Archive for August, 2011

Joann Sfar’s New Career

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The NYT, among others, writes today about French singer Serge Gainsbourg, who was an icon in his native country from the ’60’s through his death in 1991. A new film about him, Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, opens this week.

NPR, however, focuses on the director, Joann Sfar, already well-known as an award-winning comics artist, because he “is as interesting as its subject.”

His books include The Rabbi’s Cat, (Pantheon/ Knopf Doubleday), Little Vampire (First Second/Macmillan) and The Little PrinceGraphic Novel (HMH), which was recommended by Lisa Von Drasek as a “Book to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well.” His latest, the fourth in the Night of the Ladykiller, Dungeon series (NBM/ComicsLit) came out in June. Booklist called it “A wonderful addition to the series”

Although some stories claim the movie  Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is based on a comic (it’s even listed that way in, Sfar says it is not, but that he applied “comic book techniques” to the live action movie,

I love [the] Russian way of storytelling, when you put strong picture close to other strong picture, and you expect the audience to do the job….a kind of montage way of editing a movie.

Gainsbourg may be less familiar to American audiences than Sfar. Some identify him only through his muse, Jane Birkin, the ’60’s British actress for whom the Hermes’ Birkin Bag was named (it’s the one Samantha lusted for on Sex and the City), or for the couple’s daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg who stars with Kirsten Durst in the upcoming movie Melancholia.

Playdates for Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life are listed on the films website,

Cheney Memoir Getting Response

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The promotion for former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir In My Time (Threshold/S&S, 8/30) continues this morning with excerpts in USA Today, focusing on his “unflattering” portrayals of many he worked with during his time in office (including the President).

The one who bears the brunt of the Cheney treatment, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, has gone on the record, calling Cheney’s comments “cheap shots.” (Cheney also has some words for Powell’s successor, Condoleezza Rice. No word from her yet; she may be saving it for her own memoir, coming from Crown in Nov., No Higher Honor).

In My Time went to #1 on Amazon sales rankings late yesterday, where it continues today.

Pacino Obsessed with Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

In 1996, Al Pacino released a documentary called Looking for Richard, about his attempt to get to the heart of Shakespeare’s play, Richard III.

Ten years later, he performed in Oscar Wilde’s play, Salomé. A camera crew followed him around, creating footage for another documentary. The result, Wilde Salomé, debuts at the Venice Film Festival, which begins this week. No theatrical release date has been set.

LONDON BOULEVARD, Stick with the Book

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The long-shelved movie, London Boulevard, based on the book by Ken Bruen, starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightly and Ray Winstone, has finally been schedule for a limited release on Nov. 18, to be preceded by a cable video-on-demand release on October 5,

Why, with all that star power, isn’t the movie getting a major release? Unfortunately, its U.K. debut in February brought mostly terrible reviews and did poorly at the box office.

The book, however, fared much better. When London Boulevard was published 2009, the NYT BR crime columnist Marilyn Stasio called it an “unnervingly clever reworking of Sunset Boulevard.” Clearly a fan, she has reviewed several of the author’s titles, saying, “Ken Bruen is hard to resist, with his aching Irish heart, silvery tongue, and bleak noir sensibility.”

The trailer is below and on YouTube

Bruen’s next book, the ninth in his Jack Taylor series, Headstone  is on the debut list from the newly relaunched Mysterious Press imprint, which Otto Penzler, who founded it in 1975, recently bought back and is now publishing in conjunction with Grove Atlantic.

Headstone (Jack Taylor)
Ken Bruen
Retail Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Mysterious Press – (2011-10-04)
ISBN / EAN: 0802126006 / 9780802126009

Coincidentally, another movie based on a Bruen title, Blitz (St. Martins, 2004), has just gone directly to DVD. It stars Jason Stratham.


Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Looks like Focus Feactures, the studio behind  the film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the book by John le Carré, has gotten cold feet. Instead of  releasing it on Nov. 18, when it would go up against Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, based on the book by Stephenie Meyer, they have moved the opening day back to Dec. 9.

The later date also brings it closer to Oscar voting time, which may have been an even greater incentive. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, the movie has a strong cast; Gary Oldman (pictured at right in the movie poster), widely expected to be nominated for Best Actor in his role as Smiley, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong.

