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Tiller Press, £18.99, pp240
“I’d rather be beat in the face with a donkey penis than watch this film!” Test screenings of new films are Hollywood’s method of turning cinematic lead into money-making gold. Focus group head Kevin Goetz’s hugely readable, if self-aggrandising, account of the process reveals how haphazard it can be. For every film saved by last-minute intervention, there are others ruined by unhelpful feedback from “ordinary” audiences, but Goetz mixes insightful anecdotes with would-be inspirational stories that offer insight into how desperate a multibillion-dollar industry can be.
Corsair, £20, pp400
The Pulitzer prize-winning novelist returns with a new book that takes a wry delight in upending the reader’s expectations. At first, it appears to be a comic novel revolving around the hapless ex-con Tookie, before metamorphosing into a quirky ghost story set in a bookshop. But then Erdrich broadens and deepens the narrative to encompass everything from George Floyd’s murder to Covid’s socially destructive effects. It might be overambitious, but it’s a fascinating and unorthodox exercise in metaphysical fiction.
Abacus, £8.99, pp344 (paperback)
Anthony Quinn’s latest impressive novel elegantly depicts a city and an era – the London of the late 1970s – on the verge of seismic change. An impresario named Freddie Selves (a thinly disguised Peter Hall) is about to launch the National Music Hall; a journalist chases a barely believable story; a Northern Irish academic finds himself the victim of mistaken identity; and a policewoman learns her colleagues might be corrupt. Somehow their fates will all be intertwined in a book full of suspense and wry social commentary.