Saturday, November 30, 2013

Guardian first book award 2013 goes to Donal Ryan

'Audacious' debut takes £10,000 prize for interlocking stories of austerity Ireland

Donal Ryan
'There’s a murder – and a kidnap!' … Donal Ryan

The novelist Donal Ryan has won the 2013 Guardian first book award with an angry portrait of rural life in post-crash Ireland, The Spinning Heart.
Speaking during the ceremony at Tate Modern in London, the writer said he found it difficult to believe that he had won.
"I can't believe it," he said. "I know everybody says it, but I really can't."
He dedicated the award to all writers "working at their beginnings".
"Of the many obstacles that stand in the way of a first book as it makes its precarious way into the world and into its readers hands," he explained, "fear is often the biggest and the most difficult to surmount. Fear of not being good enough, of not being able to say what we mean."

Born in a north Tipperary village in 1977, Ryan wrote the first draft of the novel in the summer of 2010, as economic collapse and deep cuts left one in three under the age of 30 unemployed.
Told as a set of interlocking short stories, Ryan summons up a chorus of voices struggling to make ends meet in a village near Limerick – an out-of-work foreman, a single mother living on an brand-new estate full of empty houses, an ex-apprentice heading off to Australia to look for work. These first-person accounts explore the scrabble for work in austerity Ireland and the bitter conflicts which blight families from generation to generation.

Writing in Guardian Review earlier this month the author explained how the characters articulate "their frustrations, fears, desires and sadness" one by one.

Sarah Hall wins the BBC National Short Story Award

BBC News
Sarah Hall was announced as the winner live on BBC Radio 4's Front Row

Sarah Hall
Author Sarah Hall has been named the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 for her story Mrs Fox.
She picked up the £15,000 prize at a ceremony at BBC Broadcasting House in London, from this year's judges' chairwoman, Mariella Frostrup.
Mrs Fox tells the story of a woman who turns into a fox to her husband's confusion and dismay.

Frostrup said from the outset of deliberations the judges had all been "seduced by our winning story".
"The poetic use of language, the dexterity and originality of the prose made Sarah Hall's Mrs Fox utterly unique," she said.

Hall has won a growing list of awards for her short stories and four novels and has been selected as one of this year's Granta's Best Young British Novelists.
Speaking about Mrs Fox, she said she was "fascinated by situations in which human beings are challenged and placed outside the usual codes of conduct".

She was previously shortlisted for the BBC short story award in 2010.

Frankfurt Book Fair opens amid debate over Apple, Amazon and Google


The world's largest book fair has opened in Germany with the spotlight on the growing turf war between traditional booksellers and global tech giants. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to attend the fair.

Between Wednesday and Sunday, the Frankfurt Book Fair will feature 7,300 exhibitors from 100 countries, put on around 3,000 events and play host to an estimated 280,000 visitors. The fair showcases international publishing and its crossover to film, video games and merchandising. It was officially inaugurated on Tuesday before doors open on Wednesday.

Many of the publishers, authors and sellers attending will have their own ideas on some of the main themes of the fair: the challenges of online trading, the future of the traditional bookstore amid falling sales, and the opportunities and challenges presented by Internet companies with digital publishing in their sights.

Organizers have warned against the domination of tech giants, saying traditional publishers are feeling the need to be "big," with the merger this year of Penguin Random House as an example.

They also point to need for diversity in what people read and how they read it, and the increasing number of start-ups fighting back with innovations in the search for a viable business model.

"The dividing line is no longer between old and new, print and e-books, analogue and digital," said Juergen Boos, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
"Instead it runs between those who have a passion for content and who want to provide access to it, and those who don't really care what they're selling."

UK book trade news

The Bookseller

Rebuck judged industry's 'most influential'
Dame Gail Rebuck has been judged the most influential person in the British book trade in The Bookseller's 2013...
Audible 'offering high' in scramble for AudioGO rights
Publishers are in a scramble with Amazon-owned Audible for rights previously handled by the now-defunct AudioGO. AudioGO...
Ryan wins Guardian First Book Award
Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland) has tonight (28th November) been named the winner of the 2013...