Reviews will begin breaking soon; it opens in the UK on Sept. 16. The trailer is available here.

No tie-in has been announced, but the book was recently re-released in paperback (for a full list of upcoming movies with tie-ins, cick here, Upcoming — with Tie-ins).

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A Novel
John le Carre
Retail Price: $16.00
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) – (2011-06-07)
ISBN / EAN: 0143119788 / 9780143119784

Casey Anthony Book On The Rise

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

News emerged over the weekend about a book by the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony murder trial. At that point, the book had not yet appeared on American retail or wholesaler sites.

Shortly after it did appear, the book went to #46 on Amazon’s sales rankings. It did even better on B& rankings, where it is now at #1. No cover is available yet.

Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony
Jeff Ashton
Retail Price: $26.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Company – (2011-11)
ISBN / EAN: 006212532X / 9780062125323

As we noted in the previous story, another book on the case has also been scheduled for November, Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony by Keith Ablow (St. Martin’s, 11/22).

HUNGER GAMES Teaser Trailer

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Featured on last night’s MTV Video Music Awards was the teaser trailer for the much-anticipated Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins. If you blinked, you may have missed it.

Many of the book’s fans were upset with the casting of blonde Jennifer Lawrence as the dark-haired, olive-skinned Katniss Everdeen. This, at least, shows that she looks the part, but the reaction, according to CBS News, is that, the trailer is catnip for fans, but confusing for newcomers.

The first in the four-part movie series arrives March 23, 2012.

Usual Suspect Pelecanos A Media Darling

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In our New Title Radar for this week, we called George Pelecanos a “Usual Suspect,” since the release of a new title by him is a regular event, but we could have also characterized him as a “Media Darling.”

Reviews for his new book, The Cut, (Reagan Arthur/ Little, Brown; Audio, Hachette Audio and AudioGo) releasing today, appeared in a remarkable number of major newspapers in the last few days. All but one are enthusiastic about the beginning of this new series, featuring 29-year-old ex-Marine, Spero Lucas:

New York Times, by Janet Maslin (August 29, 2011); The Cut, “does a fine job of establishing Spero as a durable and highly appealing hero. And it sets up a back story and modus operandi that will work well for him in the future.”

Los Angeles Times, by Carolyn Kellogg (August 28, 2011); “For all the winningness of Spero Lucas — his modesty, postwar impatience, love for his family, devoted reading, easy banter, good taste in restaurants, gestures of kindness — it’s [the book’s] forward drive that makes him interesting, that makes him an excellent candidate for a mystery series.”

Washington Post, by Jonathan Yardley (August 28, 2011); “A book that entertains can also enrich, instruct and even enlighten. George Pelecanos’s books do all of that, which is plenty good enough for me.”

Portland Oregonian, by Steve Duin (August 27, 2011); the one reviewer who says Pelecanos is not at the top of his game with this one, still admits, “The Cut is not a total loss. Even when Pelecanos is misfiring, his writing has a fine rhythm, particularly when the novelist is taking readers on guided tours inside the Beltway.”

Financial Times, by Christopher Fowler (August 26); “This is gold-standard character-driven crime writing that few will ever match.”

Philadelphia Inquirer, by Dan DeLuca, 8/28; “George Pelecanos is rejuvenated in The Cut, the literary crime writer’s 17th novel and the first to feature Spero Lucas.”

USA Today, Interview by Carol Memmot, 8/28 (Pelecanos was also interviewed at the beginning of the month on NPR’s Morning Edition).

Pelecanos is a media darling in another context; he is a writer on two acclaimed HBO series, The Wire and Treme.

Casey Anthony Books

Monday, August 29th, 2011

While some of us were pre-occupied by Hurricane Irene preparations this weekend, others were buzzing about a mysterious listing for a book on the Casey Anthony murder trial that appeared on and B& (where it wasn’t listed when we checked).

