Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018: Dedicated Issue: Bonnier Zaffre

Bonnier Zaffre launches in the U.S. with bestselling authors Wilbur Smith and Lynda La Plante

Editors' Note

Bonnier Zaffre

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness introduces Bonnier Zaffre's publishing program this year in the U.S., which focuses on international blockbuster authors Lynda La Plante and Wilbur Smith.

Zaffre: The Courtney Series by Wilbur Smith

Books & Authors

Bonnier Zaffre Launching in the U.S

Bonnier Zaffre has been publishing adult and children's fiction in the U.K. for three years and is part of Bonnier Publishing, the fastest-growing major publisher in the world with revenues of $180 million. Now Bonnier Zaffre is making a foray into the U.S. with an unusual publishing model: it's focusing on publishing brand authors whose books are blockbusters around the world, particularly in the U.K. and the Commonwealth, but are less well known in the U.S.

The first two are Lynda La Plante, the prolific English author best known for creating and writing the beloved Prime Suspect TV series, and Wilbur Smith, the internationally bestselling author of several bestselling, long-running adventure/thriller series, including the Courtney series, which traces the saga of one family over several centuries, starting in the early 1700s, and the Egyptian series, set in ancient Egypt.

"The idea is to concentrate on bestselling authors, put them on top of the list, and do everything for them, focusing on them 365 days of the year, rather than just two weeks after a new book comes out," Mark Smith, CEO of Bonnier Zaffre, explains. "If we put them front and center, they will do a lot better here than in the past."

Bonnier Zaffre has already had great success with these authors in the U.K., and publishing them in a new, stronger way in the U.S. is "an additional service we can provide," Mark Smith adds. Bonnier Zaffre plans to add similar brand-name authors to its U.S. list. "Our job is to find the market here for them."

Mark Smith

Bonnier Zaffre's U.S. publishing program launched at the outset of the year, when the company released 31 titles by Wilbur Smith in e-book format. Many more titles will be released in print this year, including the 31 Smith titles; a new Courtney hardcover, Courtney's War; Smith's memoir, On Leopard Rock; three titles by La Plante set early in the career of Jane Tennison (the main character of Prime Suspect); a new Tennison title, Murder Mile; and an expanded version of Widows, which is the basis of the Hollywood blockbuster directed by Oscar-winner Steve McQueen scheduled for November (see below).

There will be major marketing campaigns for both authors' books. La Plante, who has a home in New York, will visit the U.S., tour, and attend ThrillerFest. The opening of the movie version of La Plante's Widows will also be a focus for publicity and marketing. For Wilbur Smith, the release of On Leopard Rock and Courtney's War will be high points.

Bonnier Zaffre aims to appeal to the groups that either already know the authors or who should be most interested. In La Plante's case, that includes mystery, thriller and true-crime fans, as well as the many readers drawn to tales about challenges women face in the workplace. For Wilbur Smith, Bonnier Zaffre will target family saga, thriller and adventure fans. The message for Smith will be that his books are "great stories set in exotic, international locales, with strong female leads, and that he is one of the best adventure writers in the world who writes great family sagas," Mark Smith said. "He's been entertaining and thrilling readers for 54 years."

Simon & Schuster is making sure the books get to booksellers and librarians. (S&S handles all Bonnier Publishing USA imprints, which include Weldon Owen, little bee books, IglooBooks, Blue Streak Books and Sizzle Press.)

Zaffre: The Courtney Series by Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith: Adventure Writer

Novelist Wilbur Smith, whose books have sold more than 130 million copies in more than 30 languages, was born in 1933 in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. During his life, Smith has seen monumental political and social developments across the African continent. These changes have inspired the lion's share of his work, a bibliography of historical fiction set during four centuries of sometimes clashing, sometimes cooperating cultures in Africa and afar.

His longest, best-known series follows the Courtney family from 1660 through 1987 (at 54 years, it's the longest-running ongoing saga in the world). The 16 Courtney novels include Smith's first published work, When the Lion Feeds (1964), which tracks twin brothers in 1870s Southern Africa through war, hunting, heartbreak and more. In discussing what made When the Lion Feeds successful, and the inspiration behind it, Smith says: "I wrote about my own father and my darling mother. I wove into the story chunks of early African history. I wrote about black people and white. I wrote about hunting and gold mining and carousing and women. I wrote about love and loving and hating. In short I wrote about all the things I knew well and loved better." The Courtney family saga will continue in September when Bonnier Zaffre publishes the latest installment, Courtney's War.

