books - fiction


A Confederacy of DuncesA monument to sloth, rant and misanthropic contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J Reilly of New Orleans, self-styled scholar and noble crusader against a world of dunces. The ordinary folk of New Orleans seem to think he is unhinged but Ignatius ignores them, heaving his vast bulk through the city’s fleshpots in his crusade against vice, modernity and ignorance. Unfortunately his mother has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job. Undaunted, he uses his new-found employment at the failing Levy Pants factory to further his mission - and now he has a pirate costume and a hot-dog cart to do it with... The vitality and gritty reality of New Orleans is vividly brought to life and the preposterous, indomitable Ignatius is surrounded by a cast of other memorable characters. These include his long-suffering mother, her wild dancing friend Santa, courageous Patrolman Mancuso – dressed in ballet tights and a yellow sweater in pursuit of genuine, bona dide suspicious characters, tough talking Lana and B-drinker Darlene at the Night of Joy bar, dotty octogenarian accountant Miss Trixie (‘Who?’) and the wonderful Sunglasses Jones, perpetually wreathed in thunderclouds of smoke and delivering a lively commentary on proceedings (‘Who you callin “boy”? You ain Scarla O’Horror.’). New Orleans-born John Kennedy Toole’s hilarious picaresque satire, A Confederacy of Dunces, is a Don Quixote for the modern age. Never published during his lifetime (he committed suicide aged 31 in 1969), his mother brought the manuscript of the book to the attention of novelist Walker Percy, who helped it into print. In 1981, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes a foreword by Walker Percy. ‘My favourite book of all time... it stays with you long after you have read it - for your whole life, in fact.’ - Billy Connolly.


Love and FreindshipJane Austen was born in 1775 at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived there with her family until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death, she and her mother settled in Chawton, Hampshire. As well as her six great novels, including Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Jane Austen left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives. As a girl she wrote stories that included burlesques of popular romances. Love and Freindship And Other Youthful Writings is a fascinating collection of her brilliant, hilarious - and often outrageous - early stories, sketches and pieces of nonsense. Austen’s earliest writing dates from when she was just eleven years old, yet already shows the hallmarks of her mature work: wit, acute insight into human folly, and a preoccupation with manners, morals and money. But it is also a product of the eighteenth century in which she grew up - dark, grotesque, often surprisingly bawdy, and a far cry from the polished, sparkling novels of manners for which she became famous. Drunken heroines, babies who bite off their mother’s fingers, and a letter-writer who has murdered her whole family all feature in these very funny pieces. This edition includes all of Austen’s juvenilia, including her ‘History of England’ - written by ‘a partial, prejudiced, and ignorant Historian’ - and the novella ‘Lady Susan’. The book is edited by Professor Christine Alexander and includes an insightful introduction as well as many useful notes. ‘Spirited, easy, full of fun, verging with freedom upon sheer nonsense ... At fifteen she had few illusions about other people and none about herself’ - Virginia Woolf. Penguin has also published a revised edition of LADY SUSAN, THE WATSONS, SANDITON (ISBN: 9780140431025) featuring three short works that show Austen experimenting with a variety of different literary styles, from melodrama to satire, and exploring a range of social classes and settings. Lady Susan depicts an unscrupulous coquette, toying with the affections of several men - an anti-heroine who schemes and cheats her way through high society. The Watsons is a delightful fragment, whose heroine Emma Watson finds her marriage opportunities restricted by poverty and pride. Written in the last months of her life, the uncompleted novel Sanditon is set in a newly established seaside resort, with a glorious cast of hypochondriacs and speculators, and shows the author contemplating a changing society with a mixture of scepticism and amusement. Margaret Drabble’s introduction examines these three works in the context of Jane Austen’s major novels and her life, and discusses the social background of her fiction.


Billy LiarFoeKeith Waterhouse’s semi-autobiographical comedy Billy Liar was published in 1959 and captures perfectly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small town in Yorkshire - the fictional Stradhoughton. ‘The very name conjures up sturdy buildings of honest native stone, gleaming cobbled streets, and that brackish air which gives this corner of Yorkshire its own special piquancy.’ Billy liar tells the story of William Fisher, a 19-year-old outsider trapped in a Walter Mitty fantasy-world and unable to stop lying - especially to his three disappointed girlfriends. Billy claims, among other things, that his father is a retired naval captain/cobbler. He also tells his parents that his best friend Arthur’s mother has a broken leg. Trapped in his boring job as a lowly clerk for undertakers Shadrack & Duxbury and still living with his working-class parents and a grandmother who talks to the sideboard more than her own family, Billy finds that his only happiness lies in grand plans for his future life in the big city as a comedy writer and fantastical day-dreams of the fictional A Passage to Indiacountry Ambrosia. The book has been adapted into a play and a film (starring Tom courtenay and the delectable Julie Christie), as well as a musical and a television series. This new edition is one of sthe latest tylishly-designed titles in The Penguin Essentials collection, whcich features some of the twentieth-century’s most important books. When they were first published they changed the way we thought about literature and life, and they have remained vital reading ever since. Other new titles in the collection include Nobel Laureate and two-time Booker prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee’s FOE (ISBN: 9780241973691), a brilliant reimagining Daniel DeFoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe, and E.M. Forster’s classic novel A PASSAGE TO INDIA (ISBN: 9780241214992), exploring issues of colonialism, faith and the limits of comprehension. Previous Penguin Essentials available include the quintessentially English comic novel, The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith, Jerome K Jerome’s charmingly humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames, Three Men in a Boat, and Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking novel, Mrs Dalloway.


