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The early timing of this year's BEA could make for more surprises than usual. Many sales reps will bring their freshly printed catalogues straight to BEA from their sales conferences, with barely enough time to dog-ear the pages between the two events. Meanwhile, booksellers may not receive their catalogues much in advance. The quick turnaround may also short-circuit the preliminary buzz from reps who would normally make a few store visits beforehand.

To give booksellers a head start, and hoping to breathe some life into key titles at the show, several publishers have taken a cue from Grove president Morgan Entrekin. Last year, he seeded the bookselling field with Leif Enger's Peace Like a River ahead of time, and reaped enthusiastic word of mouth in Chicago. Though Entrekin chose not to use the same tactic twice, Norton, Knopf and Little, Brown are among the publishers that have sent out advance galleys in anticipation of similar results this year.

To orient readers who want to beat a quick path to some of the hottest galleys at BEA, PW canvassed a range of publishers and booksellers about their top picks. Here's a selective list of the books that publishers are aggressively pushing and that booksellers are most likely to embrace.

Debuts to Watch

Grove/Atlantic (booths 2732, 2734): One of the first houses booksellers look to for new fiction, Grove is introducing Twelve (July), a first novel of edgy urban adolescence by 17-year-old Nick McDonnell, the son of author and editor Terry McDonnell, an old friend of Entrekin's. The novel, which Grove compares to The Basketball Diaries and Less Than Zero, revolves around a group of disaffected teens in search of a fictional drug called "twelve." McDonnell will sign galleys in the Grove booth on Saturday, May 4, from 1—2 p.m.

Chronicle (booths 2432, 2433): Having already achieved stardom at BEA as the founder of the rock 'n' roll publishing band the Rock Bottom Remainders, Kathi Kamen Goldmark leads off Chronicle's newly expanded fiction line with her first novel, And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You (Oct.), the story of sexy Sarah Jean Pixlie, who catapults from struggling back-up singer to blazing country music star. (Goldmark will perform at the Remainders' 10th-anniversary show at Webster Hall on May 4.)

Knopf (booth 4033): For the fall, Knopf is focusing on Daniel Mason's The Piano Tuner (Sept.), which the house preempted in a seven-figure deal for North American rights to two novels. "It's a rich story with echoes of Conrad, about a general living in the Burmese jungle with a deep desire to own an Ereard grand piano, and the British piano turner who makes the journey to see the general," says senior v-p Paul Bogaards.

Bloomsbury (booth 3738): Flush with the recent success of Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour, Bloomsbury is offering food-themed fiction that's seasoned with a quote from Tracy Chevalier. Nina Killham's How to Cook a Tart (Oct.) features cookbook author Jasmine March, has a bold plan to win back the affections of her adulterous, Zone-dieting husband and sullen, anorexic daughter.

HarperCollins/ReganBooks (booths 3432, 3433): Actor, director and screenwriter Alan Cumming, perhaps best known for his role as the emcee in Broadway's Cabaret, makes his fiction debut with Tommy's Tale (Sept.), a novel of sex, family, fatherhood and friendship set in contemporary London. Cumming will sign galleys for advance ticket-holders on Saturday, May 4, from 3:30—4 p.m.

Picador (booth 3723): Cast as "a male Anne Tyler" by his publisher, Tom Barbash has already received the James Michener Award for a portion of The Last Good Chance (Sept.) and a blurb from Jonathan Franzen for the finished novel. It concerns Jack Lambeau, a prodigal son returned home to reinvent a dying port town in upstate New York. (Barbash is also the co-writer of Top of the World, forthcoming this fall from HarperCollins, a nonfiction book about Howard Lutnick, CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald and the impact of the 9/11 attack on his company.)

Harcourt (booths 4332, 4333): Born in Kabul, Atiq Rahimi fled when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. His slim, poetic novel Earth and Ashes (Oct.), already published in Europe to high praise, tells of a cruel world where violence reigns and the Afghan people have all but lost their voices, while also revealing human perseverance in the face of war.

Counterpoint (booths 3448, 3449): Charting a young woman's coming-of-age from age nine to 15, A Girl, in Parts (Aug.) by Jasmine Paul is "one part Huck Finn, one part Ellen Foster and one part Mary Karr," according to Matty Goldberg, Perseus Books Group's v-p of sales.

Fiction Highlights

Farrar, Straus & Giroux (booths 4132, 4133): Will lightning strike twice? FSG is presenting Middlesex (Sept.) by Jeffrey Eugenides, named one of America's best young novelists by Granta and the New Yorker. The long-awaited second novel by the bestselling author of 1993's The Virgin Suicides spans eight decades in a Greek-American family and the unusually awkward adolescence of Calliope Stephanides, whose failure to develop has already led her to suspect that she is not a girl at all.

Harcourt (booths 4332, 4333): Beloved by booksellers, Umberto Eco is back with Baudolino (Oct. 14), a mixture of myth and history set in Constantinople in April 1204. As the knights of the Fourth Crusade sack the seat of the Byzantine Empire, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death, and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story. The house is also featuring what is "sure to be one of the year's most talked-about books," according to the publisher, The Crimson Petal and the White (Sept. 16) is Michael Faber's second novel, following last year's Under the Skin. "Readers at Harcourt are comparing it to Balzac's The Human Comedy," said publicity director Arlene Kriv, who admitted that's not a comparison you hear very often.

