Archive for December, 2015

The Ten-Dollar Founding Father

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

One of the year’s most unlikely success stories is that of a Broadway musical about one of the Founding Fathers, in rap.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 10.04.01 AMHamilton: An American Musical hit Broadway in August following its Off-Broadway success. So hot are tickets that it’s even getting coverage in the UK, where it has yet to be staged, The Telegraph reports,

“It’s being billed as a game-changer in Broadway history, the first musical since Rent to bring the kind of popular music people are actually listening to in clubs, on the radio, at home, to the Broadway stage.”

The show album is also breaking records. Playbill reports that it has gone “where no other Broadway score has gone before: #1 on the Billboard chart of rap albums.” This month, it was announced as one of the nominees for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

As Hamilton the man is getting more attention, so is Ron Chernow, the historian and biographer who wrote the National Book Award winning Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004), which is central to the show’s creation. Rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway musical In the Heights, read it on vacation and instantly saw its potential as a musical. It was a six-year trip to realization with Chernow serving as the show’s historical adviser.

The Wall Street Journal features the author in a Christmas Day article on the show and its effect on the his celebrity. Says Chernow, “I never dreamed that I would be autographing Playbills … [this year has been] a biographer’s wish-fulfillment fantasy” adding, “With any piece of writing, you’re hoping that it will change something, and it seldom does. Between the book and the show, we really changed the perception of Alexander Hamilton.”

As part of a Time special edition, Alexander Hamilton: A Founding Father’s Visionary Genius—and His Tragic Fate, Chernow explains that Hamilton’s reputation is seeing a revival partly because,

“America has grown into the contours of the country of [Hamilton’s] imagination … We have caught up to his prophetic vision.”

Readers are also catching up. Chernow’s biography of Hamilton has been on the NYT Paperback Nonfiction list for the last six weeks, reaching a high of #2 and holds are growing in many libraries we checked.

9781594200090_4ee8fWhile not actually a tie-in, the trade paperback edition now features the logo from the show on the cover.

The Wall Street Journal posted a video with clips from the show.

Before it moved to Broadway, CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on Hamilton, Chernow, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

More is coming, including road show versions, a likely Tony Award, and a book about the musical.

9781455539741_0d3dcHamilton: The RevolutionLin-Manuel Miranda with Jeremy McCarter, (Hachette/Grand Central Publishing; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio). Playbill, quoting a release, reports,

“The book will be designed to look like an object from Hamilton’s era and will include photos and artifacts in addition to interviews, essays and sidebars to accompany the central narrative of Hamilton’s life story and how and why Miranda crafted that life into the stunning stage work over the course of six years.”

Chernow told The Wall Street Journal he is currently working on a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which the paper says, he is writing “faster than usual, energized by the impact of 2015.”

Janus Turns His Head

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Now that the best books of 2015 are winding down (USA Today posted their top ten list just under the wire yesterday), the media is turning its attention to predictions for 2016.

The Washington Post looks ahead to books coming out through May, several of which, such as Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, (PRH/Random House, April; eGalleys available), have received recommendations from GalleyChatters. Expected names include titles by Don DeLillo, Chris Bohjalian, Louise Erdrich and Stephen King.

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Authors following up breakout successes include Chris Cleave whose Little Bee was a #1 best seller in 2009. His next book, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (S&S, May; eGalleys available for download now) is a novel set in WWII London. Emma Straub follows the 2014 summer reading hit, The Vacationers, with Modern Lovers (PRH/Riverhead), about three college friends now facing their fifties.

What Do Book Editors Do?

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

In a year end review of big stories, the buzz around the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and the revelations that it was an earlier version of what became the heavily revised and strongly edited To Kill a Mockingbird offers NPR’s All Things Considered a chance to ask “What Exactly Does an Editor Do?”

Reporter Lynn Neary took up that question with the help of author A. Scott Berg and vice president and editorial director of Riverhead Books, Rebecca Saletan.

