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  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: Fiction   

    7 Author Pseudonyms That Were Cracked—and 6 That Haven’t Been (Yet) 

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    Author have chosen to publish novels under a pseudonym for many reasons—a chance to work in a different genre without alienating their existing fans;  a way to test how much their fame influences their books’ reception; maybe even to evade the prejudices of their time.

    Unless they are known from the outset (the name of sci-fi author James S.A. Corey, “creator” of space opera saga The Expanse, was always known to be a front for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) pen names often aren’t revealed until they’ve served their purpose, or even until the author behind one of them passes away and there’s no point in maintaining up the illusion.

    But every once in a while, a pseudonym is cracked prematurely due to either happenstance or clever detective work. And then there are the aliases that have never actually been revealed, leaving us with an enduring literary mystery. Here are seven authors whose secret identities were exposed before they were ready—and six we may never identify.

    Cracked Pseudonyms

    Robert Galbraith (Real identity: J.K. Rowling)
    J.K. Rowling chose to publish the Cormoran Strike novels under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith simply because she wanted the work to stand on its own, particularly after the scrutiny that greeted her first non-Harry Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy. It’s an understandable (and perhaps even laudable) motive—certainly she must’ve been curious as to whether she could sell a book with out riding the tails of boy wizard’s robe. We’ll never know how long she intended to keep up the ruse, because only a matter of weeks after The Cuckoo’s Calling was released (to strong reviews and rather modest sales—if respectable for an unknown debut author), the wife of a partner in Rowling’s lawyer’s firm leaked the secret to a loose-lipped friend, who subsequently blabbed to the press, and everything fell apart. Rowling initially took the revelation in good cheer amidst a surge in sales (increasing the print run from 1,500 to 140,000 will do that), but later expressed anger and irritation that her carefully constructed alter-ego had been so quickly and casually revealed. She continues to use the pseudonym for new novels in the series, and even maintains a separate website and social media presence under Galbraith’s name—almost as if Rowling is determined not to let all that creative effort go to waste (that said, Galbraith’s back-of-book author bio mentions her by name).

    Richard Bachman (Real identity: Stephen King)
    Stephen King created the identity of Richard Bachman  in the late 1970s for two reasons: one, he was too prolific, an his publisher was reluctant to put out more than one book a year under his real name, worried about overexposure (which seems surreal in retrospect, but the 1970s were simpler times); two, he wanted to see how much the success of his new books was driven by simple name recognition after the blockbuster sales of Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot. Beyond creating a fictional biography for the writer (married, an ex-Merchant Marine turned dairy farmer writing at night from his home in rural New Hampshire) King didn’t exactly put a lot of effort into maintaining the illusion—this was the pre-internet era, after all, when such schemes were a lot easier to pull off. Certainly he got away with it for a few years. In 1984, a Washington, D.C. bookstore worker named Steve Brown noticed similarities between King and Bachman’s writing and started doing some digging, eventually finding proof of the ruse in some legal documents in the Library of Congress. He sent King all of his research. King responded graciously, and agreed to grant Brown an exclusive interview about the whole thing, so he could get a little publicity for it. In the aftermath, King “killed off” his alter-ego, and Misery—originally planned as a Bachman book—was released under his own name. (Bachman did put out twi more books—1997’s The Regulators and 2007’s Blaze—the latter being a rewritten version of one of King’s earliest novels).

    Murray Constantine (Real identity: Katharine Burdekin)
    Katharine Burdekin found a measure of success as a writer under her own name in the early 20th century. Her books were ahead of their time, dealing with gender fluidity and sci-fi themes like time-travel; she also wrote a children’s book set in a world without gender. She was extremely productive in the 1930s, writing thirteen novels and publishing six—four under the pseudonym of Murray Constantine. It’s thought she used a male name to escape the sexist prejudice against women writers in the sci-fi genre. As Constantine, she published what many believe is one of the first truly dystopian novels, Swastika Night, which not only envisioned a terrifying future where the Nazis endured and thrived, but also serves as an early echo of The Handmaid’s Tale, describing a future where women are subjugated and treated like cattle. Burdekin published her last book in 1940, although she continued to write, and passed away in 1963, with no one the wiser that she and Constantine were one and the same—though it was a known pseudonym, at least one scholar believed the true writer to be a man—respected British sci-fi author Olaf Stapledon. But in the mid-1980s, an American scholar named Daphne Patai researching utopian and dystopian fiction put the clues together, which led to the discovery of a trove of Burdekin’s unpublished manuscripts, one of which—The End of This Day’s Business—is a mirror to Swastika Night, set in a future in which women rule the world and men are subjugated.

