Welcome to Tatooine, Ben Kenobi: The Journey From Warrior to Hermit
John Jackson Miller is no stranger to the Star Wars mythos—he’s written 15 Star Wars graphic novels for Dark Horse, and a couple of prose works—but Kenobi is his first visit to the bestseller list. It’s on the Hardcover Fiction list this week at #12, perhaps because it takes on an irresistible question. How did Obi-Wan Kenobi, the decisive, adventuring Jedi warrior, become crazy old Ben Kenobi, the hermit on dusty Tatooine? It’s a crucial piece of the mythology that has never been addressed, says Miller.
“There had been glimpses here and there for years, in some of the comics and young adult novels, but in general this era was handled with a very light touch,” he tells PW. “I had actually developed the plot of Kenobi for a possible graphic novel several years ago, deciding instead to wait for the chance to do it in prose. I’m glad I waited.” With the impending film sequels from Disney—which acquired Lucasfilm a year ago—with director J.J. Abrams attached, interest in Star Wars is rising again, and Miller feels he’s matured as a writer in the meantime.
Kenobi has many elements of a western, as the Jedi wanders into a small village as a mystery man with a past and a secret mission to protect baby Luke Skywalker. Miller put echoes of Shane and even superhero stories into the book. “He suddenly has a secret identity to protect. He can’t respond as Superman; he’s got to perform his heroics as Clark Kent.”
The isolated desert world of Tatooine is an ideal, moody setting for a story that picks up exactly where the gloomy Revenge of the Sith left off. “It’s a story without giant space battles or light saber duels with Sith lords. It’s about a hero forced into exile: a man in pain, trying to learn to live with his new limitations in a place far, far away from the big events of the galaxy.”
Fans have responded well to the unusual premise, and there are calls for a sequel, but it will probably have to wait until Disney puts its new plans into action. Meanwhile, Miller is working on some personal projects, including developing more in the world of his own Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, published by Amazon’s 47North digital imprint.—Heidi MacDonald
Some Racket: Grisham Double-Dips
John Grisham’s The Racketeer pulled a neat double play this week, landing in the top spot on the Trade Paperback list and in second place on the Mass Market Paperback list, following the late August simultaneous release of the novel in both formats. The mass market edition from Dell sold about 48,000 copies in outlets that report to BookScan in its first week on sale, while the trade paperback edition from Bantam sold just over 16,000 copies. The combined paperback sales of about 64,000 copies made Racketeer the biggest-selling book of the week.
The strong debut follows the October 2012 release of the hardcover edition, which sold almost 650,000 copies in outlets that report to BookScan. This is not the first time Random House has published simultaneous paperback editions of a Grisham novel, and the strategy has helped to keep the author a mainstay on paperback bestseller lists. In all, Random House has over 155 million paperback copies in print of Grisham’s works.—Jim Milliot
Building Bridges: An Autistic Teen Provides Answers for the Autism Community
Surely one of the most remarkable books yet to be featured in these pages is The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, a memoir by Naoki Higashida, which was translated from the Japanese by acclaimed novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and his wife K.A. Yoshida, who together are parents to an autistic son. The English translation, published in the U.S. by Random House, featuring an introduction by Mitchell, debuts at #21 on the our Hardcover Nonfiction list this week—and it’s already a bestseller in Japan, where it was first published in 2007, and now the U.K., where the translation debuted in July. As discussed in a feature by PW’s Clare Swanson on August 2, Higashida, diagnosed with autism at age five, learned to write on an alphabet grid, pointing to one letter at a time on a cardboard keyboard while an aide transcribed the characters into words. After transitioning to a computer keyboard, he wrote his memoir while in middle school. The book is organized into short chapters, with Higashida providing candid answers to common questions about the disorder (Why do you talk so loud? Is it true you hate being touched? Would you like to be normal?) and debunking myths about specific behaviors. Higashida, who graduated from high school in 2011, has now become Japan’s best-known autistic blogger and writer, with several books of fiction and nonfiction to his name, as well as an advocate and motivational speaker. The translation was a labor of love for Mitchell and Yoshida. Speaking to PW, Mitchell said: “The Reason I Jump is a double-translation. From autism to Japanese, then from Japanese to English.” With about one in 88 children identified with an autism spectrum disorder, and family, friends, and educators hungry for information, this inspiring book’s continued success seems inevitable.—-Jessamine Chan
Bright As A Penny: The Bestselling Louise Penny, That Is...
How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny’s ninth novel featuring Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, debuts at #2 on our Hardcover Fiction list. Amid a host of personal and professional troubles, Gamache investigates the murder of elderly Constance Ouellet—the only living member of a set of quintuplets who were national celebrities in their youth.
Minotaur Books has 110,000 copies in print after five trips to press for How the Light Gets In, and currently is estimating a sixth printing. The first print run was nearly double Minotaur’s first print run on Penny’s title last year, The Beautiful Mystery. Their e-book sales for week one was 33,000 copies—up more than 50% percent from the first-week e-sales for Beautiful Mystery.
“The success story of How the Light Gets In and Louise Penny is my favorite kind of success story—homegrown,” says Minotaur publisher Andrew Martin. “In 2006 we sold about 8,000 hardcovers of her debut, Still Life, and we’ve grown her steadily, book by book, with the help of a lot of passionate booksellers and a lot of dedicated fans. But quite simply, Louise Penny has the magic of a great and classic storyteller who transcends the genre. And, most importantly, she is unafraid to take risks. Her books just stand out.”
Penny is on tour for two weeks and has been appearing before SRO crowds of 200+ fans. The photo of the author and fans was taken on August 30 at an event organized by Copperfield’s in Santa Rosa, Calif.—Peter Cannon