By TERENCE TOH
When it comes to fiction, local readers like their stories to be as dark as possible. That’s the first impression we get looking at the fiction category of the 2015 Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards. The nominees this year seem to be swathed in darkness, with horror, crime, and fantasy stories aplenty!
Horror Stories and 13 Moons, for example, are full of supernatural terrors, while the two KL Noir books are chock-full of gristly crimes and dark deeds. Some of the titles also have strong themes of discovery: After The Storm, for example, sees three individuals looking for things missing in their lives, while Lost In Putrajaya sees its characters seeking their bearings in the nation’s administrative capital.
This year also sees a majority of the nominees (six out of 10!) being short story anthologies. What does this say about local reading tastes? That we like our stories bite-sized, and deliciously dark? We have no idea. Perhaps your votes will make the picture clearer. Do remember to vote for your favourite titles in the awards’ “Read to Vote, Vote to Win” component, which rewards you for reading and voting.
By sending in your votes for your top three favourite titles in the fiction and non-fiction categories (that’s six choices all together), you will be in the running for prizes such as a RM50 Popular gift voucher and a Popular card with a free one-year membership.
So, how do you vote for your faves during this month-long (May 1-31) voting period ?
You can fill up voting forms, which will be available at all Popular and Harris bookstores nationwide. Or you can vote online at either popular.com.my, facebook.com/popularmalaysia, bookfestmalaysia.com or facebook.com/bookfestmalaysia. You can also use the voting forms printed in Star2 (see left).
The Readers’ Choice Awards winners will be announced at 10.30am on July 11 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
All Popular and Harris bookstore outlets will be selling 19 of the 20 nominated titles at a 20% rebate from today till July 31. One title, Penang History, My Story, will be sold at its nett price.
To help you vote, here is a quick introduction to the 10 fiction nominees; look out for the non-fiction titles next Sunday.
This is a mid career retrospective of one of the country’s most well-known horror writers, and features 20 of his best short stories, such as “Biggest Baddest Bomoh”, “Mr Petronas”, “The Rape Of Martha Teoh”, and “Gravedigger’s Kiss”. A collection that will leave you sleeping with the lights on, that’s for sure ...
Tunku Halim (in full, Tunku Halim Tunku Tan Sri Abdullah) is a Malaysian novelist, non-fiction writer, academic, and lawyer. His fiction primarily falls within the dark fantasy and horror genre, and his novel Vermilion Eye (2000) was a study text at the National University of Singapore. His non-fiction works include History Of Malaysia: A Children’s Encyclopedia (2009) and A Children’s History Of Malaysia (2003).
Lost In Putrajaya
This book compiles 14 stories about literally and figuratively losing yourself – either in the physical locales of our administrative capital, within the murky political machinery, or in the civil service labyrinth. Behind the facade of Putrajaya, many can get lost: migrants, journalists, hitchhikers, or even bunian and djinns. (Full disclosure: A story by this writer appears in this collection.)
Zurairi A.R. is a journalist and columnist with The Malay Mail Online. He calls himself a humanist and sceptic who does good for goodness’ sake. He spends most of his time in Putrajaya.
After The Storm
After The Storm tells the story of three individuals in a battle to find courage, justice, and true love. Balqis finds herself dealing with a dark tragedy in her past. Maria finds her supposedly perfect marriage falling apart. And Suleyman tries to put his family back on track after the death of his father, but finds his life even more complicated when he meets the girl of his dreams.
Diyar Harraz was born in Cairo and brought up in Malaysia for a couple of years before she resumed schooling in Cape Town, South Africa, and in Egypt for three years. She currently lives in a quiet little town in Wales with her family. After The Storm is her debut novel, and she has a second due soon.
This collection of stories reveal the darkness threatening to seep through the veneer of day-to-day life. Office workers discover the gruesome secret behind the puppets used as workplace décor. A man tries to help the ghost of a murdered child haunting a playground. An abandoned well and a banana tree in a village garden conceal a decades-old crime.
KL Noir: Blue
This is the third instalment in the popular KL Noir series, indie publisher Fixi Novo’s four-volume anthology featuring Kuala Lumpur’s dark side. KL Noir Blue contains 15 stories about law and disorder in the metropolis covering murder, suicide, rival gangs, robbers, and sleaze, as well as dystopian visions, black magic, and the occasional decomposed corpse.
Ee Leen Lee was born in London. She writes crime, sci-fi, horror, the occasional film and book review, and the odd comedy sketch. She has been published with MPH, Fixi Novo, Monsoon Books Singapore, Intellect Books, and Mammoth Books in Britain.
KL Noir: Yellow
The fourth and final instalment of the KL Noir series features 15 short stories and one essay, whose synopsis describes itself as being “sick and twisted”! Dive into stories of paedophiles and perverts, delinquents and the delusional ... and French fries.
Kris Williamson is a publishing consultant and writer. He is the editor of the Anak Sastraliterary magazine and has published fiction, travel narratives, and poetry in various journals and anthologies. His first novel, Son Complex, was published by Fixi Novo in 2013.
One Fine Day
In the midst of all the crime and horror in this category, we have this lovely little love story. One Fine Day is the tale of lovers Zahra and Aryan, who meet by the benches of Treasury Garden. Their story is one of love, pain and happiness regained, about happiness being tested and tried through difficulty.
RodieR is a pharmacist for whom writing is a huge passion. She collects poems and quotes, and loves travelling. She has published two Malay novels and has built her own group of readers. One fine day she hopes she can share her stories with the world.
A China Doll In KL
Young and ambitious Meisu arrives in Kuala Lumpur where she quickly learns that she’s the China doll all men want to play with – including a sinister triad godfather. She also finds herself in a passionate love affair with an alcoholic artist, and runs into a psychotic serial killer lurking on the streets.
Ewe Paik Leong is an author who regularly contributes travel articles and food reviews to newspapers. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, the latest being Kuala Lumpur Undercover.
He is a member of International Thriller Writers in Eureka, California, and lives in Kuala Lumpur with his wife and daughter.
Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, Spirits Abroad collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility. A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian.
A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and ... eating people.
Zen Cho was born and raised in Selangor. Her short stories have appeared in various publications in the United States, Britain, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (awarded by an American literary press), the Selangor Young Talent Awards, and the World Science Fiction Society’s Campbell Award for Best New Writer; and she was honour-listed for the American Carl Brandon Society Awards for speculative fiction. She currently lives in London, where she spends a lot of time trying to avoid writing.
Hadi’s novel is the tale of Aizat, a married man who lives a hedonistic and comfortable life. But when he sells a plot of land he inherited from his father, a string of horrifying events is triggered. He sees apparitions, hears voices, and is physically and mentally tortured. Uncle Aliyas then shares a dark secret about the family legacy.
Hadi M. Nor’s first book was a compilation of Malay short stories entitled Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam Laci (Sang Freud Press, 2012). Since then, he has written and published English short stories, including “Breadwinner”, which was included in KL Noir: White (2013) and was also featured in Esquire Malaysia. Family Values is his first novel.
The Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2015 are a precursor to BookFest@Malaysia 2015, which will take place from July 11-19 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre; look out for more information on the region’s biggest book event in these pages soon. Star Publications (M) Bhd is a media partner of BookFest@Malaysia 2015.