Book View, November 2001


Layoffs are the order of the day, though mergers, not the economy, seem to be the main reason. DK has laid off about 25 people, with more to come. Meanwhile, the move down to Hudson Street has been postponed, apparently as a cost-savings measure. No word yet on Phyllis Grann’s plans, though Random House continues to figure in the speculation. Word is that by the end of the year Golden will have laid off half of its employees. Its offices will also remain separate from the mother ship, but they are almost adjacent to the new Random digs. And, of course, Rodale laid off 148 people, mostly in its direct response book publishing area. One of those was Roz Siegel, formerly Senior Editor at S&S. She may be reached at [email protected].

Speaking of S&S, Colin Harrison, noted author and previously an editor at Harper’s (and husband of author Kathryn, onetime editorial assistant to Nan Graham), is rumored to be going to Scribner, as an editor. There’s a spot open, since Crown’s Shaye Areheart hired away Jake Morissey as Executive Editor for Harmony, and Jane Rosenman left for St. Martin’s (PT 9/01).

In other news, Miranda De Kay has left Bookspan. . . . Kathleen Carson, Executive Editor of Budget Book Service is going to Random House Value Publishing as Editorial Director, replacing Susanne Jaffe, who left to join Thurman House.

Harper thawed out from its hiring freeze long enough to bring in two Executive Editors in October, Dan Menaker and Dawn Davis. Menaker will report to Susan Weinberg, SVP and Editorial Director. Davis, who was at Vintage for five years, will also serve as editorial director of Amistad.

Michaela Hamilton has been named Editor-in-Chief at Kensington Publishing. She succeeds Paul Dinas, who joined Reader’s Digest last month (see PT 9/01), and will report to Laurie Parkin, VP and Publisher of Kensington. . . . Leona Nevler, who arrived at Penguin Putnam on Sept. 10, says she bought two books in her first three weeks. She was most recently a SVP and Editorial Director of Ballantine, where she had been since 1982, when Fawcett was acquired by Random House. She reports to Leslie Gelbman, President of the Berkley Publishing Group and NAL. . . . Peter Clifton has moved (literally) to Tennessee as President and CEO of Ingram Periodicals. He had been CEO of Vista’s PubEasy, and subsequently interim CEO of Previewport. He will commute between La Vergne and his home in Westchester for the time being.

Among promotions, André Bernard has been named VP, Publisher of Harcourt’s Trade division. Michael Stearns has been promoted to Director of Paperback Publishing at Harcourt Children’s. He was formerly a Senior Editor and will continue to acquire and edit. . . . Rick Pascocello has been promoted to VP, Advertising and Promotion for Berkley and NAL. He was previously Director. . . . Michelle Yeauger has been promoted to Senior Marketing Manager, Direct at McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing. She was previously Marketing Manager.


Susan Schulman, who handles translation rights for Millbrook, huddled over her computer instead of the TV in the days following the 9/11 attack — she had recently received the ms for Osama Bin Laden: A War Against the West, in Millbrook’s recently launched YA division, the Twenty First Century Books line. The book had been signed up by Publisher Jean Reynolds in 1999, after the US embassy bombings in Africa. Over that first weekend after downloading mss around the world, she had sold the rights in Spain and Japan, and by the end of that week had concluded deals (all via her 15 subagents) in Poland, Estonia, Korea, Portugal, Croatia, and French Canada, with offers pending from Turkey and the Scandinavians starting to line up. The book was published in Spain (Planeta, with a separate licensed Mexican edition) on October 19th, and in Canada on October 30th. The book will still be published in a library edition (short discount) shipping in December. Trade rights (hard or softcover) are available.


Ipsos NPD has issued its Adult BookTrends Update, an ongoing survey of the book buying habits of more than 12,000 households, and the news for fiction was good, at least pre-9/11. Fiction sales rose 2.7%, the highest jump of any category. Meanwhile, book club sales have increased by almost 2% — and 3.5% compared with all of 2000 (mostly through an increase in online sales) — while chain sales have decreased slightly.

Elle is launching a readers choice award, for the best fiction and nonfiction of the year. French Elle has been doing it for years, with apparent success. The voting seems unduly complicated, but the result will be a Grand Prix winner in fiction and nonfiction, to be announced in the December 2002 issue. Readers’ comments on the books that are read throughout the year are available at

• PublishersMarketplace launches as a subscription site in November. Michael Cader, of fame, is behind this latest effort, which will cost $15 a month, billed monthly. He tells PT that “I’ve been surprised and delighted by how quickly people have started using the whole array of features and making them work; writers are finding agents and publishers; agents are selling proposals here (which I never expected) and foreign rights through their postings; the deal resources are helping to further increase the flow of deal information; and we will have generated over 175,000 page views in the first month (with the site continuing to get busier).” Score one for the impresarios.

• Morty Mint, former chief of Guinness Publishing in the US, will publish and distribute the US edition of a new paperback series, ParentSmart Books. It is published by ParentSmart Books of Canada. Maryann Palumbo Marketing Concepts will handle US marketing for the series (launch is in January 2002). In other Canadian news, Raincoast closed down its fiction imprint, and HarperCollins Canada’s Marketing Director, Judy Brunsek, has left the company.

The magazine strategy+business has published its “Best Business Books of the Millennium” issue. Jim Collins tops the list with Good to Great. Go to


NYU’s Center for Publishing, along with the French Publishers’ Agency and the German Book Office, have organized a seminar, “How to Effectively Acquire, Translate and Publish Foreign Titles.” The all-day seminar takes place on Friday, Nov. 2nd at the Center for Publishing. Tickets are $50. Call 212 790-3232 or go to

• Small Press Center hosts two November panels. On Monday, November 12th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm is “Publishing Predictions: Past and Present Visions of the Future,” in partnership with PW, at The New York Times Auditorium. On Tuesday, November 20th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, is “What’s Happening to Book Reviewing?” Email [email protected] for details.

The 52nd National Book Awards evening is on Wednesday, November 14th at the Marriott. Tickets for the dinner and awards ceremony (again, with Steve Martin as host) are $1000. But for $100 you can attend the reception.

• The Miami Book Fair is scheduled for November 11-18 at the Miami-Dade Community College. An eclectic mix of some 250 authors, including Vernon Jordan, Stephen Ambrose, Naomi Wolf, and Rabbi Harold Kushner will be present, and almost 500,000 visitors are expected to attend.

Author and former Houghton Mifflin publisher Joe Kanon will be reading from his new bestseller, The Good German, on Thursday, November 8th, at the 82nd and Broadway Barnes & Noble at 7:30 pm.


