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Spring preview 2014: short fiction, crime, poetry, and graphica

Short fiction

Bill Gaston follows up his 2012 novel, The World, with a return to the genre that nabbed him a place on the 2006 Governor General’s Literary Award shortlist (for Gargoyles) and the 2002 Giller Prize shortlist (for Mount Appetite). His new collection, Juliet Was a Surprise (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $22 pa., June), features characters ranging from a tree surgeon to a delusional playboy to a pizza delivery boy who might (or might not) be similarly delusional. • Nicholas Ruddock follows up his debut novel, 2010’s The Parabolist, with a collection of linked short stories called How Loveta Got Her Baby (Breakwater Books, $19.95 pa., March). The book includes Ruddock’s Journey Prize–shortlisted story “How Eunice Got Her Baby.”

Back in September, critic and author Jeet Heer took to Twitter to list the 10 people he considered the best writers in Canada. Toronto novelist and short-story writer K.D. Miller was at number 10 on Heer’s list. Readers will get a chance to gauge for themselves in May, when Biblioasis releases Miller’s latest collection, All Saints ($19.95 pa.), which features linked stories about parishioners who attend the book’s eponymous Anglican church. • Biblioasis also has the third collection from Journey Prize winner C.P. Boyko, following hard on the heels of his 2012 book of linked stories, Psychology. Boyko’s new collection is called, somewhat counterintuitively, Novelists ($19.95 pa., May). • An arborist and a jealous sibling, a prying mother and a hijab-clad woman in a grocery store are some of the characters who people the 13 stories in Lee Kvern’s new collection, 7 Ways to Sunday (Enfield & Wizenty, $19.95 pa., April).

Poet Paul Vermeersch dons his publisher’s cap to launch the new Wolsak & Wynn imprint Buckrider Books, which has its inaugural season in 2014. One of the first titles is the new story collection from Toronto resident D.D. Miller. Provocatively titled David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide ($20 pa., April), the volume addresses a comical coterie of male protagonists, from slackers to sad sacks, all of whom get what’s coming to them. • Invisible Publishing scored a coup when Elisabeth di Mariaffi’s collection How to Get Along with Women was longlisted for the 2013 Giller Prize. We will see if lightning strikes twice with the publication of Journey Prize nominee Anna Leventhal’s Sweet Affliction ($19.95 pa., May). • A resident of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, P.J. Worrell is set to publish her first book of short fiction with Thistledown Press in March. Proudflesh ($19.95 pa.) is a collection of “hard-edged Prairie fiction.”

Boundary Problems (Freehand Books, $19.95 pa., March), the debut collection from Greg Bechtel, refers to boundaries in people’s lives, involving fraught subjects such as sex and secrets, paranoia and conspiracy. The title also refers to boundaries between genres: Bechtel’s stories straddle the line between literary and speculative fiction.
• The personal and political experiences of Asian Canadians is the subject of journalist and poet Doretta Lau’s How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? (Nightwood Editions, $19.95 pa., April). Shuttling between characters from different generations, classes, and backgrounds, Lau examines notions of national identity and what it means to be Canadian. • CM Cooper is a novelist and writer whose work has been published in Brick and Guernica magazines. Her new collection, The Western Home (Pedlar Press, $22 pa., March), follows a cast of characters – pioneers, singers, a teenager working in a rural tourist kiosk – whose lives have been affected by the classic American folk song “Home on the Range.”

Crime fiction

Author of the popular Lily Moore series of mysteries, Hilary Davidson returns this spring with a standalone crime thriller featuring a woman whose plan to blackmail her married, two-timing boxer boyfriend results in disaster. Davidson describes the experience of writing Blood Always Tells (Forge/Raincoast, $29.99 cl., April) in Q&Q’s Last Word column (see p. 50). • Vancouver Island resident Chevy Stevens returns with her fourth novel, about a woman released from prison after being convicted of her sister’s murder. Out on parole, she must attempt to reintegrate into life on the outside while dealing with her teenage boyfriend, who was also convicted of the murder; her mother, who is still convinced she is guilty; and her high-school tormentors, who have reasons of their own for wanting her gone. That Night (St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast, $21.99 pa.) is out in June.

ECW has a trio of crime novels on the way. Hamilton’s Mike Knowles returns with another gritty thriller featuring his popular anti-hero, the mob enforcer Wilson. In The Buffalo Job ($12.95 pa., June), Wilson gets involved with an ill-advised cross-border scheme to steal a 200-year-old violin. • Critically acclaimed thriller novelist John Mc­Fetridge finds intrigue in the search for a serial killer during the FLQ Crisis in 1970 Montreal in Black Rock ($14.95 pa., May). • Ride the Lightning ($14.95 pa., April) is the debut crime thriller from Dietrich Kalteis. The novel tells the story of a former bounty hunter whose work as a process server leads him to Vancouver’s seedy underbelly.

