Way back at the start of November, when the weather was still balmy and snow was a distant prospect, I dedicated a whole week's worth of posts to Dennis Lehane (with a few guest appearances from George Pelecanos) and his series of novels starring Boston private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Partly that was because Lehane's latest Kenzie-Gennaro novel – and the first in over ten years – Moonlight Mile, was published in the States that week, but mostly it was because I'd recently picked up a job lot of US first editions of the five novels before it on eBay. That's how much thought goes into those themed weeks on Existential Ennui...
Anyway, Moonlight Mile isn't due to be published in the UK until February, by Lehane's new publisher, Little, Brown. I wondered in this post on Gone, Baby, Gone (which Moonlight Mile is a sequel to) how Little, Brown would handle their UK publicity and press campaign for Moonlight Mile, given that Lehane isn't as big a name over here as he is in the US and also that the new novel is the sixth book in a series, none of the previous books from which were published by Little, Brown. And as it happens, I can now answer those questions.
This is the uncorrected bound proof of Little, Brown's forthcoming UK edition of Moonlight Mile. If you don't know what a bound proof is, it's an advanced copy of a novel produced for press and publicity purposes.
There's the copyright info inside the book. Basically it looks like a trade paperback, except without a barcode or price on the back cover, and with different cover blurb too. (I blogged about a Patricia Highsmith one back in July.) For instance, I doubt that tag line on the front cover "An exciting new era for one of the world's great writers" will make it on to the final version – nor indeed the tiny "NOT FOR SALE..." line above it either... And if we turn to the back cover...
We start to get a sense of Little, Brown's strategy for the book. Right at the top, in bold, white type, the publisher announces this is Lehane's first novel for them, which sets the context for what's to follow. And then the first bullet point underneath does what any publicity department in their right mind should do when plugging Dennis Lehane: it mentions The Wire. Because here in Britain, it's for his writing on The Wire that Lehane's best known – the caveat there being, as adored as The Wire is in certain sections of British society, those sections are, in the grand scheme of things, quite small. But UK Wire fans are passionate, and media-savvy, and so playing up that angle is a solid start.
The next bullet point down does the next most obvious thing one should do when plugging Dennis Lehane, and that's to talk about Shutter Island. The 2010 Martin Scorcese movie adaptation of Shutter Island did decent business at cinemas, both in the US, where it earned $128 million, and in the UK, where it earned about £11 million. Eleven million pounds may not sound like a lot (relatively speaking), but that's a good number for a film over here. So again, that's a useful angle for promotion... even if the back cover copywriter did get the year of the film wrong. Interesting to see too the 100,000 UK sales of the novel, although presumably that's since the book's original UK publication in 2003.
And then in the last two bullet points we get a nod to Gone, Baby, Gone, a tease for a future movie adaptation of Moonlight Mile (that's a new one on me; they might need to change the title for that), and a quote from The Guardian, the newspaper of choice for the discerning fan of The Wire. Personally I'm not sure about that line in bold white type about either loving Lehane or not having read him – I feel slightly lectured to there – but it's publicity we're talking about here, and therefore subtlety isn't always an option.
So, in broad strokes, that's how Little, Brown are promoting the book. There's some more info on the accompanying press release:
Along with a couple more press quotes, and a short synopsis. It also repeats that unfortunate mistake about Shutter Island being one of the biggest grossing films of 2009 (it was 2010). But that's a minor niggle. Overall, Little, Brown have done a creditable job. I don't know what more they could have done to pave the way for Moonlight Mile, and I wish them and Lehane luck for the book's UK launch next year. I think it'll do pretty well for them.