Little, Brown (booths 3540—3547): In addition to the advance copies already sent to select booksellers, more than 1,000 galleys of Nick Tosches's In The Hand of Dante (Sept.) will be stacked high at the Little, Brown booth (rivaling the Jeff Eugenides display at FSG). Touted as Tosches's masterwork, this "life-or-death thriller combines his scholarship about The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri and the arcane wisdom of the middle ages with an equally vast and intimate knowledge of the vilest murdering scum of New York's ugliest streets," according to publisher Michael Pietsch. On Friday, May 3, Tosches will sign ARCs in the booth.

HarperCollins (booths 3432, 3433): Three titles stand out here. From Gao Xingjian, the Nobel Prize—winning author of Soul Mountain, comes One Man's Bible (Sept.), a fictionalized account of Gao's life under the Cultural Revolution. From Milan Kundera comes Ignorance (Oct.), the author's answer to critics who have reproached him for living abroad and for writing in French rather than in his native Czech. And in a follow-up to last year's national bestselling Dreamland, set in Coney Island at the turn of the century, Kevin Baker returns with Paradise Alley (Oct.), another tale of immigrant New York, this time set during the Civil War and the draft riots.

Doubleday (booth 4003): The hot title here is Lullaby (Sept.) by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and Choke. Sales v-p Madeleine McIntosh reports the house is expecting another quantum leap in sales for this "love child of Stephen King and Fay Weldon." In his latest, a reporter investigates a series of infant deaths, finding that the common denominator is an African "culling" song that is deadly to speak or even to think. Palahniuk will sign galleys in the Random House booth on Saturday, May 4, at 11 a.m.

Houghton Mifflin (booths 3820, 3821): Back with Houghton after a stint at Broadway, National Book Award winner Tim O'Brien returns with July, July (Oct.), in which old friends reassemble at their 30th college reunion, encountering many memories and ghosts. O'Brien will sign galleys for advance ticket-holders on Saturday, May 4, from 3:30—4:30 p.m.

Algonquin (booth 4265): Having just moved to Algonquin from Putnam, beloved Southern writer Lee Smith plumbs emotional territory similar to O'Brien's in The Last Girls (Sept. 27), a novel based on a 1966 rafting trip she took with 15 college classmates down the Mississippi (inspired by Huck Finn, of course). Thirty-five years later, four of those "girls" reunite to cruise the river again, this time carrying the ashes of a sister rafter. Smith will autograph galleys for advance ticket-holders on Friday, May 3, from 1—1:30 p.m.

Henry Holt (booths 3732, 3733): Following last year's successful compilation of tales from NPR's National Story Project, I Thought My Father Was God, Paul Auster returns with his 10th novel, The Book of Illusions (Sept.), in which a man's obsession with a silent-film star sends him on a journey into a shadow world of lies, illusions and unexpected love. Auster will sign galleys in the Holt booth on Saturday, May 4, and will appear as a featured speaker at the Literary Lunch on Sunday, May 5.

MacAdam/Cage (booth 826): A 2001 Book Sense Book of the Year finalist for his first novel, Ella Minnow Pea (the winner is to be announced at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 3), Mark Dunn returns with Welcome to Higby (Oct.), a comic account of the goings-on in a fictional southern town over a Labor Day weekend. Dunn will appear at the First-time Authors signing on May 3, from 11—11:30 a.m.

Coffeehouse Press (booth 2544): A finalist for the 1998 B&N Discover Award for Book of the Year with Our Sometime Sister, Norah Labiner returns with Miniatures (Sept.), modeled on the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

Hyperion (booth 3551): When she approached Pat Conroy for a blurb for her first novel, Making Waves in Zion (Black Belt Press, 1995), Cassandra King got more than she bargained for: he's now her husband. Her second novel is The Sunday Wife (Sept.), the story of a preacher's wife in a small Florida Panhandle town who runs into trouble when she befriends a wealthy local woman. King will sign galleys for advance ticket-holders on Saturday, May 4, from 4—5 p.m.

Hot Nonfiction

Walker (booth 3851): Setting his sights on another Italian aesthetic pinnacle, Ross King, winner of last year's Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Brunelleschi's Dome (and the presenter of this year's award) returns with a look at the Sistine Chapel in Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (Jan. 2003).

Free Press (booths 3832, 3833): Taking a cue from Walker's success with Dava Sobel's Longitude, the Free Press is featuring TheMeasure of All Things (Oct.) by Ken Alder. The author happened upon the sealed papers of two French astronomers who, in the midst of the French Revolution, set out to calculate the length of a meter, and created the basis for the metric system used throughout the world. "It's our 'make' book for the fall," says publisher Martha Levin.

Henry Holt (booths 3732, 3733): Last seen as a bumbling Civil War reenactor in the bestselling Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz reappears as a working crewman on a replica vessel in Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (Sept.). He will be signing in the Holt booth on Friday, May 3. Holts is also featuring the first volume in a WWII trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942—1943 (Oct.). Finally, autograph hounds won't be able to resist the blads of the photo collection The Spirit of Family by Al and Tipper Gore (Oct.). The Gores will appear at a traditional signing for ticket-holders from 3—4 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. On May 5, they will speak at the Sunday Breakfast and then sign blads in the Holt booth.

Oxford (booth 4534): Coming off a string of trade successes in the last year, Oxford is planning a 100,000-copy first printing for Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Sept.) by Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson, to be published in time for the 140th anniversary of the battle.

Sasquatch Books (booth 2741): Chosen as a Book Sense Top 10 pick in hardcover and paperback, Craig Childs's The Secret Knowledge of Water (2000) took off as a Back Bay paperback. Now, Childs returns to the southwest in The Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land (Oct.).

Simon & Schuster (booth 3833): From Sarah Vowell, a contributing editor and storyteller on NPR's hugely popular This American Life, comes The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Sept.). S&S will give away promotional CDs featuring outtakes from her humorous tour of American history and politics.