The festive period is a distant memory, our new diets are teetering on the brink, and it’s still cold, dark and dreich. Best then, to look forward, and to books. Good’ol reliable books! Here’s what we’re looking forward to publishing and reading this year …
The incomparable Jan-Philipp Sendker pulls back the curtain on the ‘new China,’ entirely different and yet somehow, inescapably, the same as the old. Darting back and forward across the Hong Kong border and neighbouring Shenzen, this murder mystery is at once lyrical and suspenseful, a novel that is thoughtful, moving, and profoundly revealing.
I’m also looking forward to Iain Maloney’s latest: Silma Hill (Freight Books). It’s a fast-paced historical thriller where a rural village is ripped apart by accusations of witchcraft. I really enjoyed his Not the Booker short-listed debut novel First Time Solo.
I do love a good apocalyptic tale and Lie of the Land is a real treat. It’s subtly done – the catastrophic event that leaves the main protagonist stranded in the tiny coastal village of Inverlair really serving as the backdrop to Michael F. Russell’s expertly written study of isolation in a small community. The underlying tension throughout keeps the action taut, and like Children of Men it’s set in a near future all too easy to imagine. However, I think the reason Lie of the Land made such an impression on me is that the author has absolutely captured the nuances of Highland village life. The characters, and their reactions to the worsening situation are so believable and the stoical way they cope seems to me to be what most folk would do.
Outside of our offices, I’m really looking forward to Romantic Moderns by Alexandra Harris (Thames & Hudson). In the 1930s, with war brewing in Europe and the rise of extremism on both the left and right, writers such as John Betjeman mulling over rural Middlesex may have seemed a bit parochial. On the contrary, as Alexandra Harris shows here in the excellent Romantic Moderns, they were trying to define themselves and what it meant to be alive and writing in Britain at that time. An absolutely fascinating look at the British arts scene in the 1930s and 1940s.
I’ll admit it: I’d never heard of the place, let alone its pivotal role in India and China’s tussles during the Cold War. Isn’t this is the joy of publishing? So much to know! So much to discover! Anyway, with Sikkim, Andrew Duff gives us a fantastic, enticing mix of geopolitical history, court intrigue, personal travelogue and, well, just damn good storytelling. I love this kind of non-fiction…
I’m also counting down the days to the paperback release of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation (Granta), and I can’t wait for Tracey Thorn’s new one Naked at the Albert Hall (Virago). I love singing (if only in the shower) so I’m really looking forward to hearing from folks that know what they’re doing with their vocal chords!
I am particularly looking forward to an anthology of newly commissioned poetry that responds to themes of home, identity and language. Shore to Shore, edited by Kevin MacNeil – who brought us the lovely, These Islands, We Sing – is paying homage to the Gaelic diaspora. The team of writers included ranges from such critically-acclaimed luminaries as Aonghas MacNeacail and Anna Frater, to the exciting emerging talents of Babs NicGriogair and Mona NicLeòid. And in keeping with poetry another book that I am looking forward to is Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land by Robert Crawford. (Jonathan Cape).
It’s hugely exciting to be here while Birlinn establish their brand new childrens’ list, and I’m particularly excited about Sixteen String Jack. Peter Pan is one of my favourite Scottish stories, and I’ve enjoyed it as a child and an adult. But Sixteen String Jack is like no other Peter Pan story. This is the tale of how J.M. Barrie’s own childhood set the scene for writing the famous story and the imaginative adventures he had in the garden of the iconic Moat Brae House. Tom Pow is a magnificent storyteller, and Ian Andrew’s illustrations are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I think this is going to be a book for children to enjoy and big kids like myself to admire.
I’m also looking forward to A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, a companion novel to the wonderful Life After Life (Doubleday) in which Atkinson turns her attention to Life’s protagonist Ursula and her younger brother, Teddy Todd. I’ll also be reading Alfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd (Chatto & Windus). I find Hitchcock’s life fascinating, and Peter Ackroyd is a cracking biographer, so this is bound to be a very interesting read.
I think for me, it’s got to be Ron Butlin’s Here Come the Trolls. With this title, he has finally come to grips with his very dark, darker side. A more curmudgeonly, dreich, filthy and obnoxious cast of culprits, it would be hard to imagine. I shudder to think of the black nights Ron must have spent in their ghastly company in order to elicit the horrid details (details which are now about to spill out into, the hitherto comfort of, the nation’s bedrooms).
Bedtime reading will become a thing to dread after bath-time . . . but this story had to be told . . .
I’m excited about Wasp by Ian Garbutt. I was completely absorbed by this strange tale of the underworld of the eighteenth century’s elite. Bethany Harris is rescued from an asylum and taken to the House of Masques, where she is given a new identity and told to forget her past. So begins her transformation into the glamorous Wasp, under the watchful eye of the mysterious Abbess. But the House of Masques is riddled with secrets, and Bethany can’t forget the circumstances that led to her imprisonment. As the tension builds, we are fed snippets of gossip and half truths in the fast-paced build up to a shocking finale. I was gripped.
The premise alone was enough to rope me in, and it’s no mean feat to collide a brilliantly imaginative scientific future with Stone Age Scotland. The characters are superb and utterly human, the plot tears along at a breakneck pace, and all the way through there’s that little element of the supernatural woven in that keeps you on your toes. It’s just one of those books that does everything right. It finds that elusive sweet spot where, while it is aimed at a young adult readership, it is mature and intriguing enough to pull in older readers too. Simply put, this is a must for anyone who enjoys a cracking good adventure!
There are more exciting books coming out in 2015 and you can find your favourite here in our 2015 catalogue.