The Cocktail Waitress

For the uninitiated, Hard Case Crime, founded in 2004, is a stellar line of pulp fiction masterminded by publisher Charles Ardai. This ongoing celebration of the low-rent, lowbrow genres of crime, suspense, thrillers, and general all-round dangerous down-and-dirty realism has to rank as one of the greatest accomplishments of twenty-first-century publishing. Surely James M. Cain's long-lost, never-before-published, final composition, The Cocktail Waitress, -- the outcome of some arduous archaeological sleuthing and delicate editorial finessing, as described by Ardai in an informative afterword -- represents a new high-water mark for the firm.


Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson

Mark Siegel newest graphic novel, Sailor Twain, which he both wrote and illustrated, leapfrogs him into the ranks of "creators to follow." It is exceptionally good, its story being fully the equal of any prose novel of similar scope and ambition, with of course the additional benefit of some gorgeous and sophisticated artwork. That Siegel conceptualized the project and roughed it out over the course of his daily commute alongside the inspirational Hudson River during several years only adds some glamour to his substantial achievement.


The Caning

Stephen Puleo has invested a vast amount of research into the events surrounding and including the moment on May 22, 1856, when Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina thrashed Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a gold-topped wooden cane on the floor of Congress. The Caning casts the facts into a compulsively readable narrative which does honorable, evenhanded justice to all the players and issues of the era, while teasing out not only similarities with our present antagonistic politics but also some educational differences.


The National Book Award Winners

Congratulations to this year's National Book Award winners: Katherine Boo, Louise Erdrich, William Alexander and David Ferry. In celebration of last night's ceremony, we wanted to look back at some of our coverage of the winners.


"The Way We Choose to Cook Will Also Determine How We Live."

Bee Wilson, author of Dsicover Great New Writers Holiday 2012 pick Consider the Fork, discusses the "single greatest improvement ever to occur in kitchen technology," the one item cooks tell her they really love, and the graphic novel her teenage son convinced her to read, among many other things, with Discover Great New Writers.


The Signal and the Noise

Nate Silver shot to fame during the 2008 election, when out of the welter of political polling he correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 49 out of 50 states. Since then his blog FiveThirtyEight -- the name comes from the number of votes in the Electoral College -- has been subsumed into The New York Times, where he nailed almost all the 2010 congressional and gubernatorial races. His role is somewhere between a commentator and a bookie. Political types might worship him, but for Silver politics is a purely quantitative undertaking, not so far from his original beat of fantasy baseball.


Mirror Earth

Michael D. Lemonick's engrossing new account of the relatively young field of exoplanetary science reveals how the study of planets outside of our solar system languished as a kind of pencil and paper speculative game until the right technology and the right visionary inspirations coincided. After that, the riches began to rain down from the heavens. Now we stand poised on the threshold of the ultimate coup: finding a "mirror Earth," or twin to our hospitable home.


"We Call It Voice, But It's Really Much More..."

"We wanted more. We knocked the butt ends of our forks against the table, tapped our spoons against our empty bowls; we were hungry. We wanted more volume, more riots."


Making Booker History

The 2012 Man Booker Prize in fiction was announced on Tuesday night, and the winner made history with her work of historical fiction:  Hilary Mantel took the award for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second volume in Mantel's reimagnation of the life and career of Thomas Cromwell,  Tudor courtier and ultimately the chief minister to Henry VIII.


"This Name Was the Signpost"

Joe Mozingo reveals his family's incredible -- and very American -- story in his memoir, The Fiddler on Pantico Run. Here, he discusses his "funny last name," the legacies of race, and how his family's own lost history speaks to us all, among other things, with Discover Great New Writers.


The Female Detective

The consensus history of the detective story credits its natal coalescence to Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," appearing in 1841. So potent was the new fictional idiom, so suited to contemporary times, that in only a couple of decades mystery novels and short stories were a standardized form, although of course many refinements and milestones remained ahead. So in 1864 the appearance of Andrew Forrester's The Female Detective, featuring the first gumshoe of her gender, was a logical but unprecedented landmark. (Some authorities give the groundbreaking credit, however, to Edward Ellis's Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy, from 1863. In either case, the time seemed ripe for such a figure.)


