Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Little Brown and Company: The Balcony by Jane Delury

Houghton Mifflin: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

Tarcherperigee: F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness--And What We Can Do about It by Danny Wallace

Katherine Tegen Books: Another Quest for Celeste (Nest for Celeste #2) by Henry Cole

News

Image of the Day: Page One Opens in Beijing

Page One, a new English-language bookstore in Beijing, China, opened April 2. In the photo above, customers browse the English books section. Below, Mark Tan, CEO of Page One Group (second from the right), and Liu Gui, general manager of Page One China (second from left), greet their guests at the grand opening.

 


Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


Notes: Debating E-Green in Vermont; Nook Color App Store

The print book versus e-book debate has caused some rumbling and grumbling in the Green Mountain State recently. In an article for Seven Days ("Vermont's Independent Voice"), Margot Harrison explored the challenge of being "confronted with the huge waste that paper books can represent.... Wouldn’t it be cleaner and greener just to download all those books in digital format?"

The answer is, of course, complicated, as could be seen from the opinions voiced by several Vermonters in the book trade, including authors, booksellers, a librarian and publisher. In addition, Robin Ingenthron, owner of Good Point Recycling, which processes and recycles discarded electronics, expressed skepticism about claims that e-readers are a better environmental option. "If you buy a book that’s already been read once, then probably your footprint is zero," he said, adding that his best advice for preserving paper was to "buy somebody a library card."

In a subsequent letter to the editor, Harry Bliss, a cartoonist and editor of children's books, took vehement exception to Ingenthron's claim: "The bottom line, in my expert opinion, is that traditional books are worse for the planet than reading devices, and if I hear one more 'book lover' tell me how much they 'love the feel of a book,' I’m going to throw up. On the book lover."

Becky Dayton, owner of the Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, disagreed with Bliss's "suggestion that we 'book lovers' read paper books so that we can, 'display them all on bookshelves for everyone to see'; I think not. I am a bookseller. I read 2-4 books a week, but in my home I keep only the ones that mean something to me or are awaiting my attention. I prefer to put art on my walls, much of it on paper. Is that destroying the planet, too? And for the record, I only read print. I just love the way a book feels. (Vomit away, you angry SOB.)

"I wonder if the great children's classic Make Way for Ducklings had been published only in e-book form if it would still be read today, generations later. If I didn't have such high regard for the authors of Bliss' books--Doreen Cronin, Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, and Alison McGhee, I'd say let's try it with his books and see how long the luster--and the royalties--last."

---

The tablet wars heat up again. With its release of the version 1.2 update yesterday, Barnes & Noble added a curated app store to its Nook Color Reader's Tablet as well as built-in email, "enhanced Web experience," and a platform upgrade to Android OS 2.2/Froyo, along with support for Adobe AIR and Adobe Flash Player.

"We are thrilled to add to our robust e-reading ecosystem a differentiated and unique portfolio of high-quality applications," said Jamie Iannone, B&N's president of digital products. "The response from the developer and content communities has been terrific, as many great companies are enthusiastic about bringing their strong brands, products and content to Nook Color and the Nook Bookstore, and taking advantage of the unique benefits of our open platform and merchandising opportunities."  

According to Cnet News, "those who've already 'rooted' the $250 Nook Color with custom firmware that's been circulating on the Web for months will be quick to note that this update is still limiting because it doesn't offer access to the Android Market and allow you to run any app you want. However, for the thousands of less tech-savvy customers who purchased the Nook and haven't hacked the device, the official update--dubbed version 1.2--at last turns the Nook Color into a more fully functional Android tablet.

"The update also marks a subtle but important shift in Barnes & Noble's marketing strategy for the device. While it's still calling it the 'Reader's Tablet,' the company has now inserted the adjective 'full-featured' in front of it and says that at $249, the Nook Color 'presents the best value of any tablet on the market.' That's something a lot of 'rooters' have been saying for a while, which one could argue makes the new marketing message slightly ironic."

