This time last year Sarah Davis-Goff of Irish publisher Tramp Press wrote an Irish Times article predicting success for independent publishers in 2016. She was right. Oneworld had a second Man Booker Prize winner in a row with Paul Beatty's The Sellout, following their 2015 success, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Two-man publisher Contraband had a Man Booker shortlisted bestseller in Graham Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project while Salt's Belfast author Paul McVeigh won the Polari Prize for The Good Son. Independent publishing now has a reputation for being at the forefront of scouting out new literary talent.
But there’s more to independent publishing than a happy hunting ground for those in search of the next bestseller. We asked 15 indies what to look out for in 2017. The following selections suggest that indie publishing continues to seek out that much vaunted “original voice”, taking on everything from Syria to birdwatching through memoir, poetry and experimental fiction. As the literary world broods over the fallout of 2016, what better time to turn to those willing to take a few risks?
A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume (February 16th)
25-year-old Frankie is living in Dublin and working part-time in a public gallery. Increasingly anxious, she abruptly quits her bedsit to live in her deceased grandmother's creaking house in rural Ireland, close to her family. With an artist's gift for observation, Frankie recounts the beauty and the obliteration of the world as the seasons change around her, from roadkill to kitchen curios, all the while struggling to understand her place in it. This tour-de-force follow-up to Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a celebration of the extraordinary in the everyday, and Baume's prose elevates the ordinary and finds inspiration in the strange.
The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo (May)
Arja was in 2014 one of the six writers shortlisted for the Davy Byrnes Award, and Lisa and I loved the work so much that we've essentially been chasing her ever since. Arja's shortlisted story is now a gorgeous short novel called The Iron Age which we'll be releasing in the spring. The novel is about a young girl growing up in the shadow of war in Finland, and we can't wait to bring this voice, humour and beauty to readers.
After a stellar year for our Contraband imprint in 2016 with Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, we’re looking forward to some new and exciting fiction releases for 2017.
Ed's Dead by Russel D McLean (March)
Russel McLean's heart-stopping new crime thriller is scary, fast and witty in equal measure. It's the story of Jen, a wannabe writer working in a bookshop, who's branded The Most Dangerous Woman in Scotland after she accidentally kills her rubbish boyfriend, Ed, and has to deal with the consequences. Featuring a strong, complex and entirely relatable female protagonist in Jen, Ed's Dead is classy crime fiction with the added bonus of plenty of spot-on references for booklovers.
2020 by Kenneth Steven (May)
This literary thriller cleverly lays bare the state of our nation in the 21st century with an all-too-plausible "what if?" scenario. Kenneth Steven brilliantly re-imagines a dystopian Britain of the near future where a major terrorist attack plunges society over the precipice into collective madness, with the forces of intolerance at war with the liberal mainstream. Told from the wildly differing perspectives of a myriad of voices from across the political and social spectrum, 2020 is a parable for our times and a much-needed warning shot across the bows in divided Brexit Britain.
South of Forgiveness by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger (March)
Perhaps one of the most challenging and powerful nonfiction books we have even published, this memoir, co-written by a rape survivor and the man who assaulted her, is truly one of a kind. It asks difficult questions about why sexual violence occurs, explores its devastating aftermath, and ultimately offers hope for the future. I am really inspired by the authors, who have made the difficult decision to collaborate and go public with their own stories in the hope that doing so will raise awareness of sexual violence and add nuance to the way that we tackle this issue. We are expecting a huge amount of media attention for the book, which will be published on International Women's Day on March 8th.
The Possessions by Sarah Flannery Murphy (March)
Also released in March, literary thriller The Possessions is an exciting debut novel that has earned comparisons to Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It follows Edie, who works for a secretive organisation that allows clients to connect with their dead loved ones by channelling them through the bodies of living mediums. When she begins to channel Sylvia, the glamorous former wife of an enigmatic new client, she finds herself increasingly falling under the dead woman's spell. Uncanny and unputdownable, it's both an atmospheric thriller and a dark, slightly twisted love story.
The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (April)
Xan Brooks's debut draws together fairy tale and historical fiction genres to explore the seedy underbelly of interwar Britain. Step in to the forest where children perform unmentionables on the Funny Men whose names are drawn from characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sad, dark, funny and, finally, redemptive, Brooks's novel tours some English hinterlands, from dank English forests, to an eccentric Big House, and taking in a grotty pub on Ermine Street. Filmic, serious and mythopoeic, this novel is sure to attract considerable attention.
