Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Michael Connelly at Murder on the Beach

Sunday night I had the pleasure of attending a talk and book signing given by Michael Connelly at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore in Delray Beach, Florida. Connelly is usually not all that comfortable with public speaking, but this is a small bookstore, and it was his second event of the day so perhaps that contributed to a greater comfort level than I've seen before. He spoke a bit about how he constructs his novels, in particular his latest, ECHO PARK. Then he took questions from the standing-room-only crowd - and there were lots of questions.

The Lincoln Lawyer is one of my favorite Connelly books, so I was happy to hear that another story featuring Mickey Haller will be forthcoming. However, when I asked if the two series - Harry Bosch & Mickey Haller - would at some point be merged into one, Connelly was quick to point out that Haller is not a series, and Bosch is the only series he writes. He did concede that since they are half brothers, at some point there will undoubtedly be a book where they come together.

Connelly also explained that Harry is getting near retirement age. He was born in 1950 (no birthdate ever given besides the year) and cops in L.A. don't generally work past age 60 because it's a money-losing proposition for them at that point. He also gave the impression that it is extremely unlikely that Harry would ever be killed off - and a collective sigh of relief was heard.

Raymond Chandler was cited as one of Connelly's biggest influences, along with Joseph Wambaugh and Ross MacDonald - and it shows in his writing, in my opinion. But that led me to ask another question, about the Janet Maslin review in the NY Times (Oct. 16, 2006) in which she stated, "And Mr. Connelly now does some of his writing in Mr. Chandler’s old apartment, a place he uses for inspiration. No living crime writer has a better right to be there."

Connelly was quick to point out that it was a mistake - yes, in the NY Times. He does rent an apartment in Los Angeles but it isn't Chandler's apartment. However, there is a connection - the apartment is at the address of Chandler's famous fictional character, Phillip Marlowe. Connelly said he didn't think that Chandler had ever stepped foot in it.

pictured, left to right: Tom Corcoran, Jonathon King, the BookBitch, Michael Connelly, James O. Born

The audience was appreciative and there was a long line of people waiting to get their books signed. A lot were serious fans and some were wanna-be crime fiction writers. I also ran into Oline Cogdill, mystery reviewer for the Sun-Sentinel, and some local authors, including James O. Born, Tom Corcoran, and Jonathan King. King told me that the Miami Book Fair was gearing up for Mystery Sunday on November 19, and I'm really looking forward to that!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

(or going, depending on where you are)

Stephen King will soon make his first UK appearance in 10 years to coincide with publication of LISEY'S STORY. This exclusive event, presented by The Times, Hodder & Stoughton and Waterstone's, will take place at Battersea park Events Arena on November 7th at 7.00pm. Tickets cost £15.00 each. Book yours now on: 08708 303 488

I wish I could go, but since I can't, I'd love to hear all about it!

A Crowded Autumn Book Season Presents a Pileup of Name Authors

Fall has always been the busy season in publishing, with its inevitable crush of titles scrambling for attention and a toehold in bookstores, but at no time in recent memory has there been such a traffic jam of big-name authors unleashing top-drawer books.

Already, the October best-seller lists read like a who’s who: Mitch Albom, Bob Woodward, Frank Rich, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, John le Carr√©, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier and Janet Evanovich.

In coming weeks, they are likely to be joined by literary rock stars like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Richard Ford, Thomas Harris and Thomas Pynchon.

To the great delight of retailers, autumn is packed with big-budget, name-brand writers, and winners have already begun to emerge, though there have been some crackups as well, and the climate has made it a particularly difficult season for lesser-known writers. The nonfiction star of the season, Mr. Woodward’s “State of Denial,” has moved 309,000 copies since it went on sale Sept. 30, according to Nielsen BookScan, and stores are having trouble keeping the book in stock. “Right now, it’s like printing money,” said Gerry Donaghy, a purchasing supervisor at Powell Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, Ore.

Last week, Mr. Grisham came out with “The Innocent Man,” his first work of nonfiction, a book that has inspired so much confidence in his publisher, Doubleday, that it has already printed 2.8 million copies.

The latest Bill O’Reilly book, “Culture Warrior,” made its debut at No. 1 on the best-seller list of The New York Times and has sold roughly 121,000 copies since it was published Sept. 15.