Congrats to publishing couple Chitra (McGraw-Hill) Bopardikar and Josh (HarperCollins) Marwell, whose wedding is on November 3rd in New York.

And to Book-of-the-Month Club, on its 75th birthday this month.

Also, Joseph Xavier Held was born October 15, 2001 to Random’s Ivan Held and his wife, Patricia Falvo, until recently a Senior Writer at Allure.

Finally, congrats to Pam and Joel Fishman (former editor, agent, and founder of, on the birth of a baby girl, Macklin, on Sept. 25.

Book View, October 2001


Phyllis Grann
’s imminent departure from Penguin Putnam took almost everyone aback, and unnerved more than a few long-time Putnam folks. In other PP news, Sean Moore has left DK US, where he was VP Publisher of the Adult division. He may be reached at 914 591-3220.

David Ford came to New York over the summer and found himself plunging into interviews moments after his plane landed (he has been living on St. Simon’s Island since leaving Candlewick). He starts in November as VP Publisher of Little, Brown Children’s, succeeding John Keller, who will leave in the summer of 2002. Houghton Mifflin is still searching for a publisher, as Anita Silvey has announced plans to retire. Speaking of children’s publishing, David Krishock is succeeding David Yun, who is retiring as President of Scholastic Book Fairs. And Rosanna Hansen is leaving Weekly Reader, where she was SVP Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, to pursue her career as an author (she’s written 12 children’s books) and consultant. She can be reached at [email protected]. Peter Bergen, President and CEO of Weekly Reader, left several months earlier.

Linda Howey, most recently Publisher of NetLibrary, has been named VP Director of Sales for National Geographic books, which is distributed by Simon & Schuster. Meanwhile S&S announced that Cam Cloeter, previously VP of The Source Information Management Co., has been named VP Distributor Sales and Retail Marketing for S&S. He replaces Steve Kaiser, who left to join Hearst.

Leslie Meredith has been named Senior Editor and VP of Free Press, reporting to Dominick Anfuso. She was previously at Ballantine . . . . With Brill’s Contentville shutting its doors and its fifteen employees laid off, Kori Anderson will move to, reporting to Executive Editor Sara Nelson. . . . Jane Rosenman was named Executive Editor of St. Martin’s. She was previously Executive Editor of Scribner . . . . John Silbersack, previously SVP and Publishing Director of Harper Entertainment, joined Robert Gottlieb’s Trident Media as SVP in charge of business development. . . . Word has it that Doreen Carvajal is leaving the NY Times to work for Bertelsmann in Paris. . . . David Chalfant, SVP at Siegelgale, has left the company as a result of its most recent round of layoffs. He may be reached at 212 581-9821.

Columbia U. Press has a new CFO, Rebecca Schrader. She started in August, and comes from Island Press, and before that, U. of Michigan Press. . . . Colin and Pam Webb, formerly of Pavilion Books, will launch Palazzo Editions at Frankfurt (8.0, F 911) with 20 projects, including the reissue of Alistair Cooke’s America.

As noted elsewhere, Hungry Minds’ top honchos, including John Kilcullen, Bill Barry (previously at Doubleday), John Ball, and John Harris, have left the company, following its sale to Wiley. And rightsworld has discontinued its publishing rights marketplace as of September 2001. Eric Miller was the CEO, out of Dallas, and Nick Bogarty, the President, in New York.


Thomas Middelhoff held his now-annual state-of-Bertelsmann speech on October 1 at Ford’s Theater, and declared that, with the exception of BMG’s sorry performance, the company is well positioned for its forthcoming IPO. In a Q&A, he asked the audience, “Did we all like our PC-for-all?”, and told of an email addressed to “uncle Thomas,” which suggested that for next year’s company present, the Audi 16 was a “fine automobile.”

• HarperCollins Publishers announced that it will launch the Fourth Estate imprint in the US with the publication of Carol ShieldsUnless. The book will be published simultaneously by Fourth Estate in the UK, which has published all of Shields’ novels in Britain. Christopher Potter, Publisher and Managing Director of Fourth Estate, and Dan Halpern, Vice President, Editorial Director of Ecco and Executive Editor of the HarperCollins General Books Group, will be co-publishers of Fourth Estate US. Clive Priddle will serve as Publishing Director for Fourth Estate in the US. Courtney Hodell, who recently joined HarperCollins UK from Random US, will be Publishing Director, Fourth Estate in the UK. In addition, Nicky Eaton, Fourth Estate Publicity Director, will take on extra responsibility as Deputy Managing Director.

The board of Consortium Book Distributors is entertaining offers for the company, and though both the board and senior management would prefer that the buyer be local, “we will be exploring all viable sources,” according to Bill Hammond, who will handle inquiries. Contact him at Publishing Strategy International, 612 349-2714 or[email protected].

• Michael Cader announces the launching of Publishers Marketplace, “an electronic place to help publishing professionals of all sorts find each other, and find important information.” The basic search is free, but there will be (eventually) a $15 monthly fee for access to the new deal database, and posting privileges. Go to www.Publishers

• Jennifer McCord, our correspondent at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s meeting on Sept. 14-16 in Portland, Oregon, reports that show numbers were close to last year, even though several participants cancelled, unable to find transportation to the Northwest. As for sales, “the show was steady,” according to Gary Lothian of Ingram, while Luis Borella of Redsides, an independent rep group, added that “it was initially slow, but gained momentum.” Portland’s own Chuck Palahniuk even popped in on very short notice.


The “Frankfurt Big Questions Conference” is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 8 in Frankfurt. Peter Olson and a bevy of speakers from the US and Europe will address, well, the big questions confronting publishers. Go to www.

• Small Press Center has publishing workshops every Tuesday evening starting on October 2nd and running through Nov. 12th, at its offices at 20 W. 44th Street. Email [email protected] for details.

• Book Industry Study Group hosts “Beyond The Hype: The Realities of Digital Publishing,” on October 24 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm at The McGraw Hill Auditorium, 1221 Ave. of the Americas. Three panels will focus on “The Logic of Digital Publishing,” “Delivering e-Content,” and “Inter-Operability: Putting the Pieces Together.” The conference will be co-chaired by Frank Daly, Executive Director of BISG, and Charles Benante (Pearson Technology), Chair of BISG. It’s $150 per person (BISG members $50). Email [email protected] for details.


Many parties and events were cancelled over the past few weeks, but a handful took place as scheduled, albeit with a certain somberness.

On September 21, the Association of Authors’ Representatives celebrated its 10th anniversary at a gala event at the W Hotel in Union Square, with 300 attendees. Jane Gelfman, Owen Laster, Don Congdon, Deborah Schneider, Jamie Raab, Michael Carlisle, Maria Carvanis, Molly Stern, as well as numerous “great young editors and agents” attended, according to our correspondent. There was a “festive feeling, good bags of books and audio tapes. . . . People seemed so glad to commune with one another.”

The same could be said for Ecco Press’s 30th anniversary, celebrated at the Century Club on September 24th. Authors (including Fran Liebowitz and Francine Prose), HarperCollins colleagues, agents, and friends of Dan Halpern toasted the publisher and remarked on how glad they were to have the chance to take their minds off recent events — even as they compared notes on what they had experienced over the prior two weeks.

On September 25 Tom Dunne, Barbara Lowenstein, Madeleine Morel, and 50 volunteers from St. Martin’s hosted a fundraiser for various 9/11 charities, and raised over $100K. The same night, Publishers Publicity Association had its annual “mixer” at the Time-Life auditorium, and got a good crowd, presumably some of whom proceeded downtown thereafter.


To Curious George, who turns 60 this fall, and to Moby Dick, which turns 150.

Surveying the Shortlists

Black-tie shebangs are thick on the calendar this time of year, with publishers scurrying from one award ceremony to the next, buoyed along by the hope of slapping those “Winner!” stickers on their authors’ books — or at least hoping to have a good meal and a quick exit from the fête du jour.

September brought The Lannan Literary Award, with prize money of $600,000, including a $200,000 Lifetime Achievement award to Robert Creeley. October heats up with the Frankfurt eBook Award, the first award designed to recognize achievements in the (slowly) emerging ebook industry. For those in the neighborhood, the winners of five awards will be announced on October 10 at the Frankfurt Opera House, with the Author’s Grand Prizes of $50,000 going to the best fiction and nonfiction ebooks. A children’s award will be presented in Bologna in April. See for details.

Then there’s the Booker, bestowed upon fiction writers from the UK and its empire, and the less-known Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The Booker prize money is a solid $30,000, plus the enticing chance to actually sell books on the strength of winning it. It is administered by the Book Trust, and is, of course, famous for its petulant jurists, and the professional betting that accompanies the release of its long- and shortlist (no longlist favorites actually made it to the shortlist this year, which includes The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert and Ali Smith’s Hotel World). See

The Neustadt may lack the Booker’s buzz, but it carries a more than modest $50,000 in prize money (plus a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver, sure to excite every writer’s quill fetish). This is a biennial award (David Malouf won last year) sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today, the international literary quarterly founded in 1927 at OU. The award was created in 1969 as the “Books Abroad International Prize for Literature,” and has existed since under a variety of names. The 2002 winner will be announced at the Neustadt prize jury banquet this October 19. And coming at the end of the month is The Whiting Writers’ Award, given for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwright. In 2000 (for the 16th year in a row) ten new writers found themselves $35,000 richer for showing “talent and promise.” The winners are announced October 26; call 212 336-2138 for details.

Then there are the Nobel Prizes, celebrating their hundredth anniversary this year. The prize — for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace — consists of a medal, a personal diploma, and a prize of 10,000,000 kroner (around $1 million). Winners are announced in October and the awards ceremony is on December 10 in Stockholm. See

November brings (counting all the previous iterations) the 52nd annual National Book Awards, presented at a lavish dinner on November 14. The awards recognize achievement in four areas: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. The winners are selected by a five-member, independent judging panel for each genre, and receive a $10,000 cash award and a crystal sculpture. The final shortlist (five finalists for each genre) is announced on October 11, and each shortlist winner receives a $1,000 prize. Call 212 685-0261 or go to

Last, least (monetarily), but newest, is the Mercantile Library’s Fadiman Award, named in honor of Clifton Fadiman, and presented to a living author of fiction whose book the jury feels is worthy of rediscovery. The $5,000 prize and medal is sponsored by Bookspan (Fadiman was a longtime judge of Book-of-the-Month). The jury is made up of committee members of the board, and they accept suggestions from the literary community at large. The award presentation is set to take place at the library’s annual benefit on November 13. Call 212 755-6710 for details.

The Quiet Revolution

Reader’s Digest Revamps Amid Topsy-Turvy Fiscal Forecasts

Pleasantville, New York has always been a delightfully apt address for the Reader’s Digest Association. Ensconced there in its bucolic 113-acre campus — the global headquarters for an empire old DeWitt Wallace built on tales of anodyne, American optimism — Reader’s Digest was pleasantry incarnate. For the 100 million readers flipping open their monthly issue of Reader’s Digest (and the millions of other subscribers to the company’s book, video, music, and financial products) popping a renewal check in the mail to Pleasantville was like having an interest-bearing account in the Bank of Consolation. But as many in publishing are aware, smiley faces are scarce around Pleasantville these days, where a jarringly ambitious effort is under way to combat hemorrhaging profits, tumbling response rates, and a sluggish, aging subscriber base. Under the command of Chairman and CEO Thomas O. Ryder, executives have mapped out a subtle yet sweeping makeover to render products “at once familiar and radically new.” Corporate parlance is now riddled with can-do jargon like “leaner,” “low to the ground,” and “fast moving.” Meanwhile, former employees have described the last three years as a low-grade state of siege. Around Pleasantville, they call it “the quiet revolution.”

Struggling to attain financial targets, however, beleaguered Chief Ryder has been forced to eat his own words, which, last November, were precisely these: “the turnaround in the US is here now.” Nine months later, Ryder memorably summed up results for the fiscal year ended June 30: “You have seen the numbers for our fourth quarter, and they are ugly.” Revenues for the fiscal year were just over $2.5 billion, up 1%. Operating profit slipped about 4% to $247 million. And in the US, Ryder told shareholders this month, “Books and Home Entertainment (BHE) was hardest hit. Orders for most products declined sharply, especially videos and general books.” Operating profit for the North America BHE group plunged 21% to $71 million, on revenues that were up slightly to $719 million.

Specifically, the North America BHE unit, led by Thomas Gardner, was home to “our big disappointment in the US”: the company’s general books segment, which slid 18% to $85 million. Officials blamed a bad case of freezer burn from the frosty direct marketing climate, as well as a hangover from the deal last March with attorneys general in 32 states, which forced Reader’s Digest to alter the language and packaging used for sweepstakes mailings. “The effect of this on our business was far more negative than we had anticipated,” Ryder told shareholders. All of which has hastened the global “re-engineering” effort predicted to shave $150 million off of costs over three years. As part of that effort, two months ago the BHE operations were re-racked into six strategic business units: entertainment, health, home, reading, trade publishing, and Young Families. Among the casualties, the company reported, 380 employees were slated to “be separated” from Reader’s Digest over the coming year, with the brunt of those cuts hitting workers in the US.

