Michel Moushabeck arrived in Brooklyn in the late '70s from war-torn Beirut, bent on making some changes in the world. Not long after, he and his then wife, Ruth Lane Moushabeck, awaited their first baby and their first shipment of books. Michel still remembers the face of the driver of the 18-wheeler who pulled up with a shipment of books when he told him that he planned to unload all 20 pallets—by himself, one carton at a time. No forklift, no dolly, no hand truck, no help.
The Moushabecks' press, Interlink, has come a long way since then—relocating to western Massachusetts, ramping up to 50 titles a year, a staff of 12, with several distribution clients and a children's list. It's even thrown a controversial bestselling author into the mix, one who claims the U.S. government was in on the terrorists attacks of 9/11. Interlink's tag line from the beginning remains the same: “Changing the way people think about the world.”
Over 20 years of publishing, the Interlink program has published fiction in translation, travel and Third World political and sociological studies. But it is philosopher David Ray Griffin's take on 9/11 that has struck the deepest chord—or at least generated the greatest sales. His The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 has sold over 140,000 copies in the U.S. and 26,000 in the U.K., where it is about to come out in mass market paperback. At one point, it hit #8 on Amazon's list.
Late last month Interlink shipped Griffin's fourth and, according to Moushabeck, his biggest conspiracy theory book to date,Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, which has almost sold out of its first printing of 15,000 copies and is about to go back to press. This is Griffin's “case closed,” says Moushabeck. In it, the Claremont School of Theology professor emeritus provides new information based on interviews with two air traffic controllers at the FAA's Boston Center.
Why would Griffin end up with Interlink, a publisher with a sober, progressive but hardly conspiracy-mongering track record? “It was the only press willing to take a look,” Griffin told PW. “And I stayed with Interlink partly out of loyalty, because of the courage they showed, and partly because they get my books out fast.” Griffin's reputation as a spokesperson for the 9/11 “truth movement” has helped Debunking 9/11 Debunking climb into Amazon's top 1,000 already. With many organizations, both here and abroad, interested in having Griffin lecture, Moushabeck is expecting a good coat-tails effect for his author.
Despite the success of the Griffin titles, Interlink is basically a travel publisher. “It's our bread and butter,” says Moushabeck of the travel titles. The company's most popular travel series, Traveller's History, has 35 titles and has sold more than one million copies.
Interlink's number two category, cookbooks, has a similarly global reach. The books combine simple recipes with cultural and culinary insights. The company's first cookbook, Mary Salloum's A Taste of Lebanon (1987), is still one of its fastest sellers, with more than 125,000 copies in print.
In addition, Interlink has tried to push Americans' understanding of other people through translated fiction, like Nigerian novelist Sefi Atta's debut novel, Everything Good Will Come, which won a Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature and will be published in October. Interlink also publishes occasional multicultural children's books—like Jane Yolen's Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters.
Perhaps the 9/11 debunking titles do fit in—in interlinking fashion—to a program that is interested in playing host to a wide variety of voices.
“We often publish books that agitate,” said Moushabeck, “books that challenge mainstream media. We want to inspire informed debate.”