The latest opus from Stephen King, one of the world's bestselling novelists (his approximately 40 books have racked up combined sales of more than 225 million copies) has, to no one's surprise, landed atop the national charts during its first week in the stores. Bag of Bones marks a new publisher for King, and (also no surprise) Scribner is handling this launch and marketing campaign aggressively. A New Yorker profile plus other print media coverage hit on the book's September 22 laydown date; fans were also able to catch King that day on such national shows as Charlie Rose, Good Morning America and NPR's All Things Considered. The author's travel schedule calls for appearances through December 9, although most were slated for the first two weeks after publication. Crowds have been huge, including the September 27 assemblage at New York Is Book Country, where King's 15-minute reading from an outdoor stage on Fifth Avenue drew an audience of more than 1500.

By October 2, Scribner had 1,512,000 copies in print after four trips to press. King's much ballyho d contract negotiation promises big money for stronger sell-through, so it will be net sales that will fatten his total take. First week numbers are about 52,000 when adding up sales at B&N, Walden, Borders and some half-dozen independents. An impressive start, but only just a bit higher than his numbers for Desperation back in October 1996; then, however, the author was competing against himself. Published at the same time was Regulators, by King's alter ego, Richard Bachman; that book also enjoyed very strong one-week sales -- almost 34,000 just at B&N and Walden. While King's first-week sales total is one of the highest so far in 1998, he was handily outsold by Tom Clancy and John Grisham -- the only two writers in the U.S. who can boast a two-million-plus -- copy first printing. In mid-August, Clancy's first-week unit total for Rainbow Six at B&N, Walden and Borders exceeded 95,000; six months earlier Grisham's Street Lawyer enjoyed a combined first-week sale of about 87,000 copies at the same three outlets. Meanwhile King is enjoying some of the most favorable reviews of his career. The words of PW's starred review -- "a passionate gift from a veteran author to all who care about the art and craft of storytelling" -- are being ech d by nearly all of the critics.