Trend alert: plenty of `Bridget Jones' clones, WWII books and high adventure

Thanks to SOME high-profile late additions, this summer's bookselling season is looking especially hot. In mid-March, Vintage announced that John Berendt's five-year-old nonfiction bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, will finally go into trade paperback; it's scheduled for a July 6 laydown. Soon thereafter, Dell revealed that Thomas Harris had finally delivered his sequel to decade-old The Silence of the Lambs; the hardcover Hannibal will be crash pubbed June 8. Earlier this month, S&S committed to a May 25 release for the Touchstone trade paper edition of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela's Ashes.

Indeed, while the fall season always attracts the bulk of book sales, summer is the perfect time to capture busy consumers' attention. The vacations people take during this season tend to be more leisurely than those family visits during the holidays, thus more time to read. While Mother's Day brings its share of book promotions and sales, Father's Day has become a holiday around which publishers try to attract the more elusive male reader (while Mom may also get flowers, Dad usually gets books.) And with many major trade publishers dealing with fiscal periods that end June 30, it certainly d sn't hurt to race out a possible bestseller to improve the bottom line.

Summer 1999 brings its usual menu of brand-name authors, including forensic thrillers from Patricia Cornwell (Black Notice, Putnam, July 5) and her new successful imitator, Kathy Reichs (Death du Jour, Scribner, June). Tom Clancy has a nonfiction offering, Every Man a Tiger, written with General Chuck Horner, landing May 10; and Nelson DeMille brings Plum Island's John Corey back in The Lion's Game (Warner, June). General women's fiction comes from the likes of Danielle Steel (Granny Dan, Delacorte, June); Jackie Collins (Dangerous Kiss, June 29), Barbara Delinsky (Lake News, S&S, July) and Janet Evanovich (High Five, St. Martin's, July), as well as the mass market reprint of Judy Blume's Summer Sisters, last summer's surprise hit, which will get a $250,000 marketing push for its Dell mass market release in May.

Plenty of literary fiction will also be published, including Vikram Seth's An Equal Music (Broadway, May); Paul Auster's Timbuktu (Holt, June) and Alice Hoffman's Local Girls (Putnam, June). And this summer is marked by two major literary events: publication of Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison's long-awaited second novel, Juneteenth (Random, June 19), as well as Ernest Hemingway's last work: True at First Light: A Fictional Memoir (Scribner, July 6).

But in surveying the major trade house offerings for the season, three key trends emerge.

Keeping Up with (Bridget) Jones

Readers who love tales of rueful, witty modern romance, take note of May 24: that's the on-sale date for the Penguin trade paperback of Helen Fielding's bestselling Bridget Jones's Diary, which will have a 460,000-copy first printing.

Some bookstores are already on board with "BJ Day" events that match the book's -- and modern single gal Bridget's -- spirit and wit. Barnes &Noble's Mall of America store is planning a BJ extravaganza, complete with a Bridget fashion show. In California, Kepler's and Stacey's will be cohosting jointly singles events co-hosted with local newspapers (which will offer free personal ads) when Fielding visits the stores. "It's amazing how advertising as a singles event, not just a wine-and-cheese event, draws the crowds," said Stacey's marketing manager Colleen Lindsay, who's done singles mixers before and found them to be a good way to bring in browsers into the bookstore.

For events without the author, Denver's Tattered Cover is considering a similar singles mixer, plus romantic dinner-for-two giveaway. Tattered Cover buyer Margaret Maupin believes that once Bridget is in trade paperback, it will become a popular reading group title, particularly since it also updates a classic Pride and Prejudice.

Baltimore's Bibelot will truly immerse into Bridgetmania: director of marketing and events Juliana Wood reported that she's printing up buttons labeled with such Bridget terms as "Singleton," "Smug Married," "Smoothie," "Decent Chap" and "Career Girl," and handing them out to both staff and customers. Her book display will feature Bridget food such as baby gherkins, with their "v. good" calorie counts.

But while Bridget is single, she's hardly alone. The summer brings a slew of novels that, intentionally or not, keep up with Jones. In August, for example, Penguin sister Onyx will publish, in original mass market, Isabel Wolff's The Trials of Tiffany Trott, which drew comparisons to Fielding's novel when both were published in the U.K.

