The battle cry that accompanied the United States entry into World War II, "Remember Pearl Harbor," could just as easily be the motto for today's avalanche of books timed to coincide with the release of Touchstone's Pearl Harbor movie on May 25, Memorial Day weekend—well in advance of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7, and, incidentally, just in time for Father's Day.
The day that FDR said would "live in infamy" has most certainly survived.
The sheer number of Pearl Harbor—specific titles, which have either just been published or are about to be this month, owe as much to the interest in World War II generated by the two Toms—Tom Hanks, star of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, and NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, author of the bestseller The Greatest Generation— as they do to the book appeal of another historic movie, Titanic. Although Titanic also cost a lot to produce, $200 million, Jerry Bruckheimer's Pearl Harbor, directed by Michael Bay, with a budget of $140 million, has the distinction of being the most expensive film ever made. Set during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the film tells the story of two friends (played by Ben Affleck and Josh Harnett) in the British Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corps, respectively, who fall in love with the same woman (Kate Beckinsale).
Given that Touchstone is part of the Disney empire, it's not surprising that Hyperion snagged both movie tie-in titles: Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment, a $35 hardcover with movie stills, storyboards and maps, and screenwriter Randall Wallace's novel Pearl Harbor, a mass market original. Both books have hefty first printings; the hardcover will launch with 120,000 copies, while the mass market will begin with 425,000. Late last month Hyperion shipped 2,500 book displays in conjunction with Wallace's book.
Obviously, movie tie-ins live or die based on whether or not the film is a box-office success. But, nonetheless, Hyperion publisher Ellen Archer said its promotion staff is not sitting on its hands waiting for movie reviews: "We have planned a massive marketing attack in May," she told PW. So far the details of that operation are top secret.
Given the amount of pre-publicity generated by the film, it looks like all systems are go for a successful film launch. A teaser movie trailer was shown in theaters as early as six months ago and a new trailer was released last month. Stations in the Disney empire are also doing their part. For instance, May is dedicated to Pearl Harbor on the History Channel, which has already aired a program on U.S. military disasters, hosted by Mike Wallace on May 1, 2001, and has others scheduled, including one on the U.S.S. Arizona, which still remains underwater in the harbor as a memorial to those who died.
"Hopefully the movie will be number one, and the book will be number one," said Archer. "That's my kind of synergy." Like other publishers, she's hoping that the books will sell through the summer and right through Christmas. "Pearl Harbor: The Movie and the Moment is repromoted in our fall catalogue, because we anticipate terrific sales for the book during the holiday season," she added.
Many illustrated Pearl Harbor hardcovers currently docking at bookstores are similar in their high production values—glossy paper, quality photographic reproductions, and maps—and bring about a few interesting collaborations in the industry. Basic Books's Pearl Harbor: The Day of Infamy—An Illustrated History, by Dan van der Vat, with an introduction by Senator John McCain, even has reproductions of paintings by maritime artist Tom Freeman. Basic teamed up with co-publisher Madison Press on the project. According to Basic director of publicity Arlene Kriv, the announced 200,000-copy first printing is the largest ever for the press. "We saw this as an opportunity to bring history to a wider audience with an illustrated book." Kriv said the bookstore interest has been phenomenal so far and expects it to last through the fall when the book will be relaunched for the anniversary of the attack. Van der Vat, who wrote about The Pacific Campaign for the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, said that he hoped that readers of his new book would "learn the lessons of history and learn them right. People at the time found it hard to cope with and looked for conspiracy theories where there were none."
Time-Life Books went with packager Tehabi Books for Pearl Harbor, written by Susan Wels, with a foreword by Senator Daniel Inouye and introduction by John Keegan. Jennifer Pearce, Time Life's v-p of content development, noted that "we've put 50,000 into the trade, 25,000 into special sales, and 36,000 into the History Book Club." She attributed the strong response to "how lavish the book is. It's so visual, many photos have never been seen before, and there is a gatefold." At Sterling Publishing, hopes are equally high for their distributed book from Cassell & Co., also called Pearl Harbor, written by H. P. Willmott with Tohmatsu Haruo and W. Spencer Johnson. It has a 50,000-copy first printing and, according to publicity assistant Susan D'Auria, "we will be on the Father's Day table at Barnes & Noble stores plus various front-of-store promotions at other chains as well as independent bookstores." Sterling also plans a telemarketing campaign with one of the major wholesalers and will be targeting online booksellers. "Advertising will stop running the day after Father's Day," she added. Like the Basic/Madison project, promotion for this title will return for a holiday push in the fall.
At the lower end of the price spectrum, Metro Books, an imprint of Friedman/Fairfax, has just released its own Pearl Harbor, a 160-page, $19.98 hardcover with 175 photos. Written by Ernest Arroyo, president of the Pearl Harbor History Associates, it commemorates the many acts of courage that took place on December 7.
While not entirely about Pearl Harbor, Robert D. Ballard's Graveyards of the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Bikini Atoll (National Geographic Books), written with Michael Hamilton Morgan and carrying an introduction by Stephen E. Ambrose, covers the author's unsuccessful search for the Japanese midget sub that brought America into World War II with its deadly torpedoes. To support a 100,000-copy first printing, Metro Books has a hefty, multi-media publicity campaign planned. Ballard will kick-off an eight-city tour with an appearance on the Today Show. In addition, the National Geographic Channel has produced a program, Legacy of Attack, with Bob Ballard and Stephen Ambrose, narrated by Tom Brokaw, that will air on May 27 on both its own channel and NBC.
