Sunday, April 25, 2004

Just another weekend update, if you please 

Now normally, I start off with the Paper of Record because, well, that's what they are. But I'd rather indulge my own personal whims first. And boy, can I ever, as the Scotsman tracks down Eoin McNamee, who has, with his new novel THE ULTRAS, written the best book I have read this year. Luckily, they agree with me, calling it "by far the most ambitious, complex and gripping of McNamee?s novels." The profile is kind of softball, but no matter--it's great to see McNamee get press for this book, which is, well, marvellous. Official publication date is May 5, UK only, but hopefully that will change, if I had anything to say about it.

But enough gushery--besides, it seems rather imprudent to keep on when turning next to Marilyn Stasio's crime roundup, n'est-ce pas? Although she seems to be in reasonable humor this time around, bestowing fairly positive reviews to Donna Leon, Donald E (not that other Donald) Westlake, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Frank Huyler, and Elizabeth Peters, who has opted for a prequel in her latest Amelia Peabody adventure. Meanwhile, David Liss' A SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION gets the full-length treatment from the Gray Lady, as does Carlos Zafon's exploration of adventure and magical realism, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND.

The funny thing is that the NYT review and Michael Dirda's treatment in Book World both make some light of the "if you like author so-and-so, you'll love this book." Coincidence, or just that the book inspires such ironic accolades? Something to ponder as I consider the rest of the WaPo's offerings, especially Paul Skenazy's crime roundup, which takes aim at Donna Leon (just like La Stasio), Denise Hamilton, Thomas Laird, and Rick Riordan's SOUTHTOWN, which gets a somewhat mixed but mostly positive reaction.

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk is all over the place, now that his new novel, SNOW, is just out in the UK. Well, two places? An interview with the Asian-English website Donga, and a nice piece in the Guardian about driving through Tehran and witnessing the less-than-idyllic life of the city's inhabitants. And speaking of the Guardian Review, it's in pretty good shape this week: reviews of Jenny Diski's devastating take on the biblical forefathers, AFTER THESE THINGS; Martin Sixsmith's SPIN gets another less-than-glowing notice; Patricia Duncker's moody description of writing as the ultimate in outsider adventure; and John Cleese's blurb-busting response to authors seeking such from him (third item down.)

Over at the Globe and Mail, Marion Botsford Fraser offers a few choice suggestions for those seeking South African literature, Zsuzsi Gartner implores readers to give Russell Smith, novelist (as opposed to Russell Smith, satirist) a try with his debut novel MURIELLA PENT; and Martin Levin celebrates those octogenarian writers like P.D. James and Muriel Spark who haven't given in to the ravages of time, and are still writing new works.

At the Observer, Peter Guttridge returns with a nifty roundup of the latest in mystery. He's glad to see John Harvey back on form with a new series character in FLESH AND BLOOD, while new releases from Michael Robotham, Edward Marston, Jim Kelly and Colin Harrison merit attention as well. Otherwise, Robert McCrum marvels over the influence Henry James seems to have on acclaimed novels published so far this year--which may have a good chance at doing very well in future award ceremonies to come; Euan Ferguson has a rather odd screed about not being able to suspend disbelief when reading novels; Lynne Truss is still gobsmacked by the worldwide acclaim for her treatise on proper punctuation, EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES, and BALMORAL, Isabel Vane's bizarre "what-if" about Princess Diana not being dead, is up for review--and overall, it doesn't quite pass the test.

Best of the rest:

Elaine Flinn's debut mystery DEALING IN MURDER has received some great reviews since its release last November, and next weekend, she'll find out if she will take home the Agatha for best First Novel. She speaks to the Californian about her new career and what's coming next.

In this long and charming profile by the Minneapolis Pioneer-Press, P.J. Tracy (the pseudonym for the mother-daughter team of Patricia and Traci Lambrecht) finally reveal the details behind their earlier writing career--P.J.'s been a published writer since the 1970s, and has written 11 romance novels (with an extra 2 in collaboration with Traci.)

Ace Atkins talks to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about his new novel, DIRTY SOUTH, and how he's leaving his blues-infused hero, Nick Travers, behind for the next book or two--it will be very interesting to see when this novel sees the light of day....

NPR considers chick-lit in all its permutations and combinations. The result isn't altogether pretty....

Eileen Dreyer's new medical thriller HEAD GAMES impresses Leslie Doran of the Denver Post. Meanwhile, Alexander McCall Smith's new Precious Ramotswe novel, THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE, has hit US (and Canadian) stores, and Clea Simon of the SF Chronicle enjoys it and wonders if there will be a sixth installment--have no fear, as said installment will be out in the UK later this summer....

In other notable reviews, George Pelecanos is greeted with more praise at the Dallas-Forth Worth Star-Telegram (although the Glasgow Sunday Herald isn't nearly as enthusiastic about HARD REVOLUTION); John Connolly's BAD MEN gains approval by the Kansas City Star as a "deliciously creepy story."

Margaret Atwood is interviewed once again--this time by Chauncey Mabe of the Sun-Sentinel, who catches up with her as she's about to give a lecture at the Coral Gables Congregational Church.

And finally, considering Ed's recent satirical post about just how prolific this woman is, it seems rather fitting to find a new interview with hypergraphia's best friend, Joyce Carol Oates.

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