Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 5, 2013


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

Text Publishing Lands in North America

Heyward

In what publisher Michael Heyward called "a bold new venture for the company," Text Publishing, whose headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia, is beginning direct distribution in the U.S. and Canada through Consortium. The highly regarded company will publish some 40 titles over the next five months, half of which are from its new Text Classics line.

Text published the first 50 Text Classics titles in Australia last year and is doing another 30 titles this year. The paperback editions, many of which have been overlooked for years, have a uniform look, featuring yellow covers, and are from Australia (with a few from New Zealand). Most have introductions written by writers.

"So many of these titles have been out of print are so hard to find, and it makes no sense as we speed into the digital era for these national treasures not to be available," Heyward said, noting that it is not uncommon for great writers to go through a period of neglect. "Melville went out of print for 20 or 30 years, and soon after her death, Jane Austen was out of print," he said. "We want to be the champion of these books and make the case for them to a new generation of readers--and in the U.S., a whole country of readers--who in many cases have no idea the books exist at all."

Text has a "close working arrangement" here with Grove/Atlantic, which has published some Text authors, notably Tim Flannery, and it has a similar arrangement with Canongate in the U.K. It will continue to sell rights to individual titles. In the case of Text Classics, however, Heyward said, "It made a lot of sense to keep the collection intact." Text Classics launched in the U.K. in February. The deal with Consortium, under which Text aims to release four each month, "gives us more flexibility about how we bring our books to North America," Heyward said. "We want to form relationships with booksellers in the U.S."

Text Classics titles appearing in the next few months include:

  • 1788 by Watkin Tench. The author was a captain of the marines in the First Fleet that established the first British colony in Australia. Tench was "a natural storyteller" and here provides an account of the infant colony.
  • The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson (the pen name of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson), which Heyward called "a masterpiece" about a doctor who joins the Gold Rush in 1852.
  • Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott, which won the Miles Franklin Award in 1963. The author emigrated to the U.S. and was a playwright in New York for many years.
  • Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook, the "ultimate Outback thriller," which "set Australian tourism back several decades."

The first Text title to appear here is The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, with an introduction by Joan London, which was originally published in 1966 but then was out of print for decades. Harrower had published three books before The Watch Tower, but this was her last. "It's the very simple story of two sisters living in a household in Sydney around World War II," Heyward said. "The older sister is married to a businessman who turns out to be an increasingly terrifying domestic despot." The theme is "a powerful inversion of the suburban dream" and has reminded Heyward of Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, another author who was long neglected. (Harrower is 85 and lives in Sydney.) --John Mutter

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Here we offer a review of Text's inaugural title, distributed by Consortium in North America:

In Elizabeth Harrower's "criminally overlooked" 1966 novel, The Watch Tower (Text Classics, $14.95, 9781921922428), Laura and Clare Vaizey's father dies shortly before the onset of World War II. Their mother, a self-possessed woman utterly uninterested in the lives of her daughters, pulls the sisters out of boarding school and moves with them to a flat in Sydney, Australia. Not long after the war breaks out, the mother decides to return home to her brother and extended family overseas. To avoid total abandonment and ensure that Clare doesn't have to quit school, Laura marries Felix Shaw, her boss and owner of a box factory in Sydney. Felix's behavior, at first seeming only enigmatic and detached, becomes outright cruel, and as Felix navigates a number of ill-fated business ventures with younger, more successful men, he channels his own feelings of emasculation and failure into his campaign of psychological and emotional warfare against the Vaizey sisters.

Although the narration sometimes jumps frustratingly fast between times, places and perspectives, Harrower's prose abounds with beautiful, evocative descriptions of Sydney and its iridescent harbor in the 1930s and '40s. Harrower plumbs and dredges the internal lives of characters both major and minor, and captures in discreet, wonderful moments the unspoken intricacies and pitfalls of social interaction. The feeling of dread and mounting horror as Felix's actions become more extreme is reminiscent of the brooding terror in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," though the novel never enters the realm of the occult.

