Robert A. Caro
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
It has been an eventful year for Bob. The New-York Historical Society exhibit drew record crowds, all of whom came to see Caro’s notes, letters, artifacts, and marginalia from his decades of work as a reporter and biographer. The Caro archives, in which readers will find unbounded treasures, will open later this year, and their preservation will prove a vast resource and inspiration to historians, reporters, and students alike.
Turn Every Page, about Caro’s relationship with his longtime editor, Robert Gottlieb, directed by Lizzie Gottlieb, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released in December to glowing reviews.
Caro is continuing his work on Volume five of his LBJ series with limited interruption. In 2024, The Power Broker will celebrate a unique milestone: its fiftieth anniversary in print in hardcover.
“Only tactical competence, and humility, impresses me.”
I have been a great admirer of Lea Carpenter since the publication of her debut novel, Eleven Days, from which the above dedication is taken. That novel, about a single mother and her son, who, after 9/11, decides not to apply to Harvard but the Naval Academy, was inspired by her father, who served in Army Intelligence during, and after, World War II.
One of the most appealing aspects of Lea’s work is the authenticity she brings to her narratives (Eleven Days has a 52-page bibliography), and this is certainly true of her latest novel, Illium (Knopf, 2024), the story of a young woman drawn into a joint CIA/Mossad operation to assassinate a Russian intelligence officer living in exile in France.
Here is Lea's inspiration for this work: “In 1985, CIA’s Beirut Station Chief, William Buckley, was kidnapped and assassinated by Hezbollah. Twenty-three years later, in 2008, Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus. Revenge, in a forever war, can take its time.
In these interlocked killings, I found the idea for a story. Ilium is it. Its focus is on a woman who becomes, almost unwittingly, central to an operation. I tried to say something about war’s essential subjectivity, how a hero to one side is an assassin to another, and how espionage is a deeply personal sport. I tried to bring the reader inside the minds of the players on all sides of a brutal, violent, very high-stakes game.”
What I loved: There's a line in the book about the new style of espionage being analog, and for this reader, that's what this book feels like, a throwback to an earlier era. The characters and relationships are studied and richly drawn, and the questions it surfaces about truth and identity are fascinating: "At what age are you old enough to know the people you think you love are people you really don't know at all."
Illium is a riveting novel about secret lives that honors its storied predecessors.
Imagine an author painting on a Texas canvas and coming up with a work that lies adjacent to Lonesome Dove and Don Quixote—that book is The Madstone (coming from Little Brown in November).
Of all the bets I’ve placed in my career, I’ve never been more confident of this one: The Madstone is a book readers will love and is peopled with a set of characters they will come to adore. This is historical fiction at its best.
Set in 19th-century Texas, The Madstone is about a pregnant young mother and her five-year-old son, both on the run from her husband, who wants his son back.
The mother and son are fortunate to come into the company of a young man, Benjamin Shreve, who, upon hearing the particulars of their story, senses the danger they are facing, and attempts to convey them to safety, offering them passage to south Texas, where they will be able to board a boat to New Orleans, and, hopefully, a new life.
Their journey, as you can imagine, proves to be eventful: they encounter desperados, fortune, magic, buried treasure, a cursed necklace, the eponymous madstone (which saves a boy’s life), death (her husband’s, which somehow makes matters worse), and, improbably, love. And that’s one of the most surprising things about The Madstone: its power as a love story. Here, a mother’s love for her son is achingly rendered; Crook’s capture of a young man in the first thrall of love sings too.
The Estate of Joan Didion
We had the great fortune of working with Joan Didion for two decades. She is a writer whose books we turn to again and again. Our job at BPR is to keep her work front and center with readers.
We are working with the Didion Dunne Literary Trust to curate collections for anyone interested in Joan Didion’s life and work. We’ve designed a Joan Didion website—joandidion.org—that features her archive, and we will be launching an Instagram account for Joan Didion that includes letters, notes, photographs, manuscript pages, artifacts, and memorabilia.
The New York Public Library recently acquired the papers of Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. The dual collection comprises the couple’s literary and personal papers, offering a rich documentation of their careers and intellectual legacies. Our team will collaborate with the NYPL to share letters, photographs, screenplays, and other memorabilia from the collection with a wide audience
Garth Risk Hallberg
One of the most joyful aspects of this work is when single-book collaborations become long-term partnerships. And that is what happened with Garth Risk Hallberg. Garth and I started working together in 2014, shortly after Knopf edsy Diana Miller signed up his debut novel, City on Fire.