9780425223376Berg, who nearly two decades ago wrote the award-winning biography Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (he edited several geniuses, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe), says that Perkins re-created the job of editor:

“Not only did he change the course of the American literary river, but he changed what editors do by becoming their best friends, their money lenders, their marriage counselors, their psychoanalysts … And along the way he began offering them titles. He often provided structure for what their novels ought to be. He often gave them whole ideas for what their next book should be.”

Today, given the demands on their time and the expansive duties of their jobs, editors are less intimately involved but have not stopped editing says Saletan:

“Now, with online media and other aspects of modern life there’s a ton to do and it takes a lot of time and we have to work very, very hard to get our books above the tree line … I always cringe a little and feel a little sympathetic for the editor when a review says, ‘This wasn’t well-edited.’ Because it’s very hard for anybody outside the process to know what went into it.”

For those who want to harken back to the earlier days, Berg’s book on Perkins is making its way to the silver screen under the title Genius (see our earlier story), scheduled for release in July. It’s likely to be a glorified version, however, with Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe, Dominic West as Hemingway, and Guy Pearce as Fitzgerald. The website Thompson on Hollywood provides a photo from the filming.

Nancy Pearl’s New Year’s Pick

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

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Looking for a book for the New Year, something a bit different that crosses a number of popular genres? In her most recent KUOW radio appearance, librarian Nancy Pearl offers a suggestion, the 2014 genre-blending City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample).

Saying it’s exciting to discover an author she has never read before, especially one with a backlist to explore, Nancy discusses the first in Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy (the second, City of Blades, PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample will be published on Jan. 26), a cross between mystery, fantasy, and SF about a land once ruled by incarnate gods and a young spy sent on a mission to catch a murderer.

The beginning is a bit odd, she says but the story and the world-building quickly caught her attention and drew her in.

She is not alone in that assessment.

NPR’s reviewer says he put the book down three times but,

“I also came back, drawn by something about City of Stairs, even in those interminable opening pages … It was the shine of a wholly and fully realized world. The hard gleam of competence coming from a writer who knows what he’s doing, where he’s going and just exactly how to get there … Bennett is plainly a writer in love with the world he has built — and with good cause. It’s a great world, original and unique, with a scent and a texture, a sense of deep, bloody history, and a naturally blended magic living in the stones.”

New Year, New Parenting

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

9780465048977_d5e1aA new book on parenting (or the lack of it) is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings after CBS This Morning featured The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups by Leonard Sax (Perseus/Basic Books; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Dr. Sax, who has worked as a family physician for more than 20 years, blames parents, media of all sorts, and cell phones for much of the failure to raise respectful, healthy, and happy kids.

In his CBS interview he says kids used to be told to eat their vegetables but are now begged to eat three bites just three bites of broccoli before getting dessert. He also cites the explosion of kids on medication for behavioral reasons in the U.S., 90 times the number in Italy.

In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Sax continues his call to re-vamp parenting and says parents should:

“Require respectful behavior at all times. It’s OK to disagree. It’s never OK to be disrespectful. Prioritize the family. The family meal at home is more important than piling on after-school extracurricular activities. Instead of boosting self-esteem, teach humility. Fight the cultural imperative to be ‘awesome.’ ”

Keying in the season, he suggests New Year’s as a good time to start parenting afresh, going cold turkey and telling kids flat out that things will be different from now on.

Amazon’s sales rankings show that readers are getting ready for New Year’s resolutions. New books on weight loss and regaining focus in a distracting world are doing well as are long-time favorites, such as StrengthsFinder and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Even the NYT Book Review is getting into the act, featuring self-help in the upcoming issue. The cover feature, “You, New and Improved,” offers reviews of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, titles we have covered in earlier “Titles to Know and Recommend” posts (here and here).

On the Dowager

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

9781250081483_24d0dJust in time for Sunday’s debut of the final season of Downton Abbey in the U.S., a new biography of one of the show’s favorite stars, Maggie Smith by Michael Coveney (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Macmillan Audio) is published today.

