Fiction

My Pick
Kennedy, William. Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes. Viking. Oct. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780670022977. $26.95.
Here’s an unbeatable setup. Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow Kennedy, who gave us Ironweed and the rest of the great Albany Cycle, puts journalist Daniel Quinn (not of his Quinn’s Book) in the Floridita bar in 1957 Havana, where he meets Ernest Hemingway. It’s the start of something good: a novel that runs riot from Cuba (with Castro on the rise) through good reporters, bad politicians, and drug-running gangsters, to race riots in Albany as Robert Kennedy’s assassination looms. Even Bing Crosby makes an appearance. Kennedy’s first in a decade should be pretty amazing; with a six-city tour.

My Pick
Machart, Bruce. Men in the Making. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9780156034449. $24.
Having made his mark last year with the lacerating debut novel The Wake of Forgiveness, Machart returns with a collection of short stories‚ not a surprising move, since, as Houghton Harcourt editor Adrienne Brodeur explains, she first discovered Machart when she was editor-in-chief of Zoetrope and published one of his stories. In these pieces you’ll meet guys who drive trucks and labor on farms and in factories and hospitals, always struggling with the sense of what it means to be a man and wondering whether they will come up short. Wake was a gasper, and I’m expecting the same here. With a reading group guide.

Banks, Russell. Lost Memory of Skin. Ecco: HarperCollins. Oct. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780061857638. $25.99. lrg. prnt.
Out on probation after having been convicted of having sex with an underage girl, a young man known only as the Kid ends up camping under a causeway with other sex offenders. Therebanks Fiction he meets the Professor, a university sociologist doing a little research. Since the author of The Sweet Hereafter never writes easy-answer novels, you can bet that the relationship between these two characters will be morally tough and ambiguous. Lots of in-house enthusiasm, as evidenced by the 50,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, and upon request.

Black. Lisa. Defensive Wounds: A Novel of Suspense. Morrow. Oct. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780061989414. $24.99. lrg. prnt.
In Black’s latest, Cleveland forensic scientist Theresa MacLean is called to New York, where criminal defense attorneys attending a convention at New York’s Ritz-Carlton are meeting with unpleasant deaths. Black has done nicely if not spectacularly with her previous thrillers, but as a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and a latent finger print examiner in Florida, she does bring distinctive skills to the thriller writer’s job. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Bohjalian, Chris. The Night Strangers. Crown. Oct. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780307394996. $25.
Bohjalian goes ghostly in his latest, featuring married couple Chip and Emily Linton, who seek escape by buying a crumbly Victorian in New Hampshire. In the basement there’s a mysterious door sealed by 39 bolts‚ 39 being exactly the number of passengers who died when pilot Chip was forced to land his 70-seat regional jet on Lake Champlain. (Yes, the narrative references Sully Sullenberger’s Miracle on the Hudson, which Chip fails to replicate.) Soon Chip is haunted (literally) by the dead passengers, even as some spooky women in town express interest in the Linton children. Rather a departure for the issues-loving Bohjalian, so I am especially interested to see how it will unfold. With a reading group guide.

Cutter, Kimberly. The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780547427522. $26.
You know the story: in the 1400s, as the Hundred Years’ War marches on, a French peasant girl sees a light, hears a voice, and mounts a horse to lead thousands of her countrymen against the English. Written in contemporary language without medieval fuss and flourish, this first novel by a contributing editor at Marie Claire is getting a big send-off. With a reading group guide.

de los Santos, Marisa. Falling Together. Morrow. Oct. 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780061670879. $25.99. lrg. prnt.
Pen, Will, and Cat become firm friends in college but have that inevitable falling out and go their separate ways. Not so long after graduation, single-mom Pen gets a frantic email plea from Will, begging her to come to a class reunion. There, the three friends meet, greet, and go on a journey that will change them forever. Okay, you’ve heard the plot before, but bear in mind that books by de los Santos are big best sellers, and Belong to Me won the ALA Reading List Award for Women’s Fiction. With author appearances in Columbus (OH), New Canaan, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Wilmington (DE); a 250,000-copy first printing and a reading group guide.

McMahon, Neil. L.A. Mental: A Thriller. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780061340789. $24.99. lrg. prnt.; eISBN 9780062091772.
For psychologist Tom Crandall, L.A. is going mental. Drugged out and suicidal (he nearly jumped off a cliff), Tom’s brother, Nick, is blackmailing family members, including another brother, Paul, who’s financing a film by shadowy company Parallax. Tom investigates and discovers that there’s more to Parallax than moviemaking. Coauthor of James Patterson’s new Toys and author of numerous mysteries, McMahon is looking to break out with a big, bright thriller. Watch what happens; the Bouchercon and Thrillerfest promotions will help. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Oz, Amos. Scenes from a Village Life. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780547483368. $22.
Odd happenings in Tel Ilan. The mayor’s wife vanishes, an old man thinks he hears digging in the night, but so does the young Arab tenant he initially suspected. Renowned Israeli author Oz portrays a town of swank art galleries and abandoned buildings in a novel-in-stories that isn’t just about Israel. Don’t restrict to fiction-in-translation readers.

Pratchett, Terry. Snuff. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780062011848. $25.99.
Never mind that Commander Sam Vimes is on vacation, this is Discworld, where wild adventure is sure to intervene. With more than 65 million copies of Discworld titles out there somewhere, you can bet there will be interest. Lots of promotion, including a focused library campaign and a talk-up at this July’s Discworld Convention in Madison, WI.

Saramago, José. Cain. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780547419893. $24.
Nobel prize winner Saramago’s final book (he died last year) reimagines the Old sara FictionTestament story of Cain. This Cain moves through time from the story of Abraham and Isaac to Noah’s Flood, forever meeting and greeting an unjust God. For all literati; too bad it’s the end.

T.I. with David Ritz. Power & Beauty: A Love Story of Life on the Streets. Morrow. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780062067654. $23.99; eISBN 9780062067678.
Power is Paul Clay, Beauty is Tanya Long, and they’re teenagers in love. But when Power’s mom, who cared for them both, dies suddenly, Power and Beauty end up with a guardian named Slim who drags Power into Atlanta’s underworld and has bad plans for Beauty as well. The kids are driven apart, but for how long? Written by Grammy Award‚ winning hip-hop star and actor T.I., who draws on his experiences as a drug dealer in Atlanta, this is a big street lit debut. With a 125,000-copy first printing.

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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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