London Lies Beneath, Stella Duffy (Virago)
Based on a true story set in south London in 1912. Tom, Jimmy and Itzhak may come from different cultural backgrounds but the three boys have one thing in common: the streets of Walworth in which they were all raised. Their futures seem set. Each will follow in his father’s trade and adapt to a life where extended family overlaps within bustling narrow streets. But the pull of the Thames is strong and it is Tom in particular whose heart is set on a life at sea. Soon they are on a journey that will alter both their lives and their community.
Inspired by real events, this is the story of three families, and a tragedy that will change them for ever. It is also a song of south London, of working class families with hidden histories, of a bright and complex world long neglected.
Stella Duffy OBE has written thirteen novels, over fifty short stories, and ten plays. She has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year and twice won the CWA Short Story Dagger. HBO have optioned her two Theodora novels for television. In 2014 Salt published her short story collection, Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined. In addition to her writing work, Stella is a theatre-maker and the co-director of the international Fun Palaces campaign for greater access to culture for all. In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the Arts.
The Inevitable Gift Shop, Will Eaves (CB Editions)
A memoir by other means, The Inevitable Gift Shop lassoes consciousness, memory, desire, literature, illness, flora and fauna, problems with tortoises and cable ties, and brings them back home in double file, as prose and poetry.
Will Eaves is the author of four novels – most recently, The Absent Therapist (CB Editions, 2014) – and one other collection of poetry. He was Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1995 to 2011, and now teaches at the University of Warwick. The Inevitable Gift Shop has been shortlisted for the 2016 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.
How to Survive a Plague, David France (Picador)
The story of the AIDS epidemic and the grass-roots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Around the globe, the 15.8 million people taking anti-AIDS drugs today are alive thanks to their efforts.
Not since the publication of Randy Shilts’s now classic And the Band Played On in 1987 has a book sought to measure the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate, and soaring terms.
David France is the author of Our Fathers, a book about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, which Showtime adapted into a film. His documentary How to Survive A Plague was a 2012 Oscars nominee, won a Directors Guild Award and a Peabody Award, and was nominated for two Emmys, among other accolades.
What Belongs to You, Garth Greenwell (Picador)
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher walks down a staircase beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture, looking for sex. Among the stalls of a public bathroom he encounters Mitko, a charismatic young hustler. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, and their trysts grow increasingly intimate and unnerving as the enigma of this young man becomes inseparable from that of his homeland, Bulgaria, a country with a difficult past and an uncertain future.
Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You is a debut about an American expat struggling with his own complicated inheritance while navigating a foreign culture. It tells the story of a man caught between longing and resentment, unable to separate desire from danger, and faced with the impossibility of understanding those he most longs to know.
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Garth Greenwell holds graduate degrees from Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was an Arts Fellow; before that Greenwell studied music and trained to be an opera singer. His short fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, A Public Space, StoryQuarterly, and VICE. His novella Mitko won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction and a Lambda Literary Award. Garth Greenwell lives in Iowa City, where he holds the Richard E. Guthrie Memorial Fellowship at the University of Iowa.
A Portable Shelter, Kirsty Logan (Random House)
In their tiny, sea-beaten cottage on the north coast of Scotland, Liska and Ruth await the birth of their first child. Each passes the time by telling the baby stories, trying to pass on the lessons they’ve learned: tales of circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons.
But they must keep their storytelling a secret from one another, as they’ve agreed to only ever tell the plain truth. So to cloak their tales, Ruth tells her stories when Liska is at work, to a background of shrieking seabirds; Liska tells hers when Ruth is asleep, with the lighthouse sweeping its steady beam through the window.
Kirsty Logan is a writer, performer, literary editor, writing mentor and book reviewer. She is the author of a short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, and one novel, The Gracekeepers. She regularly performs her stories at events and festivals throughout the world. She lives in Glasgow with her wife and their rescue dog.
Spacecraft, John McCullough (Penned in the Margins)
Spacecraft is centred around emptiness and absence. The spaces of the title are not only markers of loss but often creative forces and include various letters, obsolete words and punctuation marks, as well as strangely mobile houses, churches and cities. A central sequence concerns the death of McCullough’s first partner from an AIDS-related illness.
McCullough’s first collection of poems The Frost Fairs won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. McCullough teaches creative writing at the Open University and New Writing South. He lives in Hove, East Sussex.
