James Patterson Shines a Light

James Patterson debuts at #1 on our Hardcover Fiction list with Private L.A., the latest in his Private series, featuring P.I. Jack Morgan, and the third written with Mark Sullivan. While the book, which has 300,000 copies in print, has gotten lots of attention since its Feb. 10 release, Patterson has gotten even more for making good on a project he announced last fall, $1 million in grants to save independent bookstores. He distributed awards totaling more than $267,000 out of his own pocket to assist 55 bookstores and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, with projects ranging from the prosaic—fixing a roof at Oblong Books & Music in Millerton, N.Y.—to rehabbing an old school bus and turning it into a “Maximum Ride” bookmobile at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga.

In a phone conversation with PW, Patterson stressed that this is only the first round. “We’ll follow it with as many as we can do,” he said, and encouraged more booksellers to apply. “It’s as easy as putting on half a page of paper what you need to do. It’s not like applying to Harvard. It’s not difficult, and there’s no catch.” The only qualifications are that the store be a viable bookstore and that it have a children’s section. Patterson made sure that his local independent, Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, Fla., benefitted, too, by hosting his launch party for Private L.A. The store sold 140 copies, along with 71 of his other titles.

While Patterson did a whirlwind media tour in New York City last week—with appearances on NPR’s Morning Edition, WABC-Radio’s The Ride with Pat Kiernan, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and PBS’s Charlie Rose—he took time out to shoot part of a documentary on Murder of a Small Town, which he wrote and is producing through James Patterson Entertainment. Both the grants and the film, he said, are meant to “shine a light.” In the case of bookstores, Patterson is concerned that “bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books. The future of books in America is at risk.”

The documentary is also personal for the 66-year-old author. It grew out of a murder of a popular grocery store owner in Belle Glade, near Patterson’s South Florida home, an area with nearly 40% unemployment. Belle Glade is the most violent city in the U.S.; Patterson’s hometown of Newburgh, N.Y., is number four. “I’m trying to do a film where people can understand that there are a lot of good human beings caught up in the troubles in these small towns,” said Patterson, who would like it to air on the PBS station for the Palm Beaches, WXEL, where he is board vice chairman.

Patterson hasn’t let his other projects get in the way of his novel writing for children or adults. In the next month alone he will release NYPD Red 2 (with Marshall Karp) on March 24, followed by Middle School: Ultimate Showdown (with Julia Bergen) on March 31. Paperbacks of two of his books are also due out: Nevermore: A Maximum Ride Novel on February 24 and Mistress (with David Ellis) on March 11.—Judith Rosen

Another Job for Agent Wells

Alex Berenson’s The Counterfeit Agent debuts at #11 on our Hardcover Fiction list, his eighth spy thriller featuring ex-CIA agent John Wells. This is the first book in the series to end on a major cliff-hanger.

When Brian Taylor, the CIA’s deputy chief of station in Istanbul, gets a letter from a mysterious man claiming to be a colonel in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, he cannot forgo the chance to meet the potential informant—even if it may be a trap. Identifying himself only as Reza, the Iranian tells Taylor that there will be two simultaneous bombings of Israeli embassies on two different continents. Reza claims he doesn’t know why or who is behind the attacks, but when his intelligence proves accurate, the CIA has to take his next tip seriously: one of its own station chiefs is slated for assassination. But what is the motive behind the attacks, and who is really behind them? Enter John Wells, who, given his unconventional approach to espionage, may be the only man who can untangle the global plot before it’s too late.

Berenson was a New York Times reporter who covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq to the flooding of New Orleans to the world pharmaceutical industry to the financial crimes of Bernard Madoff. His debut novel, The Faithful Spy, won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Berenson graduated from Yale University in 1994 with degrees in history and economics. He lives in New York City.

The author has appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show (ESPN Radio) and Hugh Hewitt Show (Salem Radio Network) and will be on the John Batchelor Show (ABC Radio) and Weekend Roundup (CBS Radio).—Peter Cannon

Why Things Die Out

It’s been months since a science title hit the bestseller list, which makes it all the more heartening that the streak was broken by Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which appeared on this week’s Hardcover Nonfiction list. The book details the history and literature of Earth’s five previous mass extinction events in an attempt to explain the distinctly human origins of Earth’s latest mass extinction phenomenon, and it sold over 5,000 copies at outlets tracked by BookScan to land in the #13 spot. A series of starred print reviews and Al Gore’s cover review in the New York Times Book Review, combined with appearances on CBS This Morning, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Democracy Now!, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, among a slew of others, helped to bring attention to this timely work. And you know a book strikes a nerve when Rush Limbaugh rants about it on his radio show. Kolbert just completed a brief West Coast tour, and will make stops this week in Washington, D.C., at Politics & Prose; in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History; and later at the Larchmont (N.Y.) Public Library.—Alex Crowley

The Governor's Daughter

One known name takes on another very well-known one, and the result debuts at #9 on our Trade Paperback list. The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki retells the story of Benedict Arnold and his wife Peggy, with Peggy depicted as the mastermind of a plot that involved not only her husband but also her former lover, the British spy John André. Pataki’s name, too, is familiar: she is the daughter of former New York Gov. George E. Pataki, and she drew on the Revolutionary War history of the Hudson Valley, where she grew up, in her debut novel. Pataki wrote for ABCNews.com and FoxNews.com before shifting to fiction; media highlights include a Feb. 11 appearance on Fox & Friends, and a Today Show interview scheduled for March 4. It may also have helped that the Pataki family has a rather large mailing list and access to others; a launch week e-blast went out to more than 100,000 recipients. Another 2.5 million people were reached through a variety of online influencers. PW’s review said of the book, “Pataki smoothly weaves intrigue and personality with critical historical facts,” and PW also featured the author in a Feb. 10 profile.—Marcia Z. Nelson

O’Reilly Tops Gates in Audio Sales

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Jesus: A History remains in the #1 spot on our audiobook bestseller list for the month ended Feb. 16. The third installment in the popular series is read by O’Reilly and is available from Macmillan Audio. Charging into the #2 spot is former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’s Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. The audio edition, available from Random House Audio, is narrated by Gates and George Newbern. Dropping one spot from last month and coming in at #3 on the list is Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics by syndicated columnist and Pulitzer Prize–winner Charles Krauthammer’s. The audio edition is narrated by Krauthammer and George Newbern for Random House Audio. Snatching the #4 spot is Devious, the seventh installment in Lisa Jackson’s New Orleans series about detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya, which is narrated by Joyce Bean for Brilliance Audio. And in at #5 is Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Invention of Wings, read by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye for Penguin Audio.

Other new and notable titles on this month’s list include James Patterson and Mark Sullivan’s Private L.A., which is #6 and is narrated by Jay Snyder for Hachette Audio; Fern Michaels’s The Scoop, which lands at #10 and is narrated by Natalie Ross for Brilliance Audio; Iris Johansen’s Silencing Eve—the 18th book in her Eve Duncan series—which comes in at #13 and is read by Elisabeth Rogers for Brilliance Audio; and Susan Wiggs’s Lakeside Cottage, at #19 this month, which is narrated by Emily Durante, also for Brilliance.—Adam Boretz