Book Releases, Books, News

The Great Curbside Splendor 2015 Book Preview

2014 was a fantastic year for Curbside Splendor; our best yet, actually. But 2015 is already looking pretty.

As in the past, we're publishing several debut books by emerging writers we feel need to be read, including Halle Butler's novel Jillian, Dasha Kelly's novel Almost Crimson, and Toni Nealie's essay collection, tentatively-titled Mind's Eye, Shimmering. In addition to that, we're delving into several art-focused projects, including a collection of internationally-acclaimed artist Tony Fitzpatrick's Newcity columns, Dime Stories, and Kedzie Avenue, a book of comics journalism by the bright minds of the Illustrated Press, Darryl Holliday and Jamie Hibdon. Two of our books will map the history of Chicago's music culture, including The Empty Bottle Chicago: Twenty-Plus Years of Piss, Sh*t, & Broken Urinals, edited by John Dugan, with a foreword by John Darnielle, and My Kind of Sound: The Secret History of Chicago Music, by Steve Krakow (but you may know him as Plastic Crimewave).

And it just gets prettier. We're publishing a handful of sophomore books by writers we've long admired, including Patrick Wensink's Fake Fruit Factory, Vanessa Blakeslee's novel Juventud, and Dave Reidy's The Voiceover Artist.

You can read more about each of these projects and others below, and pre-order most of them now at our store

To request a review copy, please e-mail Naomi Huffman at naomi[at]



JILLIAN (February)
a debut novel by Halle Butler

"[Jillian] offers up its characters for hatred and ridicule with such energy, obsessive detail and hopelessness that the reader can't help but read on, through exasperating flinches of sympathy and recognition. A novel that reads like rubbernecking or a junk-food binge, compelling a horrified fascination and bleak laughter in the face of outrageously painted everyday sadness."
—Kirkus Reviews

Megan, recently out of college and working a meaningless job as a gastroenterologist's secretary, openly hates all of her friends for being happy and successful. She makes herself feel better by obsessively critiquing the behavior of her coworker, Jillian, a rapid cycling, grotesque optimist, whose downfall is precipitated by the purchase of a dog.

stories by Chris Bower, illustrations by Susie Kirkwood

"These stories by Chris Bower vomit uphill a compendium of beautiful losers, cummy snowmen, and such love. His longtime collaborator, illustrator Susie Kirkwood, opens the pages with freshly dark design and iconography, cleanly harmonious with Bower’s filth. The book is ultimately fun and deeply caring, and its author a gallow’s wit with theatrical instincts. You will find yourself, your loved ones, and our stupid feelings in this swill—'You’re going to remember this, even when you’re dead.'"
—Fred Sasaki, art director for POETRY

Chicago playwright Chris Bower's debut collection of gloriously nasty, bleakly unhinged, and oddly compelling short stories marks the arrival of a truly original voice. Each page is lovingly illustrated by Chicago artist Susie Kirkwood and bursting with gorgeously unsettling tales of parents abandoning children out of spite, men sabotaging women out of love, and other oddments and ear worms.

stories by Michael Czyzniejewski, author of Elephants in the Bedroom and Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions

"These stories are perfect gems: polished for clarity, cut with precision by an expert hand so that they throw off light and color. Czyzniejewski is a funny, smart writer, crafting characters and situations with abundant wit and heart. A brilliant and entertaining collection—and one I'll be returning to again and again."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

In I Will Love You For the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories, Michael Czyzniejewski examines twenty-nine cases of human love at their most critical junctures, bearing witness to the absurdity of longing. An astronaut’s husband cheats while his wife is in space; a scallop opens a portal to another dimension; a man exploits his peanut allergy for kinky sex; a blind date turns into a bestial kidnapping. Self-doubt, unshakable distrust, unrequited longing, and the prospect of eternal loneliness haunt these romantics. The heart wants what it wants, but it doesn't always last forever.

by Okla Elliott, Raul Clement

"An epic novel of good and evil." 
—Kirkus Reviews

"The Doors You Mark Are Your Own is a dystopian masterpiece."
—Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk and In the Devil's Territory

Joshua City is one of seven city-states in a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and technology is at mid-twentieth-century Soviet levels. As the novel opens, the Baikal Sea has been poisoned, causing a major outbreak of a flesh-eating disease called nekrosis. Against this backdrop of political corruption, violence and oppression, a struggle for control of Joshua City ensues, and a revolutionary group called The Underground emerges. 

The Doors You Mark Are Your Own is a sweeping literary epic—the result of years of painstaking writing and world-building by two brilliantly imaginative minds—that readers will get lost in and never want to end.



