Dear Author, Where Art Thou?

Keeping track of all the books published each year, in a myriad of genres and by a seemingly endless parade of new (often dazzlingly wonderful) authors, can be daunting. Even when it's part of your job. Every now and then, I get that panicky feeling ... what ever happened to "so and so"? That favorite author whom I've not heard from in a while. Often, an agonizingly long while.

Below is a random list of writers I adore and whose next literary gem I anxiously await, worried that they've decided to embark on a new line of work ...

Antonia Fraser: One of the most engaging historians writing today, she established her reputation chronicling Britain's glorious yesteryear, not to mention the rollicking lives and social mores of its many monarchs and highly structured peerage. Her biography "Marie Antoinette" read like a finely crafted novel, which may help explain why it was chosen to be the inspiration behind Sophia Coppola's film of the same name. Her last book, circa 2006, focused on the love life of the Sun King, Louis XIV. I most miss her Jemima Shore mysteries, which were always charming and elegantly written, and it's frustrating that a new one hasn't been published in the States in more than a decade. A guilty pleasure if there ever was one.

Stephen McCauley: I've always been drawn to McCauley's protagonists, gay men who tend to be self-deprecating (sometimes to a fault), introspective and searching for a happy ending, which often come about in unexpected ways. The journey, though, is always worth the emotional rollercoaster you're required to board, and you might find you learn a bit about yourself to boot. Very insightful. My favorite novels are his earliest, "The Object of My Affection" (a much better book than movie, despite how appealing Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd were in the lead roles) and "The Easy Way Out." The span between novels is far too long to suit me, though I've heard McCauley is not overly fond of book tours and the like, so that might explain it a bit. I greet each new book with a giddy air and the fervent hope that it is even better than my McCauley faves, but even if it falls short, it still makes an impression.

Patricia O'Toole: Her Gilded Age panorama, "The Five of Hearts: An Initmate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918, was a delight, and
then mysterioulsy went out of print for years, though it was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. Thankfully, with the success of her later biography of Teddy Roosevelt, and another intriguing social study, "Money & Morals in America," the book was reissued in a handsome paperback to match the paperback editions of those later works. When will that next terrific book arrive?

Nick Bantock: Not just a marvelous writer, but an accomplished book maker and artist as well. "Griffin & Sabine," his ingenious book of correspondence between a lonely designer in London and a mysterious stranger somewhere in the South Pacific, was captivating -- and unique. The book was told via exquisitely designed postcards that you could pull from enevlopes and turn over and examine. As though you were somehow privy to this private conversation. The book became somethig of a phenomenom, and almost single-handedly forged a new genre of interactive books with removable items and keepsakes. The word-of-mouth praise from independent booksellers catapulted it into bestsellerdom, and led to two sequels. The books that followed were still interesting and fun to read, but never quite matched the allure of that first trio. But I still yearn for another stunning work.

Audrey Niffenegger: Time travel? That, or rather "chrono-displacement disorder," is the crux of Niffenegger's delightful, hefty and engrossing novel "The Time Traveler's Wife." Henry and Clare, a respectable Chicago couple, wrestle with a mind-boggling conundrum: Henry has a habit of simply disappearing, traveling through time with no warning and no idea of where he'll end up. The concept is offbeat, but handled so very well in this story that alternates between Henry and Clara's point of view, examining the toll it takes on them both, and the unique opportunity it affords for self-discovery. This, too, was a novel that owes it success to the independent bookselling community, whose high praise helped it find a broad audience and reach bestsller lists nationwide. It's original publisher, MacAdam/Cage, is facing an uncertain future, alas, but I'm grateful for their discovery. Niffenegger has created several illustrated books since, but I'm still hoping for a new whimisical, substantial, can't-put-it-down story. Maybe this year ...

Surely you all have a list of such authors, writers you want to track down, knock at their door and ask just when is that next masterpiece hitting bookstores. Let us know who they are. I was thrilled to find that one of mine (who was initially on the rough draft of this list) has a new book due out in May -- Iaian Pears, whose series of art mysteries are a thrill, and whose stand alone works, such as "An Instance of the Fingerpost," always astound.

By Christopher Schoppa |  January 15, 2009; 10:42 AM ET
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I am also eagerly awaiting Audrey Niffenegger's new book. What about Nicole Krauss-I couldn't put down History of Love-so I keep looking for her next novel as well.

Posted by: dclibrarian | January 15, 2009 12:30 PM

I realize that eleven years elapsed between John Berendt's first book (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,1994) and second (City of Falling Angels, 2005), and therefore it is wishful thinking to hope a third would show up imminently, but I wish it would. I read a UK interview online in which Bill Bryson said he was taking a break from writing. Darn. I second Nick Bancock. I look forward to the next Tony Horwitz, too. Two authors whose books I enjoyed in the past year or two are William Alexander (The $64 Tomato) and Bonny Wolf (Talking With My Mouth Full)--I think these were first books for both and I hope they are not done publishing.

Posted by: cebeling | January 16, 2009 8:48 AM

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