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Spring preview 2013: Canadian short fiction, crime fiction, and poetry

Rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, publishing is alive and well moving into spring. In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the spring’s biggest books.

Short fiction

Nancy Jo Cullen‘s short fiction collection begins with a well-known admonition: Gas, grass, or ass: no one rides for free. The quirky, colourful stories in Canary (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., April) feature characters who are working class, religious, and itinerant, all searching for answers to life’s myriad questions. ¢ Holley Rubinsky* has won the Journey Prize, and her work has appeared in The Penguin Anthology of Stories by Canadian Women. Her new collection, South of Elfrida (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., March), features a cast of women characters facing up to death, betrayal, and entrapment.

Angolan-born author paulo da costa won the Commonwealth First Book Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize for his first collection, The Scent of a Lie (2002). His new collection, The Green and Purple Skin of the World (Freehand, $21.95 pa., April), contains stories about the bonds that hold us together and the forces that tear us apart.

Actress Katie Boland has appeared in more than 40 films and was named one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s rising stars in 2011. Her debut story collection is out from Brindle & Glass in April. Eat Your Heart Out ($19.95 pa.) features characters as varied as a newspaperman who encounters a kindly drifter and a teenaged autistic savant who is having an affair with his best friend’s mother.

A woman is charged with disposing of her dying father’s stash of pornography and a teenage petty criminal gets more than he bargained for in two of the stories from Peter Unwin‘s latest collection. Life Without Death (Cormorant, $21 pa., May) is about characters struggling to find a sense of perspective in their messy lives. ¢ Kelly Ward‘s story The Night Shift won the 2008 Lush Triumphant Award for Fiction. It is among the stories collected in Keep It Beautiful (Tightrope Books, $21.95 pa., May).

Crime Fiction

Crang is back! The jazz-loving protagonist of Straight No Chaser and Blood Count returns to the mean streets of Toronto, this time to investigate a crime at the Gardiner Ceramics Museum. Biographer, newspaper columnist, and jazz critic Jack Batten‘s latest series mystery, Take Five ($15.95 pa.), is due in April from Thomas Allen Publishers. ¢ Ava Lee returns for a fifth adventure in the latest series instalment from Ian Hamilton. In The Scottish Banker of Surabaya (Anansi, $19.95 pa., Feb.), Lee investigates a ponzi scheme that involves an Indonesian bank, money laundering, and the Italian mob.

Author of the popular Russell Quant series of mysteries, Anthony Bidulka has two titles out this season. Sundowner Ubuntu (Insomniac Press, $19.95 pa., April) is a new Quant mystery set in the drug-ridden underworld of a Prairies city and the violence-plagued townships of Africa. Where the Saints Go Marching In (Insomniac, $19.95 pa., April) is the first in a new series. Adam Saint is a disaster-­recovery agent who must investigate the death of a colleague in a thriller modelled on Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels and Ian Fleming’s James Bond books.

The much beloved Flavia de Luce returns for a new adventure in Speaking from Among the Bones (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Jan.). In the fifth instalment of Alan Bradley‘s best-selling mystery series, the opening of a saint’s tomb leads to a shocking discovery that sends Flavia on another intriguing investigation. ¢ Author of the hard-boiled Wilson novels, Mike Knowles is set to debut a new series this spring. In S.O.B. (ECW, $12.95 pa., May), P.I. Frank Sullivan sets out to help an HIV-positive woman who is convinced that the boyfriend who intentionally infected her (and their newborn daughter) is not the man she thought he was.

Welsh-Canadian author Cathy Ace follows up her debut, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, with another classic cozy featuring Professor Cait Morgan. In The Corpse with the Golden Nose (TouchWood Editions, $14.95 pa., March), Cait must intervene to solve the suspicious death of a world-­renowned vintner.


St. John’s resident Michael Crummey is set to publish his first book of poetry since 2002’s Salvage. The poems in Under the Keel (Anansi, $19.95 pa., April) run the gamut from home brewing to embarrassing interactions with babysitters to advice on how not to get laid in Newfoundland. ¢ Billie Holliday, El Greco, Charlie Chaplin, and Dante all inform the new collection from Lorna Goodison, which reimagines Caribbean history and offers new possibilities for interpreting the region’s cultural heritage. Supplying Salt and Light (McClelland & Stewart, $18.99 pa.) appears in March. ¢ Also from M&S is a new work of poetry from best-selling author Anne Michaels, who collaborates with portrait artist Bernice Eisenstein. Correspondences ($34.99 cl. April) will be produced in an accordion format, with Michaels’ verse on one side and Eisenstein’s portraits on the other.

The prolific Leon Rooke follows up his 2012 story collection, Wide World in Celebration and Sorrow, with a new collection of free verse poems centring on the precious, prickly figure of a woman named April. Employing his signature linguistic playfulness, Rooke’s poems examine April’s girlhood, her loves and losses, and the influence she has on the lives she touches. The April Poems (The Porcupine’s Quill, $17.95 pa.) appears in, um, April. ¢ Another prolific veteran has a new collection out this spring. Nicole Brossard‘s White Piano (Coach House, $17.95 pa., March) employs musical rhythms and shuttles freely between verse and prose. Robert Majzels and Erín Moure translate.

There is water, water everywhere in Afloat (Brick Books, $20 pa., March), the eighth collection from Toronto poet John Reibetanz. The collection’s centrepiece is a sequence about China’s Three Gorges Dam. ¢ Phil Hall‘s previous book of poetry, 2010’s Killdeer, won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Trillium Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. He follows it up with a new work called The Small Nouns Crying Faith (BookThug, $20 pa., May). Between the book’s opening word (verb) and its closing word (blurtip), the poems investigate conventional tropes and approaches using unconventional means.

Tanis Rideout scored critical acclaim for her 2012 debut novel, Above All Things. She returns to poetry for her follow-up, a book that fictionalizes the rivalry between swimmers Marilyn Bell and Shirley Campbell. Arguments with the Lake ($17 pa.) appears in April from Wolsak and Wynn.

Nightwood Editions has a trio of books from well-respected poets on its spring roster. Tim Bowling follows up his Rogers Writers’ Trust Award“nominated novel The Tinsmith with a selection of his poetry from the past two decades. Selected Poems ($22.95 pa.) is scheduled to appear in February. ¢ Also from Nightwood is the second collection from former Vancouver poet laureate Brad Cran. Ink on Paper ($18.95 pa., Feb.) contains poems that are alternately gritty and pristine, ironic and sincere. ¢ Finally, Elizabeth Bachinsky returns with her sixth collection. In The Hottest Summer in Recorded History ($18.95 pa., Feb.), the B.C. poet brings her signature mix of linguistic experimentation and flair for sensual imagery to poems that straddle the line between youthfulness and maturity.

Halifax poet Sue Goyette‘s fourth collection is out this spring with Gaspereau Press. Ocean ($21.95 pa., April) examines humankind’s often fraught relationship with that majestic and mysterious body of water, the Atlantic ocean. ¢ Also from Gaspereau is the latest collection from John Terpstra. Brilliant Falls ($19.95 pa., April) contains poems with surface lightness that conceals a darker, more melancholy aspect.

A Reliquary (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, April) is the final collection from Daryl Hine, completed just before his death in August. The poems examine loss and aging, sickness and death, in a manner that is honest and forthright, but not despairing.

Q&Q‘s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 31, 2013. ¢ All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. ¢ Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

*Correction Jan. 11: In the print and an earlier online version of this story Holley Rubinsky’s name is spelled incorrectly.