    James Tiptree, Jr. (Real identity: Alice Sheldon)
    It’s common knowledge among modern science fiction readers that James Tiptree, Jr. was a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon, the truth having been revealed decades ago at this point. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Tiptree name is not how long Sheldon kept it secret, but the fact that for many years, seemingly everyone in the sci-fi community knew it was a cover, but assumed the person behind it was a male writer hiding his identity. Hugo-winning author Robert Silverberg even publicly declared he found suggestions Tiptree might be a woman to be “absurd,” because the writing style was “superior in masculinity” to Ernest Hemingway—whatever that means. It was especially ironic (or perhaps appropriate), as Sheldon chose a male pseudonym because she didn’t want the attention of being a prominent woman in what was then a male-dominated field. Sheldon kept the ruse going for more than a decade before slipping up by making a reference to her mother’s death while “in character” as Tiptree. Her secret revealed, Sheldon gave up and admitted everything—though she continued to publish under the Tiptree name until her death a little over a decade later. Today, the James Tiptree, Jr. award is given annually to speculative works that expand or explore concepts of gender—though that may soon change. Earlier this year, a movement to change the name of the award gathered steam, with proponents suggesting honoring Sheldon in that way is inappropriate, given the fact that she murdered her infirm and ailing husband before killing herself—an act many in 2019 see as a clear case of caregiver murder. The issues involved are complex and heartbreaking—evidence suggests the couple had shared a pact to die on their own terms—and you can learn more of the sad details here.)

    Anonymous (Real identity: Joe Klein)
    If you’re old enough to remember Bill Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in the early 1990s, you might recall the furor over the release of the 1996 novel Primary Colors, a lightly fictionalized account of Clinton’s campaign that made everyone involved look pretty sketchy. The anonymous identity of the author was immediately a point of interest (and an incredibly effective marketing gimmick) that saw literary detectives poring over the book for clues. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long to crack the case: journalist Joe Klein was quickly and correctly identified as the likely culprit early on because of the writing style “Anonymous” employed. Klein nevertheless denied it publicly several times, until The Washington Post hired a handwriting expert to analyze notes written on the manuscript pages. When the Post revealed the expert’s analysis revealed the author had to be Klein, he came clean. A sequel to Primary Colors, The Running Mate, was published in 2000 under Klein’s own name.

    Trevanian (Real identity:Rodney Whitaker)
    Literary writer Trevanian was an enigma for decades—a man whose bestselling novels varied so much in subject and style that some people suspected he was a group of writers sharing a pseudonym. The fact was, Rodney Whitaker was one man writing under several names, only the most famous and successful of which was Trevanian. His first hit, The Eiger Sanction, was intended as a spoof of spy thrillers, and Whitaker was irritated that everyone seemed to take it seriously (he doubled-down on the spoofiness in the sequel, even giving it the title The Loo Sanction). Whitaker kept his true identity secret until 1998, when a reporter in Austin somehow discovered the secret via an examination of school records and published Trevanian’s true identity. Whitaker no longer lived in the United States by that time and wasn’t terribly bothered by the outing; he published two more novels under the name, including Crazyladies, which is a largely autobiographical work that offers plenty of insight into the unusual mind of one of the most successful writers of the 1970s.