The upshot for books? “This was a year where we were very glad that we were global,” says spokesman William Adler. “Overseas just about every book product was up, and in almost all countries.” Half of the company’s international markets, in fact, turned in double-digit revenue growth, among them Spain, Russia, Mexico, and Asia, with series products in Germany and Eastern Europe singled out as top performers. In fact, during the fiscal year the company sold more general books in Poland than anywhere except the US, France, and the UK.

One-Shots Out, Bob Dylan In

At home, the company has shunned its dismally performing one-shot products, looking instead to extend the franchise of continuity lines — particularly the flagship Select Editions, which Ryder called “our most profitable product.” This series of condensed novels packed in a hardcover volume is now published in 30 countries, and Ryder noted that as many as 1.5 million new customers per year could be brought into the fold due to new list acquisitions. No doubt, business is booming. “We quadrupled our work load in one year,” says Laura Kelly, VP and Global Editor-in-Chief of Select Editions and Reading Series. New products have been coming down the pike, including several softcover debuts. Select Editions launched in softcover in August, and last month saw the launch of Nonfiction Bestsellers, a series of five condensed books in a single, softcover volume (think Ghost Soldiers and Son of a Grifter, but also watch for a Bob Dylan bio). “We’ve tended to do collectible books that go on the shelf,” Kelly says. “Now we’re saying, these are bestsellers. They’re quick reads. Let’s package them that way.”

In creating market-driven company pods, the re-engineering effort has in some ways brought the group back to its roots. “This company was founded on research and product testing, so it has always been close to its customers,” Kelly says. “Now we’re doing faster testing and faster research to get closer to the marketplace.” Post-product research is done on every title after it ships, including interviews with 300 readers. Revenues from series books in North America rose slightly for the year to $30 million. Internationally, series books were up 4% to $97 million.

Mounting smaller, niche product lines has proved a big challenge, however, because identifying pockets of readers and getting to them through the mail can be painstaking. To date, sallies in new directions include last year’s launch of Best Mysteries of All Time, which was the result of a survey editors sent to their readers asking them to rank their favorite mysteries. The editorial team then winnowed the list to what they considered quality titles, and bingo: the company promoted it once at launch, and is now 15 books into the series. There’s also Life Touched with Wonder, the inspirational series launched in March with content culled from the Reader’s Digest magazine archives. Meanwhile, testing continues with the romance series Of Love and Life, a decided departure from staid Reader’s Digest fare, what with its “spicy tales” and “zestful romantic thrillers.” Hopefully for their sake, this frenzy of activity will help rouse the Select Editions line, which turned in revenues of $98 million for the fiscal year, down 5%. But so far, it seems, so good. “My whole team is energized,” Kelly says. “It’s great to see one condensation used in four different ways.”

Business also seems to be brightening on the trade side. “From a combined trade point of view, it was a successful turnaround year,” says Harold Clarke, VP and Publisher of the trade publishing unit, which acts as the “retail channel manager” for titles that have done well on the direct marketing side. The trade program handles 50 titles per year, typically illustrated reference books that need the benefit of the international coedition process. “All the books that we publish have to be used in multiple channels,” says Clarke. The unit also originates up to 20 of its own titles per year that are then sold via direct channels or internationally. Meanwhile, the Young Families division, which as recently as two years ago was “a very unprofitable part of the company,” according to spokesman Adler, has turned into “one of our very fastest growing areas.” Selling mainly licensed children’s books through direct mail, Young Families (under the leadership of Heather Burgett) has doubled its business in the past two years, a feat largely attributed to its customer-oriented, team-based model, which has since become a template for the other new BHE units. “Historically, Reader’s Digest books were published in a series of hand-offs, almost like an assembly line,” Adler says. Now, the autonomous units have better market intelligence and are also fleeter, with mail campaigns now said to be developed in 13 weeks, when they used to take nearly a year.

Another saving grace for book operations is Books Are Fun, the profitable display marketer acquired in 1999, which did about $250 million in sales last year. Headed by Joel Feigenbaum, the unit uses 700 independent reps to conduct mini-fairs at schools and businesses, where titles from a variety of publishers are heavily discounted. Several divisions are developing new products for marketing via Books Are Fun, and the program has rolled out in Mexico, with testing under way in France. The Books Are Fun unit, in fact, has been a plank in Reader’s Digest’s bid to reinvent itself as a “multi-channel powerhouse” that sells via non-sweepstakes direct mail and direct-response TV. For instance, the bestselling How To Do Just About Anything on a Computer did wonders on QVC. The company is also looking into email and even telemarketing, which already accounts for more than 5% of all BHE sales worldwide, including 20% of Select Editions sales in Germany. Ryder has said he expects 15% of BHE sales in the US to come in over the telephone this year.

Despite these gains, the quiet revolutionaries clearly have their work cut out for them. Company revenues are still at their lowest point in a decade, far from the $5 billion Ryder has vowed to reach by 2004. And company stock trades around $18, down from a 52-week high of $40. As the CEO confessed to analysts, “I don’t have a clue when things will get better and, frankly, I am concerned about them spreading to Europe.” Amid the lowering economic clouds, however, certain quarters of the book business seem refreshingly unfazed. “We’re doing fine,” says Clarke, admiring the list in his latest children’s trade catalog, which includes new licenses for Disney and Hasbro. “When you look at the books you’ll realize we’re having a good time.”

The Prosumer Cometh

At The Licensing Letter’s recent symposium on “The Future of Licensing,” trendmeister Marian Salzman presented the keynote speech, “10 Observations About the Prosumer [that’s “empowered consumer”] in Today’s Mood,” an oration she said had been written long before, but because of recent events, revised up until moments before her October 1 delivery. Salzman, Director of Strategic Planning at advertising behemoth Euro RSCG Worldwide, claims that “everything that was true has been turned upside down,” but nonetheless, we’re “living at hope’s edge” with new opportunities emerging and nascent trends becoming stronger, including such hot topics as “hearth and home,” “safety and endurance,” and “authenticity and values.” To wit, a selection from her ten observations:

Coping With the New Change Metric: Anyone remotely involved in celebrating the home is sitting pretty at the moment, as the nation desperately seeks out the familiar and the guaranteed as a buffer against our culture’s breakneck pace.

