Fall NY Times Fiction Review: Interview for Haruki Murakami's "1Q84"

At a mere 932 pages, the Knopf English publication of 1Q84 is “like a telephone directory.” This is according to the author, Haruki Murakami. In his fall interview with the New York Times Magazine, critic Sam Anderson, asks Murakami: had he intended to write such a big book? This question meant nothing of the scope of his literature or the fact that it's an international bestseller in hundreds of different languages. Just, why so many pages?

We must understand, Murakami is a man driven primarily by his love of writing. On his methodology, he tells Anderson "he begins a piece of fiction with only a title or an opening image" Then, waking up at 2am to write every morning in part of what Murakami calls a "voluntary confinement, happy confinement;” he eats, excercises, and schedules with the sole purpose of creative producation.

"1Q84 took three years to write," Murakami tells Anderson with what he calls simply "improvising until it’s done...A boy meets a girl. They have separated and are looking for each other. It’s a simple story. I just made it long.”

"If he’d known how long it would turn out to be, he might not have started at all." Anderson jokes.

But we're glad he did. The intrigue of well-developed characters and a place you think you know only to have their situations defy expectations is what makes IQ84 a good fall thriller and stand-out literary achievement.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #296

Release scheduled for this coming week, first in the projected Nina Borg mystery series, The Boy in the Suitcase * marks the debut of co-authors Lene Kaaberbol (visit the website of this well-respected teen author) and Agnete Friis.

When asked by an estranged friend Karin to help retrieve a suitcase from a locker at the main Copenhagen train station, Nina Borg, Red Cross nurse and a compulsive do-gooder can't refuse. After dragging it home, Nina discovers inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive. When Karin is brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy's are in jeopardy. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.

Winner of the 2008 Harald Mogensen Award for Best Danish Crime Novel, and a finalist for the Scandinavian Glass Key Award, this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of Scandinavian crime fiction, many also by women writers with strong female protagonists.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #294

I saved this one for the Schiphol to DTW flight, knowing that I will need something gripping to ward off the fatigue. Most appropriately, the opening scene is set in Amsterdam.

All Cry Chaos* is the first in a proposed series introducing an aging, ailing Interpol agent Henri Poincare. American (Harvard) James Fenster, a gifted and eccentric mathematician is assassinated on the eve of a World Trade Organization meeting where he is to present a revolutionary theory. The hit is as elegant as it is bizarre. Crisscrossing the Atlantic in search of answers and more importantly, a very clever killer, Poincare meets up with more puzzles than leads. Meanwhile, a vicious war criminal with scores to settle is exacting revenge on Poincare's family in his absence.

A "masterful and gripping tale," weaving fractals and chaos theory into an international mystery that also confronts great moral and theological questions. " 'Thoughtful, beautifully written."

This accomplished debut by Leonard Rosen, an established textbook author will appeal to fans of cerebral and mathematical mysteries such as Arturo Sangalli's Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery and Michael Gregorio's Critique of Criminal Reason. Readers who favor cloak-and-dagger, globe-trotting intrigue with a flawed protagonist a bit past his prime would be reminded of recent titles of John LeCarre and Olen Steinhauer where the stake is high and the personal costs, higher.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #289

Erin Morgenstern's debut novel The Night Circus * * * * won't be out until this coming week but the queue has been forming for sometime, and rightly so. This is my Fantasy PICK OF THE YEAR and I won't be surprised to see it on a couple of award lists.

Without warning or fanfare, Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams) would arrive (and leave) at the edge of town under the cover of night. But in between, well, expect to be amazed and enthralled, intrigued and perplexed, confounded and confused, but royally entertained as no circus could (for you, the readers as well).

Celia and Marco, two young illusionists are not only tied to the running of the circus, but are locked in a contest of skills. As the acts grow more elaborate, imaginative, and fantastical, they fall hopelessly in love, only to find that the challenge is an ultimate one. Only one will survive. And the game must play out.

