New Fiction: The Force – Don Winslow

We’re always fans of the pithy soundbite in this business and Stephen King’s is memorable: “Think The Godfather, only with cops.”

Winslow already had a career-defining bestseller with his last book, The Cartel, and I think this new one is more than a case of lightning striking twice: I think we’re looking at a writer arriving at full mastery of his craft. The plotting, the finely developed characters, and the moral ambiguity felt on level with the epic TV crime drama, The Wire. Both feel like plot-driven narrative sociologies in steroids. In the case of The Force, to say that the reader comes away with a more nuanced, conflicted sense of good and bad, heroes and villains, is an understatement.

Major media agrees: It’s been covered in a number of summer previews and we already have national review commitments and interviews scheduled in Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, Rolling Stone, the NYTBR, Washington Post, Time and WSJ, with much more to come. It also received two starred advance reviews and is an Indie Next pick.

Janet Maslin weighed in this week in the NYT calling The Force “a shattering New York cop epic about an elite task force leader who’s a hero until he’s not… [A] boisterous, profane book… [that] recalls Sidney Lumet’s great New York police films (Serpico, Prince of the City) and makes their agonies almost quaint by comparison….”

Edgar-finalist Winslow peers into the soul of modern America through the eyes of a supremely skilled and corrupt police officer, in this epic novel of devastating moral complexity. Dennis Malone, a veteran NYPD detective sergeant, leads the Manhattan North Special Task Force, an elite unit established to combat drugs, gangs, and guns. Keeping the citizens safe is often messy work and sometimes requires unorthodox methods to get results. Gradually, however, Malone and his crew have slipped over the edge, stealing millions…. As the reader discovers, Malone’s corruption is but a tiny part of a much larger system that extends into the highest reaches of New York’s power structure, where the real business is done, and everyone on the chain takes a cut. Fans of modern masters such as Don DeLillo, Richard Price, and George Pelecanos will be richly rewarded.”
—  Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“By turns grim and giddy, this is a good read in the service of dark cops.
—  Kirkus Reviews

“Winslow has created what will likely become our quintessential cop novel, looking both at what cops do right and wrong with clear-eyed realism and passionate humanity.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Force (9780062664419) by Don Winslow. $27.99 hardcover. 6/20/17 one day laydown.


More on: The Essex Serpent- Sarah Perry

Holy Moley, it’s hard to imagine a better week opening week of review attention. With stellar Washington Post, WSJ and NYT national reviews and a fascinating NPR interview, this is shaping up to be summer’s literary sleeper hit (though hard to call any book that’s already sold 250,000 copies in England a “sleeper.”)

Don’t skip the video link below to Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles’ “Totally Hip Book Review.” He does these in addition to his reviews in the paper and they are always hilarious. 🙂

“The most delightful heroine since Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice… Perry creates that delicate illusion of the best historical fiction: an authentic sense of the past — its manners, ideals and speech — that feels simultaneously distant and relevant to us…By the end, The Essex Serpent identifies a mystery far greater than some creature ‘from the illuminated margins of a manuscript’: friendship.”
Washington Post (full review)

[A] novel of almost insolent ambition — lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate. Set in the Victorian era, it’s part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. It’s wonderfully dense and serenely self-assured. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home… Perry’s writing engages the senses. You can almost smell the brine, the oyster, the ‘secretive scent of fungus clinging to the oak.’ But the real abundance here is of feelings between characters, not all of them sentimental. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in which a man and a woman quarrel quite so much, and quite so forcefully, without something devastating coming of it.”
New York Times (full review)

“Richly enjoyable… Ms. Perry writes beautifully and sometimes agreeably sharply… The Essex Serpent is a wonderfully satisfying novel. Ford Madox Ford thought the glory of the novel was its ability to make the reader think and feel at the same time. This one does just that.”
Wall Street Journal (full review)

The Essex Serpent (9780062666376) by Sarah Perry. $26.99 hardcover. 6/6/17 on sale.


Now in Paperback: News of the World – Paulette Jiles

This New York Times bestseller, National Book Award Finalist and MPIBA “Reading the West” award winner was also on many “Best of the Year” round-ups at the end of 2016. So, it should be a crowd-pleaser on the paperback tables all summer long.