The Prosumer Has Arrived: The consumer expects to have things his/her way, or the highway. Still, there is a tug between mass merchandisers who offer discounts, and specialized retailers who offer depth of product and service. Department stores will have an increasingly difficult time in this climate.

Contradictions Reign: Every prosumer trend has a yin and a yang, whether it’s global vs. hyperlocal; mass vs. customization; 24/7 vs. simplification; or anti-religion vs. pro-spirituality.

The Unbranded Rises: A backlash is under way in both the US and Europe against brands, with demonstrators (invariably wearing branded jeans and sneakers) lashing out at various global brands like Nike. Adidas has taken the high road, and now sponsors community parks, rather than posting giant billboards. The “no-brow” look — mixing Gucci shoes with Old Navy jeans — is definitely in.

Boomers Redefine the Youth Market: What is now considered the “middle youth market” (those between the ages of 50 and 70) will experience a boomer adolescence, experiencing life on a global level (traveling, reading about other countries) while living it locally via gardening, pets, and home projects. Call it the rise of “glocal existence.”

New Media? The average American, who already is exposed to 3,000 advertising messages daily, can expect to see more, displayed in ingenious ways. There are temporary brand tattoos; product placement on Survivor; Fay Weldon’s Bulgari book; and advertising on cars in France (with commensurately lower monthly lease payments, of course).

Did I Mention Fear? Watch for a decline in casual sex, as adulterers’ flings are fewer and last longer. And remember, when all else fails, “Safe is sexy.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

Bohemian Dreams
Hitler the Artiste, Simon’s Parisian Sandstorm, And Germany Gets Its ‘Wenderoman’

The vagaries of history are the subject of a new novel by noted French playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, who in On Behalf of Another sets his noggin on fire over this world-historical mindbender: What would have happened if Adolf Hitler had been accepted to Vienna’s École des Beaux-Arts? In reality, the young Hitler’s proto-artistic overtures had been roundly rebuffed when, in 1906, he arrived in Vienna at the age of 17, smitten with dreams of being a boho sensation. Alas, after slaving over a two-day entrance exam for the academy’s school of painting, his test drawings were deemed lacking in appreciation of the human form. Go figure. Author Schmitt turns the tables on history, however, and has furtive Adolf accepted by the school and even liberated from his complexes by one Dr. Freud. Jettisoning all frustrations, Adolf rushes headlong into a life of art and amorous affairs, eventually finding his way to Montparnasse in the twenties, happily falling in with Picasso, Breton, and the Surrealists (not to mention a certain lovely gal from La Rotonde). The 41-year-old Schmitt won wide acclaim with his 1993 play The Visitor, which took home three Molière awards and toured more than 15 countries. The new book had a first print run of 50,000 copies, and at press time, rights were set to be sold in Greece, with interest in Spain, Italy, and Germany. No deals as yet in the US or UK. For rights, see France Edition in New York.

Also in France, Yves Simon lets out a huge yodel with The Lost Voice of Humanity, wherein a young priest putts around Paris “on a scooter practicing the art of the confessional with his ear stuck to his mobile phone.” The mobile confessor harvests a bounty of “secrets dragged out of forgetfulness and solitude,” and gets an earful from the likes of Luis, a blind man in love with a prostitute, and Ismalia, a young nurse who’s the “firefly of the city.” Redolent with “a nostalgia of humanism,” the book also manages to besiege Paris with a daylong sandstorm, a kind of Bohemian Sahara wherein we meet our cast of urban nomads. Simon’s 1987 work The Magnificent Voyager sold over 200,000 copies, and The Drift of Feelings won the Prix Médicis and sold 550,000 copies as a mass-market edition. Though it’s not on the list at the moment, about 30,000 copies of the new one have been sold to date, and all foreign rights are open, says Marie-Hélène d’Ovidio at Grasset.

Things are rather less surreal in Germany, where Sven Regener bursts out of the gate with a first novel, Mr. Lehmann, which is set in the Kreuzberg district of West Berlin in 1989 and ponders the unambitious life of twentysomething waiter Frank Lehmann. Deemed “an Oblomov figure of our time,” Lehmann concerns himself with the trifles of urban anomie, blissfully distracted until his 30th birthday hits — and down comes the Berlin Wall. The book has captivated critics with its concentrated, laconic spirit, moving one to note, “it could be that Regener managed to write the long-awaited great German ‘Wenderoman’”. Nearly 50,000 copies of the hardcover edition have been sold since the book’s August publication (putting it just below the top ten this month), and at press time the paperback auction had reached almost half a million Deutschmarks. The publisher also reports “very lively” interest in film rights. Eichborn holds world rights, but for US rights see Jennifer Lyons at Writers House, and for the UK, talk to Imrie & Dervis in London.

Moving on to the Aegean, 70-year-old Athenian writer Menis Koumandareas takes an “x-ray of postwar Greece” in his latest, expansively scaled novel Twice Greek. The book tracks an average family in Athens as they weather 50 years of political tumult, a period that saw the nation struggle up “from a shattered ruin into a European country.” The author, a one-time journalist, has translated Faulkner, Melville, and Fitzgerald, and his work The Handsome Captain will be awarded the Blue Book Prize at Frankfurt this year (that title is set to be published in Germany by Frankfurter). Originally published in June, Twice Greek has sold 20,000 copies despite what its publisher mock-despairingly calls its “one major disadvantage”: it weighs in at 750 pages. No rights have yet been sold, according to Maria Zampara at Kedros.

Word reaches us from Norway, where The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen summons up “latent ferocity and dark undertones” in a book that captures three generations in west Oslo. Young Barnum’s childhood is painful, starting with his name, which his father took from the American humbug king. The book has evoked strangely euphoric comments from critics: one raved that “we are talking about a tome worth its weight in gold,” while another deemed it “a literary feat of international eminence.” The 48-year-old author has been compared to Woody Allen in his black humor, and 200,000 copies of his 1984 novel Beatles were sold in Norway. We’re told 17,000 copies of the new one were sold in two weeks, and rights have been sold to Arcadia in the UK, as well as to Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. See Eirin Hagen at Cappelen.

On a more sobering note, a bestselling nonfiction title in Australia tackles the dramatic tale of two Australian doctors in Ethiopia. Written by Dr. Catherine Hamlin and co-authored by John Little, The Hospital by the River tells of the school for midwives Hamlin and her late husband founded in Addis Ababa, and chronicles their work with fistula patients — women who have suffered from a devastating condition caused by obstructed labor during childbirth. While such cases are almost unknown in nations with modern hospital facilities, an estimated 8,000 new fistula cases a year plague Ethiopia. The 77-year-old Hamlin was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1999, and over 25,000 copies of the book are in print. US and other translation rights are being represented by Chantal Noel at Macmillan UK.