The Squeeze by Lesley Glaister (August)
Any year that contains a new Lesley Glaister novel is bound to be exciting. In The Squeeze, Glaister sets up a series of twisting and occasionally twisted narratives. Marta is a teenager; she's been trafficked from Romania and forced to work as a prostitute in Edinburgh. Mats is a Norwegian businessman who wants to be good. Truly, he does. Their characters and others collide in a series of faltering relationships that will wrench their lives apart. An utterly gripping, emotional tour-de-force that is told through multiple narrators and begins with the fall of Ceaucescu in 1989 and its aftermath.
Christopher Hamilton- Emery
We don’t do crime fiction per se so it is very unusual that the two books which excite me most for 2017 are both crime novels. They are also state of the nation novels which tell us a lot about Greece and the UK and that is why they are our lead titles for 2017.
Blood & Gold by Leo Kanaris (January)
At the heart of Blood & Gold is the Greek nation: its history, culture and current predicament. We see a dysfunctional society through the eyes of George Zafiris, an Athens-based private investigator. A thoughtful loner, he is forced to probe the heart of a failing society as he investigates a series of crimes no one seems interested in solving. Leo Kanaris has written a thoughtful crime mystery and has created a private investigator the Greek nation can be proud of.
Mensah by Gbontwi Anyetei (March)
Mensah is like the US TV series The Wire but set in Hackney in the East End of London. A crime novel with a difference, it pays homage to Raymond Chandler and introduces us to the charismatic Mensah, a black hero for our times. Mensah will in time be seen as one of the great London novels as it introduces the reader to an African city in the heart of London.
And Other Stories
The Old King in His Exile by Arno Geiger (January)
Arno Geiger has won the German Book Prize (equivalent to the Man Booker) for his fiction, but this award-winning memoir of coming to terms with his father's dementia is the book that made him a household name. His father was born in 1926 in the Austrian Alps into a farming family. He had an orchard, kept three cows, and made schnapps in the cellar, and was conscripted into World War II as a "schoolboy soldier" – an experience he rarely spoke about, though it marked him. Mending his relationship with his taciturn father, Arno walks with him in the village and the landscape they both grew up in and listens to his words, which are often full of unexpected poetry. It's superb. It's touched over a million people, selling that number of copies in 30 languages. We're honoured to be publishing it. It moved me so much that I found time to translate this one myself.
Istros Books/Peter Owen
World Series: 3 new books from Spain (May)
In November, Peter Owen launched a new series of books in co-operation with Istros Books. The Peter Owen World Series showcases three works of contemporary fiction in translation from one country or region, to be published in two seasons a year. Slovenian Autumn went down a treat with reviewers and readers in the UK and Ireland (Eileen Battersby reviewed Three Loves, One Death in The Irish Times), and will be followed this coming May by three award-winning Spanish books: Wolf Moon by Julio Llamazares; Inventing Love by Jose Ovejero; and Nona's Room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas, a collection of short stories which have already won her the Premio de la Critica and the Premio Nacional de Narrativa in 2016.
Miss Christina by Mircea Eliade (September)
In 2016, Istros published the very first novel written by the prolific Romanian intellectual, Eliade. His Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent was described as the "Romanian Adrian Mole" and offers an amusing introduction to his fictional writing. Miss Christina couldn't be more different in theme and atmosphere: an early vampire novel from the homeland of these creepy night creatures, the novel caused a scandal when it was published in the 1930s due to the heightened sexual tension surrounding one of the main characters, a young girl possessed by her deceased aunt. As a professor of religion, Eliade knew how to play with myth and superstition, and does so beautifully in this novel.
A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell (February)
Little Island is very proud to be publishing this carefully-researched and beautifully-written novel about a young boy and his family fleeing the conflict in Syria by award-winning Irish author Jane Mitchell. The story follows 13-year-old Ghalib who doesn't want to leave his home, but Kobani has become so dangerous that his family has no choice but to leave everything behind and try for a new life elsewhere. Together they start out on a terrible journey that leads them through dark and dangerous places. Based on the experiences of real Syrian families, A Dangerous Crossing is a story of bravery and solidarity in the face of despair.
