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After four books...In Praise of French

By Dick Donahue

Tana French’s debut novel, 2008’s In the Woods, wowed the critics and won every major American mystery award—the Edgar, the Barry, the Macavity, and the Anthony. Every subsequent novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series garnered great reviews and more importantly, a noticeable increase in readership. Broken Harbor, French’s fourth book, published last month, has all her signature elements—intriguing characters, fast-moving plot, realistic dialogue, and insight into how social dilemmas can drive good people to do bad things. And the reviews are lavish in their praise:

"Broken Harbor…proves anew that she is one of the most talented crime writers alive." —Washington Post

"Like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, this summer’s other dagger-sharp display of mind games, Broken Harbor is something more…. [French] has irresistibly sly ways of toying with readers’ expectations." —Janet Maslin, the New York Times daily book review

"It’s not easy to find a sentence out of place in Tana French…."—Time

"Broken Harbor is truly a book for, and of, our broken times. It’s literature masquerading as a police procedural." —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

On Tuesday, July 24, French kicked off her U.S. tour at Barnes & Noble on New York’s Upper West Side with a standing-room-only crowd of 150+ fans. At Brookline Booksmith in Boston an audience of 130 turned out and at both Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Free Library, French attracted crowds upward of 250 people.

Civil Reading

Amor Towles has 22 events scheduled throughout summer and fall, and as momentum is building for his Rules of Civility, so are the crowds at his events. On July 16 he read at the Books Beneath the Bridge reading series, which takes place in Brooklyn Bridge Park. In addition to the reading, a jazz trio played before and after, with some 100 people in attendance. Rules will be the Buffalo News book club selection for August, and it’s a favorite summer pick with the celebs as well—it was mentioned by Joan Rivers in a "What’s on My E-Reader" piece in a June 25 US Weekly. It’s also been included in several "new in paperback" columns (People, USA Today, EW, NYT Paperback Row). After a four-week run on our list, Nielsen BookScan reports sales to date of 39,514.

Penguin’s marketing team has worked overtime on promotions and contests through Facebook and Twitter. Said senior publicist Shannon Twomey, "On the on-sale date, we gave away two copies per hour from 12–5 p.m., and we ran the 'Rules of Civility’ gift basket on Facebook Penguin Books USA, which included CDs influenced by Amor’s playlist, Tiffany martini shaker and glasses, Tiffany playing cards, etc.

"We did the 'Rules of Civility’ street promotion where members of marketing, publicity, and ad/promo went to 3 hot spots in NYC that were reoccurring/important in the book. We ran it through Twitter (@penguinpbks), where fans had to come up to us and say #rulesofcivility to get a copy!

"Lastly, we are going to run a 'Rules of Civility’ photo contest on our Facebook page Aug. 7–14, which encourages fans to upload their picture that best reflects the book’s spirit. Here are the instructions: "Rules of Civility immediately transports readers to the Golden Age of Manhattan, resurrecting the downtown jazz clubs and speakeasies, the rarified midtown offices, and the ritzy uptown apartments of the 1930s. Now picture your own 1930s New York by photographing yourself and your friends in costumes, settings, and poses evocative of that sparkling era—whether it’s the high society of the Upper East Side or the hipness of Greenwich Village."—D.D.

Corruption Runs Amok

As president of Judicial Watch, America’s largest nonpartisan government watchdog, Tom Fitton is a leader in the fight against public corruption and government secrecy. The Corruption Chronicles discusses investigations into the last three administrations, but focuses on the Obama White House, lending insights to some of the most newsworthy topics of the day. Since the book’s publication last week, Fitton has done promotional media speaking to such topical issues as Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the New Black Panther Party, Hollywood filmmakers’ access to CIA documents on the Osama bin Laden raid, and more. Fitton appeared as the lead story on the O’Reilly Factor, as well as on several nationally syndicated radio shows, including the Jerry Doyle Show and the G. Gordon Liddy Show. Writes Mark Tapscott, executive editor, the Washington Examiner: "Tom Fitton has captured his organization’s exciting and important journey in The Corruption Chronicles, a highly readable, informative and entertaining look at how Judicial Watch lawyers and investigators have uncovered scandal after scandal...."

Veronica Roth: Finding Her Faction

In May 2011, HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books published Divergent, the debut novel by then 22-year-old author Veronica Roth. The first in a planned trilogy, Divergent describes a future Chicago in which society is divided into five personality-based factions—Candor, Erudite, Amity, Dauntless, Abnegation—and the main character, Tris, struggles to fit into her chosen group. The follow-up, Insurgent, came out May 2, and Roth has been tirelessly touring in its support. This summer she came on board for two legs of HarperCollins’s Dark Days YA group tour: the first in June, and the second in mid-July.

"It’s neat seeing this community of fans as they’re coming together," says Molly O’Neill, Roth’s editor, of events that attracted crowds in the hundreds. "I read the blogs, and there are stories of fans knowing each other online, and then finding each other on line [at an event]." Roth’s growing popularity is an integral part of her touring success. The author has more than 26,000 followers on Twitter; a couple of months before Insurgent came out, according to O’Neill, that number was closer to 12,000. "Pretty much anytime she sends a tweet there are dozens of responses within minutes," O’Neill says. "She blogs, and she’s on Tumblr, which is really big in her demographic." Divergent sits at the #4 spot on our children’s frontlist fiction list, up 7,575 units since last week, with total sales of 133,751 in outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan. Insurgent, the sequel, is at #7, selling 5,631 units in the last week, with total sales of 125,584. The series has now been sold into 32 territories, the latest being Iceland.

An as yet unnamed finale to the trilogy is not due out until fall 2013. In the meantime, a 13-page e-booklet called "Free Four"—a retelling of a pivotal Divergent scene from the character Four’s perspective—will be available on August 7. And October 30 sees two more releases: a boxed set containing hardcovers of the first two books, plus bonus material that includes playlists, a faction quiz, an author q&a, and more; and the Insurgent collector’s edition, which offers different bonus material than the boxed set, a print version of "Free Four," a four-color poster, and temporary faction tattoos, such as the ones seen above with Roth from an appearance at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Ill. "Fans love them," says Casey McIntyre, Roth’s publicist. "Veronica has started to see some real faction tattoos pop up at events, too." Such a permanent display of allegiance to any author is noteworthy, and all the more so given the rapid pace of Roth’s trajectory.

"Two years ago she was just graduating from college," O’Neill points out. "A lot has happened in just over 14 months." —C.J.