I think World Book Night is a great idea (people giving away books they love - how brilliant is that?!) - my only wish was that the list of books chosen would have included some lesser known authors and books.
So, back at the beginning of December when I first talked about Alternative World Book Night I thought of several books that I love, that deserve to be far better known, that I've bought copies of for friends and generally want to thrust into strangers' hands with an evangelical "Here, you've got to read this book, it's brilliant." The struggle is, which one. I've been thinking about it since December, and I'm still struggling. Not every minute of every day, you understand - that would just make me some kind of weirdo. But every now and again I'll think "Which one of these books that I love, am I going to buy for someone?" And the answer has been eluding me for the last three months. I can't narrow it down, I just can't.
So, since I find myself unable to pick just one book (just as I find a similar difficulty in having just one chocolate), I'm going to have to give away three books - one each by an American, an Englishman, and a Scotsman. These are all books that I love, have re-read several times, and that deserve to be more widely known.
The first of these is one I've raved about on here many times - Eddie Muller's THE DISTANCE. I actually already own three copies of this, but they're all personalised to me and, much as I love you, dear Reader, I'm buggered if you're getting one of those.
When San Francisco’s ‘Mr Boxing’ - sportswriter Billy Nichols - turns up at boxing manager Gig Liardi’s apartment one night in 1948, he finds Gig dead and his fighter, Hack Escalante, standing over him. Billy makes a snap decision to protect Hack and cover up the murder. It’s a choice that he may later regret but, once taken, he sticks to it. This is a wonderfully told tale - very noir, full of corruption, moral ambiguity, betrayal and lies. The mean streets of San Francisco’s sleazy underbelly in the ‘40s really come alive. The writing is gorgeous - really rich and atmospheric.
The outstanding appeal of this book - and its sequel SHADOW BOXER - is the character of Billy Nichols. His tough, cynical outer shell hides a vulnerable interior. He's not the typical macho noir protagonist. He's a sensitive, perceptive, flawed man. He's a storyteller - a chronicler of fact and, sometimes, a creator of fiction. But he's an honest liar, unlike many of the other characters in the book. Because Billy doesn't have that cold, self-destructive, caring for nothing and nobody streak that is the territory of a noir protagonist, the book is suffused with warmth, light, passion and heart. Eddie Muller turns the conventions of noir and hard-boiled novels on their heads.
The voice of the main character is completely original, the writing is casually stylish and Mark Sullivan writes in a really playful way. Corned Beef Sandwich is a comedy crime thriller where the crime is incidental, the thrills are Manchester home video rather than Hollywood blockbuster, and the comedy is understated and effortless.This is a really good read - completely original, charmingly scruffy and it has that real feelgood factor. It's also the only time I've ever found corned beef appealing.
And the third book is Douglas Lindsay's THE LONG MIDNIGHT OF BARNEY THOMSON - the first in the barbershop death junkie series (yes, really). Despite the fact that there are already seven books in this series, I almost never see it talked about on the online book groups to which I belong. And that's a bloody shame. It's a hilarious series. Glasgow barber Barney Thomson is a bit crap, really - he's a bit crap as a barber, a bit crap as a husband, and a bit crap as a man. He's relegated to the worst chair in the barber's shop - customers would rather wait for one of the other barbers than have their hair cut by Barney (don't get me wrong - on his good days he can give you a Frank Sinatra '62, a Kevin Keegan '74, or an Anwar Sadat '67 - but he's just as likely to send you away looking like a laughing stock); besides, he doesn't really have the patter.
Then there's his wife, who spends all her time watching the soaps, and his mother - who's more than a little bit loopy - is hooked on game shows. Meanwhile, there's a serial killer on the loose in Glasgow and body parts keep turning up in the post. Darkly comic, gleefully gruesome and absurdly warped. As we say in Glasgow - this book is totally aff its heed.
So, all you have to do to win one of these books is to leave me a message in the comments, or send me an e-mail, telling me which one of the above you'd like to receive and also naming a book that you love that you wish was better known (you don't have to give it away - it's just another means of me getting recommendations for great books!) and I'll draw a winner for each of the books in two weeks' time.
And if you want to join in on Alternative World Book Night just post on your blog about a book you love, why you love it and offer it to someone (however you want, competition, draw it out of a hat...whatever). If you're joining in, let me know via e-mail, and I'll link to the posts here. Anyone without a blog who wants to join in, also let me know and I'll host your book rave here at Badsville.
In the comment below, Bobbie is giving away not one but three Daniel Woodrell books - The Bayou Trilogy made up of BRIGHT LIGHTS, MUSCLE FOR THE WING and THE ONES YOU DO. I can also highly recommend them - Daniel Woodrell is one of my favourite authors. If you want this trilogy, let me know and I'll pass your requests on to Bobbie, or leave a message in the comments.
Over at her blog, Patti Abbott is giving away Castle Freeman's GO WITH ME, another book which I really enjoyed and which definitely flew under the radar. Let Patti know if you would like it.