Bonjour TristesseFrançoise Sagan was born Françoise Quoirez in 1935 and adopted the pseudonym ‘Sagan’ from a character (‘Princesse de Sagan’) in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. Sylish and amoral, Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) is a tale of adolescence and betrayal on the French Riviera. This enchanting, bittersweet novella tells the story of pleasure-driven 17-year-old Cécile, who leads a carefree, self-absorbed life with her boyfriend and her handsome widowed father and his young mistresses until, one hot summer on the Riviera, he decides to remarry - with devastating consequences. Françoise Sagan’s masterpiece was first published in 1954, when she was just eighteen, and became an immediate international success. Her perceptively observed characters and seductive description of life seen through the eyes of a teenager made Sagan something of an icon for disillusioned young people everywhere. Her literary career lasted until 1990s, producing dozens of works in the austere style of the French psychological novel with existential undertones, but she never equalled her first heady success. She wrote her own obituary for the Dictionary of Authors: ‘Appeared in 1954 with a slender novel, Bonjour tristesse, which created a scandal worldwide. Her death, after a life and a body of work that were equally pleasant and botched, was a scandal only for herself.’ Some of Bonjour Tristesse’s frank and explicit sexual scenes proved too daring for 1950s Britain and several were removed for the English publication. Heather Lloyd’s fresh and accurate translation presents the uncensored text in full for the first time. This new Penguin edition also includes Françoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile, first published two years after Bonjour Tristesse and with similar themes. Dominique, a young woman bored with her unexciting lover, begins an encounter with a worldly older man that unfolds in unexpected and troubling ways. Both novellas have been excellently translated by Heather Lloyd with an introduction by Whitbread winner Rachel Cusk. ‘Funny, thoroughly immoral and thoroughly French’ The Times.


Naked LunchWell as, one judge said to the other, ‘Be just and if you can’t be just be arbitrary.’ William Seward Burroughs’ provocative and mordantly funny Naked Lunch is narrated by Ivy League-educated junkie William Lee, who takes on various aliases, from the US to Mexico, eventually to a drug-and-sex-soaked Tangier and the dreamlike Interzone. We also meet Bradley the Buyer (the best narcotics agent in the business), Dr ‘Fingers’ Schafer, the Lobotomy Kid, and the sadistic, manipulative Dr Benway. The book, which evolved over nine years, is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes (which Burroughs called ‘routines’) with chapters intended to be read in any order. The subject matter reflects the author’s own experiences and his addiction to various drugs, including heroin, morphine, majoun (a strong marijuana confection) and a German opioid called Eukodol. William Burroughs was born in 1914 in St Louis and expressed a lifelong subversion of the morality, politics and economics of modern America. To escape those conditions, and in particular his treatment as a homosexual and a drug-user, Burroughs left his homeland in 1950, eventually living in Mexico City, Tangier, Paris and London. Naked Lunch was initially banned in the UK and US and first published in 1959 by a French pornographer. This influential classic of American Beat literature, redited by the author as well as his friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, achieved cult status before it was even published in the English-speaking world. Nightmarish, poetic and often very funny, Burroughs’ virtuoso masterpiece is now published in a restored edition incorporating his notes on the text, alternate drafts and outtakes from the original. ‘Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift.’ - Jack Kerouac.


The Day of the TriffidsThe most famous catastrophe novel of the twentieth century, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time. ‘When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.’ When a freak cosmic event renders most of the Earth’s population blind, biologist Bill Masen - one of the lucky few to keep his sight - finds himself trapped in a London jammed with sightless mobs who prey on those who can still see. But another menace stalks blind and sighted alike. With nobody to stop them the Triffids - walking carnivorous plants with lethal stingers - rise up as humanity stumbles and falls... Originally published in 1951, The Day of the Triffids was the first novel published by the author as John Wyndham and it established him as an important writer. Clearly influenced by H G Wells’ The War of the Worlds, The Day of the Triffids also reflects the 1950s view of the Soviet Union as an inscrutable menace. Arthur C. Clarke called this eerily relevant post-apocalyptic novel an ‘immortal story’ and it remains Wyndham’s best known work, having been made into a feature film as well as three radio adaptations, two television series and a Marvel Comics version. ‘All the reality of a vividly realized nightmare.’ - The Times.


