Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 29, 2015

St. Martin's Press: A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes #1) by Jin Yong

Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders (Second Edition, Revised) by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

Magination Press: Snitchy Witch by Frank J. Sileo, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Sleeping Bear Press: Santa's Secret by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Abrams Books for Young Readers: Harry Houdini (First Names) by Kjartan Poskitt, illustrated by Geraint Ford and Amelia Earhart (First Names) by Mike Smith, illustrated by Andrew Prentice

Balzer & Bray: The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy


Red Wheel/Weiser: New Imprint and Distribution Deals

Red Wheel/Weiser, the metaphysical and self-help publisher whose imprints include Conari Press, Weiser Books and Disinformation Books, is joining with New York Open Center, which offers holistically-based educational programs to create positive transformation in individuals and the world, to create a New York Open Center imprint.

Red Wheel/Weiser will work New York Open Center staff to identify and develop potential authors and projects from the many practitioners and faculty who teach classes, lead workshops and lecture at the Center.

Jan Johnson

Red Wheel/Weiser publisher emerita Jan Johnson will help select the initial list, which will include general introductory guides on topics regularly taught at the center, such as shamanism, mindfulness and lucid dreaming, as well as books that delve deeper into subjects based on Center workshops and webinars and broad survey books drawn from Center major conferences. The imprint will be introduced at BookExpo America in 2016.

Michael Kerber, president of Red Wheel/Weiser, commented: "Our continued goal is to publish 'books to live by,' and this collaboration with New York Open Center is both a natural and complementary fit given our shared mission to inform and improve people's lives. It is part of our wider efforts of collaborating with like-minded companies in a variety of areas. For us to grow as a publisher, we must engage readers wherever they seek guidance, wisdom, and new ideas."

Thomas Amelio, president of the New York Open Center, said, "For the last 31 years, the New York Open Center has been a platform for the world's leading teachers in holistic thought, wellness, spirituality and interdisciplinary approaches to human and societal transformation. We have been committed to offering the best, cutting-edge programs in these fields--often long before they gain mainstream acceptance. Now, as an expanded expression of our ongoing mission, we are thrilled to be writing this new chapter with Red Wheel/Weiser. And, as someone who has read, and benefited by, Weiser Books since my teens, I am personally very happy for this partnership!"


In other Red Wheel/Weiser news, effective February 1, the company is becoming the exclusive distributor in North America for Quest Books, an imprint of the Theosophical Society in America. Since 1966, Quest has published books by cultural thinkers such as H. P. Blavatsky, Amit Goswami, Jack Kornfield, Huston Smith and Ken Wilbur on subjects including transpersonal psychology, comparative religion, deep ecology, spiritual growth, the development of creativity and alternative health practices. Quest has a backlist of more than 250 titles and releases about 12 new books each year.

Also, beginning with the March publication of Paradigm Busters, Red Wheel/Weiser will distribute world-wide digital and print books published by Atlantis Rising, the magazine that focuses on ancient mysteries, unexplained anomalies and future science. Each book will be compiled and edited by J. Douglas Kenyon, publisher of the magazine. Four other titles are slated for publication over the next three years.

Blue Rider Press:  One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten

Loft Literary Center's Hale Stepping Down

Jocelyn Hale

Jocelyn Hale will step down as executive director of the Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis, Minn., in August. The board of directors is opening a national search.

"Supporting writers and readers at the Loft during these past 13 years has been a joy," said Hale, who took the position in 2007 after serving on the Loft's board for five years. "The Loft is a national leader in the field with an outstanding board of directors, staff, and slate of teaching artists. I've picked 2015 for this transition because we are so well positioned for the future."

Board chair John Schenk said Hale's "energy and passion for the Loft is contagious. She began her tenure as the economy was collapsing and managed to keep the Loft moving forward, including launching online learning, completing an endowment drive, expanding class offerings and outreach programs, and taking a leadership role in Open Book's management and sustainability."

 Peachtree Publishing Company: Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today (Revised) by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinso

Obituary Notes: Colleen McCullough, Margaret Bloy Graham

Colleen McCullough, whose Thorn Birds was an international bestseller, died today at her home on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. She was 77.

While working as a research associate in the neurology department at Yale University, McCullough, an Australian, wrote The Thorn Birds. The family saga set in the Australian outback was an immediate worldwide hit when published in 1977 and was made into an equally popular TV miniseries that first aired in 1983. All told, The Thorn Birds sold 30 million copies and is "the highest-selling Australian book," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Altogether McCullough wrote 25 novels. Her series set in ancient Rome was noted for its meticulous research; she also wrote a detective series set in the U.S. in the 1960s. Her final book, Bittersweet, was published in 2013.