The War on Paper
The only paperback original on the war, other than Wallace's official movie tie-in, is Mercer University Press's Pearl Harbor Story, by Henry Dozier Russell. Immediately after the war, Russell, a major general appointed to the U.S. Army Pearl Harbor Investigation Board in 1944, dictated his thoughts about the bombing. "The manuscript for the book was kept in a safe-deposit box," explained marketing director Maggy Shannon about how this once Top Secret document came to be published so many years after the fact. "David Mincey, a friend of Russell's and a lawyer here in Macon [Ga.] found a copy in a file drawer, and he contacted the general's heirs. The thing that makes this book special," she noted, "is there's a difference at that rank of what you say in public and what you say in private."
Like van der Vat, Russell concluded that FDR did not conspire to force the U.S. into the war. In Russell's book he bluntly wrote, "I doubt if at any critical time in our history our interests were in the hands of a weaker group of men than those constituting the War Department in December 1941."
Henry C. Clausen, another member of the Pearl Harbor Investigation with Russell who conducted a separate investigation in the Pacific from November 1944 to September 1945 (reportedly with dynamite strapped to his back so that he could deter captors) reached a similar conclusion. Originally published for the 50th anniversary of the attack, Clausen's Pearl Harbor, written with Bruce Lee, has just been reissued by Da Capo Press. "We've already gone back to press," said marketing director Kevin Hanover, "so we have 20,000 copies in print. All signs are that we'll go back to press again." Since Clausen died in 1993, Lee will do a 15-city radio satellite tour. In addition, Da Capo will run ads in World War II magazine, the Quarterly Journal of Military History and a special Pearl Harbor insert in Stars and Stripes.
Of the other Pearl Harbor paperbacks, only Robert B. Stinnett's Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (Touchstone Books), which attempts to prove that the attack was deliberately provoked, is not a reissue from an earlier anniversary. The hardcover was published last year to strong reviews, and Stinnett will do a radio satellite tour.
Interest in the forthcoming movie has Penguin already going back to press for two reissued Pearl Harbor classics by Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor and Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History —both with new jackets. "For At Dawn We Slept, we've gone back five times for a total of 70,000 copies in print. The 1982 Penguin paperback edition was on the bestseller list and sold over 300,000 copies," noted v-p, publicity director Maureen Donnelly, adding "we're also getting interest in his The Miracle at Midway [published in 1983]."
Penguin Books is reissuing John Toland's Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath under the Berkley imprint, and anticipates strong sales, according to executive director of trade paperback sales and national accounts Don Redpath. Penguin also weighs in with another Berkley title, Henry Berry's "This Is No Drill!": Living Memories of the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Thurston Clarke, who revised Pearl Harbor Ghosts: The Legacy of December 7, 1941 (Ballantine), for the 60th anniversary, told PW that "if my perspective has changed it is: when I first wrote the book, I underestimated how traumatic Pearl Harbor was for the nation, and the people who witnessed it." The new edition, which contains accounts of American survivors who share their memories for the first time, will be launched with a 30,000-copy first printing. In addition, Ballantine has repackaged its mass market Remembering Pearl Harbor: Eyewitness Accounts by U.S. Military Men and Women, edited by Robert S. La Forte and Ronald E. Marcellos, which it will launch with a 75,000-copy first printing.
Similarly, Henry Holt has redesigned the jacket for its Walter Lord classic, Day of Infamy, as has Lyons Press for its Long Day's Journey into War, by Stanley Weintraub. One of the few paperback illustrated books on Pearl Harbor is Stan Cohen's Attack on Pearl Harbor (Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., dist. by Motorbooks International). Originally titled East Wind Rain when it was first released in 1981, the book has since gone into 21 printings.
So far, booksellers are divided as to whether all the hype about the Touchtone star-studded film and all the Pearl Harbor books will get the registers ringing at the counter.
The chains are planning to display Pearl Harbor titles front and center. According to Barnes & Noble corporate spokesperson Debra Williams, every store will have a display table featuring a baker's dozen of hardcovers and paperbacks. The month-long promotion starts next week and runs through Father's Day.
Some independents, however, are not as bullish. At 21-year-old Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park, Ill., which specializes in history and mystery books, owner Augie Aleksey is opposed to what he termed "the commercialization of history." He said he is holding off mounting any displays until the real anniversary in December, when he will also hold an event with World War II survivors. (For the 50th anniversary, he put on a mock impeachment proceeding for FDR, with the audience voting 4 to 1 for impeachment.)
"I'm somewhat leery," said Joan Scott, owner of the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, N.C., near Ft. Bragg. "But I'm stocking the books in hopes that they may take off. How can you judge and pick? Is the public really going to get caught up in it?"
Yet at Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead, Mass., manager/buyer Claire Eaton is planning to go all out with displays and windows timed for Father's Day. "The books are beautifully done," she said, referring to many of the hardcover titles.
For now booksellers and publishers alike will just have to wait and see what's going to happen with the millions of Pearl Harbor books in print. But if the teenagers who idolize Ben Affleck are any indication, or their grandparents who remember that fateful day, Pearl Harbor could be a direct hit on the movie screens and in the bookstores this season. And, if Disney follows the usual pattern of releasing a DVD six months later, close to the real Pearl Harbor commemoration, it could mean a one-two marketing punch with Pearl Harbor books selling straight through the all-important holiday season.