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Eli Cranor. Don't Know Tough (Soho Press, $24.95 Signed).
WINNER OF THE PETER LOVESEY FIRST CRIME NOVEL CONTEST
Friday Night Lights gone dark with Southern Gothic; Eli Cranor delivers a powerful noir that will appeal to fans of Wiley Cash and Megan Abbott.
In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his unstable mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.
Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.
Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.
Eli Cranor played quarterback at every level: peewee to professional, and then coached high school football for five years. These days, he's traded in the pigskin for a laptop, writing from Arkansas where he lives with his wife and kids.
Eli's novel Don't Know Tough was awarded the Peter Lovesey First Crime Novel Contest. The New York Times called the novel "one of the best debuts of 2022," while USA Today labeled it one of the "Best Books of the Year."
Along with fiction, Eli writes a nationally-syndicated sports column, and his craft column, "Shop Talk," appears monthly over at CrimeReads. Eli is currently at work on his next novel, Ozark Dogs, which will be published by Soho Crime in 2023.
John Vercher. After the Lights Go Out (Soho Press, $26.00).
A harrowing and spellbinding story about family, the complications of mixed-race relationships, misplaced loyalties, and the price athletes pay to entertain—from the critically acclaimed author of Three-Fifths
Xavier “Scarecrow” Wallace, a mixed-race MMA fighter on the wrong side of thirty, is facing the fight of his life. Xavier can no longer deny he is losing his battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or pugilistic dementia. Through the fog of memory loss, migraines, and paranoia, Xavier does his best to stay in shape by training at the Philadelphia gym owned by his cousin-cum-manager, Shot, a retired champion boxer to whom Xavier owes an unpayable debt.
Xavier makes ends meet while he waits for the call that will reinstate him after a year-long suspension by teaching youth classes at Shot’s gym and by living rent-free in the house of his white father, whom Xavier was forced to commit to a nursing home. The progress of Sam Wallace’s end-stage Alzheimer’s has revealed his latent racism, and Xavier finally gains insight into why his Black mother left the family years ago.
Then Xavier is offered a chance at redemption: a last-minute high-profile comeback fight. If he can get himself back in the game, he’ll be able to clear his name and begin to pay off Shot. With his memory in shreds and his life crumbling around him, can Xavier hold on to the focus he needs to survive? John Vercher, author of the Edgar and Anthony Award–nominated Three-Fifths, offers a gripping, psychologically astute, and explosive tour de force about race, entertainment, and healthcare in America, and about one man’s battle against himself.
John Vercher lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and two sons. He holds a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Mountainview Master of Fine Arts program, and served as an adjunct faculty member at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. In 2022, he will serve as visiting faculty at Randolph College’s low-residency MFA program in Lynchburg, Virginia.
John has written for Cognoscenti, the thoughts and opinions page of WBUR Boston. Two of his essays published on race, identity, and parenting were picked up by NPR, and he has appeared on WBUR’s Weekend Edition. His non-fiction work has also appeared in Entropy Magazine, CrimeReads, and Booklist.
John’s debut novel, Three-Fifths, was named one of the best books of 2019 by the Chicago Tribune. In the U.K., Three-Fifths was named a Book of the Year by The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, and The Guardian.
Rights to Three-Fifths have been sold in France, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Mainland China, and the U.K.
In 2021, Three-Fifths was added to the curriculum of the course “Crime in American Film & Literature” at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. In addition, Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut added Three-Fifths to their curated collection of titles for their 2021 town-wide reading program.
His second novel, After the Lights Go Out, was published by Soho Press on June 7, 2022. French and U.K. rights have also been sold.