War on Terror Trumps Fifty Shades

A remarkable debut for Mark Owen's ‘No Easy Day'

Are American readers as eager for war stories as erotica? Sales numbers would suggest yes. Navy SEAL Mark Owen's vivid insider's narrative of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden sold nearly three times as many copies as E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey last week —knocking the BDSM for beginners novel off the top of the overall bestsellers list for the first time since April. Debuting emphatically at #1, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden amost sold 253,000 copies last week at outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan and has already spent three straight weeks at the top of Amazon's bestseller list. Owen's book comes amid a busy year for Navy SEAL titles. Year-to-date sales have been strong for Team Six by Howard Wasdin and Stephen Templin, 54,973 in paperback and hardcover; Fearless by Eric Blehm, 39,086 hardcover; American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwan, and Jim DeFlice, 291,575 hardcover; and Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, with Patrick Robinson, 61,915 hardcover (all numbers from Nielsen BookScan). Originally slated for an October pub date and not announced until Aug. 22, Dutton moved No Easy Day's pub date twice, first to Sept. 11, and then to Sept. 4, to meet growing excitement. The book has earned major media coverage for revelations such as the allegation that bin Laden was already dead when SEALs entered his bedroom in the Pakistan compound. Publishing with an initial print run of 575,000, the book was criticized and legal action threatened because Owen and publisher Dutton did not provide the government with a copy first. With no events planned, though certainly benefitting from Owen's recent full-hour interview on 60 Minutes, Dutton is counting on the story alone to drive sales.

The King of the (Book) World

PW has called James Patterson "the bestselling author on Earth" and this week, true to form, he hits the #1 slot with Zoo, a thriller in which vicious animal attacks threaten the world, starting with a lion devouring a zookeeper in L.A., and black bears killing hunters in Lake Placid. You get the idea. We're scared… and we're hooked. For the man who's broken all the records (he's in Guinness) and sold over 200 million copies worldwide, this is no surprise, nor is the fact that he's reviewer proof (and getting his books pre-pub is not always a matter of course). If you're James Patterson, who needs reviews? All you need is another idea and maybe a coauthor. For Zoo, it's Michael Ledwidge, a Bronx boy who spent summers in his dad's native Ireland and published his first noir, The Narrowback, in 1999, and another two novels, before he co-wrote The Quickie in 2007 with Patterson and got a taste of bestsellerdom. Ledwidge has been a steady Patterson sidekick ever since, including the Michael Bennett series (see #19 on this week's list). As for Patterson, Zoo will be followed by another five books with his name on the cover before we ring in 2013.—Louisa Ermelino

Cussler's Hustling

Solo efforts in healthy mix with collaborations

Clive Cussler's The Tombs, the fourth in his series to feature Sam and Remi Fargo, a treasure-hunting couple, debuts at #4 on the Hardcover Fiction list. It's his second book this year, after the Kurt Austin adventure The Storm, coauthored with Graham Brown. PW wrote of the The Tombs: "Sam and Remi… prove they can wield automatic weapons as well as they can metal detectors in the fun fourth Fargo novel," which involves a hunt for five treasure troves hidden by Attila the Hun across Europe. "This adventure series stands as one of the crown jewels in the Cussler empire," PW concluded.

For this installment, Cussler has a new collaborator, Thomas Perry, the author of the Edgar-winning Butcher's Boy and the Jane Whitefield series, most recently Poison Flower. Cussler is also the author or coauthor of 50 previous books, including 21 Dirk Pitt adventures; 10 NUMA Files adventures; eight Oregon Files books; and five Isaac Bell thrillers. His nonfiction works include Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt, plus The Sea Hunters and The Sea Hunters II; these describe the true adventures of the real NUMA, which, led by Cussler, searches for lost ships of historic significance. With his crew of volunteers, Cussler has discovered more than 60 ships, including the long-lost Confederate submarine, Hunley.

Cussler isn't through for the year. Putnam will publish the Dirk Pitt adventure Poseidon's Arrow, coauthored with son Dirk, in November.—Peter Cannon

Zadie Smith's Fourth Captivates

Zadie Smith's fourth novel, NW, debuts this week at #8 on the Fiction Hardcover list. There's a popular belief that Smith is a one-hit wünderkind who came out strong with her first book and has been in steady decline ever since. But the numbers tell a different story: Yes, White Teeth was a phenomenal success, selling over 420,000 copies to date at outlets charted by BookScan. And, yes, her second novel, The Autograph Man, sold less than one-tenth of that, figures that would make your average debut literary writer thrilled (about 40,000), but would certainly be seen as disappointing, the very definition of sophomore slump. But Smith bounced back with On Beauty, her third novel, which has to date sold almost 300,000 copies (all figures are according to Nielsen BookScan). First-week sales of NW aren't what they were for On Beauty, but with a "healthy number of events" lined up this fall, according to Yamil Anglada, assistant director of publicity for the Penguin Press, "a good number" of them in New York (starting with a reading at the same Barnes & Noble that Junot Díaz almost brought to the ground the other night—1,000 people showed up, and the NYPD for crowd control)—things are looking good. That well-attended B&N reading kicks off Smith's U.S. tour for NW, which will extend to Philadelphia, D.C., Boston, and Minneapolis, and, in 2013, San Francisco, Houston, and Dallas. Smith has been making the radio rounds, appearing on Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and the Diane Rehm Show. To Rehm, Smith likened NW to one of Shakespeare's problem plays, the sort of art that, in Smith's words, lies "somewhere between a tragedy and a comedy.... The issues of the piece are turned outwards to you. It's a kind of self-interrogation. And I like that idea." 

—Mike Harvkey

Captain Underpants Returns—With Author in Tow

After a six-year hiatus, comedic superhero Captain Underpants is back for his ninth caper, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. Like the title character, the book is flying—off the shelves, that is, topping PW's Children's Frontlist Fiction list for the second week in a row. Author Dav Pilkey has recently embarked on a 23-stop tour—his first in almost a decade.

To enhance Pilkey's live appearances, Scholastic shipped more than 200,000 tattoos, 160,000 flip-o-rama books, and more than 1,600 activity kits to venues around the country. Since many potential Captain Underpants readers hadn't graduated to wearing briefs themselves when the last title came out, "It was really important for us to introduce Dav to new teachers, new librarians, new kids who have not met him yet," Scholastic's Rachel Coun told PW.

Fans needn't brace themselves for another long wait: Scholastic will release the 10th title in the series, Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers, on January 15. To date, more than 10 million

Captain Underpants books have been sold through the outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan.