W H Smith Travel has chosen a new dozen of "diverse and original" titles for its Spring Fresh Talent promotion, including a thriller by Waterstones' crime buyer Joseph Knox (real name Joseph Knobbs).
The new selection, which "encourages readers to take a risk on a new author", will launch this Thursday (12th January) and run until 30th March across W H Smith Travel's key locations at airports in Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester and train stations in Victoria, Liverpool Street, Paddington and Euston.
Sirens (Transworld) by author and Waterstones crime buyer Joseph Knox - tipped by W H Smith fiction buyer Matt Bates as "a talent to watch" - was praised as "a crime novel from a genre expert that stands head to head with his better known contemporaries". The book was won by Transworld last year following a 10-way auction.
Double CWA winner Dodgers (No Exit) by Bill Beverley was included as the "perfect companion" to Knox's debut, described as an ingenious crime novel with engrossing and believable characters. “Dodgers does not disappoint and marks the coming of a master storyteller," said Bates.
Another crime read, Emma Flint's debut Little Deaths (Pan Macmillan), delivers on multiple levels, according to Bates, who recognised its merits not only as a crime novel but as a literary read and "an incisive new voice in fiction".
Saleem Haddad's "towering" novel Guapa (Europa), meanwhile, is described as "a brave, honest and important book that recounts a day in the tangled life of a gay man in a middle eastern capital city". Haddad was recently named in Foreign Policy’s list of Global Thinkers 2016.
Polari First Book Prize winner The Good Son (Salt) by Northern Irish author Paul McVeigh, a coming-of-age novel following a young boy growing up during the Troubles in 1980s Belfast, was singled out as "a gem of a novel that blends pathos and humour perfectly through the eyes of its inspired and heroic narrator, Mickey".
Meanwhile Katherine Arden’s Russian-themed literary fantasy novel, The Bear and the Nightingale (Del Rey) displays "a glorious feat of magical realism that has shades of Angela Carter and Neil Gaiman whilst remaining totally unique", according to Bates.
Set in the behind-the-scenes world of New York's restaurants, Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler (Oneworld), now in paperback, is also part of the promotion. Praised also for its "stunning" new jacket look, Bates called it "sharply observed yet still tender this is a new take on New York life through the city itself, and its restaurants and food".
Another title on the list also set in New York is the second novel of author and filmmaker Tom Connolly, Men Like Air (Myriad). The tale of two brothers who travel to NYC following the death of their parents was said to be "lyrical and multi-layered".
"Tom is a film director and his eye for detail and precision shows at every turn of the page," said Bates. Connolly's first novel The Spider Truces (Myriad) was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2011.
Ruth Hogan’s "captivating" debut The Keeper of Lost Things (Two Roads, Hodder) makes its appearance on the Fresh Talent batch of promoted titles as "a warm, wise and tender novel". W H Smith recommends it as a perfect read for long January nights.
Chinelo Aparanta's book Under The Udala Trees (Granta), set at the height of the Nigerian Biafran civil war, was picked as a "heart breaking novel that spans continents and generations". Meanwhile, rounding off the selection is Wilven's "introspective and profound" novel The Blackbird Singularity (Legend), a first-person literary novel about mental rehabilitation after losing a four-year-old child to cancer, while Hocknell's "vivid tale with a wry wit and sharp eye" The Life Assistance Agency (Urbane) was ushered in as "a welcome inclusion to list".
Bates commented: "Our aim remains very clearly to support new writing and shine a light on our featured 12 novelists through the in-store promotional vehicle. We want to encourage readers to take a risk on a new author and choose with confidence something different through the Fresh Talent promotional offer.
"I hope you'll agree that the titles offer both a diverse and original selection and that there really is a book to suit all readers' tastes."
The purpose of the Fresh Talent promotion is to champion new and emerging authors and since its inception in March 2015 WH Smith has promoted 72 such writers.