Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Key to Authors' Hearts? The Books They're Pushing NOW

Ah, the curse of a big bestseller, especially if it comes early in a career. For those of us who have never had one it might seem like a ridiculously desirable problem to have, but think with me here. Imagine you're Sebastian Junger, and you wrote The Perfect Storm. Huzzah. Light bulbs flash. Movie stars want to be in the picture. Publishers send you fat checks, and you can light your cigars with hundred-dollar bills and buy a half-interest in a popular New York bar. But then suppose you try to follow it up, and you do with a book that is (a) gripping, (b) based on something that really happened to you (meeting a serial killer who later claimed to be the Boston Strangler, no less!), and (c) cool enough that even if there had never been that damn storm, you still would have gotten on the bestseller lists. But when you go on tour, everybody wants to ask you about George Clooney.

A Death In Belmont is Sebastian Junger for the connoisseur. Not only does it have the extra-creepy real-life connection of the author's mother actually hiring Albert DeSalvo as a carpenter, and the killer being alone in the house with mother and young son for hours at a time, but it also reflects narrative skill that Junger originally developed as a field reporter, built in The Perfect Storm, and has now taken to the next level. The book did really well in hardback and now in paper, yet wherever Junger goes, the Andrea Gail is sure to follow.

So you wanna impress the guy when you meet him in person on the night of November 1 at the National Press Club's annual Book Fair (or, if you are Georgetown faculty, when you have lunch with him earlier that day here at Booklab)? Then swagger on up to his table, buy a signed copy of A Death in Belmont, wink and tell him it's a holiday gift for a friend because you already bought and read yours, and then proceed to talk about serial killers. You'll have his attention.

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