Like most readers, I’ve enjoyed the usual January pieces about what’s going to be hot in the world of literature this year. The Guardian, the TLS and the Financial Times all have good lists of books coming out soon from the world’s biggest publishers, predicting which writers are going to be the biggest sensations this year. Cool. They’re all wrong.
The stand-out successes in fiction over the last years have come from independent presses; Eimear McBride, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett, Sara Baume, Mary Costello, Danielle McLaughlin … though some of these writers are with big presses now, they all started out independent. There are pretty good reasons for this (as The Guardian talked about recently).
Here’s the truth about what’s going to happen this year in books.
Odds are, the biggest successes in new fiction this year will come from a small, independent publisher: a publisher with an open submissions pile, and with the guts to follow through on risky new work. It’s going to come from someone like us, at Tramp Press, or one of the other incredible independent publishers working in Ireland and the UK. We asked 20 to pick which books are going to make headlines in 2016.
TRAMP PRESS (Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, Publishers)
Vertigo by Joanna Walsh (March 10th)
We were aware of Joanna Walsh through her #ReadWomen work before we’d met her, and we met her before we read much of her fiction. This is exactly the opposite of how publishing usually works at Tramp. But once we’d read her wry and absurd collection of stories, we went to London to pitch to her – which is again, the inverse of how publishing in Ireland functions, as talent tends usually to go the opposite direction. We think Vertigo is a tour-de-force, an intense, precise and fractured composition about the uncanny every day. Come and have a glass of wine with us at the launch in Dublin in a few weeks! Details will be on our website.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (May 5th)
Lisa and I have been fans of Mike McCormack, who is certainly one of Ireland’s most important contemporary novelists, for years: he won the Rooney Prize, has been shortlisted for Irish Book Awards, and I had the great pleasure of working with him when I was at Lilliput Press. This new book, Solar Bones, is a strange and beautiful ghost story, and gives me Donal Ryan / Sara Baume-type tingles. It’s an exceptionally beautiful meditation on family and responsibility. Mike McCormack is one to watch this year – you heard it here first.
SALT (Chris Hamilton-Emery, Publisher)
We’re really looking forward to two fiction debuts this year.
Bodies of Water by VH Leslie (May)
Firstly, VH Leslie’s Gothic mystery of “fallen women” and hydropathy set in part in a Victorian sanatorium on the banks of the Thames, Bodies of Water. It’s a startling feminist ghost story: chilling, disturbing and radical all at the same time, we couldn’t put it down (except to go and put on another jumper and gloves). Read it in a sitting, but make sure you have a hot bath ready and the fires (and candles) lit.
The Many by Wyl Menmuir (June)
The second is Wyl Menuir’s unsettling tale of isolation and persecution, The Many – filled with portents: faceless men, dead fish, villagers with dark secrets and the ever present sea. It’s a Cornish extravaganza of dark fiction. Think The Wicker Man and be prepared for a compelling and deeply atmospheric coastal tale.
AND OTHER STORIES (Stefan Tobler, Publisher)
Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff (January)
I adore this book. Since I’d already read the book before deciding to publish it, I meant to just pick up one of our finished copies for a quick browse. There went my weekend! It’s like a Bolaño novel with more of a feminist bent. A pretty unflinching and dark look at love and violence – while also being very, very funny because of the surprising and spot-on descriptions and metaphors. It also has an incredible spiralling structure around a mysterious writer’s friends and acquaintances. Lina Wolff is Swedish but this, her debut novel, is set in Spain, where she lived for many years. Remember that name!
Martin John by Anakana Schofield (February)
Right from our start in 2011, Irish readers have been so supportive of And Other Stories’ authors, such as Juan Pablo Villalobos and Deborah Levy. So I’m delighted that we are now publishing our first Irish author. I’d tried to publish Malarky, Schofield’s debut novel, but was sadly outbid. I am so excited that we are publishing Martin John, a work of genius in which she gets into the head of a pervert who likes to expose himself on the London Underground. This is a work of immense humanity, comic observation and literary bravado – a Beckettian exploration of a man’s long slide into deviancy.
DEDALUS PRESS (Eric Lane, Publisher)
The Interpreter by Diego Marani, translated by Judith Landry (January)
What makes The Interpreter special for me is how it shows how life can change almost in a blink of an eye and everything you value can be taken away from you. The book grabs hold of the reader and takes him on an epic journey through Europe in search of personal salvation. The Interpreter is both funny and dark. At its heart is the human being's need to belong and the importance of language and identity in that process. It could be the start of a new genre; L'Interprete Noir.
Apparel by Arthur Mauritz (March 25th)
This book arrived as a manuscript in the post and created an immediate buzz. We were taken by the author’s vitality and the freshness of the writing. Arthur Mauritz is by a long way our youngest ever author at only 26. Apparel is innovative and erotic, very much a young man’s novel. It is a book of secrets: the innermost thoughts, fantasies and desires that no human being should know about another and that we often don’t know about ourselves. At the heart of the book is the question, how well do we know anyone, when we often don’t know ourselves?
THE LILLIPUT PRESS (Daniel Caffrey, Director)
This is the Ritual by Rob Doyle (January 27th)
Rob’s new collection of short stories, This is The Ritual, is a dark, fascinating journey into the psyche of the writer, populated with deluded and tormented characters. The stories are characterised by a grim, gallows humour and a sympathetic and sensitive appraisal of the human condition. It’s a collection that radically diverges from its roots in the Irish short story tradition. Rob Doyle’s debut novel Here Are The Young Men (The Lilliput Press, 2014) won wide critical acclaim. This is The Ritual is available in hardback from all good bookshops now.
The Abode of Fancy by Sam Coll (Autumn)
Sam’s novel, The Abode of Fancy, draws together an Irish tradition of linguistic whimsy and ironic fantasy, with a modern American-influenced style of big picaresque stories packed with incidental characters. It tells the story of a young man, lonely and lovelorn, whose friendships with a loosely-associated group of elderly, alcoholic men give him a grim picture of his own future. A parallel narrative follows a mythical god-man called the Mad Monk and his adventures on returning to Ireland after a long absence.
GALLEY BEGGAR PRESS (Sam Jordison, Publisher)
We’re very excited by our two fiction releases later this year: Feeding Time by Adam Biles and Paul Stanbridge’s The Forbidden Line, which are both debut novels.
Feeding Time by Adam Biles (August)
Feeding Time is the story of a rebellion in an old people’s home; it’s a book that has a good deal to say about the western world’s relationship with its ageing population – and does so in a way that is exhilarating, stylistically ambitious and savagely funny. Feeding Time, which has already been making waves, is also special because it’s so humane; Adam is fiercely in love with his fictional characters, and outraged on their behalf.
The Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge (November)
In October, we’ll also be publishing Paul Stanbridge’s debut, The Forbidden Line. It’s a big book, over 600 pages long – which is just as it should be, since it’s a retelling of Don Quixote. It also involves the 14th-century peasants’ revolt, the superfine transition of hydrogen, a denial of the existence of time, a war against narrative … and two errant and unruly characters: Don and Is, who career around the British landscape tilting at windmills, abusing petrol station assistants, and rivalling Vladimir and Estragon for conversation and charm. It is as unlike anything else as any book can be.
PARTHIAN (Richard Davies, Publisher)
Pigeon by Alys Conran (June)
“Look up pigeon in your good field guide, if you have one,” says Simon Barnes in The Bad Birdwatcher’s Companion. “You will probably find that the pigeon does not exist.” Pigeon, a first novel by Alys Conran, starts with an ice-cream van lurching up into the Welsh hills through the hail, pursued by a boy and girl who chase it into their own dark make-believe world, and unfurl in their compelling voices a tale which ultimately breaks out of childhood and echoes across the years.
Pigeon will be published simultaneously in English and Welsh in June. Alys will be reading at the Hay Festival.
PEIRENE PRESS (Meike Ziervogel, Publisher)
breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes (August)
breach is the first title in our new Peirene Now! series where we commission writers to respond with a work of fiction to current political issues. In breach, Nigerian-born writer Olumide Popoola and Zimbabwean Annie Holmes address the refugee crisis with a story of six voices based on interviews conducted in the Calais camps. These stories uncover the realities of fleeing one’s country by any means necessary. They demand to be heard, to be let in. But can we ignore the fears of the ones who want to close their borders?
NEW ISLAND (Dan Bolger, Commissioning Editor)
Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland by Mia Gallagher (April)
This is Mia’s second novel (her first, Hellfire, was published in ’06), and it’s big, complex, incredibly beautiful and instantly captivating. In the bad times of 21st-century Dublin, Georgia Madden creates a series of audio letters to her estranged father in response to a mysterious gift he has sent; in Wales, Anna Bauer, an elderly Sudeten German woman, describes her experiences of forced migration after the second World War to a documentary crew. As Anna and Georgia’s accounts unfurl, a parallel story set in 1970s Ireland begins to take shape. The past brushes whisperingly by the present; future selves remember – and forget – who they once were. Forgiveness is sought, offered, granted and withheld, and the lives of four characters conspire to form a beautifully fractured whole, where time is unknowable. The writing crackles with such fury, love, humour and horror – it will leave you breathless. A tremendous talent.