The Watch Tower is an enthralling, captivating story about psychological entrapment and the struggle to escape it. --Alex Mutter


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


College Store Inside Theft: Two Updates

Claudette Farrell has pleaded guilty to the theft of some $98,000 from the Lorain County Community College bookstore in Elyria, Ohio, the Morning Journal reported. Farrell faces as many as four and a half years in prison and has been ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

With a friend, Farrell sold books taken from store shelves, fire-damaged books and texts sold back to the store by students to online retailers and bookstores. The school became aware of the thefts after fire-damaged books couldn't be accounted for during an inventory in 2010.

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In the latest twist in the case of Mark Brixey, former director of Missouri State University's bookstore, who has pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.16 million over a 10-year period, Brixey's wife, Dawn, resigned her position at the University this week just as the University was finally going to speak with her about what she knew about the embezzlement, according to the News-Leader. Dawn Brixey had worked in the admissions office.

"She essentially resigned as we were beginning to investigate if she had any involvement," MSU president Clif Smart said yesterday.

Based on research into e-mails between the Brixeys on the University's server, the paper speculated that the couple spent much of the embezzled money on travel in the South (in 2010 alone, they stayed 50 nights at Marriott hotels or rental units, for example) and at least one cruise. They also owned a time share in Branson, Mo.


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Obituary Notes: Roger Ebert, Daniel Hoffman

Roger Ebert, the popular film critic who wrote many books, died yesterday, the New York Times reported. He was 70. Besides numerous books about the movies, he also wrote the poignant Life Itself: A Memoir and The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker.

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Daniel Hoffman, U.S. poet laureate from 1973 to 1974 who was also a scholar and critic, died on Saturday at age 89. The New York Times called him "a member of a diminishing breed, an old-fashioned man of letters who not only explored freely within poetry's established forms but wrote in free verse as well, and who in spirited, scholarly essays, exalted the writer's art."


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Notes

Image of the Day: The Art of Biography


Last Friday, two of our favorite writers appeared at the Strand Bookstore in New York City: journalist and author Frank Rich (l.) interviewed Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker and the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, still in progress, about Caro's work.


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Perseus to Distribute Skyhorse Publishing

Effective January 1, 2014, for print editions and August 1, 2013, for e-books, Skyhorse Publishing will be sold and distributed in the U.S. by Perseus Distribution. Skyhorse includes the Skyhorse Publishing, Arcade Publishing, Allworth Press, Sports Publishing and Sky Pony Press imprints and has a backlist of 2,000 titles. The publisher has been distributed by Norton.

Skyhorse publisher Tony Lyons expressed gratitude to Norton, whose "work allowed us to grow from $2.7 million in sales in 2007 to nearly $23 million in 2012." He added that Skyhorse is moving to Perseus because "we are impressed with their obvious commitment to independent publishing, their reach in the marketplace, and their Constellation digital platform."


Retirement Party for Earlene Scott of Scott's Book Store

A retirement party for Earlene Scott, owner of Scott's Book Store, Newnan, Ga., will be held on Sunday, April 21, 3-5 p.m., at the Depot History Center, 60 East Broad Street in Newnan. After 36 years in business, Scott has closed her store.

Jim Barkley of Southeastern Book Travelers is already missing her. He wrote: "I always loved calling on Earlene and have for so, so many years and it was always a pleasure to visit with her in her bookstore.

Mural at Scott's Bookstore

"Earlene and her bookstore will be missed by a lot of people: her community, the schools that she supported, the publishers and sales representatives she continued to support through a lot of years. Earlene was always eager to see what each publisher had to offer each season.

"Visiting with Earlene in Newnan also had other benefits such as breakfast at the Redneck Gourmet. Top of the breakfast list is always country ham, scratch biscuits, red-eye gravy and grits. In addition to breakfast you could also have Sprayberry's BBQ!"


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Carol Burnett Talks About Carrie and Me

Tomorrow on Weekend Today: Bob Dotson, author of American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things (Viking, $26.95, 9780670026050).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Mark Mazzetti, author of The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594204807).

Also on NPR's Weekend Edition: Julia Sweeney, author of If It's Not One Thing It's Your Mother (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451674040).

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Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Carol Burnett, author of Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781476706412).

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Sunday on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos: David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America (PublicAffairs, $35, 9781586489120).

