Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Miniature Milestone in Fobbit's Shelf Life

As a book blogger and reviewer for the past thirteen years, I've received my share of catalogs from publishers.  Like orange leaves, falling snow, green shoots, and squirts of sunscreen, they arrive with seasonal regularity.  When they land in my mailbox, it's like a personal red-letter day for me.  I think only booklovers can truly relate when I say that opening an envelope from Unbridled Books, Graywolf, Knopf or Alongquin Books causes a chemical reaction inside the Thrill Center of my body which can only be compared to the feeling I used to get as a boy of 7 leafing through the pages of the Sears Christmas Wish Book in the early weeks of December.  There's nothing like the shiny, tinsel promise of future books unread--and that excitement is only compounded when they're laid out in such attractive catalogues.

Yesterday, I came home to find The.  Most.  Thrilling.  Catalog.  Ever.

This is what it looked like on the outside:

And this was the two-page spread advertising Fobbit:

There are certain indelible milestones in a writer's life--chief among them, the first moment he sees his debut book in the pages of a publisher's catalog (one which this particular author has revered for years).  Maybe you can't tell by the photo, but behind that catalog, I'm smiling my lips off.

One day I'll look back at this blog post and probably feel chagrined at my unrestrained giddiness.  But, for now, you'll just have to allow me my emotional excess.  Hey, I'm a debut novelist.  And that only comes around once in a lifetime.

By the way, that cover image for the novel you see on that page (and elsewhere at online booksellers) is not the final design for the book.  While I like the toy soldier tossing the coffee cup, there is a better cover in the works.  Trust me, I've seen a mock-up design.  The coffee-grenade soldier is just a placeholder for now.  More to come later.

But enough about Fobbit.  What I really want to tell you about is the fantastic lineup of other books coming from Grove/Atlantic this Fall.  Turning the pages of this catalog, I found my name alongside ones like Sherman Alexie, Robert Olen Butler, Jim Harrison, Jerzy Kosinski, Paul Theroux, Joyce Carol Oates, and Grove Press legends like Samuel Beckett and William S. Burroughs.  And let's toss Dashiell Hammett onto the list while we're at it.  It was surreal, to say the least, to see "David Abrams" in that kind of company.

Of particular note in this catalog:

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk: Set in the early 17th century, this is "a beautiful, rich, and sensuous historical novel [which] tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house and rises through the ranks to become the greatest cook of his generation."  The catalog copy also tells us that the book will come to us "with illustrations and recipes and printed in two colors of ink."  And you see that gorgeous Grove catalog cover above?  That's a stylized version of the jacket design for Norfolk's novel.

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie: This collection delivers 15 new stories and 15 classics like "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" and "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona."  Sure, I wish it was 30 new stories, but it will still be a joy to go back over my favorite tales from the "bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest."

The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos: Drawing comparisons to A Simple Plan and Deliverance, this debut novel is the first book to come from the relaunched Mysterious Press.  I'll let the plot summary speak for itself:
Will, Jeffrey, and Nolan are lifelong friends. Each have gone their separate ways as adults, living their own lives while forging their own careers. They have no reason to believe anything extraordinary will befall them. Until one shocking moment changes everything…Will is a part-time drummer who spends the rest of his time in recording studios. He has lived a sheltered existence. Then one night Jeffrey attempts to rob a convenience store, drags a young woman into Will’s car, and shouts a single word: “Drive!” Shaken and confused, Will obeys.  Suddenly three ordinary men find themselves completely out of their element, holding a young girl hostage without the slightest idea of what to do next. They are already guilty of kidnapping and robbery; it is only a matter of time before they find out just what else they’re capable of. For these four people, three days will decide their fate—between freedom and prison, innocence and guilt…and life and death.

The Hot Country by Robert Olen Butler:  One of my favorite contemporary writers of literary fiction, Butler always does something a little different with each new book.  This time, he takes us to Mexico in 1914 during that country's civil war.  That's where American newspaper reporter Christopher Marlowe Cobb falls in love with a young Mexican laundress, witnesses a priest being shot (the bullet bounces off the cross around his neck), and gets involved with Germans who are sneaking into the city at night from ships docked in the port.  Robert Olen Butler can do anything, so I'll follow him anywhere.  Even, in one of his previous novels, to Hell.

Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett: The Thin Man (1934) was Hammett's last novel, but following the success of the Thin Man movies, Hammett was commissioned to write stories for additional films.  The two novellas collected here were the result of that assignment.  For whatever reason, they were never published in their entirety until now.  I'm a huge fan of Nick, Nora and Asta, so I'm all over this one like a fresh martini.  One other note: the excerpt Grove includes in the catalog features a police lieutenant named Abrams.  Worlds colliding!

There's more, much more.  If you want to see the entire Grove/Atlantic catalog (including the two-page Fobbit spread), you can download it here.