For comic relief, on the other hand, Australia has snatched up The Day My Bum Went Psycho, a children’s book by Andy Griffiths that’s put the nation in stitches. It tells the harrowing tale of Zack Freeman and his renegade bum, which deserts him and plots with other bums to take their rightful place atop the world’s necks. “It’s just that bums are attempting to take over the world,” author Griffiths earnestly explained when asked if his book would offend the kiddies. Some 60,000 copies are in print, with 100,000 due by Christmas. No rights have been sold as yet. See Jill Grinberg for rights in the US, and Macmillan Australia for the UK.

Heads Up, Frankfurt

Fortunately, just a few cancellations have affected this month’s Frankfurt Book Fair — as publishers rethink travel plans in the wake of September 11 — leaving most everyone’s Palm Pilots overbooked in typical fashion with meetings and soirées. To help liven up those long Buchmesse trudges, PT’s advance foreign rights team has rounded up a tip sheet of titles and events we hope may prove enlightening and diverting.

First off, we’re told Rowohlt has mobilized an impressive roster of authors — among them Updike, Auster, Amis, Morrison, Saramago, and Sontag — to contribute essays for an anthology of international and American writings responding to the Sept. 11 events. Rowohlt Publisher Peter Wilfert said in a statement that the project was suggested by the house’s long tradition of publishing American authors, and “the feeling of some of our most prominent writers that they would be eager for an appropriate and international forum in which to express their reactions.” Proceeds will be contributed to a fund organized by Die Zeit, N-TV, the German Red Cross, Deutsche Bank, and Rowohlt to benefit victims’ families. Publishing colleagues may visit Rowohlt’s stand (3.1, E 111) to receive a free copy.

Meanwhile, Argentine publisher Ediciones de la Flor lands at the fair with what they’re calling “our absolute bestseller,” the cartoon compilation This Isn’t All by the artist known as Quino. This one mixes political pique and pathos, apparently in a highly visual language that easily crosses cultures. Flor has also vowed to bring out his renowned comic strip Mafalda in English, with samples of the first volumes available from Daniel Divinsky (5.1, E 921). French publisher Gallimard will also set down with their big book of the moment, “an American novel” by Michael Cimino (cineast of the Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter), which was just launched in Paris in a French edition. The author has assigned Gallimard to handle all foreign rights — including securing American and British publishers. The new book, Big Jane, is a short, 173-page work said to be a “road-novel” set in America in 1951. Rendezvous chez Gallimard (6.1, B 910).

We’re told that Sony’s on the prowl with its new mass market paperback imprint, tentatively called Village Books. The imprint will include authors from around the world in genres ranging from commercial women’s fiction to mystery and inspiration. And don’t forget that Dutch publisher Het Spectrum is now publishing exclusively nonfiction, following its acquisition of Reed Elsevier’s reference division.

In other news, New York Times writer Andrea Barnet has been commissioned by German publisher Ebersbach to chronicle the women in Harlem and Greenwich Village in the twenties, delving into the likes of Djuna Barnes and Edna St. Vincent Millay. English-language rights to the title, Crazy New York, will be available at the fair (4.1, F 132).

Hellenic Happenings

As this year’s official guest of honor, of course, Greece takes pride of place, not least in the realm of parties. Taking the lead on that front, Patakis Publishers rolls out a cocktail date for Maira Papathanassopoulou, the 34-year-old author of two bestselling novels, Judas’ Wonderful Kiss (sold in ten languages so far and already a bestseller in Holland, where it is published by Prometheus/Bakker) and Three Men and One Woman (her second novel, first published in summer 2000, and sold in two languages so far). The party will take place at the Patakis stand (5.0, B 956) on Thursday, October 11 at 5:30 pm. The retsina will also be flowing liberally at the Patakis stand during a party for Greek authors on Friday the 12th, also at 5:30. This gathering is expected to bring together a mini-symposium of Greek literary lights of the moment, including Soti Triantafillou, whose Subterranean Sky is German publisher Zsolay’s lead title this fall (the book was originally published in Greek by Polis Publishers), and Manos Kondoleon, one of Greece’s winningest children’s authors, whose novels have been translated into French by Loisirs (the author is also a nominee for this year’s Hans Christian Andersen Award). Also keep your eyes peeled for Vangelis Iliopoulos, whose bestselling series Little Triangle-Fish has just been sold to Korea.

And in other Greek matters, we note that Livanis will be on hand with two lead titles: Vassilis VasilikosThe Boys of Summer, and Anastasia Kalliontzi’s Don’t Say Goodbye. You can find Iota Livanis and an English catalog at 5.0, C 966.

African Debut, Timm on Tap

South Africa’s Natal University Press hits the ground running with Welcome to our Hillbrow, a first novel by Phaswane Mpe celebrated as “a nifty and ballsy work of fiction” that’s said to be the first “post-liberation” novel to come out of South Africa. Tackling contemporary urban scourges such as AIDS, xenophobia, and drug culture head-on, the young Mpe has been placed in the distinguished company of Kerouac and Ginsberg in his “muted wanderings,” according to publisher Glenn Cowley (8.0, H 948). As one critic vividly explained, “The protagonists of Mpe’s tale have migrated directly from a witch-infested, pre-industrial, remote village of a forgotten colonial outpost to the Sodom and Gomorrah that is Hillbrow.” The book was short-listed for the prestigious Sanlam Literary Fiction award, and Mpe, 31, teaches African literature in Johannesburg.

A few notes from German publisher Kiepenheuer & Witsch (4.1, E 102), which happens to be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. In appropriate high spirits, it will arrive with a rucksack of titles including the sought-after work 1979, a novel by the young, Swiss jet-setter Christian Kracht. This “lively, cynical text” is set on the cusp of the Iranian revolution, and follows a German interior designer through the hornet’s nest of Teheran. The publisher is also doing business on behalf of Klick, a Russian book launched in the Kiwi paperback line that was deemed best Russian book of the year in 2000. Set in postmodern St. Petersburg, it’s a romp of “wild, controversial, pulp fiction” about a man and his very pregnant lover, who on the eve of their marriage takes on a hit-man’s next project. Perhaps at the top of K&W’s list, however, is the novel Red, by Uwe Timm. The book chronicles a jazz critic who falls in love with a lighting designer during the chaos of 1968, and explores the society that the soixante-huitards must somehow redeem. Timm, who has been published in the US by New Directions, once said of the failed ’68 movements, “We realized that these flowery dreams — literature changes awareness — wilted away. This means that precious little can be moved by literature. But precious little is still sufficient: it should be moved.”

