The Innovators of 'S.': Filmmaker and Writer Collaborate to Construct a Novel Novel

Conceived by filmmaker J.J. Abrams and written by novelist Doug Dorst, S. debuts at #12 on our Hardcover Fiction list. This high-concept book, priced at $35, comes in a slipcase containing a facsimile of a library copy of a 1949 volume entitled Ship of Theseus by an enigmatic author named V.M. Straka. Virtually every page contains the marginal notes, in different colored inks, of two students—Jennifer and Eric—who begin to piece together the mysterious life and work of Straka. What they don’t know is that their work together will have unforeseen consequences in their own lives and start them on a path to solving an age-old mystery that not everyone wants to be solved. Loose inserts include postcards, old photographs, a decoder wheel, and even a napkin with a hand-drawn map.

Emmy Award–winner Abrams has produced, directed, or written films and television shows including Fringe, Lost, Felicity, Star Trek, Cloverfield, Mission: Impossible, and more. He is the founder and president of Bad Robot Productions, and presently serves as executive producer of CBS’s Person of Interest, Fox’s Almost Human, NBC’s Revolution, and the upcoming Believer. Dorst, a writing teacher at Texas State University, is the author of the PEN/Hemingway–nominated novel Alive in Necropolis, the collection The Surf Guru, and the play Monster in the Dark. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Epoch, and elsewhere. He is also a three-time Jeopardy! champion. —Peter Canon

Danielle Steel: Dogged Devotion

Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors of all time, with more than 600 million copies of her books sold. She’s written 129, she says, and reports that she’s been published in 69 countries and 43 languages—“which seems like a lot,” she quips, “even for me.” Earlier this year her novel Until the End of Time debuted in first place on our Feb. 3 Hardcover Fiction list, and Winners debuts in second place this week, with Nielsen reporting first-week sales of 33,344. But wait. In an unexpected listing, “Danielle Steel” also appears on our Nonfiction list as well, at #14. That entry, Pure Joy: The Dogs We Love, reflects in no uncertain terms Steel’s—and her family’s—extraordinary fondness for canines. Says the author: “I have a lot of kids, and we all have a lot of dogs. When my children were younger and all still at home, each of them had a dog, and some had two.” Steel notes that her favorite breeds are miniature Brussels Griffons: “They look like ewoks, and have funny little squashed faces.” Recently, however, Steel admitted to falling in love with her white long-haired teacup Chihuahua, Minnie Mouse. “She weighs 2 lbs. and travels with me. I like to say that she is ‘the owner of author Danielle Steel.’ She owns me. Easy, sweet natured, adorable, cuddly.” Reflecting her latest pooch passion, Steel has added a chapter on her Web site, “Here Comes Minnie!” Steel will be appearing on GMA Nov. 14 to discuss Winners and—of course—Pure Joy, for which Delacorte announced an 82,000-copy first print. Also on the media track: together with a few of her four-legged gal pals, Steel’s gracing the cover of December’s Dog Fancy magazine. —Dick Donahue

Shenon’s People: Investigating The Investigators

There are a handful of noteworthy titles amid an extensive collection of books released this year in time for the 50th anniversary of J.F.K.’s assassination, perhaps none more so than Philip Shenon’s A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, which, having sold over 5,800 copies, hits our Hardcover Nonfiction list this week at #23. Shenon, who investigated the 9/11 Commission report, here turns his sights on the Warren Commission, examining the actors and the evidence they had—and, in some cases, didn’t have—at their disposal. The book launched on CBS’s Face the Nation, Oct. 27, and CBS This Morning the following day, after a few plugs on CBS from Bob Schieffer the previous Friday. Author Shenon also appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air on Oct. 28. He will also be featured in CBS’s forthcoming J.F.K. special, set to air on Nov. 16, and has two events scheduled in Philadelphia—at the National Constitution Center and the Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy at Philadelphia University—on Nov. 18. —Alex Crowley

Her Heart’s in Philadelphia

Lisa Scottoline debuts at #7 on the Hardcover Fiction list this week with Accused, her 25th book in 20 years. Accused is Scottoline’s 12th Rosato & Associates legal thriller, set inside an all-female Philadelphia law firm that’s anything but white shoe. The action begins when 13-year-old Allegra Gardner walks into Rosato & Associates, seeking representation to free a man she believes was wrongly convicted of her sister’s murder. Mary DiNunzio, who has just been made partner, takes on the case, but immediately runs into two seemingly insurmountable obstacles: the man tried and convicted of the murder has confessed to the crime, and Allegra’s wealthy parents are adamantly opposed to the case being reopened.