The DoubleA lonely, low-level government clerk, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin - shy, awkward, blundering and struggling to succeed. His doctor fears for his sanity, telling him that his behaviour is dangerously antisocial and prescribing ‘cheerful company’ as the remedy. Golyadkin resolves to try this but finds himself pursued by a mysterious stranger. Somehow he looks familiar. In fact, realises, he looks exactly like him. He even has the same name. But, unlike him, he is charming, aggressive and confident. Soon the stranger starts insinuating himself into his life. He works at his office, stays at his apartment, ingratiates himself with his colleagues. No one seems surprised. Who is he? What does he want? Is he a double, or something darker altogether? Dostoyevsky’s brilliant, ambiguous story is short yet complex – a Kafkaesque novel written 70 years before Kafka. ‘The best thing he ever wrote...a perfect work of art.’ - Vladimir Nabokov. Penguin Classics is publishing this official film tie-in edition of Dostoyevsky’s sinister, disturbing yet funny novel in time for Richard Ayoade’s updated film adaptation, just released in the UK and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowksa, Chris O’Dowd, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Tim Key and Chris Morris.


Father BrownG K Chesterton’s much-loved fictional Father Brown appeared in 51 amusing and ingenious detective stories which were later compiled into five books. Chesterton based the character on Father John O’Connor, a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism and had a shrewd insight to the darker side of humanity. Using intuition as well as his experience as a priest and confessor, the unassuming Father Brown handles crimes with a steady, realistic approach, believing in the supernatural as the greatest reason of all. Chesterton’s mischievous sense of humour and astute understanding of human nature come together in his most famous creation. Plump, shambolic and scruffily dressed, the mild-mannered Catholic priest is an unlikely detective; but by putting himself in the minds of the killers and sharing their humanity, Father Brown understands criminal motives and manages to solve even the most elusive of mysteries. Penguin are re-releasing all five books of Father Brown stories, starting with The Innocence of Father Brown, first published in 1911. This includes the very first Father Brown tale, The Blue Cross, which also introduces Aristide Valentin, head of the Paris Police, and the world’s most famous criminal and master of disguise, Flambeau. All the new editions have cover art inspired by Romek Barber’s iconic 1960s jackets. Publication coincides with the return of the popular BBC1 adaptation of Father Brown, starring Mark Williams. ‘Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seems to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.’ - Neil Gaiman.


SimenonBorn in Belgium in 1903, Georges Simenon was one of the twentieth century’s most prolific authors, writing 200 novels, 150 novellas, several autobiographies, countless articles, and dozens of pulp novels written under numerous pseudonyms. His best known fictional creation is the laconic detective Jules Maigret, who appeared in 28 short stories and 75 novels, the first of them being Pietr-le-Letton (Peter the Latvian), serialized in 1930 and published in book form the following year. Over 550 million copies of Simenon’s works have been printed and the Maigret novels have been translated into all major languages. Many were turned into films and plays, and intuitive Commissaire Maigret has starred in two television series in the UK (with Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon in the title role) as well as series in Italy and France. The Strange Case of Peter the Lett was influenced by contemporary British writers such as Edgar Wallace and features a chameleon-like mastermind with multiple identities who has a wild scheme to organize the international gangster community. Simenon uses this plot as a device as he effortlessly creates the atmosphere of a luxurious Paris luxury hotel and a squalid fishing village while portraying characters such as a tormented Latvian intellectual and a passionate female derelict. It’s a gripping, crisply told tale that has all the hallmarks of this much admired author. Penguin Classics have embarked on an exciting long term project to re-launch the work of Georges Simenon, publishing the 75 Maigret novels at a rate of one per month until all are in print with a single publisher - the first time this has been achieved. This new edition of PIETR THE LATVIAN is the first and will be followed in the next two months by The Late Monsieur Gallet and The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien. All the books are being published in new translations by some of the best translators working today, including this excellent one by David Bellos, and have cover photography by Harry Gruyeart, a Magnum photographer.


What Maisie KnewYoung Maisie Farange, after her parents’ problematic divorce, finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father. When her bitter, irresponsible parents enter into new relationships and remarry, the sensitive Maisie - solitary, observant and wise beyond her years - becomes increasingly entangled in an adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal, until she is eventually compelled to choose her own future. American-born Henry James’s masterful novel is a subtle yet devastating portrayal of an innocent adrift in a corrupt society and the author tells her story with all his customary style, wit and psychological perception. ‘She took refuge on the firm ground of fiction, through which indeed there curled the blue river of truth. - Henry James. This Penguin edition of James’s classic 1897 novel ties in with the release of a new modern-day film adaptation starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård and Steve Coogan. ‘Maisie embodies everything that James excelled at in fiction.’ - Paul Theroux.


