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Saturday, March 27, 2004

The roundup, earlier than usual 

I'm a bit confused--I thought Marilyn Stasio had a roundup last week, but nope, my mind's just playing tricks on me and she's back this week with her take on all things mystery. Gaining her approval are new releases by Henning Mankell, Ace Atkins, UK author Bill James, and Jonathon King.

Meanwhile, Book World has gone gonzo with crime fiction this week--and this when Maureen Corrigan's column makes a return appearance. She goes gaga for Andrew Taylor's version of a 19th century novel, AN UNPARDONABLE CRIME, and makes similar approving noises about books by Karin Fossum, Rebecca Pawel, and John Dunning. And then, there's the new Spenser book, which Corrigan admits to being "addicted" to. Honestly, the space might have been better spent on something else--do we honestly need another review that mopes about how Parker ain't what he used to be? The books will sell regardless of what critics say. (All this to say that you're not going to catch me reviewing a Spenser novel anytime. The Jackie Robinson book, OTOH, is a different story....)

In full length reviews at the WaPo, James Buchan finds David Liss's A SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION to be somewhat flawed, although Liss does get the spirit of 18th Century London very well. Louis Bayard enjoys Leslie Silbert's THE INTELLIGENCER and its tale of secrets, codebreaking and lies, although the prose is only "serviceable." And finally, Michael Griffith shines a spotlight on Robert Girardi's THE WRONG DOYLE, the latest release from upstart small press Justin, Charles & Co., who have partnered with Kate's Mystery Books to bring out some fresh new novels that the big publishers wouldn't otherwise touch.

Meet Michael Robotham--the bestselling writer you've never heard of. Such is the catchphrase his UK publisher is using to promote his debut novel, THE SUSPECT, because prior to writing fiction, Robotham was making a pretty penny as a celebrity ghostwriter. He talks to the Sydney Morning Herald about his careers, old and new, and the long road to success and recognition under his own name. Michael, meet Michael Gruber....

The Guardian leads off with Gordon Burn's detailed analysis of the whole McSweeney's/Believer thing. Yes, I suppose they are a literary "coterie" but I can't be the only one who wishes they'd all just start sleeping with each other, get into catfights, wear glamorous outfits, throw each other into pools...oh wait, that's Dynasty. And it's not the 1980s anymore. Hell, it's not even the Algonquin Round Table. So my suggestion for those Believer folks? Less snark, more sex.

Among the reviews at the Review: Christopher Fowler's ninth (!) collection of horror short stories, an impressive new novel from Irishman Glen Patterson, a name I will have to note as I am a big fan of Irish fiction, a look at Yvonne Coetta, Grahame Greene's lover 32 years and the subject of a new memoir, and more information on why Craig Unger's HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD was pulled at the last minute by its UK publisher.

Nicci Gerrard and Sean French are husband and wife and collaborators. Their seventh psychological thriller under their joint pseudonym of Nicci French is out, and Rachel Cooke of the Observer is quite enthralled with this latest effort.

Gabor Mate revisits the burning question of how much, if any, influence Wagner's Ring Cycle had on J.R.R. Tolkien, while also discussing a couple of other books that might have contributed to the conception of the Lord of the Rings--Beowulf and Joseph Campbell's HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES.

Martin Levin asks people to look past the whole Naomi Wolf business and remember why Harold Bloom is important--as a literary critic and theorist with unsurpassed influence. But Martin, we love dishing the dirt! And litcrit's just too boring to cut it, you know....

Tom Nolan, Ross MacDonald's biographer, is a very good choice to review the new collection of stories by Cornel Woolrich. To say he's impressed might well be an understatement.

Elmore Leonard has entered the children's book fray with A COYOTE IN THE HOUSE--but how does his voice work for the kiddie set? Ryan Harmanci of the SF Chronicle investigates and obtains a mixed result.

Another review of A SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION appears in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, where Jim Rowen struggles with the 18th century setting and language to find a shiny diamond of a story underneath.

Helen Walsh's debut novel BRASS is being published by Canongate this week, and it's kicking up a fuss because the heroine, Millie, is young and does a lot of sex and drugs and stuff. She talks to the Scotsman about the alleged furor. I, for one, wonder exactly why people are plotzing about this--isn't this what teens do, or think about doing anyway?

John Gielgud's letters are now collected and available in a spiffy edition edited by Richard Mangan. Quite simply, I have to read this.

And finally, place your bets on who will be World Book Capital in, erm, 2007. Oxford wants it bad, but they're up against stiff competition in the form of Paris. Next year, Montreal gets the honors. Let the games begin....

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