City on Fire was published to wide acclaim in 2015, earning accolades from critics worldwide and debuting at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list. Stephen King hailed the work as “Dickensian, massively entertaining, as close to a great American novel as this century has produced,” while Michiko Kakutani praised the novel’s “bone-deep knowledge of [its] characters’ inner lives that’s as unerring as that of the young Salinger."
This May, the long-awaited Apple+ series, “City on Fire,” will have its global premiere, and all of us at BPR couldn’t be more excited about the show. The ensemble cast includes Chase Sui Wonders, Wyatt Oleff, Jemima Kirke, Nico Tortorella, Ashley Zukerman, Xavier Clyde, Max Milner, Alexandra Doke, Omid Abtahi, Kathleen Munroe, and John Cameron Mitchell (whoa). And the soundtrack includes The Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, and Interpol, among many others. The first three episodes will drop on May 12, with new episodes (eight total) premiering every Friday through June 16, 2023.
Garth said the Apple TV+ series took him “right back to the city I fell in love with in my early twenties — raucous and human and grieving and also joyous as hell." More than that, Garth said, “the show is an exuberantly rendered and loving adaptation of the book, saturated in music and color, and with a killer cast.”
Set in New York City, “City on Fire” follows a New York University student who is shot in Central Park on the Fourth of July, 2003. Samantha (Chase Sui Wonders) is alone; there are no witnesses. The only evidence: she left her favorite downtown club to meet someone, promising to return. She never does.
Garth will be available for interviews in conjunction with the series. And we’ll have more exciting news about Garth in the months ahead, so stay tuned!
When Paul started this business, a PR colleague told him, “only take on projects you love.” He took her advice to heart, and one of the first clients he signed on as a result of her advice was Monica Heisey. “I fell in love with her debut novel, Really Good, Actually, and have a hunch readers are going to fall in love with it too,” he says. Readers have, in fact, fallen in love with the book, which was published earlier this year by William Morrow, becoming a bestseller on both sides of the pond.
Really Good, Actually, is an honest, empathetic, and hilarious portrait of a life gone slightly off the rails in the wake of a consequential break-up (read divorce). It’s full of keen observations about women, men, friendship, sex, family, therapy, stress eating, body image, love, and loneliness. Readers will fall hard for the protagonist, Maggie, because she’s one of us (her life is a mess). The book made us laugh—something we hadn’t done in a while—but more than that, we found it to be an honest rendering of these oh-so post-romantic times (swipe left).
Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel, the best-selling author of Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, and Sea of Tranquility, asked us to design a clean and elegant website for her work. The new site—emilymandel.com—which went live last year, features international editions of her books, reviews, excerpts, pull quotes, upcoming events, news, and more. Plus, as Mandel’s work expands into film and television, her site will grow too.
Sonny Mehta Fellowships
Endowed by Gita Mehta
Sonny was both a mentor and friend. No one cared more about supporting authors and their work. The goal of these fellowships, at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, is to support aspiring writers from underrepresented countries.
“The Fellowships are driving worldwide interest in the Workshop,” said Director Lan Samantha Chang, “and we are experiencing increases in international applications as a result.”
For those interested in making a contribution to the Sonny Mehta Fellowships, here is a link to the giving page.
Novelist and Journalist for The Independent
Clémence’s debut thriller The Quiet Tenant (coming from Knopf in June 2023) will be taking the world by storm. Rights to the novel have already been sold in thirty countries. We don’t want to reveal too much about the book right now other than to say that the reading experience leaves one breathless.
We did, however, ask Clémence about the genesis of the book. “I didn’t expect writing a psychological thriller to become my escape hatch in the midst of a pandemic,” she said, “but it did. I think the uneasiness all of us were experiencing crept its way into the narrative. The feeling of being trapped, of life without escape, of this bigger threat we couldn't control. I needed a project, something that couldn't be taken away from me. I’m not sure how healthy an exercise this actually was, but I am happy with the end result, and I hope readers will be too.”
Clémence is a journalist for The Independent. She is also a novelist now, one we will be hearing from for years to come.
New York Times Best-Selling Author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War
Historian Lynne Olson has always been drawn to unsung heroes—individuals of moral courage and conscience who helped change their country and the world but who, for various reasons, have slipped into the shadows of history.
Our collaboration with Lynne is focused on expanding her readership and social footprint, and drawing attention to the remarkable subjects she has written about.
