Guillou Turns Publisher, Potter Imposter in Spain, and Bridget Jones Down Under
The prolific writer-turned-publisher Jan Guillou has commandeered the top three slots in Sweden this month, all of them part of his journey through the Middle Ages. At the top of the heap is the third in his trilogy based on the Crusades, The Kingdom at the End of the Road, which also happens to be the first Guillou novel to be published by his new co-venture Piratforlaget (Pirate Publishing). In a somewhat twisted tale of his own, Guillou left Norstedts, his publisher of 30 years, with editor Ann-Marie Skarp to join co-bestselling author Liza Marklund and her partner Sigge Sigfridsson to fire up Piratforlaget. Sigfridsson and Marklund jumped on board after earlier joining forces in a unique one woman/one man team to publish Marklund’s wildly successful novels, The Bomber and Studio Sex, under the name Ordupplaget. Now with Guillou and Skarp, the foursome plan to leverage their bestseller status and editorial know-how in potentially novel ways. Currently their list includes only three authors (Marklund, Guillou, and Norwegian crime-writer Anne Holt), but more are expected next year. As for Guillou, he’s just counting his blessings. Rights to his current series have been sold to Germany (Piper), Italy (Longanesi), Spain (Planeta), Holland (Uniboek), France (Laffont), Norway (Cappelen), Denmark (Modtryk). The series is under submission in the UK and US. Contact Linda Michaels for rights.
Murder is on the menu elsewhere in Sweden. At number four, Murder on Mauritius is veteran writer Jan Mårtenson’s twenty-eighth mystery in as many years. They feature the “anti-hero” Johan Kristian Homan who lives, with his Siamese cat sidekick Cleo de Merode, in Stockholm’s Old Town where he is an antique dealer and collector. He finds himself stumbling into mysteries and in this most recent he finds himself investigating the secretive rich and famous on the island of Mauritius, where a mysterious murder has occurred. Rights are still available; see Wahlström & Widstrand. Then along comes Willy Josefsson’s latest thriller, The Mark of the Killer, wherein former chief inspector Martin Olsson gets a surprise when he attends a funeral at which two bodies tumble out of an overturned coffin. The “wrong” body belongs to a prominent financier, and the clumsy pallbearers lead him into a bizarre melange of church politics and business rivalry. By day, author Josefsson is a journalist for a documentary program on Swedish Public Radio, and has enjoyed success with his four previous novels. Rights have been sold to Germany (Rowohlt) and Denmark (Lindhart & Ringhof). See Anneli Høier at Leonhardt & Høier for rights.
A serious case of Harry-Potter-itus is spreading in unusual directions, to which the bestselling Spanish novel Aranmanoth attests. Set during the Middle Ages, the novel features the adolescent “Aranmanoth” who feels somewhat out of place because he is half fairy and half human. Unlike other teens, he obeys “strange signals issuing from the leaves in the trees and the birds in the sky.” The young man eventually realizes that his dreams and fantasies are as valid and important as what most non-fairies (read: Muggles) call “reality.” Ana Marie Matute is a septuagenarian author who has written 34 novels and wildly popular children’s books in Spain, earning her membership in the Spanish Royal Academy. She was last published in the US in 1961 by Harcourt. The Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcells handles foreign rights.
A popular historian, José García Hamilton, has whipped up patriotic feeling in Argentina this month. His biography, Don José, recounts the life of José De San Martin, who liberated Argentina from Spain, and has dominated their list since publication. Hamilton practices law, and has also written several biographies of famous Argentine figures. He already has a following in the US, incidentally, having made the lecture circuit at the University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins, and elsewhere. Rights are currently waiting to be liberated from Sudamerica.
Pamela Jooste has once again made her way to the top of the South African bestseller list. Like Water in Wild Places explores the legends of ancient South Africa through the story of a contemporary family living during apartheid. Jooste’s first novel, Dance With a Poor Man’s Daughter, won numerous prizes, including the highly regarded Commonwealth Writer’s Award. Sources at Doubleday report that the book, published in July, has sold close to 5000 copies. In the hardback/trade paperback market in South Africa, these are impressive figures (especially for a local author). US rights, held by Doubleday UK, are still available. See Judith Murdoch for all translation rights. And speaking of the UK, Chris Hopkins has pole-vaulted up the list there with his second novel, High Hopes, involving the journey of the young author in the early years of his teaching career. Hopkins’ first book, Our Kid, was also a hit, although rights have only been sold to Arbeiderspers in Holland. We’re told the novels are on submission to a number of US publishers. See Sara Thomson at Headline for rights.
Things are certainly heating up in Australia with Maggie Alderson’s Pants on Fire, a saucy debut novel featuring a magazine editor desperately trying to forget an unfaithful fiancé. The heroine’s magazine, Glow, is memorably described as your typical girlie “facials and orgasms” rag, and parts of this tale remind us of the popular confessionals of Bridget Jones. London-born, Alderson has had a long career in magazines, and was editor of Elle in London and Mode in Sydney. She is now a contributor to Australian Vogue and other publications. US and Canadian rights are still awaiting takers, and Penguin UK controls rights. See Peg McColl.
As a parting note, we notice that Canada’s Globe and Mail rather unceremoniously kicked Harry Potter off the fiction bestseller list, placing him in the vaguely delineated “Special Interest” column. This follows close on the heels of the New York Times’s controversial creation of a children’s bestseller list, and according to our friends at Publishers Weekly Daily, Michael Jacobs, svp for trade at Scholastic, has been asking the Times to put the new Potter paperback (Chamber of Secrets) on the mass market/general interest paperback list. Jacobs’ rationale? Potter is one of the bigger releases in recent memory, and more than 40% of those who buy and read Harry are adults.