Hostages by Oisín Fagan (Autumn)
Oisín is one of the most naturally gifted writers I’ve ever come across, creating some of the most original and fundamentally different fiction this island has seen in a while. His work is pretty out there in a lot of ways, and it’s also brave and very refreshing, if you ask me. Over the course of five long short stories, the whole world seems to break down into cycles of hunger and violence and domination – but these are incredibly human stories with a big, tender heart at their core. There is a rare energy to this book that makes it impossible to look away from.
SCRIBE UK (Sarah Braybrooke, Publicity and Operations Manager)
The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney (May)
May will see the release of The Sacred Combe, an enchanting debut novel by Thomas Maloney. While the plot is reminiscent of A Month in the Country, to me it feels almost like The Secret Garden for grown-ups, and Coleridge’s biographer Richard Holmes says that it “vibrates with the literary and musical echoes of late Romanticism”. In the book, London banker Samuel Browne wakes up one day to discover his wife has left him. In crisis, he quits his job and takes a post in the library of a remote manor house, where it turns out that nothing is quite as it seems. Against the backdrop of an ancient landscape, and immersed in eighteenth-century literature, he attempts to unlock the secrets of the house’s inhabitants.
Nightmare in Berlin by Hans Fallada (October)
October will see our publication of Hans Fallada’s immensely powerful book, Nightmare in Berlin. Written in the same period as Alone in Berlin, which became an international bestseller when it was published in English in 2010, Nightmare in Berlin plunges the reader into the period immediately following the end of the second World War. As the dust settles on Hitler’s Germany, its inhabitants are faced with the growing awareness of the evil Fascism has wrought, and must tentatively begin to find their way towards hope for the future.
COMMA PRESS (Sarah Hunt, Engagement Manager)
This year we’re very excited about two titles which resonate poignantly with contemporary issues of refugeedom and the tumult in the Middle East.
The Refugee Tales (April)
A reworking of the Canterbury Tales, The Refugee Tales contains the fictionalised stories of 14 real-life refugees whose voyage to the UK has not been a journey of spiritual salvation, but rather one of sheer, physical survival. Told by leading writers including Ali Smith, Marina Lewycka, Patience Agbabi, and Chris Cleave, with titles such as The Detainee’s Tale and The Unaccompanied Minor’s Tale, they offer a compelling and truthful account of what it means to seek asylum in the UK.
Iraq + 100 Edited by Hassan Blasim (July)
Hassan Blasim, winner of the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize with The Iraqi Christ (trans. Jonathan Wright), is the editor of Iraq + 100, a book which poses a question to contemporary Iraqi science-fiction writers: what might Iraq look like in the year 2103 – 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion? How might Iraq have escaped its current chaos and found peace, and what would that look like? Since we commissioned this book, Isis has violently dispelled any notion of an easy path to stability, making the stories within even more important.
PENNED IN THE MARGINS (James Trevelyan, Marketing Coordinator)
Astéronymes by Claire Trévien (March)
I’m delighted to say we’ll be publishing Claire Trévien’s second collection this March. Astéronymes – the practice of using asterisks to replace names – is a book of redactions and indexing. Claire’s poems are always formally playful and inventive. Here she curates museums of Author Corrections, of Waiting and of Shared Meals; she collides the ancient and the contemporary, and continues to explore the themes of nature and isolation. Claire’s first book, The Shipwrecked House, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and transformed into a national touring show, and we hope Astéronymes will reach an even bigger audience.
Cain by Luke Kennard (June)
We’re really excited to be publishing Luke Kennard’s new collection, Cain, in June 2016. Luke is one of Britain’s best-loved poets and this beautiful hardback book – his first volume of poetry in four years – will be full of his trademark surreal wit. In a series of poetic conversations, Cain – the first murderer – provides therapy sessions for the author, stalking his daily life to debate everything from interfaith dialogue to zombies. Thirty-one poems, anagrams in their entirety of one biblical passage, makes a central sequence very few poets could dream up, let alone pull off with such aplomb.
