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.


New Trade Paper Fiction: The Crime Writer – Jill Dawson

When customers come to you for a follow up after Magpie Murders, hand them Dawson’s homage to Patricia Highsmith. It’s another suspenseful crime drama that pays homage to an individual writer’s brand of storytelling. And in this case, the alcoholic, lesbian and deeply eccentric Highsmith herself is the protagonist of this most Highsmithian murder tale.

Based in the historical record of a year that Highsmith spent in rural Suffolk and told in the writer’s voice, readers get a feverish, twisted peek into a troubled, talented mind of the writer—as well as a distinct sense of the new kind of crime fiction she intended to write.

Some details were so willfully odd (for instance, that she collected and cultivated snails) that the sent me to Wikipedia where I learned that this novel hews quite closely to Highsmith’s actual life and her opinions on writing.

It’s a dark psychological character study of desire, abuse, rage and paranoia. Near the end of the book the fictional Pat Highsmith offers a comment which is, I think, the key to that Dawson is up to in this book:

“What if the fantasy life is the real one? What if –well, what’s that Virginia Woolf quote about us living two lives at any time and one of them being the life of the mind, the imagination? Who is to say that isn’t the most valid, the most real . . .”

This was a fun read for genre fans who like it dark—a page-turner that’s both smart and pulpy. Dawson has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize and has won the Whitbread. Already out in England, The Crime Writer been well-reviewed; Paula Hawkins called it “brilliant.”

 When acclaimed suspense writer Patricia Highsmith, the antiheroine of this dreamlike, high-tension novel…moves into a Suffolk cottage in 1965, she welcomes the quiet seclusion. She looks forward to working on her new book, collecting snails, and maybe enjoying a weekend with her married lover, Sam Gosforth, who’s ‘everything I’m not.’… Pat has always been fascinated by what moves a person to murder, and she applies fierce resolve to the aftermath of a shocking act of violence that would not have been out of place in her novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Dawson smoothly marries fact with fiction to capture the famously prickly Highsmith while astutely exploring love, obsession, and the myriad shades of darkness within us all.”
Publishers Weekly

“[I]n a manner that seems deliberately modeled on Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt (filmed recently as Carol), Pat is absolutely unguarded against her love for the upper-class Sam. These two sides come together in a catastrophe that occurs halfway through the novel. It’s a clever conceit, plunging an author into a scenario right out of her own queasy-making fiction, and it’s adroitly handled, forcing Pat to live out her ideas of crime and guilt.”
Kirkus Reviews

Ventriloquy is Dawson’s forte…. This fascinating, skillfully constructed novel builds a convincing picture of Patricia Highsmith, her spiky, awkward intelligence and (in a phrase of her biographer, Joan Schenkar) ‘the low, flat, compellingly psychotic murmur’ of both her life and her prose.”
The Spectator

“Fantastically moody and appealingly unhinged — a piece of sophisticated literary ventriloquism that achieves a wonderful blurring of the lines between fact and fantasy.”
— Sarah Waters in the Guardian

The Crime Writer (9780062669582) by Jill Dawson. $15.99 trade paper original. 6/6/17 on sale.

Suspense Fiction Short Take: The House of Fame – Oliver Harris

This popular British crime novelist has yet to break out in the U.S. But given British reviews it seems like he deserves to. Keep him in your back pocket for recommending to customers who are connoisseurs of atmospheric, well-written police procedurals with bad-boy protagonists.

“British author Harris’s stellar third crime novel featuring North London police detective Nick Belsey combines an intriguing and surprising plot with an uncompromisingly bleak….Belsey takes pity on Maureen, whose 41-year-old son, Mark, has disappeared. He accompanies her to her flat, where he finds disturbing indications of Mark’s obsession with mega pop star Amber Knight, whose upcoming wedding has sparked a media frenzy. In his search for Mark, Belsey emerges as a memorably flawed protagonist.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A superb novel about the demonic detective who breaks all the rules.… Harris has a rare ability to combine storytelling that has a freewheeling, improvisatory feel with a plot that has been long hours in the concocting. Belsey…is fast becoming the best anti-hero in British crime fiction.”

