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A Springtime Preview of Next Fall's Big Books

June 05, 1988|SONJA BOLLE

It was Christmas in May in Anaheim last weekend when more than 22,000 people attending the American Booksellers Assn. convention looked over the fall publishers' lists and predicted best sellers for the holiday season. Not too much guesswork is needed to list probable winners, as a great number of proven authors have books due in the coming months.

To highlight only a few from the crowd: Judith Krantz's novel, "Till We Meet Again" is set in the first half of the century in Europe and California; the party Crown and Bantam threw in her honor was held in a hangar at the John Wayne Airport, where period decoration included a real Spitfire plane. Susan Isaacs' "Shining Through" (Harper & Row) was launched with a party aboard the Queen Mary. Sidney Sheldon arrives with "The Sands of Time" (William Morrow) and Alice Hoffman with "At Risk" (G. P. Putnam's Sons); Random House will publish E. L. Doctorow's "Billy Bathgate," and Simon & Schuster will offer Larry McMurtry's "Anything for Billy." In nonfiction, a sure attention getter is Shana Alexander's "The Pizza Connection: Lawyers, Drugs and the Mafia" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), and Alfred A. Knopf will offer historian Barbara Tuchman's "The First Salute."

Corporate consolidation in the book business becomes more evident every year. Random House gave out catalogues from all the imprints under its corporate umbrella in a package that approximated the heft of a briefcase. Exhibits at the booths occupied by the Bantam/Doubleday/Dell conglomerate were unified by a "walk of the stars" on the carpet, naming the group's stellar authors.

The Christmas spirit reigns at the convention not only because of the focus on the holiday season (Collins Publishers' booth was a cozy living room with a Christmas Tree to promote "Christmas in America"), but also because of the hundreds of promotional giveaways offered by exhibitors. Contest prizes ranged from the golden Corvette raffled off by Golden Books to an archeological dig sponsored by Workman to promote "Digging Dinosaurs" by John R. Horner and James Gorman.

The most common promotional device is simple giveaways: reading copies, posters, items to wear and ingest, and all manner of knickknacks designed to make a title stick in the mind. Not just any giveaway will do, however. One of the people strolling the floor was cookie baron Wally (Famous) Amos, promoting his Donald I. Fine book, "The Power in You." As he picked up a cookie given away by one exhibitor, it crumbled in his hand, prompting him to growl: "What kind of a cookie is this?" No stranger to hype (before the cookie empire, he worked at William Morris Agency), he advised: "Next time, use mine"--and handed one over.

FOR THE MOVIE CROWD: The entertainment business is always a good subject for books, and this season will see no lack of titles. Among the forthcoming books is A. Scott Berg's "Goldwyn: A Biography" from Alfred A. Knopf. There are two on Shirley Temple Black: her own book, "Child Star" (McGraw-Hill), and Anne Edwards' "Shirley Temple: American Princess" (William Morrow). Bugs Bunny et al will serve as the subject for two books as well: From Henry Holt, "That's All Folks! The Art of Warner Brothers Animation" by Steve Schneider, and the antithetically titled "That's Not All Folks" about Mel Blanc, the man of a thousand cartoon voices (Warner Books). From Pantheon Books will come "Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel" by Michael Barson, a book about the Marx Brothers' radio show of the same name that aired in 1932-33. Among the expensive gift books in this area will be Harry N. Abrams' "De Mille Family" by Anne Edwards and Ballantine's "Masters of Starlight: Photographers in Hollywood" by David Fahey and Linda Rich.

WHAT IS THE NEW AGE?: Publishers, authors and booksellers representing the phenomenon called The New Age were an overwhelming presence. An overflow crowd of booksellers who have been besieged by customers asking for books on such topics as channeling, crystals and psychic healing flocked to a panel discussion entitled, "Demystifying New Age Books." Newcomers to the field hoped to find a system for choosing from the vast quantity of titles on display. The New Age Publishing and Retailing Alliance, formed last year at the convention, now has 200 members, though one of its missions is to define itself. The director of Minnesota publishing house Illuminated Way expressed the irony of the current popularity: "I've been in business since 1965--long before it was fashionable to call it the New Age." -

A VOGUE IN SECOND CITIES: The reading copies distributed by Farrar, Straus & Giroux of Jonathan Franzen's new novel, "The Twenty-Seventh City," can't help but put one in mind of the current hot title, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh." The new novel, due out in September, concerns a plot to take over the city of St. Louis. The FSG staff have high hopes for it, and the publisher has assigned it a sizeable promotional budget.

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