John Williams of The New York Times reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Two new works of fiction draw heavily on the experience of their authors to bring their settings to life.
All the stories in D. W. Wilson’s collection “Once You Break a Knuckle” are set in a working-class town in British Columbia, Canada. Wilson was born and raised in the area, and his knowledge of the region and its residents results in empathetic portraits of scrappy lives.
The characters here have names like Winch and Mudflap. They wear T-shirts bearing slogans like, “I Sleep With a Pillow Under My Gun.” As some of the characters reappear in multiple stories, the book patiently gathers the full power of a novel.
Wilson’s work is poetic and bracing, and will make you feel like you’ve set foot in its distinct locale.
Gaute Heivoll was born in southern Norway in 1978, right around the time an arsonist was setting a series of fires in a small village there. His novel “Before I Burn” is narrated by a character named Gaute Heivoll, who recounts the scary season when the arsonist was at work. But the blurring of truth and fiction is not the real point here. Nor is the mystery.
The book captivates despite revealing the identity of the fire-starter early on. It succeeds instead as a dual character study: of the criminal as he goes about setting his blazes, and of Heivoll, who seeks to understand a hazy but vital part of his hometown’s history.