LITTLE ISLAND (Gráinne Clear, Publishing Manager)
Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan (February 25th)
Little Island is thrilled to be publishing a new novel by the much-beloved writer of sparkling comic fiction for teenagers. Deirdre’s new novel, Needlework, marks a new phase in her career and a move into much darker YA territory. Narrated in the first person by 17-year-old Ces, who is trying to recover her self-worth and reclaim her body after years of abuse, Needlework skilfully intertwines the story of Ces’s struggle towards adulthood with her longing to become a tattoo artist and “embroider” skin with beautiful images. Deirdre Sullivan’s voice is unerring, and she handles a difficult subject with intelligence and grace.
The Best Medicine by Christine Hamill (May 18th)
The Best Medicine is an assured and surprising debut children’s novel from Northern Irish author Christine Hamill. Based on personal experience, it is a hilarious take on the decidedly unfunny subject of cancer. Twelve-year-old Philip knows that his mother is seriously ill, but could she not have developed a less embarrassing kind of cancer – toe cancer, maybe, or ear cancer? This brave novel confronts a subject that touches almost every family at some stage with humour and empathy.
“Funny, moving and strangely empowering in its determination to laugh in the face of the seemingly unbearable, it’s hard to believe that it’s a first novel.” – John Connolly
BLUE MOOSE BOOKS (Kevin Duffy)
If You Look for Me, I Am Not There by Sarayu Srivatsa (January 28th)
When you find a book that knocks the stuffing out of you, pulls you in, makes you laugh, cry and shout out loud, you hope it has the same effect on everyone who read it too. Sarayu’s novel is about loss – of a mother’s love for the twin that dies at birth, a girl she has longed for and the loss of love she can’t give the boy who survives. The colours of post-partition India, religion and a family struggling with their present – this is one we are so proud to have found and published.
The Handsworth Times by Sharon Duggall (September)
This is the debut from Sharon Duggall from Birmingham, born to Punjabi parents. The British far right are marching through the streets of Handsworth and a Punjabi family experiences the daily battles of racism and prejudice of living in Thatcher’s Britain, but also the conflicts within their own community of trying to rise above the tragic events that befall them. With the musical backgound of Rock against Racism, reggae and Punjabi beats, this is a look at Thatcher’s Britain which exposes the political intent to destroy communities that refuse to march to their right-wing agenda.
PETER OWEN (Simon Smith, Senior Editor)
Apothecary Melchior and the Ghost of Rataskaevu Street by Indrek Hargla (April)
Bestselling Estonian writer Indrek Hargla is best known for his moody and atmospheric ‘Apothecary Melchior’ series. In a world of Teutonic Knights, warrior monks and sinister brotherhoods, Melchior Wakenstede, apothecary to the booming Hanseatic town of 15th-century Tallinn, is a sleuth with a difference. When mysterious, seemingly supernatural murders take place, the level-headed Melchior is called upon by the authorities to help solve the crimes. The first, Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olav’s Church, was published by Peter Owen last year, and the follow-up, Apothecary Melchior and the Ghost of Rataskaevu Street, is due in April.
The Death of Mr Punch by Jonathan Carter (April)
George is a reluctant resident of Bayview Care Home, who wants nothing more than to return home to his wife. However, every attempt to leave is thwarted, and he has little choice but to bide his time vandalising cars and enticing residents to sneeze their teeth out. But freedom, when it comes, brings its own problems in the form of a busker with a grudge and a psychotic clown who pursues him as he heads for home. A moving, chilling and darkly comic novel with an unexpectedly heart-rending finale.
DAUNT BOOKS (Laura Macaulay, Publisher)
Light Box by K J Orr (February)
A luminous collection of stories that travels from Argentina to Siberia, Papua New Guinea to London and New York, exploring lives in transition, in a world where boundaries and human relationships are shifting. An astronaut struggles to adapt to life back on Earth, a young man discovers he is going blind in a foreign city, and a retired plastic surgeon uncovers old wounds. K J Orr, who has been shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Award, writes with astonishing precision and elegance, and this debut is charged with a fierce and beautiful power.
Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman (March)
This remarkable debut by a former US soldier is set amid the pine forests and mountains of eastern Afghanistan, and tells the story of Aziz, a young Afghan boy coming of age in a country at war. After his parents’ disappearance, Aziz leaves his childhood behind and joins a US-funded militia to ensure his and his brother’s survival. Elliot Ackerman served five tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has written a gripping, morally complex novel about boys caught in a conflict both savage and entirely contrived. It’s a deeply compassionate and essential read for anyone who wants to understand Afghanistan today.