PC World noted that "maybe these companies aren't so interested in fighting for dedicated e-reader supremacy anymore. Maybe the color touch screen, reading-oriented tablet is the new battleground for companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, who sell cheap hardware in hopes of ensnaring readers in the companies' respective ecosystems."

---

A survey conducted by Sony found that "79% of Americans are most likely to read books in bed. That's more people choosing to read in bed than in the living room (73%), on vacation (37%) or while commuting (8%)," Jacket Copy reported.

---

Product placement is not new in the book world, but in Harry Hurt III's upcoming e-book, Harry Hits the Road: Adventures in Love, Labor, and Modern Manhood, the "reader has to elbow past an army of other names: energy-drink company PureSport, Maine cruise line Captain Jack Lobster Boat Tours and Hollywood Stunts NYC, a stunt training center, to name just a few," the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the book features "both advertising accompanying each chapter and significant product placement woven throughout its narrative."

Don Fehr, Hurt's agent, was not involved in the e-book's publication, but told the Journal "he plans to sell print rights to the work provided it achieves strong sales in its first few months."

Hurt said he doesn't think "these particular things compromise the editorial integrity of what you're reading. I guess I'm asking readers to trust my judgment and trust my integrity on the basis of a career that stretches back almost 40 years. The stuff that is product placement is stuff that I use myself."

---

Penguin has launched a beta version of Book Country, "an active community of writers, readers and experts" in the field of genre fiction. The New York Times reported that in its initial phase, the website "will allow writers to post their own work--whether it’s an opening chapter or a full manuscript--and receive critiques from other users.... Later this summer the site will generate revenue by allowing users to self-publish their books for a fee by ordering printed copies. (The books will bear the stamp of Book Country, not Penguin, and the site is considered a separate operation from Penguin.)."

"One of the things I remember really clearly from my early editorial experiences was this feeling of guilt," said Molly Barton, director of business development for Penguin and president of Book Country. "I would read submissions and not be able to help the writer because we couldn't find a place for them on the list that I was acquiring for. And I kept feeling that there was something we could do on the Internet to really help writers help each other."

---

Beginning in May, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., will charge a $5 to $10 fee for in-store author events. The Daily Camera reported that the "fee system--which is coupled with couponing--is meant to help the bookstore remain competitive, ensure orderliness at the events, and potentially boost sales for the participating authors and the store itself." After purchasing a ticket, the customer receives a $5 coupon that can be used toward the purchase of the author's book or any purchase the day of the event.

"More and more, we compete with other bookstores vying to host popular authors," noted owner David Bolduc in an e-mail to customers. "Publishers place certain expectations on us when we host events, and so in order to continually attract authors, we must fulfill these expectations. Oftentimes, in return for sending an author to a bookstore, publishers expect us to attract a certain number of people and sell a certain number of books."

Stephanie Schindhelm, the bookstore's marketing and promotions manager, added, "We want to encourage people to spend their money locally and to help support the author."

---

Noting that it "could be one of the saviors of Australia's bookshop industry," the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the latest edition of the King James Version of the Bible, "printed last year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tome, is flying off the shelves. Despite a $120 price tag it has sold out in Australia, and the publisher is rushing to print more copies to meet demand."

''We're selling them as fast as we can get them,'' said Christian Hummelshoj, deputy manager at Abbey's Bookshop, Sydney. ''We won't have any to put on the shelf for a few months at least.''

---   

Dubbing them the "Time 4," Book Bench calmly celebrated the fact that this year, "there are four whole professional writers on the Time 100 List, up from zero last year: Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, George R.R. Martin, and the Chinese investigative journalist Hu Shuli (who obviously belongs in the slightly elevated category of 'professional writers who risk their lives for their work')."

Book Bench also noted that there are people who made the list because of books (Amy Chua for Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Rob Bell for Love Wins), "but whose owners have professions other than 'writer' " and those, like Patti Smith, who are famous for reasons other than their books.

---

Boing Boing featured a video showing "how books used to be made. Before the Dark Times, before the Empire!"

---

A moment of silence, please, to mark the end of an era. Godrej and Boyce, the last company in the world still manufacturing typewriters, has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India, with just a few hundred machines left in stock. The Daily Mail reported that even though "typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India--until recently. Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers."

