Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More forthcoming stuff.

I've been catching up with a few projects this week, now that the indexing's done and the manuscript's in the copyeditor's hands again. My first accomplishment - I cleaned my office for the first time in about five years and filled a recycle bin with papers I no longer needed. I also updated the HNS forthcoming books page with titles through next September. Disclaimer: I don't get many UK publishers' catalogs, so there aren't many British titles listed (any volunteers?), and many US publishers don't have their summer catalogs out yet. But there are still lots of goodies to be found.

Of note: Lindsey Davis has three titles on the list. Alexandria (next in the Marcus Didius Falco series, set in 1st century Alexandria) will be out in May, as will the paperback of The Course of Honour, her mainstream historical about Emperor Vespasian and his mistress, Caenis, a former slave. And just today I read a press release about a historical epic she's written on the English Civil War, Rebels and Traitors, which will be out from Century in September. No word yet on US publication.

Philippa Gregory's The White Queen is in Touchstone's summer catalog, with a Sept 2009 pub date. Simon & Schuster is the UK publisher as well; same date. Amazon UK has the blurb, so see what you think. The "white queen" is Elizabeth Woodville, not Anne Neville.

Edward Rutherfurd sent out a newsletter last month detailing the subject of his next epic historical: New York. Amazon lists the pub date as October, which means it won't be out by the time of his appearance at the Schaumburg HNS conference, but I'm guessing we'll hear more about it there.

Another one that intrigued me was Annamaria Alfieri's City of Silver, a historical mystery set in 17th-century Peru. In looking around, I found an earlier mention in Publishers Marketplace, though its historicity didn't stand out at the time. The title's also changed since then:

Annamaria Alfieri's MURDER IN ALTO PERU, in which an Abbess finds the tranquility of her convent threatened when the unruly daughter of a wealthy man, who had sought refuge there, mysteriously dies, bringing about a collision of various interests and holy and unholy desires, to Toni Plummer at Thomas Dunne Books, by Nancy Love at Nancy Love Literary Agency. [Oct 2007]

What other titles catch your attention?

That's pretty much it from here. Big snowstorm happening tonight; I'd hope for a snow day, but I already have Wednesday mornings off.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Contest winner, and a Brigid Knight bibliography

Congratulations to C.W. Gortner, the winner of the Cloister and the Citadel book giveaway contest! I've sent you an email, and I hope you enjoy the book. I drew the winning entry at midnight EST on Friday from among the valid submissions, via an online random number generator.

Thanks to my fellow literary bloggers for spreading the word about Cloister by posting about it on your own blogs. This giveaway saw a record turnout (and I've hit a record for most comments on a single post as well). I've been enjoying browsing many of your sites over the last week and will be adding a bunch of them to my sidebar in the near future.

Brigid Knight is no longer with us, and her books are long out of print, so neither she nor her publisher can personally benefit from the associated publicity. However, for those of you who aren't familiar with her work and would like to investigate her novels further (something I would recommend), you can find them secondhand via and/or Amazon UK. If you so desire, you can easily locate several other copies of Cloister, which are quite reasonably priced. Her books are obscure, true, but they're not hard to find or expensive if you know where to look. They're good choices if you enjoy reading novels about the historical Netherlands and South Africa, settings few authors today are writing about.

Cloister is the third book of hers I've read, and all are written in the same clear, measured style. Brief descriptions of her other books follow.

Anne Marie and the Pale Pink Frock. An illustrated children's novel of the Great Trek in South Africa.

The Citadel is Yours. Contrary to the title, it has nothing to do with Cloister and the Citadel and is a modern medical novel.

The Covenant. "The adventures of a South African family of British descent during the Boer War and afterwards." (from a review in Time and Tide)

Dark Star. A historical novel set in 17th-century England.

The House of the Seagull and The House of the Swan. I know nothing about them other than the setting: the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively. There seems to be a third novel, The House of the Bird of Paradise, though it's not listed in the bibliography I own.

I Shall Maintain. This is third in a trilogy of novels about the Van Bredas of 17th-century Holland, following after I Struggle and I Rise and Old Amsterdam. It centers on Pieter's daughter and heiress, Hélène, who brings her father's great trading dreams to fruition.

I Struggle and I Rise. A family saga set in Amsterdam in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, focusing on the indomitable Anna Van Breda. The American title is The Valiant Lady; it was published in hardcover by Doubleday and in paperback by Popular Library in 1948.

Not by Any Single Man. A novel set on the coast of Kent during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. A review in The Observer compared it to the best of Du Maurier.

Old Amsterdam. A sequel to I Struggle and I Rise, it follows the fortunes of the Van Breda family in the 17th century, particularly one of Anna's grandsons, Pieter, a Dutch financier who falls in love with a distant relation. It has a lovely old-timey cover, pictured at above left.