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh named 'Scotland's favourite book'

  Trainspotting gained more than 800 of the 8,800 votes cast

Irvine Welsh's debut novel Trainspotting has been named as Scotland's favourite book of the past 50 years.
The cult story of drug addiction in Leith topped a poll for Book Week Scotland with one in 10 votes.
Welsh said he was flattered that the book, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, had even made it onto the list.
Lanark by Alasdair Gray was second, with Ian Rankin's Black and Blue third.
Responding to the poll, Welsh said: "I don't know if Trainspotting is the best Scottish book - I'm far from convinced it's my own best book.
"But I'm obviously flattered just to be on that list of great novels with those amazing writers, especially when I consider some of the brilliant books and my personal favourites that never made it onto this list."
Gray said he was "delighted and astonished" that his first novel, Lanark, had been judged more popular than a book by Rankin.
Black and Blue was Rankin's eighth Inspector Rebus tale.
The crime writer said it was an honour to be included in the top 10 with a book he regards "with great fondness".
He added: "I'm sure the results will be pored over and discussed, but what really matters is that books are still read with a passion. I feel sure this will be the case in another 50 years' time."

The 10 favourite Scottish novels of the last 50 years

1. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (833 votes)
2. Lanark by Alasdair Gray (750)
3. Black and Blue by Ian Rankin (591)
4. The Bridge by Iain Banks (496)
5. One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre (416)
6. Excession by Iain M Banks (330)
7. Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (296)
8. 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (282)
9. The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway (271)
10. Docherty by William McIlvanney (269)

Two novels by Iain Banks, who died from cancer earlier this year at the age of 59, were included in the poll: The Bridge and Excession, the latter written under his science fiction name Iain M Banks.

There's more to life than books...............

For the library.

Reminder - Storylines Notable Book Awards 2014

FINAL Call for Entries

This is a last call for submissions to the Storylines Notable Books 2014, for books published in 2013. Books must be submitted by 30 November 2013. Please advise your networks so no-one misses out on the chance to submit.
Full details of conditions and entry form.

About the Awards:
Storylines wants to remind New Zealand authors and publishers that Storylines Notable Book Awards is currently accepting entries, including Ebook submissions.
Since 2000 Storylines has produced a list of outstanding books for children and young people by New Zealand authors and illustrators, published during the previous calendar year.
Books are categorised as: Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult and Non Fiction. There are up to ten awards in each category.
The decision to compile this annual list of Notable Books was based on a desire to ensure that children, parents/grandparents, teachers, librarians and the public were made aware of the large range of high quality books being published.
Storylines Notable Books are selected by an expert panel from the Storylines community as books that are worthy of being recognised as ‘Notable’ in each year. The panel includes librarians, authors, teachers, teacher educators and academics; several members have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award (and under its previous sponsor AIM) and the LIANZA Book Awards. 
Conditions of entry and other information.

EBook entries can now be made online by completing the Online Ebook Entry Form.

2013′s Best Books to Give as Gifts

By Jason Diamond on

2013's Best Books to Give as Gifts
If you’ve got a coffee table or bank account big enough to collect all of them, 2013 was a pretty fine year for beautifully packaged books that were interesting reads, but could also make any room look smarter. For those of you who plan to give books as gifts this holiday season, we’ve collected some excellent options published within the past 12… Read More

Truman Capote's Black and White Ball: The Greatest Literary Party of All Time

Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball: The Greatest Literary Party of All Time

Truman Capote was a writer, sure, but a master of spectacle too. Even his most well-known work, In Cold Blood, while stylish and captivating, was more an event than anything. It helped usher in the era of New Journalism, made Capote a household name, put the spotlight on a small Kansas town, and to this day remains a magnet for criticism, with reports emerging that Capote may have not been totally on the money. … Read More

'Illegal downloads are acceptable', say half of EU

Vast majority of Europeans believe it is vital that artists can protect their intellectual property, but almost half have a "paradoxical" view that it is acceptable to illegally download content

