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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

'Divergent' is the first in a planned trilogy by Veronica Roth.

'Divergent' author Veronica Roth will pen four original short stories

By Staff Writer / 06.25.13

If you’re a “Divergent” fan and looking for a little extra story before the last book in the trilogy is released, you’re in luck.

Series author Veronica Roth is penning four original short stories written from the point of view of the “Divergent” character named Four (real name Tobias Eaton), who is the love interest of protagonist Tris.

The first of the four stories will be released in e-book format only (for now) in September, a month before “Allegiant,” the last book in the trilogy, comes out. The next short story will come out in December, then the third will arrive in January and the fourth in February. Each will be 30 pages long and cost $1.99.

“The e-shorts will address Tobias’s backstory and some of the mysterious things going on in the world before Tris chose Dauntless,” Roth told Publishers Weekly. “Together, they form a kind of Tobias-centered Divergent prequel, though there is some overlap.”

The four stories will be combined into a print version that will be published next February. Meanwhile, the first book in the series is being adapted for the screen, starring “The Descendants” actress Shailene Woodley as Tris and Theo James of “Downton Abbey” as Four. Actress Kate Winslet portrays villain Jeanine Matthews. The movie is set for a March 2014 release.

Roth said she’d actually been writing some of the short stories while on set.

“It’s a pretty inspiring environment!” she said. “And crazy surreal, to actually hear Tris and Four and the other characters’ voices in my ears as I am writing about them. I’m very lucky!”

Paula Deen has long held a monopoly on the Southern cookbook market, with 14 bestselling cookbooks, including “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible” and “Paula Deen’s The Deen Family Cookbook.” (Carlo Allegri/AP)

How are Paula Deen cookbook sales faring?

By Husna Haq / 06.24.13

Are Paula Deen’s days as bestselling cookbook author over?

A highly publicized racism scandal has already cost Deen a lucrative contract with the Food Network and may also cost the Southern cooking icon her deal with shopping network QVC. Whether fans can stomach the latest news and continue to purchase Deen’s 14 cookbooks remains to be seen.

The celebrity chef became embroiled in scandal last week after she admitted in a deposition that she had used racial epithets and tolerated racial jokes and pornography in the workplace, according to news reports. The deposition was part of a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.

According to news reports of the deposition, which found its way online over the weekend, Deen admitted to using the N-word; making jokes about black people, Jews, and "rednecks"; and considering planning a plantation-themed party complete with black men “playing” slaves.

Deen has posted several online videos apologizing for her comments and mistakes, including one in which she tells fans, “I beg for your forgiveness.”

The question is, will Deen’s damning comments sour her cookbook sales?

The queen of cooking has long held a monopoly on the Southern cookbook market, with 14 bestselling cookbooks like “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible,” “Paula Deen’s The Deen Family Cookbook,” and “The Lady and Sons: Savannah Country Cookbook.”

(She also oversees an empire of TV shows, restaurants, cookware, a magazine, and endorsement deals.) 

Some publicity experts say the damage has been done and Deen will never enjoy the same popularity, onscreen or on the shelves.

“Her brand is now tainted beyond recourse,” Mark Pasetsky, CEO of public relations and marketing content firm Mark Allen & Co., told USA Today.

Added Howard Bragman, vice chairman of, “Paula Deen will survive but she will never be whole again. She will never make as much money, she will never have the respect that she once had, there are people that will never be in business with her again.”

Still, recent articles are rife with reports of Deen fans lining up outside her restaurants, swelling online forums in support of the celebrity cook, and devotees vowing to boycott Food Network, which dropped her shows.

Seemingly overnight, a “We support Paula Deen” Facebook page bubbled to the surface, with almost 300,000 likes and calls to support the Southern cook’s products, businesses, and books.

“Let’s support Paula by bumping up the pre-order numbers for her October release,” reads one post urging fans to buy Deen’s forthcoming book, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up.”

How are those cookbook sales faring?

 “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible” has been on Amazon’s top 100 list for the last 184 days, though it has dropped to number 78.

She’s still got a monopoly on the “Regional/International” cookbooks category on Amazon, with at least three popular books on that bestselling list, not including her son Bobby Deen’s book, “ From Mama’s Table to Mine: Everybody’s Favorite Comfort Foods at 350 Calories or Less.”

Perhaps most notable are recent comments on Deen’s Amazon page, where those pledging support for the doyenne of Southern cooking outnumber her critics.

“I wanted to do more than just speak out in support of Mrs. Deen. I wanted to offer some monetary support. So I elected to buy a Paula Deen cookbook... Good luck Mrs. Deen,” wrote commenter WakkyWabbit.

