Over six decades, Elmore Leonard has turned out more than 40 books — that's more than enough novels, short stories and movie scripts to figure out what works on the page and on the screen, and to build a wide following. He introduced U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens — a smart, emotionally complex working-class hero — in the short story "Fire In The Hole." Today, Givens has his own acclaimed TV series on FX called Justified. Leonard's early 2012 novel, Raylan, is the third book-length adventure to focus on Givens. Set in the marshal's home turf of Harlan County, Ky., it reads more like a series of interconnected stories than a full-fledged novel, according to Publishers Weekly.
"The very first thing you notice about Ellen Ullman's new novel, By Blood, is that its narrator is overwrought, practically hysterical and talks like Vincent Price at a retirement party," writes NPR book critic Minna Proctor. While on mandated leave from his job as a professor, the narrator moves to an office with a paper-thin wall shared by a psychologist and a young patient with whom the narrator becomes obsessed. As he eavesdrops, his prurient interest is sparked by the patient's lesbianism, and turns personal as he finds ways to comment on her struggles with her mysterious origins as an adopted person. In the end, Proctor declares, the story is "irresistible — twisty-turny, insightful, revelatory — funny when it's tragic, and complicated when it's funny."
In Thomas Caplan's third work of fiction, The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen, hero Ty Hunter is in his second career as a movie star. That's after his first career undertaking top-secret Navy SEAL sorts of adventures, to which the now-president asks him to return, as a secret agent investigating sales of supposedly decommissioned nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. As it happens, Caplan was once college roommates with Bill Clinton. "When I showed President Clinton the early draft, the first thing he said to me was, 'Who told you all this about nuclear weapons?'" he tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "I said no one really. I just read all the available books and chatted to people ... And he said, 'Well, it's completely right.'"
The famous prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, became a source of unlikely inspiration for debut novelist Alex Gilvarry. His dark first novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, follows an aspiring fashion designer named Boy from his home in the Philippines to New York. When one of the people who fund his fashion label ends up implicating him in a terrorist plot, he becomes the first man arrested on U.S. soil to be captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay. As Gilvarry tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "he's a very damaged individual by the end, yet he is still sort of in love with America, and in particular New York City. It was a dream for him being here, so he has very complex feelings about this country. And he prevails."
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.