    K.J. Parker (Real identity: Tom Holt)
    Like most names on this list, everyone knew K.J. Parker’s was a pseudonym—but for 17 years, no one was certain who was using the name to publish excellent fantasy novels and short stories which were praised for their wit and historical verisimilitude. In a delightfully modern comparison to the hullabaloo surrounding Tiptree, Jr., many people were pretty convinced Parker was a woman using a vague pen name to write that sort of grim, dense fantasy that were the domain of the male author. In 2015, British satirist Tom Holt outed himself as Parker, surprising the heck out of a lot of people. Holt, best known for his silly and pun-laden (if creative and cleverly constructed) speculative fiction, seemed like the least likely candidate for the job—especially when you start to add up the sum total of Parker and Holt’s output and realize that one mortal producing that many novels so quickly probably means Holt sleeps about a minute a day. While Holt’s secret identity was voluntarily surrendered rather than “cracked,” it still caused a minor stir.

    Still a Mystery

    Elena Ferrante
    You might think that the true identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neopolitan Quartet that begins with My Brilliant Friend (which was adapted into a successful TV miniseries) has been solved; there were a flurry of articles a few years ago that certainly gave that impression. The problem is, the three people who have so far been named as credible candidates—Marcella Marmo, Anita Raja, and Domenico Starnone (as well as Raja and Starnone together) have all denied it. There’s no hard evidence, and “Ferrante” continues to have nothing to say on the subject. The attempts to find the truth have elicited accusations of sexism and mean-spiritedness and led to questions about what an author “owes” their readership—and none of it has gotten us any closer to the truth.

    B. Traven
    Literally every detail known about the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is disputed on some level. From his name, to his birthplace, to whether or not his writing was initially published in German or English, no one can state with certainty a single concrete fact about the man—except that he wrote some of the most popular adventure novels of the early 20th century. In 1960 Traven submitted his final novel to his publisher, but the style and subject matter were so different the publisher rejected the book, believing that Traven had passed away and someone was attempting to use his name. One candidate for Traven’s true identity is German actor Ret Marut—but that name is also suspected to be a pseudonym. With every year that goes by, the likelihood that we’ll ever know for sure grows slimmer.

    Let’s just get it out of the way: My Secret Life, published between 1888 and 1895 in seven volumes that eventually amounted to over a million words, is a terrible book. As a memoir it meanders, repeats itself, and, despite the racy subject matter (covering affairs with prostitutes, serving girls, and just about anyone else who was willing), is written with all the style and literary talent of a shrub. The reason it’s still a notable work is simple: it details the sex life of a gentlemen in the Victorian era, a time when such matters weren’t discussed much, making this a valuable historical document. Adding to the intrigue, the identity of its author has never been convincingly proved. Since Walter’s escapades are not always complimentary (a fact that argues against this being a work of fiction or plain old erotica passed off as a memoir), it would be interesting if Walter turned out to be someone of prominence, but chances are we’ll never actually know.

    John Twelve Hawks
    Sci-fi author Hawks’ has maintained near-perfect anonymity, despite seeing his novels sell millions of copies around the world. He wrote that he decided on the pseudonym while working on his first novel, The Traveler, partly because he idolizes George Orwell (a pseudonym, in case you didn’t know), and partly because the novel focuses on a future society where the citizens are accustomed to being watched and monitored at all times. He felt it would be hypocritical to seek publicity after writing a story warning against a loss of privacy. The very small amount of information we have about Hawks has been gleaned solely from his interviews and writings, making him one of the most mysterious working authors today.

    James Church
    Church’s detective novels are set in North Korea and crammed with enough detail to convince you that he was, as he claims, once an intelligence agent who worked or works in the East Asia—and who must remain anonymous because he still travels regularly to North Korea. His novels follow the investigations of a North Korean policeman named Inspector O and detail the struggles of the inspector to solve cases while living under a repressive and often dangerously paranoid totalitarian state, and have been praised for their combination of great storytelling and presumed accuracy. Whether there will ever be a time when it’s safe for Church to reveal himself remains to be seen—if in fact his identity isn’t considered some sort of state secret, never be revealed at all.

    We end with the troubling case of Bandi, the unknown North Korean writer who smuggled this collection of short stories out of his native country under the nose of an oppressive regime but continues to live and work as a writer there. Details in the stories that might be used to identify him were deliberately altered by the publisher to protect him, and while the defector who helped him smuggle the stories out in the first place found ways of letting him know the book had been published, she also admits she hasn’t been able to get in touch with him since 2018. While there’s no reason to believe anything has happened to the author, the circumstances are certainly a bit ominous. This is one mysterious pseudonym we don’t want cracked—at least not until the writer is safely out of danger.

