Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Radar: A Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly duet, a Shirley Jackson thriller, Matthew Quick's Good Luck, the return of Robert Stone


Book Radar rounds up some of the latest publishing deals which have caught my eye, gathered from reports at Publishers Marketplace, Galley Cat, office water-coolers and other places where hands are shaken and promises are made.  As with anything in the fickle publishing industry, dates and titles are subject to change.

I was noodling around my agent's website last night and stumbled across this joyous announcement: a new Tom Franklin novel is imminent.  The buttercream frosting on this news is the fact that his wife, poet Beth Ann Fennelly, is co-author of The Braided River.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first creative work they've collaborated on--apart from their three children...and editing an anthology of Southern fiction (The Alumni Grill II: Anthology of Southern Writers).  It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Franklin's previous books--the short story collection Poachers and the novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter--so The Braided River, set in 1927 Mississippi, is a big, loud ping! on my book radar.  Here's the synopsis I found at the Sobel Weber site last night:
With the Mississippi swollen to dangerous flood levels, the water crashing at the high levee walls and the rain unceasing, Ham Johnson and Ted Ingersoll, WWI vets and U.S. Government prohibition agents, have been diverted from their normal duties and sent to tiny Hobnob, Mississippi, where the river bends precariously. Two previous agents have disappeared on this assignment. A case of stolen dynamite is reportedly on its way to Hobnob. If a saboteur can blow the Hobnob levee, the town will flood, yet all the towns and cities from Jackson to New Orleans will be spared. Their mission, to find the dynamite and save the town, gets more complicated when the agents discover, in the aftermath of a crime, an abandoned baby. Enter Dixie Clay Holliver, the best bootlegger in the county. Her house, Sugar Hill, is several miles from Hobnob, in deep piney country, near the creek by her still. Her husband Jesse--charismatic, philandering, sometimes violent--distributes her whiskey. He is a man-about-town in local speakeasies, and someone she’s beginning to realize is a stranger. Dixie Clay has resigned herself to a life of solitude, making her perfect whiskey and mourning her own baby, who died two years before. The river continues to rise, and she continues to work. And then a stranger named Ingersoll brings her a baby. That’s when her troubles--and her joys--begin. And Ingersoll's.
The Braided River is scheduled to be published by William Morrow in October.

Shirley Jackson fans, should sit up, antennae quivering and buzzing, at this news of a "deal" I found in a Publishers Lunch email last week: "Susan Scarf Merrell's untitled literary thriller set at Bennington College in the 1960s, narrated by a young woman who moves with her professor husband into the home of novelist Shirley Jackson and Jackson's husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, and who uncovers a chilling connection between the celebrated couple and the disappearance of a young co-ed on campus years before, [sold] to Sarah Hochman at Blue Rider Press, for publication in 2014."  Lest you think the Hymans might have been a dull couple, I direct you to this Wall Street Journal article written in 2010 by biographer Joan Schenkar who spins some eyebrow-raising tales of dinners in the Hyman-Jackson "rambling Victorian house."

Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook, has sold his next novel to HarperCollins.  The Good Luck of Right Now is, according to Publishers Lunch, "a comic yet moving novel told through a series of letters to Richard Gere, written by a young man who, in the aftermath of his mother's untimely death, forms an unlikely family with three other damaged souls--a priest, a librarian, and her brother."

And finally, from the Department of It's-About-Time, word has reached this intrepid reporter's ears that a new novel by Robert Stone--his first in a decade--will hit bookstores in November.  Death of the Black-Haired Girl, coming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has this brief teaser synopsis on its Amazon page: "an illicit romance at one of America's most esteemed colleges leads to tragedy..."  Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to catch the elevator up to the Department of Can't-Wait.


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