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Frenzy over Da Vinci code sequel

books Updated: Sep 15, 2009 11:34 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder
Jayeeta Mazumder
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The lost SymbolThe clock is set and the puzzle laid out as 1.5 lakh copies of Dan Brown’s latest offering, The Lost Symbol, reach the racks today. We decode the facts and figures that follow this much-hyped book.

The Da Vinci Code sold 81 million copies worldwide, hit record sales here. 1.5 lakh hardback copies of The Lost Symbol will hit Indian book-stands today. Who’s this pulp-champion Dan Brown; what’s his God-thriller deal? Take a look, before you pick up (or don’t pick up) the latest book today.

The anticipation for the release of the book by the phenomenon called Dan Brown keeps rising with five million copies being printed worldwide. This time around, his larger-than-life fictional character, Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon, is on a quest to solve another mystery with The Lost Symbol—a sequel to the bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code.

While copies of the books are safely locked away publishers are keeping mum on the plot. All we can reveal is that The Lost Symbol is a story that takes place over a 12-hour period with a cover that hints at the Capitol in Washington, a wax seal containing a double-headed phoenix, the numeral 33 and the words ‘ordo ae chao’, Latin for ‘order to chaos’.

The publishers, Random House, have a selling target of 1.5 lakh copies of The Lost Symbol in India. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are flooded with promotional contests. Pre-sales have already shot the book to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.

But, how far has the hype caught on in India?
“Dan Brown is well known in the Indian market and we are expecting good sales. Till date, close to four lakh copies of Dan Brown titles have been sold in India,” says Rachel Tanzer, director of publicity, Random House India. However, Rajesh, spokesperson of Landmark bookstores, says that the pre-booking sales figures haven’t come close to that of Harry Potter.

The reason, he thinks, is because Harry Potter has a larger reader base, consisting of children, teenagers and adults. “But we have approximately 1,000 pre-booking orders till now, which is a brilliant figure to start with. In India, a book with sales figures beyond 10,000 copies, as against a million mark overseas, is considered a bestseller,” he says. Sivaraman Balakrishnan, marketing head, Crossword bookstores, points out: “The Lost Symbol promotions began only a month ago. Whereas, Harry Potter pre-bookings begin three-four months in advance. Hence, the difference in figures.”

So, is there a chance of sales shooting up?
“Oh yes! Robert Langdon has become a household name and has an ardent fan following. We are stocking up books related to freemasonry too, considering the book supposedly deals with the same topic. We had books such as Word Play, on ambigrams, when Angels and Demons released,” says Rajesh. Balakrishnan echoes the sentiment: “We know the hype will catch on soon. We’ve bought 8,000 copies, across India, from Random House publishers.”

Rajesh predicts a rise in numbers once the book releases: “A book dealing with a controversial subject always sets the sales figures rocketing.” It is no wonder then that The Da Vinci Code has 81 million copies in print worldwide. Not difficult to believe since Brown deliberately chooses to write sacramental thrillers, even though he was accused of plagiarising The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

The fact that The Lost symbol is a hard cover, priced at Rs 695, online pre-bookings also come into picture when it comes to deciding its sales figures. Balakrishnan says: “Websites such as Amazon might affect the sales overseas. But it won’t make any difference in India.” So, what will you be reading on September 16?

Who is Dan Brown?

Born in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1964, Dan Brown studied at Phillips Exeter Academy (where his father taught), and graduated from Amherst with a double major in Spanish and English. Not many know that he was a teacher and also a musician and songwriter.

His path breaking bestseller The Da Vinci Code set itself as a genre, although the literary thriller is not his invention. Brown credits Sidney Sheldon’s The Doomsday Conspiracy for his ideas. His willing surrender to a writing that is fast-paced, with a mix of controversial religious content, art, history, and murder mystery, forms Brown’s forte. And it is this tried and tested formula that gets him the eyeballs.

His first book published under a pseudonym, however, was a self-help book for women, co-written with his then future wife Blythe Newlon. In 1998, he published his first novel, Digital Fortress, followed by Angels and Demons and Deception Point. None of these achieved commercial success. In 2003, Brown became the biggest bestseller in the publishing history with his fourth novel The Da Vinci Code, a thriller about a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon who stumbles on an ancient conspiracy in the wake of a shocking murder in the Louvre.