Well, you never know what you’re going to find in the mail here at BookPage.
Yesterday I came across A Trace of Smoke (Forge), whose jacket photograph of a rainy nighttime street scene with German-language signage and an U-bahn entrance drew me in at first glance.
In this debut novel by Rebecca Cantrell, crime reporter Hannah Vogel tries to solve the mystery of her brother’s death, hold onto her job and maybe fall in love—all while keeping a low profile. It’s Berlin, 1931, and you know what that means. To makes things even trickier, Hannah has loaned her identity papers to a Jewish friend trying to emigrate to the U.S.
Too bad I didn’t have this book this past (very rainy) weekend; I would have curled up with it, neglecting my other reading duties.
Ah, time for full disclosure: Becky Cantrell—sorry, that’s Rebecca Cantrell—was my roommate for a year at Carnegie Mellon University. She doesn’t know that I later won a fellowship to Germany, spent a year in Berlin and became fairly proficient in German (uh, don't test me on that, I'm rather rusty).
Becky went to high school in Berlin, and also studied there in college. She captures the essence of that fascinating city in her new book, while also creating a well-written period piece set in the last days of the Weimar Republic.
A Trace of Smoke pubs May 12.
Note to publishers: Last I heard, London was only a 6-hour plane ride from New York City. And Canada? Even closer. So why do US fans have to wait nearly six months for A.S. Byatt's new novel, The Children's Book, which was published in the UK and Canada on April 21?
Set during the idealistic epoch before the Great War, The Children's Book is already being described as "a tour de force" "panoramic" and "a rich, sprawling chronicle" by various Canadian and British news outlets. What a shame that the US media won't get a chance to weigh in until October 6, Knopf's current publication date for the book. Sure, Byatt is your typical big-name literary fall release, but to really build momentum for a novel, wouldn't it be better if all the English-speaking media* were talking about it at once? (And for the record, I would have loved to take this one to the beach. The movie industry seems to have figured out that fall isn't the only time a serious film can do well—publishers should give it a try.)
The Internet doesn't differentiate between countries, and books are often impulse buys. By October, we might not remember that this is the same novel The Guardian called Byatt's Middlemarch, or we might have added too many other books to our reading lists—or we might have already ordered a copy from an overseas retailer. Guess Knopf is willing to roll the dice, but this type of arbitrary, disconnected publication schedule only makes books seem more archaic than most people already think they are.
Lucky Canadian blogger Crooked House has an excerpt.
*Australian release date is May 15 and New Zealand's was May 1, according to their Random House websites.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a recent release from Quirk Books, is just the latest in a long line of riffs, adaptations and yes, parodies, of Jane Austen's novels—though it is the first to pit her beloved characters against a supernatural enemy.
Taking its success as proof that the publishing world must be in want of a few more Austen/supernatural mash-ups, there are at least two more in the works. Instead of adding to a classic, though, both authors have chosen to give Jane herself a starring role.
Today's Publisher's Lunch listed the sale of "Janet Mullany's The Immortal Jane Austen, a humorous novel about Jane Austen in Regency England who joins the vampire resistance in Bath when England is invaded by French forces," to Harper/Avon editor May Chen.
And the Washington Post announced that 2010 will see the publication of Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford (Random House), the first in an intended three-book series that casts Jane as a vampire bookstore owner (can you hear those cash registers ringing?).
In case you thought the diehard Janeites were the ones to be won over in this meeting of the genres, consider this: not all zombie fans have a taste for 19th-century literature. As demonstrated in this comment from the horror novel discussion site Shocklines, "So far I'm not tempted to slog through the other 80% of the book in order to enjoy the zombies." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow had the same problem. "I found myself skimming, skipping larger and larger chunks of text to get to the zombie sequences, desperate to escape the claustrophobic drawing-room chatter of Austen's characters with a little beheading, disemboweling and derring-do."
New York's gaggle of gossipistas has been all a twitter (figuratively and literally) about Michael Gross' latest exposé of the Big Apple's super-wealthy social glitterati. In Rogue's Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum (Broadway), on sale tomorrow, Gross does his damnedest to out as many "secrets" and secret-sharers as he can. His social scalpel sharpened, he set out to uncover the ugly, but alluring, underbelly of the cash-fueled power politics of the art world, with its elite egotists ever-battling for prominence. He maintains that "ever since its founding, the Metropolitan has bred arrogance, hauteur, hubris, vanity and even madness." And he goes on to say that the Metropolitan is "a huge alchemical experiment, turning the worst of man's attributes — extravagance, lust, gluttony, acquisitiveness, envy, avarice, greed, egotism, and pride — into the very best, transmuting deadly sins into priceless treasure."