An estimated 2.7 billion people will be hooked up to the interent by the end of 2013.
Nine per cent of Europeans have illegally downloaded films or music in the last year Photo: REUTERS
An EU study reveals that 96 per cent of people agree it is vital to protect intellectual property (IP) rights, but that 42 per cent also believe it is acceptable to illegally download music and films for personal use. This rises to 57 per cent among those aged between 15 and 24-years-old.
The research by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), which stores and enforces trade marks and patents in the EU, found that Europeans were “largely favourable” to IP laws designed to protect the work of artists and inventors, but that many also had no qualms about committing copyright offences.

Some nine per cent of Europeans admitted that they had illegally downloaded files in the last year. Young people were more likely to have pirated music or films recently, with 26 per cent of those aged between 15 and 24 owning up, falling to 17 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds, nine per cent of those aged 35 to 44, five per cent of those between 45 and 54 years old and only two per cent of those over 55.

Men were disproportionately more likely to have illegally downloaded content than women, with 13 per cent of admitting to having done it in the last year versus only six per cent of women. 

A Short History of Self-Help, The World's Bestselling Genre

Today, self-help is a $1 billion annual business in the United States. It has been around for thousands of years, and it has been loved and hated for just as long.
They're relatively cheap to do and since they're always in demand by universities, but for readers, is there such a thing as too many translations of classics?
More News from PP:
If you know a fan of long form narrative nonfiction of the sort that used to regularly appears in magazines, Byliner might be the perfect holiday gift.
At the New York Times' Drafts blog, comedian Steve Macone offered a helpful, humorous glossary of terms for the modern book business.
From the Archives:
As India becomes increasingly globalized, readers are snapping up new spirituality, self-help and diet books — many of them inspired by ideas from overseas.


Leadership expert and debut author Harold Hillman PhD couldn’t have been more delighted with the stellar success and turnout for the launch of his book, The Impostor Syndrome: Becoming an Authentic Leader, on Monday evening. And he was equally thrilled to be a published author at last, judging by his beaming smile as he signed scores of books. Jeremy Eyles from Whitcoulls Downtown was on hand to sell copies and was run off his feet for the duration, selling out well before the launch ended.

The Hilton Auckland’s swanky Bellini Bar was full to overflowing as more than 130 guests, many of them top business executives, gathered to celebrate with Harold Hillman and pay tribute to a remarkable leader, teacher, friend and colleague. The room fairly hummed with lively conversation and laughter as guests happily mingled, enjoying oysters and fine wines. (I’ve been to many book launches in my time, but none as elegant or fun. To my mind, Hillman knows how to party and has set a new benchmark in how to launch a book!)

Andrew Thorburn (CEO, Bank of New Zealand) was MC for the evening and did a superlative job of entertaining and informing about Hillman the man and business leader, sharing anecdotes and paying tribute to his acumen and the high regard in which he is held by so many in the corporate world. Thorburn highlighted the authenticity of Hillman’s leadership, his warmth and humanity, comments which elicited ready agreement from the assembled guests.

In officially launching The Impostor Syndrome, Margaret Sinclair, Business Partnerships Publisher at Random House New Zealand, recalled what a dream Hillman had been to work with; “he seemed almost suspiciously perfect until I realised that this was a man who was walking his talk – he was showing all the attributes of an authentic leader – ready to listen to advice and adapt and learn while still sticking to his principles and the things that mattered to him most”.

In response, Hillman gave one of the most gracious and moving speeches I’ve ever heard, extending gratitude to the family and team that stands behind him. He said, Thank you everyone for being here.  This is what real joy feels like. I believe in blessings and I believe I’m in the middle of one now. And the real joy is that we’re here because there’s something about authenticity that compels people together. Tonight is about celebrating what is unique about each one of us, and celebrating the liberating force of imperfection.”  

