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Archives: February 2006

Top Cow Moo-ving On Up

Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada made a brief announcement at a Saturday morning Comic-Con panel about a new co-production deal with independent comics studio Top Cow. And I do mean brief; he showed a few slides of sample art from Amazing Spider-Man, mentioned how much fun it would be to work with Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri, then moved on to the next topic. But Newsarama has extracted more details from Quesada and Top Cow COO Matt Hawkins, outlining how Top Cow will take on outsourced projects from Marvel in addition to continuing their own line of comic books. “Top Cow will pencil, ink, color, and letter scripts provided by Marvel,” the report says, “[and] will also get the rights to publish eight Top Cow/Marvel crossover titles during the term of the deal.” Though Marvel will still exercise approval over which of its characters will appear in those comics, and what format the issues will take, it’s still a sweet deal for Top Cow, as inter-company crossovers are almost always hot sellers.

This is the second major deal for Top Cow in less than a month—a few weeks back, they cut a deal with Union Entertainment that could eventually lead to video games starring established characters like Witchblade along with new properties. Looks like Top Cow’s editor-in-chief, Renae Geerlings, will have plenty to keep her busy when she moves into her new office tomorrow.

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Sinclair Not Fake Leftist Writer After All

At the very tail end of last year, reports emerged that Upton Sinclair had discovered Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty. Now Sinclair biographer Kevin Mattson has some advice regarding the way commentators, especially conservatives, have made hoopla over Sinclair’s alleged cover-up: Don’t believe the hype. Mattson’s Chronicle of Higher Education essay points out that Sinclair scholars have known about the author’s ambivalence over the murder trial for a long time now, and anybody who’s actually read the novel he wrote about it, Boston, can see how deep his ambivalence ran.

Books for a Better Life

wolf-stout.jpgEven though your humble Galleycats arrived at the Millenium Broadway Hotel not long after cocktails (and an incredible food spread) began yesterday evening, the hotel bar was already jammed up with some of publishing’s biggest names. What were Jane Friedman, Larry Kirshbaum, David Young, Jane Dystel, Lynn Goldberg & Camille MacDuffie, Naomi Wolf, Martha Stout (both of whom appear on the left) and so many more doing there at the stiff sum of $175 a head? Taking part in the 10th Anniversary of Books for a Better Life, the awards ceremony hosted by the New York Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. One of the lines repeated throughout the night was how $1.1 million had been raised thus far in charitable efforts, and that the publishing industry has done its part to spread awareness for a debilitating disease.

More details about the awards — given in various self-help, memoir and other non-fiction categories — and the night itself, after the jump.

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So that’s how Judith Regan can cash in on this

I suppose it was only a matter of time before James Frey and A MILLION LITTLE PIECES would be mercilessly parodied. But so soon? That’s what the Book Standard says, reporting that ReganBooks will publish A MILLION LITTLE LIES by one “James Pinocchio” on March 28.

Says Regan: “James Pinocchio wakes up in the back of a New York City taxi with a combination lock piercing his left ear and no idea how it got there, or what the combination is. The following day, his wealthy parents decide to put an end to his drinking and dancing, and they send him off to Sleepy Hollow, the famous rehab facility in Upstate New York, where he meets all sorts of Fascinating Characters, one more Unbelievable and Amazing than the next.”

“Mr. Pinocchio’s story, which he co-wrote with bestselling ghostwriter, screenwriter and studmuffin Pablo F. Fenjves, stretches credibility to the breaking point, but the unbelievable pain, the dirty sex, and the endless amounts of girlish crying make it all worthwhile – and eventually lead to Redemption and Healing (though not for Mr. Pinocchio).”

Doing a little digging, there’s already an Amazon entry, but it claims the book’s pub date isn’t until April 30 and Fenjves — who’s already co-written one memoir and one inspirational story for ReganBooks as well as a bunch of crappy TV movies — is listed as sole author, natch.

See, Harper Lee really did write the book herself

It’s one of the most enduring literary rumors: did Truman Capote help his first cousin with the writing of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? And is that why she never wrote another novel? The answer, according to a letter Capote wrote to his aunt back in 1959, seems to be no — as Sue Scheble of the Boston Patriot Ledger reports (getting the story from the Huntsville, Alabama Times.)

“Yes, it is true that Nelle Lee is publishing a book,” Capote wrote in the letter’s final paragraphs, according to the newspaper. “I did not see Nelle last winter, but the previous year, she showed me as much of the book as she’d written, and I liked it very much. She has real talent.”

The story further reports that the letter became public after Jennings Carter, Capote’s cousin, gave it to the Monroe County Heritage Museums in Monroeville as a result of the release of the film CAPOTE, based on the events leading up to the publication of IN COLD BLOOD.

Brand New Day

laura-day.jpgI first met Laura Day (left) nine years ago, when I was still a fledgling interviewer and she was promoting her first book, Practical Intuition. We’ve kept in intermittent touch since then, so I was pleased by the opportunity to attend a luncheon celebrating the forthcoming publication of her latest self-help guide, Welcome to Your Crisis. A gaggle of newspaper reporters, magazine editors, television producers, and one blogger met up yesterday afternoon at the Chelsea restaurant Bette—where Day said she’s a regular lunch guest, because it’s the furthest downtown she can get her uptown friends to come and vice versa (also, she swears the cherry pot pie is delicious). Much of the conversation at our table revolved around Day’s ideas about four types of responses to crisis, and which type each of us fell into. Day freely admitted to being an “anxiety type,” while the party’s co-host, Uma Thurman, quipped from the next table, “I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a denial type.” (A trait she shared with her fellow host, literary agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, as I’d discover when Walsh joined our table for dessert.) Day also poked fun at her reputation as a bestselling writer, noting that when her own crisis hit, she made all the same mistakes as everyone else. “Self-help authors write these books because their lives are such a mess,” she said. “We devote our lives to finding the answers.”