"I think Bridget Jones has opened up door to embrace British women's fiction," said New American Library senior v-p and publisher Louise Burke. "And add all the Ally McBeal fans and you definitely have a moment in time for this kind of work."

Tattered Cover's Margaret Maupin recommends Melissa Bank's short story collection The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing (a May release from Fielding's own U.S. hardcover publisher, Viking) as one of the best of the upcoming summer selection. Stacey's Lindsay recently laughed out loud for Suzanne Finnamore's Otherwise Engaged (Knopf, May). B&N fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley said one of her favorites is Stacey Richter's story collection My Date with Satan (Scribner, July)

Neurotica by Sue Margolis "gives readers a glimpse of life after Bridget Jones' Diary ends," said Bantam's promo for the book, which will be published in July. Bantam v-p and director of creative marketing Betsy Hulsebosch believes one of Neurotica's greatest advantages is its catchy one-word title, "a wonderful buzzword and a kind of a slogan for the whole phenomenon." The book is part of Bantam's "New Voices/New Readers" campaign, which promotes its books with an integrated campaign linked to a specific media partner. In this case, it's partnered with an appropriate bible for Singletons, New York magazine.

Avon gets on board with Marian Keyes's Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married (August), complete with a target mailing to Lucy Sullivans throughout the country (perhaps a way to equate singledom with a name other than Bridget Jones?) Keyes competes well with Fielding back in the U.K.; here Avon hopes the mass market of Keyes's previous Watermelon, which will be issued a month before Lucy, will help build Keyes's U.S. audience.

And that's not all: other summer books that fit in this category include New York Press columnist Amy Sohn's quasi-autobiographical first novel, Run Catch Kiss (S&S, July); Kate Christensen's wry take on 20-something New York singledom, In the Drink (Doubleday, May); Elizabeth Berg's Until the Real Thing Comes Along (Random, July) and Anouchka Forrester's Ringing for You: A Love Story with Interruptions (Scribner, Aug.). Even Tama Janowitz (Slaves of New York) returns with the dilemma of being A Certain Age (Doubleday, July).

But for the growing ranks of reactionaries to both Bridget and McBeal, Broadway this summer provides the perfect celebrity book antidote: Wake Up I'm Fat, by The Practice'sCamryn Manheim, features the Emmy Award-winning, big-and-proud-of-it actress posing unabashedly in a bathing suit on the cover.

War -- What Is It Good For? A Lot of Books

No matter that Saving Private Ryan ended up losing to Shakespeare in Love for the Oscar for Best Picture; on the publishing front, WWII, both in fiction and nonfiction, dominates. Just as the video release of Spielberg's film lands around Memorial Day, so, too, will plenty of war books hit the beaches.

In June, just in time for media's perennial D-Day attention, Anchor will weigh with a repackage of Robert Kotlowitz's memoir Before Their Time, previously published in hardcover by Knopf, and Sam Halpert's autobiographical novel A Real Good War, previously a Southern Heritage Press hardcover. The promo copy notes that these are "two moving works of witness to the experience of World War II, each as vividly authentic as Saving Private Ryan."

"We have two live `citizen soldiers,' " said Anchor editor-in-chief Gerry Howard, referring both to his authors and to the Stephen Ambrose title that both helped create and benefited from the trend. (Ambrose himself has a more general male-bonding book coming this summer, the late addition Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Her s, Sons, Pals, due in June from S&S.)

Howard believes the current WWII interest will continue for some time: "You're seeing a lot of WWII sections pop up in bookstores, just the way you saw Civil War sections after Ken Burns's documentary hit."

Indeed, Random House reports overwhelming response to its recent display contest for Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, its current bestseller about those who lived through WWII. Forty-three booksellers responded to the contest, with World Eye Bookshop (Greenfield, Mass.) and Hawley-Cooke Booksellers (Louisville, Ky.) finishing in a tie -- each will get the grand prize of 200 copies of the book and a visit from Brokaw this summer. World Eye's display took over the whole town -- the bookstore became a focus of customers' own WWII recollections and memorabilia, which were displayed in the store as well as at other retail outlets. A documentary was also made to record this local take on historical interest. "We've always split out our history section in terms of military conflicts, but there's definitely been a revival of interest in WWII for about the last year," said World Eye store manager Fran Gardner. "For a long time, the Civil War was of more interest. Now WWII books are neck and neck."

