In the Mail: Now in Paperback Edition

The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has been called the García Marquez of his generation, but his novel The Savage Detectives is a lot closer to Y Tu Mamá También than it is to One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hilarious and sexy, meandering and melancholy, full of inside jokes about Latin American literati that you don’t have to understand to enjoy, The Savage Detectives is a companionable and complicated road trip through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel, Liberia, and finally the desert of northern Mexico. It’s the first of Bolaño’s two giant masterpieces to be translated into English (the second, 2666, is due out next year), and you can see how he’s influenced an era.


From Publishers Weekly

The frigid isolation of European immigrants living on the 19th-century Canadian frontier is the setting for British author Penney’s haunting debut. Seventeen-year-old Francis Ross disappears the same day his mother discovers the scalped body of his friend, fur trader Laurent Jammet, in a neighboring cabin. The murder brings newcomers to the small settlement, from inexperienced Hudson Bay Company representative Donald Moody to elderly eccentric Thomas Sturrock, who arrives searching for a mysterious archeological fragment once in Jammet’s possession. Other than Francis, no real suspects emerge until half-Indian trapper William Parker is caught searching the dead man’s house. Parker escapes and joins with Francis’s mother to track Francis north, a journey that produces a deep if unlikely bond between them. Only when the pair reaches a distant Scandinavian settlement do both characters and reader begin to understand Francis, who arrived there days before them. Penney’s absorbing, quietly convincing narrative illuminates the characters, each a kind of outcast, through whose complex viewpoints this dense, many-layered story is told.

From Booklist

Useful as an update and adjunct to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life (2001), Sellers’ memoir celebrates the self-conscious, (often) low-tech, deliberately nonmainstream, alternatively distributed (i.e., outside of the major recording companies’ channels) music known as indie rock. Sellers bares his soul from the start–the refreshing opening broadside is titled “I Hate Bob Dylan”–and thoroughly explores what he finds valuable in indie rock and, for that matter, much of life. An accomplished slinger of invective, he provides a rousing evaluation of a phenomenon as ill-defined as its predecessor, alternative rock (alternative to what?), while maintaining the theme of how the mainstream music biz, whenever it’s attracted by indie-rock commercial success, threatens to undercut the qualities of the music that its cultlike following most esteems. Spot-on observations and a willingness to name names and ascribe blame as well as credit make this one of the best resources to date on indie rock, whatever it is.

From Booklist

Apply a sly feminist sensibility to postwar Hollywood noir, and you get a sordid saga in which women normally consigned to one-note victimhood turn out to be alarmingly complicit in their own downfalls. At least that’s the tale Abbott delivers in this solid follow-up to 2005’s lustrous Die a Little. Gil Hopkins–Hop to his friends, of which he has either a million or none, depending on your definition–is a studio fixer who helped cover up a song-and-dance team’s involvement in the disappearance of an aspiring actress. When a gal pal shows up years later demanding help, Hop tries coming to grips with the conscience he never knew he had. A fevered, schizophrenic exploration of L.A.’s darkest corners follows as Hop opens cans of worms only to work desperately to keep any from wriggling free. It’s Hollywood as meat grinder for Midwesterners too eager to swap snow for stardust, a place that can leave one “uncomfortable, disgusted, and vaguely aroused at the same time.” And although it wallows in third-act melodrama, it’s tasty stuff.

See my review here.

From Booklist

Blight County, Idaho, sheriff Bo Tully, his dad, and friend Dave Perkins head to West Branch Lodge to check out a missing-person report. Mike Wilson, a co-owner of the business, stormed out of the lodge after a fight with his wife, Blanche. Tully and his dad, Pap, the lovable but corrupt former Blight County sheriff, narrowly miss being killed by an avalanche on their way to the lodge. When Mike turns up dead, Tully has a murder investigation on his hands, but he is stuck at the lodge until the road is cleared. In town, Mike’s business partner is also found dead. The partners had purchased key-man insurance, and Blanche is the beneficiary–leaving her the chief suspect. But how did she get to town with the road blocked? Quirky characters and plenty of wit enliven this folksy mystery from the author of several collections of outdoor humor.

See my review here.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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