Americans Becoming Less Insular

The phenomenal success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series in the U.S., has brought attention to other foreign crime writers. According to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal,

The flood of imported crime fiction is striking given American publishers’ longstanding resistance to works in translation. Newly translated books still make up just 3% of titles released in the U.S., according to Bowker…and translated fiction and poetry make up less than 1%. In many European countries, translated books account for 25% to 40% of titles.

Perhaps the best indicator of the trend is the fact that James Patterson has begun partnering with writers in other countries (covered in a separate WSJ story). His Postcard Killers is written with Swedish author Liza Marklund, who wrote a draft in Swedish, based on Patterson’s outline, which was then translated into English for Patterson to edit. The book was released in Europe first, where it did not appeal to Swedish audiences, who prefer more literary crime writing.

The Postcard Killers
James Patterson, Liza Marklund
Retail Price: $27.99
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2010-08-16)
ISBN / EAN: 0316089516 / 9780316089517

Patterson is also working on a new Private series, with authors in several other countries.

Minotaur Books, is particularly active in bringing in titles from abroad. The Wall Street Journal says that, until just a few years ago, the St. Martins imprint focused on British imports, but their list now features writers from Iceland, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa as well as Sweden. They are “betting big” this coming February, with a 75,000 copy first printing of The Devotion of Suspect X by Japanese best-selling writer, Keigo Higashino.

This August, Pantheon Books will publish another best-selling Japanese crime writer, Shuichi Yoshida, for the first time in the US. The WSJ says that Yoshida’s 2007 book, Villain, is a “moody narrative [that] unfolds from multiple characters’ perspectives.” Publishers Weekly calls it a “subtle but powerful novel.”

Villain: A Novel
Shuichi Yoshida
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Pantheon – (2010-08-03)
ISBN / EAN: 030737887X / 9780307378873

The WSJ story includes a chart that delineates the characteristics of each country’s crime writers and their appeal to specific reading tastes.

One Response to “Americans Becoming Less Insular”

  1. Ben Rubinstein Says:

    Thank goodness! I had heard that the Hollywood version of DRAGON TATTOO is replacing the Swedish setting with a Canadian one, as if Sweden is just too foreign for American sensibilities. I hope that was just a rumor!