Fresh Talent Winter 2017

Fresh Talent Winter 2017

Sirens – Joseph Knox

After he’s caught stealing drugs from evidence, Aidan Waits is blackmailed into an undercover operation which sends him from the upper echelons of the super-rich to the low-life squalor of Manchester’s drug scene. He spends his nights tailing The Franchise, a sophisticated gang operating out of the city’s booming bar culture, but when David Rossiter, a powerful member of parliament, discovers that his runaway teenage daughter has turned up in their custody – everything changes. Isabelle Rossiter has joined the dangerous world of the sirens, the young women who go from bar-to-bar collecting drug money for The Franchise. Each lives in the shadow of Joanna Greenlaw, who cut a deal with the police then vanished without a trace. As Franchise members begin to die, and a toxic strain of their designer drug hits the market, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Joanna Greenlaw to be forgotten. His loyalties divided between the police, The Franchise, the sirens and himself, Waits forgets about saving his reputation and tries desperately to save his own life.

“Sirens is a powerhouse of noir. Joseph Knox owns Manchester and paints it in all its grimy colours.”

Val McDermid

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London.

Little Deaths – Emma Flint

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery. Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew. Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder? Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.

“A phenomenal achievement… If you believed that literary fiction can’t be a one-sitting read, think again.”

Jeffrey Deaver.

Emma Flint grew up in Newcastle and graduated from the University of St Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature. She lives in London.

Guapa – Saleem Haddad

Set over the course of 24 hours, Last Round At Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country trying to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and religious upheaval. Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his room. Then one morning Rasa’s grandmother, the woman who raised him, catches them in bed together?

“This day in a life of a gay man under a post-Arab spring dictatorship is as compelling as it is insightful…this immensely readable novel is fluent, passionate and emotionally honest.”

The Guardian

Saleem Haddad was born in Kuwait City in 1983 to a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother. He lives in London.

Men Like Air – Tom Connolly

Tom Connolly’s dazzling second novel is a funny, turbulent, and heartfelt study of male relationships, and a glorious love letter to the city of New York.It is April in Manhattan and the destinies of four very different men are about to collide. Nineteen-year-old Finn has just arrived in the city with his irrepressible and volatile girlfriend, Dilly, determined to even the score with his older brother Jack for abandoning him in the UK in the aftermath of their parents’ deaths. Across town, successful gallery owner Leo Emerson is haunted by loneliness, unsettled by the contrast between his life and that of his brother-in-law and oldest friend William, who is enviably contented in his faith and his marriage.When Finn wanders into Leo’s gallery, a series of unexpected and interconnected events unfold, changing the lives of all four men, for better or worse. Leo and William’s settled existences are overturned by events outside of their control, while Jack and Finn’s complex relationship reaches its long overdue showdown.Beautifully orchestrated and richly comic, Men Like Air explores the romance and solitude of cosmopolitan life, the transformative power of art, and the impact we have on one another’s lives – and what happens when the ties that bind us are tested or broken. It is an intense and uplifting story of growth and renewal, mapping the complex workings of the human heart across the streets of New York City.

“An epic love letter to New York City, Men Like Air is bold, absorbing and very funny. Tom Connolly has a quiet brilliance.”

Evie Wyld

Tom Connolly is a writer and filmmaker. He lives and windsurfs in Sussex.

The Life Assistance Agency – Thomas Hocknell

Do you want to live forever? Ben Ferguson-Cripps is a struggling writer with a surname that gets more comments than his waning blog. In desperation Ben sets aside his literary ambitions to join the newly established and enigmatic Life Assistance Agency. The agency’s first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee. Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads them on a white-knuckle ride through Europe into the historic streets of Prague. As forces meet in a deadly climax, the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed…and Ben will discover there is always more to life.

“Hocknell mixes esoterica with playful storytelling and arch wit.”

EO Higgins – Author of Conversations with Spirits

Thomas Hocknell is from Kent and lives in London. His is the writer of Idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow.

Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

A lush, thrilling debut about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant. “Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…” This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the 22-year-old at the heart of this stunning debut. Shot like a bullet from a mundane past, she’s come to New York to escape the provincial, to take on her destiny. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on and off duty. Her appetites are awakened, for food, wine, knowledge and experience; and she’s pulled into the thrall of two other servers–a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman whose connection to both young lovers is murky, sensual, and overpowering. These two will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story about discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

“A stunning debut novel, one that seems destined to help define a generation.”

Jay McInerney – author of Bright Lights, Big City

Stephanie Danler is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York.

Under the Udale Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

One day in 1968, at the height of the Biafran civil war, Ijeoma’s father is killed and her world is transformed forever. Separated from her grief-stricken mother, she meets another young lost girl, Amina, and the two become inseparable. Theirs is a relationship that will shake the foundations of Ijeoma’s faith, test her resolve and flood her heart. In this masterful novel of faith, love and redemption, Okparanta takes us from Ijeoma’s childhood in war-torn Biafra, through the perils and pleasures of her blossoming sexuality, her wrong turns, and into the everyday sorrows and joys of marriage and motherhood. As we journey with Ijeoma we are drawn to the question: what is the value of love and what is the cost?

“Remarkable . . . recalls the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie . . . the dizzying scope of Okparanta’s storytelling keeps you gripped’

Financial Times

Born in Nigeria Chinelo Okparanta emigrated to the United States when she was 10. Her shorter fiction has appeared in Granta and the New Yorker.

The Blackbird Singularity – Matt Wilven

Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner’s pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together. Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son’s footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead.

“(An) intense and off-beat examination of a man lost in a landscape of unresolved grief and his heroic fight to find his way back home.”

Melisa DeCarlo, author of The Art of Crash Landing

Matt Wilven was born in Blackpool in 1982 and has an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing. He lives and writes in London.

Dodgers – Bill Beverly

Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East’s hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he’s never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become. Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.

“One of the greatest literary crime novels you will read in your lifetime.”

Donald Ray Pollock

Winner of the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award 2016. Bill Beverly was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and now teaches American in Washington D.C.

Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales. In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay. Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.

“A wonderfully layered novel of family roles and the harsh wonders of deep winter magic.”

Robin Hobb

Katherine Arden grew up in France, has lived in both Moscow and Paris and now resides in Hawaii.

The Good Son – Paul McVeigh

Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him ‘gay’. It doesn’t help that his best friend is his little sister, Wee Maggie, and that everyone knows he loves his Ma more than anything in the world. He doesn’t think much of his older brother Paddy and really doesn’t like his Da. He dreams of going to America, taking Wee Maggie and Ma with him, to get them away from Belfast and Da. Mickey realises it’s all down to him. He has to protect Ma from herself. And sometimes, you have to be a bad boy to be a good son.

“Blackly hilarious (with) one of the most endearing and charming characters I’ve come across in a long time.”

ELLE Magazine

Paul McVeigh is a journalist and playwright. Born in Belfast, he now lives in London.

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four-legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft once you’ve finished reading.

“Captures perfectly and heartbreakingly the small moments on which a life can turn. We can all recognise something of ourselves in these pages.”

Kirsty Wark

Ruth Hogan was born and still lives in Bedford. She lives in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs, and her own collection of lost treasures.