2017: New-To-Me Authors

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2017: New-To-Me Authors

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gen. 7, 2017, 4:14pm

Here is where you get to introduce your new best writer friends to the rest of us, to ask us if we have read their book(s), and to recommend or to diss them for our respective delight or dread.

The writers you introduce only have to be new to you -- for the first time in your life you're reading a book by them. It could be someone from any time: from Aristophenes to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and anyone in between.

Just say something about them as a writer and something about the book you read and what kind of a reading experience it was for you. Have fun because we will enjoy reading your comments and maybe even finding a new-to-us writer as well.

Spread the love!

Editat: gen. 7, 2017, 4:42pm

OK, let's get started.

Turns out my first read of the New Year (11 ch. of 34 to go) is a fictionalized biography of Agatha Christie's trip to Baghdad in the late 20s when she met her second husband-to-be and worked on the famous excavation of Ur.

The author is Lindsay Jayne Ashford, a Brit -- yep that tiny island kingdom has produced yet another wordsmith -- who writes mysteries featuring a heroine named Megan Rhys. I generally avoid mystery crime novels and series, but I'm a fan of fictionalized biographies of famous people, especially if I've read actual biographies about them or know quite a bit about their lives already.

The book is The Woman on the Orient Express. So, you know the subject of it must be Agatha Christie. The period of her life that Ashford writes fluidly about is immediately following her divorce from Archibald Christie. The future Dame Agatha travels to Baghdad aboard the eponymous train and once there visits and works at the famous archaeological dig at Ur in then Mesopotamia. It is here that she meets her real-life groom-to-be number two.

I'll tell you no more except to assure you that the characters depicted were real people in almost every case, were intimately involved with Christie, and that she, of course, used the setting and some of these peoples' character points to good effect in her famous Murder on the Orient Express and another novel, if IIRC.

Ashford is an assured writer who is adept at bringing a host of people to life. I'm enjoying how she peels the layers of the onion away from everyone's personal secrets as she explores the impact of having one's personal life splashed across the pages of all the papers for "all the world and its wife to see," as she puts it. She handles both female and male character well; her skill with dialogue gives them distinct voices and full-blown personalities. Without being overly descriptive, she establishes and is able to hold setting so that the luxurious train and the arid desert enfold a reader.

What is piquing an annoying response in me is the estrogenic emotions and frequent hand touching that is the favored device of comforting that Ashford employs. But, I put that down to her strict adherence to period language, behavior, and attitudes, which I think is very important when writing historical fiction, if the author wants me to "believe."

Thus, my overall impression is that the novel is readable, pleasurable, and revelatory. I'm learning quite a bit about the ancient culture of the Sumerians and a little of the Arab politics during the time immediately following Gertrude Bell's death while I'm enjoying feeling like an invisible interloper in the come-to-life world of more than one strong personality and famous person. The fact that I'm listening to it as a CD book adds to my enjoyment. I love being read aloud to!

gen. 9, 2017, 7:19am

I've started reading Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, Or The History of a Young Lady and I'm so glad it started off well and engaged me. I'm in for a long ride and was hoping it wouldn't be a slog to the end. The epistolary format is helping a lot.

gen. 17, 2017, 8:52pm

Think I better blither less about the new-to-me authors and try to organize our notations by giving a month by month summary. So, when you introduce the rest of us to your new months, I'll ask you to create a post labeled with the month in which you met.


Natsume Soseki is considered one of Japan's "national authors" who, like "Sensei" in his novel Kokoro, suffered from paranoia and other mental illness. He arrived rather late in life to his career as an author, aged 37, and was dead before he turned 50. This link to a fascinating biographical sketch of him and the rivalry between him and Lafcadio Hearn appears here:

ag. 30, 2017, 7:16am

I've never read Graham Greene before. Shameful, I know. I've discovered him this year and think I'll have to strike up a new collection.

ag. 31, 2017, 5:40pm

Greene was a prolific writer and I've read only 3 of his novels, starting when I was in high school with The Quiet American. Somewhere along the way, I read Travels with My Aunt, not my cup of tea. And only recently, like you a little, I felt I should try him. Our Man in Havana wa right up my alley.

