Last night I was privileged to be invited and able to attend Penguin’s General Fiction Showcase event at Foyles in London.
It was lovely to meet several good blogging friends again there – Sakura, Kim, Simon my Shiny pal, Simon S (good luck with the Green Carnation prize tonight) and Luci from Curious Book Fans. Knowing that several other blogging friends had been invited but were unable to go, we all vowed to think about having another book-bloggers meet next year … Suggestions please for venues!
Penguin, as always, had brought together a lovely band of authors to introduce and read from their new books to us – in this case, three established and three debut authors and six wonderful sounding books.
First came Claire Fuller – her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, sounds rather dark – starting in the mid 1970s when a survivalist father takes his eight year old daughter from London to a cabin in the middle of a forest in Europe telling her the world is disappeared. She is not seen again for nine years. Claire read a passage where they’d been looking for acorns, but the squirrels had got them all… I rather like forests in novels – I shall look forward to reading this one (out in February).
Next was Paul Murray who had such a hit with Skippy Dies a few years ago. He described his new novel The Mark and the Void as a banking comedy! He read a passage to us at breakneck speed complete with accents which had a Frenchman (the banker), a writer called Paul, an Australian and a Russian amongst others. It promises to be very funny (out in July).
Julia Rochester, another debut novelist, brought the first half to a close, reading from the start of her novel The House at the Edge of the World set in Devon, which starts with Morwenna witnessing her father’s death as he topples over the edge of a cliff while drunk and having a piss. It’s no comedy though – all about family and roots. (out in June).
Turkish novelist Elif Shafak began the second half, introducing us to the architect Sinan who designed most of Istanbul’s most iconic domes and structures in the sixteenth century. Her novel The Architect’s Apprentice tells his story through the eyes of those who worked for him. As at a previous event, she beguiled us with her mellifluous tones and philosophical take on this historical novel.
The last debut novelist of the evening was Emma Hooper, a Canadian who is also in a band. Etta and Otto and Russell and James is set in Saskatchewan – in the middle of Canada and eighty-two year old Etta decides to walk to the sea which she has never seen. You’re thinking a Canadian Harold Fry, right? However, this book promises something different and is laced with humour- the section she read us in which neighbour Russell who is on Etta’s trail stops at a diner to breakfast finding it is run by a ten-year-old girl and her little brother who does the dishes, was great fun, but I gather it’s not all so sunny. (Out in January).
The final author of the evening was William Gibson – yes that William Gibson! The one who created the cyberpunk genre of science fiction beginning with Neuromancer in the 1980s, and also being a founding father of steampunk with his wonderful novel, co-authored with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine. Over the years I have read and loved quite a few of his novels, but not managed any more since I started this blog.
His more recent books have tended to be set closer to the present, and his latest is (partially) no exception to that. The Peripheral has a double time-line (one near-future and one way in the future), Gibson read a chapter from the near-future one which featured a typical Friday night at a pub in a Southern town ravaged by unemployment and disenfranchised youths which he described as being ‘Like Winter’s Bone, but with better cell-phones’. Being a huge fan of Daniel Woodrell’s novels (see here) I knew what he meant.
Now, I don’t recall ever having seen an author’s photo or potted biog of Gibson – I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my head I imagined him as a well-built Californian in his say mid fifties. He is actually 66, from South Carolina, has a real drawl and is very tall and very slim.
In my fangirl moment with him after the reading – he was the perfect Southern gentleman and I can’t wait to read The Peripheral (out now).
Thank you to Penguin for a lovely evening.