The Moves That Matter

Jonathan Rowson

Bloomsbury, £10.99

What can chess teach us about life? More than we realise, according to Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson, who explains in this book how the game can help us think better and live better. People imagine that the value of chess is in learning strategic thinking, he says. But he thinks emotional and existential issues are also relevant to the game. In 64 vignettes spread, Rowson shares the lessons he has learned from the game over 35 years, about how “metaphors are at the heart of creative intelligence” and by deepening our understanding of them we can better apprehend the world we live in. It’s certainly worked for him. Rowson is a philosopher, the director of a research institute, a holder of degrees from Oxford, Bristol and Harvard, and writes with an intimidating intelligence, drawing on literary, philosophical and psychological sources. It’s also, for the lay person, a fascinating insight into how top chess players think.

Breath Like The Wind At Dawn

Devin Jacobsen

Sagging Meniscus, £16.48

The poetic language that opens this literary Western gives little indication of what’s to come, and though Jacobsen’s prose is exquisitely lyrical throughout, he reins in his initial excesses as this grim tale of violence begetting violence gathers pace. Les Tamplin and his eldest son, Edward, join up to fight in the American Civil War, leaving behind twin brothers Quinn and Irving with their mother, Annora, to run their Minnesota farm. In the army, Les discovers he has a taste for murder. Back home, Annora is virtually enslaved by her brother, and the twins grow up to become hardened outlaws until fate sets the estranged father and sons on a collision course. It’s a novel as stark and physical as its language is flowery, with gruesome violence never far from the surface. Visceral and lyrical all at once, Jacobsen’s astonishing debut is a powerful and bloody Greek tragedy of a Western.

Fall Out

MN Grenside

Urbane, £8.99

In an extraordinary career, MN Grenside has gone from working as a Lloyd’s broker specialising in kidnap, ransom and extortion to multimedia production mogul via the Muppets, and his debut novel concerns the death of a Hollywood screenwriter, killed just after completing a thriller. The screenplay wasn’t written purely as entertainment, though: it contains clues pointing to a criminal conspiracy, and copies are sent to people who were involved in an aborted movie shot in the Philippines years earlier. While producer Marcus Riley tries to get the film made, he and the other recipients have an assassin on their trail. Grenside throws himself into his new writing career with an energetic, well-plotted, fast-moving thriller that traverses continents and features a cast of exceedingly unpleasant characters. Allegedly, there’s a nugget of truth to the story, which is based on Grenside’s own experiences in the film industry.