New books by local authors Dana Cann, Michelle Brafman, Del Quentin Wilber and Sarah Pekkanen
Bethesda resident Dana Cann works for the federal government by day and is a fiction writer by night—and many early mornings. After refining his craft at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and in a master’s program at Johns Hopkins University, Cann saw his first novel, Ghosts of Bergen County (Tin House Books, April 2016), published. The mystery with supernatural elements follows a young New Jersey couple that’s struggling mightily—one with heroin, the other with depression—after the accidental death of their infant daughter. “The story is about grief, and finding a way out of grief,” Cann says.
Bertrand Court (Prospect Park Books, 2016) wasn’t written in the traditional novel format, but it isn’t a collection of short stories either. “It’s a novel in stories,” Glen Echo resident and author Michelle Brafman says of her book, which was scheduled for release in September. The book’s 17 chapters explore the experiences of individuals whose lives are interwoven on a cul-de-sac in a Washington, D.C., suburb. (Yes, it is very much rooted in this area, full of local references.) “We are all connected to one another in various ways. Even in our worst and our best moments, those connections matter. Community matters,” Brafman says.
Del Quentin Wilber says he has always been fascinated by police and detective work. For his new nonfiction book, A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad (Henry Holt and Company, June 2016), the Bethesda resident spent six months embedded with the homicide unit in Prince George’s County. Wilber focused on the events of February 2013, a particularly intense month in which police were involved in three shootings and 12 people were homicide victims. “There is no more consequential job in law enforcement than speaking for the dead,” says Wilber, who has been a reporter at The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun and now covers the justice department for the Los Angeles Times.
All of Sarah Pekkanen’s novels are about contemporary women and their challenges. But her seventh, The Perfect Neighbors (Washington Square Press, July 2016), is her first thriller mystery, and Pekkanen says it’s her favorite. “It’s more secret filled and a bit more torrid,” says the Chevy Chase resident. The book tells the story of four women—neighbors who are each hiding something while trying to maintain their image and status. Pekkanen, who has been producing a book per year, wrote the first half of this one in just a month. “That felt amazing,” she says. “For whatever reason, it just came out really, really quickly. And most of those pages made it in the final version.”