RumpoleFormerly a practising barrister, Sir John Mortimer became a prolific playwright, novelist and scriptwriter. He wrote several splendidly indiscreet volumes of autobiography and created one of British television’s most memorable characters, Rumpole of the Bailey. Starring the great Leo McKern, this acclaimed series also inspired many short stories, novels and radio programmes. Horace Rumpole is an aging London barrister who loves the courtroom, cheap cheroots, claret, steak and kidney pudding and Pommeroy’s wine bar in Fleet Street. Above all, he relishes having ‘the honour of being an Old Bailey Hack’ and is willing to defend any and all clients. Devoted to Arthur Quiller-Couch’s Oxford Book of English Verse (especially Wordsworth and Shakespeare), he calls his fearsome wife Hilda ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’. Rumpole’s skill at defending his clients is legendary among the criminal classes and certain minor villains regularly rely on him to get them out of trouble. Famous for his successful handling of the Penge Bungalow Murders early in his career, his courtroom zeal can often get him into trouble with the more stuffy judges. With an excellent introduction by former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sam Leith, and for the first time in Penguin Modern Classics, this collection features twenty of the best stories of fiction’s most loved barrister-at-law. When not downing Château Fleet Street in Pommeroy’s or being held in check by She Who Must Be Obeyed, Rumpole can be found battling through the Law Courts with his formidable mixture of wit, eloquence, cynicism and scruffiness. And whether he is defending various members of the notorious and incompetent south London crime family, the Timsons, or mocking the pomposity and hypocrisy of his own profession, Horace Rumpole is an amiably relentless reminder of what justice should really be about. This collection serves as the definitive introduction to one of the wisest and wittiest characters in British comic writing, in all his shabby glory.


Android KareninaMash-up novels combine the stories of classics, usually public domain, with whatever outlandish fancies the author wants to create. The original text of the classic makes up around two thirds of the new novel in which we also now discover monsters, zombies, sea creatures, androids, werewolves and vampires. Quirk Books of Philadelphia pioneered this strange crossover genre recently, achieving phenomenal success with mash-up versions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (and Zombies) and Sense And Sensibility (and Sea Monsters). Android Karenina is the latest outlandish literary parody and, as in the original novel, the story follows two relationships: The tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These characters live in a steampunk-inspired world of robotic butlers, clumsy automatons and rudimentary mechanical devices. But when these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, the characters must fight back using state-of-the-art 19th-century technology - and a sleek new model of ultra-human cyborgs like nothing the world has ever seen. Filled with the same blend of romance, drama and fantasy that made the first two Quirk Classics into New York Times best sellers, Android Karenina takes this series into the exciting world of science fiction. Literary types will no doubt be outraged but the success of these imaginatively reinterpreted stories will introduce many people, especially the young, to the original books. ‘Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way.’


BeautyBeauty - in both name and appearance - is a twenty-year-old Bangladeshi, back in England having disgraced her family by fleeing an abusive arranged marriage. Placed on the jobseekers’ treadmill, and under continuing domestic pressure, in desperation, she runs away a life of drudgery and bullying. Her encounters with officialdom, fellow claimants, and passers-by in the city streets, complicated by the restrictions and comfort of her language and culture, place her at the mercy of such unlikely helpers as Mark, a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender, and Peter, an ineffectual middle-class underachiever on the rebound from a bitter relationship. Determined and spirited, yet tormented by doubts, Beauty Begum is forced to examine her own beliefs and think seriously about her future. While her brothers search for her across the city, the conflict between her desire for personal freedom and her sense of family duty deepens. What will she do? The underexplored city of Wolverhampton is the setting for this sharply observed, compassionate and challenging portrait of a fragmented, multicultural urban England. Born in Oxford, Raphael Selbourne studied politics at Sussex University and worked in Italy and China before moving to the West Midlands. Beauty, published by the excellent Birmingham-based Tindal Street Press, won the 2009 Costa First Novel Award, where the judges said that it ‘Captures the raw humanity of inner city life with extraordinary authenticity’. Raphael Selbourne’s vibrant novel is an absorbing tale of discovery and surprising affections, shot through with sympathy and lightened by typically Wolverhampton humour. Highly recommended.


Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde’s only published novel first appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. Wilde later added new chapters before a revised edition was published in book form the following year. The novel tells the story of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Impressed by Gray’s beauty, Hallward becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. When Gray meets Lord Henry Wotton he becomes enthralled by his world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Dorian Gray is drawn into a corrupt double life, exchanging his soul for eternal youth and beauty as he indulges his debauched desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandal, and early readers were shocked by its hints of unspeakable sins. It contributed to Wilde’s dramatic downfall when it was used as evidence against him at his trial at the Old Bailey in 1895. To coincide with the latest film adaptation, starring Ben Narnes, Colin Firth and Emilia Fox, Penguin Classics has released this new edition of the classic tale of vanity and corruption. ‘All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment’ - Oscar Wilde.