“I don't normally buy items for a policical [sic] statement but this time I have. Paula has freedom of speech and I have the power of the buck... Time for American to grow up beyond the age of ten years old, get over the polical [sic] correctness crap and get on with life,” another comment, by Sher, read.

And then there was this, from commenter truesouth: “The great thing about this book is that Paula provided me with a professional black man to hold it open while I cooked. I didn't even have to pay him! Talk about Southern hospitality! The recipes taste like a cool drink of water from a fountain that says 'for whites only.'. The book literally drips with butter and oppression, but in that charming 'I'm not a racist' Southern way. My favorite is her recipe for burnt cross buns.”

Whether Deen’s books will survive cracks about “burnt cross buns” remains to be seen. 

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

The American Writers Museum is projected to be built in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

American Writers Museum gets a design plan

By Staff Writer / 06.24.13

The people working to turn the dream of an American Writers Museum into a reality have created a more detailed plan about what the museum would look like and the exhibits it would contain. 

As we reported earlier, the American Writers Museum Foundation released a concept plan for the museum almost a year ago. The newest document is a prospectus for the “first edition” of the museum, according to AWMF president Malcolm O’Hagan. The “first edition” would be the first exhibits in the planned museum and will be housed in an existing structure in Chicago, with a planned opening date of 2015. The full museum is expected to be completed by 2020.

Per the current plans, the First Edition version will include a Hall of Writers, which would include figures from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Ellison, as well as a section called "Writing Chicago," which would explore the literary history of the Windy City. Other sections will include a gallery titled "Creating an American Literature," which would discuss how authors of the US developed a distinctive national voice, and also a gallery titled "Mysteries, Dark Tales, Western Adventures," which would center on whodunit, Western, and horror titles. 

A Children’s Gallery and a section titled "We Will Be Heard," which would explore how groups such as women and minorities have struggled to carve out a place in American literature, would also be part of the First Edition exhibits, according to the prospectus.

The prospectus also includes endorsements and a business plan. Check out the full document here.

“There is a void in the American museum world,” Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said within the text of the prospectus. “In a country established as an idea explicated in written documents and embellished by generations of poets, novelists, and critics, the case for commemorating the written word is self-evident.”

Aurelie Filippetti, France's minister of culture and communications, told Reuters that the government is looking to ban some of Amazon's current practices. (Francois Mori/AP)

Will France ban some of Amazon's discounts?

By Staff Writer / 06.24.13

France is fed up with Amazon’s discounts and free delivery policies.

And the government wants to do something about it – according to a recent Reuters article, it's looking to introduce a law that would stop the behemoth bookseller from giving buyers both free delivery and a 5 percent discount on books.

Aurelie Filippetti, the country’s minister of culture and communications, told the news channel BFM TV that the government is planning to introduce the ban. The country has a policy of outlawing discounts on books of more than 5 percent because it’s believed smaller stores would be unable to compete.

“I'm in favor of ending the possibility of offering both free delivery and a five percent discount," Filippetti said. "We need a law, so we're going to find a legislative window to introduce one.”

She said the problem isn’t only occurring in France.

“Amazon's behavior, and the risks it poses for the survival of a whole network of book stores and the entire chain of book production, are obvious in Britain and in the United too,” Filippetti said.

Book retailers’ union spokesperson Guillaume Husson told Reuters he considers Amazon’s policies “unfair.”

“No other book retailer, whether a small or large book or even a chain, can allow itself to lose that much money,” Husson said. Amazon reportedly loses money with its combination of free delivery and a five percent discount.

When it opens in 2015, Shanghai Tower – the latest addition to the Shanghai skyline – will be the tallest building in China.

In China: an entire bookstore gets censored?

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / 06.21.13

Banning books, it seems, is so passé. The latest thing in books-related censorship? Banning media reports of bookstores.

At least, that appears to be the case in China, where the government has forbidden the media from reporting on the forthcoming opening of a bookstore chain in a high-profile Shanghai high-rise.

The Shanghai office of China’s national propaganda department recently issued a notice to the media banning it from publicizing the opening of Taiwan bookstore chain Eslite, which plans to open a 70,000-square-foot bookstore in Shanghai Tower, which will be the tallest building in China once it opens in 2015, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The matter about Taiwan Eslite Bookstore [intending] to open a branch in Shanghai should not be reported any more,” read a terse message sent by SMS by the Shanghai office of the propaganda department to senior editors in charge of the city's major media outlets, according to the South China Morning Post.