    Pseudonyms are always tantalizing little mysteries. Did we miss any that haven’t been figured out yet?

    The post 7 Author Pseudonyms That Were Cracked—and 6 That Haven’t Been (Yet) appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:06 pm on 2019/09/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , baron wenckheim's homecoming, crossing, death is hard work, drive your plow over the bones of the dead, Fiction, , , , space invaders, the barefoot woman, the collector of leftover souls: field notes on brazil's everyday insurrections, the memory police, translated literature, when death takes something from you give it back: carl's book, will and testament   

    Announcing the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature 

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    Throughout this week, the longlists for the 2019 National Book Awards are being announced, with the selection of finalists in each of five categories—Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Young People’s Literature, and Translated Literature—to follow. This morning, we present the longlist for the category of Translated Literature. Additional longlists will be announced each day.

    From a dangerous journey across war-torn Syria as three siblings endeavor to fulfill their father’s final wish, to a strange, gripping whodunit set in a remote Polish village, this year’s National Book Awards longlist for Translated Literature spans the globe and encompasses stories of heartbreak and redemption, tributes to children who were lost and parents who sacrificed everything, and stories of families broken and made whole again.

    The complete list is as follows:

    When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book, by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman
    In March 2015, Naja Marie Aidt’s twenty-five-year-old son, Carl, died in a tragic accident. When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back chronicles the few first years after that devastating phone call. It is at once a sober account of life after losing a child and an exploration of the language of poetry, loss, and love. Intensely moving, When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back explores what is it to be a family, what it is to love and lose, and what it is to treasure life in spite of death’s indomitable resolve.

    The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections, by Eliane Brum, translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty
    Eliane Brum is a star journalist in Brazil, known for her polyphonic writing that gives voice to people often underrepresented in popular literature. Brum’s reporting takes her into Brazil’s most marginalized communities: she visits the Amazon to understand the practice of indigenous midwives, stays in São Paulo’s favelas to witness the joy of a marriage and the tragedy of young men dying due to drugs and guns, and wades through the mud to capture the boom and bust of modern-day gold rushes. Brum is an enormously sensitive and perceptive interlocutor, and as she visits these places she provides intimate glimpses into both everyday and extraordinary lives: a poor father on the way to bury his son, a street performer who eats glass, a woman living out her final 115 days, and a hoarder rescuing the “leftover souls” of the city.

    Space Invaders, by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
    Space Invaders is the story of a group of childhood friends who, in adulthood, are preoccupied by uneasy memories and visions of their classmate Estrella González Jepsen. In their dreams, they catch glimpses of Estrella’s braids, hear echoes of her voice, and read old letters that eventually, mysteriously, stopped arriving. They recall regimented school assemblies, nationalistic class performances, and a trip to the beach. Soon it becomes clear that Estrella’s father was a ranking government officer implicated in the violent crimes of the Pinochet regime, and the question of what became of her after she left school haunts her erstwhile friends. Growing up, these friends—from her pen pal, Maldonado, to her crush, Riquelme—were old enough to sense the danger and tension that surrounded them, but were powerless in the face of it. They could control only the stories they told one another and the “ghostly green bullets” they fired in the video game they played obsessively.

    Will and Testament, by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund
    When a dispute over her parents’ will grows bitter, Bergljot is drawn back into the orbit of the family she fled twenty years before. Her mother and father have decided to leave two island summer houses to her sisters, disinheriting the two eldest siblings from the most meaningful part of the estate. To outsiders, it is a quarrel about property and favoritism. But Bergljot, who has borne a horrible secret since childhood, understands the gesture as something very different—a final attempt to suppress the truth and a cruel insult to the grievously injured. Will and Testament is a lyrical meditation on trauma and memory, as well as a furious account of a woman’s struggle to survive and be believed. Vigdis Hjorth’s novel became a controversial literary sensation in Norway and has been translated into twenty languages.