Penguin Sherlock HolmesScottish-born author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring his brilliant fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the release of Guy Ritchie’s film about the immortal detective, Penguin is releasing two beautifully produced new editions of its much-loved Complete Sherlock Holmes stories - a hardback, quarter-bound volume with black leather and linen and a gold-foiled paperback. Both editions include a new foreword from acclaimed crime writer Ruth Rendell and contain each of the four novels as well as fifty-six short stories that make up the complete Holmes collection, making this the perfect book to curl up with on a dark winter’s evening. ‘The immense talent, passion and literary brilliance that Conan Doyle brought to his work gives him a unique place in English letters... Personally, I’d walk a million in tight boots just to read his letters to the milkman.’ - Stephen Fry.


ResurrectionCount Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. In 1862, he married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. He died at the age of eighty-two in 1910. Resurrection, written in 1899, tells the story of a nobleman’s attempt to redeem the suffering his youthful philandering inflicted on a peasant girl who ends up a prisoner in Siberia. Tolstoy’s vision of redemption achieved through loving forgiveness, and his condemnation of violence, dominate the novel. An intimate, psychological tale of guilt, anger and forgiveness, Resurrection is at the same time a panoramic description of social life in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century, reflecting its author’s outrage at the social injustices of the world in which he lived. The writing is superb and the author, though close to the end of his long life, shows that his quest for political, social and economic justice for the Russian poor remained as passionate as ever. Replacing the Penguin 1966 edition, this Penguin Classic has been translated with an introduction and notes by Anthony Briggs, whose recent translation of War and Peace was widely acclaimed.


London Belongs to MeNorman Collins was born in 1907 in Beaconsfield and became one of the twentieth century’s most important media executives. As head of BBC Radio’s Light Programme in the mid-1940s he created the hugely popular Dick Barton: Special Agent series as well as the long-running Woman’s Hour. He also later helped establish Independent Television, though he began his career as a writer. London Belongs to Me, filmed in 1948 with Richard Attenborough and Alastair Sim, was the most successful of Collins’ sixteen novels. Written in the 1930s while the author was working as a producer for BBC Radio, this sprawling 724-page cult classic sold 884,000 copies when originally published. The story is set in 1938, when the prospect of war threatened London but people continued to work, drink, fall in love, fight and struggle to get on in life. At the lodging-house at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, the buttoned-up clerk Mr Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents at No.10 include faded actress-cum-nightclub assistant Connie; tinned food-loving Mr Puddy; widowed landlady Mrs Vizzard (whose head is turned by her new lodger, a self-styled ‘Professor of Spiritualism’); and flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse. With wry, deadpan humour, Norman Collins vividly brings to life a world of séances, shabby gentility, smoky pubs and ordinary lives in an extraordinary city at an extraordinary time. Penguin Modern Classics has now published this welcome new edition, with an introduction by Ed Glinert, of Collins’ sharply observed and richly enjoyable book.


Big SleepRaymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888, but moved to England with his family when he was twelve, where he attended Dulwich College. Returning to America in 1912, he settled in California, worked in a number of jobs, and later married. It was during the Depression era that he seriously turned his hand to writing and his first published story appeared in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1933. This was followed six years later – at the age of fifty – by his first novel, The Big Sleep, featuring the fast talking, quick thinking private eye Philip Marlowe. By the time Chandler died in 1959, he had established himself as the finest crime writer in America. In The Big Sleep, Marlowe arrives at the Sternwood mansion ‘neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it’ and is hired by wealthy General Sternwood to investigate an extortion mystery involving his two wayward daughters. With crackling dialogue, outrageous similes and memorable characters, this is the quintessential Philip Marlowe story, and it was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Best English-language novels. The Long Good-byeplot is so labyrinthine that when Howard Hawks was directing his film version he had to ask Chandler who killed the chauffeur. Chandler replied that he had no idea! The author wrote only seven novels featuring his famous detective and five of them have now been re-issued by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin in this new edition, which marks the 50th anniversary of Chandler’s death and celebrates the seventy years that Hamish Hamilton has been his publisher. Each lovingly produced hardback receives a vintage makeover, repackaged with its original Hamish Hamilton first edition cover, so these enduring classics look good enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. As well as The Big Sleep, they include The Little Sister (written when Chandler was working in Hollywood as a screenwriter), The Long Goodbye (Chandler’s longest novel and thought by many to be his best), The Lady in the Lake (a reworking of the short stories ‘Bay City Blues’ and ‘The Lady in the Lake’), and Farewell, My Lovely (a tale of corruption set in the imaginary L.A. suburb of Bay City). A treat for Chandler aficionados everywhere and the perfect introduction for anyone lucky enough to be discovering this great writer for the first time.


