As I read The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen this past week I am putting him as a great new author of 2011.
Going back a year to 2010 the great new author was Tom Rob Smith and his book Child 44. I was immediately caught up in a time and place, Several years earlier I had learned about Stalinist Russia of the 1930’s and early 1950’s through reading Stalin by Edvard Radzinsky. The leader’s paranoia reached down through society to every citizen. The lead character, Leo Demidov, a rising officer with the MGB (secret police) and WW II hero is a strong character content to find enemies of the state. His comfortable life is turned upside down when he is personally denounced and murders are only to be solved by finding “undesirable” members of society as killers. The book was Bill’s Best Favourite Fiction of 2010.
2009 was a remarkable year of reading new authors as I found a trio of great new authors.
The first was Stan Jones with his book White Sky, Black Ice. In this book I was taken to the harsh northwest coast of Alaska where state trooper, Nathan Active, has returned to his birth community of Chukchi after being raised by an adoptive white couple in Anchorage. While Jones created an excellent character and a solid plot the book was made special by the character and plot being a part of the culture and setting of the book. Active, from his Inupiaq birth family and being raised in white culture, is a part of both of the intersecting cultures in Chukchi. Finally, the weather plays a major role in the book. In the remote regions of the world weather is a far more important part of life than urban areas. The book tied for Third Most Interesting of Bill’s Best of 2009.The second was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The book had been strongly recommended by Marian and J.D. at the Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore in Toronto. I loved the book. Mikael Blomkvist was an interesting character facing unusual challenges with the court finding guilty of aggravated libel. He is humbled and more vulnerable than most sleuths. I cannot recall a more striking character than Lisbeth Salander. Few authors are willing to have a major character with unpleasant, even offensive aspects to their personality, but letting readers come to appreciate stubborn integrity. Together with The Girl Who Played with Fire it was Bill’s Best of Fiction of 2009.
The third was Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong. From the barrens of Alaska to the teeming millions of Shanghai Chief Inspector Chen Cao is adjusting to the winds of change coming to Communist China from its economic revolution away from a state economy. His love of poetry adds rhythms to the plot that are rare in mystery fiction. It became a great book with a plot that was both an intriguing mystery and an exploration of the political upheavals of the time.
In looking at the five great new authors (I will include Adler-Olsen) I note the books have in common none are set in the major urban centres of the Western World. There is not a book set in London or Paris or New York or Los Angeles or Toronto. Denmark, Alaska and Sweden are all perimeter settings. The books set in Russia and China involved huge cities but in societies that have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. In a few weeks I will be looking back further to great new authors I read earlier in the decade.