SARABAND (Sara Hunt, Publisher)
The Jewel by Catherine Czerkawska (May)
Catherine Czerkawska’s sixth novel, The Jewel, tells the hitherto-neglected story of Jean Armour, wife of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. Jean had an indomitable spirit – vital in such a tempestuous and passionate marriage –and a canny ability to navigate politics and social constraints, though Burns probably fell for her beauty and enchanting singing voice. The 18th/19th century is Catherine’s favourite period, and she wears her considerable research lightly in her writing, which combines luscious historical detail and compelling drama. As a multi-awardwinning author for stage and radio, Catherine’s dialogue is convincing, and the characters fairly leap from the page.
The Confession of Stella Moon by Shelley Day (July)
Shelley Day is a debut novelist whose former career (in law and psychology) has served her well in penning this suspenseful, brooding novel of matricide and the very darkest of mind games. A truly compulsive drama of guilt, manipulation and paranoia, the narrative shifts effortlessly between otherworldly scenes, searing memories and everyday realities. Laced also with plenty of quirky humour and an irresistible 1970s ambience, this thriller is a highly original but always page-turning read. Having won a pre-publication prize and been shortlisted for several others, The Confession of Stella Moon will be published this summer.
MYRIAD EDITIONS (Candida Lacey, Publisher and Managing Director)
We Go Around in the Night and are Consumed by Fire by Jules Grant (April)
We publish Jules Grant’s stunning literary debut in April: We Go Around in the Night and are Consumed by Fire is a thrillingly original crime novel that unfolds at breakneck speed. Voiced by lesbian gangster Donna and her streetwise god-daughter Aurora, the language is steeped in the gang and gun culture of Manchester’s criminal underworld, where the all-female Bronte Close Gang carve out their own empire in the toughest streets of the city. It is an extraordinary story, pulsing with fury, humour and ever-present danger but tender and heartbreaking too.
Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago by Douglas Cowie (May)
In May we publish Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago, Douglas Cowie’s novelisation of the turbulent love affair between France’s feminist icon, Simone de Beauvoir, and hardnosed American writer, Nelson Algren. Their passion is sparked after he gives her a whirlwind tour of Chicago’s dive bars one freezing February night in 1947 and lasts for two decades, intensifying when they are together in his apartment on Wabansia Avenue or hers in Paris. In between are long, anguished periods apart filled with competing desires – lovers old and new, writing, politics, gambling – which ultimately expose the fragility of their unconventional “marriage” and put their devotion to the test.
LIBERTIES PRESS (Seán O’Keeffe, Publisher)
Citizens by Kevin Curran (January 30th)
An author’s second book can be like a band’s second album: hard to get right. But Kevin Curran has nailed his colours to the mast. In his latest novel, Kevin – whose first book, Beatsploitation, a ground-breaking look at the immigrant experience in Ireland, was widely praised – takes a look at the events of spring 1916 through the eyes of a disillusioned young man whose interest is piqued by his great-grandfather’s diaries.
Children’s Children by Jan Carson (February 22nd)
Children’s Children is a stunning collection of stories by the author of the surreal modern fairy tale, Malcolm Orange Disappears. By turns dark, humorous and heart-wrenching, it contains multitudes, and is certain to win Jan legions of new followers, not only in her home town of Belfast but also in Dublin, London and further afield. Children’s Children and Citizens are superb works from very talented young authors. We’re looking to build on the success we’ve achieved with their previous books and, with Caitriona Lally’s Eggshells and Frankie Gaffney’s Dublin Seven, we are committed to working alongside these incredibly exciting new voices in Irish fiction.
MELVILLE HOUSE (Zeljka Marosevic, Managing Director)
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman (April)
A strange new advert for an irresistible chocolate snack is all over the TV, and up and down the country people have started to disappear – some of them wearing ghost costumes. Hungry for definition and meaning, and just plain hungry, a young woman leaves her life behind to go in search of the truth. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is an intoxicating debut novel about modern culture, contemporary womanhood and what it feels like to have a human body, from the writer The New York Times called “one of the young wise women of our generation”.
The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay (May)
Martin Seay’s extraordinary debut, The Mirror Thief, is set in three cities in three eras. It races between sixteenth-century Venice, just as the mirror is about to be invented, to 1950s Venice Beach, and on to the gambling floor of Las Vegas’s Venetian casino in the present day. Without realising it, across time and space, three men are all searching for the same thing. The Mirror Thief, like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, is a masterful puzzle: a big, genre-hopping novel that combines an intricate, fast-paced mystery with serious literary ambition. This is an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel, and a spellbinding tour-de-force.