The Space Between by Meg Grehan (March)
Every now and then we come across a submission that really blows our socks off, and this verse novel by 24-year-old Meg Grehan did just that. In beautiful free verse, we follow the story of quiet, anxious and utterly endearing Beth through the course of exactly one year. She hides away from the world and from all her problems in her snug, safe house, believing that she can find her happiness in total isolation. That is, of course, until someone comes and interrupts her year of solitude and gently steals her way into Beth's house and into her heart.
A tender and delicate love story in verse, The Space Between is a tale of how warmth, support and friendship can overcome mental anguish.
Family of Love by Neil Griffiths (September)
I first discovered Neil Griffiths a decade ago, when I read his Costa-nominated Saving Caravaggio, an elegant, atmospheric thriller published by Viking/Penguin. I enjoyed it very much, but Family of Love, his third novel, is a huge leap forward. This is a 210,000-word epic about a man who decides to suddenly leave his middle-class, comfortable London life and build a church. But this isn't a Christian novel – certainly, none of us at Dodo are Christians, and yet we all fell in love with the book. It's about a man in the midst of an existential crisis, who cannot decide whether religion might hold the answers to life's mysteries. From the very first sentence, you can see that Neil has spent years crafting his prose and fermenting his ideas – this book is his masterpiece.
UnAmerican Activities by James Miller (October)
James Miller has also been previously published; his satirical debut was Lost Boys (Little Brown). UnAmerican Activities is also satire, but with the volume turned up high – it's a hilarious, filthy, outrageous and razor-sharp novel of interlinked stories. James sets out to subvert and pay homage to American pop culture and genre fiction, exploring the conspiracy theories and violence that define the American everyday through a series of deranged and desperate narrators, which include zombies, vampires and mad preachers. We already have advance praise for the book from Rob Doyle: "These brilliantly imaginative and highly readable stories evoke a fraying, febrile America populated with messianic porn stars, heavily-armed survivalists, and millenarian sects, all craving an Apocalypse that may or may not come..."
Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman (April)
A timely new novel of stunning humanity and tension set on the Turkish/Syrian border, Dark at the Crossing follows Haris Abadi, an Iraqi-American who returns to the Middle East to join the fight against Assad's regime. But he's robbed crossing the border and is taken in by two refugees in Gaziantep, who, he learns, had to leave their daughter behind when they fled Syria. Together, the three of them hatch a new plan to cross the border. As with his previous novel, Elliot Ackerman shines a light on a place Western eyes rarely see, and he does so with a brilliant balance of rawness and empathy. A decorated veteran, Ackerman lived for many years in Turkey, where he covered the Syrian civil war.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher (May)
Described as "the greatest food writer who has ever lived" (Simon Schama) the American writer MFK Fisher deserves to be better known – and to know her writing is to love it. Fisher used food as a way to write about all the important things in life, and nowhere more successfully than her 1943 memoir The Gastronomical Me. In it she records her arrival in France as a young woman, where she embarked on a whole new way of eating, drinking and living. Here are meals as seductions, educations and diplomacies, in settings as diverse as a bedsit above a patisserie and cruise liners across oceans. I'm thrilled we'll have a foreword from Bee Wilson to introduce this new edition.
Karen Maine and Željka Maroševic
A Thousand Coloured Castles by Gareth Brookes (April)
We're huge fans of Gareth Brookes' technically astonishing art and droll storytelling. In his new graphic novel, a gloriously crayoned follow-up to his prize-winning debut, The Black Project, Myriam is seeing things (including Japanese soldiers marching down the street) and convinced that a child is being held captive in the house next door. Her husband Fred thinks she's going barmy. With his customary wit and unique artistic approach, Brookes conjures both sympathy and despair for his characters trapped by the routine of daily life, but diverted by macular degeneration and its accompanying hallucinations. As fellow cartoonist Hannah Berry says "Gareth Brookes has an uncanny ability to locate the sinister root of the suburban and the familiar and twang it mercilessly".
An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle (May)
Nicholas Royle's magnificent second novel combines a page-turning story about literary theft, adultery and ambition with a deeply moving investigation into our relationship to birds and the environment. It is mischievous, inventive and very funny, juxtaposing retirement to the seaside with scathing reports of how the world has gone to hell in a handcart. Playfully commenting on the main story are 17 interlinked "Hides", primarily about birds, ornithology and films (including Hitchcock's). Like the birdwatcher's hut, these short texts give us a different view of the themes that fly out of the novel: the messy business of being human, the fragility of the physical world we inhabit and the nature of writing itself.
