It's starting to feel like the usual publishing season this week. We're seeing the last batch of paperback releases of last year's big hardbacks, and the headliners for fall are starting to sneak into the store.
First up is Keith McCafferty's The Bangtail Ghost, the latest in his Sean Stranahan Mysteries. McCafferty, when he's not field-testing content as the survival and outdoor skill editor for Field & Stream, is writing fly-fishing detective fiction set in Montana. Having a passing familiarity with places where Stranahan roams, we've really enjoyed the verisimilitude of McCafferty's work. The characters are delightfully quirky too. If you haven't read any of these, please start.
In The Bangtail Ghost, Stranahan and his cohorts are tasked with tracking down a pair of mountain lions who appear to have gotten a taste for human flesh. Naturally, there's a conspiracy afoot, and things get deliciously tense as Stranahan tries to avoid becoming a cat snack.
Speaking of crime fiction, Hard Case Crime hits a milestone and celebrates it with The Crime Stories of Ray Bradbury. Naturally, we all know Bradbury from his seminal science fiction novels and stories, but Bradbury came up through the pulps. These aren't oddities culled from the back of musty boxes, but rather stories from a young writer who already knew what he was doing. In fact, a number of these stories were later adopted for his TV show, The Ray Bradbury Theater, demonstrating that no words go unused.
Anyway, many of these stories haven't been seen in a long time, and what better way to celebrate the centennial of Bradbury's birth?
Meanwhile, K. J. Parker is back with How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It, a sequel to last year's hilarious Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. This time around, we're following Notker, a noted impressionist and actor, who is tasked with impersonating the local war hero Lysimachus, when said war hero is demolished by an enemy trebuchet. You gotta keep morale up in a siege, and the death of a great war hero is terrible for morale. Notker, while not entirely convinced this gig is a good one, gets sucked in to this game of lies, and naturally, more lies are piled on those lies. Parker, who knows a thing or two about comedy, keeps the story moving. If you're caught up on Terry Pratchett, we've got a new thing for you.
And speaking of how-to guides, here's something we never get tired of seeing. Angela Nguyen's How to Draw Cute Beasts. Water dragon! Ghost whale! Winged elephants! Whatever That Thing is With the Rotors! #totesadorbs
And speaking of cute animals, Gibbs Smith continues their charming wilderness writing series with Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I Have Known. Look, we're suckers for pretty books, and Gibbs Smith is doing a marvelous job with the design and layout of this series (we've thrown a couple more of them on this week's Newsletter List on bookshop.org). Seton's Wild Animals I Have Known was originally published in 1898, and features some really marvelous anthropomorphic characterizations. Seton argues that if you have spent any time with these critters (as he had), you'd know they are quite capable of communicating complex thoughts to one another, and his work is an attempt to render that in language we can understand. Proto-Peter Rabbit, so to speak.
And since this week's theme is apparently outdoorsy, here's Richard Skrein's 50 Things to Do in the Wild. Think of it as a scout handbook for adults. Bushcraft skills! Reading the stars! Knowing the good 'shrooms from the bad 'shrooms! Bird nest quizzes! All the useful skills.
We suspect Keith McCafferty could list all fifty things without pausing for thought.
Anyway, the reason we're keen on getting out of doors this week is because we read a bit of Bentley Little's new book, and . . . yeeaaah, it's not enough to leave the lights on. The Haunted is the story of a family that moves into a "nice" home in the city's historic district. Very quickly, they sense something isn't right. It's not the neighbors. They seem all right, even though they won't visit. Is someone watching them? Maybe. Is it the terrible dreams that keep one member of the family from getting any rest? Maybe. Is it that thing in the corner of the basement. Oh yes, that's definitely what it is. Get out get out get out!
Anyway, Bentley Little has been around for a good while, and he's one of those working horror writers who does great work. It's nice to see The Haunted get a new edition. It's a great introduction to a writer with a solid backlist.
Also, since we're not going down into the basement anytime soon, we might as well stick with the wilderness. In fact, Robert MacFarlane's Underland: A Deep Time Journey is out in paperback this week. Look, this book has a RAVE + + rating, and it's both a love letter and a deep exploration of the world beneath our feet. MacFarlane has been wandering the surface of the planet for many books now, and with Underland, he's digging into the roots of . . . well, everything.
And speaking of books that are filled with lyrical prose, Tiffany McDaniel is back with Betty, a Southern gothic coming-of-age novel about a family that settles in a ramshackle Victorian house. Taking place in the mid-twentieth century, there is something ethereal and magical about the narrator and her family—many of whom are gifted storytellers. Sort of a cross between Delia Owens's Where the Crawdad Sings and John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Recommended.
We hope you are all faring well with the weather and the what-not. We are here at the store every day now, and we look forward to seeing—well, not your whole face, but the upper parts of your faces. Lots of eye contact!
Book club has started again. Our first virtual session is tonight, and our next session is in two weeks. If you're not on the sub-mailing list for notifications, please ask. You can also join the private Facebook group.