Discover and the 2012 National Book Awards

Congratulations are due to a host of Discover Great New Writers alums nominated for 2012 National Book Awards and named to the "5 Under 35" list.


>You Are Standing in a Dark Cave

Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Charles Yu, author of Sorry Please Thank You, talk about first-person vs. third-person narration, How Fiction Works by James Wood, and creating entirely new worlds with text, among other things.


Junot Díaz is a Card-Carrying Genius

We couldn't be more thrilled with the news that Junot Díaz was awarded a 2012 "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation, to pursue whatever creative project he choses. We can't wait to see what this storytelling impresario does next; For years Díaz has hinted at wanting to, trying to write a science-fiction epic...but for the moment, we'll stick to rereading the incandescent stories in This Is How You Lose Her.


If you haven't yet, do spare a moment for Díiaz's recent conversation with fellow writer Francisco Goldman about why he writes:


"I guess we all have our covenants with the world (or at least we should have). For people like my mother, it's her religion. For other people, it's their children or perhaps their families. For me storytelling is my sacred. About the only covenant I have. As reader and writer I believe in the infinite worldmaking power of stories. I'm with Leslie Marmon Silko when she says in Ceremony: 'I will tell you something about stories, (he said). They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.' If I have a faith, that's it. Stories are all we have to fight off illness and death."




Dahl Delivered

Somehow, despite haunting three different libraries in search of works of a fantastical nature, I never chanced upon the books of Roald Dahl while still in elementary school. And they began to appear precisely when I would have truly savored them. James and the Giant Peach, the first, was published in 1961, the year I finished first grade. A little too advanced for me then but surely still discoverable on the shelves two or three years later. But no, I chanced to encounter Dahl only in high school, with his "adult" stories. I still recall the thrill of picking up Switch Bitch in a used book store in the small bohemia adjacent to Brown University. Enjoyable, sure, but not a patch on the YA stuff.


"A Squint Into the Future"

Laurie Halse Anderson, the bestselling author of Speak (a National Book Award Finalist and Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist) talks with Karen Hesse, MacArthur "Genius" Fellow  and author of Safekeeping, a haunting look at a near-future America with chilling overtones of a political dystopia.



Welcome to Mollisan Town, a burg like many another literary venue, full of citizens rich and poor, honest and criminal, loving and mean, where odd and exotic events occur with life-changing regularity. You'd recognize the commingled noir and magic-realist lineaments of the place from books by Jorge Amado and Jeff VanderMeer, from movies like Chinatown and Pan's Labyrinth. Except for one thing. The inhabitants of Mollisan Town are animate stuffed animals. Yes, creatures of cloth and wool batting, fur and buttons, fabricated in factories before being delivered to their designated natal homes, who nonetheless manage paradoxically to eat and breathe, feel, and die.


The Way the World Works

Nicholson Baker is a scant three years younger than I, and so I expect he feels generationally much the same way about the high quality of E. B. White's essays. Confirmation of my hypothesis arrives in his new book, The Way the World Works, where he achieves superb results on a par and simpatico with White's sturdy, eternal, captivating prose. (Another obvious and acknowledged influence is John Updike.) Such striving and accomplishment surely could not have arisen without the influential vision of the shining essayistic temple built by White on Mount Parnassus. But now White needs to scoot over slightly on his Parnassian throne to accommodate Baker's sacred rump.


The Underwater Welder

I first encountered the work of Jeff Lemire in 2008, when I sat as one of the judges for the Eisner Awards, comicdom's premier prize. Volumes 1 & 2 of what would become his Essex County Trilogy were under consideration and indeed ended up on the final ballot: an easy decision, as I recall, that elicited unanimity from the impressed judges. Since then, he has gone on from strength to strength, becoming one of the best writers at DC Comics for some of their core superhero titles, while also drawing and scripting his own stand-alone project for their Vertigo imprint, Sweet Tooth, a brutally tender tale about chimeric mutants in a postapocalyptic landscape. And the most amazing thing about Lemire's career since 2008 is that he has not compromised his indie vision. He's remained weird and off-kilter and idiosyncratic, failing to succumb to the bombast and swell-headedness that so often infects even the sharpest of the alternative creators when they enter the franchised world of "the Big Two," Marvel and DC.