Like it’s subject, says the Washington Post review, it reveals little about her personal life, but much about her acting career, pointing readers to some of her lesser-known, but “superb” films like A Private Function (1984), the “heartbreaking” The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987) and her monologue, Bed Among the Lentils for the 1988 BBC TV series Talking Heads. Quite different from her role on Downton Abbey, it shares its dry humor.

NYT BR Ends the Year Poetically

Monday, December 28th, 2015

The 12/27 NYT Sunday Book Review devotes its attention to “The Year in Poetry.” Discussing the issue on the weekly podcast, the editors note that this has been a year of controversy and scandal in poetry, as poets dealt with the issue of race, “badly, mostly,”(see Sonya Posmenther’s “Critics Take: A Language for Grieving“) as well as politics.

9781931082877Somewhat less controversially, a range of people, from John Green to John Waters response to the question “What is Your Favorite Poem?” Gillian Flynn selects Gwendolyn Brooks, musing that Brooks “nestled into my heart when I was about 12, and she’s never been replaced,” adding that her poem, “a song in the front yard” is her “heartbeat anthem… it hit me with so much impact as a quiet, shy, relentlessly pleasing junior-schooler who yearned to be so much more than that.”

Lena Dunham picks “Man and Wife,” by Robert Lowell, explaining that she relates “to the story of the wronged wife, the wounded daughter, the angry mistress. But Lowell captures what is painful and precious about long-term love, about learning to live with someone else even when you cannot mend them.”

9780871406798Ta-Nehisi Coates lists Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage,” saying “It is the poem I return to over and over — both for what it says about my country, and how it says it.”

Separately, online only, the NYT BR’s “On Poetry” columnist  David Orr selects the ten Best Poetry Books of 2015.

9781101875438_c0880Mary Jo Bang, Robin Coste Lewis, Ada Limón, and Lawrence Raab are likely the most familiar of his selections, with Limón also making the National Book Award’s poetry short list and Lewis winning that award for her collection Voyage of the Sable Venus (PRH/Knopf; OverDrive Sample).

We’ve added all ten selections to our downloadable spreadsheet:

Best Books, Poetry, V3

See all the downloadable spreadsheets, at the right, under “Best Books 2015.”

Titles to Know and Recommend, Week of Dec. 28, 2015

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

A few well-known names arrive this week, in time for shoppers wielding gift cards.

These, and several other notable titles, are listed with ordering information and alternate formats on our downloadable spreadsheet, EarlyWord New Title Radar, Week of 12/28/15

Holds Leaders

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After She’s Gone by Lisa Jackson (Kensington; OverDrive Sample)

Booklist enthuses, “a sure bet for Jackson’s popular blend of women’s fiction and suspense,” but PW‘s view is quite different, “Jackson settles for a lot of smoke but little heat in this tepid thriller.”

The Forgotten Soldier (Pike Logan Thriller #9) by Brad Taylor (PRH/Dutton; OverDrive Sample)

In a starred review, Booklist says, “this exploration of the human side of war should quickly be recognized as one of Taylor’s best efforts. Comparisons to Vince Flynn and Brad Thor are expected and not inaccurate, but Taylor is now in a class by himself,” but PW disagrees, “Complicated character motivation muddles bestseller Taylor’s unusually introspective ninth Pike Logan thriller.”

The Hunting Trip: A Novel of Love and War by William E. Butterworth, III (PRH/Putnam; OverDrive Sample)

Author Butterworth steps out from behind the name W.E.B. Griffin and introduces a new style, also signaled by the change in cover. Kirkus applauds the change from “spy/soldier/police derring-do to … romantic adventure novel fueled by sly, sometimes arch, humor … Butterworth’s good-natured buffoonery and hyperbole work far better than Butterworth-as-Griffin.” Fans may not have caught on, holds are light so far.

