Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery by Sally Cline (Arcade Publishing, 264 pages, February 4)
This particular biography grabbed my attention because I'm planning a month-long crime-fiction-reading extravaganza (mostly of the hard-boiled variety), in which I'll read Hammett and Chandler, Christie and Highsmith, etc., in an attempt to learn more about this genre.
With just five novels over the course of five years, Hammett radically transformed the genre, bringing crime fiction into the literary realm and creating characters that have remained with us nearly a century later. (And the title of the biography...it's just brilliant).
Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, 208 pages, February 25)
Aside from the fact that I have read and enjoyed Moore's Like Life, and attended a university where she was part of the creative writing program, I'm looking forward to this collection. A master of the short story, Moore here blends irony and humor, pathos and absurdity, rendering the lives of ordinary people (a divorced man, a teacher, a musician, etc.), with their struggles and triumphs, extraordinary.
Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips (Thorndike Press, 696 pages, February 26)
Based on a real-life multiple murder of the 1930s, Quiet Dell is about a con-man, the widows he preys upon, and the journalist who stakes everything on bringing him to justice. Probably not something you'll want to read before bed. And at just under 700 pages, it's certainly nothing to sneeze at.