This morning, the Orlando Sentinal confirms that Jeff Ashton, the prosecutor in the case, is releasing a book in late November, titled Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony. is showing the publisher as Morrow and the date as 11/29, but no information is currently on American retailer or wholesaler sites. UPDATE: Publishing information is now available:

Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony
Jeff Ashton
Retail Price: $26.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow & Company – (2011-11)
ISBN / EAN: 006212532X / 9780062125323

Casey Anthony has been called “The most hated woman in America.” A report by The Los Angeles Examiner, based on anonymous sources, claiming that she signed a deal to write a book with an unnamed publisher, brought strong reactions. Suspicions that S&S might be the unnamed publisher resulted in furious comments on the company’s Facebook page and a denial, “An update to our fans regarding rumors about Simon & Schuster: we are not publishing, and have never intended to publish, any book by Casey Anthony, her family, or any member of her team.”

Anger at Anthony translates into approval for her prosecutor Ashton, who is getting kudos on Facebook for his book and being called “American’s Sweetheart” (even though, as Gawker comments, he “failed to convict a woman who was already convicted by cable television viewers”).

Already in the works is a book by the forensic psychologist who commented on Fox News frequently about the case, Keith Ablow. Also coming in November, it’s titled Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony, (St. Martin’s, 11/22).  Ablow has written several other books, including the similarly-titled Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson, (St. Martin’s, 2005)

Casey Anthony’s parents, once rumored to be working on a book deal, have denied those reports and are scheduled for an appearance on the Dr Phil Show on 9/12.

New Title Radar: Week of August 29

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Dick Cheney and Tom Perrotta grab attention for books coming next week, while Simon Garfield‘s book about type fonts gets high praise. Titles to watch include the promising start of a new thriller series by Amanda Kyle William.  Usual suspects include James Patterson and Jude Devereaux. Nonfiction includes veteran Karl Marlantes‘s meditation on what it’s like to go to war, and Patrica Bosworth‘s much praised bio of Jane Fonda.

Media Darlings

In My Time: A Personal and Poltical Memoir by Dick Cheney (Threshold Editions; Simon and Schuster Audio, abridged) is scheduled for a torrent of prime time attention leading into its publication this coming Tuesday, and has already received an embargo-breaking review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. The former Vice President’s memoir is unlikely to get high marks for candor, but with a media blitz that his publisher is touting as one of the “largest nonfiction rollouts in publishing history,” he will be hard to miss.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (St. Martin’s; Macmillan Audio) explores the lives of suburbanites left behind after the Rapture. Perrotta’s sixth novel has garnered an early New York Times review, in which Michiko Kakutani finds it “cartoony and melodramatic,” yet saved by “Perrotta’s affectionate but astringent understanding of his characters and their imperfections”. It also got an early NPR interview, and is an Oprah Book to Watch for in September. Though it’s Perotta’s darkest novel yet, this one was a favorite among librarians who joined our GalleyChat after ALA , and independent booksellers made it a September Indie Next Pick. It has been signed for an HBO series, says Variety.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield (Penguin) argues that type fonts carry their own meaning, and explores what we are saying when we choose one. Already a hit in the UK, it got an early review in the New York Times, in which Janet Maslin enthused, “This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss’s best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things…Mr. Garfield has put together a lot of good stories and questions about font subtleties and font-lovers’ fanaticism.”

Watch List

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury) chronicles the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina from the point of view of a pregnant 14-year-old black girl living with her three brothers and father in poverty on the edge of Bois Sauvage, Miss. Booklist says, “this coming-of-age story tends at times to get lost in its style…[but it is] redeemed by the empathetic family [Ward] has created.” It’s an Oprah Book to Watch for in September, and also an Indie Next Pick for the same month.

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle William (Bantam) features a damaged Asian-American PI who fights her own personal demons while hunting for a serial killer, in the start of a new thriller series following William’s Madison Maguire paperback mysteries of the early 1990s. Booklist calls it “a character-driven, nonstop thriller with flashes of wit and romance that builds to a harrowing climax; fans of the genre will want to get in at the start.”

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Kolya Maksik (Europa Editions) is a cautionary tale about a brilliant teacher in Paris, and his imperfections. Kirkus says, “Some of the best scenes in the novel involve the reconstruction of the philosophical give-and-take of his classroom, Will’s efforts to get his students to think and to make the literature their own.” It’s a September Indie Next Pick.

Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger (Atria; Brilliance Audio) is the 11th Cork O’Connor mystery, this time set on an Ojibwa reservation in the remote Minnesota-Canadian border region. PW says, “Krueger never writes the same book twice as each installment finds him delving deeper into Cork’s psyche.” It’s another September Indie Next Pick.

Usual Suspects

Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson (Grand Central; Hachette Audio) is about a hard-up art student who finds a bag containing $13 million worth of diamonds during an attack on New York’s Grand Central Station, and makes off with it, only to be trailed by an assassin.

The Cut (Spero Lucas series) by George Pelecanos (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown; Hachette AudioAudioGo) is the first in a new series by Pelecanos, who was already interviewed about it on NPR’s Morning Edition last month.

Heartwishes: An Edilean Novel by Jude Deveraux (Atria; S&S Audio) follows the hunt for a magic stone that grants wishes.

A Trick of the Light (Armand Gamache Series #7) by Louise Penny (Minotaur; Macmillan Audio; Thorndike Large Print) is the latest mystery featuring Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, this time set in a tiny Quebec village where the art world is gathered. Booklist says in a starred review: “Penny has been compared to Agatha Christie [but] it sells her short. Her characters are too rich, her grasp of nuance and human psychology too firm.” This one is also a Sept Indie Next Pick.

Young Adult

The Medusa Plot by Gordon Korman (Scholastic) is the sixth book in the 39 Clues series, which is accompanied by two secret-filled card packs, and a website. This time, 13-year-old Dan Cahill and his older sister, who thought they belonged to the world’s most powerful family, discover their family members are being kidnapped by a shadowy group known only as the Vespers.


What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly; Blackstone Audio) chronicles the real Vietnam War experiences of the author of Matterhorn. PW calls it “a riveting, powerfully written account of how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath. Citing a Navajo tale of two warriors who returned home to find their people feared them until they learned to sing about their experience, Marlantes learns the lesson, concluding, ‘This book is my song.’ ”

Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman by Patricia Bosworth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a biography of the actress, fitness instructor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist that’s been 10 years in the making, written by a friend of Fonda’s who is also an accomplished biographer and Vanity Fair journalist. People gives it 4 of 4 stars and make it a People Pick in the 9/5 issue: “it is more than 500 pages and not one is wasted…[Bosworth] has written an astute accounting of a woman of deep contradictions, a depressive plagued by bulimia and self-doubt.” PW says, “With access to Fonda’s FBI files and personal papers, plus extensive interviews with her family and colleagues, Bosworth has succeeded in capturing Fonda’s step-by-step transformation from wide-eyed, apolitical ingénue to the poised personality of recent decades.”

Where You Left Me by Jennifer Gardner Trulson (Gallery Books) is a 9/11 widow’s memoir by the wife of Doug Gardner, an executive broker and father of two, who was one of the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees killed in the Twin Towers. Kirkus calls this “uneven, but in its stronger moments, the book provides trenchant insights into one woman’s resilience and makes a respectable entry in the burgeoning field of 9/11 widow memoirs.”

Rice and Cheney; Dueling Memoirs

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The embargo on Dick Cheney’s memoir, In My Time (Threshold/S&S, 8/30) has already been broken. In a review that appears in print tomorrow, the New York Times‘ Michiko Kakutani follows up on Cheney’s claim that the book will cause heads to “explode all over Washington.”

If it does, she says, it will be because of Cheney’s “dry, truculent prose [which] turns out to be mostly a predictable mix of spin, stonewalling, score settling and highly selective reminiscences.”

Kakutani says the book describes Bush era Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “naïve and inexperienced in her efforts to reach a nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Crown announced today that Condoleezza Rice’s memoir of that period, No Higher Honor, will be released on Nov. 1. The press release claims that her account will be “vivid and forthright.”

Right; particularly if she gets a chance to revise the manuscript after reading Cheney’s book.

Publicity Begins for Cheney Memoir

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The opening segment in what S&S calls “one of the largest media rollouts in nonfiction publishing history,” aired on the Today Show this morning. In a preview of Dick Cheney’s taped NBC interview, airing on Monday night, the day before the publication of the former VP’s memoir In My Time (Threshold/S&S, 8/30), he claims the book will “have heads exploding all over Washington.”

