Book Talk: Best new authors of the year

I started this column on September 15, 2021. During the first year, I’ve reviewed more than 60 books, occasionally including two or more books in a single column to compare or contrast them, or for some other reason. Most of the books were worth recommendation, a few were recommended with reservation, only a couple panned. Because I tried to find new authors, those whose debut novels were published within the past decade or so, there was a number of novels that were not worth including in this column, and I’ve already forgotten about them.


Adult fiction


In my first Book Talk column, I introduced Joe Ide, an author whose debut novel, “I.Q.” was published in 2016. Ide, a Japanese-American, writes about Isiah Quintabe, a young African American high-school drop-out who is the Sherlock Holmes of his ‘hood in South Central Los Angeles. I loved the character, the book, and the sequels: Righteous (2017), Wrecked (2018), High Five (2020), and Smoke (2021). However, in 2022, he created a new character, a greatly revised Philip Marlowe, for The Goodbye Coast, which I panned in my column on July 7, 2022.


Glen Erik Hamilton (debut novel: Past Crimes, 2015) created a great protagonist, Van Shaw, grandson and one-time protégé of master thief Dono Shaw, who is feature in five sequels published between 2016 and 2021 (Hard Cold Winter, Every Day above Ground, Mercy River, A Dangerous Breed, and Island of Thieves).


Leslie Wolfe’s “Kay Sharp” series includes The Girl from Silent Lake (2021), The Angel Creek Girls (2021), and Beneath Blackwater River (2022). Her novels in this series are set in the fictious town of Mount Chester, population 3,823 somewhere around Mt. Shasta. I enjoyed each, but my friend Rochelle Noblett asked, “How many serial killers can show up in a town of 3,823?” Her most recent novel, The Girl on Wildfire Ridge (2022) is on my TBR stack.


Young adult fiction


Don’t be fooled by the “young-adult-genre” label put on the novels by Jessica Goodman, op-ed editor for Cosmopolitan. Her debut novel, They Wish They Were Us (2020), is a book about youths in a community located on Long Island’s Gold Coast, a place where multimillionaires of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries erected mansions, some of which resemble European castles.


Her books received some very negative reviews from people who disliked the language, attitudes, and practices of her fictional characters. But the “believability” of her writing is what makes this an excellent book.


It took a previous experience for me to understand this. Around 1980, when I finished V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, I threw the book across the room. When my ex asked me what was wrong, I said, “I hate that woman.” The “woman,” as you might have guessed, was the character in the novel, not the author. Like Andrews, Goodman makes these privileged kids so repulsive that people reacted to them, instead of appreciating Goodman’s skill in making them and the events seem real.


And the winner is…


Steve Cavanagh, an Irish lawyer, who has written the most riveting thrillers that I’ve read since Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. You simply can’t set his debut novel, The Defense (2015), aside for a couple of days while you do something else. I reviewed this book last week, but I’ve read three of his sequels (The Plea, The Liar, and Thirteen), and they’ll be featured in upcoming columns.


Enjoy.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.