Multiple plotlines and perspectives; inventive and cinematic settings; engaging secondary characters; lush and seductive prose all build towards a breathtaking and stunning (and the reader a bit stunned, I expect) conclusion, with reckless fearless love at the center pulling strings and casting spells.

"A literary Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,... completely magical".

"A feast for the senses and the heart."

Rights sold in 22 countries. Film rights to Summit Entertainment. 175,000-copy first printing. When you get it in your hands, lock the door, turn off your phone, and tell your Mom not to worry - you'll call her later, much later... You wouldn't want to be disturbed.

* * * * = Starred reviews

September's Books to Film

Drive, an action-packed speed thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night.
When he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld, he find himself shifting gears and going on the offense. Based on the mystery novel Drive by James Sallis (also available in audio).

I Don’t Know How She Does It is based on the novel by Allison Pearson. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, whose daily life is a non-stop balancing act - between her job and family. Complicating matters is Kate's charming new business associate Jack (Pierce Brosnan), who begins to prove an unexpected source of temptation.

Straw Dogs is based on The Siege of Trencher's Farm-Straw Dogs by British writer Gordon Williams. In this re-make of a 1971 film, David and Amy Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South to prepare the family home for sale after her father's death. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts re-emerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie, leading to a violent confrontation.

Killer Elite is based on a shocking true story that pits two of the world's most elite operatives --- Danny, an ex-special ops agent, and Hunter, his longtime mentor --- against the cunning leader of a secret military society. Originally published as The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.

Michael Lewis's Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game (also in audio) is now adapted in a film starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane - the Oakland A’s general manager who reinvents his team to outsmart the richer teams by signing undervalued players considered flawed but who have a knack for winning games.

What’s Your Number? is based on the novel 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak. When Delilah Darling reads a survey revealing that most people have 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetime, she begins to feel like a tramp. She’s slept with 19 men so far --- almost twice the national average. Unwilling to up her number, but also unable to imagine a life of celibacy, Delilah tracks down every man she’s ever slept with in a last-ditch effort to make it work with one of them.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #287

British television writer/producer/director Simon Toyne's Sanctus * * * opens with a heart-pounding scene high above Ruin, a city in Turkey, in which a monk climbs to the top of a mountain called the Citadel and jumps off, carrying with him an ancient secret that could shatter the foundations of the Christian Church.

American newspaper reporter Liv Adamsen learns that her phone number, carved into a small leather strap, has been found inside the monk's stomach. All signs point to the possibility that this might be her brother who went missing years ago. Trying to unravel the mystery of his death might prove too dangerous for Liv. But nothing and no one could hold her back.

This well-researched, high-concept thriller of grand conspiracies is the first in a projected trilogy. Strong female character and non-stop action make this a must-read of the fall publishing season. Foreign rights sold in 27 countries, 100,000-copy first printing.

* * * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #285 (August's Nordic Crime Fiction)

This week Denmark's best-selling crime writer Jussi Adler-Olsen makes his U.S. debut with this first novel in the Glass Key Award-winning Department Q series, The Keeper of Lost Causes * * * (translated by Lisa Hartford), called "superlative" and "twisty" by reviewers.

After a near-fatal shooting that left him volatile and guilt-ridden, brilliant Homicide Detective Carl Morck is assigned to run Department Q, a new section of the Copenhagen Police dedicated to resolving the most notorious unsolved crimes.

Between napping and genial banter with his assistant Assad, Morck is surprised to find that one particular case snags his attention - the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard, a beautiful and popular politician who vanished 5 years ago during a ferry crossing and assumed dead.

Only the reader is privy to the fact that Merete is alive, imprisoned and subjected to the most horrendous treatment. "Adler-Olsen deftly advances both stories simultaneously" in this absorbing psychological thriller.

Comparisons to Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo are inevitable but this newcomer holds his own, and with strong prose and a sense of humor.

* * * = Starred reviews

Also noteworthy is Michael Ridpath's Where the Shadows Lie * *, smoothly weaving history, legend, and police procedural in the first of a crime series set in Iceland.

