Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 2/12/01

Six Spells Succe$$ | Chyna Makes the Grade | TV or Not TV? | Keen Competition

Six Spells Succe$$Dennis Lehane's sixth book, Mystic River, is his first to hit the national bestseller charts, and it took less than a week in the stores to achieve that dream. Mystic River is the thriller author's first
standalone and reviews have been exceptional, including a starred one in PW (and he got those for all his previous books as well). Morrow executive editor Claire Wachtel published his first, A Drink Before the War,in 1993, when she was at Harcourt. Agent Ann Rittenberg sent her the manuscript after it had been rejected by a number of publishers. Wachtel pushed hard to get the book accepted, and bought it for $8,500; it won the Shamus Award for best first novel that year. The author happily followed his editor to Morrow. Wachtel takes great pride in Lehane's writing development, but even she was surprised by the outstanding quality of the current bestseller. "The writing was flawless," she told PW. Parent company HarperCollins, too, recognized the book's potential and it was given star treatment. Lehane is in the midst of an 11-city tour and will be visiting more than 20 stores. Lots of reviews and print coverage are anticipated, with much of it scheduled for this week and next. First printing for the book is more than 100,000 copies.
ChynaMakes the Grade
World Wrestling Federation fans know Joanie Lauer by her professional name, Chyna, and they call her "the Ninth Wonder of the World." She is the first woman ever to compete in the ring against men and the first woman to win WWF's Intercontinental Championship Belt. How she got there and her struggles along the way are chronicled in a new bestseller, If They Only Knew, published by Regan Books with a first printing of more than 365,000. She is in midst of a five-city tour--New York, Minneapolis, Norwalk, Conn., Los Angeles and Las Vegas. A People feature story is planned for one of the March issues.

TV or Not TV?That is the question--especially with a bestseller that's spun off from a top-rated daytime soap. Thanks to a highly successful marketing collaboration between HarperEntertainment and NBC Daytime, Hidden Passions: Secrets from the Diaries of Tabitha Lenox (pub date: January 23), is enjoying its second week on our fiction list in the "lucky seven" spot. (It's also hit the lists of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the New York Times.) Last Monday, Galen Gering, one of the resident hunks on Passions, appeared on Today; that evening, he was joined at the NBC Experience Store in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center by actress Juliet Mills (who plays Tabitha) and Jim Reilly, the show's creator and head writer. More than 300 fans waited in line, in a snowstorm, to meet the stars, and more than 250 books were sold. This past weekend, signings with cast members began in the L.A. area, where Passions is taped. One of the book's most unusual aspects--one that created considerable advance buzz--is that the publication of Hidden Passions reflects one of the TV show's major story lines. Back in November, in fact, one of the show's guest stars was none other than HarperCollins president and CEO Jane Friedman. Total copies in print after three trips to press: 117,000.

Keen CompetitionEven with four new hardcover fiction books making a first appearance on the charts, there are four more new books selling very well right below the top 15. Anne Perry's new British historical mystery (yes, it's about Jack the Ripper), The Whitechapel Conspiracy, has 62,000 copies in print, according to Ballantine. Riding high at the indies and leading the San Francisco Chronicle chart is The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri from Norton. At Scribner, Don DeLillo's Body Artist has 100,000 copies in print; at 128 pages, it is also his shortest work. And while Viking's Cause Celeb is closing in on the fiction chart, the author's earlier book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is #14 on the trade paper list; Penguin has 322,000 copies in print for the reprint.

With reporting by Dick Donahue.