The New Penguin

As Pearson Hones Its Corporate Units, Penguin Putnam Starts Making Sense

As Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino likes to say, “It’s hard to make complicated things simple, but it’s usually worth it.” Well, this month Publishing Trends takes her at her word, and plunges into the fearsome Penguin Putnam organizational chart to sort out the dizzying number of personnel changes, realignments, and other corporate shuffles that have come down the pike in recent months. Indeed, Scardino, along with Penguin Group Chairman John Makinson, have been a couple of latter-day Thoreaus wandering the shores of Penguin Pond, seeking to “simplify, simplify, simplify” as they busily pare and hone the company into “a club of complementary businesses.” At the same time, Pearson as a whole has put Penguin front and center as it attempts to avail itself of the publishing group’s cache of content, particularly for use in the products of Pearson Education.

All of which means an even more glorious fiefdom for Penguin Putnam President and CEO Phyllis Grann, who operates from an impressively consolidated position in the US. Though the actual lines of power may still seem boggling, it’s clear that Grann and longtime lieutenant David Shanks — who runs Penguin Putnam’s operations and juggles a half dozen direct reports himself — are doing some simplifying of their own as they trouble-shoot both editorial and sales reporting lines. The most recent appointments, announced last month and described below, only further strengthen a heretofore randomly assembled publishing empire.

Meanwhile, a far-reaching bout of streamlining has hit the UK side as well, with Penguin UK CEO Anthony Forbes Watson informing the press recently that he was striving mightily to “simplify our structure and further strengthen our performance.” Accordingly, Helen Fraser took the reins of Penguin General, Penguin Press, and Puffin, unifying control of Penguin’s three author-driven publishing divisions. Penguin General Marketing Director John Bond took control for all three divisions as well, and Publicity Director Joanna Prior did likewise. On the Dorling Kindersley side in the UK, Andrew Welham becomes Managing Director of worldwide activities, working closely with DK Publisher Christopher Davis, who reports to him.

At the moment, Scardino’s labors appear to be paying off. Pearson reported that the Penguin Group’s sales were up 13% for the first half of this year, to $575 million ($95 million of which came from DK, acquired in May 2000). Operating profits grew about 5% to $53.3 million. Underlying profit (excluding DK and foreign exchange) was up 7%. In the US, the company notes, 59 Penguin Putnam titles reached the New York Times bestseller list, an increase of 26% over the first half of 2000.

Movers & Shakers

In the interests of full disclosure, although we’ve endeavored to be completely accurate, it should be noted that even those whom we consulted at Penguin Putnam were uncertain about the implications of some of the recent changes. Herewith, then, is a summary of the latest moves:

• Adrian Zackheim’s new business books imprint — he is due to start at Penguin this month — will report to Susan Petersen Kennedy, and will be served by Viking. On the other hand, Bill Shinker’s imprint (where Lauren Marino will be joining him) will report to Carole Baron and be served by Dutton.

For DK, US COO Skip Fischer reports to David Shanks. In the UK, Managing Director Andrew Welham is charged with strengthening the company’s position in the global marketplace.

• Clare Ferraro’s mandate includes marketing for Plume, where she and Kathryn Court now have a dotted-line relationship.

• Leslie Gelbman has taken on the NAL presidency from Louise Burke (who departed to Pocket), along with responsibility for Berkley. And Mariann Donato Caraballo reports to Dick Heffernan for sales and Doug Whiteman for marketing.

In Canada, formerly an outpost of the Penguin UK empire that was annexed for Putnam by Phyllis Grann, Cynthia Good shares the president’s title with Don Howard, and reports to Grann for editorial. Howard used to be President of BEJO, the former Putnam Canadian outpost, and has always reported to the US.

Doubtless there will be more changes coming down the pike. But at present, Penguin seems to be faring better than the rest of the Pearson fleet, which as a whole reported losses of $195 million for the first half of the year. The media giant’s stock has fallen more than 50% from a March 2000 peak, a slide that analysts have chalked up to investor wariness about some of Scardino’s big acquisitions, as well as the southward drift of Pearson’s return on capital. As Scardino told shareholders last year, “Pearson is beginning to make sense.” Let’s hope for her sake that Penguin Putnam’s movement toward clarity endures.

Copyright Contretemps

When federal agents in Las Vegas hauled poor Dmitry Sklyarov off to jail on July 16 for hacking into Adobe’s ebook software, the 26-year-old Russian’s arrest proved a disastrous outing for the much-maligned Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the 1998 law under which Sklyarov was detained. As hackers and civil libertarians lined up to blast the act’s restrictions upon sharing information about cyber security, the whole episode (including Adobe’s about-face when it decided prosecuting Sklyarov wasn’t such a hot idea) highlighted the fine line publishers must tread when protecting copyright across international boundaries in the digital age.

Not mentioned amid the contretemps was the organization well suited to puzzle out such issues, the Geneva-based International Publishers Association, which among other duties is charged with monitoring the implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty, ratified in the US as part of the DMCA. Established in 1896, the IPA now has 77 member organizations in 66 countries — among them the Association of American Publishers in the US — and has been exercising stealth diplomacy to forge a chain of enforceable but fair-minded copyright laws around the globe.

“The chain will be no stronger than its weakest link,” says Richard Rudick of Wiley and Sons, who chairs the IPA’s Copyright Committee. “In this context the IPA has a unique role to play. It is the only body which acts as a forum of publishers of educational material and literature throughout the world.” No other publisher organization, he adds, is able to facilitate contacts between the so-called developed world and parts of Asia, Africa and South America — potentially lucrative regions for American publishers, but regions primed for piracy as well.

And that’s where the IPA comes in. “The economic importance of copyright has long been recognized, but its international dimension has increased through the Internet,” IPA President Pere Vicens notes. Besides helping governments draft copyright legislation, the IPA is working to protect databases, as well as “traditional knowledge and cultural expressions” such as folklore. “The protection of both databases and cultural expressions poses complex legal and political problems,” says Carlo Scollo Lavizzari, legal counsel to the IPA. “As publishers may be both creators and disseminators of databases and such expressions, protecting them is of direct concern to IPA members.”

