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Fall book season includes Ondaatje, Atwood

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TORONTO - Novels by Michael Ondaatje, Guy Vanderhaeghe and Marina Endicott, a series of essays from Margaret Atwood, and memoirs from Michael Buble and William Shatner are among the hotly anticipated Canadian books due out this fall.

The season is a critical one for publishing houses as they release bankable books and arrange author tours in time to build buzz before the Christmas shopping season.

"The big awards come in the fall as well so that's another consideration why the fall is so important," says Scott Sellers, vice president and director of marketing strategy at Random House of Canada.

"(The fall book season) used to be September-on, but in the last few years a couple of our really big books have come out in August. ... So the season just sort of continues to grow."

Notable titles that hit stores earlier this month include "The Perfect Order of Things" (Thomas Allen Publishers) by Governor General's Award winner David Gilmour, and "A World Elsewhere" (Knopf Canada), the latest novel from Charles Taylor Prize recipient Wayne Johnston.

Other high-profile recent releases include "The Accident" (Doubleday Canada) by celebrated thriller writer Linwood Barclay, and "Natural Order" (Doubleday) by Brian Francis, who made a splash with his first novel, "Fruit."

This Saturday will be a big day on the CanLit scene with the release of "The Cat's Table," the sixth novel from Ondaatje after his 2007 GG Award-winning "Divisadero."

McClelland & Stewart describes Ondaatje's new book as "an electrifying" tale of an 11-year-old boy who journeys to England on a huge liner that's carrying a prisoner in the early 1950s.

Also hitting stores this week is "The Antagonist," the fourth novel from acclaimed "Globe & Mail" advice columnist Lynn Coady. It's described as a compassionate and hilarious story of a burly, misunderstood man whose life has been defined by his size.

"What I compare ('The Antagonist') to is 'A Complicated Kindness' by Miriam Toews," says Kate McQuaid of House of Anansi Press, which is publishing the book.

September is teeming with eagerly awaited books, including GG Award winner Vanderhaeghe's first novel in eight years, "A Good Man." It's the follow-up to "The Englishman's Boy" and "The Last Crossing" and completes what could be thought of as a trilogy set in the late 19th-century Canadian and American West.

McClelland & Stewart calls Vanderhaeghe's new book "a masterpiece" and his "most accomplished and brilliant novel to date."

Endicott will release the vaudevillian tale "The Little Shadows" (Doubleday), her first novel since her Commonwealth Prize-winning "Good to a Fault."

Anita Rau Badami, meanwhile, puts out her first novel in six years with "Tell It To The Trees" (Knopf Canada), in which a family in northern British Columbia grapples with secrets of the past.

"Requiem" (HarperCollins Canada), the third novel from Commonwealth Writers' Prize winner Frances Itani, follows a visual artist and recent widower on a cross-country journey.

With "The Reinvention of Love" (HarperCollins), Helen Humphreys — winner of the 2000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize — delves into the rocky friendship between French literary icons Charles Sainte-Beuve and Victor Hugo in the 1800s.

Esi Edugyan writes about a group of black jazz musicians struggling to overcome racial barriers during the Second World War in Europe in the novel "Half-Blood Blues" (Thomas Allen), which was recently longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Short-story collections out in September include "This Will be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories" (Hamish Hamilton Canada) by Johanna Skibsrud, winner of last year's Scotiabank Giller Prize; and "Once You Break a Knuckle" (Hamish Hamilton) from D.W. Wilson, winner of the inaugural Man Booker Prize scholarship in the U.K.

"It's getting quite a lot of buzz," Yvonne Hunter, vice president of publicity and marketing at Penguin Canada, says of Wilson's book. "Excellent writing, reminiscent of Raymond Carver and Richard Ford."

Non-fiction titles due out in September include "Room for All of Us" (Allen Lane Canada) by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson; rocker Randy Bachman's "Vinyl Tap Stories" (Viking Canada); and "Winter, Five Windows on the Season: The 2011 Massey Lectures: Celebrating 50 Years" (Anansi), from Adam Gopnik.

Two stars of CBC-TV's "Dragons' Den" are also due to release books: Arlene Dickinson ("Persuasion," HarperCollins) and Kevin O'Leary ("Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money and Life," Doubleday).

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone" (Douglas & McIntyre), in which journalist Michelle Shephard examines what has gone wrong since 9-11.

In October, Atwood will publish "In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination" (McClelland & Stewart), a series of essays on her relationship with the "science fiction" literary form.

Also due out that month is a collection of "deliciously wicked" stories by notable author and artist Douglas Coupland called "Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People" (Random House Canada), illustrated by Graham Roumieu.

GG Award-winning playwright Michel Tremblay takes his readers outside Quebec for the first time in the 1913 train journey "Crossing the Continent," translated by Sheila Fischman (Talonbooks).

David Adams Richards — winner of two GG Awards, a Giller and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize — writes about his hunting experiences in "Facing the Hunter" (Doubleday).

Other big names releasing with books due in October include acting great Shatner ("Shatner Rules," Penguin), and Craig Oliver, the chief parliamentary correspondent for CTV ("Oliver's Twist," Penguin).

Peter Mansbridge, Dick Pound, Clarkson and Bob Rae are among the contributors to "100 Days That Changed Canada" (HarperCollins), edited by Mark Reid of Canada's History Magazine.

And "Hockey Night in Canada" host Ron MacLean co-authored "Cornered: Hijinks, Highlights, Late Nights and Insights" with Kirstie McLellan Day (HarperCollins).

In November, novelist Ami McKay of "The Birth House" fame will be out with "The Virgin Cure" (Knopf Canada), about a young woman's adventures in lower Manhattan in the late 19th century.

Random House says November is also the month for "Off Stage On Stage," an intimate portrait of Buble, in pictures and his own words. Singer Jann Arden also reveals her life's story in "Falling Backwards: A Memoir" (Knopf Canada).

Also due out in November is "I Am Half-Sick of Shadows" (Doubleday), the fourth instalment in Alan Bradley's hit Flavia de Luce mystery series, and a graphic-novel adaptation of the Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud play "The Blue Dragon" (Anansi).

For readers seeking new novels, Douglas & McIntyre is excited about Nicole Lundrigan's Newfoundland family crime tale "Glass Boys," while Invisible Publishing is pushing poet Dani Couture's "Algoma," about a family coping with the drowning death of a young child.

Other novelists breaking out this season include Harry Whitehead, author of "The Cannibal Spirit" (Hamish Hamilton), about a biracial man's journey into the B.C. wilderness; and Ling Zhang, whose "Gold Mountain Blues" (Viking Canada) follows five generations of a Chinese family in turn-of-the-century B.C.

The fall will also see the release of several Penguin titles dedicated to hockey: "Thirty Years of the Game at Its Best: A Hockey Canada Retrospective"; "Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy"; and hockey columnist Steve Simmons's "The Lost Dream," about the Mike Danton and David Frost true-crime story that rocked the NHL.

Afghanistan is also a hot topic this fall with several books on the war-torn region. They include "The Long Way Back: Afghanistan's Quest for Peace" (HarperCollins) by Christopher Alexander; "The Savage War: The Untold Battles of Afghanistan" (John Wiley & Sons Canada) by Murray Brewster, correspondent for The Canadian Press; and "Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan" (D&M) from journalist Terry Glavin.

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