The book currently near the top of Amazon's Movers and Shakers list is one you may not have heard about — and we hadn't either, until today.
The surprise title is The Most Dangerous Animal of All, which had been kept under wraps by publisher HarperCollins until today's release date. Author Gary L. Stewart, writing with co-author Susan Mustafa, asserts that a search for his biological father led to a disturbing conclusion: Stewart's father was the notorious Zodiac Killer, who murdered at least seven people in an unsolved crime spree in Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. The killer's murderous rampage inspired the 2007 David Fincher film Zodiac, as well as several documentaries. While many suspects have been mentioned, no conclusive proof of the killer's identity has ever emerged.
A HarperCollins spokesperson told New York magazine that the book had been vetted by company lawyers who concluded it was "legally sound." The company says Stewart, who was adopted and now lives in Baton Rouge, began his search for his father at the age of 39 after his birth mother contacted him for the first time.
Expect much controversy in the coming weeks as experts on the mysterious case debate the merits of Stewart's evidence.
In May, BookPage interviewed Mitchell Zuckoff about his book Lost in Shangri-La, the amazing true story of a crash landing in the New Guinea jungle at the end of World War II. I loved Zuckoff's explanation of how he came across this part of history—and why he chose to write a book about it:
“It was about seven years ago. I was searching online newspaper databases, particularly The Chicago Tribune, to see what else was happening around the same time.” That’s when he encountered a series of stories on the crash and rescue written by the Tribune’s war correspondent, Walter Simmons. “It was almost comic strip-like,” he recalls. “My eyes were bulging, my jaw dropped to the floor and my tongue rolled out. By the time I pulled myself together, I knew I couldn’t pursue the other story.”
Frozen in Time will be published in 2014. Are you a fan of true-life adventure stories? Do you have any recommendations for fans of Lost in Shangri-La? (Hey, how about my other favorite book from 2011 with the word "Shangri-La" in the title . . . Radio Shangri-La? It's about a very different kind of adventure, but an adventure nonetheless!)
Great news for Jodi Picoult fans -- she has teamed up with her daughter Sammy to write a chapter book for kids ages 9-12! According to "The Pi-Cult" Summer 2011 newsletter, the Picoult gals have spent "countless hours writing every single word in tandem" over the past two years.
It was just announced that the finished product, Between the Lines, is scheduled for June 26, 2012. Jodi and Sammy will be touring together and they "hope you’ll bring your kids out to meet us both – and that you’ll enjoy having a reading experience with your child as much as I enjoyed having a writing experience with mine!"
I found this vid from Lifetime featuring Jodi and Sammy. They're a pretty cute team:
There's been no shortage of major books about political figures recently—think Going Rogue and Game Change, just for starters—but a few titles coming out this spring will be sure to generate even more interest in these very public lives.
President Obama may already have two books to his name, but David Remnick's The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama is the first major biography to be published about him. Remnick, who won the Pulitzer Prize for 1993's Lenin's Tomb, will cover both Obama's personal life (such as his relationship with his mother) and his political life. Says Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Knopf, "Remnick conducted hundreds of on-the-record interviews to write the fullest narrative possible of a sitting President. He relies on conversations with family, friends, teachers, professors, mentors, donors, and rivals of Barack Obama––as well as with the President himself." Knopf will publish The Bridge on April 6th, with a first printing of 200,000 copies.
And a mere two weeks later, on April 20th, Gotham will publish Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson's family memoir, A Game of Character: A Family Journey from Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond (Gotham). With a first printing of 250,000, Robinson's book promises to share his insights into developing that elusive quality known as "character," with stories about his and Michelle's childhood, growing up and eventual acceptance into Princeton University.
Finally, with a first printing of a whopping 750,000 (!), Laura Bush's memoir, Spoken From the Heart, will be released by Scribner on May 4th. There's very little official information to be found about this book—they aren't even sending out advance copies—but with numbers like that, expect this one to be HUGE.
The popular Welsh novelist and former RAF pilot and jockey died yesterday at his home in the Grand Cayman islands. His son, Felix, who collaborated with his father on four recent novels, says: “My brother, Merrick, and I are, of course devastated by the loss of our father, but we rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man. We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life. It is an honour for me to be able to continue his remarkable legacy through the new novels.” Sounds like Felix may continue to write, or at least publish any incomplete manuscripts the two may have been working on?
Dick Francis' long string of mysteries set in the world of horse-racing have been solid sellers since the 1960s. Many were written with the collaboration and support of his wife, Mary, whose death in 2000 caused Francis to temporarily retire from writing. Perhaps his fascination with trackside mystery was spurred by his own involvement in one of the sport's most memorable moments: Francis was riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devan Loch, in the 1956 Grand National. In the lead, and just yards from the finish line, the horse inexplicably collapsed. But whatever his inspiration, it's clear that Francis' writing brought hours of enjoyment to millions over the past 50 years.
Related in BookPage: our review of Dick Francis' Under Orders.
For five more days, you can listen to a dramatized version of Dick Francis' Enquiry on the BBC's website.