In this magnificent slipcased edition, the world-class Holmes authority Leslie S. Klinger follows up his brilliant examination of the short stories to explore Conan Doyle’s four classic novels: A Study in Scarlet (a tale of murder and revenge that tells of Holmes and Watson’s first meeting), The Sign of Four (a cinematic tale of lost treasure), The Hound of the Baskervilles (hailed as the greatest mystery novel of all time) and The Valley of Fear (a fresh murder scene that leads Holmes to solve a long-forgotten mystery). With over 1,000 new notes, 350 wonderfully reproduced illustrations and period photographs, and tantalising new Sherlockian theories, this beautifully designed book was published to mark the great detective’s 150th ‘birthday’ in 2004. As well as the marvelous novels, this volume offers fascinating insights into many issues that have puzzled and delighted Holmes fans for generations, such as where exactly Watson received his war wound and which legend inspired The Hound of the Baskervilles. Klinger’s writing is always clear and concise and his considerable research makes this an indispensable exploration of the immortal world of Sherlock Holmes.


The New Annotated DraculaIrish author Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel was first published in 1897 but was not an immediate bestseller, although highly praised by reviewers. The contemporary Daily Mail ranked Stoker’s powers above those of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe as well as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The novel has become more significant for modern readers than it was for contemporary Victorian readers, most of whom enjoyed it simply as an adventure story. Between 1879 and 1898 Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing sensational novels. Parts of Dracula are set around the town of Whitby, where he spent summer vacations. The novel is mainly composed of journal entries and letters written by several narrators who also serve as the novel’s main protagonists. Stoker supplemented the story with occasional newspaper clippings to relate events not directly witnessed by the story’s characters. The book achieved its broader iconic classic status in the 20th century after the leading character appeared in numerous films, most notably the Bela Lugosi version of 1931. The vampire Count has gone on to make more cinematic appearances than any other fictional character except Sherlock Holmes. Renowned Sherlockian Leslie S. Klinger’s annotated volumes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories and novels have been widely acclaimed and he now focuses his critical eye and keen wit on Bram Stoker’s finest creation. While the book has been studied by scholars in virtually every academic discipline, none have accepted Bram Stoker’s declaration that the work was based on historical fact. For the first time, Klinger examines all of the evidence, both internal and external, including contemporary travel books, scientific texts, Victorian encyclopedias, as well as Stoker’s notes for the narrative and the original manuscript itself (which is owned by a private, anonymous collector). Klinger’s appendices survey Dracula on stage and screen; the vampire family tree, ranging from Romanian folklore to the denizens of the universes of Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and vampire literature, both academic and popular. With over 1,500 footnotes and more than 200 illustrations (Victorian pictures, movie stills & posters, stage bills and contemporary photos), a complete chronology, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to Dracula societies, this classic work illuminates the timeless genius of the king vampire. No aspect of Bram Stoker’s haunting novel remains unexplored as the author examines this bloodcurdling masterpiece in the light of historical and scientific evidence.


confidence manHerman Melville was born in New York, the son of a merchant, and was largely self-educated. He started writing after having first sailed to Liverpool in 1839, where he joined a whaler bound for the Pacific Ocean. Deserting the ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as an ordinary seaman to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures, including Moby Dick, won him immediate success but literary attention faded as his prose became more ambitious, culminating in his final, strangest and arguably greatest novel, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, published in 1857. Melville died virtually unknown in 1891 and it was not until the 1920s that he received recognition as a key figure in American literature. The Confidence-Man is a scathing, razor-sharp satire set on a New Orleans-bound riverboat, exposing the fraudulent optimism of such American idols and idealists as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and P. T. Barnum, and drawing a dark vision of a country being swallowed by its illusions of progress. The story begins with a mute boarding a Mississippi boat and ends without a conclusion: ‘Something further may follow of this Masquerade’. In between, the confidence man, so well disguised as to avoid clear identification even by the reader, meets and tricks a boatful of unusual characters. The culmination of Herman Melville’s brilliant career as a novelist, and the introduction of a particularly American brand of satire that is as caustic as it is funny, The Confidence Man creates an elaborate and beautiful masquerade that asks: who in this world is worth our confidence? This is a welcome new edition of the ‘first postmodern novel’ which offers a wry view that life may be just a cosmic con game. The book includes excellent annotations by H. Bruce Franklin, intended for both the general reader and the scholar. Highly recommended.


The Thirty Nine StepsJohn Buchan was a Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada but is best remembered as the author of thrillers and historical novels. His hundred books include about thirty novels and seven collections of short stories as well as biographies of Sir Walter Scott, Caesar Augustus and Oliver Cromwell. Buchan’s first success as an author came with Prester John in 1910, followed by a series of adventure thrillers, or ‘shockers’ as he called them, characterised by their authentical backgrounds, romantic characters, their atmosphere of expectancy and world-wide conspiracies, and the author’s own enthusiasm. The Thirty-nine Steps is the first of his five novels featuring Richard Hannay, an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous habit of getting himself out of sticky situations. Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, he goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. The novel formed the basis for several film adaptations, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 adaptation, but none quite matches the book’s perfect combination of fine writing and suspense-filled plot. This is one of a series of six exciting adventure classics from Penguin, all with wonderfully nostalgic covers and each one of them a cracking good read sure to appeal to red-blooded men everywhere. The other titles are The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers; The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle; The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton; She by H. Rider Haggard; The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope.


