The city of New York and themes of loneliness and disconnection are prevalent among the titles championed in the new W H Smith Fresh Talent promotion, which includes one self-published author.
Selected by W H Smith Travel book buyer Matt Bates, the fresh batch, due to launch in stores this time next week (30th March), promotes “great new writing” from debut or emerging authors.
The city of New York features strongly in three titles – The Lonely City by Olivia Laing (Canongate), Everyone is Watching by Megan Bradbury (Picador) and Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentis (Penguin).
Bates said: “New York - surely the most-written about city in the world – is well represented in this collection. Of its inhabitants - loneliness, disconnection and the weight of expectation -both of others and the self - are vividly exposed and explored in the novels of Megan Bradbury, Molly Prentiss, and in Olivia Laing’s moving memoir, The Lonely City.”
He said the latter, which examines a difficult period of Laing’s life spent in New York and recalls how she was able to re-connect with herself and her surroundings through the art and culture of the city was a “beautiful, plaintive and uplifting work”.
Bradbury’s novel is described as “original, stylish and very timely” as it explores New York through the lives of some its most celebrated children including Edmund White and Robert Mapplethorpe. Prentiss’ work meanwhile paints the colour, chaos and unpredictability of the city in the 1980’s. “It is a fast-paced, witty and high-octane dive into the city,” said Bates.
The retailer has also chosen to highlight performance artist Kate Tempest’s first foray into fiction with The Bricks That Built The Houses (Bloomsbury), which again focuses on themes of disconnection and disengagement in life and society, along with dysfunctional families. Bates said it was “an intriguing debut with even more promise to come”.
Among the debuts championed is a Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs To You (Picador), which also explores loneliness and isolation, shame and pride in what Bates describes as a “extraordinary and uncomfortable” novel. It opens in Bulgaria where the narrator, an American man teaching English to students, becomes fascinated by a troubled young hustler, Mitko, whose casual approach to his own life is both pitiful and heart-breaking.
Costa Prize shortlistee Susan Beale has been selected for The Good Guy, with the author described as a “talent to watch” by Bates. Meanwhile Hayley Mitchell is another debut novelist honoured in the promotion for Because I Was Lonely (Red Door).
For the thrillers, Bates said Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants (Penguin) was an “in-house favourite”, part of a planned series of science fiction thrillers, and Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories (Orenda Books), a daring and inventive crime thriller that examines six different accounts of a crime committed 20 years previously, has some “ingenious plot twists and turns”.
Ciaran McMenamin’s Skintown (Doubleday) picks up the pace in a “blistering account of life in County Fermanagh in Ireland, with the writing “sharp” and the dialogue “electric”, according to the book buyer and Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls (Hodder & Stoughton) is a “slice of Southern Gothic that will definitely generate some noise for its frank and sensitive examination of a age-old taboo”.
Lastly, the retailer has again chosen to champion self-published author Piers Alexander, whose title The Bitter Trade was a Fresh Talent pick in 2015. This time his sequel Scatterwood appears in the Fresh Talent list, which continues the adventures of protagonist, Calumny Spinks.
The next Fresh Talent batch is the 11th since the promotion began in Fenruary 2015. The titles will be promoted in W H Smith Travel stories through the UK.
Bates said: “Our objective remains clear - to promote and highlight great new writing from debut or emerging authors. I always enjoy the evolving process of reading and choosing the titles and am always excited when I start to see themes emerge as the 12 titles finally come together.”