No reason was given for the media blackout, which “is completely a surprise to the media and culture industry in Shanghai, as now everybody is trying to figure out what the motivation behind the message is,” a Shanghai editor told the Post.

Of course, observers have their suspicions.

The Taiwan branch of Eslite sells books banned in mainland China, including books by dissidents and controversial figures like Wang Dan and the Dalai Lama. As such, the government may be concerned about the type of books Eslite will carry in its new Shanghai branch.

(Eslite’s deputy communications manager has told CNN it “respects the rules and regulations in mainland China, including those on the book market.”)

Media reports have also suggested that the Chinese government is concerned about the political background of some Eslite executives.

Eslite, which was founded in 1989, is Taiwan’s largest bookstore chain and has more than 40 locations across the country, including a popular multi-story flagship in Taipei.

News about the media blackout of the country’s largest bookstore chain is nothing less than concerning, though we suspect the bookstore is getting even more attention as a result of the government directive. Nonetheless, the move represents a troubling new direction by the Chinese government, and one we hope the international booksellers community is watching closely.  

Director Taylor-Johnson said in a statement that her film adaptation of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' will 'honor the power of Erika's book.' She added that 'the characters of Christian and Anastasia ... are under my skin, too.'

'Fifty Shades of Grey' film director chosen

By Staff writer / 06.21.13

Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele have found their director.

One of the biggest questions for the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film – who would take the helm for the film adaptation and find some way to translate the book's explicit scenes for the cinema – has been answered. Sam Taylor-Johnson of "Nowhere Boy" has been announced as the project's director.

 "I'm so excited to be charged with the evolution of Fifty Shades of Grey from page to screen," Taylor-Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. "For the legions of fans, I want to say that I will honor the power of Erika's book and the characters of Christian and Anastasia. They are under my skin, too." 

Author E.L. James said via Twitter that she was very happy with the choice. “I'm delighted & thrilled to let you guys know that Sam Taylor-Johnson has agreed to direct the film of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,” James tweeted.

It had previously been announced that writer Kelly Marcel will be adapting the book for the screen.

In filmmaking, Taylor Johnson is primarily known for her 2009 film “Nowhere Boy,” a biopic about John Lennon as a teenager. She has also directed short films such as 2011’s “James Bond Supports International Women’s Day.”

The Guardian called the director an “unexpected choice” in its headline about the selection, while Los Angeles Times writer Steven Zeitchick speculated that the choice of Taylor-Johnson meant that the “Fifty Shades” studio is trying to go slightly high-brow with the film adaptation.

“She is, however, known for being an acclaimed visual artist – she's won Britain's acclaimed Turner Prize – which plays into the belief that Focus and, in particular, James, want this to be a tonier version [of the book],” he wrote.

It's unlikely Apple will settle in the case filed against it by the Department of Justice alleging that Apple participated in an e-book price-fixing scheme. (Eric Risberg/AP)

E-book price-fixing trial: Will the judge come down on the side of Apple?

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / 06.20.13

As the Department of Justice’s anti-trust trial closes Thursday, US District Court Judge Denise Cote signaled a potentially dramatic shift in her original assessment of the case, giving Apple’s attorneys high expectations for a favorable ruling.

Here are Judge Cote’s words at the pre-trial hearing, before the trial had begun: “I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that.”

Compare those wth her remarks Wednesday, after she closed the case: “I thought I had prepared so well. I learned a lot. But you have helped me understand so much more through the evidence.”

“I look forward to your summations. It seems to me the issues have somewhat shifted during the course of the trial. As you see it play out in the courtroom, things change a little bit and people have to stay nimble. So I'm very much looking forward to understanding precisely where we are now, when I listen to you tomorrow, what things are in dispute and what things aren't in dispute. I think things have shifted. At least, it's my perception it has.”

In other words, Cote appears to have been moved by Apple’s defense.

The case began when the DOJ said last year that Apple conspired with five top publishers to raise prices for e-books in competition with Amazon. It says it did this by persuading publishers to adopt a publishing model known as the “agency model,” whereby publishers set e-book prices, in place of the traditional wholesale model, where the retailer sets prices. In its case, the government alleged that a price-fixing scheme led by Apple reduced competition in the e-books industry and raised e-book prices.

Five publishers accused in the suit have settled, citing a lack of resources to fight the government in court, leaving Apple as the sole defendant. Apple has maintains it did nothing wrong and has actually helped the publishing industry by challenging Amazon’s “monopoly.”

After three weeks of testimony in which top industry executives were called in to testify, including email and other evidence from the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, the trial saw its last witnesses Wednesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, with each side getting 2 ½ hours to summarize its case.

