Looking forward to 2012 books

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WITH Christmas nearly over and only gloomy January to look forward to, you could be forgiven for feeling slightly low.

But there is plenty to look forward to in the world of publishing in 2012.

Among the books I’m eagerly anticipating is Sebastian Faulks’s new novel, A Possible Life, which is currently due out in the autumn. I’ve read just about everything he has written and my favourites are Birdsong (read on long train journeys in my late teens) and Engleby, which is completely different to any of his other work.

I’m hoping the new book will be another departure from his last, A Week in December, which saw him use that trick which always makes it seem as though the author can’t find enough to write one complete story: writing six short stories about different people who somehow end up in the same room at the end.

It is only fair to point out, however, that Faulks did this in a much more skilled way than many of the other novellists who employ the tactic, whose books are usually pink and covered in glitter.

TWO authors to watch in the future are Michelle Paver and David Nicholls.

Paver’s novel Dark Matter was our review book for October to coincide with Halloween - and it was suitably chilling.

The tension built steadily throughout the novel, drawing you in and forcing you to abandon your scepticism of the supernatural as innate fears took over.

It plays on childhood fears, using the growing darkness of the Arctic and the diary format to bring an immediacy to the novel which left me genuinely scared.

If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to pick up a copy as soon as you can. It is the first supernatural thriller Paver has written and I hope she sticks with the genre in future work.

Nicholls, meanwhile, has been enjoying possibly the best year of his writing career - despite not publishing a book.

His novel One Day, which first hit the shelves in 2009, has been a bit of a sleeper hit, gaining a steady following until it was adapted into a film released this year starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed, also bringing further success for his first two novels, Starter for Ten and The Understudy.

If you haven’t read any of them yet, you definitely should. One Day is the more romantic of the three, but also has a strong story and beautifully crafted characters - and the film is surprisingly pretty good, considering how much adaptations usually desecrate novels.

Starter for Ten, meanwhile, is one of the funniest things I have ever read. Nicholls has an incredible ability to create characters who are very unlikeable, yet make you want them to succeed, and his debut novel will appeal to anyone who has ever felt slightly out of their depth in social situations or tried just a bit too hard to fit in.

Nicholls is currently working on his fourth book which has no publication date set as yet, but no doubt there will be many fans eagerly awaiting its appearance on the bookshelves.

THERE is already plenty of excitement about next year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Now in its 10th year, the weekend always draws some incredible names from the world of crime fiction and beyond - and next year is already promising a stellar line-up.

Programming chairman Mark Billingham has signed up Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo for the four-day festival and plenty more will be confirmed in the coming months.

Each year offers something new for crime fiction enthusiasts and the programme has expanded hugely since it first took place in 2003. For me, highlights this year included our annual short crime story competition, which challenges aspiring writers to complete a story in 300 words using an introduction from a top author.

I also enjoyed this year’s Big Read, which was The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. It breaks one of the fundamental rules of thrillers by revealing immediately “whodunnit” but the main character is so skilfully developed and the story so cleverly woven that it is gripping right to the final page.

ONE final recommendation from this year’s reading is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

An oversight in my literary education meant I was made to pull Ted Hughes’s poems and John Steinbeck’s novels to pieces as a teenager, rather than reading classics for enjoyment.

But I am trying to make up for it now and am currently deep in the pages of this 1938 story, which is a very happy place to be. If, like me, you feel you have not read enough “must-read” novels, start with this one; it’s wonderful.