ON THE WAY (April)
stories by Cyn Vargas

"Cyn Vargas brings her readers a whole world of unforgettable women, old and young, tough and getting tougher. Her narrators must continually negotiate with the tragedy, cruelty, and sweetness of their ever-changing lives, against the twin landscapes of America and Central America. In these fresh, sensual stories, Vargas bravely explores family, friendship and irreconcilable loss, and she will break your heart nicely." 
—Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River

Cyn Vargas's debut collection explores the whims and follies of the human heart. When an American woman disappears in Guatemala, her daughter refuses to accept she's gone; a divorced DMV employee falls in love during a driving lesson; a young woman shares a well-kept family secret with the one person who it might hurt the most; a bad haircut is the last straw in a crumbling marriage. In these stories, characters grasp at love and beg to belong—often at the expense of their own happiness. 


edited by Richard Thomas, foreword by Chuck Wendig

“From the shadows that dwell in some of the most creative, and gifted minds around, emerges a collection of short stories that will skulk across the footplate of literature for many years to come. Exigencies is the cloak thrown over the world, to show us that in darkness we can still find beauty, and will forever serve as a keepsake to great writing.”
—Craig Wallwork, author of The Sound of Loneliness

Exigencies is an anthology of twenty-three original neo-noir stories by emerging authors that blend literary fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime in order to explore an exigency, a tipping point. The writing is a hybrid of page-turning genre-writing and transgressive fiction, and showcases some of the best new writers of neo-noir.

a novel by Dasha Kelly

"Dasha Kelly writes with equal parts sweetness and sadness about being a human. She writes about girls and women, family, friendship and aching love. Almost Crimson offers a full teacup of emotions, past and present, delicately balanced on a wildly beating heart. This author, this novel–blessings to readers and storytellers alike."
—Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss A War

“Two ways life consumes you, swallowed or swept away. One way happens to you, the other happens because of you. Love can go either way.”

For as long as she can remember, CeCe has taken care of herself. With her father gone and her mother crippled by chronic depression, CeCe struggles to find fulfillment in the sacrifice required to keep their lives together. As her mother's condition worsens, CeCe is forced to stay close to home and stifle her dreams. With poetic dexterity and an unforgettable cast of compassionate characters, Dasha Kelly examines one woman's struggle to choose between her obligation to care for her mother and living life on her own terms.

essays and artwork by Tony Fitzpatrick, foreword by Thomas Dyja

"I am one of the lucky ones. I have sat at the feet of John Lee Hooker while he played guitar. I have stared in stunned silence not five feet away from Picasso’s Guernica and I have sat at a table, with a medium-rare porterhouse in front of me, across from Tony Fitzpatrick as he’s told stories. Art takes many forms and you, my friend, are about to read one of the masters."
—Danny Bland, musician and author of In Case We Die

Originally published as columns in Chicago's Newcity magazine, the seventy essays and corresponding full-color artwork in Tony Fitzpatrick's Dime Stories celebrate a life spent passionately devouring stories. Spun in the provocative voice that longtime fans have come to expect, Fitzpatrick covers bird watching, getting tattoos, walking his dog Mr. Chooch, and dealing museum-collected art. These essays are Fitzpatrick at his most brilliant and best. 


THE PULP VS. THE THRONE (Artifice Books, June)
by Carrie Lorig

"When I read this work of expansive inquiry ... I feel we might be entering a Golden Age of feminist prophecy and (inverted) power: a marginal, shredded, spangly and dispersed Byzantium where wisdom has a woman’s name. Like the work of Kim Hyesoon, Lorig’s poetry is at once immediate and speculative, infernal and angelic (in the terrible sense of that word) — a poisoned flower burning alive."
— Joyelle McSweeney, author of Salamandrine and Percussion Grenade

In the boundless and strange The Pulp vs. The Throne, Carrie Lorig collides poetic and essay forms, and rides their cataclysmic energy through extremes of language and expression. Only there can writers and readers alike breathe, think, and grow. These complex, wildly attentive poems and essays form crises of intimacy that join our lives with Lorig’s exploding, essential imagination.


by Bill Hillmann, author of The Old Neighborhood

Hillmann knows the streets, and he also knows how to tell stories—you might know his work from the Chicago Tribune,, and NPR."
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

With a journalist's ear for detail, renowned storyteller "Buffalo" Bill Hillmann narrates his decade-long journey of self-discovery, exploring his transformation from wasted ex-Golden Gloves champ lost in gang fights and cocaine deals on Chicago's streets to running with a world-renowned crew of mozos—the masters of running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.