    Death is Hard Work, by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price
    Khaled Khalifa’s Death Is Hard Work is the new novel from the greatest chronicler of Syria’s ongoing and catastrophic civil war: a tale of three ordinary people facing down the stuff of nightmares armed with little more than simple determination. Abdel Latif, an old man from the Aleppo region, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. His final wish, conveyed to his youngest son, Bolbol, is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya. Though Abdel was hardly an ideal father, and though Bolbol is estranged from his siblings, this conscientious son persuades his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and the body to Anabiya, which is—after all—only a two-hour drive from Damascus. There’s only one problem: Their country is a war zone. With the landscape of their childhood now a labyrinth of competing armies whose actions are at once arbitrary and lethal, the siblings’ decision to set aside their differences and honor their father’s request quickly balloons from a minor commitment into an epic and life-threatening quest. Syria, however, is no longer a place for heroes, and the decisions the family must make along the way—as they find themselves captured and recaptured, interrogated, imprisoned, and bombed—will prove to have enormous consequences for all of them.

    Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet
    Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin–like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town’s alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor—a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town—offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.

    The Barefoot Woman, by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump
    A moving, unforgettable tribute to a Tutsi woman who did everything to protect her children from the Rwandan genocide, by the daughter who refuses to let her family’s story be forgotten. The story of the author’s mother, a fierce, loving woman who for years protected her family from the violence encroaching upon them in pre-genocide Rwanda. Recording her memories of their life together in spare, wrenching prose, Mukasonga preserves her mother’s voice in a haunting work of art.

    The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder
    A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor. On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten. When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past. A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.

    Crossing, by Pajtim Statovci, translated by David Hackston
    The death of head of state Enver Hoxha and the loss of his father leave Bujar growing up in the ruins of Communist Albania and of his own family. Only his fearless best friend, Agim—who is facing his own realizations about his gender and sexuality—gives him hope for the future. Together the two decide to leave everything behind and try their luck in Italy. But the struggle to feel at home—in a foreign country and even in one’s own body—will have corrosive effects, spurring a dangerous search for new identities. Steeped in a rich heritage of bewitching Albanian myth and legend, this is a deeply timely and deeply necessary novel about the broken reality for millions worldwide, about identity in all its complex permutations, and the human need to be seen.

    Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
    In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her mind… A deeply satisfying thriller cum fairy tale, Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is a provocative exploration of the murky borderland between sanity and madness, justice and tradition, autonomy and fate. Whom do we deem sane? it asks. Who is worthy of a voice?

    The 2019 National Book Award winners will be announced on November 20.

    The post Announcing the Longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: discover new writers, Fiction, ,   

    The Best Thrillers of September 2019 

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    Summer’s almost over, but your Year of Reading continues, and we’ve got a fresh batch of nail-biting thrillers to fuel your Autumn, including a new novel featuring Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, the next in James Patterson’s Instinct series, and a terrifying dive into the violent mind of a insane killer from the writer who gave us The Killing.

    Lethal Agent, by Kyle Mills
    Kyle Mills continues to keep Vince Flynn’s legacy going with the 18th Mitch Rapp novel, set during a divisive and chaotic election year in the United States. While politicians undercut each other and pay more attention to the polls than national security, ISIS engineers a horrifying threat, kidnapping a scientist and forcing him to begin developing Anthrax for an attack against the U.S. that will carried out by a Mexican drug cartel—with the horrible act’s progress chronicled by taunting Internet videos. Rapp and Irene Kennedy work feverishly to stop the plan while the country descends into panic, but the terrorists have a twist up their sleeves in the form of a deadly new pathogen that could decimate the world’s population.

    Killer Instinct, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
    Patterson and Roughan rejoin Dr. Dylan Reinhart and Detective Elizabeth Needham (featured in the hit 2018 TV series Instinct, inspired by Patterson and Roughan’s Murder Games ) in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack that strikes New York City just as the pair are tackling a murder case with disturbing connections to Reinhart’s shrouded past. In the fog of disaster, Needham becomes a hero—and the next target of the dangerous sociopath behind the attack. Dr. Reinhart is an expert on why people kill, but he quickly finds that this enemy is beyond anything he’s experienced in his career—and he’ll have to figure out what he’s dealing with fast, or an entire city will suffer for it.

