This year I added a column to my master spreadsheet that I religiously maintain (more on that tomorrow!). The new column is for ‘new to me’ authors, and I wanted to share a few of my favourites with you; the links will go to my reviews. And top of the list is:
Sadly, Garnier is no longer with us; he died in 2010. However, thanks to Gallic Books’s series of translations into English, the Frenchman’s books have found a new and appreciative audience. He wrote about fifteen novels, of which six are now available, plus many other works many of which were stories for children.
Garnier’s novels are pure noir often set in the French suburbs and hinterlands of the big cities, featuring people who are at the end of their tether, leading them to commit extraordinary – and often murderous – acts.
I’ve read two of them so far. The A26 (translated by Melanie Florence), and The Islanders (translated by Emily Boyce). The A26 features a brother and sister who were dying of cancer and an agoraphobic hoarder respectively, living and working alongside a new stretch of road being built. The Islanders features the rekindling of a dangerous romance from his teens when a man returns home to bury his mother at Christmas. They’re intense, claustrophobic, and very funny in that laughing while gasping behind your hands kind of way!
I read just a single novel by Szerb – The Pendragon Legend (translated by Len Rix), which was tremendous fun and a philosophic adventure to boot involving stolen manuscripts, ancient rituals, murder and mayhem all at breakneck speed.
Although his other novels are altogether more serious and less comedic, I know I will adore them, but I was absolutely delighted to discover that Szerb wasn’t the stuffy, serious European author I’d thought he might turn out to be.
I Also Discovered the Joys of Reading…
Older or reprinted novels by Penelope Fitzgerald, Kyril Bonfiglioli, Robert Aickman and Sylvia Plath. Some notable debuts too in Virginia Bergin’s dystopian YA novel The Rain and Jasper Gibson’s hilarious yet nasty A Bright Moon for Fools.
But I shall finish with one more, very much alive, British, new to me author …
Anyone who is a regular here will know that I am a huge fan of spy stories, generally preferring them over crime novels any day. Thus it was a pleasure to discover Geordie, Mick Herron via his book Slow Horses.
In this novel, a bunch of has-been and disgraced MI5 spies, known as the ‘Slow Horses’ and shunted into a backwater office to do paperwork, get involved in an international kidnapping plot.
The author has come up with a truly labyrinthine plot with many layers of players and internal politics for them to unravel, let alone getting into the minds of the kidnappers. It’s certainly worthy of comparison to Le Carré, horribly plausible too! There’s plenty of tradecraft deployed throughout which gives that authentic feel (as if we’d really know how it’s done!), and I loved all the secret service slang. On top of all that though is a sense of humour – subtle at times, less so at others. One thing about the Slow Horses is that they’re not used to working together as a team these days, and old skills have to be brought back into play.
There is a sequel – Dead Lions, which I’m looking forward to reading, and I gather a third is on the way for 2016, Yippee!
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Which authors did you discover in 2014?