The Steep Approach to Garbadale

It's almost impossible to quickly catalog the delights of this novel from the mischievous imagination that produced The Wasp Factor and The Crow Road. There's the large and eccentric clan of the Wopulds, the decaying stewards of a British board-game dynasty that culminated in the classic Empire! There's Alban, sensitive and alienated young scion of the aforementioned tribe, living the life of a couch-surfing slacker to avoid the family ghosts that haunt him; and Alban's smart and cynical foil Fielding, now in charge of much of the family business. There's the complex, equally cynical merger deal with a big-bucks American firm (the occasion for a delicious comic deconstruction of a PowerPoint presentation). And there are a host of wonderful secondary characters: Alban's voluble and profane roommate Tango, the fading but still powerful Wopuld matriarch, Grandma Win, and the American schemers Feaguing and Fromax, just to name a few. It's ultimately Alban's story that emerges from this noisy hurlyburly, as a surprisingly warm and engaging melody. When he reenters his family's world, he inadvertently opens doors to the past through which a new vista can been seen, casting all of this novel's pleasurable distractions into a different light. As Banks leads the reader to the final revelation of his rich tale, laughter and grief equally enter the glorious view. --

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."