Smith also has several other long-running series. The four Ballantyne family novels track that titular family from 1860 to 1980, and connect with the Courtneys in The Triumph of the Sun. Smith's Ancient Egypt series takes place during the reign of Pharaoh Memnon (roughly the mid-1500s B.C.), and his Hector Cross books are thrillers set in the modern day. Smith has also written several standalone novels, including The Sunbird (1972), which catalogues an archeological dig and deliberately plays with structural styles.

Smith recommends his titles set in Africa to Americans, saying that readers here "will learn that people are people, no matter if they are black, yellow, green or white. And African history, in all its horrible beauty, shows the darkest depths and majestic, soaring heights of human nature.

"In our turbulent times, it's important to take a step back and escape your phones and educate yourself about history. If you want to know about where we are going, look at the past. Africa is the cradle of civilization. We all come from that continent in one way or another."

In May, Smith's many fans will finally be able to safari inside the real-life stories behind so many thrilling, eye-opening tales. On Leopard Rock: A Life of Adventure is Smith's first memoir. As the son of a white Rhodesian cattle rancher, Smith's young life was full of hunting, flying and uncomfortable familiarity with colonialism. Smith ignored his father's claims that reading was unmanly and that writing wasn't a real career, though his path to bestselling novelist was certainly circuitous. Among the experiences in On Leopard Rock, Smith relates his brief time in the Rhodesian police, being lost in the African bush, battling South Africa's censorship rules, and boozy misadventures with the actors who starred in movies based on his books.

He remembers part of the impetus for writing the memoir: "In 2011, I was invited to the Massenzio Festival in Rome. I was asked to give a lecture in front of thousands of Italian readers in the shadows of the Coliseum, where I started telling the story of my father and how he saved my family, all the campers and I, from man-eating lions who attacked our camp one night. My father taught me about life, about being a man, about all living things, like animals, birds, vegetation and nature. What I have learned from my father became the origins of my own adventures. At the end of the speech, I said: 'One day I will write about my father.'

"I have a faded photograph taken the next morning after my father protected our camp with my mother's Box Brownie camera. My father and I are kneeling side by side each holding the head of a dead lion. My father's right-hand man Peter is standing beside the Chevy hunting truck in the background. He is wrapped in his blanket and looking heroic and aloof. My father is wearing his pajama bottoms, his nose swollen and lacerated. I am wearing one of my father's hats and mimicking his grim and heroic expression. That's a scene I've written in my novels in many different ways over the years. As you can guess, it had an enormous effect on me."

Lynda La Plante: The Queen of Crime Drama

Lynda La Plante's nickname, the Queen of Crime Drama, is no idle boast. La Plante has earned her claim to crime-writing royalty through a decades-long career of genre-defining work. The British police procedural Prime Suspect, which has had seven television series between 1991 and 2006, stars Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. Each of the seven series follows a single case over several multi-hour episodes, during which Tennison must contend with the actual criminal investigation and institutionalized sexism in the Metropolitan Police. Prime Suspect greatly influenced the American TV series The Closer, had a brief adaptation on American television, and led to several novels by La Plante. The series won several Edgar awards.

Jane Tennison and Prime Suspect returned with a prequel, Prime Suspect 1973, whose six episodes aired in the U.S. in June 2017 on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. The prequel is based on La Plante's first prequel novel, Tennison, which she followed with Hidden Killers and Good Friday. Bonnier Zaffre is publishing those three titles in the U.S. this spring as well as a new Tennison title, Murder Mile, in September, at the same time it's released in the U.K. The first three prequel books have been top 10 bestsellers in the U.K., and hardcover sales of Good Friday were up 40% over Hidden Killers, both of which received rave reviews.

There are many reasons for the popularity of Jane Tennison and Prime Suspect. For one, the cases depicted and how they're solved are gripping in and of themselves. But Prime Suspect delves deeper into its protagonists' lives than other police procedurals. As La Plante puts it: "My vision for Prime Suspect was to show that the police must deal with the emotional ramifications of a tragic murder as well as hunting down the killer."