Based on her comments Wednesday, some observers are expecting Cote to side with Apple. Should Apple settle, however, it could face monetary damages – the five publishers in the original suit agreed to pay more than $122 million in damages to 33 states.

It appears unlikely that Apple will settle, however. As the Washington Post pointed out, the company has promised “a dogged legal battle” and is prepared to appeal if Cote rules against it. In a sign of the significance of the case, some experts predict it could even reach the Supreme Court.  

According to the court’s PR officer, Judge Cote is expected to render her decision within two months or less.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Leonardo DiCaprio will star in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' as stockbroker Jordan Belfort. (Francois Mori/AP)

'Wolf of Wall Street' trailer shows Leonardo DiCaprio as an amoral stockbroker (+ video)

By Staff Writer / 06.20.13

Fresh off playing a man who made his own way in “The Great Gatsby,” actor Leonardo DiCaprio is now starring in director Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the memoir “Wolf of Wall Street” as a stockbroker.

“Wall Street” is based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, who went to jail for almost two years for crimes which included stock market manipulation.

DiCaprio plays Belfort, while other stars on board include Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, and Jean Dujardin of “The Artist.”

Scorsese is teaming up with DiCaprio for the fifth time, having directed the actor in such films as “The Departed” and “Shutter Island.” 

The film is currently scheduled for a Nov. 15 release.

The movie’s trailer includes scenes of DiCaprio and Hill partying and a voiceover by DiCaprio that makes no apologies for his lavish lifestyle. His paycheck of $49 million a year really made him angry, DiCaprio says, “because it was three shy of a million a week.” McConaughey is seen encouraging DiCaprio. “Nobody knows if the stock is going to go up, down, sideways, or in circles,” McConaughey tells him.

But DiCaprio is also shown getting visits from the FBI.

“Was all this legal?” DiCaprio asks the viewer. “Absolutely not.” 

Check out the full trailer.

New York's Algonquin Hotel earned literary fame as the home of the Algonquin Round Table. (Rick Maiman/AP Images for the Algonquin Hotel)

Simon & Schuster teams up with Algonquin Hotel

By Staff Writer / 06.20.13

The Algonquin Hotel in New York is legendary for having been home to the Algonquin Round Table, a meeting of literary minds that included Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and others.

And now the hotel will be part of another literary event: It’s teaming up with publisher Simon & Schuster to create a Simon & Schuster suite and will host a series of readings by writers.

“We are constantly looking for non-traditional  venues that can expand the range of attendees at author events, as well as partnerships that can bring further visibility to our  current publishing and company history," Liz Perl, senior vice-president of marketing for Simon & Schuster, said in a statement. "The Algonquin, with its longstanding and illustrious literary tradition, and its appeal to author, reader and traveler alike, is the perfect partner to further that ongoing effort.”

The Simon & Schuster suite will be located on the seventh floor and include such extras as an advance reading copy of an S&S book and a bookshelf of titles released by the publisher.

“[The new partnership] is not only 'on brand' for us, but brings our guests a wonderful experience to enhance their time spent here,” Algonquin general manager Gary Budge said in a statement.

The first author represented by Simon & Schuster who will come to the hotel is writer Chuck Klosterman, who will visit July 8 and read from his new book “I Wear the Black Hat.”

Vince Flynn is behind the Mitch Rapp series, which includes books such as 'Consent to Kill.' (Jim Mone/AP)

Vince Flynn, author of 'Mitch Rapp' political thrillers, dies

By Staff Writer / 06.19.13

Political thriller writer Vince Flynn died today at age 47.

Flynn was behind the bestselling Mitch Rapp series, titles of which included “Kill Shot” and “Pursuit of Honor.” The most recent in the Rapp series, “The Last Man,” was published this past November.

“As good as Vince was on the page – and he gave millions of readers countless hours of pleasure – he was even more engaging in person," Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy told the Associated Press. "Yes, we will miss the Mitch Rapp stories that are classic modern thrillers, but we will miss Vince even more."

Flynn was born in St. Paul, Minn. and attended the University of St. Thomas, earning a degree in economics. It was as he was working as a real estate agent that he began writing his book “Term Limits” and he later self-published it. He was signed to Simon & Schuster after the novel experienced successful sales. 

Former president George W. Bush, who enjoyed his novels, called Flynn’s books “a little too accurate” and, according to Flynn, Bush once asked the author where he got his information when he wrote about CIA agent Mitch Rapp.

“I started to stutter,” Flynn said, according to USA Today.

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