Children's book illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham, who was best known for her Harry the Dirty Dog series, died January 22, School Library Journal reported. She was 94.

"Harry the Dirty Dog is a character who generations of children have embraced as if he were their own beloved pet," said Kate Jackson, editor-in-chief at HarperCollins Children's Books. "We at HarperCollins will miss our long time treasured author and friend."

imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells

#WI10 Buzz Books: Fiction

Looking ahead to the Winter Institute in Asheville, N.C., we talked with booksellers around the country about the titles and authors featured at the show. Today, we focus on fiction by beloved authors and from new voices. As Mary Williams from Skylight Books in Los Angeles summed up, "The best part of the author portion of WI is coming away knowing about the writers you never heard of before."

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Scout Press/Gallery, Sept., $26, 9781476798172)
A lot of the buzz around Bill Clegg centers on whether the literary agent who wrote so boldly about his drug addiction and recovery in the bestselling memoirs Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days has the literary chops to produce an exceptional debut novel. Early readers of Did You Ever Have a Family agreed Clegg more than hits the mark. The book opens on the eve of a family wedding, when a disaster claims the lives of so many around June Reid--her daughter, her daughter's fiancé, her ex-husband, her boyfriend. Unmoored, June leaves her Connecticut home and drives across country, stumbling upon other heartbroken people in a story that is in its essence a celebration of family--those we are born into and those we create. "From page one it unfolds in the most brilliant way," observed Cathy Langer, buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver. "This is one I will be able to handsell to any kind of reader."

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf, Sept., 9780385353779)
Who in publishing hasn't heard about Garth Risk Hallberg, the NBCC-nominated critic for the Millions who sold his debut novel to Knopf for nearly $2 million? This book was so hot that Random House's Ruth Liebmann said booksellers were asking for galleys at last year's WI. But Hallberg has been kept under wraps for his debut, which has a 200,000 first printing; Asheville will be the first place to grab galleys for this hot book.

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer (St. Martin's Press, Aug. $24.99, 9781250057808)
While Fishbowl is actually the second novel by Bradley Somer (Canada's Nightwood Editions published his debut, Imperfections, in 2012), St. Martin's is treating the publication of his first book by a big house as a debut--and it has plenty of bookseller buzz already. In Fishbowl, a goldfish named Ian decides it is better to plummet 27 floors outside his apartment building than live in a fishbowl on a balcony ledge forever. The goings-on among the building residents he observes on his way down make for a novel that is no ordinary fish tale. Too gimmicky? Sheryl Cotleur, frontlist buyer at Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, Calif., did not think so: "It's the perfect mix of whimsical with a great deal of philosophical depth," Cotleur said. "All the things that happen to people in the world happen in one day in an apartment building."

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (Bloomsbury, June, $26, 9781632861122)
Rebecca Dinerstein wrote the first draft of The Sunlit Night while on post-Yale fellowship in the Norwegian Arctic--which is the setting of her book. Similarly, upon graduating college, Frances, the book's protagonist, decides to accept an apprenticeship at an Arctic artists' colony to escape her complicated New York life, where her parents are getting divorced and her sister is getting married. When Frances arrives she meets the only artist left--a middle-aged descendent of reindeer hunters who specializes in yellow--and bonds with Yasha, an 18-year-old Russian immigrant baker struggling with his father's wish to be buried "at the top of the world." Jonathan Safran Foer called The Sunlit Night "as lyrical as a poem, psychologically rich as a thriller."

The Valley by John Renehan (Dutton, March, $26.95, 9780525954866)
A debut novel by John Renehan, a former U.S. army captain, brings readers into a valley in Afghanistan that has been taken over by the Taliban and into a ragged army unit trying to hold on to its remote outpost there. "It's a war novel," observed Langer, "but it is also incredibly suspenseful and character-driven." As for readers who may shy away from war novels, Langer said, they might be surprised to find themselves tearing through the story as she did.

Soil by Jamie Kornegay (Simon & Schuster, March, $26, 9781476750811)
Bookseller Jamie Kornegay's debut novel, Soil, takes place on the Mississippi delta, where the author opened TurnRow Book Company in 2006 after he spent some time working at Square Books in Oxford. In Soil, an environmental scientist moves with his wife and young son to the region in what seems like a progressive agriculturalist's dream come true--until flood and pestilence devastate his farm, his wife moves away with their son, and the discovery--and disposal--of a body on his property are enough to make a maniac out of any honest man. At Asheville's Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, general manager Linda-Marie Barrett shared her views on Kornegay's debut: "Just meeting him, I could see how his book could be so dark and so funny at the same time."

