Although I closely monitor and consume all new offerings from John Grisham, John Sandford, and Michael Connelly, I like to break from well-established novelists and read new writers.
So wayfaring in 2014, I discovered the writings of Kevin Wilson, author of the novels The Family Fang, Perfect Little World, Nothing to See Here, and dozens of short stories. Later, I had the privilege of chatting with him about his work in one of two (yes, two!) podcasts The Family Farce produced that year. Similar efforts led to my conversation (second of two! We were content beasts!) with Adam Mansbach, author of the uncensored children’s book Go the Fuck to Sleep and the novel The Dead Run, among others.
Following that same tack, looking to revive my chats with authors, I tried to perform a Google search for “best debut novelists of 2020,” but I mistyped and instead searched, “best debut novelists of 1020.” Not sure any of these authors will be around to chat with me in podcast form, and records are sketchy (read: minimal research performed), but here are some of the books likely to have been on offer in the evanescent year of 1020.
Laws of England: the complete codification, by Canute the Great, King of England
Summary: Modern times call for modern laws. We cannot live in a society where the rule of law is subject to interpretation in the moment. We must have a written standard, a source of truth to which all minds can look for guidance. Also, we ordered a surplus of quills and ink wells, and I’ll be damned if I let those gather dust only to become some pretentious party girl’s centerpieces at her wedding reception 1,000 years from now.
How to Invade Your Neighbor: a guide to conquest in your spare time, by Italian Emperor Henry II
Summary: You cannot always eat the pasta. You must sometimes set down your fork, allow your spaghetti to unspool, and drive your fork into the throat of your enemy. If that enemy is your neighbor to the south, so be it. Once you are done, taking over his territory for crimes such as being too liberal with the spices to which he affixes the description Italian Seasoning, you may return to your pasta.
Thrones and Scones: a guide to securing territory and enjoying a Danish or two, by Canute the Great, King of England
Summary: I like to start my weekends with a successful privy purging and then proceed to selecting my morning pastry, but when the Danes are threatening to spill the contents of said privy, fouling the aromatic enjoyment of my pastry, ruining that evening’s dinner and desert, I’m forced instead to trade my house clothes for armor. Should you be similarly forced to surrender your pastry enjoyment time for warfare, this book will guide you on the most efficient means by which to accomplish your military objectives and return home before the crusts on your scones gets too dry.
PGB Is Alright with Me: a guide to turning porridge, gruel, and bread into various treats to suit the fussiest palate, by Father Godwin, Master Griddler
Summary: So you’re poor. So you’re infirmed. So you have access only to the most basic cereal grains. So what. There’s more creativity available to you than you realize. You won’t be able to read this because you’re most likely also illiterate, but get a clergyman to do so for you. I guarantee you’ll bring a fresh take to your daily grueling schedule (see what I did there?) and increase your chances of living to the ripe old age of 30.
So You Want to Slay a Dragon, by Beowulf, pseudonymous writer of Beowulf
Summary: Stranger than fiction, they say. A great story, they say. Burned in a fire, they say. I am Beowulf. I am a time-traveler. I say my story is real, and dragons exist, swooping and passing shadows over all of us. If you want the right to return to the light, and have some damned fine BBQ, read my book.
That last title sounds the most interesting. Who wouldn’t want to be a time-traveling, dragon-slaying hero? Then again, Emperor Henry II’s fork-killing method has a very John Wick vibe to it.
If he talks about quills to the neck, I am sold.