And, of course, because Jane Tennison is a female high-ranking officer of the Metropolitan Police, she must deal with a range of personal and institutional bias. As La Plante says, Tennison is "a woman the right age to have achieved her rank, to show her ambition, her prowess at deflecting discrimination and the work involved in being the female head of a successful homicide unit." As the show was being developed, she adds, "Everyone involved was aware, at all times, of both creating brilliant dramatic content and showing a believable, and at that time, unseen, female role."

Real-life institutional discrimination at the Metropolitan Police continued until very recently, La Plante notes. "There were many stations across England that had no female changing rooms. And the institutional bias against women made it difficult to break through the glass ceiling. Any woman working in the force had to accept a chauvinistic attitude as part of their daily life." But now, women are heading the force: the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner is Cressida Dick and her Deputy Assistant Commissioner is Lucy D'Orsi. La Plante comments: "I think by having these two women leading the Met, we have made a major step forward."

The prequel series, set in the 1970s, take the character "back to such a young age and follow Jane through her many promotions and achievements along the way to becoming the character we know and love," La Plante says. It was a difficult time for women in the force. As La Plante always does, she researched intensely, meeting with officers who worked in the force then. "I came to understand that very few women were even contemplating a job with the Metropolitan Police at that time, and in many instances, there were no female recruits whatsoever. A naïve, young probationer would have been subjected to enormous discrimination, expected to carry out all the menial work, making the tea and doing the admin." All women would have had #MeToo experiences, La Plante stresses.

"What I have done as a writer is shown that strong women do not necessarily have to shoot from the hip and can command the respect they deserve." In future Tennison books, "it will be very interesting to see how she deals with appalling chauvinistic attitudes and behavior."

Next year, La Plante will introduce a new series called Justice Served starring a new character named Rena Davis, who was born in London and, after the death of her father, is raised by an American mother from Louisiana. She encounters racial prejudice in school, where, encouraged by her mother, she excels and shows her intellectual prowess, studying criminal psychology and forensic science. She joins the Metropolitan Police and the murder team--the right career choice.

"Justice Served follows Detective DI Rena Davis's career as she becomes a formidable detective," La Plante says. "We join Rena on a journey of love, grief and obsession as she tracks down a brutal killer so that finally justice can be served."

Look forward to learning more about Rena Davis in 2019!

Widows: From TV Series to Hollywood Blockbuster

In a first for Lynda La Plante, who has vast experience in TV, one of her works is being made into a Hollywood feature, which will be released on November 16. The movie is Widows, which was originally a British television show written by La Plante that aired in two six-episode series in 1983 and 1985. A single-series followup, She's Out, aired 10 years later.

A striking group of people are involved in the movie adaptation. It's being directed by Oscar-winner Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave; Shame; Hunger), with a script co-written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). The all-star cast includes Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Andre Holland and Robert Duvall.

Widows has a fresh and amusing premise: when a gang of three armed robbers are killed during an attempted security van heist, it's up to their widows to settle their departed husbands' affairs. In this line of work, that means completing the robbery themselves. Dolly Rawlins uses information stashed in her husband Harry's bank deposit box to plan a new heist with fellow widows Shirley Miller and Linda Perelli. But Harry's plans called for a fourth person, one who escaped the failed robbery alive. Dolly recruits Bella O'Reilly as a fourth accomplice, all the while contending with police, a rival gang of robbers and the identity of the mysterious fourth man.

La Plante recalls the magical way the first steps were taken toward a movie adaptation. A graduate and longtime supporter of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (early on she was an actor), La Plante was at a charity event for the Royal Academy at Buckingham Palace. Another guest was fellow Royal Academy alumnus and director Steve McQueen, who approached her and said he was "very eager to meet me as he had been a fan of my television series Widows since he was a young boy," La Plante remembers. "He expressed interest in wanting to make the series into a movie as he said he recalled every moment of the series, and now that he was successful, winning an Oscar for Twelve Years a Slave, he would love to make an epic, Hollywood-style move of Widows." That evening, she adds, "was one of the most wonderful evenings of my life."

Bonnier Zaffre is marking McQueen's film with an all-new edition of the Widows novel that La Plante has expanded and that's been Americanized. It will be available June 5, 2018 ($16, 9781499861556) as well as a movie tie-in edition in the fall.

Zaffre: On Leopard Rock: An Adventure in Books by Wilbur Smith

Zaffre: Jane Tennison Thrillers by Lynda La Plante

Bonnier Zaffre launches in the U.S. with bestselling authors Wilbur Smith and Lynda La Plante

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