“Harris has a terrific sense of place, hurtling between the wealthiest and most-run-down areas of London. But the cleverest thing about his third Belsey novel is the way the plot unfolds in a chilling and totally unexpected direction.”
Sunday Times (London)

The House of Fame (9780062405159) by Oliver Harris. $15.99 trade paper original. 1/24/17 on sale.

New Suspense Fiction: Lineup – Liad Shoham

American readers eagerly await the latest offerings from their favorite crime and suspense writers—names like Coban, Thor, Connolly, Silva, Child and Cornwell. Less frequently, bestselling writers from other countries will break through in the U.S. Obviously Jo Nesbo comes to mind. But what about the #1 bestselling writers in France, Germany, India, Israel?

They do get published here. And they are often a good place to look when casting about for a new first-rate genre writer. Liad Shoam is Israel’s leading crime writer with five critically acclaimed bestsellers under his belt. This is his U.S. debut and so far, he’s gotten two starred reviews before publication. (And a thumbs up from my genre-loving partner who pulled it out of a box of galleys in the garage and said it did a great job with character, tension and plot twists.) Joseph Finder calls it “a terrific book—a marvel of tight plotting, spare prose, and relentless pacing. It’s refreshingly cynical, deeply thrilling, and an exciting introduction to an author who’s set to become an international superstar.”

Check out the rest of the opinion:

Only at the end of this brilliantly constructed crime thriller, the first by Israeli Shoham available in English, does the author’s ingenuity in intersecting lives and story lines become apparent. The rape at knife point of 24-year-old Adi Regev just outside her Tel Aviv apartment building prompts Adi’s enraged father, Yaron, to stake out her place in the hope of catching her assailant. … Ziv Nevo, who has a shady past [is caught]. Irregularities in the lineup…complicate the investigation. Alternating perspectives revealing the inner lives of the characters—including Nachum, Nevo, the prosecutor on the case, and an ambitious journalist—enrich the plot.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“What begins as a crime thriller becomes the story of a detective’s search for redemption.… Israeli author Shoham’s gritty [novel]…set in Tel Aviv…marks [his]…U.S. debut. Let’s hope he gives us many more stories like it.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Liad Shoham has written a crime novel that is compelling on several different levels: as a mystery, as a tale of suspense, and as a work exploring the consequences of personal choices. Whether one calls it a mystery, suspense, thriller, or crime novel, one must call it a very, very good book.”
— New York Journal of Books

“Michael Connelly fans will appreciate this American debut by a best-selling Israeli author.”
— Booklist

Lineup (9780062237446) Liad Shoham. $25.99 hardcover. 9/3/13 on sale.

Book of the Week: The Carrion Birds – Urban Waite

Do you ever start reading a book and think, Who is this guy?! That’s always my favorite moment as a sales rep—finding a new voice you can get excited about introducing to booksellers and readers.

Urban Waite isn’t really a new voice—just new to me. In doing some research, I turned up praise like this from Daniel Woodrell for Waite’s first book, 2011’s The Terror of Living: “[A] smart, swiftly-paced and bloody Western for our moment. Urban Waite is a writer who won’t let a reader wander away—he keeps you reading, and reading, and rewards all your attention with a powerhouse story and prose to match.”

Praise from Woodrell is particularly apt since Waite will inevitably be compared to him—and to Cormac McCarthy—for writing that matches lyric beauty with a palpable sense of place and an existential take on humanity. I’m not often a fan of noir, but this guy seemed to expand the formula in a way that made me care deeply about these characters and their dead-end dilemma.

The editor, David Highfill, also spoke to this appeal he we wrote us, “I love noir, but often feel it can be too dark and one-dimensional. Then I come across the rare manuscript that proves the exception and think: I know lots and lots of readers for this one. As I read Waite’s novel I kept thinking of Lehane, McCarthy and Woodrell, writers whom I admire as much for the tortured characters as I do for the music and sheer bravado of the language. There is genuine ‘soul’ in my favorite contemporary noir novels, characters you care deeply about and are constantly afraid for, and I think that’s what makes this novel so resonant.”

PW gave The Carrion Birds a starred review and I also got strong bookseller feedback. I hope you’ll embrace this worthy novel and help expand Urban Waite’s audience.

