A roaring fire, a stack of books

The man of the house has promised real, roaring fires this winter. Fires to read by. Fires to dream by. Today is Feb. 1 and I’m still waiting.

Fire or no fire, I’m looking at a tantalizing stack of books, some out, a few coming soon.

I couldn’t put down this April release, “Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder” (Blue Rider Press, $26.95), by Amy Butcher. Their senior year at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, Amy’s good friend Kevin walks her home, returns to his apartment and stabs to death his ex-girlfriend. How such a dastardly act affects their friendship – or how it might affect any friendship of our own – kept me riveted.

Marianne Gingher hatches great ideas for anthologies. The UNC-Chapel Hill English prof has a new one in March: “Amazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers” (UNC Press, $20), and it includes the usual Triangle and Western North Carolina writerly suspects as well as Charlotte’s Judy Goldman on visiting Charlotte as a child while growing up in Rock Hill.

The Life of the World to Come” (USC Press, $29.95) by Appalachian State’s Joseph Bathanti is next on my list. It’s set in Queen (read Charlotte) N.C., and in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa. I love fiction set in a familiar city, and this one looks enticing: gambling rings, stolen cars and an escape to a Southern clime.

As a child, when Kate Mayfield heard, “We’ve got a body!” she knew to scram. Growing up in her father’s home-based funeral business in 1960s Kentucky, Mayfield learned the etiquette of and the respect for death. “The Undertaker’s Daughter: A Memoir” (Gallery Books, $24.95), is for anyone intrigued by small-town politics, race relations, business rivalries, as well as the truth about whether hair and nails continue to grow after we die.

“Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League” (Maiden Lane Press, $16) by Mississippi native Jonathan Odell is the “rediscovered contemporary classic” about pre-civil rights mothers Hazel and Vida, one white and wealthy and one poor and black, who share the devastating loss of children and an abiding hatred for each other. Odell also explores something that has long fascinated me: Why white women often feel safer confiding in black women than they do in each other.

I ran into Charlotte’s Rick Rayburn at the Levine Museum of the New South recently, and he asked me to promise that I would soon read a, um (blush) “man’s book.” He recommends the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. I’ll let you know... .