    The Titanic Secret, by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
    The eleventh Isaac Bell novel is also a time-traveling Dirk Pitt adventure. In the modern day, Pitt does what he does best: saving lives using an antique submersible under the waters off of New York City. This leads Pitt to a document dating back a century and authored by the famous detective Isaac Bell. Back in 1911, Bell is investigating the deaths of nine men at Little Angel Mine. His investigation leads him to an incredibly rare, powerful, and valuable element called byzanium—and into conflict with sinister forces that will do anything to acquire it. As Bell prepares to stop them, the story spans the globe and time itself. Pitt and Bell, a century apart, race to solve a puzzle that could change the world.

    Cold Storage, by David Koepp
    Screenwriter David Koepp’s first novel is a tense thriller with a sci-fi edge that begins with Skylab crashing to Earth in 1979. The doomed satellite is carrying a mutated fungal organism previously sent into space for study. After the organism crashes down in Australia, it rapidly evolves into a sentient life form that sees every other living thing as food. In 1987, Defense Nuclear Agency operative USAF Maj. Roberto Diaz encounters the horrifying creature after it destroys a remote Australian community, and just barely manages to contain it, burying its last remnant underneath a military installation in Kansas. But then, in 2019, Diaz is woken up by a call he’s been dreading for more than 20 years, telling him the organism may have escaped. Diaz races to Kansas and into a desperate struggle to save every living thing on Earth from certain doom, even a security guard who goes by the nickname Teacake and a single mother named Naomi—employees of that ill-fated rural storage facility—face the terror on a much more intimate level. Unsurprisingly, considering the pedigree of its author (the screenplays for Jurassic Park and Spider-Man, for starters), this 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection unfolds with the furious fun of a summer blockbuster—and more than a few nods to the science-minded thrillers of the late Michael Crichton.

    The Chestnut Man, by Søren Sveistrup
    Søren Sveistrup, the man behind the global TV phenomenon The Killing, delivers a debut thriller with just as much grim, violent style. When a serial killer who brutally dismembers his victims—and leaves dolls made from chestnuts and matchsticks behind—strikes Copenhagen, ambitious detective Naia Thulin is paired with run-down, middle-aged Mark Hess. When a fingerprint on one the of the “chestnut men” matches the daughter of a politician who disappeared the year before, the case leaps into overdrive. The two mismatched detectives must navigate their own personal limitations while doing the hard work of sifting clues, red herrings, and horrifying crime scenes that ramp up the terrifying tension. (This one is also a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick for the fall.)

    29 Seconds, by T.M. Logan
    Logan’s newest asks a simple, terrible question: if, with one 29-second phone call, you could make a person disappear—with zero consequences to yourself—would you do it? That’s the question before Sarah Haywood, a literature professor at Queen Anne’s University in London. Sarah suffers under the sexual harassment of her department head, famed academic and author Alan Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s ability to bring money and publicity to the school means his behavior towards his fellow employees is tolerated or even ignored, and as he grows increasingly aggressive and violent, Sarah sees not just her career but her sanity slipping away. After she rescues a young boy from a terrible situation, by acting on pure instinct, Sarah learns the boy’s father is a man with dark resources and a wicked sense of gratitude; he gives Sarah a burner phone and tells her he owes her a favor. All she has to do is make one short call, give a name, and he’ll ensure person will disappear. Sarah gives in to her most desperate self and gives Hawthorne’s name—but unfortunately, she’ll soon discover there’s no such thing as “zero consequences.”

    The post The Best Thrillers of September 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2019/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fiction, , , lara prescott, , nothing ventured, quichotte, red at the bone, , , , the dutch house, , the secrets we kept, , the water dancer, the world that we knew,   

    September’s Best New Fiction 

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    This month, heavy hitters such as Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, and Jacqueline Woodson are back with highly anticipated, thought-provoking, perfect-for-your-book-club reads. They’re joined by the likes of Ann Patchett, Alice Hoffman, and Ta-Nehisi Coats (in his fiction debut), and if that’s not enough, fans of “meta” fiction will go crazy for Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept, about the real-life spy craft surrounding the creation and dissemination of Doctor Zhivago.