If you saw this holiday season's hit movie The Blind Side, you may think you know all about Michael Oher, the young black man who was taken in by a well-off white family and eventually became a star left tackle on his high school football team, then for Ole Miss, and now for the Baltimore Ravens. If you read Michael Lewis' book of the same name (you can read an excerpt on the NYT website), you'll learn more about both Oher and the couple who adopted him, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Now you can have the chance to hear about the Tuohys' experience in their own words. Publisher's Marketplace reports that the Tuohys' book (no title yet) will be published by Holt this summer, and will explore "the power of giving." Will you be interested to see what this extraordinary family has to say?
Related in BookPage: The power of giving is certainly a timely topic these days! Check out reviews of books on philanthropy and money management in our January feature, "Getting and Giving," or a review of The Power of Half, by an Atlanta family that sold their house and donated half of the proceeds to an organization working to end poverty and hunger in Ghana.
If you read James Frey's much-contested memoir, A Million Little Pieces, or his followup novel, Bright Shiny Morning, and thought to yourself, This guy should be writing young adult books!—well, you were way ahead of me. But indeed, Frey and a co-writer, Jobie Hughes, signed a deal last summer with HarperCollins for their young adult science fiction novel I Am Number Four, the first in a projected six-book series.
Dreamworks immediately snapped up the film rights to I Am Number Four, which won't hit bookstores until this fall, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Initial reports named Michael Bay as a potential director, but the latest news is that D.J. Caruso, of Disturbia and Eagle Eye fame, has signed on to direct. (Bay will still produce the film.)
According to the New York Times, I Am Number Four is about "a group of nine alien teenagers on a planet called Lorien, which is attacked by a hostile race from another planet. The nine and their guardians evacuate to Earth, where three are killed. The protagonist, a Lorien boy named John Smith, hides in Paradise, Ohio, disguised as a human, trying to evade his predators and knowing he is next on their list."
What do you think about Frey's latest project? Why do you think he made the jump to the YA market? Are you looking forward to the book or the movie—or both?
Most scientists agree that there have been five mass extinctions in Earth's history. Kolbert, a respected environmental journalist, believes we're on the verge of number six, the first since the dinosaurs were wiped out more than 50 million years ago. What does this mean for the planet? We'll find out when The Sixth Extinction appears sometime next year.
From our archives: a review of the audio version of Kolbert's previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.
Whether or not it's warranted, news about mainstream publishing tends to trend toward the bleak. So it's always encouraging to hear about a company who is generating excitement about reading in a new way. Madras Press, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit publisher, is one of those companies. Their goal: to publish individually bound short stories/novellas and distribute the proceeds to charitable organizations chosen by the authors.
"Concord Free Press, One Story, the old Penguin 60s series, the Penguin Great Ideas series," explains founding editor (and author) Sumanth Prabhaker. But Madras decided to focus on publishing works that were "too long for magazines, too short for trade publishers."
"It struck me as kind of funny that so many writers immediately limit themselves with a certain page restriction when they set out to write a story, especially when print technology and the major distribution systems are perfectly capable of handling stories of basically any length," Prabhaker tells us. "There's really no reason for it, and yet, as I complained to more and more of my friends, it seemed like there were a lot of people in a similar position—stuck with good stories that nobody was interested in. . . . Often it's not even a matter of page count; it's just that the impact of certain stories can be lessened by the presence of other writing on either end, in a literary journal or magazine or collection."
Of course, authors are often pleased to have the opportunity to have a work that would not otherwise be published see the light of day, and sold to benefit their charity of choice. "We're very flexible about this, so our inaugural titles are helping to support a wide variety of places: health and human services, environmental protection, community organizations, a non-profit education institution, etc.," says Prabhaker.
Each book costs just $6. "Our books are tiny, and tiny things tend to cost less in our marketplace than regular-size things," says Prabhaker, adding that volunteer labor, free content from the writers and lack of national distribution all allow them to keep their prices lower. The books are for sale on the Madras Press website and in select independent bookstores only.
The first four titles will ship December 1. Here's a list of titles, authors and charities:
The Third Elevator by Aimee Bender, to benefit InsideOUT Writers (CA)
Bobcat by Rebecca Lee, to benefit Riverkeeper (NY)
Sweet Tomb by Trinie Dalton, to benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation (CA)
A Mere Pittance by Sumanth Prabhaker, to benefit Helping Hands (MA)
Madras hopes to publish another set in 2010, and eventually producing a set of four books every six months.
Would you buy a $6 short story?
Though she made her name with the historical Slammerkin, Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue is also known for her contemporary fiction. After last year's historical, The Sealed Letter, Donoghue has plans to publish a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Little, Brown. As she describes it on her site, Room is a "dark contemporary novel in the voice of a five-year-old boy," who happens to have been held captive in a garden shed (with his mother) most of his life. Shades of Jaycee Dugard, but, eerily, Donoghue had been working on the novel for months when Dugard was discovered in the Garridos' backyard.
Don't miss our interview with Donoghue for her 2004 historical, Life Mask.