---

Flavorwire, which put together a literary mixtape for Roald Dahl’s magnificent uber-brat, Veruca Salt, noted that "we don’t credit her with the best musical taste in the world. She’s just a little girl, after all. Can’t blame her for loving the Biebs. Here’s what we think Veruca Salt would stamp her foot, shriek for her Daddy, and get attacked by an army of squirrels to."

---

Book trailer of the day: Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System For All by Dr. Oran Hesterman (PublicAffairs).

---

Steve Wasserman has been named executive editor-at-large for general interest books at Yale University Press. Wasserman is a partner at Kneerim and Williams literary agency, where he will continue to work as an agent. In addition to extensive experience in the publishing field, Wasserman was at one point the literary editor for the Los Angeles Times, managing its Sunday Book Review

 


Soho Crime: My Name Is Nathan Lucius by Mark Winkler


Mississippi Writers: A Bookseller's Recollection

This wonderful story about Richard Ford and Eudora Welty comes from bookseller Emily Crowe of Odyssey Books, Hadley, Mass. She had an e-mail exchange with Harper Perennial about the impending reading at the bookstore by Richard Horan, author of Seeds: One Man's Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers from Faulkner to Kerouac, Welty to Wharton:

"So, I'm a newbie bookseller at Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, Miss. My second week on the job we're hosting Richard Ford, and not only does Willie Morris turn out to support him, so does Miss Welty.  She couldn't get around very well even then, but she sat quietly on the signing bench, flanked by Richard and Willie, like they were her bodyguards. And she just smiled and you could tell she was so proud of Richard, but oh, if you could hear her laughter when Richard told this story: 'When you're a writer from Mississippi, you know you'll never be the best writer from your home state, because there's William Faulkner. And when you're a writer from Jackson, you know you'll never be the best writer from your home town because Richard Wright took care of that. So what's left? I can't even pretend to be the best writer on my street because of Miss Welty!'

"Oh, the sound of that woman's laughter was just a wonder. I was smitten with her and with the book business from that day forward and have now been a bookseller for 15 years. I only met Miss Welty one other time after that at the bookstore because shortly after that she became completely housebound. But I'll never forget the two times I met her, nor the first time I heard her read aloud the charming story, 'Why I Live at the P.O.,' at a symposium at my high school in Mississippi."

Read more about Richard Horan's journeys at www.literaryseeds.com

 


Ecco Press: Tangerine by Christine Mangan


Big Easy Bookselling, Part 1

"I could not put down The Paris Wife. I read it in like 18 hours. It's phenomenal. I'm ruined for everything else." An enthusiastic reader stopped Britton Trice, owner of the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, in a café near the store to offer him this impromptu thank you for recommending Paula McLain's novel.

Meeting up with Trice was the first of three bookstore stops I made recently to find out what's happening in the Big Easy book world--top titles, jazz, cats and dogs and other news. A bonus for a first-time traveler to New Orleans like me: each store is in a distinctly different section of the city, ensuring that I ventured well beyond the main tourist area, where I was staying--the French Quarter with its intriguing architecture, fascinating history and hordes of cocktail-sipping tourists strolling along the streets. Plus the booksellers offered great insider suggestions for restaurants and live music venues.

An 1880s building dubbed the Rink, the site of the South's first roller skating rink, is home to the Garden District Bookshop and several other retailers. The elegant neighborhood is filled with beautiful, spacious, historic homes, and among its inhabitants are Hollywood types and sports legends. Trice, a native New Orleans resident, lives 10 blocks from the store in an abode constructed in the 1850s. A slight rain didn't deter a group on a walking tour, clustered on the sidewalk in front of a house reputed to be haunted.

Although the Garden District Bookshop didn't suffer any direct damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was closed for more than a month. In addition, visitors stopped descending on the city. "A big chunk of our business is tourists, and that took a long time to come back," Trice said. "Then, of course, there was the recession." Competition increased when a Borders store opened nearby on busy St. Charles Avenue two years ago, although it closed this month. What's currently impacting business is "the e-reader effect," said Trice. "There were customers who were spending $500-$1,000 a year that I'm not seeing anymore, several of whom were honest and said they've gotten e-readers."

