I have a substantial pile of books here which deserve at least a mention, so let's see if we can deal with a few. Some of these books I've read all the way through, others I've just dipped into. But all are good of their kind and will surely be exactly what someone, somewhere, is looking for.
Simon Haynes: Hal Spacejock
Humorous science fiction is not all that common, though you can, of course, find it, notably on television: Red Dwarf et cetera. There's also Douglas Adams; and both Google and Yahoo directories offer you leads to various places.
Anyway, that's what Hal Spacejock is: it's science fiction with laughs. Hal is an incompetent, accident prone space-ship pilot, and his adventures (published in Australia) have attracted enthusiastic reviews. More info on Hal's own web site.
From said web site, I learn that there are now three Hal Spacejock books, and the author is planning fifteen. You will also find, if you explore the site, that Simon Haynes has a lot of advice to offer to writers who are trying to make their way in this hard, cruel world. See, for instance, his take on self-publishing.
Christopher G. Moore: Gambling on Magic
The world is flat, as has been observed, and nowadays you are quite likely to get Japanese writers operating out of France, and French writers doing nicely in Japan. Christopher G. Moore is a Canadian writer whose adopted country is Thailand.
Moore has so far produced 17 novels and a collection of short stories, and he has something of cult status in Asia; he has also attracted approval from the likes of Gore Vidal.
Moore, it seems to me, is a thriller writer with literary overtones or a literary writer who deals with crime. Certainly Gambling on Magic has a foot in both the crime and literary genres.
And, just to complete the point I made about the world being flat, Moore's Vincent Calvino private-eye series is doing very well in Germany.
Jeanette Winterson: The Passion
The Passion was, I think, Jeanette Winterson's third book. Ms Winterson is, of course, known as a literary writer: her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, won the Whitbread for best first novel. But I took a look at this one because it is partly set in Venice.
The novel tells the story (mainly) of two people: Henri, cook to Napoleon and one of the Emperor's greatest admirers; and Villanelle, web-footed daughter of a Venetian boatman. The story is told in alternating first-person viewpoints, which calls for a degree of alertness on the reader's part.
The book is reportedly being made into a movie.
Michael Matheny: A Hole in the Fog
A Hole in the Fog was first published in 2002 by Brave New Books; that edition is now out of print, but is still available as a collectible item from Cantarabooks. A new edition will, I think, be brought out by Cantarabooks soon.
It seems to me that both writer and publisher did a good job first time around. It's a trade paperback, nicely printed, and it reads very well. The story concerns a middle-aged judge who gets a chance to go back in time and correct an early mistake. The setting is San Francisco.
James Wentworth Day: A History of the Fens
Finally, a non-fiction book, of interest to English readers only. First published in 1954, by Harrap, this is a book that I have owned for fifty years, and I recently had cause to consult it again. I had forgotten how good it is.
James Wentworth Day describes, as his title tells us, the history of that area of wetlands in the east of England which was once known as the Fens. I say once known, because nearly all of the land has now been drained, and turned into rich, flat farm land, stretching for miles without any visible habitation.
Once, vast areas of this part of England were swamp, lake, and river, all intermingling, and invaded periodically by the sea, since much of it was, and is, below sea level. In this inhospitable habitat lived a strange breed of men, and their families. These people, the author tells us, were 'as near savage, as near downright primitive, as any family could be in England.' Within living memory (in 1954), they lived in peat-built hovels, with a hole in the roof for the smoke, and tiny horn-paned windows.
All gone now, of course. But a secondhand copy of this book would make a good present for anyone interested in this part of England. Copies can be found, e.g. via Abebooks, but they are not cheap: expect to pay £30 or £40.