G W Dahlquist’s remarkable tale of violence, conspiracy and erotica first appeared in serial publication last year and is now published as a complete entity. This intoxicatingly compulsive gothic adventure story is set in a fictitious Victorian city, with a host of wicked and outlandish characters who include Miss Celestial Temple, a feisty heiress; Cardinal Chang, a deadly assassin and Dr Svenson, guardian to a louche and syphilitic prince. When Miss Temple finds her engagement broken off without suitable explanation by her fiancé Roger Bascombe, she is given a choice: turn away from polite society or turn adventuress and discover the reason for her rejection. Deciding to secretly follow her former lover, Miss Temple finds herself a trespasser at a masked ball. There, strange and unspeakable acts involving electricity and books of glass (not to mention a murder) take place and Miss Temple almost loses both her virtue and her life. Joined in her adventures by a foreign surgeon and an assassin, Miss Temple seeks to uncover the conspiracy that lies at the heart of the glass books, and learns just how disrespectable - and life threatening - adventuring can be. G W Dahlquist claims that The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters came to him in his dreams after he fell asleep when trapped by a snowstorm. His two previous claims to fame are for bringing a private prosecution against NASA for allegedly faking material brought back from the moon, and for inspiring the 1978 film Capricorn One. This first rip-roaring novel with its heady blend of adventure and eroticism is a classic in the making.


Pride & PrejudicePride and Prejudice, originally entitled First Impressions, was first published in 1813. Perhaps the most popular of Jane Austen’s novels, she described it as ‘rather too light and bright, and sparkling’, needing some ‘solemn specious nonsense’ for contrast. It tells the sory of Elizabeth Bennet’s, who is one of five Bennet daughters, second in age only to the beautiful Jane. The Bennet estate is entailed on a male cousin, and although the girls are comfortable enough as long as their father lives, their long-term financial survival depends on their marrying. Elizabeth Bennet forms a continuing dislike of Fitzwilliam Darcy after he refuses to dance with her at a ball, although he is increasingly attracted to her. Elizabeth’s dislike is shared by the rake Wickham. Darcy eventually proposes but Elizabeth rudely rejects him. Wickham elopes with Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister, and Darcy’s help in finding them convinces Elizabeth that he is the man for her. This handsome new edition of the book features more than 150 delightful illustrations by the Victorian artist Hugh Thomson that make Austen’s clever comedy of manners even more enjoyable.


Malcolm Pryce was born in Shrewsbury, brought up in Aberystwyth and now lives in Bangkok. His first novel, Aberystwyth Mon Amour, was mostly written on a cargo ship bound for South America. His third and latest wonderfully imaginative book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth, again features Louie Knight, the only private dick in Aberystwyth. There was nothing unusual about the barrel-organ man who walked into Louie’s office. Apart from the fact that he had lost his memory. And his monkey was a former astronaut on the Welsh Space Programme. And he carried a suitcase that he was too terrified to open. And he wanted a murder investigated. The only thing unusual about that was that it took place a hundred years ago. And he needed it solved by the following week. Louie was too smart to take a case like that but also too broke to turn it down. Soon he is lost in a labyrinth of intrigue and terror, tormented at every turn by a gallery of mad nuns, gangsters and waifs - haunted by the loss of his girlfriend, Myfanwy, who disappeared one day after being fed drugged raspberry ripple. This hilarious and sometimes disturbing Welsh noir world is inhabited by people with names such as Rimbaud, Frankie Mephisto and Mrs prestatyn. You half expect a giant Monty Python foot to descend on Pryce’s unique vision of Aber. ‘One of the most inventively comic crime novels of recent years’ - Sunday Times.


Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of Russian history and society, War and Peace, was first published between 1865 and 1869 and tells the story of Russia during the Napoleonic era. This wide-ranging study of early 19th Century Russia contains much realistic detail as well as profound psychological analysis, making it indisputably one of the world’s great novels. A huge number of characters are involved in a plot that lives up to the book’s grand title and the novel sets out a theory of history, concluding that free choice is minimal and that life is ruled by an inexorable historical determinism. These profundities underlie a melodramatic story that is part soap opera and part passionate historical romance. Emotional lives are lived against a background of global warfare and uncertainty, and these stories and feelings are just as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago. If you have ever been daunted by the size and reputation of War and Peace, then Asa Briggs’ excellent new translation, even at 1,358 pages, should seduce you into reaching the end. The translator smoothes out previous anachronisms and reveals the amazingly contemporaneity of this wonderful book.