Augustown, Kei Miller (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Ma Taffy is blind. She sits on her porch, listening to the residents of Augustown go about their lives. This is not the Jamaica of white-sand beaches and swaying palms, but a poor, oppressed shanty town in the sweltering centre of the island. It is home to people freed from slavery but kept down on the lowest rungs of society by the white, and nearly-white, population through poorly paid jobs that they cannot escape. Ma Taffy has known tragedy in the past, and can sense oncoming danger. As she sits on her porch, she can feel the approach of her grandson before she can hear him. She knows that a terrible thing has been done to him, and that it will have an irreversible effect on Augustown.
Kaia’s pale-skinned school teacher has cut off his dreadlocks in the classroom, in front of his classmates, with a pair of rusty scissors. No greater insult or humiliation can befall a Rastafarian than to have his dreadlocks sliced away. This act will spark the “Autoclaps”, the appalling event that Ma Taffy can already sense. Augustown is a story of racism, inequality, and a class of people trying to rise up above the forces that have kept them low for so long.
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. He has published two novels, The Last Warner Woman and The Same Earth, which was picked for the Waterstones Book Club, as well as several collections of poetry and a book of short stories published by Macmillan Caribbean, The Fear of Stones, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. In 2014, he won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry for his collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. He lives in London and teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Where The Trees Were, Inga Simpson (Blackfriars)
When Jay and her four childhood friends find a group of ancient trees carved by an Aboriginal tribe to identify sacred land, their eyes are opened to an older world. The tightly-knit group are at their most free on the river that runs through the farm, near the trees, and their childhood has a magical quality as they grow always closer, protected from the adult world. But as tension over land rights flickers in the grown-ups’ lives, the children’s attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster. Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option. But at what cost?
Inga Simpson has a PhD in Creative Writing and a Masters in Australian Literature. Before turning seriously to fiction, Inga had a long career as a professional writer, including stints for federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Straight Jacket, Matthew Todd (Transworld)
Matthew Todd explores why statistics show a large number of gay people suffer from mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, addiction, suicidal thoughts and behaviour, and why significant numbers experience difficulty in sustaining meaningful relationships. Bracingly honest, and drawing on his own experience, he breaks the silence surrounding a number of painful issues.
Straight Jacket offers practical advice on how to overcome a range of difficult issues. It also recognizes that this is a watershed moment, a piercing wake-up-call-to-arms for the gay and wider community to acknowledge the importance of supporting all young people – and helping older people to transform their experience and finally get the lives they really want.
Matthew Todd is the ex-editor of the UK’s bestselling gay magazine, Attitude. In 2011 he was named Men’s Magazine Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors and Stonewall Journalist of the Year. In November 2015 he won Editor of the Year in the Men’s Brand Category at the British Society of Magazine Editors Awards. He has written for national newspapers, including the Guardian, Observer, Telegraph and Sun. He appears regularly on TV and radio and is a regular speaker at conferences and events, including the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV Prevention CHAPS conference. He lives in London.
Our Young Man, Edmund White (Bloomsbury)
New York City in the eighties, and at its decadent heart is Guy. The darling of Fire Island’s gay community and one of New York’s top male models, Guy is gliding his way to riches that are a world away from his modest provincial upbringing back home in France. Like some modern-day Dorian Gray he seems untouched by time: the decades pass, fashions change, yet his beauty remains as transcendent and captivating as ever. Such looks cannot help but bring him adoration.
From sweet yet pathetic Fred to the wealthy and masochistic Baron, from the acerbic and cynical Pierre-Georges to Andrés, fabricating Dalí fakes and hurtling towards prison and the abyss, all are in some way fixated on him. They lavish him with devotion and expensive gifts and in return, he plays with unswerving loyalty whatever role they project onto him: unattainable idol, passionate lover, malleable client. But just as the years are catching up on his smooth skin and perfect body, so his way of life is closing in on him and destroying the men he loves.
Edmund White is the author of many novels, including A Boy’s Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, The Farewell Symphony, and, most recently, Jack Holmes and His Friend. His non-fiction includes City Boy, Inside a Pearl, and other memoirs; The Flâneur, about Paris; and literary biographies and essays. White lives in New York and teaches at Princeton University.