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Full disclosure: I’m in the bag for Christopher Moore.

From the first time I read one of his books – my entry point was, as it was for so many others, the exquisite 2002 novel “Lamb” – I knew that this was an author who would resonate with me. Wildly funny, incredibly smart and unapologetically crass, Moore’s work clicked with me in a way that few authors ever had or ever would.

Seriously – think about how rare it is for a book to make you genuinely laugh out loud multiple times in the course of reading it. Moore does that for me EVERY TIME. His work is funny and weird with an at-times shockingly sharp satiric edge.

The tradition continues with “Razzmatazz” (William Morrow, $28.99), a sequel to 2018’s “Noir.” These books both celebrate and deconstruct the trope of the hard-boiled detective, starring a gentleman who consistently finds himself stumbling into situations that are both far beyond his ken and yet somehow suited to his particular set of skills.

It’s a madcap romp through post-WWII San Francisco, a comedic adventure wherein Moore explores the fundamental absurdities of the human condition. The real(ish) and surreal are practically interchangeable here, with ridiculous characters dealing with both the actions of their fellow man and influences that are far beyond mere humanity.

It gets weird, is what I’m saying.

Oh, and mixed in with all the lunacy is a surprising depth of detail regarding that particular time and place. Moore takes plenty of liberties, but the fundamental truth is there. They say you have to learn the rules to break them; well, Moore learned the landscape so he could alter it.

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Chris Bohjalian can write just about anything.

There are relatively few writers in the realm of popular fiction who possess the range that Bohjalian has brought to his oeuvre over the past few decades. His depth of research results in books that, no matter their subject, make for compelling and propulsive reads.

His latest is “The Lioness” (Doubleday, $28), a midcentury story revolving around a Hollywood movie star who embarks on an African safari for her honeymoon, bringing friends and professional associates along for the ride. However, when the adventure takes a deadly turn, the group is left facing dangers both animal and human … and not everyone will escape with their life.

Told via a constantly shifting perspective, with each chapter moving to the point of view of a different character, “The Lioness” uses the vagaries of Hollywood culture and the brutal beauty of the Serengeti to explore the meaning of perception – how we are viewed by others and, crucially, how we view ourselves.

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My affinity for the written word is no secret. I’ve been reviewing books in these pages for coming up on 15 years now, and I was a voracious reader even before it became part of my job.

I have my favorites, of course – who doesn’t? Anyone who spends significant time turning pages has authors whose work they find particularly appealing. And it’s always exciting when one of your favorites has a new book coming out.

But there’s something even more exciting than that – when TWO of your favorites EACH have a new book coming out.

Such is the case for me here in mid-May, when two authors whose work I very much enjoy have new novels dropping within a week of one another.

On May 10, Chris Bohjalian’s newest book “The Lioness” was published by Doubleday. It’s a sharp and propulsive work of historical fiction revolving around mid-century Hollywood types and a safari gone horribly wrong, with each chapter moving from character perspective to character perspective and featuring Bohjalian’s trademark meticulousness of research. It’s a real adventure of a read.

On May 17, literary clown prince Christopher Moore’s latest “Razzmatazz” dropped courtesy of William Morrow. A sequel to Moore’s excellent 2018 novel “Noir,” this one is also set in the past – post-WWII San Francisco, where we get to enjoy the continuing adventures of Sammy Tiffin, bartender and reluctant hero, as he tries to solve a mystery and save himself and his friends. Weird and laugh-out-loud funny.

(Our full reviews of "The Lioness" and "Razzmatazz" are available.)

Now, this isn’t the first time that I’ve had two authors I admire release works so close together. So what makes this instance so special – special enough that I’ve chosen to make it our cover story for this week?

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The Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance has announced the list of finalists for the 2022 Maine Literary Awards.

This list – derived from over 400 submissions – consists of the work of Maine authors, either full-time or part-time seasonal residents. The winners will be announced at a ceremony held at 7 p.m. on May 24 at SPACE in Portland. For more information about the ceremony, visit www.mainewriters.org.

As always, the MLA lineup is an impressive one, packed with some of the very best writers the state has to offer. Have a look at the list and see for yourself – with this wide a range, there’s bound to be something here for you.

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As with most genre tropes, I’m a fan of time loops provided the execution is there. If the writer is lazy or uninspired, the loops quickly lose their luster, fading into a spiral of repetition that leaves us bored and disinterested.

But if the writer comes in hot, with thoughtful ideas and narrative clarity, the time loop can be a powerful storytelling weapon, providing an altogether different (but no less effective) path to character development.

Adrienne Celt comes in hot.

Her new book is “End of the World House” (Simon & Schuster, $27.99), a taut and tightly-told tale of one woman’s journey through the same day over and over again – a journey that leaves her entangled in mystery even as her memories begin to bleed together. The fact that the day in question just happens to be one where she has access to a private tour of the Louvre is just icing on the proverbial cake.

