Successful books spawn literary clones
Publishers have always been quick to spot trends, but lately every hit seems to spawn at least three clones. ”One very, very conspicuous success leads to a lot of similarly themed books; if a certain genre seems to be working, it’s just natural to want to follow up on that,” explains Random House president Ann Godoff. But it doesn’t guarantee a best-seller. ”It really comes down to what a good read they are,” she says. ”That’s the telltale thing.” Here’s a look at some of the latest wannabes.
Breakthrough Hit: Incoming Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s savory food memoir Tender at the Bone (Random House, 1997)
Pale Imitations: Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West (HarperCollins, May); Dinner at Miss Lady’s by Luann Landon (Algonquin, May)
The Real Deal: Although she doesn’t match cuisine queen Reichl in terms of sheer experience, New York Times Dining In/Dining Out reporter Amanda Hesser holds her own in an ode to fresh produce, The Cook and the Gardener (Norton).
Breakthrough Hits: The terrifying adventure-lit double threat of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (Villard, 1997) and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm (Norton, 1997)
Pale Imitations: The Other Side of Everest by Matt Dickinson (Times, May); Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy (Algonquin, May)
The Real Deal: In High Exposure (Simon & Schuster, May), codirector and leader of the Everest IMAX filming expedition David Breashears recounts his experiences just a few thousand feet below Krakauer’s ill-fated 1996 mission.
Breakthrough hit: Frank McCourt’s heartbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his impoverished Irish-Catholic childhood, Angela’s Ashes (Scribner, 1996)
Pale Imitations: Besides brother Malachy’s A Monk Swimming, there’s 44: Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan (Viking, May); and More Bread or I’ll Appear by Emer Martin (Houghton Mifflin).
The Real Deal: Playwright/actor/stand-up comic Brendan O’Carroll’s The Mammy (Plume, April), an irreverently comical story of a widow raising seven children in a Dublin suburb. As with Ashes, a film version is in the works.