Scottoline feels that she has come full circle with Accused. Her debut novel, Everywhere That Mary Went, published as a trade paper original by HarperCollins in 1993, also spotlighted DiNunzio. Everywhere was nominated for an Edgar award; Scottoline’s follow-up, Final Appeal, won the 1994 Edgar for best paperback original. “My heart, my soul, is in this DiNunzio family,” Scottoline told PW. Scottoline’s readers will understand: DiNunzio’s colorful South Philadelphia parents always provide comic relief for Rosato & Associates fans. In fact, Scottoline adds, after her father died 10 years ago, it was difficult to write about DiNunzio. She’s written only four Rosato & Associates novels (including Accused) since his death in 2003, as well as seven stand-alone thrillers and four nonfiction books. After 20 years of writing, Scottoline says she’s “finally gotten” herself on a writing schedule of three books each year: her next stand-alone, Keep Quiet, will be published in April; her fifth nonfiction release, co-written with her daughter, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, will be published in July; and her next Rosato & Associates thriller, Buried, will be published in October.—Claire Kirch

The Good Son

It’s no secret that the gargantuan character, Bull Mecham, in Pat Conroy’s 1976 novel, The Great Santini, was based on his father. The raging Marine dad in that book, immortalized by Robert Duvall in the film, was a painfully accurate portrait of the violent and abusive man who raised Conroy and his six siblings. Many of Conroy’s novels mirror his life: The Water Is Wide (1972) was set on South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island where he taught in a one-room schoolhouse; The Lords of Discipline (1980), was about the Citadel, the military college Conroy attended. However Conroy comes up with his characters and plots, he knows how to spin a yarn and his books sell hundreds of thousands of copies; even his cookbook sold over 50,000. With The Death of Santini, Conroy has written a memoir about the father whose fictional counterpart made the author famous. The book reaches #6 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list, with over 17,000 copies sold in its first week. According to Doubleday publicity director Todd Doughty, there are 185,000 copies in print and Conroy (“in good spirits,” says his editor Nan Talese) is on a multicity book tour that kicked off Oct.29. Everyone wants to talk to Conroy: Charlie Gibson returned to Good Morning America for the first time in four years for an interview, Ann Patchett was with him on stage in Nashville in front of a sold-out 500-plus crowd; looking forward, Conroy is scheduled to appear with George R.R. Martin at the Jean Cocteau theater in Santa Fe, N.Mex. on Monday, Dec. 2. Ivan Turgenev wrote Fathers and Sons; so has Pat Conroy.—Louisa Ermelino

Anne Again: Lamott Lands Another

Anne Lamott is on her best(seller) game, again. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (Riverhead) debuts at #9 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. It’s small, it’s gifty, and, as PW said in its review, it’s “vintage Lamott: funny, brilliantly self-deprecating, and insightful.” The “rascally rabbits” (Lamott’s term) in Riverhead publicity and marketing have also done their job. The author got a launch boost from Oprah, appearing on Super Soul Sunday on OWN, Oprah’s network; Lamott live-tweeted with Oprah during the event, reaching more than four million fans. National media has included Tavis Smiley and WBUR’s On Point. Essays have run in O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, and Salon; Salon’s excerpt was shared more than 21,000 times. Lamott’s 17-city tour includes a number of sold-out events. Riverhead reports that an event in Atlanta last week has had people calling from as far away as New Mexico to get in. —Marcia Z. Nelson