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The Early Word on Summer’s Debut Novels

Who will soar? Who might sink?

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CONFESSIONS OF A WALL STREET SHOESHINE BOY
By Doug Stumpf (HarperCollins; July 3)

The Précis: Vanity Fair deputy editor’s novel about a Brazilian shoe-shiner to downtown businessmen who stumbles on an insider-trading scheme.

Pros: Film rights already picked up by Warner Bros. with Blood Diamond’s Charles Leavitt adapting it. And Graydon should come through with a kick-ass book party.

Cons: May be too colorful and serious to work as a best-selling thriller, and too clunky and contrived to live up to Tom Wolfe—or even Dana Vachon.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


THE HEADMASTER RITUAL
By Taylor Antrim (Houghton Mifflin; July 9)

The Précis: Hypereducated (Stanford, Oxford) freelancer’s novel about a tony boarding school with a sinister headmaster.

Pros: Antrim’s preppy good looks and big-time blurbs might just help him slip into the Sittenfeldian prep-school niche.

Cons: Was changed from hardcover to paperback original—booksellers said they’d sell more copies that way. But the print run is still low, and advance reviews are mixed.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES
By Stef Penney (Simon & Schuster; July 10)

The Précis: The 38-year-old’s Jack London–style tale is set in nineteenth-century northern Canada—a highbrow, atmospheric murder mystery.

Pros: The debut has already won the Costa Prize in England—not only the “debut” category but the general prize (an unusual feat).

Cons: Wolves? The northern territories? The Costa Prize? A 25,000 print run seems just about right; this is probably headed for the midlist.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:



THE SAVIOR
By Eugene Drucker (Simon & Schuster; July 17)

The Précis: A lead violinist from the Emerson String Quartet writes about a young violinist forced to play for dying concentration-camp inmates.

Pros: Any music lover worth his Philharmonic season tickets would want to have it on the shelf, or buy it as an impressively thoughtful gift.

Cons: Probably too much of a downer to draw huge numbers, and how many non-season-ticket-holders know Drucker’s résumé?

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


THE SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ
By Dalia Sofer (Ecco; August 1)

The Précis: Jewish-Iranian immigrant’s fictionalization of the fate of Jews in the early days of the Iranian Revolution.

Pros: Interest in Iran isn’t going away, and Sofer’s angle is bound to entice readers. Heavily marketed and a natural for book clubs.

Cons: The soft-focus title and easy topical appeal might turn some critics off, along with its slightly stiff dialogue.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:



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