Consumer Media Picks

People Picks

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People‘s “Book of the Week” is Amy Cuddy’s Presence (Hachette/Little,Brown; OverDrive Sample), which the magazine says is “a must-read for anyone looking to achieve their personal best.”

Val McDermid also gets notice with Splinter the Silence (Atlantic Monthly Press; Highbridge Audio; OverDrive Sample), with the magazine saying, “check out this tartan noir treat.”

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons (Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer) rounds out the picks. People calls this thriller a “live-wire debut” and says, “The plot is convoluted but not at the expense of its sympathetic, entertaining hero. Hang on and enjoy the ride.”

Entertainment Weekly

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The “Books” section of Entertainment Weekly leads with a review of Marie Kondo’s next, Spark Joy (see our earlier story), calling it a “superfluous follow-up.” They are much more appreciative of a book that came out in November, Fox Tossing: And Other Forgotten and Dangerous Sports, Pastimes, and Games by Edward Brooke-Hitching (S&S/Touchstone; OverDrive Sample), which covers the “world’s weirdest, most dangerous pastimes.”

Peer Picks

Two January IndieNext Picks arrive this week.

9780147517593_836e7The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons (PRH/Plume; OverDrive Sample).

Vicki Burger, of Wind City Books, Casper, WY, says in her annotation:

“Three brothers return to Hall after World War II to find their beloved home hard-used by military forces and greatly in need of repair. Their efforts are complicated by the introduction of the oldest brother’s fiancé, Edie Rose, whose beautiful voice instilled hope in the British citizenry during the darkness of war. Soon, all three brothers are in love with Edie, but only one will ultimately win her hand. Fast-forward to present times and Edie has just passed away, leaving Fox reeling from his wife’s death and mired in grief. Called upon to babysit his four-year-old grandson one day, he discovers that the lad is a prodigy at the piano with an uncanny ability to impart through his grandfather’s musical compositions the emotions Fox felt when writing them. This novel is a joy to read and fills readers with a hope of restoration in the face of loss.”

9781612194639_0ac13The Visitors by Simon Sylvester (Melville House; OverDrive Sample) also makes the list.

Sarah Hinckley, of Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA, says:

“Neil Gaiman meets Tana French in this debut thriller that takes place on a remote island off the coast of Scotland. Flora is as independent, vulnerable, and anxious for adulthood yet yearning for magic in all of its guises as any teen you’re likely to meet in literature. It is no surprise that she is drawn into the mystery of a man and his daughter moving into the abandoned Dog Cottage next door. The braiding of Scottish myth into this tale of suspicious disappearances adds a compelling twist to the wonderfully evocative setting and great cast of supporting characters.”


9781501127175_49d8cIn addition to the tie-in for Revenant, which we covered earlier, also arriving this week is The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias, Casey Sherman (Pocket Books).

The big budget disaster movie from Disney comes out on Jan 29 and stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana.

The film recounts the true-life story of the 1952 Coast Guard attempt to rescue two oil takers caught in a massive nor’easter.

(for our full list of upcoming adaptations, download our Books to Movies and TV and link to our

Adaptations In Theaters,
Christmas Day

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Most of the movies trolling for audiences this holiday weekend have already opened (People offers a guide, complete with appeal factors), but a few debut tomorrow.

The one getting the most media attention is the one that opens inthe fewest theaters. Debuting on just four screens in New York and L..A. to qualify for the Oscars, is Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant,  getting attention not only for its star, but for its director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won both Best Director and Best Picture last year forBirdman and for the difficulties the cast and crew endured on the film shoot.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterIt is based on Michael Punke’s debut, his only book to date. Published in 2002, it received little attention, but caught the eye of studios prior to publication and went through several potential directors and stars before landing with Iñárritu.

This should be an exciting time for the author, but as the Washington Post reports in a profile, “as the deputy U.S. trade representative and ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Switzerland, he’s missing out on a lot of the fun” and isn’t even allowed to give interviews.