Still, after an unprecedented 20% dip in December and a flat year overall in 2010, "since the New Year, things have been climbing, and we've been very, very busy," noted Trice. Local interest titles are strong sellers, particularly architecture and design, and so are contemporary fiction and mysteries. The Paris Wife--"this year's The Help," commented one staffer--is a favorite handsell. In fact, on their enthusiastic recommendation I purchased an e-book of The Paris Wife through the store's website. (I currently live in an RV, in which case it's entirely possible to have too many printed books.)

Other top titles are My Reading Life by Pat Conroy--who called and invited himself to the store for an event in January--and Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, one of Trice's personal favorites.

Trice does double duty as the head of B.E. Trice Publishing, which he launched to keep The Plantation Cookbook by the Junior League of New Orleans in print after Doubleday discontinued it. "I sell a lot of it," he said. "One of my main purchasers is Amazon, which I kind of love." The majority of the titles the company publishes are signed, limited editions of books by big-name writers like James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Cormac McCarthy and Anne Rice, a former Garden District dweller.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

More New Orleans bookstore adventures will follow in upcoming issues of Shelf Awareness. Shannon is traveling the U.S. by RV for several years. Books are stashed in every available space, edging out other necessities like dishes and shoes.



Lonely Planet on BEA: Free NYC, Part 1

Seeing the bulk of New York City's biggest attractions can mean spending a hefty chunk of a trip's budget on tickets. Empire State Building? $20. The Met? $20. The Guggenheim and Whitney go for $18 each. Even the Frick is $15. But there's plenty of fun to be had in the city without handing over a cent. Here, courtesy of Lonely Planet, are 40 free things to do and places to see (15 here and the rest soon):

1. African Burial Ground

In 1991, a construction project uncovered a burial ground of slaves--more than 400 caskets were found--from an age when New York had more slaves than any American city except for Charleston, S.C. Outside at the African Burial Ground National Monument you can see part of the site, and the compact visitors center does a masterful job at retelling African-American history in the city. 290 Broadway between Duane & Elk Sts., Lower Manhattan.

2. Brooklyn Brewery tours

Free Saturday tours of Williamsburg's Brooklyn Brewery run half an hour from 1-4 p.m. 79 N. 11th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

3. Central Park

Central Park is Manhattan's famed claim to thinking ahead (even if it was designed in the 1860s to boost real-estate value uptown).  It's filled with free events, statues, people-watching and sites like Strawberry Fields, an "Imagine" mosaic near the Dakota, where John Lennon was killed in 1980. Another site is "the Pond," at the southeastern corner, where in The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield kept wondering where the ducks go when it's cold. Uptown.

4. Chelsea galleries

New York's most concentrated area for a gallery crawl is in Chelsea, mostly in the 20s between 10th and 11th Avenues. Check Gallery Guide or westchelseaarts.com for listings. All are free, no pressure to buy. And aim for wine-and-cheese openings on Thursday evenings.

5. City Hall

Home to New York City's government since 1812, City Hall tours take in its cupola-topped marble hall, the governor's room as well as the spot where Abraham Lincoln's coffin lay in state briefly in 1865. Tours must be reserved in advance. City Hall Park, facing the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan.

6. Fashion Institute of Technology Museum

It's always Fashion Week in the FIT Museum, which features rotating exhibits by students and a surprisingly interesting and detailed fashion selection from 50,000 garments dating from the 18th century to present. Seventh Ave. & 27th St., Garment District, Midtown West.

7. Federal Hall

Two presidents were inaugurated in New York City, beginning with George Washington, who took the oath in Federal Hall in 1789, when New York was the capital. (Chester A. Arthur was the second.) There's a nice statue outside, overlooking the New York Stock Exchange across Wall Street, and a small, recently renovated museum on post-colonial New York inside. 26 Wall St., Lower Manhattan.

8. Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Reserve at least a week ahead (sometimes a month!) for a tour of the Federal Reserve Bank. Ogle the facility's high-security vault--useful considering more than 10,000 tons of gold reserves reside here, 80 ft. below ground. There are also exhibits on counterfeit currency as well as a serious American Numismatic Society coin collection. 33 Liberty St., Lower Manhattan.

9. Forbes Collection

The lobby galleries of Forbes magazine have curios from the late Malcolm Forbes's collection, most notably early versions of Monopoly boards. 62 Fifth Ave. at 12th St., Greenwich Village.

10. General Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial

Also called "Grant's Tomb," the $600,000 granite structure that holds the remains of the Civil War hero and 18th president (and his wife, Julia) is the largest mausoleum in the U.S. and is patterned after Mausolus' tomb at Halicarnassus. Riverside Dr. at 122nd St., Morningside Heights.

11. Governor's Island

The ferry to Governor's Island is free, as is access to the 172-acre island, which opened to the public regularly only in 2003. There's a 2.2-mile bike path, mini-golf, a picnic area, plus military sites such as Admiral's House and a "ghost town" of sorts at Nolan Park. Ferries leave from Battery Maritime Building, Slip 7, Lower Manhattan.

12. Grand Central Partnership Walking Tours

Two historians lead free 90-minute walking tours at 12:30 p.m. every Friday, hitting places like Grand Central Terminal's "whispering gallery" and the Chrysler Building. 120 Park Ave., at 42nd St., Midtown East.

13. Green-Wood Cemetery

Once the nation's most visited tourist attraction outside Niagara Falls, the gorgeous Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 and is the eternal home to some 600,000 people (or about 530 miles of bodies, head to toe). It's leafy and lovely, features Brooklyn's highest point--Battle Hill, a site from the Revolutionary War, now marked with a seven-foot statue of the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. 500 25th St., Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

14. Hamilton Grange

You know you're important when you get a grange. This one, Hamilton Grange, to reopen this year after renovation, is the Federal-style country retreat where Alexander Hamilton spent quieter, pre-death-by-duel New York days. St. Nicholas Park at 141st St., Hamilton Heights.

15. High Line Park

Created from an abandoned stretch of elevated railroad track, the native-inspired landscaping of this park 30 feet in the air connects the Meatpacking District with Chelsea. There are wonderful views of the Hudson, pedestrians on the sidewalks below and the city from several stories above street level. Watch for public-art installations and events. Gansevoort Street to 20th St. (currently), between 9th & 11th Aves., Chelsea.

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ice-T on the Colbert Report

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Diana B. Henriques, author of The Wizard of Lies (Times, $30, 9780805091342).

Also on Imus: Larry Flynt, author of One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History, co-written with David Eisenbach (Palgrave Macmillan, $25, 9780230105034).

---

Tomorrow morning on Imus in the Morning: Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In (Rodale, $24.99, 9781605295985).

---

Tomorrow on Oprah: Bob Greene, author of 20 Years Younger: Look Younger, Feel Younger, Be Younger! (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316133784).

---

Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: readers review Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

---

Tomorrow on the Daily Show: Senator Bernie Sanders, author of The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class (Nation Books, $13, 9781568586847).

---

Tomorrow on the Colbert Report: Ice-T, author of Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood (One World/Ballantine, $25, 9780345523280).

 


Ian McEwan's Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptations

In a video interview with Word & Film, author Ian McEwan explained why director John Huston’s movie The Dead, adapted from James Joyce’s story "Dubliners," tops his list. He also "shares a few other adaptations that have struck him as noteworthy."

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Canadian Jewish Book Awards

Alison Pick’s novel Far to Go and Charles Foran’s biography Mordecai: The Life and Times were among the winners of this year's Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards, the National Post reported. Other category winners included Tarek Fatah's The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism (politics and history), Robert Eli Rubinstein's An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada (Holocaust literature), Harold Troper’s The Defining Decade: Identity, Politics, and the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s (scholarship) and Judie Oron's Cry of the Giraffe (youth literature). The winners will honored at a ceremony May 30 in Toronto.