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Sunday on OWN's Oprah's Next Chapter: Mary Williams, author of The Lost Daughter: A Memoir (Blue Rider, $26.95, 9780399160868).


TV: The Sot-Weed Factor; Man Who Walked Around the World

Steven Soderbergh is developing a 12-hour miniseries based on John Barth's ambitious novel The Sot-Weed Factor, Entertainment Weekly reported, noting that a 1960 New York Times review of the book called it "so monstrously long that reading it seemed nearly as laborious as writing it."

"I've had this on my shelf for a while," said Soderbergh. "I was going to do it as a movie, but I couldn't figure it out. So now I've had it adapted as 12 one-hour episodes." The director told EW that "the real challenge on this project is figuring out a way to bring the epic period piece to the screen without an oversize budget. He says he's found a daring, outside-the-box solution... but he's not quite ready to reveal it yet."

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HBO Films is developing The Man Who Walked Around the World, based on the 1979 book by David Kunst and Clinton Trowbridge chronicling "the real life adventures" of the Kunst brothers: "Following the Apollo moon landing, David Kunst was inspired to walk around the world. On June 20, 1970, David and his brother John walked East out of Waseca, Minn., with a pack mule named Willie Makeit. On October 5, 1974, David walked back into Waseca from the west, to become the first person confirmed to have circled the land mass of the earth on foot," Deadline.com reported. The project will be written and directed by Robert Connolly (Underground: The Julian Assange Story).



Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey (Scribner, $25, 9781451676563). "Hainey's search for the truth about his father's early death is one of the most compelling memoirs I've read. An insider's tribute to the hard-working and hard-drinking big city newsmen of the 1950s and '60s, After Visiting Friends is also an unsentimental love song to a Chicago of all-night bars, jazz clubs, and three major daily newspapers. I was engaged, moved, and kept guessing (as Hainey was for more than 10 years) until the truth won out. A brave, intimate, and honest portrait of a family and its secrets." --Linda Bubon, Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill.

Rage Against the Dying: A Novel by Becky Masterman (Minotaur, $24.99, 9780312622947). "Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn is trying to live like a normal person, with a husband, dogs, and quaint domesticity, until one day a man claims to be a serial killer whom Quinn chased but could never catch. Just as the case seems to be finally closing, Quinn finds herself thrown back into the investigation and the apparent target of another murderer. Fast-paced, thrilling, and gritty, this is a tour de force of crime fiction that introduces us to a unique and intriguing female character." --Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, N.C.

Paperback
By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir by Joe Blair (Scribner, $16, 9781451636062). "This is a perfectly written book about a very complicated family under extraordinary circumstances. A troubled couple, Joe and his wife, along with their four kids, live in Coralville, Iowa, at nightmarish flood tide. Blair knows how families work and knows the sorrow of families working poorly. He also learns the way tragedy can pull things together. His struggles with his wife and learning-disabled son are particularly moving. No one can teach someone to write with Blair's level of honesty and love." --Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, Iowa

For Teen Readers
Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Dutton, $17.99, 9780525425915). "Filled with the ups and downs of self-discovery, Forman's new book tells the story of Allyson and her uncharacteristic decision to travel to Paris for one day with Willem, whom she met during a Shakespeare performance in England. The connection between Willem and Allyson flourishes during their trip, which makes it even more shocking when the next morning Willem has disappeared. Allyson's quick return to the United States thrusts her into a year of questioning her path and discovering her interests. The story leaves you holding your breath for the follow-up novel!" --Kerry Barmann, Kids Ink, Indianapolis, Ind.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Brahmin: Peter Eichstaedt

photo: Dina Horwedel

Journalist Peter Eichstaedt has reported from Slovenia, Moldova, Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He worked most recently in Afghanistan as the country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, where he managed journalism programs, including the Afghan Investigative Journalism Fund. He is the former Africa editor for the Institute and the author of Consuming the Congo, First Kill Your Family, If You Poison Us and Pirate State. His new book is Above the Din of War: Afghans Speak About Their Lives, Their Country, and Their Future--and Why America Should Listen (Chicago Review Press, April 1, 2013).

