Big Maria by Johnny Shaw - How can a novel set in Arizona, one of the most desperate places in the U.S.A., be so much fun? Shaw’s dialogue, characterization and storytelling verve make you feel less like you’re reading a novel than taking part in a doomed adventure with hilarious, dangerous reprobate friends.
Murder Mile by Tony Black - I haven’t read everything by Tony Black, but I intend to. If you want to know why he’s talked about so much in the darker regions of the Scottish - and, more and more, American - crime fiction underground, read this grim police procedural. Its protagonist is so harmed and haunted that his criminal adversaries seem almost cosy in comparison.
The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata - Kawabata is easily my all-time favorite non-English-language novelist, but for some reason I missed this book until recently. I’m now on my second reading of it, and expect to read it a third time when I finish. Simultaneously dreamlike and realistic, this tale of sexual tensions within a family, and the coming together of the relative and the absolute in the life of the elderly protagonist, might be Kawabata’s best.