Waite follows his acclaimed first novel, 2011’s The Terror of Living, with another searing western noir. Three people face terrifying moral choices as they each wish for what they can’t have: life as it was before their small border town of Coronado, N.Mex., was doomed by its dying oil economy and the arrival of a Mexican drug cartel. Ray Lamar, a Vietnam vet who still bears the emotional scars from the revenge killing of his wife and the maiming of his infant son 12 years earlier, is now an enforcer for a local crime lord. Ray’s life has been sliding out from under him, and all he wants is to go back home to Coronado—after one last job that goes insanely wrong. Ray’s cousin Tom—who lost his sheriff’s job at the time Ray lost his family—tries to help, but the odds are stacked against them both. Meanwhile, new sheriff Edna Kelly is trapped between loyalty to the law and her sympathy for Tom, her former boss. Edna’s professional and personal defeats, Tom’s anguish, and Ray’s brutal tragedy harshly indict the social and economic forces that are fatally choking so much of the American Southwest.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Waite] has given us a lean and mean, modern-day noir western filled with complex characters and situations. The hauntingly dark and elegiac writing resonates throughout the book, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Surely a candidate for best crime book of 2013.”  — New York Journal of Books

This book came to me highly regarded and, my friends, let me urge you to read this novel. Ray Lamar had hoped his life would be different… he’s made a few mistakes that have ended tragically for those around him. Ray has returned to Coronado, New Mexico, with a plan to do one last job for his drug-running boss, Memo. Almost from the get-go, though, things continue going wrong Ray. Horribly, horribly wrong not only for him, but once more, for everyone around him… This is a grim and gritty book about the fading dreams of the American Southwest, the realities of the energy boom and bust and the flow of drugs and crime from south of the border. This is a novel about the choices we make and how you can’t run from your past. Urban Waite’s writing is cinematic in scope… images so vivid I feel like I’ve already seen the movie. Waite’s writing is compelling… the book is extremely well-paced. He brings the characters together in an ever-tightening trail of violence. And this is a violent book, but not gratuitously so. Instead, it seems so realistic: this is what happens when these characters make these choices. People get shot, people die. This is a book fans of Cormac McCarthy will enjoy, fans of Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Lehane… literary crime noir. A most excellent novel!” –Joe Eichman, The Tattered Cover Book Store

The Carrion Birds (9780062216885) by Urban Waite. $25.99 hardcover. 4/16 on sale.

New Crime Series: The Missing File – D.A. Mishani

The author of this new crime series has an interesting background. He is the editor of international fiction and crime literature at Keter Books in Israel and a literary scholar specializing in the history of detective literature. So he’s got the background to put together a superior procedural. The reviews show that he’s also got the talent to write one, too. (And I love this cover!)

PW outlines the plot in its starred review: “At the beginning of literary scholar Mishani’s outstanding first novel, Insp. Avraham Avraham of the Holon police tells a complainant that there are ‘no detective novels in Hebrew’ because crimes in Israel are straightforward, with no real mystery. Subsequent events show that a crime committed in Israel can offer plenty of mystery. When Hannah Sharabi expresses anxiety about her 16-year-old son, Ofer, who’s failed to return home from school, Avraham dismisses her concerns of foul play. As time passes and Ofer doesn’t reappear, Avraham feels increasingly guilty. Officials soon launch an investigation, which becomes the obsessive focus of a neighbor of the Sharabi family, Ze’ev Avni, who tutored the high school boy. Avni can’t stop involving himself in the case in bizarre and self-sabotaging ways… [Combines] the procedural and the puzzle with artful misdirection.”

“The sense of place here is fascinating (Tel Aviv’s suburbs seem both familiar and exotic), and the focus on Avi’s state of mind, which is plumbed continuously, brings psychological depth. Procedural details are intriguing, too, suggesting that policing, at least in Holon, is a more humane enterprise than in the U.S. Armchair-traveler crime aficionados will welcome Mishani’s debut and look forward to Avi’s return.” — Booklist

“A compelling debut in a complex case aimed straight at the reader’s heart.”   — Kirkus Reviews

“[A] wonderfully satisfying detective mystery, with a heartbreaking finale. A tense, gripping page-turner that I devoured in two days—it’s hard to believe it’s a debut.” — S.J. Watson, NYT bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep

The Missing File (9780062195371) By D.A. Mishani. $25.99 hardcover. 3/19/13 on sale.