exciting literary debuts to exquisite queer storytelling, here’s what to look out for in May.
Insignificance by James Clammer
(Galley Beggar Press, 9781913111069, p/b, £9.99)
The first adult fiction title from Carnegie Medal longlistee James Clammer.
Joseph is trying to focus on a plumbing job he is doing for his wife’s friend, but is distracted by the terrible things that have been happening within his family. Joseph believes that his son has tried to kill his wife. Joseph is afraid he will do so again. Joseph is also terrified that his wife is going to leave him – and that he himself may not even get through the day. Insignificance, James Clammer’s first novel for adults, unfurls over the course of a single day. Placing the reader right inside the head of its struggling narrator, it works double-time, both as an act of empathy – a taste of the uncertainty and awkwardness of one vulnerable man, and his relationship with the world – and also as a tense, emotional and gripping drama.
The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story edited by John Freeman
(Penguin Press, 9781984877802, p/b, £20.00)
A selection of the best contemporary American short fiction from 1970 to 2020
A treasure for readers and teachers alike, this anthology culls together a half-century of powerful American short stories from all genres, including for the first time in a literary anthology, science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Writers like Ursula Le Guin, Ken Liu and Stephen King are placed next to some of the often-taught geniuses of the form – Grace Paley, Toni Cade Bambara, Sandra Cisneros, and Denis Johnson
In the Shadow of the Phosphorous Dawn by Rob True
(Influx Press, 9781910312711, p/b, £8.99)
A raw, brilliant debut novel operating at the bleeding edge of crime and psychedelic horror.
Carl, reeling from the death of his brother, is drowning in visions. Followed by shadow men through the crumbling outer regions of the city. Unable to trust those closest to him. Doubting his own reality. As a wave of brutal, ritualistic gangland killings sweeps through the underworld, Carl’s involvement with a life he thought he had left behind catches up with him, with terrifying results.
100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell
(Cipher Press, 9781916355378, p/b, £9.99)
An irreverent, sensitive, and inimitable look at messy queer love through the eyes of a cult hero.
Transgressive, foulmouthed, and wildly funny 100 Boyfriends is a filthy, unforgettable, and brutally profound ode to messy queer love. From one-night stands to recurring lovers, Brontez Purnell’s characters expose themselves to racist neighbours, date Satanists, and drink their way out of trouble, all the while fighting – and often losing – the urge to self-sabotage. Drawing us into a community of glorious misfits living on the margins of a white supremacist, heteronormative society, Purnell gives us an uncompromising vision of desire, desperation, race, loneliness, and queerness.
Arcadia by Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, trans. by Ruth Diver
(Seven Stories Press, 9780995580749, p/b, £12.99)
Farah moves into Liberty House at the tender age of thirteen, with her family. The commune’s spiritual leader, Arcady, preaches equality, non-violence, anti-speciesism, free love and uninhibited desire for all, regardless of gender, age, looks or ability. In this utopian “quiet zone,” far from access to technology, Farah goes through puberty as a transgender transition. Upon discovering they are intersex, Farah begins to question what it means to be a woman or a man, and all the principles those within and outside the confraternity live by and grows empowered to create a better world.
The Bread The Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408993, p/b, £8.99)
A domestic noir of sex and survival set in Trinidad’s capital.
Alethea Lopez is about to turn 40. Fashionable, feisty and fiercely independent, she manages a boutique in Port of Spain, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. When she witnesses a woman murdered by a jealous lover, the reality of her own future comes a little too close to home. Bringing us her truth in an arresting, unsparing Trinidadian voice, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand the person she has become. Her next step is to decide the woman she wants to be.
Leda and the Swan by Anna Caritj
(Riverhead, 9780525540144, h/b, £19.99)
In a hothouse of collegiate sex and ambition, one young woman mysteriously disappears after a wild campus party, and another becomes obsessed with finding her.
After a booze-fuelled Halloween party on an East Coast college campus, Leda wakes up in Ian’s room, unsure exactly what happened between them. Meanwhile, the young woman that Leda last spoke to upon leaving the party is now missing. As the campus rouses itself to respond to Charlotte’s disappearance, rumours swirl, suspicious facts pile up, and Leda’s obsession with her missing classmate grows. As Leda becomes more and more dangerously consumed with the mystery of Charlotte and questions about Ian, her motivations begin to blur. Is Leda looking for Charlotte, or trying to find herself?
Voice of the Fire: 25th Anniversary Edition by Alan Moore
(Knockabout, 9780861662876, p/b, £10.99)
The precursor to Alan Moore’s magnum opus, Jerusalem.
In a story full of lust, madness, and ecstasy, we meet twelve distinctive characters that lived in the same region of central England over the span of six thousand years. Their narratives are woven together in patterns of recurring events, strange traditions, and uncanny visions. Each interconnected tale traces a path in a journey of discovery of the secrets of the land.
The High-Rise Diver by Julia von Lucadou & Sharmila Cohen
(World Editions, 9781912987160, p/b, £12.99)
Big Sister is watching you.
Riva is a “high-rise diver,” a top athlete with millions of fans, and a perfectly functioning human on all levels. Suddenly she rebels, breaking her contract and refusing to train. Cameras are everywhere in her world, but she doesn’t know her every move is being watched by Hitomi, the psychologist tasked with reining Riva back in. Unquestionably loyal to the system, Hitomi’s own life is at stake: should she fail to deliver, she will be banned to the “peripheries,” the filthy outskirts of society.
Man Hating Psycho by Iphgenia Baal
(Influx Press, 9781910312797, p/b, £9.99)
A caustic new collection of stories from visionary writer Iphgenia Baal.
Interrogating the disconnect between our public identities and real-life selves, Baal exposes the inherent duplicity of online communication. With black and disquieting humour, thirteen playful texts disparage the highly profitable superstitions that are the scaffolding of our current social order. Man Hating Psycho lays bare the trappings of modern life, whilst putting the short story form through a literary mincer.
As bookshops across the UK re-open, they need your help to stay afloat.