Saturday, July 03, 2010

An indie and small press showcase, part 1

So I'm a little late for Small Press Month (which happens every March)... however, I'm right on time for Independence Day. This weekend, I thought I'd feature some independently-published and small press historical novels that made their way to my wish list. These publishers are risk-takers, seeking out distinctive voices and high quality writing without necessarily focusing on popular trends. In this list you'll find unique historical settings, different approaches, and real-life stories never before told in fiction -- all of which are reasons these books intrigued me!

I've been thinking about a round-up post on this topic for some time, and I had great fun choosing which titles to feature. There are many titles and publishers I haven't included, and I'll do this again sometime.

The publishers range from larger indies whose books are often found in Borders/B&N to the smallest of small presses, mostly American and British but also some from Canada and Europe. Wherever they're from, you can find them on Book Depository and/or Amazon. There are 24 in total, all published in 2010. Follow the links for more detailed information on the publisher's websites. This is the first of two posts.

Maria Allen's Before the Earthquake is a family drama set in rural southern Italy at the turn of the last century. Tindal Street (UK), £7.99, February.

Elizabeth Ashworth's The de Lacy Inheritance takes readers to 12th-century Lancashire, where a man recently returned from Palestine undertakes one last obligation for his grandmother. Totally gorgeous cover. Myrmidon (UK), £7.99, June.

Englishwoman Anna Jameson arrives at the tiny settlement of Toronto in 1836 to gather material for a new book and discovers unexpected freedoms as well as a surprising relationship with an unconventional man. Anna Birch's Settlement is based on historical characters. RendezVous Press (Canada), $22.95 US/Can, September.

In the tradition of The Red Tent, Mary F. Burns's debut novel J: The Woman Who Wrote the Bible imagines the origins of the Old Testament in its depiction of Janaia, daughter of King David, a visionary secretly initiated into the art of writing. O-Books (UK/US), £11.99/$20.95, July.

Based on a collection of recently uncovered letters, Maria Caracciolo Chia retells a little-known story from Italian history: that of Vittoria Colonna, Princess of Teano, and her brief but intense love affair with Futurist painter Umberto Boccioni in the early 20th century. Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis. Pushkin Press (UK), £12.00, July.

After an absence of twelve years, P.F. Chisholm's Elizabethan murder mystery series featuring Sir Robert Carey picks up again with this latest volume, A Murder of Crows, which takes him from his usual haunts along the Scottish border to central London. Poisoned Pen Press (US), $22.95 hb or $14.95 pb, June.

Christina Courtenay's sweeping romantic epic Trade Winds moves from Edinburgh to Gothenburg, Sweden, to the Far East in the 1730s, and begins with a marriage of convenience. Choc Lit (UK), £7.99, September.

A literary love story with a tinge of mystery set along the southeastern Irish coast in 1945, as the traditional social order has begun to break down. Peter Cunningham's The Sea and the Silence comes with high praise from novelist Roddy Doyle. GemmaMedia (US), $14.95, June.

From Peter Donahue, a past winner of the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction, comes his new literary novel Clara and Merritt, about a star-crossed love story taking place against the backdrop of the Longshoreman's Strike of 1934 Seattle. Wordcraft of Oregon (US), $15.00, June.

In Clare Dudman's A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees, an intrepid group of Welsh colonists sets sail for Patagonia in southernmost South America to create a new home for themselves in 1865, but the inhospitable cold desert is hardly the paradise they expected. Seren (Wales), £8.99, June.

Cecilia, by author Linda Ferri, is biographical fiction about St. Cecilia, a young woman born into a noble family in Rome of the 2nd century AD. Translated by Ann Goldstein from the Italian. Europa Editions (NY & Rome), $15.00, May.

While Catherine Hermary-Vieille may be a well-known and prolific author in her native France (the French wikipedia page lists a lengthy bibliography), few of her novels have been translated into English. Lord James takes as its subject the controversial James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, the third husband of Mary Queen of Scots, and whose great love for her led to his downfall. I found a fascinating article (from '06) about his family's and Hermary-Vieille's joint fight to bring his body back to Scotland for proper burial. This cover comes from the French edition (yet it's also on the UK publisher's website; I'm assuming it's been translated!). Luath Press (Scotland), £16.99, July.


  1. Thank you - I love the sound of all of these although its probably doubtful they'll make their way down here.

  2. Glad you liked the post!
    Most aren't available locally to me, either... Sea and the Silence is the only one I've seen in a bookstore. Book Depository has most of them, though, so my wish list there has been filling up.

  3. Thanks for spotlighting small press books!
    This is a great list. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I was browsing here and was thrilled to see that you'd featured my novel The de Lacy Inheritance. Thank you so much.

    It is available from The Book Depository and if you'd like to try before you buy you can read the first chapter on my website:

  5. Ludmilla8:11 PM

    Great list of books. Clare Dudman is a fabulous author. She's on my auto-buy list.

  6. I'm pleased you liked the list of books. I have most of them (including yours, Elizabeth) sitting in my Book Depository cart... just waiting for the credit card cycle to end before I place a new order!