Dead Funny

After reading Rudolph Herzog's Dead Funny with mixed laughter and gasps, head-shaking incredulity and sagely nodding confirmation of the best and worst that humanity has to offer, I find myself channeling the Three Stooges in You Nazty Spy!, John Banner (Sgt. Schultz) in Hogan's Heroes, Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful, and John Cleese in that episode of Fawlty Towers known as "The Germans". In short, I'm trying to use all the familiar, non-German instances of humor about the Nazis to understand this book's revelations:  a heretofore rare glimpse into the incredible pressure cooker of mortality and laughter that Herzog reveals Hitlerian Germany to have been.


Birdseye Bristoe

Dan Zettwoch's debut graphic novel sings with a sweet simplicity enhanced by a concealed formalist complexity. Birdseye Bristoe, a spare, episodic tale concerning a few momentous weeks in the lives of the citizens of a small, eccentric "Midsouth" town, is Norman Rockwell by way of Twin Peaks. Although not as ambitious or dense as David Mazzuchelli's Asterios Polyp, it shares some of that book's sly blending of macrocosmic and microcosmic concerns, where big issues arise emergently out of the quotidian.


Art Forgery 101

Ken Perenyi, author of Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger, teaches readers how to create fakes, fool experts, and laugh their way to the bank.


From "Juicy" to "Beasts": A Conversation with Lucy Alibar

In an exclusive interview, playwright Lucy Alibar, who adapted the script of art house favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild from her one-act play Juicy and Delicious, talks about the gender of her main character, future plans for her play, and authors she admires.


Wearing the Poisoned Shirt

Be very careful what you wish for -- you might get it! This familiar bit of cautionary and cynical folk wisdom -- with its unspoken but obvious corollary that when you get your wish it will prove distasteful -- would surely have been known to the master American fantasist James Branch Cabell (1879-1958), especially in its contemporaneous incarnation as "The Monkey's Paw," a 1902 story by W. W. Jacobs. In fact, the monitory maxim could almost serve as a recurring motif and theme across all of Cabell's books, in which unrealistic desires and expectations and dreams are often undermined and betrayed by their very fulfillment, proving that the deluded  human heart is never the best judge of what's really healthy for it.


A Reader's Guide to Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

With the news of Gore Vidal's death at 86, our editors' guide to essential reading from the novelist, essayist and provocateur.


Highlights from the Man Booker Longlist

The Longlist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize was announced on July 25; among the selections was Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, also chosen as a Discover Great New Writers Fall 2012 selection. In an exclusive interview with Miwa Messer, Joyce discusses writing about the things she believes in, ordinary people, and the search for something bigger in life.


The Fish That Ate the Whale

If you're a fan of pulp fiction, of ashcan gutter naturalism, of absurdist caper novels, of rags-to-riches sagas, then pick up Rich Cohen's The Fish That Ate the Whale. This history-embedded, anecdote-rich biography of Sam Zemurray, the bigger-than-life figure behind United Fruit Company at its height of power, is a balls-to-the-wall, panoramic, rocket ride through an acid bath, featuring unbelievable-but-true tales of power-grabbing, ambition, folly, passion, commerce, politics, artistry, and savagery: daydream and nightmare together.


"You Do It for the Sake of Doing It"

Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and Alan Heathcock, author of Volt, discuss provocative and "political" writing, the desire for accuracy, and the compulsion to tell stories in an exclusive conversation.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009

Readers who encountered the first and second books in this acclaimed series -- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volumes 1 & 2, which originally appeared  in serial pamphlet form over the years 1999 to 2003 -- had little reason to suspect that they were enjoying anything more ramified and extensive than a steampunk-style, alternate-history-influenced, literary pastiche. 


But Moore surprised everyone with the appearance in 2007 of The Black Dossier, which delivered supporting documents and secret history in Pynchonian spades, fencing in vast tracts of additional literary territory, and catapulting the action to the year 1958. Now the series suddenly and unexpectedly possessed a wider remit than simple steampunk shennanigans. And so arrived The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Century 1910 and Century 1969. Now the most recent installment, Century 2009, catches up with the present and points the series towards a blazing future all unborn.


God Particle Reading

What do you make of the "God Particle?" News of the physics breakthrough sent us to the shelf, where books by Ian Sample, Leon Lederman, and others shed welcome light on this scientific milestone.


April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.