Abrams, David. Fobbit. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Sept. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780802120328. pap. $15. LITERARY/MILITARY FICTION
A number of Iraq veterans have returned home to give us fiction explaining what the war was really like (see, for instance, Kevin Powers’s forthcoming novel, The Yellow Birds; and in poetry don’t miss award winner Brian Turner). Next in line is Abrams, who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years and was deployed in Iraq as part of a public affairs team. (He was named the Department of Defense’s Military Journalist of the Year in 1994.) His debut novel is set at a Forward Operating Base, where the battle-hardened sleep between missions and everyone else has a desk job; fobbits fear fighting more than anything. Abrams’s antihero is Staff Sergeant Chance Gooding, who writes white-washed press releases. Billed as dark humor in the vein of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
Beckett, Samuel. Echo’s Bones. Grove. Sept. 2012. 128p. ISBN 9780802120458. $24. LITERARY
A new story from Beckett, one of the defining writers of the 20th century? Yes! In 1933, when Beckett was preparing for the publication of More Pricks Than Kicks, a collection of ten interrelated stories, his publisher asked for a final story to round out the collection. Having killed off the stories’ protagonist, Beckett found the writing hard going, and the piece was finally rejected for publication. Now, eight decades after he wrote it, here is Echo’s Bones‚ distinct from Beckett’s poem and collection of the same name. Mark Nixon, director of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, explains what this story has to tell us about all of Beckett’s work.
Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781592407330. $25. SELF-HELP
Quoting Theodore Roosevelt in her title, Brown urges us to throw ourselves out there and take risks‚ that is, to be vulnerable. Okay, so I’m leery of anyone called a thought leader, but since Brown’s 2010 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk has had 2.3 million views on TED.com (she was back for TED 2012) and her book The Gifts of Imperfection, the basis of a PBS special, has sold 150,000 copies, she’s clearly got followers.
Echols, Damien. Damien Echols. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780399160202. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. MEMOIR
With Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., Echols is one of the West Memphis Three‚ young men accused of killing three Arkansas boys in 1993. After a trial burdened by hearsay and public hysteria, Baldwin and Misskelley were given life sentences and Echols, considered the ringleader, was sentenced to death at age 18. In 2007, new forensic tests of crime-scene evidence found no genetic material belonging to the men, and finally they were released in August 2011. Echols here recalls a painful childhood, his teenaged outsider status, and his 18 years on death row. An attention getter; the case remains controversial, and many famous musicians and actors (Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp) have supported the West Memphis Three.
Fancher, Hampton. The Shape of the Final Dog and Other Stories. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780399158230. $25.95. SHORT STORIES
You can expect the original screenwriter for the cult classic Blade Runner to write off-the-wall, over-the-line stories, and it seems that he has. One of his characters is an escaped lab rat that bats about philosophical ideas with a wakeful man, another a failed actor reincarnated as garden snail out for revenge. Watch.
Geragos, Mark & Pat Harris. Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works . . . and Sometimes Doesn’t. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781592407729. $27. LAW
Big trials are media events, but do we really know how the justice system works? Absolutely not, say the authors, who are here to offer an insider’s look at what really happens in the courts, some of it disheartening. Since Geragos has represented the likes of Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder and Harris regularly serves as his cocounsel, this could be interesting.
Johnson, Steven. Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781594488207. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. SOCIAL SCIENCE
A best-selling author (e.g., Where Good Ideas Come From) and the guy most likely to tackle your precious assumptions, Johnson here proclaims that we’re undergoing a period of rapid political change, facilitated by the Internet but not high-tech in nature, that obviates terms like liberal and conservative. A great nonfiction title for book clubs; imagine the arguments.
Koryta, Michael. The Prophet. Little, Brown. Sept. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780316122610. $29.95. lrg. prnt. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Two brothers, one a popular high school football coach and the other a long-suffering bail bondsman, live separate lives in a small Midwestern town‚ but not for the reasons you might think. When they were teenagers, their sister was raped and murdered, and the trauma has driven them apart. Now a similar crime rocks their town, forcing the brothers together again. From a perennially rising star in the thriller firmament with a couple of nice movie deals under his belt.
LaVette, Bettye with David Ritz. A Woman Like Me. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780399159381. $26.95. MEMOIR
R&B great LaVette had a hit single as a Detroit teenager, then subsided into poverty, turning tricks in New York to survive. A tough few decades followed until her recent starburst comeback, which has included CDs, appearances on the Jay Leno and David Letterman shows, and performances at the Kennedy Center and President Obama’s inauguration. Anyone who’s worked with a rafter of stars from Cab Calloway to the Rolling Stones has got to be cool.
Lelic, Simon. The Facility. Penguin. Sept. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780143120681 pap. $15. THRILLER
Lelic has been gathering steam since the 2010 publication of his first novel, A Thousand Cuts, a Betty Trask Award winner that was also shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger Award. Here, he offers a chillingly plausible near-future Britain where antiterrorism laws allow the police to disappear anyone they choose. But when mild-mannered dentist Arthur Priestley vanished, his estranged wife swings into action.
Norfolk, Lawrence. John Saturnall’s Feast. Grove. Sept. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780802120519. $25. LITERARY
You can bet that the author of the Somerset Maugham Prize winner Lemprière’s Dictionary will serve up a lusciously detailed feast with his new novel‚ 12 years in the making. After his mother starves to death, having been driven with him from their village because she is deemed a witch, John sees her starve to death, then becomes kitchen boy at Buckland Manor. He ends up a master chef‚ but not before becoming entangled with Lady Lucretia, the lord’s daughter, for whom he must cook meals meant to break the fast she’s declared so that her father will call off her engagement to her ridiculous fiancé. Love, food, and a riveting historical setting‚ it’s the English Civil War, and Cromwell’s Roundheads are descending; essential for literate readers.
Slinkachu. Little People: The Global Model Village. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. 120p. ISBN 9780399160745. $16.95. HUMOR/ART
A pseudonymous London-based street artist, Slinkachu roams the city, setting up vignettes with hand-painted figurines for passersby to discover. His first book, Little People in the City, sold 150,000 copies in the U.K. and 11,000 copies here in an export edition. This new book features his little people in settings worldwide, from Greece, Israel, and South Africa to China, Qatar, and the United States. This is billed as humor, though I understand the vignettes can be quite poignant. An artist who’s getting hot; the publisher will use this book to push him to the U.S. media.
Smilevski, Goce. Freud’s Sister. Penguin. Sept. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780143121459. pap. $16. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature and sold to 23 countries, Macedonia-born Smilevski’s novel is all the more remarkable‚ and unsettling‚ because it’s based on fact. When Freud was granted an exit visa from Vienna in 1938 and asked to list those he would take with him, he named his entire household, including the maids and the dog, but left off his four sisters. They ended up in the Terezín concentration camp. This novel ranges over the life of Freud’s sister Adolfina, a sweet, sensitive soul who was close to her brother, dreamed of marriage, and spent time with Gustav Klimt’s sister in a psychiatric hospital. A hardcover-worthy paperback original.