The group is also reviewing jurisdiction for international disputes, an abstract legal matter that has become quite concrete for Sklyarov. While the legal wrangling over his fate continues, it might be worth remembering that progress does happen, however fitfully. Twenty years ago, then-IPA president Per Sjögren rebuked the Soviet Union after it banned South Korea from the Second Moscow International Book Fair, denied a visa to Random House’s Robert Bernstein, and banned more than 40 American books from the show. (Due to the changes in Russian society since perestroika, the Russian Book Publishers Association was admitted as a full member of IPA in October 1994.) Among the titles confiscated by Soviet authorities at the time — and one likely to strike Sklyarov’s supporters as rather ironic — was George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

International Fiction Bestsellers

One Flew Over Oslo
Norway’s Fossum Gets Real, Sweden Goes Hard-Boiled, And Luna Rises Over Argentina

Sweden has veered “disturbingly close to reality” in recent months as Norwegian author Karin Fossum takes the nation on a harrowing journey right up to the belfry of The House of the Insane. The book, which has been on the list for the past two months but is just below the top ten at the moment, spirals through the mental involutions of 23-year-old protagonist Hajna, who required 160 stitches in her head after slamming into a large shop window. “All she longs for,” we’re eerily informed, “is death.” Based on the author’s experience working at a psychiatric institution, the book has been described as a Scandinavian One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, letting Fossum’s knack for “hassle-free momentum” loose inside the asylum. The author is better known for her crime novels, which have sold as many as 55,000 copies per title and are translated into 14 languages. Her fifth such opus, Beloved Poona, was published last year and hailed as a portrait of “painfully credible” characters set churning in “a masterful novel about the margins of death.” Fossum’s Don’t Look Back will be published in the UK by Harvill next summer, with Poona to come in 2003. So far 28,000 copies of the new one have been sold, and only Sweden and Germany have bought rights, according to foreign rights manager Eirin Hagen at Cappelen.

Also in Sweden, Åke Edwardson hits the scene with the fifth title in his crime series, Heaven is a Place on Earth, featuring Inspector Erik Winter. A four-year-old boy in Gothenburg is abducted from a playground, and Winter delves into “the loneliness of man” to solve the case. Critics deem Edwardson’s work “bloody genuine and good,” and the hard-boiled series has been published in 12 countries, selling more than 450,000 copies. The first three books from this “masterly portrayer of man’s innermost thoughts” are slated for Swedish TV this fall. The new one has been sold only to Germany and Denmark, with negotiations under way in the US and UK. See Agneta Markås at Norstedts. And on a final Swedish crime note, The Diabolic pops up as the twelfth crime novel from Bjorn Hellberg featuring the inimitable Inspector Sten Wall, who in this installment bumps into Mr. Evil himself and tussles with the occult. When author Hellberg isn’t slaying demons, he reigns as the “#1 tennis expert in the world,” with 23 titles under his belt on that subject, and also moonlights as a Swedish TV personality. Rights have been sold to Germany (Argon) and Holland (de Geus). See agent Bengt Nordin.

Crime has also been paying off exquisitely in the Netherlands for the prolific A.C. (Appie) Baantjer, whose De Cock series has soared to an epic 54 titles and regularly boasts first print runs of over 100,000 copies. Two new titles every year chronicle the latest exploits of Inspector De Cock and his cunning assistant Vledder, who operate from their base camp in Amsterdam’s red-light district and bivouac in nearby bars, ruminating over snifters of cognac. In De Cock and the Drifting Corpse, a staple of the Dutch list for months now, a woman’s missing banker-husband is found dead with a dagger in his back. Turns out the dagger is symbolic of the secret Brotherhood of the Cross, and, to put it mildly, mayhem ensues. Meanwhile, Baantjer’s latest book, De Cock and the Merry Bacchus, unfolds from a man’s report of a missing uncle and features, you guessed it, a collection of photographs of the Apostle Peter. Adding to the Baantjer franchise, a TV spin-off has plastered the detective duo across the little screen in Holland, Belgium, and France. The 78-year-old Baantjer (né Albert Cornelis) was a researcher in the Amsterdam police force for 30 years, and based his lead character on a fellow officer whose code name in World War II was “Le Coq.” The series has been published in China, Russia, and Korea, while Ullstein has previously published the series in Germany (though rights reverted in 1989) and Intercontinental has published eight novels in the US, but passed on recent titles. Rights have never been sold in the UK. See Maran Olthoff at De Fontein.

In Argentina, the venerable historian Felix Luna breaks out with his first work of historical fiction, Martín Aldama, a “delicious novel of adventure and patriotism” told through the protagonist’s memoirs of life in early 19th-century Argentina. Through Aldama’s eyes we revisit an explosively formative period for the nation, weathering the reconquest of Buenos Aires and plunging into the May Revolution. Action commences in June 1806, when Buenos Aires is attacked by a British fleet under the command of Admiral Home Riggs Popham, and our young warrior joins the battle that expels the invaders and sparks a lasting movement for independence among Spanish South America. Along the way, the gallant Aldama stops off for a few torrid trysts amid the din of battle, and as a sidelight strikes up a blood-brother bond with a young Irishman. Deemed “one of Argentina’s finest intellectuals,” author Luna has published more than a dozen nonfiction titles and is considered a shaping literary force in Argentinian annals. All rights are available; contact Veronica Berisso at Planeta Argentina.

In India, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes dredges up a Trans-Himalayan episode from the great inspector’s past, and narrates Holmes’s adventures in Tibet with the wily Bengali scholar Hurree Chunder Mookerjee. The book, an unlikely mix of Holmesian drama and Tibetan mythology, is jam-packed with the usual narrow escapes and brilliant deductions, not to mention “the strangest of mysteries Sherlock Holmes has ever encountered.” Author Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan scholar from Dharamsala, “takes to pastiche with grace and elan,” as one critic cheered, while another put it this way: “If you enjoy the X-Files and don’t mind mixing Holmes with the paranormal, then you really will love this.” The book won the Crossword Prize this year. Rights have been sold to the US (Bloomsbury), UK (John Murray), and France (Philippe Piquier); see agent Susan Schulman at [email protected]

And the lexicographer in you will be deeply satisfied to know that among the top 15 titles in the Netherlands this month, no less than 7 are Prisma dictionaries, with Dutch, English-Dutch, and Dutch-English filling slots 2, 3, and 4. (Bridget Jones beats them out of first place.) What gives? “It is the best-known dictionary for schools, that’s why the summer is indeed packed with bestselling Prismas,” says our source at publisher Het Spectrum, noting that all editions are revised. Talk about cultural literacy.