Significantly, Hillman spoke with great affection for his father and the positive role model that he had been, encouraging he and his siblings to read from an early age. Rather than précis what Hillman said so eloquently, I will simply share some of his words with you. “One hundred thirteen years ago, a child named Milton Hillman was born in a small city south of Atlanta Georgia.  Milton Hillman was our father.  He was born 35 years after slavery was abolished in the U.S.  That heinous institution was replaced with a more subtle, but nevertheless explicit form of racism that made it illegal to educate black children, particularly in the South. These children were to work the fields, rather than occupy classrooms. Even the unenlightened oppressors knew that vast power could be sparked through education. So the premise that sat under their oppression was that, if you can’t read, you’re less likely to be curious about alternate realities. So my father was never educated in the formal sense of anything close to what we know today. But he learned at a very young age that there must be something in a book that they didn’t want him to know about.  And, like anything that is banned from the hands of a child, his curiosity turned to an obsession to read books, for there is something about a book that is both powerful and empowering. And at a very young age, he snuck away, often unbeknownst to his own parents, to learn how to read. 

And that’s a lesson our father taught us at a very early age. He would put books in our hands, even if he didn’t read them to us, he would sit Renae and me on his lap and we would look through the pictures, and he would get us talking about all these cool places in the world.  And for me, those books helped implant a vision in my head, at a very early age, that life is about living, and living is about exploring the outer bounds of possibility, and that constraints on what is possible live largely in our own minds. 

So you can appreciate that tonight, one hundred and thirteen years after his birth and 23 years after he died, to present to you a book with my father’s surname on it, has special significance beyond my wildest dreams.  And it’s a testimonial to the power of parenting.  If you tell your children they will do great things, they will probably do great things. To follow my father’s legacy, don’t have regrets that your voice is more about constraining, rather than enabling, the possibilities that can take your own children to exciting chapters in their own life stories.”

And that is what The Impostor Syndrome is all about. Encouraging us to be ourselves; believing that we can do great things, even though we’re far from perfect.

Concluding the speeches and formal part of the launch, Sir Henry van der Heyden (Chairman, Auckland Airport) remembered when he first met Hillman while working for Fonterra. Fresh off the plane from New York and sporting an ear-ring, van der Heyden thought that Hillman wouldn’t last six months. Van der Heyden then proposed a champagne toast to Harold Hillman, “the man who proved him wrong.”

Report by Sarah Thornton, Thornton Communications

Author and his proud sister Renae

Penguin NZ Independent Bookseller of the Year award for 2013

News from Penguin  Books New Zealand

Carole Beu and the team at The Women’s Bookshop have been awarded the Penguin Independent Bookseller of the Year award for 2013.

Carole is incredibly active in the Community and is well known for her standout Ladies Litera-Tea events. These are highly regarded by a strong and loyal customer base.  If not organising these or hand selling the latest offering from Penguin Carole can be heard on radio promoting the industry via book reviews.

The hard work that Carole and the team put in is “right on the button” and defines well what an independent bookstore should do. This is further exemplified by their regular Book Choice newsletters that have absolutely everything covered….e-books, e-news, internet shopping with a “what’s it going to cost me for postage” section, contact details, hours of trade (including extended hours), pictures of the staff, community involvement by way of events, TV reviews, Kobo’s, what they do for the community and what that support then translates into in the local community…..last but not least an outline of the exceptional service offerings they have. It is almost hard to believe that one could cram so many elements into a catalogue!

Well done to Carole & the team.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saturday Morning with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand National: 30 November 2013

8:15 Carl Zimmer: the end of flu
8:30 Andy Buchanan: timber and earthquakes
9:05 Deborah Blum: poison and chemicals
10:05 Playing Favourites with Cathie and John Rae
11:05 Nancy Swarbrick: pets in New Zealand
11:45 Yanetta Hiko: whanau fitness

8:15 Carl Zimmer
Carl Zimmer writes regularly on the study of evolution and parasites. His science column, Matter, runs weekly in the New York Times, and he also writes The Loom, a blog for National Geographic Magazine, and has authored twelve books. His article, The Quest to End the Flu, appears in the December issue of The Atlantic.

8:30 Andy Buchanan
Professor Andrew Buchanan is Professor of Timber Design at the University of Canterbury, and is playing a key role in the international resurgence in the use of timber for large-scale buildings. His main research is in seismic design, where he has developed methods by which joints in timber buildings can be designed to "give" in an earthquake while avoiding permanent damage or deformation. This week, he was awarded the biennial R. J. Scott Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

9:05 Deborah Blum
Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, columnist for the New York Times, and writer of the Elemental blog. She has written author of five books including The Poisoner's Handbook (Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-14311-882-4), and is Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She visited New Zealand to teach a one-day workshop as part of an intensive course in creative science writing, a first-time joint initiative by the International Institute of Modern Letters and the Science Faculty at Victoria University, and to give a master class at Victoria University's Centre for Lifelong Learning, and a public lecture as part of the Royal Society of New Zealand's lecture series, At Six.

10:05 Playing Favourites with Cathie and John Rae
 Scottish singer, educator and manager Cathie Rae is the eldest of a family of six musicians. She is a director of Thick-Skinned Productions, works regularly on the Fionna Duncan Vocal Jazz Workshops, chairs the Jazz Services Touring Panel, and is Development Officer for the Scottish Jazz Federation. Her brother, John, is a composer, drummer and band leader who has been living and working in Wellington since being Composer-in-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music in 2010. He teaches at the New Zealand School of Music, is the co-founder of the New Zealand Jazz Federation, and is the leader and composer for contemporary jazz group The Troubles. John will play, and Cathie will sing alongside Whirimako Black, Lisa Tomlins and other musicians at the one-off Wellington concert, Women in Jazz, (Meow, 30 November).

11:05 Nancy Swarbrick
Nancy Swarbrick is a Wellington historian who has spent most of her career working on major reference projects, notably The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Her new illustrated history is Creature Comforts: New Zealanders and Their Pets (Otago University Press, ISBN: 978-1-877578-61-8)

11:45 Yanetta Hiko
Yanetta Hiko is the founder and co-director of Hiko Health & Fitness Ltd, which was established to empower Pacific and Maori whanau and community to meet their health goals. She spoke about her experiences at Festival for the Future 2013 last weekend.

On Saturday 30 November 2013 during Great Encounters between 6:06pm and 7:00pm on Radio New Zealand National, you can hear a repeat broadcast of Kim Hill's interview from 23 November with Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

Next Saturday, 7 December 2013, Kim Hill's guests will include Tim Westergren of Pandora.

Producer: Mark Cubey
Wellington engineer: Dominic Godfrey
Auckland engineer: Ian Gordon

More information follows on Saturday's guests, repeats of previous interviews, next week's programme, and this email list. As this is live radio, guests and times may change on the day.

The search for 2013's top celebrity memoir

With Christmas approaching, it's time to sort out the winners and losers in the battle for the year's best celeb autobiography. Will it be David Jason or Amanda Holden? Or could Mo Farah clinch the top slot?

Celebrity memoirists
Celebrity memoirists (from left): Mary Berry, Mo Farah, David Jason, Jennifer Saunders, Alex Ferguson, Amanda Holden, Ann Widdecombe and John Bishop. Photograph: Guardian montage

Like "modernised" Conservatism, digital cameras and rock music made by people under 50, the Christmas celebrity memoir may be breathing its last. In 2012, a year that brought us books by such titans as Cheryl Cole, David Walliams and Tulisa Contostavlos, sales were 45% down on their 2008 peak. You might, then, have expected publishers to drop the ghost-writers and stop making huge payments to sportspeople, comedians and Britain's Got Talent judges, and stick with cookbooks. But no: 2013 has brought a mind-boggling crop of memoirs – all of which are being offered to the public as if they represent the acme of Christmas wonderment.

My job is to spend 10 days immersed in the "best of the batch", carefully taking notes, and chewing my knuckles, while an array of famous authors are brutally played off against one another to find a winner. Needless to say, this remains a vital public service, because the celeb book's decline is obviously relative and plenty of people are still buying them. In large quantities, too: at the time of writing, David Jason's My Life had already sold 134,895 copies. A lot of people, then, will be getting it for Christmas.

Read on. This may prove to be useful …
Mary Berry and Mo Farah books

David Jason and Jennifer Saunders books

G’day! New Aussie/Kiwi Literary Festival Sets Sail in London

Australian expat Jon Slack of Amphora Arts — which also runs the South Asia Festival — organized the new event.
Jon Slack of Amphora Arts — which also runs the South Asian Literature Festival — organized the new event.

LONDON: Like one of those giant waves you see in surf films, the Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts (ANZFLA) is rising and rising, ready to peak in May next year when it will come sweeping into London in a great, long overdue celebration of ANZ writers, musicians, artists and film-makers and more. Credit must be given to Festival Director Jon Slack of Amphora Arts and his team for building the swell as they have — for having the vision and securing the support already in place.

The Festival had its official launch on Monday night with a grand, well-attended and imaginative event at the Australian High Commission in London. If anyone was in any doubt about the cross-industry support for this new venture, they only had to glance across the crowded room. From publishing there was Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton and his Sales and Marketing Director Kathleen Farrar, Two Roads (Hodder) Publisher Lisa Highton, Faber Sales and Marketing Director Will Atkinson, and agents Caroline Michel of PFD and Ed Wilson of Johnson and Alcock.

London-based ANZ authors included John Pilger, Kathy Lette and Peter Walker, whose novel Some Here Among Us has just been acquired by Bloomsbury. HarperCollins’ Scott Pack was also there with debut Kiwi novelist Janina Matthewson.

Kathy Lette and Liz Calder
Kathy Lette and Liz Calder

Other guests included publishing doyenne Liz Calder – former Editorial Director of Cape, co-founder of Bloomsbury and founding director of the long running FLIP festival in Brazil – along with Bill Samuels of Foyles, both of whom have been appointed ANZFLA trustees.

A theme of ‘voyage’ was the decorative motif for the room, as in a sea journey both to and from the Antipodes.  The Australian High Commission itself is a glorious building, redolent of the great days of ocean travel when emigrants from the UK were offered bargain tickets to being a new life on the other side of the world — the so-called ‘ten pound Poms.’ So there was a beautifully laid-out ‘Captain’s table,’ with a globe and an atlas and a telescope – and displays of ‘books for the voyage,’ these being works from seven of the ANZ writers who will be taking part in the festival.

Author John Pilger will be among the featured writers at the festival.
Author John Pilger will be among the featured writers at the festival.

All guests received a ‘boarding pass’ on coming into the party, allowing them to choose one title for their own ‘voyage’ home that evening: a very good idea that proved extremely popular.
The evening also saw a production of Namatjira, a retelling of the life of the Aboriginal artist Albert Namatijira, by the Australian social arts and justice theatrical company, Big h’Art.
Speaking from a podium of battered, Thirties-style suitcases, Australian High Commissioner Mike Rann said: “Our two nations are closely bound by language and history. We’ve been partners in peril and partners in peace.  There are 400,000 people from the Antipodes living in the UK and there are one million Australian tourists every year who spend more on culture per head than any other group. Australians are part of the cultural DNA of the UK. The Australia and New Zealand Festival will offer audiences in the UK a unique opportunity to reconnect with some of their favorite writers, as well as discover new voices coming out of Australia and New Zealand.”

His counterpart from New Zealand, Sir Lockwood Smith, called the festival “an incredible opportunity” and turned to Slack, to add: “Thank you, Jon, for your vision and your extraordinary work.”

