Friday, July 13, 2007

Justin Cronin Sinks Teeth into New Genre and $3.75 Million

by Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 7/13/2007 7:43:00 AM

Ballantine is taking a big bet on Justin Cronin—a writer best known for a pair of intense literary novels, including his PEN Hemingway Award-winning debut Mary and O’Neil (Dial, 2000). The publisher has just paid $3.75 million for Cronin’s new trilogy about a viral pandemic that turns humans into vampires. The first book, The Passage, will be published in the summer of 2009.

Mark Tavani, who has worked with such thriller writers as Steve Barry and Alex Berenson, will edit. He told PW the book combines the best of Steven King’s The Stand with Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. "On top of fully introduced characters, great writing and a concept that could last for three books," said Tavani, "there was a real feeling of urgency there. You can tell Justin was burning to write this book."

The book portrays vampirism as the consequence of a viral pandemic that sends the immune system into hyperdrive, endowing victims with hardened skin, stronger vision and longer life. Of course, the virus is carried by a rare species of bat. The plot of the series revolves around the U.S. military’s attempts to harness these powers and a coterie of concerned citizens’ attempts to stop them.

Novels starring vampires, such as those by Anne Rice and more recently Elizabeth Kostova and Stephanie Meyer, have proven popular with readers. With Rice writing less frequently about the blood suckers and more about Jesus, there’s likely to be some pent-up demand in the market. From the sound of it, this one combines some of the best elements of gothic horror, medical thriller and paranoid polemic—a perfect recipe for these trying, uncertain times.

Cronin’s agent, Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group, initially submitted the book under a pen name, Jordan Ainsley. While early online reporting said the book would be published under the pseudonym, Random House spokesperson Carol Schneider said that the book would appear under Cronin’s own name when it is published.

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