Pattern of Escape. One bookseller lists it as a historical romance.

The Piping on the Wind. Another South Africa-set novel.

Portrait of a Woman. Per the review quoted on the back of another novel's jacket, it seems to be a a modern crime thriller.

Sea Dog of Holland. A bookseller's description: "The story of a boy and his dog who do their bit to help throw out the hated enemy - the Spanish, during the invasion of the Netherlands."

The Seventh Square. This direct sequel to The Cloister and the Citadel begins in the aftermath of the assassination of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. It follows the life of Maurice of Nassau, William's son by his second wife Anna of Saxony, a brilliant soldier who strived to carry out his father's legacy. Like Cloister, it's not a military novel, but it gives an excellent portrait of the political landscape of the Dutch Republic between 1585 and 1625.

The Sun Climbs Slowly. "A novel of life in South Africa during the time of the Jameson Raid and up to the outbreak of the South African War." (per a review in The Queen)

The Sword Between. No idea of the subject.

Walking the Whirlwind. A family saga centered on a woman and a house in early 19th-century Cape Town and environs, based on the reminiscences of the author's grandmother.

Westward the Sun
. Novel set in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century; it may be a sequel to The Sun Climbs Slowly.

Do you like seeing these bibliographies of older historical novels? Please let me know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An obscure sort of giveaway

I'm still mired in indexing, so more informative content will have to wait another week, but for now I have a special contest for blog readers.

Last September, in my "reviews of obscure books" series, I covered Brigid Knight's The Cloister and the Citadel, a little-known novel about Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpensier, a little-known Renaissance princess. While surveying my shelves last week, I was very surprised to come across a 2nd copy of the book. This happens more often than I want to admit.

So, rather than tease with another review of a novel you're unable to find, I thought it fitting to offer this duplicate copy as a giveaway. It's in excellent shape for a 50-year old novel, a 1st edition hardcover with a clean, undamaged dustjacket only slightly browning with age. The original list price was 15 shillings.

To enter, leave a comment on this post, or email me (address on left sidebar) with the subject line "Cloister giveaway," by the end of the day next Friday, January 23rd. Good luck!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Short takes on some recent reads

Happy new year, everyone! I've been overburdened with work and other projects, so I haven't blogged in ages, but I hope to get back to speed as soon as my final round of proofreading is done in two weeks. In the meanwhile, I have a guest post up at Historical Tapestry as part of their "Why I Love" series. Thanks again, Marg, for the invitation!

Here are some brief reviews of historical novels I read over the holiday break.

Tony Pollard's The Minutes of the Lazarus Club - George Phillips, an up-and-coming surgeon, gets drawn into 1850s London's most exclusive secret society, a club made up of the most prominent scientific minds of the age, and becomes embroiled in the race to catch a serial killer. Wonderful atmosphere, and I especially liked "meeting" technological genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel and crusading nurse Florence Nightingale, but parts of it dragged, and Phillips's bland personality couldn't compete with that of his newfound compatriots. This wasn't an issue in my subsequent read, however:

Louis Bayard's The Black Tower - I'd been meaning to get a copy ever since I read Susan's review from the Historical Novels Review. Hector Carpentier, a medical student in Paris of 1818, discovers his family's unexpected connection to the lost dauphin after Eugène François Vidocq, France's premier police detective, turns up on his doorstep. Although Vidocq remains in a class by himself, Hector is a quick study and more than holds his own in Vidocq's world. The novel serves as proof that authors don't need infodumps to convey historical atmosphere, and Bayard's astute turns of phrase made me sit up and take notice.

Vanora Bennett's Figures in Silk - The two daughters of noted silkweaver John Lambert pave their own paths to fortune and define success on their own terms. Beautiful Jane annuls her unconsummated marriage to her drab husband and pursues a liaison with dashing King Edward IV, while Isabel binds herself into apprenticeship to her ambitious mother-in-law and determines to break Italy's monopoly on the silk trade. Thoroughly enjoyable, though not quite as much as her Portrait of an Unknown Woman was for me -- mostly because Isabel's longtime liaison with another English royal (the author's invention) felt contrived. On the other hand, I liked Bennett's original depictions of several Wars of the Roses notables, and the descriptions of late medieval silkweaving techniques were a highlight.

Diana Gaines's Nantucket Woman - I dived eagerly into what promised to be a biographical novel of Kezia Coffin, a scandalously successful businesswoman in 18th-century Nantucket (a historical character about whom I'd known nothing). The author's use of language felt absolutely real, as did the historical detail, so I settled in for an engrossing period read... but then things got weird, in a way that just didn't fit the characters. If you enjoy reading unique and very explicit sex scenes written in authentic Quaker plain speech, this is the novel for you. I gave it points for originality but put it down after p.50. Publishers Weekly gave it a rave review after its original 1976 publication, so what do I know.