VILE MEN (Dark House Press, July)
stories by Rebecca Jones-Howe

"Rebecca Jones-Howe’s Vile Men is an exciting, dark, sexy collection that is convulsively beautiful and bright. Each story digs a great hole and is filled with the most savage, brutal, human emotions: love, desire, addiction and the impossibility of satisfaction."
—Antonia Crane, author of Spent

Vile Men
is a debut collection of dark, seductive, powerful, and touching short stories told with a lyrical voice that lulls readers into submission with its elegant, enlightened prose. Including several original stories, Jones-Howe's words dance trancelike on the page, capturing readers by the windpipe, refusing to let go.



a novel by Patrick Wensink, author of the international best-seller, Broken Piano for President

"There are plenty of bastards in this world, but Patrick Wensink isn't one of them. Well, maybe. He is our Terry Southern and Paul Krassner and possibly one day even our own Jonathan Swift..." 
—Scott McClanahan, author of Crapalachia and Hill William

Fake Fruit Factory
 is a novel about the eccentric small town of Dyson, OH. When NASA determines an errant satellite will crash there, the town's young mayor uses the ensuing media circus to attract tourism and save his bankrupt rust belt community. Unless, of course, the satellite completely wipes it from the map. 

a novel by Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the short story collection Train Shots, winner of the 2014 IPPY Gold Medal

"A harrowing, international coming-of-age story, Juventud is unforgettable, erotic, and suspenseful. I was willing to follow the protagonist Mercedes anywhere, into the Cali nightclubs, to her shooting lessons, into bed with her lovers, and to the dangerous activist meetings and rallies that mark a point-of-no-return in her adolescence. This novel is part political thriller, part love story. It kept me up at night and that's the highest praise."
—Patricia Henley, author of Hummingbird House and In the River Sweet 

Juventud, a stunning first novel that explores the pitfalls of youth and idealism, against the backdrop of a country long ravaged by bloodshed and betrayal. After her life was shattered in a single horrifying night, teenaged Mercedes Martinez ran away, severing ties with both her father and her home country of Colombia.  Now, fifteen years later, a bombing in Bogotá and the sight of a familiar face on the news will drive an adult Mercedes back home.

edited by John E. Dugan, foreword by John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats

"With its plain brick facade and Old Style sign hanging out front, the 20-year-old Empty Bottle looks more like a plain Chicago townie bar than the city's most consistent punk-and-indie-rock club – not to mention the free jazz, skronky pop and other out-there genres it books. Chicago promoter Andy Cirzan calls the 400-capacity club "a kind of communal space for adventurous musicians and their fans."
Rolling Stone, "The Best Clubs in America"

Empty Bottle owner Bruce Finkelman says, "The Empty Bottle has been so good because of the community of bands that have played there and the people that have gone there, so it makes sense that it's told by the community. We really want to make it a community book." The book will feature contributions by Jack White, Interpol, OK Go, and more, including fans, former bartenders, bouncers and "upstairs staff," and anyone else who has stepped through the doors for a chance to see a band they loved take the stage, or just to drink a beer. It will also include full-color photographs and images of old show posters and ephemera. 

by Darryl Holliday and Jamie Hibdon

"Chicago's pioneers of the comics journalism medium." —CHICAGO magazine

Kedzie Avenue is a graphic portrait of Chicago and its people, connected by a single street. The book will feature beautiful, full-color, frame-by-frame illustrations, personal narrative, and journalistic reporting, compiled from a year's worth of on-the-ground reporting. 

a novel by Dave Reidy, author of the short story collection Captive Audience, an American Booksellers Association Indie Next Notable Book

“The Voiceover Artist connects a community of disparate Chicagoans—rising stars and fading elderly, drunks and dreamers, performers and mutes—who yearn to find their voices and prove their value to the world. In a chain of intimate, first-person narratives, each character takes a turn at the microphone, confessing to the reader the secrets that separate them from the people they love. The Voiceover Artist is a compelling and unforgettable exploration of the power of the human voice and the human heart.”
—Valerie Laken, author of Dream House and Separate Kingdoms

by Steve Krakow (aka Plastic Crimewave), edited by JC Gabel

Culled from over ten years of weekly Chicago Reader columns, My Kind of Sound will be "The Secret History of Chicago Music" compendium. 

The book will feature a foreword by Roger "Jim" McGuinn of The Byrds and an afterword by Jim DeRogatis of Sound Opinions. 

essays by Toni Nealie

In her debut essay collection, New Zealand native Toni Nealie examines journeys, homelands, and what it means to be foreign, to be a mother, and to be a writer. Toni Nealie writes and teaches in Chicago, where she earned her MFA in nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has been published in Guernica, Newcity, and elsewhere. She previously worked in magazines, politics, and public relations in the UK and her native New Zealand. 

a novel by Damien Angelica Walters

At its heart, Paper Tigers is a ghost story about a disfigured young woman and a photo album that isn't what it seems. A haunting, touching, and hypnotizing novel, this haunted house and its residents will lure you in, and never let go.