Boston PD Detective Magnus Jonson is on loan to the Icelandic Police Force in Reykjavik, and walks right into the murder investigation of Professor Agnar Harldsson. It is a homecoming of sorts for Magnus while keeping him out of the assassins' reach until he could testify on police corruption.

Amid the wild and desolate landscape, rumors swirl of an ancient manuscript connected to an Icelandic saga, and a precious ring of terrible power. Magnus's unorthodox investigative techniques prove problematic with his Icelandic hosts while his father's unsolved murder two decades ago inadvertently comes into play, adding to the complex storyline and the intrigue.

"Ridpath does a fine job of immersing us in Icelandic culture, and Magnus,... is a thoroughly fascinating character. Exotic and compelling, a first-class mystery. " Arnaldur Indriđason is in good company.

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #282 (Not all Arctic Crime Fiction is Nordic)

Award-winning British journalist M.J. McGrath's White Heat * is a "riveting Arctic mystery that marks the fiction debut of a wickedly talented writer." ~ The New York Times

Set in the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian High Arctic, as the lone female guide in a profession dominated by men, Edie Kiglatuk does not have it easy. Being only part Inuit does not endear her to the elders in the insular tradition-bound Ellesmore Island community either.

When one of the hunters is shot and killed on her watch, the incident is quickly covered up to protect the guide business from negative publicity. Two other suspicious deaths follow, with one of them hitting too close to home. With the help of Police Sergeant Derek Palliser, Edie is determined to find the connection in a search that would take her beyond her small village, and into the far reaches of the tundra.

"McGrath transports the reader to a land of almost incomprehensible cold and an unfamiliar but fascinating culture, taking on issues of climate change, energy exploration, local politics, and drug and alcohol abuse." Her heroine, flawed (recovering alcoholic with trouble staying on the wagon), isolated (ostracized as a troublemaker) is smart, by necessity tough and cunning, but is also warm, loyal and caring, with a keen sense of humor. I for one, am glad that White Heat is the first in a projected series.

A readalike for The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney which also captures the Canadian wilderness landscape in a suspenseful historical thriller.

Readers who appreciate a strong female protagonist in a non-traditional role (woman park ranger) would also like the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr.

* = Starred review

Attention Peaks Freaks

Have you been itching to watch the pilot episode of Twin Peaks? Thanks to some added copies in the AADL collection, you now can. It happens to come from a metallic gold case of magic and wonder. It’s the most beautiful box set to have graced my hands since I purchased the original Twin Peaks box set on VHS, which I still own.

If you’ve been meaning to watch the show for the first time, or fall in love with Agent Cooper all over again, we’ve got you covered. Also added to the collection, is Season 2, Disc 7, which is a disc with bonus features(!) including: Deleted scenes, a slice of lynch, Peaks SNL skits, "Secrets from another place" feature-length documentary, interviews with cast and crew, and much more. It. Is. Purely. Magical. If you're ready to get your David Lynch on.

World Fantasy Award Nominees

And the nominees for the World Fantasy Awards include: 2 debut writers (both just happen to be women...) and 2 set in Africa

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes-my personal favorite from this South African writer

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin-she has written plenty of award winning short fiction,this is her first novel & part of the Inheritance Trilogy (the third book comes out in October)

Silent Land by Graham Joyce- genre mashup mostly of suspense fiction and a bit of fantasy thrown in; compared to writers Haruki Murakami and Ian McEwan

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay- not unlike the fantasy writer George R R Martin did with his Song of Ice and Fire series, Kay tries to do with one book set in a world not unlike 8th Century China; lots of kudos from reviewers

Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord- another first fiction retells a Senegalese folktale

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor-known for her young adult fiction, this book takes place in a postapocalyptic Saharan Africa where a young girl must use her magic to end the oppression of her people, the Okeke

Lifetime achievement awards go to Peter S. Beagle (of Last Unicorn fame) and Angélica Gorodischer.

The winner will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention held this year on October 30th in San Diego. So get your geek on!

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