I've seen the movie The End of the Affair, which is a remarkable love story with heavy overtones of religion, but haven't read the book. My feeling is it will be like a window back in time but might not wear well with age.

Look forward to hearing what book of his you choose.

set. 1, 2017, 7:21am

>6 Limelite:, I posted for having just finished reading A Gun for Sale, which I'd call a literary thriller. Takes place in a 1936 that never was, with war brewing due to a minister being assassinated. Nice tricks with time to create dramatic irony on the first read, and sympathy for the criminal. That's got me hooked.

set. 2, 2017, 1:08pm

I've neglected this thread, probably because I've been reading so many new-to-me authors that it's hard to keep up!

My review here. This book introduced me to the Virago Modern Classics Group on LT.

My review here. Part of my "reading contemporary Chinese authors" ambition for the second half of 2017.

My review here. Quite different novel among the sub-genre of fiction about painters.

My review here. An exquisite short novel that reminded me of the film, Farewell My Concubine, which I also loved. Another in my Chinese authors project.

My review here. Perfect summer escapist fiction w/o leaving you feeling like that was a waste of time. Sequel ready novel.

My review here. Absolute perfection by contemporary Japanese author, Yoko Ogawa. Intelligent, compassionate, and humane.

These are many of the better and worse books I've read this year of pursuing new-to-me authors. What may seem to be a rather amorphous reading goal has proven to be -- for me -- a treasure trove that has not only broadened my reading ventures but linked me to a new community of readers here on LT, and inspired me to seek more books by these writers, but it's also re-inspired my reading self who has been in the doldrums most of the last two years.

Admittedly, some of the titles have helped me meet a more distinct goal of finishing 12 books buried somewhere in my TBR pile which is the purpose of being a member of the ROOTs Group on LT!

Hope to hear from others about the new authors in their reading lives this year. Please leave a post and give us a reason to become fans, too.

set. 5, 2017, 7:30am

I'm not always impressed with Booker Prize winners, but I've decided to read The God of Small Things after all the news about Arundhati Roy's new novel this year. Not even a hundred pages in but already I know this is one to treasure.

set. 5, 2017, 4:33pm

I'm glad to hear you're reading and enjoying "Small Things." I've been looking at it, and looking at it, and looking at it but haven't opened it, fearing that it would disappoint me. My experiences reading Indian novelists has been mixed. Hurricanes are a timely subject, for sure, sandwiched as we are between departed Harvey and looming Irma. All gods above, help the Gulf Coast.

Please keep me posted on Roy's book. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

set. 6, 2017, 11:18am

>10 Limelite:, a hundred pages in, I'd call it everything that Midnight's Children should have been. Much less annoying than Rushdie.

Wow, sounds like you're in a risky spot. I hope it's another miss.

Editat: set. 7, 2017, 6:55pm

Yes, Rushdie does begin to wear on my nerves, too, after 200 pp or so. His books, as someone once said about something, out avant the garde. I've come to wonder if he exhausts me because all of them seem to be experimental rewrites of his experimental debut in Satanic Verses, but less funny.

Well, I was born in Miami and lived more than 30 years there (until '14), and still think of it as home. We're now in metro Atlanta, and if this morning's weather report is accurate, we will be affected by its aftermath at tropical storm strength. Lime Spouse said to me at breakfast, "When you were born, did the MDs implant you with a hurricane homing device?"

Blind Justice
Lime Spouse and I are doing a read aloud of Blind Justice: A Sir John Fielding Mystery by new-to-me author, Bruce Alexander. It's the first in a series of the tales of Sir John Fielding, judge, founder of the Bow Street Runners, and brother of Henry Fielding -- and it's really good. Sadly, Alexander died in 2003. He had also written a Mexican-American detective series, none of which titles I know. There are 11 novels in the Sir John Fielding series, a prodigious number, considering the first was published in '94. His real name was Bruce Cook, and he enjoyed varied careers during his lifetime.

A graduate of Loyola (Chicago) in literature, served as a German translator in the US Army and in public relations. His first civilian calling was as a journalist for the National Observer where he reviewed books, music, and movies. Later, he became a book editor before returning to journalism, associated with the Detroit News, Los Angeles daily, and USA Today. He rose to senior editor of Newsweek before quitting to devote himself full time to writing books. Several of his novels were published posthumously.

