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BEA: Exciting Books Ahead

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Most people took part in the advance reader’s copy looting to one degree or another. Some folks (I doubt bloggers because we can often score things through the mail) wheeled suitcases behind them as they hauled off their literary booty.

For me, I tried to focus my attention on the smaller, independent publishers. I’m as excited as anyone about the new Richard Ford, the new Joyce Carol Oates, the new Chuck Klosterman, and so forth. But I was really looking for that tiny gem that gleamed out of the stacks of books like a diamond shining from a wall of coal.

The cool ladies at Soft Skull turned me on to Tear Down the Mountain: An Appalachian Love Story by Roger Alan Skipper. Scheduled for release at the end of August, this novel tells the story of Sid Lore and Janet Hollar tumultuous relationship. While I totally trust publicist Kristin’s tastes, I was really sold when she handed me the book. Right there on the front cover is a blurb stating the novel is “a welcome addition to fiction set in contemporary Appalachia… Roger Skipper knows the landscape, the people, their values, how they feel, and what they say to each other. These characters live real lives in hard circumstances in a land that’s under assault.” That’s high praise and when it comes from a mountain master like Chris Offutt, I’m a believer. I can’t wait to read this book.  

My affinity for MacAdam/Cage publications is well documented and my visit to their booth didn’t disappoint. No God in Sight by Altaf Tyrewala looks fantastic. A daring novel about Bombay–and the individual lives that spark the city’s consciousness, it should be on bookstore shelves in the middle of August. I also picked up a pamphlet that contains the first six chapters of Godspeed, a new novel by Will Christopher Baer due out in November. Baer’s up to his old pyrotechnical tricks with passages such as,

Ryder was caught unaware at thirteen and sat wiping snot and bile from his face as his baby brother sank slow and dreamy to the bottom of the swimming pool, and Death blew him a kiss before she fled the garden. Death was a woman, by the way, and comported herself like a slut. Little wonder in either regard, as a stony strength lacking in men was required to punch a body’s ticket and ferry them off to their final destination, and death dealing had to be lonely work, God knew.

Dayne Sherman fans will be happy to know that I heard raves about what he’s doing with his new novel, Louisiana Public Integrity. It’s still a ways from publication, but folks are really excited about it. Definitely something to keep your eyes open for in the future.

As I write this, I’m blasting VH1’s Heavy: The Story of Metal to rinse the taste of American Idol’s vanilla-flavored syrup out of my mouth. And I’m wondering, “Who do I have to kill to get on that show?!? I could be one of those commentators.” My metal roots were forged early in life when my older brother saw Kiss in concert. I was in the first grade at the time and begged my parents to let me go. My father, thinking I would forget or grow out of my Gene Simmons idolatry, blew me off with a promise to take me if the band ever came to town again. Obviously, this was way before the Internet, so for four long years, every Sunday, I examined the concerts announcements in the Arts & Leisure section of the newspaper. In the fall of my fifth grade year, Gene and the boys came back to town with a stage that looked like a tank and Vinnie Vincent picking up the lead guitar duties. My dad is old-school, integrity means a lot, and since he had promised, he sucked it up and took me to the concert. He ultimately retreated to the top row of Rupp Arena and stuffed napkins from the concession stand in his ears, but he took me.

All of which is a long-winded explanation of why the heavens opened up, the angels sang, and Jackson Flying V’s wailed as I stood in front of the Feral House booth, mesmerized by a promotional poster. American Hair Metal, edited by Stephen Blush won’t be released until the end of October, but I’m putting together an advent calendar with a spandex-and-leather-clad Santa so I can count down the days. A big devil horn’s salute for this book.

Finally, at the Akashic Books booth, I stumbled across The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. I’ve been a Meno fan since Tender as Hellfire: A Novel and his new one looks great. Due out in September, the novel even features Boy Detective Connect the Dots and Hidden Message Word Search puzzles.

Discoveries like these were one of the best parts of BEA. While I knew, largely, what I was interested in from the mammoth corporations, I had been completely unaware of all these titles. Each one of these books, from these independent publishers, looks fascinating, quirky, individual, and riveting. And each one of them was a completely pleasant surprise.