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (Ecco, May, $26.99, 9780062367556)
Set in 1895 New York, Church of Marvels is described as "bringing to life the underside of Edith Warton's novels." Parry's cast includes a man who finds an abandoned baby behind a tenement building he cleans; sisters in search of their mother, who raised them while appearing in a Coney Island sideshow called Church of Marvels; and a young woman who awakens in an insane asylum suspecting her mother-in-law is to blame and whose only hope for escape lies with another inmate, a beauty who cannot speak. "A little bit magical," said Langer, "with incredible characters and really carefully plotted."

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (April, Grove, 9780802123459)
One of the most buzzed-about debuts, The Sympathizer opens as Saigon is falling; the main character is a Viet Cong sympathizer who has the power to get people out--or not. Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, The Sympathizer is also a story with an unusual point of view into the American immigrant experience. Paul Yamazaki, buyer at City Lights in San Francisco, said he was impressed with the quality of writing and the suspense. "I had the same sense of excitement as when I first read Devil in the Blue Dress," said Yamazaki. "This is really solid stuff."

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen (Penguin Press, Feb., $29.95, 9781594206160)
Booksellers will remember meeting Reif Larsen at a previous Winter Institute for his debut novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet; he's back this year for the release of his second, I Am Radar. Radar is a young, love-struck black radio-operator kid who was mysteriously born to and raised by white parents in New Jersey. As the story unfolds, Radar becomes involved with a secret international society of scientists and puppeteers that perform avant-garde shows about particle physics for populations suffering from genocide.

Dietland by Sarai Walker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May, $26, 9780544373433) 
"Bridget Jones meets Fight Club"--that's how Dietland, Sarai Walker's debut novel, is being described. Walker was an editor and writer for Our Bodies, Ourselves, and here she turns chick lit on its head with sharp writing reminiscent of adventure novels and a one-of-a-kind, funny, self-deprecating main character.

The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, June, $26, 9780374114503)
A debut about an heiress to a robber baron's fortune, with a biting wit and a generous nature, who tries to stop the financial ruin of her family, which includes a troubled son and his outsider wife. There has been much early buzz from readers who said The Unfortunates is a literary debut that is both funny and heartwarming.

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb (Liveright/Norton, Aug., $24.95, 9781631490477)
Booksellers who remember Eli Gottlieb for his debut novel, The Boy Who Went Away, which was about a boy and his autistic brother, are excited to see the author has returned to the subject of autism in his new novel, Best Boy. This time, Gottlieb presents a 53-year-old character who has been institutionalized since he was 11. Best Boy not only brings Gottlieb--author of Now You See Him and The Face Thief--back to a familiar subject but also reunites him with the editor of his first novel, Bob Weil, who is publishing the new book under his Liveright imprint.

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle (Ecco, March, $27.99, 9780062349378)
The Harder They Come, T.C. Boyle's first book with Ecco Press, is set in contemporary Northern California. According to Ecco, The Harder They Come explores the volatile connections between three damaged people--an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son's paranoid, much older lover--as they careen towards an explosive confrontation. Linda-Marie Barrett is hoping Boyle, who is a favorite at Malaprop's, will have time to drop by the store while he is in town for WI.

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (Morrow, Jan. $25.99, 9780062302120)
From the author of Hold It Till It Hurts comes a story about a group of Berkeley students who decide to travel to the Deep South where they intend to protest a Civil War reenactment and expose the locals' racism--only nothing goes according to plan. "It backfires, and shows the righteousness and racism of the left and the right," said Cotleur at Copperfield's. "It's a serious book in the end. But also very energetic and lively--and very pertinent to present-day issues."

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link (Random House, Feb., $25, 9780804179683)
This book has garnered more bookseller buzz than any other going into WI10, perhaps because it has been more than 10 years since Kelly Link--whom Michael Chabon called "the most darkly playful voice in American fiction"--published a collection of stories. Link, founder and publisher of the indie Small Beer Press, is described by Maryelizabeth Hart, co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Calif., as a "Renaissance woman." Get in Trouble is Link's first book with a big publisher, and booksellers hope that will propel her to greater attention. "She's up there with Neil Gaiman and Karen Russell, as far as how much our staff loves her," added Barrett at Malaprop's. --Bridget Kinsella

In subsequent issues we will highlight more WI10 buzz books: nonfiction, independent presses and YA/children's offerings.