Jeremy Proctor, aged 13, a character in the first novel, becomes Sir John Fielding's protege and is the continuing narrator in the Bow Street Runners series.

Alexander/Cook began his writing career as a biographer, publishing under his real name. He is the author of Trumbo, the bio of the Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter who broke the blacklist. Made into a 2015 film of the same title.

set. 7, 2017, 9:29pm

I discovered Robert B. Parker in January, but just discovered this thread in September! I've read a couple of his westerns, and plan to continue with other works.

Thanks to Early Reviewers, I have also discovered Stephanie Bearce's science books, which are really fun to read.

In July I discovered Aaron Becker's wonderful trilogy starting with Journey. These are marvelous "wordless" picture books that are great for kids, or adults who appreciate a great blend of art and story.

And finally, I read a fascinating book by David Crystal about the language of the King James Bible, and how it is often used in our language of today. It's not a religious book, so don't reject it if you don't like "religious" books, as it's strictly about LANGUAGE.

set. 8, 2017, 10:03pm

>13 fuzzi: Remarkably varied and eclectic list of new-to-you authors. I've seen Robert B Parker novels on the shelves in every library I've ever patronized in the last 25 years if so, his name is not new-to-me, only his body of work. The Crystal book does sound interesting! Thanks for posting and hope to hear more about your future discoveries.

Editat: set. 10, 2017, 7:09pm

>14 Limelite: thank you. I like to read just about anything, with the exception of graphic (sex, horror, violence).

Well-done romance like D.E. Stevenson is okay, and I love most Westerns, some SciFi like CJ Cherryh's, some intelligent fantasy like Tad Williams', history, mysteries like Laurie R. King's Sherlock series, children's...etc.

Early Reviewers has been a help finding new stuff, too, as well as LT in general.

set. 14, 2017, 4:57pm

Post-Irma power outage restored today, and I have to say I have mixed feelings. Delighted to have running water, Internet, and TV but having none of that and no way to recharge devices other than the vehicle, I had nothing to do except read, read, read. And one of the books I began and finished is by new-to-me-author, Amitav Ghosh, the book is the first in his Ibis trilogy, Sea of Poppies.

Sea of Poppies Book One of the Ibis Trilogy
Only a little research reveals that Ghosh, while India-born, is really a citizen of the world. During his childhood, his father's service as a diplomat led the family to live in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Iran. Later, Ghosh received a PhD at Oxford University in social anthropology, following which he taught at universities in both India and the United States. These days, he divides his time between India and the USA.

It's only natural that a writer with such a broad background would write novels of broad scope and across genres, all of which deal with large issues and questions: terrorism; post-colonial Indian life; a foray into alternative history about the parasite that causes malaria; historical fiction set in Burma/Mayanmar, and the historical Ibis trilogy covering diaspora from India beginning during the Opium Wars, to name a sample.

What I really enjoyed in Sea of Poppies was the expanse of vocabulary employed in this sea-faring novel. Words from English, Bengali, Hindi, dialects of Calcutta/Kolkata, French, Portuguese, and liberal usage of late 18th C. British English cant (slang) are all pressed into service. The book was superbly enriched by claiming language from all the national influences on colonial India and sailing ship jargon in a multitude of languages as well. While Ghosh writes in English, that doesn't begin to cover the spiciness his prose displays in conveying the exotic atmosphere of this book.

Rich language is not the only attractant of this novel. There are a multitude of major characters that in the hands of another writer could become confusing. But Ghosh introduces each in such a way that we are inserted into their lives, learn their histories, and care about their problems in the most natural and memorable way such that as their individual stories weave in and out to become the fabric of the saga, they remain distinct and alive in our memory and no confusion results.

For vivid story-telling, sympathetic characters, compelling conflicts, and brilliant color in setting, this novel is a masterpiece of all the elements of fiction and a book not to be missed by readers who enjoy hard charging adventure, literary style, and original talent.

nov. 27, 2017, 1:51pm

I just discovered Michael Perry in a collection of his short stories of hometown life, Population: 485. He reminds me of Tom Bodett's Alaska stories. Odd but true characters, and always lovingly drawn.

And then I think of James Rebanks, who does a similar bit of local color recording in the Lake District of England.

nov. 28, 2017, 7:58pm

Garrison Keilor seems to have been the primary promoter of folksy humor and I always enjoy reading books that render local "colorfuls" in sympathetic portraits. In terms of long works, Faulkner did a great job in The Reivers. Cold Sassy Tree and Confederacy of Dunces are great reads about people who skirt and even overstep the bounds of what's considered normal. . .by the dull people.

It's good to know that Mark Twain's niche for telling the stories of folks of limited worldliness and great humor remians filled by the likes of Perry and Bodett.

And thinking of England (no, not in that way!), Cold Comfort Farm can't be beat when it comes to bringing odd folks to life. So skillfully, made unbelievably believable because -- as you say -- they are presented "true."

nov. 28, 2017, 8:29pm

>18 Limelite: I loved Cold Sassy Tree.

Have you read The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough? That's another book about people who don't stay within the norms of society. I've read it a couple times.

nov. 28, 2017, 9:02pm

>19 fuzzi: No I haven't. But I've added it to my Amazon wish list, you dangerous enabler! Embarrassing as it is to admit, McCullough would be a new author for me. I've never even read The Thorn Birds.

nov. 29, 2017, 7:10am

>20 Limelite: Don't feel bad about missing The Thorn Birds. I read it back when it was popular, but I'd never go back there. McCullough's treasures are her smaller books. The Ladies of Missalonghi is one of my favorites. The first time, I was so pleased with it that I opened it back at the first page and read it through again. Her other title I'd recommend is Tim.

nov. 29, 2017, 10:11am

I've fallen in love with The Sam Smith Mystery Series, by Hannah Howe.

Sam is probably the most flawed, yet remarkable female protagonist I've even known.
Following her journeys is like constantly learning more about an old friend.
If you get a chance to have a look at the series, I'd highly recommend it. ^_^

nov. 29, 2017, 12:43pm

>20 Limelite: hahaha!

I read The Thorn Birds back before the mini-series (which was AWFUL) and loved it. I read it again a couple years later.

But I'm not sure I want to read it again, although it was good for that time and place in my life. :)

>21 2wonderY: I've not read Tim...uh oh.

nov. 29, 2017, 12:44pm

Yesterday I stopped by the Goodwill store, and two books followed me home. One of them, Sheep, I read last night and LOVED. The author, Valerie Hobbs is a new-to-me author. I'm going to check out her other works.

des. 5, 2017, 7:11pm

Sounds like the discovery on new-to-me authors has been fruitful in 2017. I seem to have fallen into another reading doldrum and am depending on holiday celebrations and preparations as my excuse for it. But mostly I'm busy chasing my grandsons as they go about their athletic activities: swimming, horseback riding, and rugby. It's something EVERY weekend. I don't have time to be a cookie-baking g'ma.

This is my confession for why I haven't read any new authors since my last post. New Year's Resolution for 2018 -- rectify this!

Happy new author discoveries until 2018!!

des. 10, 2017, 8:15pm

2017: Best/Favorite New Author

Tough decision between Yoko Ogawa and Amitav Ghosh. They are so unlike one another and their books that I read were also different on every element of fiction. But I'm going to force myself to disappoint half of me and pick. I choose Ghosh and my favorite book of 2017, Sea of Poppies.

It's been a long time since I was completely carried away on an adventurous as absorbing, exotic, and compelling as this tale of Indians desperate for new chances and first chances at making a better and more meaningful life for themselves. At once a pioneer story, a tale of social injustice, a love story, and an explorer's romance, this novel delivered high impact punches on each of those levels. "Sea" is an epic with tidbits of sailors' vocabulary in languages from all over the Indian and Asian Pacific oceans. Characters come from all parts of India, its many castes, from abroad, from little known clans and mix in an exotic brew of human struggling in pursuit of a single dream -- their vision of freedom that will liberate them from the stifling lives they're fleeing -- opportunity.

No doubt many LTers are familiar with Amitav Ghosh and have been for many years. BUt the eternal beauty for readers is that there will always be new authors to us that others may have had acquaintance with for years, but for us they present the excitement of starting a new relationship and the possibility, even, of falling in love.