Commentary and analysis of this week's PW Bestsellers lists.
No Vacancy at the Top
Rowling's adult novel debuts at #1
J.K. Rowling's first novel specifically for grownups (not that Harry Potter didn't have his legions of adult fans), The Casual Vacancy, is unsurprisingly #1 this week on our Hardcover Fiction list. The book was all anyone in publishing could talk about leading up to its release: the embargo, the nondisclosure agreements, the print run (two million). PW's personal experience was the closest we've come to being government operatives and involved a face-to-face hand off to a reviewer shrouded in secrecy. The embargo was broken, which generated envy but again, not much surprise. What's thrilling is the numbers, adding up so fast they can hardly be reported. PW started at 157,000 copies and before day's end upped it to 375,000 across all formats, the figure from publisher Little, Brown. The grey tie has come undone... for now. Rowling's "only U.S. event" for The Casual Vacancy is ticketed, a conversation with Ann Patchett at Lincoln Center on October 16. Sold out, natch.—Louisa Ermelino
Where the Money Is
Novel about Willie Sutton Cashes In
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist J.R. Moehringer is no stranger to big sales. His memoir, The Tender Bar, sold over 300,000, and Andre Agassi's Open, which Moehringer co-wrote after being approached by Agassi, is reaching the half-million mark (both at outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan; both in hardback/trade paper combined). On NPR's Fresh Air, Moehringer talked about moving to fiction. "It was late 2008... and the world was ending, the global financial meltdown was under way. I was... just getting angrier by the day. I started thinking that I'd like to write about this anger... particularly about these bankers who seemed to me, and still seem to me, so incredibly unrepentant." Obviously he's not alone there. The captivating result of that anger, Sutton, couldn't be better timed to tap the fury. The book looks back half a century in order to give your favorite banker a big black eye, and it debuts on our Hardcover Bestseller list at #20.
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Willie Sutton robbed 100 banks and never killed anyone, a run that made him a folk hero. The novel's off to a great start. Booksellers got on board early, including Rakestraw Books' Cheryl McKeon, who hand-sold it, says, "Moehringer perfectly balances his skill as a journalist and his empathy for the underdog," and Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover Bookstore, calls it "a little scary" and "hugely entertaining." At this year's BookExpo, Moehringer was a busy man, taking part in Adult Book and Author Breakfast panels, signing 200 galleys, and doing an interview for PW Show Daily, in which he said that "writing about Willie Sutton was a really good way of writing about all the great depressions that for some reason have been forgotten—we seem to remember only '87 and '29." The book has been getting major review coverage in both trade and consumer publications. Moehringer is currently on a reading tour that will take him this week to Oxford, Miss., for the always well-attended "Thursdays at Off Square."—Mike Harkvey
Playing the Race Card
Ann Coulter's take on postracial America
Arguing that pervasive racism is long past and claiming to tell the true story of American race relations, conservative commentator Ann Coulter debuts at #7 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list with Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama, in which she writes that Democrats consistently accuse Republicans of "racism" to gain favor from the black community. Bearing in mind that Coulter also analyzes O.J. Simpson, Tawana Brawley, the L.A. riots, and the Duke lacrosse scandal, among other cases, the book's publication date seems designed to keep the conversation about race in the runup to the election. According to press materials from Sentinel: "The 2012 Obama campaign is going to inspire the greatest racial guilt-mongering of all time." Will Weisser, v-p and associate publisher of Sentinel, says, "Sentinel is thrilled to have Ann Coulter's ninth consecutive national bestseller. Mugged is a very controversial book, as the whole country learned when it led to a vigorous attack by the hosts of The View that quickly went viral. But it's also an important book that deserves to be widely read, discussed, and debated." Coulter's recent media appearances have included This Week with George Stephanopoulos; Hannity; and Fox & Friends. Her book tour will include stops in Washington, D.C., at Americans for Tax Reform, and in Los Angeles at the Horowitz Center.—Jessamine Chan
Out of the Fire and into the Limelight
The last time a living Marine was awarded the Medal of Honor, during the Vietnam War, Cpl. Dakota Meyer wasn't even a thought in his parents' minds. Yet with the publication of Into the Fire, his memoir detailing the fierce 2009 Battle of Ganjigal, in which the then-21-year-old distinguished himself for the military's most prestigious award, the recently decorated vet is all over the place—he did a signing at Quantico, he's appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, and just last Friday he sat down with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. His debut, coauthored with Marine vet Bing West (No True Glory), lands at #13 on this week's Hardcover Nonfiction list. In order to promote the book and raise awareness for Meyer's charitable work (thus far he's raised over a million dollars for the families of soldiers lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), publicist London King and editor Will Murphy report that Meyer will be a guest on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on October 24; an appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly is currently being scheduled.
The official citation honors Meyer "[f]or conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," but it doesn't mention that in order to save numerous fellow soldiers, he had to defy orders to stay behind, rushing via Humvee at least five times into the "kill zone" to rescue wounded and trapped fighters. Meyer humbly attributes his success to his driver's "skill at the wheel"; King and Murphy attribute the book's success "to a strong desire on the part of Americans... to hear firsthand from those on the front lines." Is there any correlation between the steady #1 position of Mark Owen's No Easy Day and Meyer's memoir's place on bestseller lists? King and Murphy offer a resolute "No," but it's hard to believe Owen's tale of the mission that took out bin Laden didn't prime American audiences for another taste of what some are calling "The New Vietnam."—Samuel R. Slaton
About 12 years ago, HarperCollins Children's Books editor Anne Hoppe overheard an in-house reader telling her then-boss about how much she was enjoying the Terry Pratchett manuscript she was reading. Hoppe, already a Pratchett fan, immediately asked if she could see it, and she's been Pratchett's editor ever since—through seven books, including the Printz Honor–winning Nation. Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008, now dictates his books instead of typing them, a technique, Hoppe says, that enhances his writing style: "There's an oral quality to the language and the sentence structure, because he's telling, not writing it." Pratchett is coming to the U.S. for a few appearances in support of Dodger, his new novel (which debuts at #5 on our Children's Fiction list), including Comic-Con on October 12 and a 1000-person event at Anderson's in Naperville, Ill., on October 16. Working with Pratchett has been "very meaningful" to Hoppe, who calls him "the finest writer I will ever work with." And Pratchett has other projects in the works as well. "He has said he doesn't fear death," Hoppe says, "just so long as he can keep writing."—Diane Roback