D.B. Carew is another B.C. author making his crime fiction debut this season. In The Killer Trail (NeWest Press, $15.95 pa., May), a Vancouver social worker out for a jog discovers an abandoned cellphone, which sends him on a whirlwind adventure involving high-level kidnapping and murder.

Poetry

Poet laureate of Toronto and visiting professor at Harvard University, George Elliott Clarke returns this April with a new volume of confessional poetry from Exile Editions. Traverse ($16.95 pa.) is a technical high-wire act: a 980-line poem, most of it penned on a single day, to commemorate three decades working as a poet. • Adam Sol follows up his masterful 2008 collection, Jeremiah, Ohio, with a suite of new poems that examines the different ways in which we identify as members of nations, cultures, and communities. Complicity ($18.95 pa.) will be published by M&S in March.

Rob Winger interrogates clichés of Canadian lyricism – including landscape, war, disease, and migration – in his third collection, the slyly titled Old Hat (Nightwood, $18.95 pa., March). • Stylistic clichés also come under fire in the new anthology from editors Jonathan Ball and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Avant-Garde and Post-Avant English Canadian Poetry (Insomniac Press, $19.95 pa., May) attempts to find the funny side of a poetic mode long criticized for its severity and inability to laugh at itself.

Toronto poet Dani Couture was hard at work on her sophomore novel, a follow-up to her well-received debut, Algoma, when she was sidelined by a series of personal crises that prevented her from writing anything at all. When she returned to work, the only way she could conceive of telling her story was in verse. Mansfield Press will publish the resulting collection, YAW ($17 pa.), in April. • Mansfield also has David W. McFadden’s follow-up to What’s the Score?, which won the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize. McFadden’s new volume, Shouting Your Name Down a Well: Tankas and Haiku ($20 pa., April), is a collection of approximately 400 poems written in the two traditional Japanese forms.

Winner of the 2007 Bliss Carman Poetry Award, finalist for both the PRISM International Poetry Prize and the CBC Poetry Prize, and, most recently, a member of the poetry collective Yoko’s Dogs, Jane Munro returns with her sixth solo collection. Blue Sonoma (Brick Books, $20 pa., March) is a meditative examination of a partner succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. • Vancouver poet Catherine Owen follows up her 2012 collection, Trobairitz, with a suite of personal poems about losing a partner (and collaborator) to addiction. Designated Mourner (ECW, $18.95 pa.) appears in April. • In Bourbon & Eventide (Invisible, $14.95 pa., April), Mike Spry, author of the 2012 story collection Distillery Songs, crafts a series of tercets that trace the trajectory of a dysfunctional relationship though the eyes of a single subjective narrator.

San Francisco–born poet George Stanley now resides in British Columbia. A new volume of selected poems, North of California St. (New Star Publications, $21 pa., May), collects works from four out-of-print volumes that originally appeared between 1983 and 2000. The new volume is edited and introduced by Sharon Thesen. • Writer, broadcaster, and professor Bruce Meyer has a collection of love poems on the horizon. The Seasons ($18.95 pa.) will appear in May from The Porcupine’s Quill. • Another kind of love – the very modern adoration people seem to have for celebrities – is put under the microscope in the second collection from Dina Del Bucchia. In Blind Items ($16.95 pa.), her publisher, Insomniac, pledges that the poet “tears down the fourth wall of tabloid journalism with her teeth.”

Calgary’s Nikki Reimer follows up her debut collection, [sic], with a book that employs a new media lexicon to interrogate the substance and experience of modern, wired life. Talonbooks will publish Downverse ($16.95 pa.) in April. • Charles C. Smith, professor of cultural pluralism in the arts at the University of Toronto, has written a collection that focuses on the experiences of people of African descent born and raised outside the African continent. TSAR Publications will bring out Travelogue of the Bereaved ($19.95 pa.) in April.

Graphica

Praised as “one of the best out there these days” by fellow cartoonist Kate Beaton, Michael DeForge has been getting a lot of attention recently for his existential, apocalyptic comics. This May, Koyama Press will release A Body Beneath ($15 pa.), which collects volumes two through five of the artist’s acclaimed anthology series Lose.

In the new book from the author of Bigfoot and Reunion, Pascal Girard finds himself sidelined by an injury and decides to indulge a sedentary passion for reading. While browsing a bookstore one day, he witnesses a female customer shoplift one of his own books. The Collector (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 pa., May) traces the fallout from this chance encounter. Helge Dascher translates. • Dascher is also on hand to translate Réal Godbout’s reworking of Franz Kafka’s Amerika ($20 pa.). The graphic-novel adaptation, which tries to be as faithful as possible to Kafka’s original vision, is set to appear from Conundrum Press in May.

A new series of graphic novels from Chizine Publications, ChiGraphic, debuts in 2015, but the publisher is offering a sneak peek with the release of Vincent Marcone’s The Lady ParaNorma ($12.99 pa., April), about a lonely woman who hears ghosts. The graphic novel in verse is based on the author’s short film.

Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2014. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

This feature appeared in the January/February 2o14 issue of Q&Q.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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