Mango: The Restaurant Diet: How to Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight by Fred Bollaci


Image of the Day: Books & Books & Films

Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., and its neighbor across the street, the Coral Gables Art Cinema, are both big supporters of the local independent arts. Pictured: Mitchell Kaplan (r.), owner of Books & Books, who's on the board of the Coral Gables Art Cinema (and is also a movie producer), with new director Nat Chediak and actress Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin.

Atheneum Books: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Alexander Nabaum

Big Blue Marble Bookstore: 'Neighbors, Books & Friends'

When Sheila Avelin opened the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in 2005 in Philadelphia's Mt. Airy neighborhood, she "literally made book on her convictions, her community and her mission," Chestnut Hill Local reported in its profile of the bookshop named after "the seminal photo of Earth, so named by members of the crew on the Apollo 17, in 2007; and the PBS children's television series, The Big Blue Marble, which aired from 1974 to 1983, and included stories about children around the world and encouraged inter-cultural communication."

"I wanted a name that had that sense of being globally conscious, environmental and playful," said Avelin, whose goal was "to meet a need for smart, thoughtfully chosen books that would appeal to a multicultural, multi ethnic, progressive neighborhood."

General manager Jennifer Woodfin added: "This is a place where you can just be. We are really happy to be here, and we survive because of the huge outpouring of support from our customers."

Chestnut Hill Local noted that "inside this little shop around the corner, the unchanging essence of what's truly at heart is neighbors, books and friends."

Personnel Changes at the Naval Institute Press

Claire Noble has been appointed sales and marketing director of the Naval Institute Press. She was formerly marketing manager. Before joining the Press in 2011, she served for seven years as the marketing and publicity manager for Potomac Books.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jack Miles on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Jack Miles, editor of The Norton Anthology of World Religions: Volume 1: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism; Volume 2: Judaism, Christianity, Islam (Norton, $100, 9780393062533).


Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Gerald Posner, author of God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican (Simon & Schuster, $32, 9781416576570).

This Weekend on Book TV: Walter Isaacson

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, January 31
10 p.m. April Ryan, author of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America (Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95, 9781442238411). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Thanassis Cambanis, author of Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451658996), at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, February 1
12 p.m. Live In Depth with Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476708690). (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

7:45 p.m. Michael Shermer, author of The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom (Holt, $32, 9780805096910).

10 p.m. Three lawyers involved in the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of Guantánamo Diary (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316328685), at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Books & Authors

Awards: Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced finalists for the $25,000 (US$19,925) Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, which recognizes "a book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life." The winner will be announced March 11 in Ottawa. See the complete shortlist here.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Wildalone: A Novel by Krassi Zourkova (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062328021). "Thea, a piano prodigy determined to leave Bulgaria for America, has just discovered she is a 'ghost child,' someone raised in the shadow of a dead sibling. Her sister, Elza, attended Princeton, also as a piano prodigy, but was found dead with no known cause. Eighteen years later, as Thea learns of this tragedy for the first time, she is determined to solve the mystery of her sister's death, but two brothers, as handsome as they are mysterious, are determined to keep the bizarre circumstances of her sister's death secret. Enter the world of samodivi, or 'wildalones,' forest witches who entrap men and 'daemons' who ensnare young girls. Ancient Greek mythology meets Bulgarian legend in this shadowy, sensuous world of magic, mystery, and romance. --Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, 9780802123138). "In the midst of celebrating all that the Internet has done for us comes this thoughtful invitation to consider the negative impacts of its presence in our lives. Keen, himself a veteran of the tech industry, reveals the behind-the-scenes workings of the Internet with input from others involved. His best message, however, is that with consideration and the application of care we can still shape a future society that utilizes the strengths of the internet while not allowing it to overwhelm us and turn us into robotic servants of the very technology that was designed to help us gain freedom and growth as human beings." --Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash.