On your nightstand now:

My reading mostly relates to the topic on which I am writing, and at the moment it is the Mexican borderland. I'm reading El Narco by Ioan Grillo and Murder City by Charles Bowden, which is about Juarez. For an escape, I am reading Randy Wayne White's recent mystery, Chasing Midnight.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was captivated by Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. Set in the northern Great Lakes region, where I was born, it's the story of how a toy canoe carved by a Native American boy winds its way around the lakes, down the St. Lawrence Seaway, and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean. Even then I was drawn to travel and adventure.

Your top five authors:

I'm an Ernest Hemingway fan, an author who's been unfairly maligned of late. I admire F. Scott Fitzgerald's fluid prose and am in awe of William Faulkner's style. Raymond Chandler is up there, as is Graham Greene.

Book you've faked reading:

If I don't like a book, I just don't read it. Many books on my shelves sit there unread, especially those that people give me as gifts. If someone is talking about a well-known author I haven't read, such as Marcel Proust, I nod, mumble "ummm," and try to change the subject.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I recently re-read The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist of amazing literary talent. It's the fictionalized account of the last days of the American journalist-author Ambrose Bierce, who joined the Mexican Revolution and died fighting with the army of Pancho Villa.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought Tim Jeal's Stanley, the biography of the African explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who opened up the Congo, but I couldn't get past the first few pages.

Book that changed your life:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. His stories of the "lost generation" of writers and artists living in Paris in the 1920s, and of his own life there, inspired me to write and travel, and of course make frequent visits to Paris.

Favorite line from a book:

The opening line of The Stranger by Albert Camus perfectly sets the tone for this existential jewel: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I am fascinated by his great dialogue and taut, tough-guy prose. He captures the essence of the 1930s in Los Angeles.


Book Review

Review: The Mystery of Mercy Close

Mystery of Mercy Close: A Walsh Sister Novel by Marian Keyes (Viking, $27.95 hardcover, 9780670025244, April 9, 2013)

Marian Keyes has treated readers to the stories of the Walsh sisters in Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married and other novels. This time, in The Mystery of Mercy Close, it's Helen Walsh's turn to take center stage. She is the youngest of the five siblings and is having a hard time. After being fired from job after job, she took a course to become a private investigator and became rather good at it. But with Ireland's economy turned upside down, business dried up: if a woman thinks her husband is having an affair, she turns her head the other way--where would she go if she left him? She doesn't hire a private investigator.

Helen is at her nadir. Her flat has been repossessed, she is in debt and the only thing left for her is to move back home again; Mammy Walsh isn't any more thrilled about it than Helen. The one good thing Helen has going is Artie, her gorgeous Viking boyfriend. He is in law enforcement, the father of three children on whom he dotes and has a very friendly ex-wife. Sometimes, though, the baggage is too much for Helen, who feels like she's spending the evening with the Waltons or the Brady Bunch--and will those kids ever go to bed?

She ignores several calls from an old boyfriend, but when she finally answers, he makes her an offer she can't refuse. He's arranged a series of reunion concerts for the mid-'90s boy band he manages, but one of them has gone missing--and the contracts specify that they all have to show up. Helen brings her investigative talents to bear and gets nowhere, but the search puts her in contact with some interesting--and potentially dangerous--characters.

Keyes's writing is funny and poignant. She has been through a serious depressive episode herself and replicates the experience through Helen, who is always on the verge of suicide. Her descriptions of the "black dog" plaguing her are reminiscent of Styron and others on the downside of bipolar disorder. Yet Keyes always rescues the reader from despair with a crackling one-liner or an entirely inappropriate comment. She has written an entertaining and heartfelt novel with The Mystery of Mercy Close, a story that keeps the reader guessing and, in the end, leads to a very satisfying wrap-up. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: Keyes focuses on Helen, the youngest of her fictional Walsh sisters, bringing her to life in a story that combines mystery, comedy and an exploration of crippling depression.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Northshire on Track for Saratoga Springs Opening

Okay, I apologize for the track pun, but this summer the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., will open a 9,000-square-foot second location in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Since I happen to live in the Spa City now, it's been fun having a front-row seat to witness the creation of a new indie bookshop, especially one whose flagship store, founded by Ed and Barbara Morrow in 1976, I had a personal stake in for so many years as a bookseller.