When Code and Law Collide

For those of us in New York, Sarah Lyall’s NYT coverage of the Da Vinci Code trial delivers a solid overview of the plagiarism charges Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of the three authors of 1982′s Holy Blood, Holy Grail have made against Dan Brown—though we should be careful to note that they’re not suing Brown himself, but his UK publisher, Random House (who also happens to be their UK publisher). Although Brown is at the trial, where he’ll testify for Random and, presumably, put off finishing the book that’s no longer being called The Solomon Key for another couple weeks as Baigent and Leigh try to prove that his novel rips off the “architecture” of their historical hypothesis that Jesus never died, but married Magdalene and ran off to France, where a secret society guards his descendants until the day they can establish a new imperial Christendom…or something like that; I always get hazy around the back half of these conspiracy theories.

“Mr. Brown does not deny that he consulted The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail [as the book is known in England] before publishing The Da Vinci Code. In fact, one of his characters—Sir Leigh Teabing, a partial anagram of the authors’ surnames—actually has the book on his bookshelf. In one passage in The Da Vinci Code Mr. Brown summarizes the Jesus-Mary Magdalene theory, saying that The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is the most important book in the area.”

While Lyall acknowledges the defense’s counterargument that Holy Blood is “just one of many sources” Brown consulted, it’s in the British accounts that we learn of Random’s more specific claim that he’d already figured out most of the mystery on his own before discovering Baigent and Leigh’s book. (Which makes me wonder if he’s ever read Foucault’s Pendulum, which makes an explicit joke of its debt to Holy Blood…) In that English coverage, the legal editor for the Guardian considers the millions at stake in the trial, but elicits quotes from a solicitor specializing in copyright to illustrate just how hard it may be for the Holy Blood crew to prove their claim: “If somebody picks up your idea and says that’s a great idea and works on it themselves, that’s not breach of copyright. That’s how creative things work.” The Independent, The Times of London, and Financial Times are among those adding their own perspective to the trial.

Vampires meet High Concepts

When a book is billed as “The Devil Wears Prada & Mean Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” it’s bound to make people sit up and take some notice. And since the book in question, Valerie Stivers’s BLOOD IS THE NEW BLACK, was won in an auction by Allison McCabe of Three Rivers Press, notice was certainly key.

“Many editors were over the moon about the concept and the writing,” said Artist Literary Group’s Joe Veltre, Stivers’s agent. “We turned down pre-emptive offers and had six bidders in the auction, which lasted three days.”

One of the more unusual aspects of the deal report is that it mentions the contributions of Farrin Jacobs (former editor with Red Dress Ink and also known for co-authoring a how-to chicklit guide with Sarah Mlynowski) who helped to develop the book. “She and I originally brainstormed this idea together over lunch and developed it in the next few weeks,” said Veltre. “Farrin then smartly thought of Valerie to write it. Valerie got the concept right away and wrote some seriously good chapters, adding flesh to our concept with some sharp, witty pages.”

So what does Stivers bring to the table? She’s a freelancer who’s written for Elle, Stim Magazine, Time Out New York, Blender and other NYC-based fashion magazines. Which definitely puts a different spin on the vampire book, a trend that shows no sign of abating just yet.

His Royalty Statements Ain’t Peanuts

Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s latest article for WSJ focuses on Jimmy Carter’s self-propelled literary career, examining the “versatile writer and relentless marketer” in action.

“Like other successful scribes in today’s publishing world, Mr. Carter has learned how to play the game. Book retailers love him, in part because he works so hard at book signings and understands the ‘retail politics’ of the publishing business. Disdainful of ‘handlers,’ the former president is all business and insists on sticking to a tight schedule. Once, he almost left a late-running publicist behind in a store.”

President Carter is so dedicated to getting everything just right that he posed with a muzzle-loading rifle and then painted a portrait based on the photograph for the cover of his first novel, 2003′s The Hornet’s Nest. But his industriousness appears to have paid off, as an anonymous source pegs the windfall for his latest book, Our Endagered Values, at over $5 million.

A lonely voice in the short story world

Though Dinitia Smith’s profile of Deborah Eisenberg is somewhat overburdened with appearance description (the writer “looks like a large, slender bird with her heavy eyelids, beaked nose, small chin” and “wears a gray sweater with big, winglike arms”) the piece does try to make a point, however nebulous, that the 60-year-old author of TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES is getting the kind of kudos for short stories that is usually accorded to novelists — especially as Eisenberg has never written a novel.

Good short stories are “vertical novels, sort of layered,” she said, “ephemeral, mysterious, condensed in the way of poetry,” further adding that she likes “the eclipses, the synaptic jumps of short stories…The reader has to participate very actively in the experience.”

But of course, short story collections don’t exactly sell well, as B&N’s fiction buyer Sesalee Hensley is quick to point out. “I’m not thinking this will recharge the form,” Hensley said, “but I’m hoping this will bring Deborah Eisenberg to a wider audience because I think she is a great writer.”

But one who is slow; it took her eight years to finish the collection, and she hasn’t written anything in over 12 months — sighing that she is “completely sailing under false colors.”