- Views & Opinions
Booksellers and publishers expect at least a dozen novels to benefit from E L James’ multimillion-selling erotic trilogy, a list-topper since early spring, and new ones continue to be acquired.
Releases likely to catch on include Sylvain Reynard’s “Gabriel’s Inferno” and “Gabriel’s Rapture,” Sylvia Day’s “Reflected in You” and a compilation of Harlequin novellas unsubtly titled, “12 Shades of Surrender.”
In recent weeks, St. Martin’s Press took on Sara Fawkes’ self-published hit “Anything He Wants (Dominated by the Billionaire),” and Gallery Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, signed up Jennifer Probst’s “The Marriage Bargain.” Open Road Integrated Media, a digital publisher, announced it would release the popular “Eighty Days” trilogy, written by a “well-known publishing insider” and a “familiar figure in London’s fetish scene” collectively known as Vina Jackson.
Cindy Hwang, executive editor at Berkley Books and Sylvia Day’s publisher, says that thanks to “50 Shades” the door between erotica and mainstream fiction has been “kicked down completely.” The market, “this fascination with the uber-rich,” demands more masters of the universe, at least fictional ones.
New novels are coming from James Patterson, Mitch Albom, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell. J.K. Rowling will find out how many of her adult “Harry Potter” fans are game for a book without wizards with “The Casual Vacancy.” Justin Cronin follows his bestselling “The Passage” with “The Twelve,” the second of a planned trilogy.
Ken Follett has a pair of projects: A TV miniseries of his epic medieval saga “World Without End” is scheduled to air on Reelz Channel starting in October. And his new novel “Winter of the World” is the second of his “Century” trilogy on war. The author explained during a recent interview that “Winter of the World,” a World War II story running nearly 1,000 pages, was an education for him.
“Before I started (it), I didn’t know that the Nazis had killed thousands of handicapped people,” he says. “World War II has been done so many times before that I needed to find something new.”
Tom Wolfe, who helped define 1980s New York in “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” has set his 650-page crime story “Back to Blood” in the contemporary “melting pot” of Miami, a sprawling canvas “full of hard cases who just won’t melt.” Michael Chabon keeps it close to home with “Telegraph Avenue,” named for the famous stretch of his longtime residence, Berkeley, Calif. Zadie Smith’s “NW” is another local story, set in northwest London, where the author grew up.
Memoirs and essays
Salman Rushdie’s “Joseph Anton” is a memoir that uses as a title the author’s alias when he was in hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for his death due to the alleged blasphemy of ‘The Satanic Verses.” Chinua Achebe’s “There Was a Country” is a long-awaited memoir about the 1960s civil war in his native Nigeria.
Rushdie’s ally Christopher Hitchens died of cancer last December, but his name will appear on a handful of books. Hitchens’ essays about his fatal illness will be published as “Mortality.” Martin Amis has dedicated “Lionel Asbo,” a dark farce set in London, to his close friend, as did Ian McEwan for his novel “Sweet Tooth.” Meanwhile, two books will feature the late David Foster Wallace: Wallace’s essay collection “Both Flesh and Not” and D.T. Max’s biography “Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story.”
Patricia Bostelman, Barnes & Noble Inc.’s vice president of marketing, notes a wave of Kennedy books, including David Nasaw’s in-depth biography of patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy. White House tapes of John F. Kennedy with daughter Caroline Kennedy provide an introduction. Bill O’Reilly looks into the darkest days with “Killing Kennedy,” a follow-up to his million-selling “Killing Lincoln.” More on the Kennedys may come from an estranged in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his memoir “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.”
Bob Woodward’s “The Price of Politics” will test the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s skill for scoops; Woodward promises a close, inside account of President Barack Obama’s economic policies, a subject in recent years of Ron Suskind’s “Confidence Men,” Noam Scheiber’s “The Escape Artists” and other books. Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair will give her version of the financial crisis in “Bull by the Horns.”
The May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden is remembered firsthand in “No Easy Day” by Mark Owen, a pseudonym for former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette who was part of the historic raid in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death has been a highlight of Obama’s term, but The New York Times’ “FiveThirty Eight” pollster Nate Silver doubts the book – or any others, Woodward’s included – will have an impact on the election, even if it’s critical of the president.
“Political books don’t usually have much effect in the short term. They seep into the culture and can affect things in ways that are hard to perceive,” says Silver, whose book on predictions, “The Signal and the Noise,” comes out in September.
Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Oath” is a review of the current Supreme Court, right through Chief Justice John Roberts’ startling decision in June to uphold much of Obama’s health care legislation. Jon Meacham, the Random House editor and Pulitzer winner for his Andrew Jackson biography, has written “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.” The book, which includes blurbs from such top historians as Gordon Wood and Doris Kearns Goodwin, was conceived in 2008, the year of Obama’s election.
“The appeal of the Jefferson book was in part of the emergence of a tall, cool, cerebral president who affected a dislike for politics, but was awfully good at it,” says Meacham, a former Newsweek editor.
Music to the eyes
A handful of works prove there is no age limit for the writing profession. Critic and anthologist M.H. Abrams, who turned 100 this summer, has a book of essays, “The Fourth Dimension of a Poem.” Herman Wouk, 97, and author of “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Winds of War” has a new and comic novel, “The Lawgiver.” Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 92, has a new book of verse, “Time of Useful Consciousness,” an expansive personal and social history that honors his beloved San Francisco.
Two of the season’s most notable music books come from another San Francisco institution – McSweeney’s, the publisher founded by Dave Eggers. Talking Heads leader David Byrne tracks the influence of his primary art form in “How Music Works.” Beck’s “Song Reader” is, in fact, a new album issued exclusively as sheet music. “Song Reader” is “an alternative,” McSweeney’s advises, “that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together.”
Most rock stars will stick to the memoir: Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend, Courtney Love, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. Stewart, whose memoir is called “Rod: The Autobiography,” said during a recent telephone interview that he enjoyed the work – talking into a microphone, jotting down notes, a bottle of wine at his side.
“Me and Keith (Richards, author of the million-selling ‘Life’) and Pete – we’ve done it all. We’ve been there and seen it and we have a lot of stories to tell,” says Stewart, who calls “Rod” an “uplifting book. It’s not like Keith’s book, which is very dark.”
Or so he’s heard: “I’m not a great reader,” he says with a raspy laugh.
Humor books include the complete “Calvin & Hobbes” and the latest Calvin Trillin verse, “Dogfight: An Occasionally Interrupted Narrative Poem About the Presidential Campaign.” But the main event is a clash of titans, and titles: Stephen Colbert’s “America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” vs. The Onion’s “Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information.”
A promise from Colbert: “‘America Again’ will single-bookedly pull this country back from the brink. It features everything from chapters, to page numbers, to fonts.”