We spoke with the editorial director of Longanesi Publishing, in Italy, about his house's current hit memoir by a former American marine, the problems with local price-cutting measures on books, and the debut by the "energetic and young" writer from Naples he's excited about publishing in May.
Longanesi is particularly well known for its suspense list. What do you look for in the suspense fiction you acquire?
Back in the 90s, Longanesi was more focused on action and legal thrillers than suspense, spanning from James Patterson to Steve Martini. The recent arrival of authors such as Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Tess Gerritsen and Peter James helped to diversify our crime fiction, opening us up to a wider female readership. Recently authors such as Paula Daly or Koeti Zahn or the success we recently had with The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, have proved that plot and action more and more need to be driven by the psychological depth conferred by the writer to the main characters.
Late last year Longanesi published a book by a Special Ops marine named David Tell that's now in its fifth printing. How did your house wind up publishing a book by an American author? And why do you think the title has resonated with Italians?
This actually makes for an interesting story since, with this book, we found ourselves in the uncommon position of being the primary publisher of a book written in a foreign language, namely English. One day former Special Ops Marine David Tell (a pseudonym), who is an American citizen, showed up at the publishing house holding in his hands a thick memoir recounting his [experience at] boot camp and throughout his service in an elite group within the Marines. [Tell is now] a private professional working in the field of security for various companies, who happens to live in Italy because he is married to an Italian woman. [Because he is now based in Italy] he simply thought to get in touch with an Italian publisher. [He may have also thought of us first] bause we are known for being the publisher of Andy McNab [a well known English novelist and former Special Air Service sergeant]. We started reading and we soon found out that Tell had written a piercing, bitter story of a young man who had entrusted his life to his government, and then found himself turned into a cynical and detached war machine. The prose was spare and to the point, the anecdotes numerous, sometimes moving, often disturbing, and lways interesting. We decided to acquire it, translate it, and publish it with the title I Am a Weapon. Since publication in October 2014, we have gone back to print four more times. David is now working on the second part of his memoir, which we plan to publish next year.
What's the biggest challenge facing the Italian book market?
Italy for the past two years has been facing a general consumer crunch which has ended up affecting the book market. (Generally, the book industry is spared from short terms economic crises.) This has [resulted in both] a reduction in terms of revenues, as well as the adoption of price cutting policies which have proved, ultimately, to come at the expense of editorial quality. It is more difficult today to get in a heated international auction if the cover price perceived as “fair and average” has significantly decreased. Another, more global, challenge is posed by the fact that, more and more, books must compete with [other enticing activities that suck up] our spare time, mostly on the Internet.
Tell us about a forthcoming book you're excited to publish.
I’ll tell you about an Italian book, Il ladro di nebbia (or, in Enlgish, The Fog Thief), by Lavinia Petti, which we will publish in May. Lavinia is an incredibly energetic and young new writer from Naples--he's 26--who has written a wonderfully plotted debut novel, somewhat reminiscent of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind. [The novel also begs comparison to works by] authors such as Neil Gaiman or J. K Rowling, because of the kind of world Lavinia sets in motion. The protagonist is Antonio Fonte, a bestselling and misanthropic writer who has lost what is most dear to [anyone in his profession]: his memory. To get such a precious gift back, Fonte must embark on a quest in the alleys and piazzas of a Naples grown suddenly mysterious. [He is led] by several enigmatic, and not all trustworthy, characters to a place where apparently all lost memories of humankind are stored.