The new edition also includes a P.S. section with an essay from Jiles and reading group guide. And I just heard it’s in development as a movie starring Tom Hanks. (Perfect casting!)

News of the World (9780062409218) by Paulette Jiles. $15.99 trade paper. 6/20/17 on sale.


Book of the Week: Hunger – Roxane Gay

Novelist and essayist Gay adds memoir to her considerable repertoire in this unforgettable mediation on what it means to be an “unruly body”—an obese woman in a culture that so profoundly and narrowly equates appearance with worth.

Gay broke out with 2014’s bestselling Bad Feminist, which was a best book of the year on many lists and won the 2015 PEN Center USA Freedom to Write Award, a prize given in recognition of her “important, incisive, and connective” writing as well as for tackling “tough subjects and controversial topics with a hard-edged grace and difficult honesty.”

Many memoirs have been written on being overweight–this is a take you haven’t seen. Feminist, incisive, with her trademark ability it blend cultural theory and pop culture, Hunger is a searing book you won’t soon forget.

 It’s received four starred advance reviews and is Indie Next pick. In terms of publicity, everyone wants Roxane for this one. People is running a first serial and an interview; she’ll be on The Daily Show the night before on sale and Fresh Air interview airs 6/19/17 with other interviews to appear in Elle and We can expect reviews just about everywhere and Gay is doing a major, ticketed tour with dozens of speaking dates across the country. (Check out her tour dates here.) This is one of the signature nonfiction books of the summer.

After a group of boys raped her when she was 12 years old, Gay’s world began to unravel, and she turned to overeating as a way of making her violated body into a safe ‘fortress.’… Gay shares how her weight and size shade many topics, including relationships, fashion, food, family, the medical profession, and travel (the bigger her body became, the author notes, the smaller her world became). She suffered profound shame and self-loathing, and boldly confronts society’s cruelty toward and denigration of larger individuals (particularly women), its fear of ‘unruly bodies,’ and the myth that equates happiness with thinness. This raw and graceful memoir digs deeply into what it means to be comfortable in one’s body. Gay denies that hers is a story of ‘triumph,’ but readers will be hard pressed to find a better word.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“It’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional…. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A heart-rending debut memoir from the outspoken feminist and essayist…. The author continues her healing return from brokenness and offers hope for others struggling with weight, sexual trauma, or bodily shame. An intense, unsparingly honest portrait of childhood crisis and its enduring aftermath.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Displays bravery, resilience, and naked honesty from the first to last page…. Stunning …. essential reading.”
Library Journal (starred review)

Hunger reads like a conversation with an intimate friend who generously opens a door to her world. She weaves effortlessly between deeply personal anecdotes and culture criticism that make you reexamine your perception of the world as only Gay can. Her awareness of the treatment of the female body is both accurate and powerful in that it made me recognize what I knew to be true, but couldn’t articulate for myself. The reaction I keep returning after finishing Hunger is one of gratitude towards Gay—for both allowing us the privilege to hear her story and making room for others to do the same.”
— Lindsay Crist, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“It turns out that when a wrenching past is confronted with wisdom and bravery, the outcome can be compassion and enlightenment—both for the reader who has lived through this kind of unimaginable pain, and for the reader who knows nothing of it. Roxane Gay shows us how to be decent to ourselves, and decent to one another. Hunger is an amazing achievement in more ways than I can count.”
—  Ann Patchett

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (9780062362599) by Roxane Gay. $25.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 one day laydown.

New Fiction: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. – Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Stephenson and fellow novelist Galland team up in a freewheeling fantasy where a government agent and an academic discover that magic was real but ceased to work with the advent of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. As they embark on a mission to “unjam the frequencies” that keep magic from working in the modern age, readers are treated to a rollicking scientific/historical adventure that combines Stephenson’s vision, intricacy and complexity with Galland’s pacy storytelling.

