At Book Expo: New Philip Roth Book Hyped, John Le Carre's Son Earns Six Figures

Philip Roth Photo: Beowulf Sheehan / PEN American Center / Retna

The Javits Center is filled this morning with booksellers, agents, scouts, and publishers, as Book Expo America — the trade’s biggest domestic convention — kicks into gear. The Expo combines a nuts-and-bolts trade fair with an industry get-together. Sales and marketing reps at publishers use the Expo to pitch their summer and fall books to buyers from bookstores, so that many attendees are excitedly discussing Philip Roth's Exit Ghost, the last of his Zuckerman novels, publishing this October. Houghton Mifflin is having trouble keeping the piles of Roth galleys stocked as they're plucked away by eager readers.

But the Expo also serves as an excuse for foreign publishers to visit New York, for L.A. book-to-film scouts to hobnob with their Manhattan compatriots, and for agents to build buzz for books on submission. So last night at agency Regal Literary’s party on a soccer-field-size fourteenth-floor terrace just north of Madison Square Park, a steel-drum band played, melon punch was served in aloha-themed cups, and among editors and scouts in the enormous crowd much of the talk was about a book that won't be published for a year or two. Agent Patrick Walsh of Conville & Walsh is currently shopping around a first novel by John Le Carre’s son, Nick Harkaway, called The Wages of Gonzo Lubitsch. Described as being in the vein of Neal Stephenson or Douglas Adams, the novel follows two friends living in a future world in which all life on Earth is restricted to a 40-mile band circling the globe after a nuclear disaster.

Publishers Marketplace has reported that the book sold earlier this week to Heinemann in the U.K., at auction, in a “major deal,” which in cutesy Pub Marketplace lingo means the deal was for high six figures or more. We’re hearing that Harkaway’s writing is fantastic, though the story itself has some major problems. At any rate, it’s the first book to attract major buzz at the Expo and will likely soon be replaced by some other hot first novel.