Among the casualties of the season have been “The Interpretation of Murder,” by Jed Rubenfeld, a literary murder mystery starring a fictionalized Sigmund Freud that has fallen well short of its publisher’s expectations. Also falling short has been “The Meaning of Night: A Confession,” by Michael Cox, published by W. W. Norton on Sept. 18. “A Spot of Bother,” by Mark Haddon, appeared briefly on the Times’s expanded best-seller list but then dropped off completely, a disappointment for an author whose last book, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” spent 58 weeks on the paperback list.

Publishers and retailers are hoping for an industrywide lift during this high season, when holiday gift giving pushes up bookstore traffic. It may also be a respite for booksellers, who have been grumbling for several years about sluggish sales and a dearth of dependable blockbuster fiction.

“This is one of the best fall seasons for fiction that we’ve seen in a long, long time,” said Stan Hynds, a book buyer at Northshire Bookstore, an independent bookseller in Manchester Center, Vt. “The category has been hurting for a few years because political books have been so dominant, so it’s nice that it’s going to bounce back this season.”

The lineup of writers this season includes many who have large and loyal fan bases, the kind of customers who will buy anything a favorite author writes. One of those authors, Mr. Albom, has a new book, “For One More Day,” to yank at his readers’ heartstrings; it has sold roughly 319,000 copies, according to BookScan. The much-anticipated “Thirteen Moons,” Mr. Frazier’s follow-up to his hit novel, “Cold Mountain,” has been closely watched since its debut on Oct. 3. So far, 74,000 copies have been sold, according to BookScan, a sizable number for a literary novel, but hardly Albom territory.

Others are expected to sell more modestly but reliably, like Mr. le Carr√©’s “Mission Song,” which was published by Little, Brown on Sept. 19. “It’s like bread: grocery stores know they’re going to sell it,” said Margaret Maupin, a buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver. “He is such a comfortable sell because people who love him will come in and ask for him.” So far, the book has sold 41,000 copies.

And the next several weeks will bring potentially best-selling books by Erik Larson, whose previous nonfiction book, “The Devil in the White City,” has held a place on the paperback best-seller list for more than two years; and Mr. Harris, whose “Hannibal Rising,” a prequel to his “Silence of the Lambs” featuring America’s favorite serial-killing cannibal, is to be published on Dec. 5 by Delacorte Press, a Random House imprint.

BookScan measures sales at bookstores, online retailers and some mass merchandisers, which make up roughly 70 to 80 percent of a new hardcover’s sales. (Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, does not provide sales figures to BookScan.)

Publishers attribute the crowded house of fall fiction to a handful of factors, some planned and some coincidental. Since the fall months see higher sales in stores and online, publishers purposely release big books during this season to maximize attention and sales. Some authors who publish books only sporadically, like Mr. Pynchon and Mr. Frazier, happened to have new works this year, squeezing the market even more.

For companies that choose fall publication dates, it means taking a risk that a book that might snatch a best-seller list spot in a quieter month will be muscled off by an even bigger book. “There’s some cannibalization that goes on,” said David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint. “You can only carry so many books at the register.”

By the same token, Mr. Rosenthal added, whatever sales might be lost because of the crowded market are usually made up in the higher sales in bookstores.

Some publishers took pains to avoid being swallowed up by the big names this season, releasing their books during quieter months. “A lot of people we have pushed to January or pulled forward to August because we knew it was going to be a killer fall,” said Neil Nyren, the publisher and editor in chief of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a Penguin imprint. He moved one such book, “The Afghan,” a novel by Frederick Forsyth, to August. “I just didn’t want to plunk it down in the middle of all that,” he said of October and November. “Putting it in those slots would just be killing it.”

HarperCollins has chosen to wait until Jan. 9 to release “Sacred Games,” a 900-page novel by Vikram Chandra that has been described as the Indian version of “The Godfather.” A book by Norman Mailer, “The Castle in the Forest,” will be published by Random House Jan. 23.

It appears that the crop of books by big-name authors may have squeezed out some mainstays in the fall season. For instance, celebrity memoirs are scarce, and the few examples in that category that are holding spots on best-seller lists could practically be classified as political books, like “In the Line of Fire,” by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, or “Saving Graces,” by Elizabeth Edwards.

One or two historical biographies usually emerge during the fall season, as “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin did last year and “John Adams” by David McCullough did in 2001. So far this year, none have occupied that space, so some bookstores are depending on the paperback version of “Team of Rivals,” released on Sept. 26.

Still, Mr. Rosenthal said the fierce competition in the fall can be traced to the high level of store traffic that is irresistible to publishers. “It is Darwinian,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “Some books will live, and some books will die.”

Fall Season - Books - Report - New York Times

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