It’s a #1 Indie Next Pick and arrives with two starred advance reviews

“[An] immense and immensely entertaining genre-hopping yarn…. A departure for both authors and a pleasing combination of much appeal to fans of speculative fiction.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Quantum physics, witchcraft, and multiple groups with conflicting agendas, playfully mixed with vernacular from several centuries and a dizzying number of acronyms, create a fascinating experiment in speculation and metafiction that never loses sight of the human foibles and affections of its cast.”
Publishers Weekly

“[An] enticing speculative thriller… a complex and engaging what-if tale that blends technology and history.”
Booklist (starred review)

The authors mix together magic, witchcraft, time travel, science and historical figures, both real and imagined, all the while delightfully skewering bumbling bureaucrats, pretentious academics, a rigid military and other bastions of the establishment to produce a work that is both thought provoking and totally entertaining.”
— Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, MS

“While there are plenty of serious plot twists in The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., it’s also a surprisingly light-hearted adventure romp, with all the high-tech intrigue typical of Stephenson’s books leavened by a beautifully over-the-top premise: a mysterious government agency is investigating the disappearance of magic, which is tied to the invention of photography. Nicole Galland, who wrote the weird but enjoyable novel Stepdog, adds a dash of romance to the proceedings. Stephenson fans, as well as lovers of books like The Invisible Library or Just One Damned Thing After Another, will love The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.  Highly recommended!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (9780062409164) by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. $35.00 hardcover. 6/13/17 one day laydown.

New Fiction: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

This multicultural charmer is a perfect summer read for fans of books like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. It’s an East-meets-West story of a westernized young Punjabi women who takes a job teaching creative writing at a Sikh community center in London. The women sign up for the class think they have signed up for a literacy class but embrace the spirit of creative writing, especially when one when one brings in a book of sexy stories.

As the women share their own stories, the “literacy class” becomes more and more popular while also drawing the attention of The Brotherhood—a self-styled moral police of conservative young men. Stir in a whodunit about the death of a young wife in the community; add a dollop of romance—and you’ve got a satisfying, sexy entertainment under pinned by some serious themes.

“Jaswal’s charming debut features an engaging protagonist who longs to break free from her more traditional mother’s expectations and who is still smarting from her father’s death, but it’s the portrayal of the women in Nikki’s class that is the highlight: these women are considered invisible, but through their writing they can be seen and their desires and dreams can be acknowledged. It’s a precious gift to give, and one Nikki comes to take very seriously. Additionally, the mystery of a young girl’s death offers an interesting twist at the end. This is a sparkling read, bolstered by a few of the women’s stories sprinkled in throughout.”
Publishers Weekly

By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this novel of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Sometimes books call to you from the shelves. Jaswal’s remarkable, fiery cast of characters — her Punjabi widows of Southall, England — tell a story with a voice that is so sorely needed. The stories of people whose voices often go unheard — women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ folks — are invaluable in our nation’s fight for empathy.”
— Tara Bagnola, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (9780062645128) by Balli Kaur Jaswal. $26.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: A History of the United States in Five Crashes – Scott Nations

Smart, accessible, engaging… This narrative history of stock market crashes is likely to send you looking for a mattress to hide your money under even as you enjoy the read. Author Scott Nations’ stories of The Panic of 1907, Black Tuesday, Black Monday, The Great Recession, and The Flash Crash make for vivid reading and the author does a strong job of showing how the elements of each crash are related—and destined to keep coming.

Nations is the president of a financial firm, a regular contributor on CNBC, and personally witnessed three of the five crashes that appear in the book.

“[A] fascinating look at five major stock market crashes…. Nations observes that stock market crises mean more than just tanking investment accounts. They also stop people from investing, impacting job availability and the economy as a whole. While these failures don’t have a single cause that is easy to recognize beforehand, he asserts that all five studied here share important indicators. For one, they all had an external catalyst. He connects the Panic of 1907 to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which spurred insurance claims predominantly held by British insurers…. Nations’s focus on underlying causes is uniquely helpful given the complexities of the ever-changing and intricately connected global economy.”
—  Publishers Weekly

’Timely. … An eye-opening examination of the many ways money can be made—and disappear.’”
Kirkus Reviews

A History of the United States in Five Crashes: Stock Market Meltdowns That Defined a Nation (9780062467270) by Scott Nations. $28.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: The Ends of the World – Peter Brannen

Here’s another look at five big catastrophes and what they can tell us about the future. In this case we’re not talking money but geology–and the stakes are the survival of the planet. That said, you won’t read a funnier, wittier book on the topic of mass extinction. This is a terrifically entertaining tour of the planet’s history structured as a detective story. It’s got the same narrative inventiveness that made The World Without Us such a hit with general readers.