A tie-in was released earlier, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke (Macmillian/Picador; OverDrive Sample). Copies of the original edition of the novel are showing somewhat heavy holds in a few libraries we checked, with some running a 5:1 ratio right now.

The movie expands to many more theaters on January. 8th.

9780812989267_9e2e2Opening in wide release tomorrow is Concussion starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who uncovers the extent to which brain injuries affect football players. It is based on a 2009 GQ article, that was recently released as a tie-in,  Concussion (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Random House Trade Paperbacks).

People magazine, listis it at #7 of  a dozen picks for the week (Revenant is at #1), saying that “Smith effortlessly carries this uneven but revealing drama.” He is also getting Oscar Buzz for Best Actor.

In the film, Smith as Dr. Omalu is warned, “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.” The same could be said of the movie, which the NFL is none too happy about. Hacked Sony emails reveal, according the the New York Times, that the studio “found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game.”

Opening tomorrow in wide release after debuting on 12/11 is The Big Short based on Michael Lewis’s book

Best Books, Childrens and YA, Updated

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

The final critics picks of best kids and YA books are now in and we can declare which lists are the longest and which are have the most unique selections.

Below are the recently added lists:

Booklist  — 53 picks

Entertainment Weekly Best Kids Books (Not available online) — 6 picks (for more on this list, see our earlier post, A Favorite Best Picture Books List)

Huffington Post  — 21 picks

Kirkus — Teen —  50 picks

Time Magazine Top Ten YA & Childrens  — 10 picks

The Wall Street Journal —  10 picks

We’ve added these titles to our downloadable spreadsheet, bringing the list to 285 titles:

2015 Best Books Chikdrebs & YA, V. 3

The most number of selections, by a long shot, comes from Kirkus, with 160 total titles. Given that number, it’s no surprise that it’s also the list with the most unique selections, 97 titles. However, it’s also the most in terms of percentage; 60% of the entire list.

The next closest in terms of percentage is Time magazine’s, but on  a much shorter list. Of their ten picks, half of were single picks:

David Levithan,  Hold Me Closer, (Penguin/Dutton) Time, #5

Eric Carle, The Nonsense ShowTime, #6

Michelle Cuevas,  Confessions of an Imaginary Friend (Penguin/Dial) Time, #7

Juman Malouf, The Trilogy of Two (Penguin/Putnam) — Time, #8

Dr Seuss, What Pet Should I Get? (Random Houae) — Time, #9


A Sheep, a Bookstore, and
a Blog Post

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

67ed427230059a0dbe113af3385420ecThe SheepOver (Hachette/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), a children’s book about the illness and recovery of Sweet Pea the sheep, has turned two Vermont farmers into multi-book contract authors.

Based on the buzzy reaction to their Facebook page updates about their sick sheep, John and Jennifer Churchman decided to write a book detailing the story, illustrated with photographic collage art.

John took the book to his local indie bookstore, the Flying Pig, and owner Elizabeth Bluemle blogged about the unique illustrations – a mix of photos, drawings, and kaleidoscopic layering.

Turns out that Bluemle contributes to PW’s ShelfTalker and wrote the post there (you can see samples of the illustrations in the post).

It caught the eye of agent Brenda Bowen, who contacted the Sweet Pea’s owners and within weeks had netted them a mid-six-figure deal for three books with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

On CBS News, which picked up the story, Bowen called the deal remarkable, saying “I don’t know the degree of rareness that I can get down to. I mean it’s granular level rare.”

Shelf-Awareness picked up the story too, thanks to the indie angle and PW reports it in detail as well.

Now the book is zooming up Amazon’s rankings and is currently out of stock.

Libraries seem to have missed the first wave of interest, with only 19 currently showing holdings in World Cat. With a three-book deal and plenty of farm animals to fuel additional stories, the interest in sheep might not be over for a while.


Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

9780385541039_1b16fLibrarian and bookseller fans of American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis (RH/Doubleday, January) are in good company. Margaret Atwood picks it as one of her two favorite books of the year in the Guardian, “Surreal tales of American weirdness, with details that ring all too true. Ouch, I say at times. At other times, yikes.”

It is also a LibraryReads and an Indie Next pick.

The author is an avid poker player, as pointed out in a NYT profile by fellow observer of American domesticity,  J. Courtney Sullivan (The Engagements, Commencement).

The story also notes that sales of her first two books were not stellar. Keep your eye on this one, the third time looks like it will be the charm.

Novelizations, No Phantom Menace

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

9781101965498_0e088We don’t often see reviews of novelizations, but in The Washington Post Elizabeth Hand addresses the question, “You’ve seen the new Star Wars movie — should you read the book tie-in?” Her answer may be a bit biased. She wrote the novelization of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys as well as a few Star Wars titles.

She reveals that authors “typically don’t see the film before they write the book. They’re given a screenplay and some still photos, and they work from that.”

Some may believe that novelizations were a 70s phenomenon, but Hand dates the popularity of books based on movies as far back as The Perils of Pauline, The Ten Commandments, and Metropolis, and writes that Jack London even made money as a novelizer.

Other well-known authors such as John Steinbeck, Orson Welles, Graham Greene and Arthur Miller produced them as well. Take that, novelization snobs.

As to the newest Star Wars novelization, The Force Awakens (PRH/Del Rey/LucasBooks; Random House Audio/BOT), Hand loves it, saying author Alan Dean Foster (who also wrote the very first Star Wars novelization although it got credited to George Lucas), does the movie “proud.”

At this point, the only available edition is the eBook. The print version has been delayed until January, for fear that hackers would get into printers’ files and reveal key plot points before the movie’s release. Hand says the reading experience is “fast-moving, atmospheric and raises goose bumps at just the right moments … it’s a testament to Foster’s skill and professionalism that he not only evokes entire onscreen worlds but that he also gives us glimpses of an even more vast, unseen universe that has arisen from his impressive imagination.”

So cheer up Star Wars fans, even as the movie ends, the story does not.

From the Set of

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

zookeepersActress Jessica Chastain, currently working in Prague on the film version of The Zookeeper’s Wife (Norton, 2007), reveals just how male-dominated the movie business is.

In an essay in The Hollywood Reporter‘s special “Women in Entertainment” issue, Chastain notes that, although women make up only 20% of the crew of The Zookeeper’s Wife, that’s “way more” than any film she’s ever worked on.

“There are female producers (Diane Levin, Kim Zubick and Katie McNeill), a female screenwriter (Angela Workman), a female novelist (Diane Ackerman), a female protagonist and a female director. I’ve never seen a female camera operator like Rachael Levine on one of my films. And I’ve never, ever seen a female stunt coordinator like Antje ‘Angie’ Rau..”

As a result, she says, “You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story of the valiant couple who rescued 300 Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in the bombed Warsaw Zoo (see the NYT review of the book here). The shoot wrapped at the end of last month. The movie is expected in theaters some time on 2016,

Movie Deal for

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

9780307451064_1e451At one point, Johnny Depp was in talks to play famous magician Harry Houdini in a film based on the 2007 biography, The Secret Life of Harry Houdine.

Another film based on a different book that features Houdini may make it to the screen first. STX Entertainment has acquired film rights to David Jaher’s first book, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World (PRH/Crown; BOT; OverDrive Sample).

About Houdini’s showdowns with a famous Boston medium of the time, it got a glowing review from NPR calling it “spellbinding” and saying that “Jaher writes with a novelist’s panache,” has a wonderful “poetic sympathy and journalistic distance,” and “exhibits a what-the-hell candor that makes [the book] a page-turner.” The Wall Street Journal was also enthusiastic.

Echoing the reviewers’ assessments, the president of STX says in a press release quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, “Quite a few producers and studios were pursuing rights to this book for very good reason … this is a spellbinding and exciting true story.”