Fiction

Baker, Nicholson. House of Holes: A Book of Raunch. S. & S. Aug. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9781439189511. $25; eISBN 9781439189535.
After 2008′s nonfiction Human Smoke and 2009′s The Anthologist, about a poet soured on life, Baker returns to the fruitful territory of his edgily erotic Vox and The Fermata‚ both big best sellers for Baker. This one, about a world in which every carnal desire imagined can be easily satisfied, is billed as a modern-day Hieronymus Boschian bacchanal. Now you know! I’m probably too modest to read this, but it will have lots of takers.

Box, C.J. Back of Beyond. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780312365745. $25.99. CD: Macmillan.
After his AA sponsor is found burned to a crisp in a desolate cabin, cop Cody Hoyt sees evidence of foul play and starts hunting for the killer. Clues point to an outfitter who conducts tourists on horseback through Yellowstone National Park. Alas, Hoyt’s son Justin is on a trip with the suspect right now. With this stand-alone, Box takes a break from his best-selling Joe Pickett novels, but as he’s won Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, Barry, and Prix Calibre 39 awards, you should still be thinking multiples.

Collins, Max Allan. Bye Bye, Baby. Forge: Tor. Aug. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780765321794. $24.99.
Threatened with firing by Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn Monroe hires P.I. Nate Heller to tap her phone so that she will have a record of all her calls. That’s when he realizes that everyone‚ the CIA, the FBI, the Soviets, the Mafia, the Kennedys‚ is interested in Marilyn. When she ends up dead of an overdose, Heller feels obliged to investigate. This is the first new Nate Heller novel in a decade (two previous Heller titles have won Shamuses) and should be of interest to both mystery and Marilyn fans.

Doetsch, Richard. Untitled. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781416598985. $25; eISBN 9781439109670.
In the fourth Thieves thriller, retired thief Michael St. Pierre ends up in China with ex-girlfriend KC Ryan, each charged by a U.S. army colonel with stealing a near-mystical artifact that could help solve a 500-year-old mystery. As they battle Chinese triads and female assassins, they discover that the really important thing to find is an ancient diary with reputedly extraordinary powers. Sounds juicy; remember that the author is also responsible for the striking The 13th Hour.

Francis, Felix. Dick Francis’s Gamble. Putnam. Aug. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780399157479. $24.95.
Like father, like son: Francis continues his father’s franchise with this mystery starring Nicholas Foxy Foxton, a former jockey whose racing days were cut short by injury. Foxy is at the racetrack when buddy Herb Novak is killed execution style before his very eyes. Now he’s worried. Was there something dark and hidden about his friend? Or the high-risk investment firm for which they both served as advisers? Buy where Francis has been popular.

Hearst, Dorothy. Secrets of the Wolves. S. & S. Aug. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781416570004. $24; eISBN 9781416570226.
Pushed back from January and originally featured in Prepub Exploded, 7/14/10, this follow-up to Hearst’s debut, Promise of the Wolves, features a young female wolf that must lead a pack destined to live among humans for a year and teach them a few important things. Based on new scientific data suggesting that wolves (and then dogs) coevolved with humans. Go, wolves!

My Pick
Horrocks, Caitlin. This Is Not Your City: Stories. Sarabande. Jul. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9781932511918. pap. $15.95.
This may not be the biggest book on the fiction list, but it really intrigues me. Horrocks recently won the $10,000city Fiction Plimpton Prize, given each year by the Paris Review for the best work by an emerging writer to appear in its pages, and she showed up in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 as well. Judging from a few pieces, her writing is forthright and unfussy but with unsettling little twists and shadows: a woman on a cruise ship held by pirates writes postcards her disabled son will never read, for instance, while a grandpa visiting the zoo with his daughter and her son is clearly no sweetheart. Read if you want to know who’s coming.

Jones, Darynda. Second Grave on the Left. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780312360818. $21.99. CD: Macmillan Audio.
As we learned in First Grave on the Right, winner in manuscript of the 2009 Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance, P.I. Charley Davidson has an unusual sideline. She works part-time as a grim reaper, escorting the recently deceased upward. Here, she tracks down a missing woman while contending with love-interest Reyes, who happens to be the son of Satan and who’s currently left his body behind. Seems that he’d like to avoid being tortured by demons wanting to use him to get to Charley, whom they see as a stepping stone to heaven. First Grave got some nice reviews, and this is getting a nice push, so listen up for fans who like fantasy, romance, and a bit of humor.

Kenyon, Sherrilyn. Retribution. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780312546595. $25.99.
When hired gun Jess Brady is killed, he’s brought back by a Greek goddess as a Dark-Hunter, sworn to protect humans. Now he’s up against Abigail Yager, who has been raised by Dark-Hunter-hating vampires after being orphaned and who is out for vengeance, convinced that Brady killed her family. In fact, she looks rather like the person who killed him initially. Kenyon has claimed the top spot on the New York Times best sellers list 12 times in only the past two years. With a one-day laydown on August 2 and a national tour; obviously, buy multiples.

Krueger, William Kent. Northwest Angle. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781439153956. $25; eISBN 9781439172162.
Star of a series that includes the recent best-selling Vermilion Drift, Cork O’Connor is enjoying a houseboat vacation with his daughter on Lake of the Woods when a violent storm forces them to seek shelter on an island. There they discover the body of a teenage girl and a baby boy who’s alive, if whimpering. Soon someone or something is chasing them to a remote area called Northwest Angle, where they can trust no one. Dependably scary stuff from award winner Krueger.