Canadian journalist turned novelist, Gil Courtemanche, based A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali on his experiences during the genocide in Rwanda of 1994, in which an estimated 800,000 people died. His fiction features several real life characters and a sequence of events leading to the carnage, silently witnessed by an international community unable to respond in time to stop the killings. The swimming pool of the Mille-Collines hotel is a magnet for a privileged group of Kigali residents: aid-workers, the Rwandan elite, soldiers, prostitutes and several expatriates. The waitress Gentille, a beautiful Hutu often mistaken for a Tutsi, begins a love affair with Valcourt, a Canadian journalist and film-maker, as civil unrest in the country makes its insidious, inevitable progress towards anarchy. This is a powerful, harrowing and cathartic denunciation of poverty, ignorance, global apathy and media blindness, as well as a poignant love story and a stirring hymn to humanity. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali has been translated into more than 15 languages and won the 2001 Prix des Libraires for outstanding book of the year. Reminiscent at times of Albert Camus and Graham Greene, this is a moving and brilliantly-written novel that deals with horror and death by celebrating compassion. ‘Do not expect it to leave you untouched’ - Jonathan Kaplan.


The American Floyd R. Horowitz has spent almost thirty years investigating 19th century periodicals such as the Newport Mercury, the Knickerbocker and Arthur’s Home Magazine in a quest to identify and resurrect short stories he wishes to attribute to Henry James. Professor Horowitz maintains that the young James used the pseudonym ‘Leslie Walter’ in order to get his stories published and produced many more anonymously. A certain amount of calculated guesswork, if not downright wishful thinking, has been used by Horowitz but he has also tested his hunches for Jamesian style and vocabulary using computing expertise. He eventually identified no less than 72 works that he claims are definitely by James and another 12 that are ‘probably’ by him. ‘The Pair of Slippers’ is the earliest of the 25 ascribed stories included here, written in 1852 when James would have been a mere nine years old. The last story, ‘A Hasty Marriage’, dates from 1869. It seems impossible now to be certain that any of them were actually written by the same hand that wrote The Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl (although the Horowitz explains his rigorous methods of attribution in an appendix). This intriguing collection should nevertheless interest both scholar and general reader, as there are flashes of Jamesian quality in some stories, and even the mediocre or plain sentimental ones help establish the great author in his cultural and social context.


We all need to know where we come from, where we belong. But for David and Nathalie, this need to know is more urgent than for most people, because they are adopted. Brought up by the same parents, but born to different mothers, they have grown up, fiercely loyal to one another, as brother and sister. Their decision, in their late thirties, to embark upon the journey to find their birth mothers is no straightforward matter. It affects, acutely and often painfully, their partners, the people they work with and, most poignantly, the two women who gave them up for adoption all those years ago, and who have since then made other lives, even borne other children. Exploring her subject with imagination and humanity, Joanna Trollope creates a rich narritive, at once gritty and graceful, exposing the extraordinary challenges that arise at the heart of ordinary lives. ‘She can be as subtle as Austen, as sharp as Bronte. Trollope’s brilliant’ - Fay Weldon. Brother & Sister is also available as a three-CD audio book (ISBN 074757216X), with the abridged text skilfully and intelligently read by Samantha Bond.


This new novella and four short stories make up Will Self’s first collection of stories in five years, and mark a stylish return to the rich ground of his earliest fiction. Shiva Mukti is a hardworking and conscientious psychiatrist, but when he encounters Zack Busner, a more successful and established colleague, it is his thwarted ambition that draws him into a bizarre duel. On the twenty-first storey of a half-abandoned tower block two men are forced into a peculiar and claustrophobic flat share. A premonitory dream solders together a family sundered apart ... or does it? In this and the other stories here Will Self writes with his usual sharp, satirical wit and imagination, making the tales both eminently enjoyable and elegantly disturbing. ‘Will Self is one of those rare writers whose imaginations change for ever the way we see the world’ - JG Ballard.


Newspaper journalist Finus Bates has loved chatty, elegant Birdie Wells ever since he saw her cartwheel naked through the woods near the backwater town of Mercury, Mississippi in 1917. This evocative and beautifully written debut novel chronicles Finus’s steadfast devotion against a background of Mercury’s evolution from a sleepy backwater to a small city. By focusing on this small community, Brad Watson tells a story of friendships, betrayals, tragedies and loves, suggesting that human nature, essentially, is beyond change. The writing is always compelling and the book has all the essential elements for a modern Southern Gothic novel. ‘This novel is graceful, patient, insightful and hilarious’ - USA Today.


In this latest adventure into amateur detection in Taviscombe, the Somerset seaside town’s veterinary practice is facing closure unless they can find a new partner to invest money in the business. Enter Malcolm Hardy; tall, good looking and rich enough to save the surgery. But soon he has offended most of the town, accusing a colleague of malpractice and installing his girlfriend as a veterinary assistant. As far as middle-aged academic Sheila Malory is concerned, there is nothing to like about the new vet. But despite his unpopularity it is still a shock when Hardy collapses and dies at the surgery. When the post-mortem reveals unnatural death, suspicion falls on his former colleagues. Could somebody at the practice be a killer? Or might Hardy have other enemies with murder in mind? Hazel Holt writes satisfying whodunits in the traditional style of Dorothy L. Sayers, with a cast of characters that grow as her entertaining series of books progress. ‘Hazel Holt understands the criminal mind’- Sunday Times.

[new classics]