Lynne’s next book, Empress of the Nile (coming from Random House in February) focuses on Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the daredevil woman archaeologist who saved Egypt’s ancient temples from extinction. This fascinating book will bring Lynne an even broader readership.
Literary Arts, Portland OR
“Every shared moment of curiosity, hope, and intelligent discussion is an antidote to the anxiety of the times.”
—Portland Book Festival attendee
Paul’s work with Andrew Proctor, the Executive Director of Literary Arts, dates back more than a decade. Paul was always excited to bring authors to Portland because the events Literary Arts put together were extraordinary, as was the throughline to the community. The national footprint Andrew and his team have built in Portland means that readers and writers and publishers across the country now see it as an essential destination. It is a central resource in the Pacific Northwest for tens of thousands of readers and writers. The programmatic development over the past ten-plus years has reinvented the basic structure of the community-based work that is also national in scope.
Over the next several years, Literary Arts will be spearheading multiple initiatives in their community and beyond, and will be making several major announcements in the months to come. Paul is thrilled to be working with Literary Arts, and helping to spotlight these initiatives.
New York Times Best-Selling Author of Inheritance
It has been enormously gratifying to observe the evolution of Dani’s work, and her growing readership, book by book. Signal Fires, her first work of fiction in fifteen years, is a powerful novel about families and the ties that bind them, and the secrets that can break them.
“All my writing life, I’ve been obsessed with secrets,” says Dani, “Why we keep them, what they do to us, the legacy they leave. Over a decade ago, I was visited by an array of characters, all of whom stayed with me. In Signal Fires, I was finally able to discover their connection to one another – a constellation of lives informed by tragedy, one devastating secret kept, and the resulting path each life takes over the course of fifty years.”
Finally: if you haven’t listened to Dani’s podcast, Family Secrets, we recommend you do so now. It’s a deeply personal look at secrets and storytelling and life, featuring conversations with many writers we admire.
Julius Taranto’s blisteringly irreverent debut novel, How I Won a Nobel Prize, is being published by Little Brown next September. It’s about a physics graduate student who finds herself exiled to an island university where disgraced and unpalatable professors get safe harbor to operate at the tops of their respective fields. “I was struck by the intelligence, polish, and wit of this work,” said Paul. “Julius enters the rough seas of American discourse with a bravado that maps brilliantly to his characters and their campus. How I Won a Nobel Prize is a novel of ideas, one that is guaranteed to both ignite conversation and ruffle feathers.”
It is not surprising that Taranto’s debut arrives as a fully realized novel, and with such artful execution, given he is something of a completist when it comes to the work of other writers (you can read his much-discussed essay on David Foster Wallace here). He’s done the homework and it shows. Julius’s command of character, place, and subject, and his ability to tether them to a novel about the ideological wars of our time, will resonate across America and around the world.
“Don’t you see,” says an aging, iconoclastic novelist in How I Won a Nobel Prize, “wokeness is a theology? But a theology with no text, no god, no organizing myth of principles, no traditions. There is in this millennial religion only the vaguest sense of good and evil, applied to daily life by an ever-shifting clergy of popular priests and priestesses.”
Taranto’s debut novel is refreshingly thought-provoking and wise, a book that offers a masterly exploration of work, marriage, technology, and individuality.
Sometimes, clients find you, and boy oh boy did Paul feel lucky that the founders of Tertulia found him. When they presented the work they were doing on book discovery, Paul immediately recognized both the importance of the work and the potential for the app they were building.
The Tertulia app enables readers to discover and purchase books in a new way—one that has the additional benefit of rewarding readers with a stake in the company. Publishers have been trying to harness the conversational energy about books taking place across the web for years.
Tertulia is the first company to have done this at scale. Using both AI and editorial curators, Tertulia is aggregating book mentions, tweets, posts, reviews, ratings, and conversations from across social media, podcasts, and the web, and condensing all the content into an information-rich bundle for readers. Tertulia provides book lovers with a clear signal from the noise, distilling “word-of-mouth” discovery (the holy grail of publishing) into an app.
Our collaboration with Tertulia has been layered from the outset, providing wide-ranging advice on strategy, suggestions for the app, tactics in the run-up to launch, setting up preview meetings with authors, agents, and publishers, and landing a tentpole consumer story in the New York Times and a trade story in Publishers Weekly.
Tertulia recently extended our contract work with them, and we are thrilled to be their partner in this exciting new chapter for readers, authors, and publishers.