Saturday, August 6, 2011

Debut Fiction to Check Out

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalized trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang – the Dell Farm Crew – and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of inner-city survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

Pigeon English has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011 and shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize 2011

Stephen Kelman grew up in the housing projects of Luton, England. He has worked as a caseworker, a warehouse operative, in marketing and in local government administration. He decided to pursue his writing seriously in 2005, and has since completed several feature screenplays. Pigeon English is his first novel.

Here's his interview with the BBC.

South of Superior by Ellen Airgood
When Madeline Stone walks away from her Chicago life and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she isn’t prepared for how much her life will change. Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters – one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As she is drawn into the dramas of the small, tight-knit town, Madeline learns that it’s a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but where friendship, community, and compassion run deeper.
A debut novel full of heart, South of Superior shows that there is a deep reward in caring for others, that one who is poor in pocket can be rich in many other ways, and that happiness often comes from the smallest gestures.

Ellen Airgood owns a diner with her husband in the tiny Lake Superior town of Grand Marais, MI. Her website is fantastic. You should have a look.

Farishta by Patricia McArdle
Twenty-one years ago, diplomat Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Devastated by her loss, she fled back to America, where she hid in the backwaters of the State Department and avoided the high-profile postings that would advance her career. Now, with that career about to dead-end and no true connections at home, she must take the one assignment available-at a remote British army outpost in northern Afghanistan. Unwelcome among the soldiers and unaccepted by the local government and warlords, Angela has to fight to earn the respect of her colleagues, especially the enigmatic Mark Davies, a British major who is by turns her staunchest ally and her fiercest critic. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to the nation's reconstruction, Angela slips out of camp disguised in a burka to provide aid to the refugees in the war-torn region. She becomes their farishta, or "angel," in the local Dari language-and discovers a new purpose for her life, a way to finally put her grief behind her. 
Drawing on the experiences of the author as a diplomat in Afghanistan, Farishta is a deeply moving and fast-paced story of a woman struggling to move beyond a past trauma, and finding a new community, a new love, and a new sense of self in the process.

Farishta won the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Grand Prize for General Fiction.

Patricia McArdle is a retired Foreign Service officer (1979-2006) who has served in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. It was her final posting in northern Afghanistan with a British army unit that served as her inspiration for Farishta. Before joining the Departmant of State she served for three years as one of the first two female Naval Officers at a remote U.S. communications base in Morocco. Prior to her military service, she spent two years as the only Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in central Paraguay. 
You can read more about her, and read an excerpt of the book at her website.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson 
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.

S J Watson, an English writer, was born in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. He studied Physics at the University of Birmingham and then he moved to London where he worked in the National Health Service specializing in the diagnostic and treatment of hearing-impaired children. In the evenings he wrote. In 2009 Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ Course, a program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. Before I Go to Sleep is the result. 
Now sold in over 30 languages around the world, Before I Go To Sleep has been also been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, with Rowan Joffe to direct. Filming is scheduled to begin in 2011.

Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter’s first novel is a wondrous, suspenseful, and uniquely affecting story of the journey taken by a father and his infant son. Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Grief struck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he’s ever known. His only hope for safety is the angel who has followed him to Appalachia from the trenches of France and who now promises to protect him and his son. Together, Bright and his newborn, along with a cantankerous goat and the angel guiding them, make their way through a landscape ravaged by forest fire toward an uncertain salvation, haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war and shadowed by his dead wife’s father, the Colonel, and his two brutal sons. At times harrowing, at times funny, and always possessed by the sheer gorgeousness and unique imagination that have made Josh Ritter’s songs beloved to so many, this is the debut of a virtuoso fiction writer.

Josh Ritter was born on October 21, 1976 in Moscow, ID to two neuroscientists. He attended Oberlin College to study neuroscience, but changed his major to the self-created "American History Through Narrative Folk Music." He recorded his first album Josh Ritter at a recording studio on campus. After graduating, he moved to Scotland to attend the School of Scottish Folk Studies for six months. Josh then returned to the States. First back to Idaho, then Rhode Island, the Massachusettes where he worked temporary jobs and played at open mic nights. He soon found success and was able to quit his day job and devote himself to his music full time. In 2006, he was named one of the "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" by Paste magazine.

Happy reading,

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