Spotlight On: Serpent’s Tail
By Priyanka Joshi, Isobel Jones and Mollie Gregory-Clark
Serpent's Tail is a London-based independent publishing house founded in 1986 by Pete Ayrton. Specialising in publishing work in translation, it has developed a reputation for publishing challenging and innovative fiction. The press has also published a wide range of other genres, including literary fiction, non-fiction, and political and social commentary. In 2007, it was acquired by Profile Books, another independent publisher. However, the press continues to operate as an independent imprint and has also launched a new imprint named Viper, in 2019, which specialises in crime and thriller fiction.
Having published works by diverse authors such as László Krasznahorkai, Chris Kraus, and Jean Kwok, the press has also won numerous awards, including the Independent Publisher Book Award and the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award. Serpent's Tail is known for its distinctive green and white cover design, which has become a familiar sight in bookshops around the world.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Praised for its heartfelt, humorous tone and its capacity to “make trans culture relatable to all” (Chris Kraus), Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters took the world by storm back when it was first published in 2021. Told through a series of alternating present-day and flashback narratives, Peters’ debut novel weaves together the story of Reese and Amy, two trans women whose quiet, comfortable life of domestic bliss begins to unravel when each realises they want different things.
While Reese longs for a child, Amy, sick of facing transphobic abuse, decides to detransition and become Ames. Reeling from the breakdown of their relationship, Ames and Reese both explore new romantic connections to help cope with their loneliness. But when Ames’ lover reveals that she is pregnant and questioning whether she wants to be a mother, the exes find their lives intertwining again. In depicting the messiness of relationships, co-parenting, and (self) acceptance, Detransition, Baby masterfully probes and challenges the conventional notions of “family” – the result is a novel that is set to be a queer classic for the ages.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Winner of both the Waterstones and the British Book Award’s Book of the Year in 2016, The Essex Serpent transports readers to 1890s England and a small town gripped by hysteria following a spate of deaths rumoured to have been caused by a mythical sea monster. As panic grows within the community, our protagonist, Cora, finds herself compelled to look into the killings, hoping to discover some logical, scientific cause. Her investigation ultimately leads to her crossing paths, and butting heads, with a local clergyman and science sceptic, William Ransome, who believes all can be resolved through faith. Churning up 19th century debates surrounding science and superstition, the novel explores Cora and William’s complex relationship and the way in which their lives, beliefs, and emotions become increasingly interlaced. With all the hallmarks of a classic gothic thriller, The Essex Serpent is a compelling read that you won’t be able to put down!
You’d Look Better as A Ghost by Joanna Wallace (21 September 2023)
If you’re a fan of How to Kill Your Family and My Sister The Serial Killer this is the perfect novel for you. You’d Look Better as A Ghost tells the story of a part-time serial killer, Claire, attending a grief counselling group following the loss of her father. After receiving the good news that her artwork has been shortlisted for a competition, she is sent an email stating that this was an error – Claire, of course, decides she must seek revenge on the unfortunate sender. Described as a cross between Dexter and Killing Eve, You’d Look Better as A Ghost is a dark, comedy thriller told from Claire’s point of view, filled with twists and turns, gripping the reader from page one.
Bliss and Blunder by Victoria Gosling (3 August 2023)
Twenty years after their wedding, Arthur and Gwen have it all – wealth, status and beauty. Though not all is as it seems in their picturesque life – with an unstable husband, a rebellious son, a breadth of secrets and a blackmailer who goes by the name “The Invisible Knight.” As the town of Abury prepares for celebration, Gwen’s former best friend, Morgan, makes a return forcing the townspeople to revisit the path and the secrets that lay beneath.
Inventive and masterful Bliss and Blunder is a skillfully written modern retelling of the Legend of Arthur, placing Arthur as the CEO of a successful tech company, and Gwen as his Instagram-famous wife. Rewriting many famous characters in various forms along with unique contemporary explanations for the more complex aspects of the Arthurian Legend, Victoria Gosling's retelling is fresh and intriguing, filled with themes of friendship and betrayal.