While Random House expects The Greatest Generation to perform well throughout the summer, it will also publish new WWII books, including Elizabeth Norman's nonfiction We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped in Bataan by the Japanese. The house hopes to get national media coverage tied into a meeting of the surviving nurses that will take place this summer. Also launching this summer is a new War series from Modern Library, guest edited by Caleb Carr. One of the first titles is WWII general Omar Bradley's Soldier's Story. "These books, being reissues of classics, probably won't get full individual review coverage, but we felt that organizing them into a series would bring them more attention, and surely this year's focus on WWII will have some effect," said Random House publicity chief Carol Schneider.

Fiction also g s to war: June sees another hardcover repackage of the Men at War fiction series originally published in paperback by W.E.B. Griffin under the pen name Alex Baldwin. This season's installment, The Soldier Spies, concerns the North Africa front and one Lt. J Kennedy Jr. And another of Bantam's New Voices/New summer picks is David Robbins's WWII Stalingrad sniper epic, War of the Rats (July), which, although it's a novel, has the seemingly ever-more important hook of "based on a true story." Bantam plans to promote the book through niche media and its Web site, as well as in USA Today, which "is about as mainstream as you can get, and reflects this topic's mainstream appeal right now," said Hulsebosch.

'Storm' Chasers in the Adventure Mini-Genre

For Father's Day, HarperPerennial had planned to issue a trade paperback of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. But the current mass market edition is still performing so well that the house has decided to stick with the current, 1.5-million-plus-selling mass market edition.

And this summer the very photogenic Junger gets to ride another promotion wave: he'll do some bookstore appearances with Linda Greenlaw, the sea captain mentioned in Storm, who is coming out with her own book in May, The Hungry Ocean, from Hyperion, and who just might help swell the ranks of the female readers interested in this genre. Grove, whose nonfiction seafaring bestseller Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder will get a heavy promotion push in Vintage paperback this summer, in June offers a new adventure/personal pathos story: the Pacific Ocean typhoon true tale Dark Wind: A Survivor's Tale of Love and Loss, by Gordon Chaplin.

Even the Great Whites are being harpooned for the hot adventure genre. In August, Harvest is reissuing The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, first mate Owen Chase's tale of the shipwreck that inspired Moby Dick, with a new introduction by Kinder. The book breaks out ahead of two other Moby-inspired titles: maritime expert (and Junger acquaintance) Nathaniel Philbrick's updated account of the shipwreck, a $1.2-million acquisition by Viking; and Sena Jeter Naslund's fictional Ahab's Wife, a mid-six-figure acquisition by Morrow.

Other ocean adventures include world-famous oceanographer James Powlik's Hot Zone-like speculation in Sea Change (Delacorte, July) and former Doubleday author Steve Alten's The Trench (Kensington, July), the sequel to his some-liked-it, some-hated-it "Jurassic Shark" thriller Meg.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is always paired with The Perfect Storm as leaders in the adventure genre revival, and true tales of climbing Mount Everest will reach another peak this summer. An updated Griffin trade paperback edition of Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb will be published by St. Martin's, and S&S has an account by David Breashears, a member of the IMAX team on the same ill-fated climb, High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places. Times Books hopes that Matt Dickinson's The Other Side of Everest (May) will provide just that; adventure filmmaker/writer Dickinson recounts his adventure on the more challenging North Face of Everest soon after that disastrous storm. All these books will be published in May, just as media attention focuses on the next group of people brave -- or foolhardy -- enough to attempt Everest.

With the tag line "Adventure isn't dead! It's just gone to Hell," Crown describes fiction offering The Descent by Jeff Long, a hardcover thriller that takes our hiking hero into an underworld within a cave in the Himalayas. Avon's original mass market Subterranean by James Rollins also turns the climb downwards as a team of scientists investigates a world two miles below the frozen Antarctic. (SF author Kim Stanley Robinson's fiction bestseller on this current hot continent this summer, Antarctica is due in mass market paperback from Bantam in July.)

And, finally, June brings an important true adventure anniversary: the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing. Books being published to commemorate the event include James Schefter's The Race: The Uncensored Story of How America Beat Russia to the Moon (Doubleday); Full Moon by Michael Light, a collection of 145 photographs (Knopf); Apollo 13 co-author Jeffrey Kluger's Moon Hunters (S&S, July); and Homer Hickam Jr.'s (Rocket Boys)space-techno-thriller Back to the Moon.