    The Institute, by Stephen King
    With chapter two of It hitting theatres, it’s King’s world this month and the rest of us just live in it. As with It, King’s new book concerns a group of children fighting back against monsters—but this time, the monsters are adults, and the fight takes place not in a creepy small town like Derry but the eminently sinister Institute. Each child at the Institute has been kidnapped; their parents murdered. Each child has paranormal abilities that are being exploited for an unknown purpose. Escape seems impossible, but staying at the Institute, where abuse runs rampant, is not an option either. Grab some popcorn and a big ol’ can of soda so you can stay up all night reading this one.

    The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
    The long-awaited sequel to Atwood’s groundbreaking 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale promises to answer all the questions readers (and viewers of Hulu’s adaptation) continue to grapple with. Here’s what we know: it’s set fifteen years after the events of the first book, and employs three female narrators from Gilead—the dystopian society formerly known as the USA in which women have been stripped of autonomy—to continue the riveting story.

    The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
    When Maeve Conroy and her little brother Danny are expelled from the enormous, suburban Philadelphia estate in which they’ve been raised, the shared loss and subsequent poverty shapes their entire future. Abandoned by their socially conscious mother—who couldn’t abide the opulence of the so-called Dutch House and fled to India—the siblings couldn’t rely on their chilly, late father for love. Worse, their stepmother proves to be the fairy tale kind, full of resentment and greed. Over the span of 50 years, narrator Danny and his protective sister parse their history, attempting to come to terms with the past. Patchett’s mastery of family drama is on full display here.

    The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    For his first novel, Coates (We Were Eight Years in Power; and Between the World and Me, for which he won the National Book Award) depicts a version of the Underground Railroad never before seen. Readers will be transfixed by the story of Hiram Walker, a slave (known here as “the Tasked”) with a gift for conducting: a power to assist people (including himself) in getting across water. When his initial escape attempt falls apart, he joins the Underground, vowing to rescue his beloved Sophia, who remains in Virginia.

    The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman
    Using her trademark magical realism to great effect, Hoffman sets her latest novel during World War Two. Separated from her mother, twelve-year-old Lea flees from Berlin to Paris, accompanied by Ava, a golem brought to life by Ettie, a rabbi’s daughter. The trio of characters are forever linked in the months and years ahead, as Ettie becomes a resistance fighter and Lea and Ava eventually settle in a village atop a mountain, in which 3,000 Jews hope to be saved.

    Nothing Ventured, by Jeffrey Archer
    Archer fans already know Metropolitan Policeman William Warwick from the now-complete, seven-volume Clifton Chronicles. In this fresh, fabulous series opener, we get William’s backstory as a rookie detective knee-deep in art fraud, forgeries, and counterfeit antiques. Having defied his father by joining the police force instead of becoming a lawyer, William has a lot to prove and he’ll quickly get his chance. While investigating a missing Rembrandt, he falls in love with Beth, an enigmatic research assistant at the art gallery where the painting was stolen. He also goes up against a master thief and a seriously shady lawyer.

    The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
    This powerhouse debut brings together historical spy craft, two sweeping love stories, and the true tale of the CIA’s use of Boris Pasternak’s seminal Doctor Zhivago to win Russian hearts and minds during the Cold War. Two secretaries in the CIA typing pool—experienced Sally Forrester and novice Russian-American Irina Drozdova—team up to retrieve a book from inside the USSR (where it’s unpublishable), get it out of the country, and then disseminate it among Russians attending the Vienna World’s Fair. Toggling between the events in D.C. and those happening to Boris Pasternak and his beloved muse Olga, this looks to be a gripping account of a little-known mission.

    Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
    Readers are always in good hands with Woodson, whose Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award (among others), and whose Another Brooklyn was a finalist for the same prize. Set in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2001, Red depicts the coming of age ceremony of 16-year-old Melody, while also exploring the reasons why Melody’s own mother, Iris, did not participate in a similar event, despite the fact that Melody’s dress was originally sewn for Iris. Issues of unplanned pregnancy versus ambition, independence versus family ties, and the ways in which those elements inform, expose, and intersect with race, class, and gender, are at the forefront of this moving and beautifully written novel.

    Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie
    Already longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Rushdie’s latest finds its inspiration in the classic Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Set in a surreal, at times horrifying, yet easily recognizable present-day America, this satire ties together the lives of a thriller writer, a pharmaceutical salesman, and a television actress. Not all of them exist, except in the minds of the other characters, but each one brings his or her own humor and pathos to this original reimagining.

    The post September’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 5:00 pm on 2019/08/26 Permalink
    Tags: , Fiction, , , , , ,   

    Don’t Miss It: An Excerpt from Stephen King’s Upcoming Novel The Institute 

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    Stephen King’s new novel, The Institute, is a riveting story with echoes of some of his greatest and most terrifying themes—from telekinesis, to children confronting forces of unfathomable evil. We’re thrilled to share an excerpt with our readers.

    The Institute Synopsis:

    In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did. In this most sinister of institutions, the staff is ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. As each new victim disappears, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

    As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

    The Institute Excerpt:

    With the essay included, the SAT test lasted four hours, but there was a merciful break in the middle. Luke sat on a bench in the high school’s lobby, munching the sandwiches his mother had packed for him and wishing for a book. He had brought Naked Lunch, but one of the proctors appropriated it (along with his phone and everyone else’s), telling Luke it would be returned to him later. The guy also riffled through the pages, looking either for dirty pictures or a crib sheet or two.

    While he was eating his Snackimals, he became aware of several other test-takers standing around him. Big boys and girls, high school juniors and seniors.

    “Kid,” one of them asked, “what the hell are you doing here?”

    “Taking the test,” Luke said. “Same as you.”

    They considered this. One of the girls said, “Are you a genius? Like in a movie?”

    “No,” Luke said, smiling, “but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.”

    They laughed, which was good. One of the boys held up his palm, and Luke slapped him five. “Where are you going? What school?”

    “MIT, if I get in,” Luke said. Which was disingenuous; he had already been granted provisional admission to both schools of his choice, contingent on doing well today. Which wasn’t going to be much of a problem. So far, the test had been a breeze. It was the kids surrounding him that he found intimidating. In the fall, he would be in classes filled with kids like these, kids much older and twice his size, and of course they would all be looking at him.

    One of the girls—a pretty redhead—asked him if he’d gotten the hotel question in the math section.

    “The one about Aaron?” Luke asked. “Yeah, pretty sure I did.”

    “What did you say was the right choice, can you remember?”

    The question had been how to figure how much some dude named Aaron would have to pay for his motel room for x number of nights if the rate was $99.95 per night, plus 8% tax, plus an additional one-time charge of five bucks, and of course Luke remembered. It was a slightly nasty question because of the how much factor. The answer wasn’t a number, it was an equation.

    “It was B. Look.” He took out his pen and wrote on his lunch bag: 1.08(99.5x) + 5.

    “Are you sure?” she asked. “I had A.” She bent, took Luke’s bag—he caught a whiff of her perfume, lilac, delicious—and wrote: (99.5 + 0.08x) + 5.

    “Excellent equation,” Luke said, “but that’s how the people who make these tests screw you at the drive-thru.” He tapped her equation. “Yours only reflects a one-night stay. It also doesn’t account for the room tax.”

    She groaned.

    “It’s okay,” Luke said. “You probably got the rest of them.”

    “Maybe you’re wrong and she’s right,” one of the boys said. It was the one who’d slapped Luke five.

    She shook her head. “The kid’s right. I messed up the fucking tax. I suck.”

    Luke watched her walk away, her head drooping. One of the boys went after her and put an arm around her waist. Luke envied him.

    One of the others, a tall drink of water wearing designer glasses, sat down next to Luke. “Is it weird?” he asked. “Being you, I mean?”

    Luke considered this. “Sometimes,” he said. “Usually it’s just, you know, life.”

    One of the proctors leaned out and rang a hand bell. “Let’s go, kids.”

    Luke got up with some relief and tossed his lunch sack in a trash barrel by the door to the gym. He looked at the pretty redhead a final time, and as he went in, the barrel shimmied three inches to the left.

    The Institute is on B&N bookshelves September 10.

    The post Don’t Miss It: An Excerpt from Stephen King’s Upcoming Novel <i>The Institute</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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