The BookBrunch team reveals what's on their bedside tables
In every respect save a minor one - a non-musician's stiltedness, also apparent in the novels of Ian McEwan, when writing about the technical aspects of music - Jonathan Coe's Mr Wilder and Me (Viking, 5 November) seems to me to be pitch perfect. Yes, this is the Seventies, and this is the great film director Billy Wilder, as laconic and observant and sometimes difficult as one knows him to have been. And this is what it is like on a film set - in the novel, that of Wilder's penultimate film, Fedora. It was said of Fedora that the clichés were deliberate, and this might be said of Coe's method too: as ever, he offers accessible prose and formal daring, most apparent in Wilder's account, told in a Munich restaurant and presented in the form of a screenplay, of his dark family history.
Elly Griffiths (the former publisher Domenica de Rosa) has been recommended on here by my colleague Nick Clee, so I recently bought a copy of the first in her Ruth Galloway crime series, The Crossing Places (Quercus). And what a treat! Ruth is a forensic archaeologist and lecturer at the North Norfolk University. She's also the object of pity or scorn to her parents and colleagues: in her late 30s, unmarried, childless, slightly overweight and living with two cats in a bleak cottage on the salt marshes (though frankly, I think that sounds great!). And then, of course, the bodies start arriving, Iron age to begin with and then much more recent. Brilliantly evoking the bleakness of liminal places between the land and the sea, and with great characterisation and a fascinating archaeological background (her husband is an archaeologist) - I am hooked.
If you're feeling a little bit bleak at the moment in 'these uncertain times', here is the remedy: Boy Queen by George Lester (Macmillan Children's Books). It's a YA novel about a young man, Robin, whose dreams of going to drama school are crushed when he's rejected - but then he goes to a drag night and discovers that his performing future might lie in a different direction altogether. As a devoted fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, I was bound to like this book, but it also goes much deeper and is much more inclusive of different kinds of performance and drag than the TV show. Boy Queen is endlessly charming, funny and touching, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough.