Thursday, July 29, 2010

An indie and small press showcase, part 2

Here's the second half of my focus on new/upcoming historical novels from indie publishers and small presses. Part 1 of the showcase can be found here.

A magistrate investigates the domestic tragedy that ensued when almost 200 people suffocated while seeking shelter in an East London tube station in 1943; this historical incident was the war's biggest civilian accident. Jessica Francis Kane's debut novel, The Report, was recently named a Barnes & Noble Great New Writers title; it will also be an HNS editors' choice title for August. Graywolf (US), Sept.

In 1840, a runaway slave returns to America on a very personal mission, risking her freedom and her successful silk business in the East Indies. Though this novel stands on its own, I understand it follows the later life of Grace MacDonald, who appeared as a child in Kingman's earlier Not Yet Drown'd (one of my favorite novels of 2008). A portrait painter in Philadelphia, an older Grace uncovers a slew of family secrets as she tries to help her childhood friend. Norton (US), August.

Great cover, great title. In Kathe Koja's Under the Poppy, a Victorian brothel (the Poppy) is the setting for a most unusual love triangle. "This book made me drunk," says Cory Doctorow. Small Beer Press (US), October.

My latest purchase from Book Depository. In 1928 Macao, a Russian refugee haunted by secrets from her past meets an enigmatic Scot who has good reason to want to get to know her better. The back cover describes it as an "opulent family saga." The writing looks cosmopolitan and dishy, with plenty of exotic color. Sandstone Press (Scotland), June.

Bernice McFadden's Glorious, another HNS editors' choice selection, follows a female writer's up-and-down but eventually redemptive path to artistic success during the Harlem Renaissance. Akashic (US), May.

I've always found the American spiritualist movement fascinating. Deborah Noyes' Captivity centers on the mysterious Fox sisters of 19th-c upstate New York, three women who claimed to speak with the dead, and the effect their claimed abilities had on an impressionable young woman. Unbridled (US), June.

Ever since visiting Germany last fall, I've looked for historical fiction set there, but such books are few and far between. Heather Richardson's Magdeburg tells the story of one Protestant family of that city whose members are shattered and transformed during the Thirty Years War. Lagan Press (Ireland), June.

You may have read recently about an 82-year-old grandmother from North Wales who got a three-book publishing deal with Welsh publisher Honno. (Honno, which specializes in Welsh women writers, also published Margaret Redfern's outstanding Flint, which I reviewed last year.) M Stanford-Smith's The Great Lie is a historical adventure/mystery set amid the exciting world of London theatre in Elizabethan times. Honno (Wales), June.

This may be one of the more unique selections for the Royal Mistress Challenge. French novelist Jean Teulé makes a classy romantic hero out of the Marquis de Montespan, whose stunning new wife Athénaïs catches the eye of the Sun King. Gallic Books (UK/France), Feb 2011.

How do you know when you have too many books? When you get a catalog in the mail, get all excited about one of the books in it, put it on your wish list... then look at the title a little closer and realize you already own it. Mary Volmer's gender-bending tale of the California Gold Rush, Crown of Dust, came out in '06 in the UK, and will be published in the US for the first time this year. Soho Press, November.

Lily Sutton, a young Englishwoman traveling incognito aboard a luxury liner bound for America in 1933, contends with the appearance of an old enemy who could destroy her peace and plans for a new life. This is a different cover from the one in the catalog, so I'm not sure which is right. Allison & Busby (UK), May.

Hope Against Hope is Sally Zigmond's first full-length novel (her historical novella Chasing Angels , about real-life 19th-c French mountaineer Henriette d'Angeville, appeared a few years ago). This near-600 page Victorian saga spans ten years in the lives of two sisters from Harrogate. Sally and I were both editors at the Historical Novels Review for some years; I have her latest book on my desk and am looking forward to diving in. Myrmidon (UK, also distributed in the US), June.


  1. Thanks for sharing these--I'll be hunting for some of them, and appreciate that you've given us some titles that might not be front and center elsewhere!

  2. I'm reading "The Affair of the Poisons" about a rash of poisonings that were uncovered and lead to the arrest and execution of members of high society during the reign of King Louis XIV and am finding it very interesting.
    then I went to a used book and right away spot a biography of Louis XIV which I bought (of course!).
    Then I come here and read about "Monsiour de Montespan".

    just a bit of bookish coincedence? don't know, but I'll be looking for the M Montespan book!!

  3. Lots of fascinating sounding books there. Particularly interested in the Fan Tan one.

  4. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Gosh darn you, Sarah Johnson, for finding things like novels set in
    Germany during the 30 Years' War that I MUST read (seriously). And for telling me about Book Depository as well!! BTW, has a lot of clearance fiction, especially UK editions. Another Sarah (librarian)

    And to tag onto lgh164, I think that the 17th century is becoming "hot" in terms of historical fiction. You can only get so much out of the Tudors.

  5. It's true, what other novels are set during the Thirty Years' War? Very few, unless they're in German. Magdeburg doesn't look easy to obtain (only through the publisher's website, I think) but it looks very tempting.

    I love Bookcloseouts and check their new arrivals list every morning. Through them, I've been able to add a number of international editions to my collection, including some from Australia & NZ.

    I'm all for the 17th century becoming the new hot topic!

  6. I'll be adding a few of these to my TBR list, but I have to say I'm most looking forward to "Under the Poppy." I definitely agree with you -- great title & great cover.

  7. Is it superficial of me to say another reason it sounds interesting is because Small Beer Press is a seriously cool name for a publisher?