When I noticed that Northshire Bookstore Saratoga would be hosting a Neil Gaiman event June 20 at the Saratoga City Center--weeks before the store's projected opening--I thought it might be a good time to check in for an update.

"Creating a new store is exciting and daunting," Northshire co-owner Chris Morrow observed. "Our staff at the current store is so good that I'm spoiled. Fostering and enabling a commitment to superior hospitality while paying attention to the details of the art of bookselling will be our main challenge. Right now I am busy designing the space and making fit-out decisions, but soon we will move on to hiring and training."

The Gaiman event is part of an overall "priming the pump" strategy to build on what Morrow described as "already bubbling community enthusiasm for our arrival." The Northshire has also booked bestselling children's author Jeff Kinney to open the Saratoga Arts Fest on June 5. "HarperCollins and Abrams have really come through for us," he said. "I am looking forward to working with all our publishing partners to create a world-class author event program."

While local anticipation for the bookstore continues to grow and the new building gradually takes shape on Broadway, behind the scenes Morrow and his staff are busy choosing floors, ceilings, lights, security systems and "all the other myriad elements that go into creating an elegant and welcoming space." The goal is to create a similar feel to the Manchester shop, with the same custom built fixtures and even a wrought iron staircase leading up to the children's section like the one that has become a signature feature in the Vermont store.

"We should be able to get into the space in early June to do our fixturing and get all the stock on the shelves," Morrow said. "We will be hiring an events/community person first and have them involved in helping us with outreach. As you know well, our success will be dependent on us being a true community bookstore. Saratoga Springs is a gem of a city. It has a great, walkable downtown, a strong independent business sector, a vibrant economy and a Local First mindset."

Morrow acknowledged that finding the right people will be key to long-term success in the new venue: "Creating a bookstore from whole cloth, as opposed to expanding an existing store, has its unique challenges. We will be hiring 20-plus people. So, we need to get them trained in the Northshire way. This will happen in Manchester and in Saratoga. Key management team personnel will be over a lot in the beginning and veteran NB booksellers will be working in Saratoga some, too."

Scheemaker

Nancy Scheemaker, who is the general manager of Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, joined the Northshire team in 1998 as a part-time children's bookseller and has held numerous positions since then, including full-time general bookseller, assistant sales floor manager and co-manager. More recently, she has been the community programs director, working "to improve our responsiveness to customer interests, to move the bookstore more into the realm of a cultural center, to build partnerships, and to develop new experiences for customers that increased their loyalty, affiliation and connection to us," she said.

Morrow cited this wide range of experience within the Northshire's structure, as well as her passion for bookselling and focus on community as key factors in the decision to offer Scheemaker the Saratoga position.

As community programs director, she said she has learned "how partnerships with neighboring institutions--going out on a limb a bit with the unexpected event--rarely hurts, and just being in tune with the local and the regional culture are key to the full life and personality of a local bookstore. I'll carry these insights with me to Saratoga."

With fewer than 60 business days until launch, everyone involved with the project has been "considering and planning what the layout will be--what goes where, and how to create the most exciting, warm, accessible, dynamic bookstore experience for each and every person who walks in," Scheemaker noted. "This is an amazing opportunity--but it is tough not to feel the pressure. How to reproduce the very best of a 37-year-old, award-winning bookstore in a new location with an entirely fresh staff?

"Working on this, I'm reflecting on my experiences with community and customers. But as you know, it all comes down to this--the incredible dedication, creativity and passion that comes from our staff. When you have that, everything else falls into place."

The bookstore's July opening happens to coincide with the start of Saratoga's legendary thoroughbred racing season (or, as we call it here, "the season"). This year Saratoga Race Track also celebrates its 150th anniversary. In terms of walk-in traffic potential for a brand new Broadway business, think of it as Christmas... in July... for six weeks. Off to the races indeed. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.

1. Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw
2. Falling into You by Jasinda Wilder
3. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed
4. Twisted by K.A. Robinson
5. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
6. Never Too Far by Abbi Glines
7. Light in the Shadows by A. Meredith Walters
8. Suicide Note by Teresa Mummert
9. Music of the Heart by Katie Ashley
10. Lily's Mistake by Pamela Ann

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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