 


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next week:

Caleb's Crossing: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (Viking, $26.95, 9780670021048) follows the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665.

10th Anniversary by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316036269) is the latest Women's Murder Club mystery.

The Devil's Light: A Novel by Richard North Patterson (Scribner, $26, 9781451616804) pits a CIA agent against terrorists attempting to detonate a nuke.

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Ace, $27.95, 9780441020317) is the 11th entry in the Sookie Stackhouse series, basis for HBO's True Blood.

If You Ask Me: And of Course You Won't
by Betty White (Putnam, $25.95, 9780399157530) gives candid opinions from a Hollywood veteran.

From This Moment On
by Shania Twain (Atria, $26.99, 9781451620740) chronicles the life and career of the Grammy-winning country musician.

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir by Steven Tyler (Ecco, $27.99, 9780061767890) is the memoir of Aerosmith's lead singer.

Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World's Most Beautiful Game
by Rex Ryan (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385534444) shares football stories from the coach of the New York Jets.

Tabloid City: A Novel
by Pete Hamill (Little, Brown, $26.99, 9780316020756) includes terrorism, a dying newspaper and a double murder.


Now in paperback:

Life by Keith Richards and James Fox (Back Bay Books, $16.99, 9780316034418).

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham (Puffin, $7.99, 9780142417225).

Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok (Riverhead, $15, 9781594485152).

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
by John Valliant (Vintage, $15, 9780307389046).

A Famous Dog's Life: The Story of Gidget, America's Most Beloved Chihuahua
by Sue Chipperton, Rennie Dyball and Reese Witherspoon (NAL, $15, 9780451233097).

The Last Time I Saw Paris
by Lynn Sheene (Berkley, $15, 9780425240847).

 



Book Review

Book Review: The White Devil

The White Devil by Justin Evans (Harper, $24.99 hardcover, 9780061728273, May 10, 2011)

In his acknowledgments, Justin Evans (A Good and Happy Child) reveals that, like the teenage protagonist of his new novel, The White Devil, he was sent away to Harrow, a centuries-old boarding school on the outskirts of London, due to disciplinary problems at home. "It was an enriching and transformative time for me," he says, but "it is unfortunate that Andrew Taylor's experience at the school... was less happy." That's understating the case quite a bit: The day after Andrew arrives, he finds the only boy he's made friends with dead outside the school grounds--and a skeletal figure with a cough that "combined the bark of a sick animal with a wet, slapping sound" standing over the corpse. The assailant mysteriously vanishes, and it's determined that the boy died of unusual but natural causes. However, Andrew's dreams have been invaded by a similar apparition, bringing with it visions of violence and desire rooted in the school's past.

Meanwhile, the school's one female student has set her sights on Andrew, noting his eerie resemblance to the young Lord Byron (who was a student at Harrow in the first decade of the 19th century). She brings him to the attention of Piers Fawkes, a headmaster who has also been commissioned to write a school play about Byron's life. Andrew is cast in the lead and begins learning more about his role--which appears to be connected to the menacing ghostly visitor. Andrew confides in Fawkes and the school librarian; unfortunately, Fawkes's initial reaction is to string the situation along, hoping it will stir up enough drama to revitalize his dwindling literary career.

Evans ratchets up the suspense at an expert pace, although his grip on the novel's voice occasionally falters. Most of the story is told from Andrew's terrified perspective, or Fawkes's guiltily anxious perspective; when Evans brings in other points of view, he supplies crucial bits of narrative information, but it almost always derails the otherwise precisely calibrated tone. You'll have to set the suspension of disbelief bar fairly high to accept the way Andrew's supernatural tormentor asserts itself in the physical world, but the gradual revelations about the ghost's motivation are more than convincing enough to dispel those doubts. Once the story kicks into full gear, The White Devil becomes an authentic page-turner that may well be devoured in one sitting.--Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Evans comes up with a plausible theory for one of the great unanswered questions about Lord Byron's early life and integrates it with a chilling contemporary horror story in the vein of Michael Marshall.

 


Powered by: Xtenit