Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

At last, the book business has become the background for a spy thriller. The author is Chris Pavone and the title is The Accident, published last week. His first novel, The Expats (2012), was a bestseller. He lives in Greenwich Village with his wife and twin sons.

“Any setting can be a good setting for a novel,” Pavone, 45, told The New York Times. Husband of a top publishing executive and a former editor himself, Pavone said that he used his experience in writing The Accident.  But in an early draft, he said, “I had thinly veiled versions of real people. I got rid of that.”

Pavone is now on a book tour and has already begun a third novel. This one will be set in the world of travel magazines. He said, “It offers compelling opportunities for a travel-writer protagonist to embark on a secret life of international intrigue.”

SHE DID IT: Nobel winner Toni Morrison told an interviewer, “I never wanted to grow up to be a writer. I just wanted to grow up to be an adult.”

FIXING THE FOOD: Michael Gibney is a chef and the author of Sous Chef, due out March 25. He told PW, “I am transfixed by the beauty of words. As a child I read through the dictionary to find cool words.”

Gibney is working on a second book. “It’s an investigation into the history of what motivates people to cook—historically, currently, in the future—and how that differs from one culture to the next. In hunter-gatherer communities, someone in the tribe took over and said, I am going to prepare the food. Why? Seems like there’s a sort of primal urge to do that and I think that exists in chefs today.”

DIAZ PROSE: Cameron Diaz, the stylishly thin film star, has written The Body Book. The following quote from her bestseller was in Gregory Cowles’s column in last Sunday’s New York Times: “Your vagina is an incredible, lovely place, an inspirer of art and desire, and the gateway through which human life can enter the world.”

IT’S STYLE: It’s a little complicated, but worth it. Please read on. John Banville writes crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black. Black’s new novel is The Black- Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel. Marlowe is the fictional detective created by Raymond Chandler who died in 1959.

Still with me? In an article for The Guardian, Banville quotes Chandler: “The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.”

Olen Steinhauer, author of eight novels (the ninth, The Cairo Affair, is due out this month), reviewed Black-Eyed Blonde in The New York Times Book Review. Steinhauer was annoyed by its anachronisms and wrote that the book “could be passed off as a newly discovered Chandler manuscript found in some dusty La Jolla closet, leaving only linguistic detectives to ferret out the fraud.”

GINGERY: “J.P. Donleavy Is Still Standing” was the title of an article in The New York Times Style Magazine. The subtitle tried to tell it all: “Indeed, at 87, the author of the best-selling cult novel The Ginger Man merrily lives as a semi-reclusive gentleman farmer in shabby Grey Gardens-style splendor on his Irish estate.”

But nothing in the article that followed–or the photographs of a grumpy looking old man–seemed to reveal anything merry.

New York-born Donleavy is the author of 11 novels, five nonfiction books, four plays, two novellas, a story collection and something called The History of the Ginger Man: The Dramatic Story Behind a Contemporary Classic by the Man Who Wrote It and Who Fought for It’s Life.

 We have a lot of long titles here, don’t we?

Described as pornographic when it was published 60 years ago, more than 45 million copies of Ginger Man have been sold. There is a list on the Web of bars and cafes named “The Ginger Man” from Austin, Texas, to Albany, N.Y.

A WATCHER: Kevin Henkes’ latest is The Year of Billy Miller. It was named a Newbery Honor Book. Henkes is also an illustrator. He lives in Madison, Wis., but was in New York last Saturday, featured as speaker at the Thalia Kids’ Book Club.

In advance, Henkes told The New York Times, “I’ll talk about how I think writers are observers, and that we’re always watching. And I’ll talk about how an incident in my everyday life was a seed from which I drew a book.”

He observed, “I like small domestic stories. I like examining the ordinary, and by doing so, one hopefully reveals the extraordinary nature within.”

WALKERS: “A simple walk, as many poets and writers have discovered, will keep the heart and brain in working order,” wrote Amanda Foreman in her Wall Street Journal column. “Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley were all noted walkers,” said.

The column ended with a quote from Charles Dickens: “Walk and be happy, walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” Dickens routinely did 20 miles a day.

WHO BUYS WHAT? Random House published the results of a Bowker PubTrack survey that contained few surprises.  Females buy 79% of the fiction books sold and 57% of nonfiction. Women buy 91% of romance fiction. Men buy 71% of Western fiction.

TEA MAN: S.T. Joshi, 55, has written or edited more than 200 books. These include a detective novel, a book about Gore Vidal and several works on H. L. Mencken. Joshi was born in India but lives in Seattle. He is an expert on atheism.

In a “Beliefs” feature for The New York Times Saturday edition, Joshi said, “I am sort of a tea addict. I structure my day by cups of tea. If you don’t enforce that kind of discipline as a freelancer, you won’t get anything done.”

BIG BUMP: Nickolas Butler‘s first novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, got an attention-grabbing pages 2 and 3 advertisement in the March 17 The New Yorker. Butler is quoted as saying,  “the long easy friendships of youth are just harder to maintain as you get older.” And that’s what Shotgun is about.

WHAT BOOKS ARE FOR: Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin: A Novel (2009) won the National Book Award. In an op-ed essay for The New York Times, he wrote: “This is the function of books—we learn how to live even if we weren’t there. Fiction gives us access to very real history. Stories are the best democracy we have. We are allowed to become the other we never dreamed we could be.”

CITY ADVENTURES: Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote about “City Creatures” in her Wall Street Journal column on children’s books.  She said, “Whether by accident or design, a wild creature arrives in a large city, has interesting encounters and emerges from the experience a wiser, more contented animal. It is the story of Jean de Brunhoff’s Babar the Elephant and Roger Duvoisin’s Veronica the Hippo.”

Gurdon was reminded of those classics by two new books: In Beatrice Alemagna’s A Lion in Paris, a lion leaves the grasslands “to find a job, love and a future.” In Anna Walker’s Peggy, a small black hen finds herself in a confusing Melbourne, Australia.

TINY COG: Daniel Sandstrom, cultural editor of a Swedish magazine, conducted an interview with Philip Roth that ran in The New York Times Book Review last Sunday.

Roth wound up by saying, “The novel, then, is in itself [the novelist’s] mental world. A novelist is not a tiny cog in the great wheel of human thought. He is a tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature. Finis.”

BIG WINNER: George Saunders of Syracuse, N.Y., won two major prizes: the Story ($20,000) and the British international Folio (40,000 pounds). His latest book of short stories is Tenth of December (2013).

In an interview for The Guardian, he said, “When you are young you think a story is just what happened to you, typed up. But then you think—no, a story is a really weird art object that should contain life but not be enslaved by the banality.”

DEATH: Joe McGinniss, 71, died March 9 in Worcester, Mass. He was the author of The Selling of the President (1969), Fatal Vision (1983) and The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin (2011). In his research, McGinniss learned: “In the 21st century, politics is just another branch of the entertainment industry.”

“For me,” McGinniss was quoted in a Washington Post obituary as having said, “the only valid kind of writing is simply one guy telling you where he’s been, what he knows and feels.”

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