The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (February)
I came upon The Last Summer in the original German by chance a year ago as I was looking for something to read for my own pleasure. I had heard of Ricarda Huch who Thomas Mann had called "the First Lady of Europe", but I had never read anything by her. And I loved the book so much that I decided to break the Peirene rules of only publishing "contemporary novels". The Last Summer was written more than a century ago. It's a proper epistolary novel with an astonishing modern feel, examining how people can be trapped by an ideology. A very topical story. A nail-biting psychological thriller. A gem.
Penned in the Margins
The Toll by Luke Wright (February)
We're delighted to be publishing Luke Wright's new book The Toll in February. It's hard to believe this is only the second full poetry collection from the unstoppable performer, and you can tell these poems have been painstakingly honed on roads, stages and radio shows across the UK since his bestselling debut Mondeo Man was published in 2013. Wright effortlessly shifts from comedy to tenderness to anger through a book that contends with politics, fatherhood and austerity, a book that demands the cost of living in the contemporary world and explores the toll it takes on us all.
At Hajj by Amaan Hyder (June)
June will see the start of a good 12-month period of debut books with the publication of At Hajj by Amaan Hyder, a stylish and accomplished first work spanning generations and continents. In a sequence that glides between poetry and poetic prose, Hyder embarks on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, capturing the colour and heat of Saudi Arabia in a bustling, charming book about family, faith and the weight of tradition.
Protest! Stories of Resistance edited by Ra Page (April)
With the tolling bell of 2016 still ringing in our ears, we can't help but be excited about our upcoming release Protest! Stories of Resistance, an anthology of short stories inspired by some of the most famous acts of protest in recent history. Approaching poignant moments of political history from a grassroots perspective, we've paired authors with key witnesses or specialist historians to produce a fictional yet historically accurate story embedded within that moment, with each story followed by an afterword from the consultant. Covering protests such as the Smethwick pub crawls, the Brixton riots and the Night Cleaner's strikes, and featuring authors like David Constantine, Kit de Waal and Jacob Ross, this book is set to put the fight back in us for 2017.
Refugee Tales Part 2 edited by Anna Pincus and David Herd (May)
The success of last year's Refugee Tales, where real refugee testimonies were written into Canterbury Tales-style stories has been phenomenal, and we hope that the next instalment will attract just as much attention. The book is part of the wider Refugee Tales project, which, inspired by the parallels between the journeying storyteller and the modern day refugee, includes a five day walk from Runnymede to Westminster in solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers and detainees. This year's testimonies are being written by the likes of Will Self, Kamila Shamsie, Jackie Kay and Olivia Laing, with many more names soon to be announced.
Harvesting by Lisa Harding (April)
Sammy is a spiky, brittle and sharp 15-year-old girl living in Dublin; Nico is a warm and conscientious teenage girl living in Moldova. When they are thrown together in a Dublin brothel in a horrific twist of fate, a peculiar and important bond is formed. This is a novel about a flourishing but hidden world, thinly concealed beneath a veneer of normality. It's about the failures of society, the cruelty that can exist in homely surroundings, the bluster of youth and the often appalling weakness of adults. Lisa Harding's debut novel is controversial, heartbreaking, gritty and raw, but there is also redemption – in friendship and in unexpected acts of kindness.
Short Stories by June Caldwell (May)
One of Ireland's most gifted, radically original new voices in fiction, June Caldwell's work positively pulsates with a blow-your-head-off kind of energy, superb dialogue, social awareness, an acerbic wit, and she manages to be simultaneously hilarious and profoundly moving. Genre-bending doesn't even begin to describe it. From therapy sex robots for priests, to a thousand-year-old leprechaun narrating the story of his ancestor who is on the lam, Caldwell's stories express what it feels like to be alive with remarkable subtlety and intensity, and captures the fullness of experience on the smallest scales. Watch out for her.
One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan (September)
A young woman has suffered some kind of severe trauma, and finds herself waking up on the floor of a Parisian restaurant in which she apparently works. But her memories are all gone. Over the course of one hot summer in Paris, she covertly pursues a mysterious man she thinks she knows and, as her curiosity grows, the puzzle of who she is starts to come together. This is a stunningly inventive novel, a thrilling work of art – by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, witty and profound.