VJ Books Blog

(nzherald.co.nz, Jan 09, Nicky Pellegrino)

When writing about the year ahead it seems almost mandatory to be all doom and economic gloom, but for book lovers at least, 2009 holds plenty of promise – new authors to discover, new releases from well- loved writers and a publishing industry that is as vibrant as it’s ever been.

First, let’s get the shameless self-promotion out the way. My own new novel, The Italian Wedding (Orion) is released here in April (two months before the UK gets it) and is a story about food, feuds and discovering who your parents really are. Naturally, highly recommend it!

Most publishing companies encourage their big-name authors to release a book each year so I can expect some stiff competition on the shop shelves. For instance Jodi Picoult’s next blockbuster also lands in April. Handle With Care is the story of a child born with brittle bone disease whose mother decides to file a wrongful birth lawsuit against the obstetrician who also happens to be her best friend.

Crime/thriller writers tend to be especially prolific for some reason. Michael Connelly has two new titles on offer this year as do Janet Evanovich, Jonathan Kellerman and Ian Rankin, who will be introducing
readers to a brand new series to replace the retired Rebus.

There will also be offerings from all the usual suspects: John Grisham, Jeffrey Deaver … and a book called Dead Man’s Dust about a vigilante hero from newcomer Matt Hilton, who’s being heralded as the next big thing in thriller writing – think Lee Child crossed with Richard Patterson but better apparently.

Personally, I’m looking forward to new offerings from a few of my favourite writers.

Canadian Margaret Atwood is back in the future with her September release The Year of The Flood, which publishers describe as “a journey to the end of the world”. UK writer Paul Torday, who began his writing career in a satirical frame of mind, seems also to be getting darker in his third novel, The Girl on the Landing. And Douglas Kennedy sounds as though he will be back on form after the disappointing The Woman In The Fifth. His next book is the story of a woman who runs away from her own life, called Leaving the World.

Other international names releasing new work this year include John Irving, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguro and, of course, the terrifyingly fecund Alexander McCall Smith whose new Botswana book, called Tea Time For The Traditionally Built, hits the shelves next month.

There are also some new writers worth looking out for. Farahad Zama’s style is described as “a dash of Alexander McCall Smith with a pinch of Jane Austen” and his first novel, Marriage Bureau for Rich People is billed as a charming, funny tale set in a contemporary Indian marriage bureau. And Sonia Orchard’s book, The Virtuoso, a love story set in the music world of London in the 1940s and 50s, has been compared to both Alan Bennett’s memoirs and Patrick Suskind’s Perfume so it sounds completely tantalising.

There are also opportunities to discover lost classics and half-forgotten authors.

One of the most intriguing is The Women In Black by the late Australian writer Madeleine St John. Set in the “ladies cocktail” section of a department store in 1950s Sydney, this is what author Kaz Cooke has to say about it: “This book is like the perfect vintage little black dress. Beautifully constructed, it evokes another time while being mysteriously classic and up-to-date, and it makes you feel happy. I love it.”

Other titles bound to attract attention include Al Gore’s follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth which explores solutions to climate-change problems. Called The Path To Survival it’s due out in November and will be a must-read for greenies. And it’ll be interesting to read Murong Xuecun’s book Leave Me Alone. Described as an unflinching and darkly funny look at the pressures of life in modern China, it had five million online readers in that country and 500,000 copies were sold there before the book was banned.

One of 2008’s big publishing success stories was vampire novels. Fans of Stephanie Meyer’s addictive Twilight series would have been disappointed that she abandoned the next instalment, Midnight Sun, after a draft was posted on the internet without her permission. Instead they’ll have to make do with Twilight Saga: The Official Guide, due out in the second half of the year.

As far as local fiction goes, later in the year Penguin NZ will release a collection of short stories from our Booker hero Lloyd Jones – his first work since Mr Pip – plus there’ll be a new collection of short stories from last year’s Montana winner Charlotte Grimshaw.

In April there’s a new novel from Fiona Farrell called Limestone, set in New Zealand and Ireland, and in the same month Barbara Ewing follows up her successful The Mesmerist with another rich historical novel set in London called The Fraud.

And there’s a new name on the scene. Lindy Kelly, journalist, poet and playwright, releases her debut novel Bold Blood, which is set in the equestrian world of eventing and comes with an endorsement from
Olympian Mark Todd who says: “Much more than just another horsey story, it will appeal to anyone of any age who likes a well-written suspense thriller. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”

Finally, if you remember the furore surrounding euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin’s book, To Die Like A Dog, then a May release from independent publisher Cape Catley called Before We Say Goodbye is bound to provoke interest. It’s Sean Davidson’s account of how his terminally ill mother asked him to help her die. Christine Cole Catley says the book holds little back and is expected to create much discussion.

These titles are, of course, just a taste of what is to come. The book world, as always, will hold surprises.