Next Tuesday, Matt Lauer will interview Cheney live on the Today Show. After that, he will be wherever you turn; on Fox, CNN, CNBC, ABC, CBS and even C-Span as well as in print interviews in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

The book was embargoed and few libraries are showing it on their catalogs at this point.

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Steve Jobs Bio

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Last week, S&S announced that Walter Isaacson’s bio of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was going to be released on Nov. 21, several months ahead of its original date of March 6, because it was “finished and ready to publish.”

That news set Silicon Valley buzzing. As tech journalist Nicholas Thompson says, “who really finishes a book early, particularly when the subject is someone as irascible and complex as Steve Jobs?”

It turns out that the story was prophetic; yesterday, Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January, stepped down as CEO of Apple.

The New York Post calls this a “gift to Simon & Schuster.” Indeed, the book simply titled Steve Jobs: A Biography rose to #23 on Amazon’s sales rankings, from #1,286. Several libraries have not ordered it; reviews are under embargo.


Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The media has been focused on a major debut coming from a division of Random House, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, 9/13).

Meanwhile, another major debut, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, from another Random House division, Ballantine (Audio, Random House Audio and Books on Tape and OverDrive; Large Print, Thorndike), was released to less media fanfare yesterday. Reviews are mixed, but they contain hints that the book will be a hit.

Despite its old-fashioned sounding title and elegant cover, the book is actually about a gritty subject, how foster care often harms kids. Victoria, who has grown up in the system in present day San Francisco, is newly on her own and homeless. Her background makes it difficult for her to trust people, but her knowledge of the secret messages conveyed by flowers leads to a job and finally a satisfying life.

In yesterday’s review on NPR’s Web site, under the pun-filled headline, “Overly Rosy Premise Proves Thorny In Flowers,” Rachel Syme makes an effort to talk herself down from enjoying the book,

As invigorating as [the language of flowers] is as a literary device, it does border on a gimmick — the overreaching and common curse of debut novels. It all seems to tie together too neatly…Where Diffenbaugh sees plot holes, she simply fills them with flowers.

Nevertheless, it leaves a lasting impression

The language of flowers, as illuminated through Victoria’s words and a special appendix, turns out to be an addictive preoccupation: Once you know that peonies represent anger; basil, hate; and red carnations, heartbreak, every supermarket bouquet takes on a new significance.

The Wall Street Journal throws in a few digs before ending on a positive note:

The Language of Flowers has been as carefully conceived and executed as a handmade wedding bouquet to appeal to readers accustomed to seeing their heroines sink into depths of despair before emerging to claim hard-won redemption. But if the novel is predictable, it is also lucid and lovely—Ms. Diffenbaugh has found a vibrant way to tell a familiar story of rift (Carolina jasmine) and reconciliation (hazel).

Both reviews attest, if condescendingly, to the book’s appeal for book clubs:

NPR; ‘The combination of harrowing orphan story and delicate exploration of a Victorian art form will be catnip for book clubs and airborne readers.”

WSJ; “Victoria’s emotional journey through the tunnel of her memories to the light of second chances is a staple of best-selling and book-club fiction”

The language of flowers may not be as antique as it seems. The UK’s Daily Mail sees a revival, both because of the book, which is a bestseller there, and because Kate Middleton used what is technically called “floriography” to choose the flowers for her wedding bouquet and the Royal wedding cake.

The book is now at #669 on Amazon sales rankings, but at a much higher #46 on B&, where it is promoted on the home page under  “Cool Books: Titles We’re Talking About.” Some libraries are showing heavy holds.


Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Ray Bradbury turned 91 on Monday and received some enviable presents. Alice Hoffman published a tribute in the L.A. Times, describing how, as a teenager, his books insulated her “from the despair of a family that was breaking apart.”

News also broke that Mike Medavoy (Black Swan) is producing a film version of Bradbury’s 1957 novel Dandelion Wine (Knopf). Bradbury, who will write the screenplay, expressed his joy over the new project,

This is the best birthday gift I could ask for. Today, I have been reborn! Dandelion Wine is my most deeply personal work and brings back memories of sheer joy as well as terror. This is the story of me as a young boy and the magic of an unforgettable summer which still holds a mystical power over me.

For those who haven’t read the book in a while, this line is a reminder of the book’s magic,

Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.