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Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 1/24/00

The Creek Is Rising
Oprah's done it again. Last Tuesday the book maven of the airwaves announced the 29th selection of her justly celebrated book club -- it is Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. Set in Appalachia at the turn of the (last) century, this hardscrabble tale of a 17-year-old girl was published by Algonquin in September 1999. The modest 10,000-copy first printing sold out over the holidays, reports publicity director Katharine Walton, so the Algonquin staff had to scramble when Oprah's producer requested five copies -- there were only three left in-house, says Walton. (A reprint was already being planned, since the title had just been chosen as one of four finalists for the SEBA Book Awards.) Algonquin certainly didn't have the 500 copies Oprah wanted to give to her audience, so the house had to rely upon Ingram to gather the necessary books (without leaking the news) and ship them via a same-day delivery service. Then, says Walton, "We ordered a printing of 350,000 copies." Orders started pouring in. "When we got to 600,000 orders we decided on a third printing before the second was even done," she says.The happy result? 510,000 copies in print. (Oprah is evidently far from alone in her admiration for Morgan: The Truest Pleasure, one of his three earlier novels, was selected as a PW Best Book of 1995.)

A Putnam Triple Play
The three titles debuting on our hardcover fiction list this week have more than their bestseller status in common: they've all been published, within the last three weeks, by Putnam. Jumping on the chart at #4 is Secret Honor, with 210,500 copies in print. Author W.E.B Griffin's third volume in his Badge of Honor series (following Honor Bound and Blood and Honor -- which spent four weeks on our list back in 1996) continues his tales of WWII espionage starring OSS agent -- and U.S. Marine -- Cletus Frade. Several online venues will host chats and interviews with Griffin, including CNN Interactive, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Borders.com.

Following in fifth place is Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Robbed a Bank. The 23rd novel about the crime-solving Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum is a main selection of the Mystery Guild; copies in print total 180,000. This latest entry in Braun's beloved series is joined on our mass market list by Jove's The Cat Who Saw Stars, which climbed from #14 last week to #6; it was released earlier this month with a 625,000-copy first printing.

Coming on at #10 is The Attorney (copies in print: 200,700), Steve Martini's fifth legal thriller to star attorney Paul Madriani (after The Judge, Undue Influence, Prime Witness and Compelling Evidence). This title's promotional campaign has included spots on Today and CNN along with print advertising in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Times.

Whiling Away The Hours
The folks at Picador are justifiably proud of their paperback reprint of The Hours -- not only is Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel marking its second week on our list (the FSG hardcover spent five weeks on our charts last year), but it's the publisher's fastest selling title ever. Cunningham has done readings at New York City's National Arts Club and The New School; on Wednesday he'll be discussing The Hours before the Heartland Literary Society in Chicago. His appearances will continue throughout the spring, says Picador's publicity director Sara Leopold, and he will be interviewed on Jersey's Talking with Lee Leonard, a TV show that's featured many Pulitzer Prize-winning writers. Picador reports 170,000 copies in print after two trips back to press.

With reporting by Dick Donahue
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