Fiction Previews, August 2012, Pt. 1: Amis, Robards, Fesperman, Schlink

Amis, Martin. Lionel Asbo: The State of England. Knopf. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780307958082. $26.95; eISBN 9780307958099. LITERARY
Self-named after England’s notorious Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, thuggish Lionel Asbo aims to persuade daydreamy nephew Desmond Pepperdine to drop the books and get interested in pit bulls, porn, and the like. Desmond resists, but things get infinitely more complicated when Lionel wins the lottery and hires a public relations firm. Lionel remains almost honorably true to his nasty self, and one can expect Amis to remain true to his own arch and acidulous vision. But the publisher hints that this book could be a commercial breakout for the author of London Fields, who will be living in New York at the time of publication and will be around to promote. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Dilloway, Margaret. The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns. Putnam. Aug. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780399157752. $25.95. POP FICTION
Gal Garner distracts herself from the high school biology class she teaches and the rigors of kidney disease (though she’s only 36) by cultivating roses, which she carefully cross-pollinates with the hope of winning Queen of Show in competition. Then her teenage niece, daughter of her estranged sister, arrives without warning and upends everything. Not an uncommon plot, but there’s lots of enthusiasm for this second novel, with a special emphasis on book-club promotion, and Dilloway’s affecting How To Be an American Housewife won strong reviews (including four stars from People).

Fesperman, Dan. The Double Game. Knopf. Aug. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780307700131. $26.95; eISBN 9780307960900. THRILLER
Winner of a couple of daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association, plus the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers, Fesperman knows the spy genre well enough to introduce echoes of John le Carré, Len Deighton, and others into his newest thriller. No word yet on plot‚ this just dropped into the schedule‚ but settings in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest suggest dark glamour and events rooted in the Cold War legacy of World War II.

Griffin, W.E.B. & William E. Butterworth IV. The Spymasters: A Men at War Novel. Putnam. Aug. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399157516. $26.95. THRILLER
Bad news: with Operation Overlord and the Manhattan Project hanging in the balance, someone is feeding secrets to the Soviets. Obviously, FDR turns to OSS top spy Wild Bill Donovan for help. After 2007’s The Double Agents, not the strongest Men at War novel, the series seems to have needed a breather. Now it’s back; check this one out for fans.

Robards, Karen. The Last Victim. Ballantine. Aug. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780345535405. $26; eISBN 9780345535443. PARANORMAL ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
The Boardwalk Killer is back, having destroyed two vacationing families in Virginia Beach, and FBI agents Ryan Sinclair and Buzz Crane turn to Dr. Charlotte Stone for expert advice. Aside from her clinical knowledge, she was the only person to have survived his killing spree 15 years ago. Switching publishers to start a new series, Robards stays the course with romantic suspense but evidently adds some paranormal aspects I haven’t yet gleaned. Comparisons are to Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan trilogy and to Jayne Anne Krentz’s Arcane Society and Dark Legacy series.

Schlink, Bernhard. Summer Lies. Pantheon. Aug. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780307907264. $24.95; eISBN 9780307907295. STORIES
Author of The Reader, a mega-best-selling novel worldwide, Schlink triumphs in short fiction as well. It’s thrilling to hear that he’s back with a new collection over a decade after the compact, insightful Flights of Love. That collection dealt with love in all its twistedness (e.g., an East German husband informs on his wife as a way to protect her), so you can imagine how he deals with lies.

Shreve, Susan Richards. You Are the Love of My Life. Norton. Aug. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780393082807. $25.95. POP FICTION
It’s the Watergate era, and Lucy Painter is as secretive as the Nixon administration. A book illustrator and single mother of two who’s just moved into the Washington, DC, home where she grew up, she won’t tell her children about their father (a married man) or about her own father’s suicide. The author of 12 novels, including the recent A Student of Living Things, as well as many children’s books, PEN/Faulkner cochair Shreve does nicely with intimate stories connected to larger issues. Look for the reading group guide.

Watkins, Claire Vaye. Battleborn: Stories. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781594488252. $25.95. STORIES
Story collections can be a hard sell in public libraries, but this one merits a good look. As she sweeps from Gold Rush to ghost town in ten stories, Watkins captures the American West, particularly her home state of Nevada, persuasively enough to have been snatched up by agent Nicole Aragi, who takes on only one new client a year. Watkins’s pieces have been published in top-drawer venues like Granta and Paris Review. And though one hopes that the personal will not overshadow the page, Watkins’s backstory‚ her father was an important member of Charles Manson’s Family‚ will spur interest and in fact features in some of her writing.

Wiesel, Elie. Hostage. Knopf. Aug. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780307599582. $25.95; eISBN 9780307958600. CD: Random Audio. LITERARY
Captured by an Arab and an Italian, blindfolded, and tied to a chair in a dark Brooklyn basement, Shaltiel Feigenberg doesn’t know why, but he’s been chosen to be exchanged for three Palestinian prisoners. To keep down his terror, he tells stories to himself and his jailers, recalling a childhood spent hiding from the Nazis (it’s now 1975), liberation by the Soviets, Sixties political unrest, and more. Nobel Peace Prize winner and novelist Wiesel will never exhaust his exploration of the Holocaust’s continuing ramifications.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.