Rounding out the trio of literary lions publishing this year is Lee Smith, a Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction recipient and native of Appalachia. She’s best known for “Oral History” (1983), a multi-generational story set in the mountains of Virginia, and “Fair and Tender Ladies” (1988), an epistolary novel about a tenacious mountain woman.
Her latest is “Silver Alert” (Algonquin, April 18), a playful romp about a senior citizen named Herb who takes off with his ailing wife’s cheerful manicurist for one last joy ride in his Porsche, prompting his children to issue a Silver Alert for his safe capture.
Unfortunately, those three books don’t come out until April. So, for something more immediate, consider “Night Wherever We Go” (Ecco, Jan. 3), a literary debut by Tracey Rose Peyton about six enslaved women who conspire to thwart their plantation owner’s plans to impregnate them. Or Nyani Nkrumah’s debut “Wade in the Water” (HarperCollins, Jan. 17). Set in rural Mississippi in 1982, it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Black girl and a mysterious white woman from Princeton who’s harboring secrets.
Expectations are high for De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s follow-up to his 2019 debut “In West Mills” (2019), a highly lauded family saga set in the small town of West Mills, North Carolina. “Decent People” (Bloomsbury, Jan. 17) returns to the mill town where a canal defines the community’s color line. It’s 1976 and a Black pediatrician and her two siblings have been found shot to death. When the police show little interest in finding the murderer, Jo Wright, who’s returned to town to marry her childhood sweetheart, sets out to solve the case when she discovers her fiancé is the prime suspect among townsfolk.
And for history buffs, Peter Cozzens does a deep dive on the Creek War of 1813-14 with “A Brutal Reckoning” (Penguin Random House, April 25). The former U.S. Foreign Service officer who’s published numerous books on the Civil War and the American Indian Wars examines the early ambitions of a young Andrew Jackson and the ruthless war he waged on the Creeks over control of the American South. It promises to be a sobering survey of a shameful past that warrants a closer look.
Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.