Another Shot at Bin Laden

From D.C. to Abbottabad, Mark Bowden details the takedown of al-Qaeda's #1 man

By Samuel R. Slaton

Though Bill O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy has bumped Mark Owen's No Easy Day from the top of our Hardcover Nonfiction list, the latter's account of the 2011 raid that took out Osama bin Laden is still seeing strong sales—and his isn't the only one: Mark Bowden's The Finish, which chronicles the mission from a greater height, debuts at #11. Penned with the implicit blessing of the administration (he interviewed top CIA, Pentagon, and White House officials—including President Obama), Bowden's take on Operation Neptune Spear has been verified by JSOC, and though it differs slightly from that of Owen—one of the SEALs involved in the raid—Bowden doesn't tout his version as sacrosanct: a blow-in card included with the first edition of the book details the differences between the authors' descriptions of bin Laden's final moments, and promises that subsequent editions will further address any discrepancies.

While juxtaposing the two books makes for an interesting study in how history differs when written from the perspective of the battlefield or the halls of government, comparing The Finish to the rest of Bowden's bestselling oeuvre is also revealing—Grove Atlantic publicist Deb Seager, paraphrasing Bowden, says: "There is an arc from the disastrous mission to rescue the Iran hostages in Guests of the Ayatollah, to the misguided placement of men in the streets of Mogadishu in Black Hawk Down, the clandestine guerrilla warfare against the nongovernmental opposition of the drug cartels in Killing Pablo, and the next frontier in the war on terror through cyber security in Worm. The Finish is the end-cap to that story." Indeed, the book is broadly concerned with modern warfare's shifting focus from man- and fire-power to the power of intel, so while there's less action here than in Owen's account, Bowden still keeps the pages turning.

Get the Panther

The Panther, Nelson DeMille's sixth novel to feature Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey, debuts at #1 on the Hardcover Fiction list. Corey, last seen battling his nemesis, Libyan terrorist Asad Khalil, in The Lion (Grand Central, 2010), sets out to capture American-born Bulus ibn al-Darwish, al-Numair (aka "the Panther") in Yemen, with the aid of his FBI agent wife, Kate Mayfield. The man called the Panther, a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative who helped mastermind the U.S.S. Cole bombing, is wanted for multiple terrorist acts and murders. Unable to trust other members of the U.S. team, the couple wind up serving as panther bait in Yemen, but prove that they, too, can be deadly predators.

Born in New York City, DeMille moved at an early age to Long Island, where he attended Hofstra University. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and saw action as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam. He was decorated with the Air Medal, Bronze Star, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Still a Long Island resident, he has appeared recently at a number of area bookstores, with a stop at BookHampton to come. TV appearances have included CBS This Morning, Good Day New York, and the O'Reilly Factor. The official launch party was held, as it has been for other DeMille books, at Manhattan's Union League Club, in a grand reception room graced with the portraits of Republican presidents from Abraham Lincoln to George W. Bush.—Peter Cannon

The Power of Prayer—and Radio

How to explain the rare appearance in the top 25 of a poetry book—in this case, Mary Oliver's A Thousand Mornings (Penguin), which hits at #25 on our list? Can it be her new publisher, after years of Oliver being published by Beacon, managed to push Oliver to a popularity (this week anyway) just a smidgeon under Cheryl Strayed? Or was it Oliver's six-minute interview on NPR's Weekend Edition on October 14, where she read beautifully and talked to a Sunday morning audience about poetry as prayer. She also spoke of the need to protect the natural world. As of this writing, A Thousand Mornings is in the top 200 at Amazon. A rare thing indeed: a bestselling book of poems in our midst.—Michael Coffey

Bringing Back the '80s

Grabbing the #14 spot on our bestseller list is In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran by John Taylor, bassist of one of the early 1980s biggest pop bands, Duran Duran.

In what might be a response to bandmate and guitarist Andy Taylor's 2008 Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran, John Taylor (no relation to Andy) covers the band's career highlights but, in PW's review, "doesn't back away from describing the heavy drug use that later led to his [John Taylor} entering rehab." In his book, we say Taylor, writing with Tom Sykes, "offers some fascinating insights into the way London's pop music scene shifted from punk rock's ‘three-chord angry noise' to ‘New Romanticism.' " (In its first week, John's book has sold almost as many copies as Andy's has since publication.)

According to Amanda Walker, Dutton's associate director of publicity, Taylor launched his memoir with an excerpt in People and an appearance on the Today Show, where Savannah Guthrie was teased by cohost Matt Lauer after revealing that as a teenage fan, she'd nabbed a fork from a table at which Taylor had dined.

Taylor read at Barnes & Noble's Manhattan Citigroup store for his lunchtime signing on October 16, where fans started lining outside at 3 a.m. Taylor has done events in New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin, Tex., with Chicago and Toronto still to come, according to Walker.

New Wave fans, be on the lookout in December for Tony Fletcher's Smiths bio, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths (Crown Archetype).—Mark Rotella

Cronin Crossing

Justin Cronin, that literary guy who turned it around to enter commercial bestsellerdom, arrives as #4 on our Fiction Hardcover list with The Twelve, the sequel to his 2010 postapocalyptic vampiric tome, The Passage, which was the first in his planned trilogy and has sold around 350,000 copies in hardcover, trade paper, and mass market combined, according to Nielsen numbers. He's breathing down J.K. Rowling's neck this week, and we're thinking he might move above Casual Vacancy in the weeks to come. There's only about 5,000 books between them right now and fans of Cronin's first book will be sure to want the next. We love the high to low of Cronin, who graduated from Harvard and Iowa's writing program, won the PEN/Hemingway, Stephen Crane, that award from Mrs. Whiting, and hails from where else but New England. Reminds us of that other guy who debuted to great reviews with The Dark Arena followed by The Fortunate Pilgrim and went on to write The Godfather.—Louisa Ermelino

Olympian Effort

With four Rick Riordan titles on our bestsellers list this week, it's hard to figure out when the prolific author has the time to tour. But tour he does, and his young fans are wildly appreciative. He recently visited eight cities, with turnouts of 1,000+, for the release of The Mark of Athena, #3 in his Heroes of Olympus series. In a neat trick to reward his readers, he announced the title of Book Four, The House of Hades, at the end of Athena (the series will have five books in total). Now back home in San Antonio, Tex., Riordan continues to research his next series, which will be based on Norse mythology. The Mark of Athena pubbed on October 1 and has already sold just under 400,000 copies per Nielsen BookScan. Riordan's three series have more than 33 million books in print in the U.S., and his books have been translated into 37 languages.—Diane Roback