The Secret of Magic: A Novel by Deborah Johnson (Berkley, $16, 9780425272787). "A young lawyer who is sent by Thurgood Marshall to Mississippi in 1946 to investigate the murder of a black soldier encounters a world both surreal and mysterious. Regina Robichard learns that the Jim Crow South is a world unto itself, but she also learns the power of narrative and story as she meets a reclusive author who produced the book that influenced her childhood. This is a novel of subtlety, incisive portraits, and a brilliant evocation of a time and place on the cusp of momentous change." --Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

For Teen Readers
Talon by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen, $17.99, 9780373211395). "Talon revisits the age-old concept of dragons and mankind living together. Ember, a dragon, is chosen to blend into society by 'shifting' into human form. When a 16-year-old girl befriends a soldier from Talon's enemy, St. George, she discovers that the bonds of love are far more powerful than any forces drawing them apart. Told through multiple first-person views, this novel blows The Hunger Games and Divergent out of the water!" --Ayden Bird, Out West Books, Grand Junction, Colo.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 3:

We Are Pirates: A Novel by Daniel Handler (Bloomsbury, $26, 9781608196883) stars modern pirates plundering San Francisco Bay.

Power Forward: My Presidential Education by Reggie Love (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476763347) is the memoir of an aide to President Obama.

Washington's Revolution: The Making of America's First Leader by Robert Middlekauff (Knopf, $30, 9781101874233) profiles George Washington before his presidency.

The Evening Chorus: A Novel by Helen Humphreys (Mariner, $14.95, 9780544348691) follows a prisoner in a German POW camp and his bride.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9780312577223) centers on two French sisters during the German occupation.

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason (Gallery, $24.99, 9781476774459) is a thriller about a disintegrating marriage.

Death of a Liar by M. C. Beaton (Grand Central, $25, 9781455504787) is a new Hamish Macbeth mystery.

Life.Love.Beauty by Keegan Allen (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250065704) is the actor's photo-journal.

Now in paperback:

Robert Ludlum's The Geneva Strategy by Jamie Freveletti (Grand Central, $16, 9781455577583).

Book Review

Review: The Marauders

The Marauders by Tom Cooper (Crown, $26 hardcover, 9780804140560, February 3, 2015)

Tom Cooper's The Marauders is a wild pirogue ride through the post-Katrina, post-oil spill bayous of Barataria, outside New Orleans. His characters are the soul of this first novel, a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking "swamp noir" gumbo with echoes of John Kennedy Toole, Larry Brown and Daniel Woodrell. The nets of small town Jeanette, La., shrimpers yield nothing but a meager stunted catch that restaurants don't want out of fear of toxic pollution. Many Baratarian stores and houses are still wrecked and boarded over from the hurricane. A one-armed local treasure hunter pops OxyContin and Percocet from a Pez dispenser while scouring the bayou backwaters with a metal detector looking for pirate Jean Lafitte's loot. On a remote island, twin psychopaths cultivate the most righteous weed on the Gulf Coast. Two drifter potheads hire on to wash oil-soaked pelicans and plot to find and harvest the twins' grow. A sleazy oil company hack who was born in Jeanette sweet-talks his former neighbors into lowball cash settlements to prevent big lawsuits. Amid this spicy stew of marginal and all-too-human characters, 18-year-old Wes Trench tries to please his demanding shrimper father but still make his own way in a place too rich in history and family lore for him to move away. Having lost his mother in Katrina, he is haunted by all that washed away and is never coming back.

A multiple Pushcart nominee and New Orleans writing teacher, Cooper captures all the earthy smells and feral sub-strata of the bayou--the "quagmires of mud, impassable brambles, murky lagoons... the jungly bracken, the susurrus of swamp life... the alligators rumored to be a hundred years old and big as sedans." In occasional scenes in the Crescent City, he is equally adept at describing its special ambience--the "smells of garbage and piss, of seafood and chicory-spiced coffee, of horseshit and rotten fruit" and the Bourbon Street pandemonium of "college kids, hucksters, erotic puppeteers, rednecks, cover band musicians... a cheesy stink in the air... Zydeco and funk and rap." But as Cooper's colorful swamp dopers, shrimpers, drifters and scavengers chase their own treasures and quick scores, Wes slowly moves toward reconciliation with his father and a recognition of the small pleasures in a hardscrabble life. Accepting his legacy, he painstakingly builds his own steel and cypress shrimp boat: "sandpapering, hammering, drilling... he found them mysteriously fulfilling." Crazy as his neighbors might be, harsh as his father might seem, unforgiving as the bayous are, Wes finds that Barataria is the home where "he felt the tug of the future... the gravity of the past." When he finally launches the Cajun Gem, he thinks of his dead mother and hopes for her approval: "knowing himself and knowing his father... she probably would have considered it enough." Cooper's The Marauders is as grounded in the simple truth as it is awash in the outlandishly eccentric. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Cooper's first novel is a funny, sympathetic story of colorful bayou shrimpers and miscreants imperiled by storms, oil spills and their own stubborn follies.

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