Real dirt is dished all the way through, but the second half of the book, dealing with the living and the not-long-departed—Thomas Hoving, Annette de la Renta, her mother Jane Engelhard, Brooke Astor and Diana Vreeland are among the skewered luminaries--has the juiciest bits that titillate and tantalize. Not everyone was thrilled to talk to Gross. The Met's soon-to-retire leader, the ultra-elegant Philippe de Montebello, zipped his lip and told his staff, from curators to janitors, to zip theirs (a friend of mine had the pleasure of hanging up on Gross when barraged with inappropriate questions). In his acknowledgments, Gross thanks all the fearful folks who talked to him under the cloak of anonymity, to "protect their livelihoods or their social positions." Undeniably fun, Rogue's Gallery is a hefty (over 500 pages), detailed guilty pleasure that's hard to put down.
Hey, Audrey Hepburn would have been 80 today! There are scores of books about Hepburn, who remains as much a style icon now as when she made her big-screen debut at 24.
Two of my fave Hepburn books are:
The Audrey Hepburn Treasures (Atria) absolutely fantastic collection of photos, facsimiles of telegrams and scripts, and lots of biographical info.
Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina (Insight Editions), a collection of Life photographer Mark Shaw’s “lost” photographs.
Meanwhile, must watch something in her honor. Ah, Charade—love the Mancini score, those wild opening credits, and the combination of spoof and thriller. Where's the popcorn?
“In The Womb: Extreme Animals,” the latest episode of a popular National Geographic Channel series, premieres Sunday, May 10. Meanwhile, the companion volume to a previous episode, In the Womb: Animals, was released just a couple of weeks ago. Guess who was asked to write that book? No, not me. Just as well, I'm too squeamish for that sort of thing, which is why our review of the book will be written by someone else (look for it in an upcoming edition of BookLetters*).
It was former BookPage contributor Michael Sims that National Geographic asked to take on the project; his finished book includes many of the astounding 3-D and 4-D images shown on the television series.
Michael has displayed his quirky, multidisciplinary approach to science in books such as 2003’s Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form (Viking) and Apollo’s Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination, which was selected as one of NPR's Best Science Books of 2007.
But there’s another side to Michael, a slightly darker side that manifests itself in the crime fiction anthologies he edits. The third in the series, The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime, was released earlier this spring.
OK, full disclosure: Michael and I were once colleagues at an alt-weekly and he's the person who suggested I apply for my current position at BookPage (I think he's been forgiven for that!).
*BTW, if you're not receiving BookLetters, our enewsletters, check your library's website to see about subscribing.
The morning after her big Edgar win, Meg Gardiner (The China Lake), describes herself as "dazed and excited and sleep-deprived." Check out her blog posts and photos from the ceremony here. Who knew the Edgar statuette was so adorable?
The Mystery Writers of America were celebrating in New York City last night! In addition to hosting their annual gala to honor the winners of the Edgar Allan Poe Awards (more simply known as “The Edgars”), the WMA were celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their awards’ namesake—Edgar Allan Poe.
Here are some highlights from the 2009 awards for best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. For a complete list of results, and more information on The Edgars, click here.
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Read a BookPage interview with C.J. Box here.
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
Check out BookPage’s review of another Gardiner book.
BEST FACT CRIME
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
See our review of Paper Towns here.
BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY
In Bruges, screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Have you read any of the winning books? Who do you think was overlooked? Any predictions for the 2010 Edgar Awards?
As our national poetry month ends, the 10-year term for Britain's new poet laureate, Glasgow-born Carol Ann Duffy, begins. The 53 year old is the first woman to hold the position in its 341-year history.
Accessible yet insightful, Duffy's work has achieved best-selling status in the UK, and she was a front-runner for poet laureate in 1999 (rumor has it that she lost out to Andrew Motion only because Tony Blair was worried about a lesbian laureate alienating "Middle England"). The Guardian reports that Duffy, who was somewhat reluctant to accept the position, is donating the approximately $11,000 yearly stipend to the Poetry Society but will accept the 600 bottles of sherry that are traditionally granted to the laureate.
Maybe it's because they serve longer terms (prior to Motion's appointment, the position was for life), but it seems like British poets laureate get a lot more press than their American counterparts. Of course, we did appoint our first woman way back in 1945. But can anyone name her, or our current poet laureate (also female)? Answer is after the jump, along with a poem from Duffy.
America's first female poet laureate was Louise Bogan.
Our current poet laureate? Kay Ryan.
And a sample of Duffy's work:
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
Just got back from two (mostly) sunny weeks in L.A. where I took part in an NEA arts writing institute. One of my fellow fellows was Evelyn McDonnell, contributor to the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and The Village Voice (she was formerly a senior editor there). Evelyn has also written several books on pop music and, most recently, motherhood. I had to confess that BookPage hadn’t covered Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, and Rock ’n’ Roll (Da Capo), because, well, so many books, so little space. Now, after meeting this queen of punk-inspired fashion, I’m looking forward to reading her memoir of pop culture, motherhood and making the New York scene. If you’re looking for something other than saccharine Mother’s Day fare, you should check out Mamarama, too.