“Brannen infuses his narrative with tongue-in-cheek humor that does not downplay the seriousness of his subject [while] addressing the controversies that have arisen both in the scientific community and the public sphere but never devolving into unproductive attacks. If readers have time for only one book on the subject, this wonderfully written, well-balanced, and intricately researched (though not too dense) selection is the one to choose.”
Library Journal (starred review)

A simultaneously enlightening and cautionary tale of the deep history of our planet and the possible future… entertaining and informative on the geological record and the researchers who study it…. [A] useful addition to the popular literature on climate change.”

“A much-needed overview… of [the Big Five] extinctions, both as a cautionary lesson and a hopeful demonstration of how life on Earth keeps rebounding from destruction… Everyone from climatologists to general science buffs will enjoy this well-written, closely focused. . . look at our planet’s paleontological history.”

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions (9780062364807) by Peter Brannen. $27.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 on sale.


Nonfiction Short Take: Grown-Up Anger- Daniel Wolff

Music, biography and labor history twine around Woody Guthrie’s song “1913 Massacre” as seemingly unrelated strands braid together to tell a new story about the progressive movement in 20th century America. In digging into the history of a labor strike on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a century ago, Wolff finds the roots of an abiding anger against social injustice that has passed through American generations and is finding a new voice today.

“In this bold and moving history, author and songwriter Wolff follows a path of memory and resistance through the labor struggles and music of 20th-century America. Wolff argues here that the mass murder of 74 men, women, and children (mine workers and members of their families—most of the victims were children) during a bitter strike in 1913 in Michigan reverberated through the careers of two remarkable American musicians…. Without surrendering insight or authority, Wolff spans a remarkable range of material, including 19th-century copper mining on the Upper Peninsula, the origins of folk out of traditional genres, and the ’60s counterculture. Wolff’s descriptions of Guthrie are particularly engaging, as are his forays into music criticism and labor history…. [In] a scathing finale that sends him to the postindustrial ghost town of Calumet, Wolff makes clear that by forgetting the past that Dylan and Guthrie passed down to us—and the injustices that motivated their art—we are in danger of losing our futures.”
Publishers Weekly

A masterful tale of music, social, and economic history… Wolff’s elegantly intertwined historical drama is consistently revelatory. A dazzling, richly researched story impeccably told.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“No matter how much you think you know about Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, you’re wrong… This is the best sense anyone has ever made about the connection between them, and the best reappraisal either has had in a couple of decades.”
— Dave Marsh

“Revolving around mining, music and murder, Daniel Wolff’s Grown-Up Anger explores the 1913 Calumet massacre in Michigan, Woody Guthrie’s political proselytizing beginning in the 1930’s and a young Bob Dylan, destined for musical greatness. Wolff’s narrative introduces “Mother” Ella Reeve Bloor, a revolutionary in labor circles and a witness to the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company Christmas catastrophe, where 73 people died. An angry Mother Bloor relays the devastating details to Woody Guthrie and the rest is a raging history of battling societal constraints through song. This is definitely a relevant read given the state of our current affairs.”
— Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 (9780062451699) By Daniel Wolff. $26.99 hardcover. 6/1/317 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: Lincoln and the Abolitionists – Fred Kaplan

Biographer Fred Kaplan has been a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Expect serious review attention for this look at how two presidents’ personal experience with slavery shaped very different views of slavery and the future of the nation.

“A fresh look at John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, abolitionism, and other related American history…. In this insightful, often disturbing dual biography, he makes a convincing case that Adams, working decades before Lincoln, was the real hero… eye-opening…”
Kirkus (starred review)

“In this elegantly written and thoroughly researched book, Kaplan… relates how two presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams, thought about and dealt with slavery and race. Lincoln believed that African-Americans should emigrate to Africa or another homeland. Adams, meanwhile, was an ardent abolitionist who foresaw the eventual rise of a multicultural America…. Kaplan presents a more complex Lincoln who ‘presided over the creation of a new reality that neither he nor anyone could fully embrace, or embrace in a way that would eliminate racial conflict.’”
Publishers Weekly

Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War (9780062440006) by Fred Kaplan. $28.99 hardcover. 6/13/17 on sale.