July Fiction Highlights

Here we are, friends. The world is opening up again, and we’re in for a long hot summer. How are we going to fill these extra hours? With outstanding new fiction, of course.

Ways of Living by Gemma Seltzer
(Influx Press, 9781910312759, p/b, £7.99)

Contemporary short fiction in the vein of Sarah Hall, Eley Williams, and Daisy Johnson.

Andie can see no other way to escape a wedding than by hiding in a tree. Esther starts a new life in a King’s Cross hotel with a bad-tempered ventriloquist dummy, while Gina finally leaves a group of infuriating friends – but not before providing them with a suitable replacement. Ways of Living is Gemma Seltzer’s keen exploration of what it means to be a modern woman inhabiting the urban landscape. Nine stories of ordinary women going to extraordinary lengths to be understood, acting in bold and unpredictable ways as they map their identities onto London’s streets.

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The Service by Frankie Miren
(Influx Press, 9781910312872, p/b, £9.99)

Literary novel set in the controversial world of the sex-industry, written by a former sex-worker.

Lori works illegally in a rented flat in central London, living in fear of police raids which could mean losing her small daughter. Freya is a student who finds she can make more money as an escort than she could in an office. And Paula is a journalist whose long-term campaign against prostitution has brought her some strange bedfellows. After a shock change to the law, with brothels being raided by the authorities, lives across the country are fractured. As a threat from Lori’s past begins to catch up with her, the three women are increasingly, inevitably drawn into each other’s orbit.

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A Statue for Jacob by Peter Murphy
(Oldcastle Books, 9780857304179, p/b, £9.99)

A fictionalised retelling of the compelling true story of Jacob DeHaven, an unheralded hero of
the War of Independence.

Kiah Harmon, a young Virginia lawyer, is just emerging from the most traumatic time of her life when actress Sam van Eyck walks into her office, unannounced, with the case of a lifetime. She asks Kiah to recover a 200-year-old debt from the US Government – a debt that Alexander Hamilton may have acknowledged. The selfless generosity of Sam’s ancestor, Jacob Van Eyck, in making a massive loan of gold and supplies at Valley Forge, during the freezing winter of 1777-1778, may well have saved George Washington’s army, and the War of Independence, from disaster. But it reduced Jacob to ruin. Despite the government’s promises, the debt was never repaid. Two hundred years later, Sam and Kiah embark on a quest to change that.

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Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon
(The Feminist Press, 9781952177965, p/b, £15.99)

A dreamy and experimental portrait of young Black artists in the 1990s London underground scene, whose existence is threatened by the rise of state surveillance.

Twenty-something and restless, Skye flits between cities and stagnant relationships until she meets Scottie, a disarming and dishevelled British traveller, and Pieces, an enigmatic artist living in New York. The three recognise each other as kindred spirits – Black, punk, whimsical, revolutionary – and fall in together, leading Skye on an unlikely adventure across the Atlantic. They live a glorious, subterranean existence in 1990s London: making multimedia art, throwing drug-fuelled parties, and busking in Tube stations, until their existence is jeopardised by the rise of CCTV and policing.

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Transmutation by Alex DiFrancesco
(Seven Stories Press, 9781644210666, p/b, £12.99)

Transgressive, transformative short stories that explore the margins of trans lives.

A wry, and at the same time dark and risk-taking, story collection that pushes the boundaries of transgender awareness and filial bonds. Here is the hate between 16-year-old Junie, who is transitioning, and their mum’s boyfriend Chad when the family moves into Chad’s house on Lake Erie. And here is the love being tested between Sawyer and his dad, who named his boat after his child and resists changing it from Sara to Sawyer now. These stories enter lands that are violent and comfortless, testing the limits of what it means to be human, sometimes returning stronger and wiser and sometimes not returning at all.

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The Basel Killings by Hansjörg Schneider
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781913394547, p/b, £8.99, Available now)

The first novel available in English from a highly acclaimed series featuring
Police Inspector Peter Hunkeler.

It is the end of October, the northern Swiss city of Basel is grey and wet. It could be December. It is just after midnight when Hunkeler, on his way home and slightly worse for wear, spots old man Hardy sitting on a bench under a streetlight. He wants to smoke a cigarette with him, but the usually very loquacious Hardy is silent – his throat a gaping wound. Turns out he was first strangled, then his left earlobe slit, his diamond stud stolen. The media and the police come quickly to the same conclusion: Hardy’s murder was the work of a gang of Albanian drug smugglers. But for Hunkeler that seems too obvious. Hardy’s murder has much in common with the case of Barbara Amsler, a prostitute also found killed with an ear slit, and her pearl stud missing. He follows his own intuition and the trail leads him deep into a dark world of bars, bordellos and strip clubs, but also into the corrupt core of some of Basel’s political and industrial elite. More ominously, he will soon discover the consequences of certain events in recent Swiss history that those in power would prefer to keep far from the public eye.

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It’s Been A Pleasure Noni Blake by Claire Christian
(Text Publishing, 9781922330215, p/b,

A feminist, queer, sex-positive and shamelessly feel-good millennial rom-com.

Noni didn’t expect to be starting over at the age of thirty-six. But eighteen months after the end of her long-term relationship, she decides it’s time to start living her life again. While an encounter with a sexy firefighter is a welcome entry back into the dating world, Noni soon realises she’s looking for more than just a series of brief, pleasurable encounters. She’s looking for more pleasure in, well, everything. That’s how she finds herself travelling to Europe to track down the one that got away: the alluring, elusive Molly. But Europe may have other surprises in store…

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Found Audio by N.J. Campbell
(Two Dollar Radio, 9781937512576, p/b, £10.99)

A cross between Indiana Jones, Inception, and House of Leaves.

Amrapali Anna Singh is an historian and analyst capable of discerning the most cryptic and trivial details from audio recordings. One day, a mysterious man appears at her office in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, having travelled a great distance to bring her three Type IV audio cassettes that bear the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires that may or may not exist. On the cassettes is the deposition of an adventure journalist and his obsessive pursuit of an amorphous, legendary, and puzzling “City of Dreams.” The deposition also begs the question: Who is making the recording, and why?

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If anything you’ve read about on our blog catches your eye, consider ordering from your local bookshop. Find yours here. Alternatively, you can browse your favourite indies on Bookshop.org.

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