So often, debut novels don’t have a lot of momentum going into publication. Not so “Landfalls” by Naomi J. Williams of Davis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 336 pages).
For one thing, it won a UC Davis Maurice Prize in Fiction two years ago (endowed by best-selling novelist John Lescroart of Davis). For another, the book was long-listed by the venerable Center For Fiction’s prize for first novel and received outstanding reviews in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Booklist magazines.
The story itself is a reimagining of the Lapérouse Expedition of 1785, when 200 men aboard two ships left France on a scientific quest to circumnavigate the globe (with stops in San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay). They met with high adventure, triumph and tragedy.
“Its a pretty unconventional novel of the sea,” Williams said by phone. “Sure, it’s got ships and sailors and far-flung settings, but it’s pretty light on specialized terminology. Even readers who don’t consider themselves fans of nautical fiction enjoy it. My primary interest is in the characters, and their relationships with each other.”
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Wine For Words is a fair trade
If you’re a fan of Western history, Karen Kondazian’s fact-based novel “The Whip” could be on your reading list. It’s the award-winning reimagined biography of stagecoach driver Charley Parkhurst, who was actually Charlotte Parkhurst. Living as a man, Parkhurst became a well-known stagecoach driver, traveling routes for 30 years in mid-1800s Northern California, including the Sacramento to Placerville run.
Kondazian is the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Wine For Words fundraiser for the Placerville Main Library, 4 p.m. Sunday at the library, 345 Fair Lane. A wine and beer tasting will be followed by a buffet dinner, raffle, and silent and live auctions. Tickets are $50 at the Placerville Main, Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills libraries. Information: 530-621-5540, www.eldoradolibrary.org.
Ready To Read
Todd Borg lives at one of the world’s great destinations – Lake Tahoe – and writes about the adventures of his P.I. character, former SFPD homicide inspector Owen McKenna, who also lives on the lake (of course). In the 13th title of the series, “Tahoe Blue Fire,” McKenna must stop a killer whose sights are set on a valuable artifact from Renaissance Italy, and no one will stand in his way (Thriller Press, $17, 351 pages). For a list of Borg’s upcoming book signings, visit www.toddborg.com.