This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
This summer’s movie slate might seem like an endless rerun of superhero sequels, familiar reboots and brand names, but the season’s books that have filmmakers and publishing insiders talking offer more eclectic choices. A mix of big names (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Marisha Pessl), promising debut authors (Anton DiSclafani, Kevin Kwan), compelling true-life tales (Boys in the Boat, The Astronaut Wives Club) and high-concept thrillers (The Shining Girls, Lexicon) are getting attention as potential hits.
By Stephen King
(Hard Case Crime, June 4, $12.95, 288 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: Set at a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973 where a college student gets caught up in an old murder, it’s the best-selling author’s homage to the pulp fiction of his boyhood.
AIMED AT: Fans of King and pulp, or both. Even by his own standards — he was No. 1 on THR‘s list of Hollywood’s most powerful authors — King is having a banner year: CBS’ summer series adaptation of Under the Dome and the long-awaited The Shining sequel novel (due in September) also are generating big buzz.
THE SHINING GIRLS
By Lauren Beukes
(Mulholland, June 4, $26, 384 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: A serial killer who leaps through time from Depression-era Chicago to escape capture is chased by the one victim who got away.
AIMED AT: Gone Girl readers looking for a new page-turner. Publishing insiders have pegged this as the thriller to read this summer.
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT
By Daniel James Brown
(Viking, June 4, $28.95, 432 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: The 1936 University of Washington crew team — all working-class kids — defeats snobby Ivy Leaguers to make the Olympic team and then wins gold at Hitler’s Games. The true story centers on rower Joe Rantz, who used the sport to save himself from a broken family.
AIMED AT: The audiences that made Unbroken a best-seller and Chariots of Fire an Oscar winner. Kenneth Branagh is on board to direct the adaptation.
THE YONAHLOSSEE RIDING CAMP FOR GIRLS
By Anton DiSclafani
(Riverhead, June 4, $27.95, 400 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: A coming-of-age story set in 1930 about a 15-year-old girl sent to a posh Southern riding school who grapples with family issues, mean girls and young love.
AIMED AT: Literary fiction lovers. Strong buzz among booksellers who got an early look at the galleys could make this the summer’s unexpected hit.
By Jason Matthews (Scribner, June 4, $26.99, 448 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: A former CIA agent crafts a thriller about a Russian spy forced to become a “sparrow” — a trained seductress — to get a young CIA agent to divulge a mole’s name. The action crisscrosses Europe and the U.S. in a swirl of passion.
AIMED AT: Fans of The Americans and other spy stories looking for a beach fix.
THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB
By Lily Koppel (Grand Central, June 11, $28, 288 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: Think Mrs. Right Stuff: The women behind the astronauts of the Mercury program — John Glenn, Gus Grissom, et al. — get their story told Desperate Housewives style.
AIMED AT: The Mad Men crowd, especially Peggy Olson fans.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
By Kevin Kwan
(Doubleday, June 11, $25.95, 416 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: In the over-the-top world of the young Asian jet set, an ABC (American Born Chinese) beauty travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick, to meet his family and discovers he’s an heir to one of Asia’s biggest fortunes.
AIMED AT: Bridget Jones lovers and those who got the satire behind Psy‘s Gangnam Style (the lyrics of which make fun of South Korea’s privileged young elite).
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
By Neil Gaiman
(William Morrow, June 18, $25.99, 192 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: A scary fairy tale about an ancient monster stirred from a small pond in the English countryside and three sisters with mysterious powers who must stop it.
AIMED AT: Fans of The Sandman, Anansi Boys and Gaiman’s other atmospheric, layered and engrossing modern fairy tales. Tom Hanks‘ Playtone Pictures bought movie rights in February.
By Max Barry (Penguin, June 18, $26.95, 400 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: A young orphan is recruited into an ancient secret society that uses words to control people’s minds. There, she excels until she falls in love and gets embroiled in a power struggle between rival factions.
AIMED AT: The Hunger Games readers looking for something new. Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) optioned it with an eye to co-write and direct.
By Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider Press, July 16, $27.95, 384 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: D.C.’s version of You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, written by a well-known New York Times reporter.
AIMED AT: House of Cards devotees and Washington insiders. Chatter about the exposé spiked in April, when Politico launched a preemptive attack ahead of rumors that Leibovich paints an unflattering picture of the website’s leaders.
By Marisha Pessl
(Random House, Aug. 20, $28, 624 pages)
ELEVATOR PITCH: The murder of a beautiful young woman leads an investigative reporter to her father, a legendary cult horror film director who hasn’t been seen in public in 30 years.
AIMED AT: Fans of Pessl’s first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and 1950s film buffs. Chernin Entertainment optioned it for Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) to direct.