Book’ Em
Pick up these inventive new novels from local authors and publishers.
by Bill Donahue

We realize it’s much too soon (and just a little too chilly) to talk about great beach reads, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some fine books from local authors and publishers that deserve a home on your nightstand. Here are a few newly published novels you’ll want to pick up. 

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan (LAKE UNION PUBLISHING). The writer’s last name may remind you of a certain restaurant critic for a certain Philadelphia newspaper. While the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan has made a name for himself as the Greater Philadelphia Area’s premier judge and jury of local dining establishments, his wife, Elizabeth LaBan, has made quite a name for herself as a fiction writer. (See the fittingly titled The Restaurant Critic’s Wife.) In Not Perfect, LaBan introduces readers to a far-fromperfect female protagonist who’s struggling to keep it together—and keep a lid on an explosive secret—as her world crumbles around her. 

Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow  (QUIRK BOOKS). For those of us who talk to our cat or dog in much the same way we would speak to our best friend or next-door neighbor, there’s Manfried the Man. Published by Philadelphia’s aptly named Quirk Books, this witty graphic novel is the first in a series based on a popular web-based comic strip from Caitlin Major (the writer) and Kelly Bastow (the illustrator). Together, the duo takes readers on an  absurdly funny romp through a world run by humanoid felines who keep small humans as their pets. In this role-reversed world, human-pets walk across their masters’ keyboards while the felines are trying to work, for example. Anyone who loves their pets as much as (or more than) they do other humans will happily read it cover to cover. Of note, the Manfried team will be making an appearance at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art on May 16.  

Man with Two Faces by Don Swaim (MONTAG PRESS). It would be tough for Bucks County’s Don Swaim to match the inventiveness of his last book, The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story, but he very well may have outdone himself with Man with Two Faces, his latest. The story revolves around a Depression-era renaissance man named Tokol Tokoloshe: rumrunner, diamond thief and soldier of fortune, among other designations. Throughout this jaunt through a bygone America, our hero—“Tokee,” as he’s known to his blowgun-wielding sweetheart, Diana—battles a league of villains, such as Nazis, mobsters and his own amorous appetites. The pages are filled with memorable characters—there’s even a king cobra named Kyle—and marked by crisp, clever prose from start to finish. Swaim aims to entertain, and he certainly delivers with this one.

Side by Side: A Novel of Bonnie and Clyde by Jenni L. Walsh (MACMILLAN FORGE BOOKS). Pottstown-born Jenni L. Walsh presents this forthcoming work of historical fiction about two of America’s most notorious outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow—otherwise known as Bonnie and Clyde. A follow-up to Walsh’s debut novel, Becoming Bonnie, Side by Side delves into the deep connection between two people who pine for a life they can’t quite seem to attain. A few misguided decisions lead them down a path from which they cannot veer, but no matter what happens, they’ll face the consequences together. On Saturday, June 9, Walsh will be discussing and signing copies of the book at Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton.  


Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, April 2018.