(In case you haven’t worked it out yet, the title of this review translates roughly as “Groundhog Day at the Louvre.” I frankly don’t care if you’re amused or not, because I am delighted with myself.)

This is a story that takes place in a world where the end is looming, where everything exists in a state of perpetual precariousness. And our heroine Bertie is left to navigate this world with companions who may or may not actually be there with her, a messy mélange of memory that leaves her questioning not just the reality of the present, but the truth of the past.

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A celebration of independent bookstores is back again!

Independent Bookstore Day (or Indie Bookstore Day, if you like) began life in 2014 as California Bookstore Day before expanding into a more nationally-oriented event the following year.

IBD lands on the last Saturday in April – it’s April 30 this year. It’s a time when many bookstores will feature special items, author signings and other events as they participate in the festivities and embrace the joys of the indie bookseller. You can find out more at www.indiebookstoreday.com.

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Full disclosure: I love puzzles.

Specifically, I love crossword puzzles. As a bit of a word nerd, I love the process of working my way through a crossword, bringing together bits of trivia and deft wordplay to steadily fill in that black and white grid. I am a cruciverbalist at heart.

But puzzling is far more than just crossword puzzles. The world is filled with different sorts of puzzles – riddles and ciphers, cryptics and jigsaws and Rubik’s Cubes, chess problems and Sudoku grids – all with enthusiastic fans devoting their free time to discerning solutions.

A.J Jacobs loves puzzles too. So much so, in fact that he has written a whole book about them and the people who love them.

“The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life” (Crown, $28) is a fascinating journey through the puzzling world, a look at the many different varieties of puzzle and the people whose lives are shaped by them. All of it viewed through the eyes of one very dedicated – and very talented – chronicler.

Jacobs connects with iconic figures from the puzzling realm. He travels the globe, meeting legendary puzzlemakers and competing against some of the most gifted solvers in the world. And he digs into what it means to solve a puzzle, why we as humans are so fascinated with pushing ourselves toward difficult solutions, deriving pleasure from the intellectual pain.

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Great fiction is born not just of the story itself, but the manner in which the story is told. It sounds simple, but from simplicity springs truth.

Narratives that are built around a central conceit while spinning out multiple perspectives, for instance – tricky business. When done well, they can result in absolutely mesmerizing literature. When done poorly, well … we’ve all seen what happens when the spinning plates begin to tumble from their poles.

Jennifer Egan’s new novel “The Candy House” (Scribner, $28) very much occupies the former space, a hypnotic decades-spanning tale reflecting the juxtaposed light-and-dark possibilities looming in our very near future. There is no crashing literary dishware here. Instead, we get a sweeping epic rooted in the potential (and potential ramifications) that comes with the logical endstages of our societal tendency toward the sharing of experience and memory.

All of it, by the way, conveyed through a series of interconnected stylistically diverse vignettes that run the gamut – some are more traditional narrative constructions, while others veer into the abstract and/or absurd. We have email exchanges and second-person instructions, stories of tech billionaires and music producers and unsettled housewives, with the overarching tale playing out over multiple generations and venturing from our more-or-less present into an all-to-plausible future.

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There’s no such thing as normal. All it takes is a little scratching at the veneer of the mundane to reveal the much stranger reality that surrounds us.

That effort to dig down into the bizarre – even when the bizarre isn’t buried all that deeply – can often result in marvelously strange stories. When weird fiction blurs those lines, giving the everyday that ever-so-slight tilt that sends it careening off into the shadows, it usually proves to be a rewarding reading experience.

And when the writer is also someone with a genuine gift for craft, well … that’s when you get something like Kate Folk’s “Out There” (Random House, $27).

This collection of 15 stories offers up precisely the sorts of funhouse reflections that you hope to find when digging into fiction that blends the literary and the speculative. Folk delves into the darkness that comes from our shared need for (and failure to find) connection. Perhaps we seek to connect with family or a lover. Perhaps we want to connect with an institution or an idea or maybe – simply – ourselves. Those quests can be bleak – particularly when they lead us down paths we aren’t prepared to traverse.

(Oh, and just for the record – all 15 of these stories are absolute bangers. Usually in these sorts of single-author story collections, you’ll find one or two that don’t resonate in quite the same way. Decidedly not the case here – “Out There” is top to bottom gold.)

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The collision of worlds can provide rich fodder for storytelling. Not in the literal sense, of course (although plenty of excellent speculative fiction has sprung from just such a scenario), but rather finding new ways to combine contexts in the service of a compelling tale.

Take “Secret Identity” (Flatiron Books, $28.99), the new novel from Alex Segura. It’s a mystery with noir elements, only set in the world of comic book publishing in the mid-1970s. It might sound strange, but these oddly shaped pieces have been fit together to form something altogether different, a story both of and beyond its parts.

Fast-paced and quick-witted, it’s a novel that takes full advantage of its disparate elements, finding room for moments seedy and sublime alike as it takes the reader on a twisting and thoughtful ride.

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