Crime fiction roundup – reviews

Where the Dead Men Go by Liam McIlvanney, The Black Life by Paul Johnston, The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by PD Viner and I Was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia

A corpse is found in a flooded quarry in Liam McIlvanney's Where the Dead Men Go. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Where the Dead Men Go by Liam McIlvanney Like his exceptionally fine debut, All the Colours of the Town, Liam McIlvanney's second novel, Where the Dead Men Go (Faber, £12.99), features political journalist Gerry Conway. Still clinging to the dream of old-fashioned investigative reporting, he has been lured back to the Glasgow Tribune after being fired four years earlier, even though the broadsheet is "in freefall, bleeding readers every quarter" and there's no budget for anything more than topping and tailing press releases. What the ever-dwindling readership wants is news of the "city's tribal battles, on and off the pitch … Bigotry and violence. Football and crime." So, when ace crime reporter Martin Moir disappears, Conway is deputised to cover an old-school gangland killing. When Moir turns up again, it is as a corpse lashed to the steering wheel of a car in a flooded quarry. Conway decides to find out what has happened and soon finds himself caught up in the cat's cradle of symbiotic relationships between big business, smoothly ambitious politicians and the city's criminal underworld, as lucrative contracts ar
e handed out ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Distinctive, vivid and very well written, Where the Dead Men Go more than lives up to the promise of its excellent predecessor.

The Black Life by Paul Johnston Paul Johnston's sixth Alex Mavros novel, The Black Life (Crème de la Crime, £19.99), is a well-imagined, well-rendered time-slip in which events during the Holocaust and in post-Olympic, pre-economic-meltdown Greece are painfully joined and almost, but not entirely, resolved. Mavros is approached by wealthy jeweller Eli Samuel to find his Uncle Aron, reportedly seen in Thessaloniki more than 60 years after he was thought to have perished in Auschwitz. It soon becomes clear, however, that Samuel's daughter Rachel, while helping Mavros with his investigation, is also pursuing her own agenda. The Black Life has the whirlwind pace of a good thriller, but it is far more mentally engaging, asking whether it is possible to judge the acts of people who find themselves in extreme situations by the standards of normal life.

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton The question of whether people who have experienced extraordinary events can ever entirely reacclimatise to ordinary life is explored in The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton (Macmillan, £12.99). Reeve LeClaire was kidnapped when she was 12 and held for four years by a sadistic pervert. Now she is 22, trying to live an independent life in San Francisco with the help of her psychiatrist, Dr Lerner, seeking normality and hoping for intimacy, but fearing that she will never achieve it. When Dr Lerner asks her to help a 13-year-old girl who has just been freed after being held captive for a year and repeatedly violated, she reluctantly agrees. The situation is more complex than it first appears, and the mechanics of the mystery certainly hold the attention, but what stands out about this debut novel is the thoughtful and unhistrionic treatment of a difficult theme.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by PD Viner Although set in Britain, PD Viner's first novel, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing (Ebury Press, £12.99), has a disconcertingly transatlantic feel. Twenty years after 21-year-old student Dani was found dead in mysterious circumstances, her case is about to be reopened by Tom, the now-senior policeman who loved her when he was young. An over-complicated structure with time-shifts and multiple points of view – including the ghost of Dani, who is unfortunately unable to remember how her corporeal self met its end – makes for a fair bit of confusion, at least in the early stages, but it is worth persevering for a genuinely intriguing read.

I Was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia Originally published in 1933 and twice filmed in its original German, I Was Jack Mortimer by Viennese author Alexander Lernet-Holenia has now been published for the first time in English (Pushkin Press, £12). No taxi driver, whomever he may once have had in the back of his cab, would be able to top the story of Ferdinand Sponer, whose fare, alive and well when picked up, promptly dies, shot through the throat in the middle of a traffic jam. Sponer, a hapless drifter with a fiancee he can't be bothered to marry and an obsession with an aristocratic former fare, has no idea who murdered his passenger. Thwarted in his efforts to tell the police, he panics and dumps the corpse in the Danube, but fails to clean out his cab. As events spiral out of his control, he ends up impersonating the dead Jack Mortimer – who turns out to be an American gangster whose mistress has a jealous husband. Although this isn't, as transator Ignat Avsey claims, "the most magnificent thriller ever written", it is certainly a fascinating snapshot of Vienna between the wars, pacey and entertaining.
• Laura Wilson's latest novel is The Riot (Quercus).