McCrumb, Sharyn. The Ballad of Tom Dooley. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780312558178. $24.99.
In the late 1860s, former Confederate soldier Tom Dula was tried, convicted, and executed for the murder of his fiancée, Lucy Foster. He steadfastly denied his guilt, and there is evidence that Ann Melton, Dula’s former lover, who had married, was either an accomplice or the actual killer. The story has become a legend, a song (performed memorably by the Kingston Trio, with a name change for Dula), and now a work of fiction. Author of the ballad novels, which celebrate Appalachian culture, McCrumb has ongoing appeal.

Marx, Patricia. Starting from Happy. Scribner. Aug. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781439101285. $24; eISBN 9781439109953.
Rumor has it that this book starts from funny, and since the author is a former Saturday Night Live writer and Thurber Prize for Humor finalist, that’s probably true. But as the story concerns the ups and downs of modern love, it will have its dark side, too. Imogene Gilfeather and Wally Yez (already that’s chuckly) meet at a party over apple pie, discover shared interests (e.g., mechanical pencils), and go on to marry or not in a series of short, short chapters just right for a time when communication proceeds by text and Twitter. A good bet.

Patton, Lisa. Yankee Doodle Dixie. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780312556938. $24.99.
Having turned heads with her debut, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Patton here continues the story of spunky Southern gal Leelee Satterfield. She’s home from Vermont, a single mom pining for the Yankee heartthrob she left behind, and spilling her tears out to her friends but still planning to open another restaurant. Fun women’s fiction; with a reading group guide.

Perrotta, Tom. The Leftovers. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780312358341. $25.99.
No, not dinner; the leftovers are the folks who didn’t depart when a Rapture-like event empties cushy suburban Mapleton of 100 people. The leftovers are feeling pretty abandoned, and the new mayor is trying to help them get over it, but his wife has joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant, his son is following a prophet named Holy Wayne, and his daughter is not exactly her sweet, happy self. Perrotta excels at nailing the angst of Middle America, so this should be good.

Reichs, Kathy. Flash and Bones. Scribner. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781439102411. $26.99; eISBN 9781439112809. CD: S. & S. Audio.
Reichs goes for her 14th best seller with a thriller that opens at a speedway near Charlotte. A body is found in a container of asphalt, and shortly thereafter a NASCAR crew member tells forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan that his sister‚ a high school senior and aspiring race car driver‚ had disappeared 12 years ago with her boyfriend, Cale. Since Cale associated with Far Right wingers, the FBI had become involved‚ and then jumped back. What’s going on? All thriller readers will want to know. With a six-city tour to Charleston, Charlotte, Houston, Nashville, New York, and Phoenix.

Richie, Nicole. Untitled. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781439166178. $24.99; eISBN 9781439166178.
I can’t tell you anything about Richie’s third novel, following The Truth About Diamonds and Priceless, except that it will be in demand by the celebrity conscious.

Swann, Maxine. The Foreigners. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9781594488306. $25.95.
Swann, who won a passel of prizes for the story she expanded into the novel Flower Children, which in turn won some strong reviews and four stars from People, offers a new novel set in Buenos Aires. Three women open up like flowers in response to the city’s sensuality and heat. Well worth checking, given Swann’s reputation.

Swerling, Beverly. City of Promise: A Novel of the Gilded Age. S. & S. Aug. 2011. 480p. ISBN 9781439136942. $26; eISBN 9781439156704.
The city in question is New York, where gleaming buildings like Grand Central Depot began rising after the Civil War. Among the characters painted onto this broad canvas are real-estate tycoon Joshua Turner; his wife, Mollie, who was raised in a bordello; Dr. Simon Turner; and his sister Goldie, whose secret romance reawakens the family’s generations-old obsession with a mysterious diamond. Swerling is a rising star in the historical fiction firmament, so look out for this one.

Vaughn, Carrie. Kitty’s Greatest Hits. Tor. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780765326966. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9780765329578. $14.99.
Kitty Norville is a werewolf, a radio talk-show host, and the star of nine best-selling fantasy titles (including June’s Kitty’s Big Trouble). Here, in a nice twist, is a collection of stories that give us insight into Kitty and some of her supernatural friends; two are new, including a novella that tells us everything we ever wanted to know about key character Cormac.

Whitehouse, David. Bed. Scribner. Aug. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9781451614220. $27.99.
The first winner of a new contest for unpublished manuscripts, launched with considerable noise at the London Book Fair and called, cheekily, To Hell with Prizes, this first book by journalist Whitehouse features a disgruntled 25-year-old who decides to go to bed‚ forever. The consequences for his family over three decades are chronicled by his younger brother, who declares at one point Mal’s death was the only thing that could save this family because his life has been the only thing that could destroy it. A glimpse suggests that the whole is darkly funny yet philosophical in perhaps a Martin Amis-ish sort of way. Watch for your engaged readers.

Winslow, Don. The Gentlemen’s Hour. S. & S. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781439183397. $25; eISBN 9781439183410.
The Dawn Patrol? No, it’s not a bunch of World War II aces in that film starring Errol Flynn but a dedicated band of California surfers whose number includes P.I. Boone Daniels. (It’s also the name of Winslow’s successful 2008 thriller.) Now Daniels is in trouble with his fellow surfers because he agrees to help a young man accused of murdering a local surfing legend. Already published in the UK, this title was a 2010 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger finalist. Thriller readers should clamor.

Young, Thomas W. Silent Enemy. Putnam. Aug. 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780399157790. $25.95.
Young follows up last year’s nicely received debut, The Mullah’s Storm, with a second thriller drawing on his experiences with the Air National Guard in Afghanistan and Iraq. After a jihadist strike at the Afghan National Police training center, the wounded are loaded aboard a C-5 Galaxy and take off for Germany. Then the captain discovers that there’s a bomb aboard that will go off if they descend. Don’t read while flying but otherwise investigate for techno thriller fans.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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